Interview with author, Patricia Wilson
Patricia Wilson is the author of two novels, Island of Secrets and Villa of Secrets (published in paperback on the 3rd May), both repeatedly flagged as best sellers by Amazon. Island of Secrets: A story of war, love, loss, and family, based on a true story of injustice, which transports us to 1943, Amiras, a remote mountain village in Crete. This is a book full of raw emotions, family vendettas, hidden secrets and three strong women who come together to unravel what really happened in the past. The Novel was inspired by a rusted machine gun, which the author dug up in her garden in that same village.
Villa of Secrets: A powerful story of one girl’s courage in Rhodes, WW2, with twists and turns that make it fascinating and shocking, full of love and hate. Based on a true story, Villa of Secrets is a strong and emotional novel, which will stay with the reader for a long while. The sad history of Rhodes is revealed, and the bravery and determination of the young protagonist inspires us.
Patricia, tell us about your life before writing.
I am the eldest of seven children, and I was born in 1949, in a flat over a florist’s in New Ferry, on the Wirral, Merseyside. For the first fourteen years of my life, I lived on a council estate in Ellesmere Port, then Dad moved us to the posher end of town, Whitby. At nineteen, I married a local boy, emigrated to South Africa for four years, but then returned to the Wirral and settled in Bebington. At 45, I sold my businesses, took early retirement, and moved to the Greek island of Crete. Four years ago, I moved to a plot on the island of Rhodes. I lived in a log cabin on the land, while I built a lovely house on the beach.
How do you decide on your novel dedication?
What do you write about?
My stories are always inspired by real-life historical events. Stories of injustice that involve women who struggle and eventually triumph. I combine this with the intense emotions we all feel, but too often keep buried. I am intrigued by the secrets people keep. Also, there is love. The need to feel loved; our love for others; and the power of women, are recurring themes at the heart of my narratives.
I am fascinated by the twists and turns of fate and how they shape the paths that people follow. Also, I think people only realise how much their parents love them, when they are mature themselves and their children have grown and moved away, either physically or emotionally, directing their own love to their partners and children. I think the greatest tragedy in life is not to love someone.
I love the warmth here, and also the openness of the Greek people, especially on the islands, and particularly Crete. They, the people, are a constant source of inspiration. Also, I have to live near the sea, and living on a relatively small island makes that possible. I enjoy the simple life, wholesome fresh food, and the clean air. The light is wonderful here, especially for painting and photography. The wildlife is also amazing and I enjoy photographing the birds, butterflies, incredible insects and colourful lizards. My garden is scruffy and wild, and planted to support every kind of flora and fauna; and I get so much enjoyment from it.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The fact is, most publishers expect their authors to write a novel every year. It’s what readers want. Most authors wish they had longer, but a year is doable.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
For me, being very dyslexic, writing is hard work; but I’m a story teller, and I love entertaining people. My favourite part of producing a novel is the research. Facts are fascinating! Quite often, the personal accounts from people that I interview differs greatly from the ‘official’ facts that I find on the web. In that case, I prefer to use my interviewee’s accounts. Some reviewers forget that a novel is a work of fiction and they seem to want a documentary.
People are so interesting, I really do enjoy listening to them tell of their experiences and adventures. Inspiration springs from the most unlikely sources, and I have a head full of stories that are queuing up to hit the keyboard. I enjoy the birth of my characters, discovering the difference between them, and developing those differences — understanding their strengths and weakness. I must have a range of players from the deeply moving matriarch, to the slightly self-centred youngster. It’s important for the reader to identify with someone in the story, that’s what draws them in and keeps them hooked.
How do you come up with an idea for a book?
Ideas come from facts, then I ask myself, ‘What if…’. Research puts meat on the bones of a story, then I flesh out the characters.
What do you want your readers to get from your novels?
For me, the most important thing is that there are moments in the story that stay with my readers long after the last page. Visual imprints, or emotional points. I hope my readers feel differently about certain things that perhaps they hadn’t thought about before. For example: with our busy lives, we tend to see our very elderly neighbours, as old folk, nothing more.
