'It Never Occurred to Me That My Writing Was Worthy of Publication' TheBIGInterview Author Mari Strachan Was 61 When She Published Her First Novel. She Told Abbie Wightwick How It Feels to Find Literary Success Late in Life

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

'It Never Occurred to Me That My Writing Was Worthy of Publication' TheBIGInterview Author Mari Strachan Was 61 When She Published Her First Novel. She Told Abbie Wightwick How It Feels to Find Literary Success Late in Life


Byline: Mari Strachan

* s a child in post-war Harlech Mari Strachan was an avid reader who loved writing.

Growing up to become a librarian and mother she carried on writing, never believing anyone would be interested in her words.

It was only when Mari found herself in her late 50s, retired with grown-up children and grandchildren, that she finally decided she must 'do something about this writing thing'.

Mari, now 65, was raised in what she describes as a working class family in Harlech.

There were few books in her house and her parents weren't really interested in reading.

Encouraged by other relatives and her school she found books to read and scribbled away for herself.

By the time she was an adult she says she lacked time as well as confidence to write a book or seek a publisher.

Yet it was precisely this small town, working class Harlech of her youth that brought Mari eventual success as a writer.

She might have felt it caused a lack of confidence at first, but her early experiences of living in a small, tight-knit community have proved to be her muse.

"I've always written but I suppose coming from the background I did I had a lack of confidence," Mari says.

"It never occurred to me that I could write something that could be published."

It turned out she couldn't have been more wrong.

Mari's debut novel, the critically acclaimed The Earth Hums in B Flat, was published when she was 61 - to instant success.

It was one of Amazon's top 10 novels of 2009, short-listed for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award, honoured in the Indies Choice Book Awards in the Adult Debut category and the best-selling Waterstones' New Voice of 2010.

As if this were not enough for a first novel, The Earth Hums in B Flat was also chosen as a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime and short-listed for awards in Ireland and Finland.

Mari laughs gently when recalling the acclaim.

"It was quite exciting but also rather hard to take in," she says.

Having been a young woman assuming her writing wouldn't interest anyone, Mari became an older woman who saw her first novel translated into 12 languages including Chinese, Turkish and Bulgarian.

When pressed Mari admits her children were 'quite excited' by her success and one of her grandchildren, who she credits at the front of her first novel, was excited to see his name alongside so many languages.

She says her writing life eventually began to gel when she and husband Glenn, a consultant in sustainability, moved to a smallholding in Penuwch, Ceredigion nine years ago.

Here at last Mari had the opportunity to foster her love of writing.

"We came to this smallholding and I was at a point where I was not in a work place, nearly retirement aged and had to do something," she recalls.

" I thought I have to do something about this writing thing or forget all about it."

The urge to write was too strong to forget but Mari felt she needed help. She applied for an online course in creative writing run by Manchester Metropolitan University and decided to give writing one last, proper stab.

It was a three-year course with the last year devoted to writing a novel, although Mari says it took her more than two years to finish The Earth Hums in B Flat.

Although Mari had written since childhood, she says she didn't have an idea for a novel when starting the course.

"I had a character in my head but not a novel," she explains.

"The course gave me the confidence to write a novel. It taught me that it was okay to write the way I wrote."

What came out of that new confidence was a book that was loved by reviewers, booksellers and readers.

Mari is modest about her success but has gained a quiet confidence in her achievements, perhaps based on the foundation of so many years writing for herself. …

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