A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) a romantic women’s fiction novel written by Annie Acorn and Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent
I am very pleased and excited to welcome back today’s guest Mike Harris to One Vintage Heart as part of his current Blog Tour for his recent release It Never Was You, the second book of the Cypress Branches Trilogy comprising the writings of his grandfather William E. Thomas.
Special Guest Interview with Mike Harris:
For readers and visitors that are new to my website, would you refresh us on a few important details about your incredible journey of publishing the Cypress Branches trilogy based on the writings of your grandfather, William E. Thomas?
Firstly, I’d like to say thank you, Juliette, for inviting me back to your blog for this interview – I loved the last one we did back in September, and I’m very excited about being back.
To cut a long story short, I took on the task of publishing my grandfather’s writings after he started to become ill from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. He wrote the Cypress Branches as one volume when he retired in the early 1990s, but soon started showing signs of confusion and memory loss. It was devastating for us as a family to watch as his illness began to take away his ability to undertake the everyday activities he enjoyed so much – reading, writing, theatre, cinema, cooking, completing cryptic crosswords…
His illness also meant that he was unable to pursue publication of the book he’d spent so long crafting, and his attempts soon fell by the wayside. But I wasn’t prepared to see the story end there, and decided to publish it as a hardback on his behalf. 100 copies were printed in 2009 and were distributed to friends and family, who loved it, and asked if I had plans to publish a paperback.
The book is huge – at 350,000 words long, it just about worked as a large hardback, but wouldn’t have worked as a paperback, so I started on a project to edit it into a series. It took three years to get the first part of the trilogy – Pegasus Falling – ready, and it was released last March.
The reaction to Pegasus Falling was better than I could ever have imagined. Although readership is still small, those who have read it have, without exception, loved it. The reviews have been glowing, and it was even named as a finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Books contest last year.
It has taken another year for me to prepare part two of the trilogy. Titled It Never Was You, it was finally released last month on Kindle and in paperback. I think that brings us up to date!
Having read Pegasus Falling, Part One of the trilogy and loving it, I’m so excited about It Never Was You! Did you find in the process of working on Part Two any unexpected challenges or surprises in preparing this volume for publication, or was it smooth sailing?
I’m so pleased that you’re excited about the new book, Juliette. And to be honest, so am I! I loved putting the book together, and for the most part, it was quite smooth sailing. That’s not to say there weren’t challenges, though.
As with the first part, the main challenge has been adapting what was written as one volume into a trilogy of smaller works without the input of the author. Alzheimer’s has left William unable to communicate effectively with us, so I’ve had to make decisions on his behalf. Luckily, William wrote the novel in an episodic format, and there are several clear storylines which run through which helped me make the decisions as to what would go in each book. At every step in the process I have had to ask myself “would William have been happy with that decision?” And if the answer was ever no, or I wasn’t less than 100% sure, I’d revise my idea.
What you read in the new books is all William’s work. There are the very rare exceptions where, as an editor, I have needed to delete a scene or two, or added the occasional sentence to make the story flow, but it is still William’s story, and they’re still his words. The best analogy I can make is restoring an old building. The original design is intact, but the builders may have had to plaster over a few cracks and restore some of the woodwork to bring out the building’s best attributes.
I was lucky that it was fairly obvious how the three parts of the trilogy would fit together. I was able to put Pegasus Falling together in rough form within a day or two! It Never Was You presented a few more challenges though, because I had a couple of important questions to answer.
Firstly, there was the matter of the prologue. This was written as an introduction to the whole work. I didn’t include it in Pegasus Falling because the characters who appear or are mentioned in the prologue don’t appear in that part of the story, so it would have been very confusing for the reader. But It Never Was You features a new set of characters, and the prologue is a great introduction to them. (It also gives us some clues as to why we are now following new characters, rather than continuing the story where we left off, which I’m sure some readers would have expected!)
The action in what will be Part Three of the trilogy does continue where It Never Was You ends, and I questioned for a long time where to leave the story. I’m happy with where the break point occurs, but readers may not be so happy, as it does leave us with another major cliff hanger!
