Today I am welcoming Debbie Martin, author of Chained Melody to Melissa's Midnight Musings. First let's learn a little about the book, then we'll learn more about the author herself!
About Chained Melody:
Publisher: Pink Press
Published: January 13, 2013
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Buy the Book*: Amazon
* This book will be available to downnload FREE on Amazon on February 14th.
When a man walks out of HM prison, it is with a decision to be made; a decision that requires him to review almost a lifetime of memories to be able to make it. Tom and Will are best friends from childhood and share vulnerabilities and self-discoveries the way only best friends can, but in their teens, their lives take two very different routes. Tom joins the army and Will goes to university at a time when the aftermath of the psychedelic sixties has openly embraced more exotic behaviour. Tom discovers the reality of life and death in Northern Ireland and that showing courage is nothing to do with display. Will learns that what he thought he was, he isn’t.
Since childhood, Tom has always been the alpha male and Will the enigma. Childhood experiences have influenced Wills view of the male-female relationship, but the bizarre and flamboyant he experiences in the Kings Road shop he works in, and his own confusing sexual experiences bring him to a cross-roads in his life when he realises that he feels the same as the pre-op trans-sexual he accidentally sees undressed whilst at the shop. He decides he is a woman in a man’s body and he must make the transition to find true contentment. As he starts the journey towards his dream, he experiences the prejudice, violence and abuse which regularly dog those treading a different path, but also friends and allies in the most unusual places. In the meantime Tom returns home from the army, psychologically and physically damaged, and finds solace in a childhood sweetheart, whom he marries too quickly. Her desire for children leads to the discovery that he is infertile - another failing. He accedes to her demands for infertility treatment, but the stress of it eventually leads to their marriage breakdown. Homeless and jobless, the only person he can think of to go to is Will.
After an explosive start, an act of courage by Will, now Billie, leads them to mutual accommodation of Will/Billie’s transformation, but also Tom’s continuing confusion with it and his feelings about Billie. Their relationship is gradually re-built, but the format changes as much as Billie does. For the first time Tom is able to examine his own vulnerabilities without being judged against the harsh criteria of the male world he is used to. Will/Billie’s experiences of ostracism, self-doubt, taunts and prejudice mirror Tom’s growth in self-respect, acceptance and finding an assured place in society. Their growing closeness and the disturbing emotions it awakens in Tom are brought to a summary conclusion when his wife reappears, threatening blackmail and public humiliation for both of them, as well as putting Billie’s hard-won imminent surgical treatment at risk. The accident that follows forces the relationship into sharp focus as Tom has to decide if he has the strength of character to face potential prejudice and social alienation in order to support Billie. He doesn’t believe he has so instead he sacrifices his freedom to ensure hers, unwittingly blighting both of their lives instead.
The letter that has arrived just before Tom leaves prison tells him that Billie survived despite his belief she’d died after an accident as he started his sentence, and encloses her diary. As Tom reads the diary, he slowly comes to understand Billie’s form of courage and the part he has played in it. It gives him hope he can at last find the same for himself. The story is told partly through the diary and partly through Tom’s own memories. Unexpectedly he potentially has a second chance at happiness. Is he brave enough to take it this time? The story ends with Tom finding the spark of hope that he actually created himself when he thought Billie was dying, and the melody between them becomes unchained at last. The plot explores what love is, and is it the gender of a person we fall in love with – or the psyche? Perhaps the psyche is neither male nor female, and true love has no real boundaries at all?
What is your name? Do you use a pen name (if so, why?)?
I use my own name – Debbie Martin. Well, why wouldn’t I? I have to be proud of what I write I order to publish it so I stand by it and it goes under my own name.
Tell me a bit about yourself:
Almost a child of the sixties, I’ve had quite a varied – and sometimes disconcerting - life until now, but it has always been interesting!
I’m widowed and have two teenage daughters who I’ve brought up largely on my own. Sadly my husband died from cancer some while ago. My daughters are amazing – the eldest, at now 18 has just gone to Oxford University and the younger is 14, and a budding dancer. I am extremely proud of their maturity and strength of character.
