C.C Coburn

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1.What got you into writing? It happened so long ago I can’t remember 🙂 No actually I was thinking up a story surrounding the drug trade in northern Queensland and how they import drugs etc. It was an adventure/thriller and supposed to be like Clive Cussler or Wilbur Smith or something. I thought I only had enough for a novella so never got around to writing it – this was probably 30 years ago btw. Then years later, I was pregnant with my 3rd child and fell off my bike and was told to go home and put my broken foot up and rest. So instead I started writing the story. Six weeks later I had a new baby and a 120,000 words manuscript (that has never seen the light of day since, I might add!) Anyway, I enjoyed writing the story, seeing the characters develop, was surprised about the romance in it, so I started reading a couple of romances and then wrote one, and then another and another. None of those early efforts are published either 🙂 But I enjoyed the intellectual stimulus.

My husband and I had a very traditional marriage – he went to work and I stayed home and raised the kids – so I needed something to keep me sane. Eventually, I joined a critique group and then Romance Writers of Australia and really found out how to write. A few years later I went to University and did a Creative Arts degree thinking I’d learn even more about writing, but really, I learned far more being a member of RWA and entering competitions to hone my skills. (Is that TMI?)

2.What is a usual writing day like for you? I don’t have one. If I don’t have hours to devote to it, I won’t even attempt to write. This can happen for weeks on end – especially when I was raising young kids. But when I’m on a roll (I don’t plot – just write by the seat of my pants – Pantsers they call us in RWA) 🙂 I can write obsessively – 1500 words an hour. One day I wrote over 17,000 words. And strangely enough, its those scenes that I write like that, that rarely need any polishing. I used to write late at night after the kids were in bed, but I kicked them all out a few years ago and now I can write any time I like 🙂

3.Who influences you? Hmm… hard question. No idea. I’m not easily “influenced” 🙂 I enjoy stories of adventure and incredible bravery, romantic comedy – whoever writes good ones might influence my writing but I really don’t know.

4.What is your all time favourite book? I have to pick only one? I can’t do that. My favourite book as a young child was anything about Winnie the Pooh. Still have the entire set somewhere. Then The Secret Seven and Famous Five.  Can you see a pattern of enjoying adventure stories developing here?

As a teen, Gone With The Wind – OMG both the book and the movie were superb and the characterizations and conflicts. Actually GWTW makes an appearance in my upcoming War Trilogy.

A book I read a few years back and keep recommending to anyone who’ll listen is “The Bronze Horseman”, by Paulina Simons. Set during the Siege of Leningrad, it’s absolutely gripping and realistic (since her parents and grandparents grew up during it, they’d have told her in great detail all about it – far more than you’ll ever learn in newsreels that’s for sure). Read it and you’ll understand what I mean. I’m going to visit St. Petersburg next year, so am looking forward to re-reading the book and visiting the places she mentions and learning more of the siege and the stupidity and sheer hubris of Hitler invading Russia.

Oh, sorry, getting carried away. It’s a tremendous love story set against War. LOTS of hot sex. The hero, Alexander, is divine. Read it! The second book in the series – Sometimes titled The Bridge to Holly Cross and sometimes, Tatiana and Alexander is wonderful too. The third book was rubbish. Obviously written to appease American readers and sell more books. I hope PS never reads this…! But she should have stopped at the end of Book 2 – the first 2 were almost flawless and I loved the interweaving of historical facts.

And of course Pride and Prejudice. Austen was a genius. My next book after the War Trilogy is called “Austen in Love” – I intend that Jane will experience deep love and find happiness. She deserves it. I’ve visited Chawton House where she did most of her writing and revised all her manuscripts before they were published. If you’re an Austen fan, do yourself a favour and go!

5.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? Never.

6.Besides writing, what do you enjoy doing? I ski and travel a lot. Read. Watch tellie (loving Downton Abbey). Hug my Labrador.

7.Are you a plotter/planner when it comes to starting a story? Hell, No! If I plotted and planned and knew how the story developed and ended, there would be no pleasure in writing it for me, so I’d never start.

I usually start off with a premise – maybe a setting or situation and think “what if?” – Throw two opposite characters together and let ‘em at it! I’m often surprised with what they come up with. How they often develop and change from how I’d expected.

8.Do you prefer self publishing or traditional publishing? Please advise of the reason(s). Since I’ve done both and am enjoying being the master of my writing future and not writing to guidelines or deadlines set by my former publishers, Harlequin in Toronto, I’d have to say Indie publishing.

I hate the term self-publishing – it so harkens back to vanity publishing of the olden days or the earlier efforts of people e-publishing their crappy books they couldn’t sell to a trad publisher so they stuck them up on Amazon or whatever. God they were crap. Okay, some might have been good, (I’m saying that so no-one comes after me with a knife!) but for the most part they were rubbish. Actually I have no idea why I’m saying that as I’ve never read any to the end – just the first paragraph or so was enough.

But now of course, Indie publishing has really taken off. And why not? Wouldn’t you rather earn 70% royalties than 6% – or even less from a Trad publishing house?

These days, authors published with traditional houses and going Indie, KNOW they need to have their manuscript professionally edited (and I’m not talking typos and grammar – I’m talking nuts and bolts, story development, revising, revising, revising etc. etc.) unlike the e-published authors of a decade or so ago. I once swore I’d never self- publish as the books were so bad – I’ve since eaten my words [Symbol] I have a brilliant freelance editor – Tessa Shapcott. Without securing her services I doubt I’d have ventured into Indie yet.

