Interview with author Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart

Today I have the good fortune to interview the debute author of a new release, Open/Pierre´s journey after warwhich is now available at web-e-books.com. Margareth Stewart joins us today on Writing to be Read to share a little about herself and her book. This interview is my introduction to Margareth, as well, so I’m excited to get to know her, too.

Kaye: Welcome Margareth. We’d love it if you’d introduce yourself to my readers. Tell us a little about yourself.

Margareth: My real name is Mônica Mastrantonio and Margareth Stewart is my pen name, but I like it so much that you can call me Margareth. 

I´m a PhD professor in Social Psychology, and had been following an academic career if I had not fell totally in love with the writing life.

Kaye: Why did you choose to use a pen name and how did you chose yours?

Margareth: I have a life of academicals papers, thesis and articles under my real name Monica Mastrantonio, so I thought the same name would just confuse the audience. I had no other choice, but to pick up an English pen name for my fiction work which is all in English. I brainstormed quite a few, used app devices to find a suitable one, but only got more confused (lol). The name Margareth came to me as it also starts with the letter M – and the surname seems to match it. That’s how Margareth Stewart was born.

Kaye: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

Margareth: Yes, for sure. I´m a divorced mom of three kids, so my writing depends on having a break, getting to Writers Residencies somewhere far and isolated. I´ve written Open at Maelor Studio in Corris – Wales; Mademoiselle-sur-Seine at Camac – France and now comes the time to go to Greywood Arts in Cork, Ireland – so glad about it.

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

Margareth: Hard. I have three kids. The oldest one is Valentina, she is 16, then comes Chloe who is 10, and Vittorio who is 7. So, I never ever rest – that never happens. I’m also divorced, so it’s – “paying the bills, cleaning the house, getting piles of work done, teaching and tutoring my students from university, working for a social project book donation, and so on” – every single day. I think the secret is living, not only being alive: working hard and having fun – both are essential.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach your children?

Margareth: To follow their dreams and be passionate about whatever they choose to do. I know this may sound a bit too romantic in a very competitive world, but that seems to be the only solution for so many problems we face nowadays. On top of that, I always say that being a happy Mom is the best legacy I can ever leave them. At least, I feel like half of the work has already been done if we are happy people. 

Kaye: What’s one thing most readers would never guess about you?

Margareth: Oh, basically two, where I come from and my age. I was born in Brazil, in a Southern city called Londrina – that stands for Little London – colonized by the British in the 20’s. But I also have Italian citizenship because my grandparents immigrated from Italy, so I say I’m like pizza: half Brazilian-half Italian. Now I live in Sao Paolo, few months in Miami and at writer´s residencies, too. 

Second, my age. I’m 49, and as I dress casual and informal, people tend to think I’m younger.  

Kaye: When and why did you begin writing?

Margareth: I´ve always written, as Academics – mostly scientific papers and articles, though lately felt an urge to start writing fiction. It´s not something I´ve planned, much to the opposite, I even tried avoiding it.

Kaye: When did you first consider yourself to be a writer?

Margareth: When I published my first novel Open/Pierre´s journey after war – at the end of 2017, so I´ve just began (lol). I had also compiled, edited and published anthologies, short stories, articles before, but I did not regard myself so. Then, when Open was accepted and published by web-e-books.com, it felt like the real thing was coming to life. 

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Margareth: Midnight is the perfect hour for me, that’s when all the lights go down, kids are in bed, and silence reigns. My neighbors may think I’m very weird, staying up for long hours at night, but those are my precious working hours, when words flow – I won’t be giving up on them.

Kaye: What inspired you to write your first book?

Margareth: Can you believe it was a Facebook group? Awesome, I know. It was November – Nano writing month and this group ran a contest for the person who would reach 100.000 word count first. Obviously, I´ve missed both the month and the word count. But it somehow gave me courage to book a writer´s residency in January in Wales and accomplish my target there. That was how my novel came to life. Then, it took me two years to have it published. So, my advice is never ever give it up. Champagne takes two full years to have the bubbles in it, so good things do take time. Pierre

Kaye: How did you come up with the title – Open/Pierre´s journey after war

Margareth: The title is a reference to a scene from the book, the only romantic scene in it – when the main character falls in love. They were in a village stepping on the grapes to make wine, the weather changes and rain is about to fall heavily, the owner of the land was holding a bottle ready to be opened in his hand as a tradition to the new harvest, everyone surrounding him started shouting “Open open, open”. It was the first time Pierre held Claire’s hand.

