v a shannon - about the author
Connecticut Christmas by Aurence
WHERE I WRITE
"A woman must have ... a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own.
This is where I write. I sit in the corner of my room on the second floor of this building with a stunning view of the quince tree in the garden below and then trees and some woodland.
I'll give you the guided tour; the green chair comes from my mum, it was just pine but I painted it; it's equally comfortable and uncomfortable; a great size and the right height but a very hard seat for sitting typing for any length of time, hence the cushion. The curtain material is from somewhere very posh, I bought it so many years ago I can't remember where. I was going to use it in the first house I bought in London, but never did, and it's moved house with me a dozen times since then. Miraculously, even though it has a huge design repeat, (Chinese architecture and landscape) I had just enough - to the inch - to make the curtains for these floor-to-ceiling windows. It was meant to be!
The painting on the wall behind the chair and the painting on the sideboard are both by an artist known as Aurence and each features the artist's signature white dog somewhere in the image. When I first came across his work he only painted images of the Vietnam war and I bought a Christmas scene (the one on the wall) but then I commissioned a Connecticut Christmas to go with it (the one on the sideboard) and I love them both.
The sideboard is mid-century (ie 1950s) and my mum bought it for me as a present from a charity shop in Lincoln for £30! - Bargain! In front of the painting is a collection of Fitz and Floyd vegetable china, from a now-defunct range - I love, love this but their designs now have gone towards the twee and fussy, and I can't get any more of this. I very much regret not buying more at the time, but it was pretty expensive. Next to it is a lamp from Dunelm. It's so hard to find stylish lighting and I love this - the colour, the shape, the size - perfect. Behind my chair on the floor is a painting of some tulips. It's on the floor to hide the ugly leads and plugs from the tv, laptop, lamp etc etc. Last of all, table from B & Q, on it, pens in a Lyle's Golden Syrup tin - love the design of these tins - and the book I am currently using for research, Inside Hitler's Greece by Mark Mazower.
ROMANTIC COMEDIES - my secret passion!
"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say." Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own.
Romantic comedies - my secret passion!
My first introduction to romantic comedies was 'way back when' - I was seventeen, it was the early seventies, and I was sharing a bedsit in Portswood, Southampton, with my best friend at the time, Jennie Mair. Neither of us could cook; that is, I could make a mean chocolate cake thanks to domestic science classes at school. but that was it, and Jennie is the only person I've ever met who could produce fish fingers that were burned black on the outside and remain frozen in the middle.
I fancied the chap who lived downstairs in the basement, all floppy dark hair and emerald green Irish eyes., and I used to pinch his milk off the doorstep in the hope that he'd come to claim it and somehow instead of being cross at having no cup of tea with his breakfast, he'd fall madly in love with me. A long time later we heard on the news that the house was discovered to be an IRA bomb factory, so I guess my Irish crush had other things on his mind that where his milk had disappeared to.
Anyway, back to the romantic comedy - back then, Petticoat magazine used to serialise the Jilly Cooper 'girls' names' series - Harriet, Bella, Emily etc. I used to lie on my bed devouring chocolate and novel equally. And writing romantic comedies has been my secret passion ever since!
Vivienne was born in Southampton, UK and now lives just north of London. She has previously lived in Belgium, on a Greek island, and in the USA where she studied painting at Paier School of Art in Hamden, CT. When she returned to the UK, Vivienne attended the University of Kent at Canterbury, where she achieved a First Class Honours degree in Visual and Performed Arts – a course combining English Literature, creative writing and History of Art. Following that she trained as a barrister at BPP School of Law and worked for one of London’s leading libel firms. She has experience in legal publishing, as an editor and proof reader, and has also followed a secondary route as a teacher, tutoring students in English Literature and teaching Legal English to international lawyers.
Having always written, but never thought of it as ‘proper’ career, Vivienne finally acknowledged that writing full time was what she really wanted to do and enrolled on the Faber Academy Writing Course in Bloomsbury, London. Here she started the first draft of a novel that was, eventually, to become ‘When Winter Comes’.
Vivienne says, “I’d come across the story of the Donner Party when I lived in America, and I chose to write about it to challenge myself. Everything I’d previously written (including a situation comedy about a pantomime horse!) had been comedic. I thought that the Faber Academy writing course was the perfect opportunity to force myself to write something complex and dark. The story of the Donner Party itself is horrific, a tale of the most unimaginable suffering including murder and cannibalism. But I just couldn’t write it without some leavening elements of comedy in it. In real life, in even the most harrowing of situations it is part of our human condition to find something to laugh about.
“Although ‘When Winter Comes’ is being published in the USA, where the tale of the Donner Party is an integral part of pioneer history, I hope that a wider audience, not as familiar with the Donner Party story, will enjoy it as well. Although it is based on true events, as a lawyer I took issue with much of the evidence which many previous authors appear to have accepted at face value; in particular the character of Louis Keseberg who has been vilified as an absolute monster.
“I didn’t set out to write an academic study or a dry recitation of facts. The novel is written from the perspective of a young wife and mother, now living in a small town in California on the eve of the presidential election that will see Lincoln come to office and mark the country's descent into civil war. My narrator combines a rather acerbic commentary on her everyday life with reflections on her journey with the Donner Party. What I wanted to write was the sort of book I enjoy reading myself – a big, gripping novel with lots of drama and a twist of humour. And I hope that’s what I’ve achieved.”