I made some wonderful friends through being published with Harlequin, developed a name and best of all, my Harlequin editor, Paul Eykelhof, and I are great friends and still correspond a couple of times a week. But I doubt I’d ever go back to Trad. I can earn more with Indie and write what I want to write. Nuff said?

9.Can you tell us a bit about your latest book? Latest book is a love story set during WW2. It started off as one book but got to be over 180,000 words and as it seemed to break neatly into three parts, I made it a trilogy.

The series is called The War Trilogy and is based on the concept of the Hero’s Journey – except my hero is a heroine and this is her journey[Symbol]

In Book One, “In Love and War”, Amalie is a 19 year old French girl living in occupied France whose life changes when she reluctantly agrees to help a friend on a mission to meet up with some allied commandoes. On the mission are two men, both of whom she will fall in love with throughout the course of the three books and will provide I hope, a lot of intrigue for my readers. One is an English officer and the heir to an Earldom. The other is his best friend, an American who signed up with the British forces at the outbreak of war as he was studying at Oxford at the time.

At the end of the first book, something horrendous happens to Amalie and that leads into Book 2 – “The Descent Into Hell”. The war deepens into hell on earth and Amalie descends into her own psychological hell. The story of her recovery is heart-wrenching and had me in tears writing parts of it as Amalie lives through and overcomes her own private hell and marries one of the heroes after being evacuated to England. But he’s not the man she really loves…

Book Three – “Peace and Redemption” develops Amalie’s character further – she’s no longer that naïve young woman who thought it would be adventurous to help some commandos. She faces all sorts of adversities, her husband is reported killed after being captured by the Nazis and interrogated by the Gestapo. I can’t give away much more – you’ll have to read it! But much like Gone With The Wind, it’s  a love story with a strong female lead, who is forced to draw on all her resources to survive and is set against the background of War – when people would do things they’d never do in peacetime.

Coming out sometime late November I should think. I’ll be offering Book 1 FREE for 3 days on Amazon, so will let you know when 🙂 Or friend me on Facebook – C.c. Coburn and you’ll get the announcement. https://www.facebook.com/CCCoburn

10.Where is the best place you’ve visited, or whats your best experience? I’ve had so many. I’ve been very lucky that I was born with a thirst for adventure and have  had the opportunity to travel. (Pooh would be so proud!) At 21 I travelled from Kathmandu to London on a bus and was caught up in the middle of a military coup in Afghanistan. So many experiences on that trip that changed my life and outlook. The abject poverty, the filth, the great civilizations that crumbled into dust, the appalling treatment of women in some countries (I left one of those countries with my boobs, crotch and bum, black and blue from being pinched in the streets – and yes, I was wearing neck to ankle clothing!)

The incredible beauty and silence of the Hindu Kush, the eerie quiet of Anzac Cove and the serenity of the war graves and how beautifully they’re kept are memories I will cherish forever. (Well, I obviously won’t cherish the memory of being molested in broad daylight!)

My most recent life-changing experience was last month when I visited the grave of my uncle who died on The Somme in WW1. I learned so much more about the war and what they went through–the hideous futility-the horrendous loss of life fighting over 12 kilometers of land for so many  months. So many gravestones in the cemetery (one of over 1000 cemetaries on the front) bore the words – “Here lies a soldier of the New Zealand forces”; “Here lies a South African officer”; “Here lies a soldier of the Australian Infantry” “Here lies a British captain,” etc. etc. etc. It’s so heartbreaking that they were so blown to bits (over 70% of deaths were caused by artillery fire, not guns) that they could never be identified! Their poor, poor mothers. Over 70,000 soldiers were never identified and over 1.2 million died in those few months fighting over that bit of land – the statistics are staggering. I knew the war was bad, but had no idea of the extent, the futility. As a psychic friend said to me: those fields were soaked in blood.

In a bar in Pozierres, I asked the barman if I could buy one of his Aussie flags to put on the grave of my uncle.

He gave it to me and showed me a room he has out back that is a tribute to the Aussie soldiers who tried to save the town. There were hundreds of photographs but I was drawn to a young soldier in one of them and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. This young man was posing with probably a hundred other soldiers, but he bore an uncanny resemblance to one of my brothers and his son at the same age as my uncle was when he died (20). Plus he stood head and shoulders above everyone else – my father was 6’6 and his brother was a similar height. The young man also had my father’s ears and chin. I’m going to research the photograph through Australian war archives. Wouldn’t it be amazing if it was my uncle? And of all the photos in the room, why was I drawn to that one? Why did I notice him when everyone else’s face was a blur?

The experience has me thinking of a plot for a love story set in WW1 – what if my uncle had fallen in love and gotten a young French girl pregnant? What if a young Aussie woman goes on a pilgrimage to the Somme and sees that photograph, sees a resemblance to some of her male relatives and asks the barman about it, and he says, “That’s the great- grandfather of Guillaume. He was going to marry a local girl but was killed the day after the photograph was taken. Guillaume lives in the next town, you should go and meet him.”

I guess I find inspiration for stories everywhere. The problem is, finding the time to write them.

www.cccoburn.com

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