What would you like readers to know about your grandfather that would give them a deeper insight into the writer’s point of view?
It’s quite well known now that William is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease – a horrifying illness which has reduced him to a mere shadow of his former self. It’s heartbreaking for us to know that he is unable to enjoy the success his books are finally having.
But it’s important to remember that The Cypress Branches is the product of a very intelligent and active mind that, for the first 75 years at least, enjoyed a very productive and action-packed life.
Like the main character in It Never Was You, William spent time in the merchant navy. In some respects, the character of Harry is very similar to William himself. They’re both lovers of the arts and visited the many cultural highlights of the cities and countries their job took them to, eschewing the usual pursuits of men in the merchant service.
He has always had a keen interest in literature. His library is a joy to behold, filled with special edition hardbacks of the classics as well as popular paperbacks, new writing and non-fiction. History and politics fascinate him, and that is reflected in the extensive research he undertook when writing his novel.
But despite his interest in all things literary and artistic, like Harry, William is an engineer by trade. He worked in the automotive and aircraft industry (I believe he was involved in the design of a small element of Concorde!) before ending his career as a lab technician at the Open University, where he also studied for two degrees (he is both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts!)
What has been the general reader response or feedback so far on It Never Was You, and especially from readers, like myself, who fell in love with Part One, Pegasus Falling?
There have been so many readers waiting patiently for part two of the trilogy, and it’s so exciting to finally be able to let them read it! It’s still very early days, but the readers and reviewers I have spoken to have all been magnanimous and universal in their praise.
It’s a relief, because I had many questions as to how readers would react to the second book. Would they be disappointed that the action doesn’t continue straight on from Pegasus Falling? Would they like the new characters, Harry and Mary? Would they like the new setting? The storyline? Or the ending?
But I needn’t have worried, because without exception, everyone has loved the new book. Some have even gone as far as saying that they enjoyed it more than the first part!
Unlike many other series, you can read and enjoy It Never Was You without having read Pegasus Falling first, although I would recommend doing so, as you’ll get more out of it, I think. But it does mean that you can jump in to the trilogy with either book, which is great.
Finally, what do you have in store for the readers with Part Three of the trilogy?
Part three will pick up the action where It Never Was You left off, albeit several years later. Whereas the first two parts of the trilogy explore aspects of the war and how it affected the lives of everyday people, part three moves on to the middle part of the twentieth century. We explore the cold war, the social, political and economic changes which were a direct consequence of the war and continued to rumble on for decades afterwards.
The action moves to London and Germany, and we discover how Harry comes to settle down into the comfortable life of a businessman and starts a family. Slowly, but surely, the questions posed by his grieving family at the prologue of It Never Was You are answered, and all the pieces of the puzzle finally come together.
What I can promise is that if you enjoyed the first two parts of the story, you’ll love the final instalment.
Do you have any projections right now for Part Three’s probable release date?
I’ve got a funny feeling that I’m going to have a lot of readers on my back begging me to release Part Three, and it is my intention to get it released as soon as possible. I’m hoping to release it by the end of this year, but at the moment I can’t make any promises. This is, after all, a part time project, and I am not prepared to rush the job. I’d rather wait and make sure the book is up to the same high standards I set for parts one and two, and I’m sure readers will appreciate that sentiment.
But having said that, I’m just as impatient to finish the trilogy as the readers are, so it won’t be too long a wait, I assure you!
This has been a labour of love for me over the past 5 years, and it will be quite a feeling of accomplishment when the trilogy is finally finished. From then on, it will be in readers’ hands what happens next. I believe the books are worthy of great success, and I’d love to give him the opportunity to achieve that success that his illness took away from him.
Connect with Mike and the Cypress Branches trilogy online:
Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/15TL4sD
Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You are both available to buy in paperback and ebook now!
Where to buy Pegasus Falling:
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/PXbf5X
Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/R4IdCG
B&N Nook: http://bit.ly/Sytq6Y
Where to buy It Never Was You:
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/12HSoE5
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/11BS6gO
(Other retailers coming soon)
Thank you again, Mike, for being my guest today on One Vintage Heart and for the awesome interview about your new release!