Today on my blog I have the pleasure of having an interview with Dizzy Greenfield, the author of Strays and Relations.
Strays and Relations follows the story of Dizzy, whose search for her birth parents is sad, humorous, and in parts bizarre. Dizzy learns that she began life as a surviving twin, then was fostered until a permanent home was found.
Dizzy begins her search for her original identity. Why was she given up for adoption in the 1960s? Following a tenuous lead, she travels to Ireland with her best friend Sugar, but the trail takes a misleading turn. It ends in what they mistakenly believe is Dizzy’s mother’s grave.
Dizzy falls in love with Will, a blacksmith. But something is missing. Dizzy’s life changes when her birth father Tommy makes contact using a private detective. He reveals that her birth mother is alive and married to a man called Vernon. Now the bigger, trickier task lies ahead: working out how to fit the disparate bits of her life together. This is a book which will both amuse and touch readers’ hearts.
Strays and Relations manages sensitive subject matter with engaging wit and sharply-observed dialogue, and includes vivid descriptions of some rather unusual animals and people. It will appeal to readers who have encountered a recycled animal or family.
I have lived in the West Country all of my life, but never in such a remote place as I do now – in the middle of the woods with rooks and bats. It may be remote but it’s never quiet in Dizzyland! When I’m not looking after the dogs, chickens and a six-toed cat, I help run a blacksmith’s forge with my partner.
My ideas come from humorous incidents in my own life, which I fictionalise. Strays and Relations is my first novel.
Before I began writing I had various jobs, including working in a wildlife park and as a youth worker.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
1. Where did you find the inspiration for your book?
Strays and Relations is a true story that I originally began writing for my friends and family. Then I started to think of the many people touched by adoption. Both my adoptive dad, and my birth mother were adopted, so I was inspired to write about this subject because it had played such a big part in all our lives.
It was definitely the experience of being adopted that led me to writing.
2. If your book came with a theme song, what would it be and why?
KT Tunstall – Other Side Of The World. I listened to this song when I was going through the search for my family, the lyrics resonated with my situation.
3. Who is your favourite character and why?
All the characters in the book are real people. My favourite to write about was Marie because she’s such a vivid personality. I also love that she isn’t frightened to laugh at herself. I don’t think she realises how funny she is. She gave me some great lines for the story. Her comic timing is perfect.
4. What is your favourite genre/author to read?
Genre is comedy, and my favourite author is Jeanine McMullen – I’ve loved her books for decades. One Christmas I was fortunate to borrow one of her titles from sound recordings in my local library. It was magical to hear her voice reading her own story. It was like she was suddenly in my little kitchen and I was all cosy by the Rayburn, watching the snow fall outside. Her books encouraged me to collect more animals of my own, starting with a small flock of rare breed sheep! They were quickly followed by the hens, and I mustn’t forget about the geese. Have I mentioned the horse? Don’t worry. I was already living on a farm, so my home didn’t turn into a “Good Life” scenario. Reading about Jeanine’s wonderful dogs got me thinking that one day I would like to share our home with a whippet. So far we have two. What a great decision! See what books can do?
5. Do you have any tips on the process of getting published?
My tip is to make sure your manuscript is the best it can be, however long it takes you to get it right. I did this by first joining a writing group, I just kept going along every week, for years! The constructive criticism I received was extremely valuable. I also made some wonderful friends and their support enabled me to keep going. Next, I submitted to Silver Crow Books. They helped me improve the manuscript. I also chose to have an additional professional edit and proof read. I’m self-published with Matador and they’ve been brilliant.
6. When you’re not writing, what other hobbies do you have?
I enjoy rattling about in my ancient Mini. I like to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill, nattering to my gym buddy. Our jaws are the most exercised parts of us. When I‘m able, I love to hoist on my rucksack, then head off on little adventures. I’ll try anything to get away in January. I really don’t like January, and January doesn’t like me very much either.
7. What are you working on at the moment?
I used to be a youth worker, so perhaps that’s why I’ve been drawn to writing a YA novel now. It’s a new genre for me, but I’m having a great time sending my protagonist, Cat, on her adventures. However, the book will tackle a serious issue. Watch this space!
8. Where is your favourite place to write?
I sit at the kitchen table, and fire up Lolita the laptop. She is rather old and has a dodgy connection. If I twiddle with the screen, move her about a little to make sure she’s happy and in the right position, we are normally good to go for the day. However, she doesn’t like being shut down at lunchtime. If I forget and shut her lid, we have to go through the whole darn ritual again before she can muster enough strength to get us through the afternoon. I need a new laptop really, but it wouldn’t be the same without Lolita. I keep having her repaired as she’s been really loyal.
9. What are your go to tools for writing?
I don’t need a lot of tools, just the table and the laptop. But I do need warmth and quiet, so the environment must be right. I get other things prepared before I start. If it’s winter I light the wood burner before I write a word, otherwise my fingers freeze. I was given some hand warmers this winter, knitted by my writing friend, so they are in my writing toolkit now. I also like to sort out refreshments – tea in the morning, coffee in the afternoon, and wine in the evening. I don’t have anything serious to hand, like a dictionary!
Please do go and check out all the other amazing blogs that have been contributing to this tour! They are all listed below.