Being on my own led me into trying to work out the best way of living a happy life as a singleton. About two years ago I took over a singles social business because, having tried internet dating, I had come to the conclusion that it was the worst possible way to try to meet someone, whereas the no-pressure sociable way the business I took over approached it promoted self-esteem and a good social life; win- win, it seemed. It is called Singles that Mingle and is still running – although ironically, with its own dating site now too because the members wanted one! It was because of this that I wrote the two other books I’ve already had published:
· Are You The One? – a humorous look at internet dating.
· The Strategy – ways of meeting people appropriate to you in terms of dating and sociability.
After that I got the writing bug big time, and not only was my current book, Chained Melody written but two more just waiting in the wings for all the buzz about it to settle before I publish them too!
I now also work for the University of Winchester as an event organiser for their business networking group, Wired Wessex, so I’m using my contacts and knowledge of business needs to identify speakers and workshop leaders to meet their business community needs too, which is fascinating.
What type of genre do you write?
All kinds actually. I would like to call Chained Melody literary fiction – but many will categorise it as LGBT. It is only because it writes about a transgender, however it is also a love story and a tale of inner courage. The next book I would like to have published is Courting the Dark, which is a psychological thriller, and after that the third novel that I have just finished the first draft is a psychological/supernatural thriller. My first two books were self-help and my daughters regularly nag me about finishing that comedy called ‘Trivett’ that I’ve written the first two chapters of …
What genre to you personally read?
Thrillers, psychological drama, literary fiction, supernatural, crime – and also I love a good classical blood and guts a-la Jacobean revenge drama style, so I still often read Marlowe, Webster and Shakespeare.
Tell me about your latest?
Chained Melody is a tale of two men’s journey from boyhood to maturity. They are best friends as children but are completely different in personality. Their lives go in extraordinarily different directions as one embraces his masculinity and the other realises his feminine side by changing his gender. Their worlds collide at a time of great personal discovery, and their feelings towards one another change dramatically too. Eventually their relationship evolves into something special and incredible against the backdrop of prejudice and their own confusing emotions but not before they’ve each had to challenge their beliefs and find their own version of inner courage.
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story?
I have always been a voracious reader. As a child I used to work my way along the shelves at the local library – a bit like a locust! I would come home with an armful of books and have finished them all within days and be champing at the bit to go back for more. I developed a love of literature per se at school and that lead me to university to study English and Fine Art – my two passions by then. I still love going to the theatre and visiting art galleries when I get the chance.
Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way?
There are many books that have had a lasting effect on me. Enid Blyton’s Famous Fives were probably the first major influence in getting me hooked on reading the next and the next and the next as quickly as possible. Shakespeare was a revelation when I started reading and understanding the skill of the writer in my teens. At university, I was struck by the drama and spectacle of the Jacobean tragedians but also knocked sideways by the punchiness of controversial writing like Selby’s ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, yet I also love the epic other- worldliness of Tolkien. I would say overall that there are so many influences it would be difficult to lay the blame for my writing now on any specific one of them!
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Why did I write Chained Melody, as I’m not gay, transvestite or transsexual? Because after discussing with my older daughter how Twelfth Night was one of the earliest plots to include gender confusion as an issue, I realised that it was a very serious and distressing issue, yet one that barely gets any really empathetic airtime. Much of the LGBT type fiction is blatantly erotica and I wanted to write an account that led non-transgender people to understand it as a serious issue, not a tacky joke. ‘Trannies’ are usually figures of fun, not sympathy. I hate prejudice and closed-mindedness, so I set out to write something that spanned a wide range of difficult situations including transsexualism, and get the reader rooting for the two main characters, who experienced these dilemmas, despite the fact that one was transsexual and they would therefore not normally be regarded as the hero(ine).
What challenges have you faced in your writing career?
Getting published is a continual issue for all writers. I lost all faith in the traditional system after meeting a range of publishers and agents at a literary conference last year via the university I now work for, and realising how blasé and dismissive they were of debut writers in their search for the next ‘Fifty shades of…’ money spinner. Literature should be about great writing not great piles of cash (even though we’d like some of it …)
What has been your best moment as a writer?
