We had the pleasure of interviewing A.H. Richardson – author of the Jorie series, a series of children’s chapter books, which includes Jorie and the Magic Stones, Jorie and the Gold Key, and Jorie and the River of Fire. She has also written several murder mysteries, including Murder in Little Shendon, Act One, Scene One – Murder, The Murder at Serenity Farm, and Murder on Baringo Island.
Do you have a favorite quote from your book?
I do have a favourite quote, the truth is I have quite a few, but the one I think I like the most, and one I hope that youngsters reading this book will espouse, is where the Great Wizard Grootmonya thanks the children and tells them: “You have shown immense loyalty, courage, duty and responsibility, for one so young. You will go far in life with these qualities.” This summed up the Great Wizard’s appreciation for their exploits, and his recognizing that they were brave and wonderful children.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
What did I want to do as a child? Good gracious! My aspirations were legion. I wanted to be a vet, I wanted to be a painter (a great one), I wanted to be a writer … but what I most wanted to be was… (hang on to your hats here, folks!) — was a movie star, Capital M and capital S!
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I am embarrassed to say that, other than essays and compositions written at school, which according to the nuns, (yes, I was educated at a convent) showed enormous talent! My first book was written when I was (slight drum roll here) 74! I know, I know, you’re thinking ‘aren’t you a bit long in the tooth to start a writing career?’ Actually one does one’s best thinking when one is just slightly older, only because we can really allow our imagination to take wing in a way that wouldn’t have been possible earlier … at least, that is my personal experience.
How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?
The idea for this book had been cooking in my ‘noggin’ (cute British word for brain) for a long time, and I made myself promises that I WOULD write it at some point. When I bought my snug little mountain house in Tennessee, I finally had some time … and that was all it took. Just time, and a keyboard, and unleash that wild imagination, and let it romp! Becoming an author took a gradual sort of state of mind … once it got a hold of me, I really couldn’t let go. Once I created ‘Jorie’ I realized that she could not just have one book, so I wrote a second ‘Jorie and the Gold Key’, and am working on a third, which is almost done. The other genre I love, is writing murder mysteries, all with a British flavor, as they take place in cute little English villages, where there is more scandal and skullduggery (I LOVE that word) than you can imagine, and I have written three of those.
Do you like to create books for adults, youth and/or children? and Why?
I do enjoy writing for adults, and the who-dun-it has always appealed to me – I think we write about what we know. Wait a minute, don’t think that I know a lot about murder, dear me ‘no’, but I do know about little villages in England, and there is something about trying chase down the wicked and the vile that is so much fun. As for writing for children, I am strictly speaking not a grown-up yet myself, and it is not one of my goals! You write so much better, when you can hold on to your childhood!
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written almost six books, and it is hard to choose a favourite. Possibly ‘Jorie and the Magic Stones’ takes the blue ribbon, after all, it is the first-born. Among the murder mysteries, I loved writing ‘Act One, Scene One, Murder.’ Having had an interesting life in the theatre, I feel very at home writing about actors and all their nutty idosyncrasies!
How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about three months to write a book, because once I start, I just go!
What does your family think of your writing?
Family is very supportive of the writing, and think that mum is ‘a genius’ – I have educated them well!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I am not writing, I am painting. On Canvas, on plywood, and they are mostly wild looking landscapes, and I paint with a palette knife.
What do you think makes a good story?
Fabulous, believable, irritating, funny, scary and wonderful characters.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating/writing your books?
Trust your instincts, they are nearly always spot on.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I loved the Bronte sisters, absolutely magnificent writers, and W. Somerset Maugham, and the indomitable Agatha Christie. AND Shakespeare, I did almost all his plays in England.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Readers tend to ask, “How do you manage to imagine all that stuff?” This is usually a huge compliment.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
Make your characters jump out of the pages; yes, you should have a good plot, but you hold your readers’ interest with the characters I believe.
Any writing rituals?
Rituals, well I don’t sacrifice a goat or anything before I begin … usually two cups of coffee, put on makeup (most important) love my two pugs, then sit and write.
Readers, I would say this, read read, and read, and IF you want to write, then do it … it takes determination, patience, drive and undying enthusiasm.
Any last thoughts for our readers?
Thanks you for your kind invitation to chat a little here.
I loved writing, even as a fairly young child, and was an observer and an absorber, and a born mimic, all of which served me in some way to become a writer later in my life.
Quite obviously, if you are writing a work of fiction, a theme of some kind is important — you have a beginning, a middle and an end, and ideally interesting things happen in between. I can only speak from personal experience here; the characters in your book move the story along, and they must have the appearance of being absolutely real, if they are not believable, you will lose your reader, who will be uninvolved, uninterested and most likely feel rather cheated.
Hamlet is a marvelous play, with fabulous prose, wonderful imagery and so on … but it is the actors that bring the play to life … and so it is when you write a book. What would happen without the actors or characters? They move thee vents, they shock you, they frighten you, they make you laugh, they involve you (or they should). They should be your primary concern and motivation. I would also say make your characters as three dimensional as you can; the villain should have a soft side somewhere, the hero should not be a paragon of virtue all the time, and your comic character should have a sad or serious side. This is what makes your ‘people’ jump off the pages of your book and grab your reader!
If you decide to take the plunge and write a book, fiction here, think back to the past to people you remember, someone you worked for, someone you were married to, a teacher, a supermarket manager, someone who had characteristics that you remember; take some of these qualities (or faults) and build a character. In other words steal bits and [pieces of the remembered person, mix them up a bit (rather like making a cake!) then create your person for the book, and see how real they become, Your reader must suspend their disbelief, and really get into the book … that is when you have a happy reader. Most of my characters are bits and pieces of folks I have known, but not necessarily loved!
Lastly, write because you love it, that’s the only reason to do it, and if there’s another reason, then you will be found out!
Thanks for so patiently reading and listening, I wish you all good things