Kaye: Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

Margareth: Because of my background in Social Psychology, I mainly focus in the human beings, their relationships and their inner selves more than anything else.

 Kaye: Open/Pierre´s journey after war is the story of one man’s reaction after losing his family to the atrocities of war. How much of the story is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Margareth: It’s a mix of everything. There is no such a thing as a blank page, everything we ever lived influences us, what we read, hear, see, the people we´ve met, etc. Writing is putting all that in order.

Kaye: Who designed your cover?

Margareth: The Publisher, but I did some changes and suggested the main colour which is orange.

Kaye: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Margareth: Yes, indeed. A message about last wishes. Pierre the main character lives for his last wish which is revenge. People do not pay attention to things they need to accomplish in life, so when old age comes, they become very bitter and frustrated.

Stewart Excerpt  

Kaye: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favourite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Margareth: Oh, so many influencers. I´m an avid reader since a small kid. I read everything I can ever get my eyes upon, and I love libraries and Book Shops – to a point that I could spend days inside one. So from Tchekov, to Dante, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sidney Sheldon, Yeats, Kafka, Steinbeck, Wilde to Agatha Christie, Cervantes and Mills and Boon to name a few. I´ve learned so much from them all.

Kaye: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

Margareth: Facebook groups can play a great motivational role to new writers, feed-back from beta-readers, and artist residencies.

Stewart Writing SpaceKaye: Do you see writing as a career?

Margareth: Yes, it’s a career like any other. I wake up, get some tea, sit down and type until bleeding – as Nietzsche would say.

Kaye: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

Margareth: No, nothing, really, I´m very happy with the book, its edition, and so thankful to everyone that helped me along this way.

Kaye: Did you learn anything during the writing of Open/Pierre´s journey after war?

Margareth: Yes, so much with Pierre, and also about the way I can produce more and write better for next time.

Kaye: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Margareth: Oh, love this question, wish they read this interview, buy the book and decide to film it: Clint Eastwood or Jeremy Irons.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Margareth: Keep writing – keep walking, and “Cheering” accordingly. 

Kaye: What book are you reading now?

Margareth: Cyrano de Bergerac – I want to learn more about dialogues, spoken language, you know.

Kaye: Do you remember the first book you ever read?

Margareth: A series of adventure books for a contest at school, I just remembered I won, and read loads for weeks.

Kaye: What makes you laugh or cry?

Margareth: Good talk & nice people, I get emotional when I meet people who are passionate about what they do. 

Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Margareth: Professor, Historian and Writer from Oxford University: Sir Theodore Zeldin. He has an extraordinary capacity to link major historical events to people’s daily lives – to understand people from a larger point of view. A truly Historical Social Psychologist. I would love to spend some weeks as apprentice in his Department, who knows?

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?Stewart Cat

Margareth: Jogging, cooking, dancing, and reading (lol).

Kaye: What TV shows or films do you enjoy watching?

Margareth: Can you believe I watch no TV? Zero. That´s me, I´m keen on films, but “zero” TV, not missing much is the feed-back I have from people watching it.

Kaye: What are your favourite foods, colours, music?

Margareth: Homemade Pasta made by me (my Italian side) and all sorts of music from Jazz, to folk, rock, samba, bossa, and classical.

Kaye: How would you describe yourself in three words?

Margareth: Passionate. Determined. Brave.

Kaye: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Margareth: I can´t imagine it any longer…there are some paths that there is no turning around – writing is one of them.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Margareth: Doing some of the things my characters do. For instance, Pierre the main character of Open, he drinks hot burning coffee and I tried that once, just got my lips and tongue all burnt for a week. Another unusual thing is taking notes all the time. I carry a small notebook with me – there are times that I have to pull the car off the road not to miss an idea.

