In 1824, a young man buttons up his redcoat and goes to war. Amidst the blood and devastation, he discovers a magical power which can save memory from the ravages of time.
1867 and a woman, living above a watch shop, meets two men who will change her life forever. As she ventures further into a world of séance and mysticism, she must decide whether to trust her own eyes.
In the present day, a rebellious artist finds herself photographing stillbirths for a living. At Little Angels, it’s not about what you can take from a picture, but what you can give.
The story of three lives, spanning the history of photography and our relationship with mortality.
Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
I live in Kigali, in Rwanda, and I mostly write at home. I’ve always been pretty solitary in that respect. I love the idea of being a social scribbler, sitting with a coffee and weaving tales between the tables of a bustling café, but in reality I find other people very distracting. When I hear snatches of conversation, my mind takes hold of those and starts constructing a story around it, or I find myself people watching and getting no work done. Going to a café is the treat I get for sitting my backside down and finishing a few pages.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
None at all. I am a complete pantser and very bad at routine. The universe seems to work against me when I try to follow a pattern. If I say, ‘right, I’m writing at this time of day, every day,’ guaranteed someone will turn up at that time or the electricity will go off and I’ll have to put things on hold. I tried to use the same pen for signing books each time, and promptly lost it. I think of writing as a fairly chaotic process, so – embrace the chaos!
– Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?
Not really. When I get into writing, everything else sort of disappears. I can sit for a couple of hours without thinking to make a cuppa or a sandwich. When I smoked, I could get through quite a few cigarettes whilst writing, but I don’t do that at the moment and perhaps I’m more productive for it, having both hands free to type.
– What is your favourite book?
If you had asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have replied The Seduction of Silence by Bem Le Hunte, which has been my favourite book since I first read it many years ago. However, I’ve just discovered The Binding by Bridget Collins and I think it might be a tie for first place. Both are just beautifully written.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I’ve written several genres already, from horror and transgender romance through to historical fiction and dark fantasy. I don’t tend to consider genre when I start writing. A good story goes where it wants to go. Genres are like boundaries on a map. You’re aware of them, but you can cross over on your journey.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
No, not directly. I think most writers would say that characters are amalgamations of the best and worst traits of many people they know. But the trait itself isn’t the person. They’re tropes common to human beings. A turn of phrase, a gesture, a nervous tick, a tone of voice – those things all came from somewhere, be it genetics, parents, friends or TV shows. They existed somewhere in the world long before the person you associate them with started using them. They will continue in somebody else after they die. Those little ticks might be interesting enough that a writer thinks, ‘oh, I’ll give that to my character,’ but the tick adds to the character’s individuality, it doesn’t mould the character into someone you know. John Connolly said, ‘writers are magpies,’ and it’s true. We look for the shiny, glittery things to draw our readers closer. A book is a nest of stolen items.
Besides, I write to escape reality, I wouldn’t want to drag it wholesale into my imaginary world, not without wiping its shoes.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
No. My handwriting is absolutely illegible, so I wouldn’t be able to read anything I wrote. Generally, if an idea’s good enough, it takes up residence at the back of my mind until I’m sitting at a computer.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I don’t think there is one. I’m a complete story hound. I want to go everywhere, imagine everything. I’m a graphic horror fan, but equally I’ll sit down with a box of tissues and go gooey over a good romance. I read quite a bit of non-fiction nowadays, but I’m as at home with that as Greek mythology, a good western or Diana Wynne Jones. I think you can dislike a story, but to dismiss an entire genre? How can you not like a single story set in the Wild West, or a single story where people die in mysterious circumstances, or a single story with dragons? That seems a bit self-restricting.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Now that’s an interesting question. I would love to co-write something, but it just never seems to happen. I’m open to most things, though I think I’d like the opportunity to work with a Rwandan author, perhaps someone from the Versus collection of Rwandan short stories, and develop some sort of epic fantasy around Rwandan folklore. I love bringing folklore and fairy tales to life, and I think there’s so much inspiration to draw from here. Lots of lesser-known heroes and magical creatures such as Ndabaga, Ryangombe, and the mythical shape-shifting insibika. I think traditional stories are in danger of being lost in the internet age with so many other distractions. They need to be told and retold to remain in the modern psyche.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you choose and why?
An entertaining question. I first came to Rwanda in 2007 to undertake research, but for a sign language dictionary rather than a work of fiction. I would be extremely interested to visit Ur in Iraq, as I have a fascination with Enheduanna, the first known author in history. Her likeness was dug up there by a man named Sir Leonard Woolley – no relation. I would love to stand there and feel what it would be like, but unfortunately the current circumstances make that impossible. I hope to live long enough that one day it won’t be.
Thank you, Marion Grace Woolle and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Marion Grace Woolley is known for dark historical fiction including Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran and The Children of Lir. She balances writing with her work in international development and her hobby as a piano tuner. Marion currently lives in Rwanda.
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