It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Apple Gidley to Linda’s Book Bag today to celebrate the publication of her novel Fireburn. April has written a wonderful post for today’s blog outlining some of her journey to publication that I think will resonate with authors and readers alike. I’m sure, like me, readers will have watched with horror the devastation in the Caribbean recently as a result of the hurricanes. With Fireburn set in the Caribbean and with an historical era explored, there’s no better time to read it.
Fireburn was published yesterday, 1st October 2017, and is available for purchase here.
The Danish-owned island of 1870s Saint Croix vibrates with passion and tension as Anna Clausen, a young Anglo-Danish woman, returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death. Her heart sinks at what she finds on arrival. Her father is ailing and desolate and her beloved plantation, Anna’s Fancy, which has been in the Clausen family for three generations, is in shambles.
The unwelcome lust of one man and forbidden love for another makes Anna’s return to Saint Croix even more turbulent. Despite the decline in the sugar industry she is determined to retain Anna’s Fancy but must first win the trust of her field workers, of Sampson the foreman, and the grudging respect of Emiline the cook and local weed woman.
Fireburn tells of the horrors of a little-known, bloody period of Caribbean history. Anna weathers personal heartache as she challenges the conventions of the day, the hostility of the predominantly male landowners and survives the worker rebellion of 1878, 30 years after Emancipation.
Rich in description, Fireburn is a well-researched novel that shines a light on a historic period in Saint Croix that has received little attention in literature until now.
Finding The Right Story
A Guest Post by April Gidley
I have been posing for a number of years as ‘a writer’ – that’s what I put on those inquisitive government forms. And yet, had it not been for a supportive spouse I doubt I would have been able to afford a garret apartment anywhere, let alone in Paris, New York or London. Isn’t that where writers and artists flee to find themselves?
The impetus to take on that presumptive moniker came after I gave a closing key-note speech at the 2010 Families in Global Transition conference, . The topic was my itinerant life – 26 relocations through 12 countries. As I glowed in the after-speech aura of goodwill I took in the refrain, ‘you should write the stories down’. And so, Expat Life Slice By Slice was born. A memoir of countries and cultures from the cradle to not quite the grave.
I had been advised that no publisher would look at me if I did not have a credible platform and so I started a blog, wrote the occasional travel or expatriate article, and tried to hone my skills. Each professional edit improved my writing. I started to read a number of ‘how-to’ books but finished only one, Stephen King’s On Writing.
Summertime Publishing took the manuscript on and in April 2012, Slice By Slice was launched. It was comforting to know I already had an audience – those about to experience expatriate life, those who were in expat land and old lags like me who knew nothing else. People were eager for true confessions of how not to do things, and a few guidelines on good practices.
Yesterday marked the release of Fireburn, my debut novel set in the 1870s Danish West Indies – now the US Virgin Islands. And whilst OC Publishing, has been equally patient both with the editing and the publishing process, my stomach has not benefited from the relative sangfroid of the first experience.
And I have been wondering why.
Fireburn is not my first actual novel, and whilst the Beta readers of that first manuscript were encouraging, I knew it was not worthy of publication. I still believe the kernel is good and one day I might go back to it. But I learnt a lot writing it – about plot, character, dialogue and voice, and that I had the discipline to write a full length book.
I just had to find the right story.
Then in 2013 I was at a ceremony on the beautiful Caribbean island of St Croix, celebrating the transfer of the Danish West Indies to a US possession in 1917, for the sum of 25 million dollars in gold coin. Much was being made of the centennial four years hence. Sitting under the marquee, the trade winds ruffling programmes and straw hats, my mind started to wander. What, I wondered, had it been like in the lead up to the purchase?
The seed was sown and three of the main characters danced in. Each would give their own perspective of the same event – the transfer of power between two countries. I started the research the next day, and very quickly became aware of ‘Fireburn’, also known as The Great Trashing. My focus changed and Fireburn became the event around which my characters coalesced. And I added a fourth.
That research has been fascinating. People, far more knowledgeable than I, have been generous with their help and suggestions. I like my characters, though one I hold in deep and vitriolic loathing. And yet, and yet, the collywobbles are still here.
My bottle of wine analysis is that Fireburn, the book, is a story based on an actual event around which fictitious lives revolve. They despair, they fear, they hate, they love and they all come from my imagination.
That is what is terrifying me. Will people like my story? My make believe.
Every writer wants their story to be read, to be talked about, to be liked. We all dread the bad reviews, though recognise we will all get one, or two, or more, at some stage. That is why I am a million little fragments waiting to explode in a shower of shattered dreams if the pundits damn me and my book.
I comfort myself with an old Bantu proverb told to me during an attempted coup d’etat by a wise Ghanaian man I knew in Equatorial Guinea. He said, ‘smooth seas do not make skilful sailors’.
And so while the jury is out, I have put my blinkers on and have started the sequel – Transfer of the Crown. I am writing under the assumption that I can only improve with each attempt.
Isn’t that all we can hope for?
(It is indeed Apple. And I wish you every success with Fireburn.)
About Apple Gidley
Apple Gidley, an Anglo-Australian author, whose life has been spent absorbing countries and cultures, considers herself a global nomad. She currently divides her time between Houston, Texas and St Croix, in the US Virgin Islands.
She has moved 26 times, and has called twelve countries home (Nigeria, England, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Papua New Guinea, The Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Scotland, USA, Equatorial Guinea), and her experiences are described in her first book, Expat Life Slice by Slice.
Her roles have been varied – from magazine editor to intercultural trainer, from interior designer to Her Britannic Majesty’s Honorary Consul. Now writing full time, Apple evocatively portrays peoples and places with empathy and humour, whether writing travel articles, blogs, short stories or full-length fiction.