I suppose it has to be the time I held the first printed book in my hand and thought – ‘this is mine!’ There is a family photo of me with a grin bigger than the Cheshire Cat’s holding it up. Classic!
Who is your author idol?
P D James. I heard her speak at a writers group meeting I hd the privilege to go to last year and at over 90, she is still sharp, charming, interesting, relevant and a brilliant speaker as well as writer. Please may I be as quick-witted and skilled in my nineties!
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Yes, unfortunately. I think we always write a little of what and who we know into our characters – whether we intend to or not. Art has to imitate life as it’s the only way we’ve gained enough experience to w be able to write. However, now when I write a character, I am writing characteristics I am aware of – and how they determine or influence the characters behaviour and decisions, rather than copy-catting people I’ve met or known. Writing is also a rather good way of examining those elements I yourself and others and using that to work out why we do things to, so there’s always some self-analysis going on in any writing, I think.
Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do?
Well, a dream has come true in the sense that I have written and been published three times – and that is amazing for me, but it’s just the first step along the way. I still have so much more to write, I don’t quite know where to start…
What does your workspace look like?
It’s my dining room table – littered with bits of paper, my laptop, a cup of coffee and the biscuit tin, unless I’m feeling virtuous or on a diet. On the floor, where I will fall over her as soon as I get up, is my daft retriever called Rosie – who actually has a bit-part in ‘Trivett’, when I get round to finishing it.
Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit?
No. I’ve had days when I’ve wondered why I was doing it as getting published is often so hard to achieve, and then the love of writing – and the need to do it, kicks in again.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I have a rather hectic life most of the time, being a single mum, and also working and running my own business so I always tend to be rushing from one thing to another. When I can I like to play badminton, read, love live music, the theatre and just being sociable to relax. I’m a bit of a party-thrower, and then wonder afterwards why I did it because I spend most of my time rushing round being the host and not the party-goer. Maybe that makes me a workaholic?
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Staying determined even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going well, being observant because the next character or situation is often write under your nose, listening carefully because sometimes the smallest thing can make the difference to success or failure, taking criticism positively because you ALWAYS learn from it, letting rip to your friends when you’re frustrated (– and then shutting up so they don’t get fed up with you going on about it) and just keep writing …
Did you have a moment when you realized you were meant to be a writer?
When I realised I enjoyed writing and wanted to find the time to do it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
· Try to find some time every week to write something. You can draw on what you think as even disconnected ideas at a later stage
· Always have something to record ideas wherever you are. It may not be possible to write every day, but the longer you don’t write the more the frustration builds and when it’s built up enough I always find that’s when the great ideas spill out – usually when I’m driving! Make sure you have some way of recording them wherever you are – notebook, dictaphone, phone even.
· Have goals - even if they are small ones, so you feel you have achieved something.
· Have a long term plan – if you want to publish, have that as your plan.
· Join a writers group – they will encourage you and give you ideas; you will do the same for your fellow members.
· Read, read, read.
· Go to some classes if you aren’t sure on technique, style, content. One of the best inspirations I had was a course at Bournemouth University (my ‘local’) – the course teacher is now a personal friend and I learned so much from it, and the other people on it, it was invaluable.
· Learn how to edit and ‘kill your darlings’ if you have to.
· Find and take advice when it’s needed. We can’ all do everything perfectly – yo may need someone else to edit, proof-read, critique …
· Read aloud – it really pinpoints problem areas.
· Be bold. No-one got anywhere without a little self-belief.
After this book, what is next?
Apart from editing and getting the next two novels that are already written published, I’ve just taken on a joint project to write a tale about the lap dancing industry. Its working title is ‘Private Dancer’ and I will be fictionalising real life memoirs, which is going to be tricky challenge to create a startling but non-cheesy story about principles in an unprincipled world. I’ve got the first sentence of the first chapter already in my head!
Where can your book be found?
Thank you for reading J
I want to say a big thank you for Debbie Martin for stopping by Melissa's Midnight Musings. If you are as intrigued by this book as I am, be sure to download Chained Melody FREE from Amazon on February 14th.