We don’t consider their life experiences, we don’t wonder if they themselves have saved or taken lives, struggled and triumphed. We don’t consider that perhaps we could learn a lot from them if we took the time to listen to their stories. Also, young teens have the potential for such greatness and I feel we must support and develop that instinct to take on the world, rather than let them shift it to gaming. In the end, I hope my readers look at the people around them and perhaps and see them in a new light. After all, we are all unique in our own way.
Which other authors do you read, and where?
I don’t have any favourites, but I do read a lot. When I enjoy a novel, I always read it again, enjoying it even more the second time. I read in bed, and also in the bath. If I can’t put a book down, then you’ll find me reading at mealtimes too.
I’m an old rocker. Tina Turner, Annie Lenox, early Elton John. I love classical music too. I used to go to the Empire Theatre in Liverpool once a month, fabulous shows! Everything from the Everly Brothers to the Marriage of Figaro. But the best concert I ever went to was at Manchester City’s football ground. Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, Status Quo, in 1991. Brilliant!
Tell you a funny story about the Empire. I asked my elderly and ailing mother-in-law was there anything she had wanted to do all her life. She said she wanted to fly on concord, and go to a ballet. Well, concord had crashed, so that was pretty much off the list, but lucky enough, Sleeping Beauty was on the Empire. I phoned to book, but as it was only a couple of weeks before Christmas, the entire show was sold out.
What to do?
I exaggerated the situation and said it was my mother-in-law’s dream to see this ballet. As she was very hard of hearing, spent most of her life in a wheelchair, and was unlikely to see another Christmas, could they please try to do something.
The lovely women relented and said there were a couple of seats on the front row, right in front of the orchestra pit. I took them.
The curtain went up, Hilda was thrilled! A solitary ballerina pirouetted diagonally across the stage, straight towards us. Hilda’s mouth hung open, and then, in the complete silence of awe in the theatre, Hilda’s voice was amplified by the orchestra pit as she said loudly, ‘Bye that was good, but that poor girl’s gonna have bunions when she gets older!’
The rows behind us broke into fits of giggles, and I shrunk down into my seat, gawd!
When the down side of life hits me, and I’m in danger of giving up on something, I play The River by Garth Brooks. It always lifts me and spurs me on to overcome difficulties.
Your favourite Greek dish?
I don’t have one favourite, but my perfect meal would start with traditional mezzes. All the dips and small local plates that go down particularly well with raki in Crete, or ouzo in Rhodes. Then, rabbit stiffado or a good moussaka, and village salad with sturdy homemade bread, all washed down with local dry red wine. To follow: baklava and ice cream, or small sweet cheese pies topped with fresh walnuts and honey, and a glass of robust Mavro Dafni. I like a meal to be a lazy, tactile affair full of mouth-watering tastes and herby aromas. A feast that takes hours to complete. Good company, laughter, local wine, traditional music, all enjoyed al fresco with the sound of the sea in the background, makes a perfect evening for me.
Two huge ambitions, actually.
A film or TV series of one of my novels. I would particularly like to see a musical of Villa of Secrets as I had a particular actor/singer in mind all the way through the story. (Sarah Brightman)
If only one person changes their perception, or is made to care a little bit more about an issue, then my writing has been worthwhile. I don’t mean to sound pompous, but there is so much prejudice and injustice, and people just don’t see it, or think about it. We live our cosy lives with tunnel vision, while Syrian kids freeze to death over Christmas! ‘Another mince pie, anyone?’
I’m very sensitive about the Syrian situation because a family of refugees were washed up at the bottom of my garden in Rhodes, in 2015. Thrown out of a boat by human traffickers 50mts from the shore, even though they couldn’t swim and didn’t have life jackets. Tragic! Now, Turkey has relieved Greece’s refugee problem, so hey, it’s all okay, right? We don’t have to worry about it anymore. I’d like to write a novel about a Syrian refugee woman and her children, but I’m not famous enough to get away with something like that, not yet. I have to write about holiday destinations, sunshine, happy places. But I hope perhaps one day…