Kaye: Is there anything specific you’d like to tell your readers?

Margareth: Just read it.  

Kaye: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

Margareth: Yes, please follow my Facebook Page where I post offers and new book releases. For 2018, we have Mademoiselle-sur-Seine (erotica) much hotter than 50 Shades of Grey.

Stewart Poster

Kaye: Thank you Margareth, for joining us today. It’s been great to get to know a little about you and to learn a little about Open/Pierre´s journey after war. 

Margareth: Thank you so much for putting these together for all of us; it´s an immense pleasure being here, and looking forward to next book interview.

 

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“Holy Denver”: A True Literary Treat

Holy Denver

I’ll tell you a secret. For me, the problem with most literary works is that they move so slow it seems like nothing ever happens and eventually, I am so bored that I don’t care enough about the characters to finish the story. I guess that’s why I read mostly genre fiction. It’s more fast paced and has real conflict to keep the story moving and the reader interested. Not so, with Holy Denver, by Florence Wetzel.

While Holy Denver does have true literary qualities such as moving at a lacksidaisical pace, the characters are colorful enough to keep me coming back for more. Wetzel makes her settings come alive, allowing the unique atmosphere of Boulder and the old town ambience of down town Denver to become characters in their own right, carrying the story from place to place with graceful, relaxed transitions.

Holy Denver is a tale of self-discovery and yet is the tale of the fall of the publishing industry and some of its more recent rises. I was fortunate to acquire a print copy for review, so for me it was a feel good read, allowing me to slip quietly into a world I’m only too familiar with, having grown up in Golden, right between Denver and Boulder, and forget about the reality of the here and now for a while. (I can remember when what is now the 16th Street Mall that Wentzell writes about was a paved street where all the kids went to cruz their daddies’ cars on Friday and Saturday nights, and I attended the later part of my ninth grade year at school located in the Capital Hill area.) I think I smiled almost the whole way through it. It is introspective and entertaining, and I give Holy Denver four quills.

Four Quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Gnarled Bones”: A Collection of Five Brief Tales

Gnarled Bones

Short stories carry the burden of telling the tale in few words, so they often sacrifice many of the qualities one finds in a novel length work, including details that fill in our mental picture for us, making readers work harder to gain a clear vision for the story. Another common complaint that I often voice is the fact that they are a brief glimpse into the character’s lives and don’t always have a complete story arc, making them feel incomplete, like there should be more. Such is the nature of the beast we call the short story. I have had to learn to expect these things when I’m reviewing short fiction, and not mark against the story for these faults alone. So, while I may comment on some of these qualities when reviewing anthologies or short story collections, they will not be the basis for lower ratings. Those will be based on the quality of the writing and how well the stories are crafted, just as they are with a longer work.

That being said, I found Gnarled Bones and Other Stories by Tam May to be a collection of highly crafted stories, with brief descriptions that skillfully put readers in the scene and allow them a clear vision of each story being told. Each story in this collection has heavy literary qualities and each carries the theme of empowerment, or the lack of it, in some way. Although most of them felt unfinished to me, they were none-the-less captivating, capturing my full attention during the brief snapshots I was allowed.

Along with Gnarled Bones, the story which sticks out most in my mind is The First Saturday Outing, which I enjoyed at first, but was later disappointed in, when the woman’s inability to empower herself and embrace her freedom became apparent, making the character, whom I’d been routing for, appear weak and inept.

Also to be found in this collection is Mother of Mischief, where Marie is driven by her need to look after and care for someone, drawn to mischievous men who need to be kept in line. Bracelets, where Isabelle, a circus acrobat is drawn to her circus family through the tragedy of a lion attack on a child. And, Broken Bows where, for Anne, a train ride becomes an act of defiance and two very different souls find one another briefly.

Along with theme, the stories in Gnarled Bones and Other Stories have other things in common, as well. Each has a female protagonist, each has literary qualities and feel, and each is well crafted to tell the story with skill and ability. I give it four quills.

Four Quills3

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.