For World Book Day I interviewed fellow author and cosplayer Maria Gray about her children's book, as well as her upcoming projects.
Could you introduce yourself?
I'm Maria Alice Gray and I'm a writer from The Black Country
What can you tell us about your story?
A New Beginning is about a stray English bulldog named Gruffy who finds an abandoned kitten and attempts to save her from a life on the streets. In doing so he encounters a war veteran who changes his life forever.
What would you say inspired this book?
My childhood which was spent growing up around classic Rovers. I got the idea for Gruffy at the Shugborough Hall Classic Car and Transport Show in Staffordshire on Sunday 11th August 2011. When I was walking around the show and I casually noticed various visitors with their families with their dogs and it got me thinking my family's old dog, Clivey. From there I got the idea for a short story about a dog and his companion. The family element came a few days later.
When it comes to writing, which authors would you say had a big influence on you?
Not authors per say, more so creator. My style has been influenced by the TV show Thunderbirds created by Gerry & Slyvia Anderson. I grew up watching Thunderbirds and other Anderson shows like Stingray and Captain Scarlet of which I've been a lifelong fan. My childhood was a literal time warp as I grew up around the Rover P6 which is a saloon car produced by Rover during the sixties and seventies. My Dad was an Anderson fan and timed with a resurgence of Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet in the 1990s when I was a child, I grew up surrounded by the sixties and seventies.
So you'd say the things you grew up with were a great source of inspiration. It's the same with my own work. Would you say that nostalgia is a good well to draw from when it comes to creative writing?
Absolutely! Nostalgia, isn't just looking back on something and thinking hey I used to play with that or my Dad used to drive one of those cars. It evokes a memory. It evokes feeling and that feeling can help you develop a character, create a new plot point or help you understand more about what you want to convey across to your reader in your writing. This is the main reason why I set A New Beginning and indeed the A Bulldog Named Gruffy universe at large in the mid 1960s. It goes without saying that we need to remember our past. How else are we and future generations for that matter going to learn if we don't know our history? I wanted to showcase this incredible time period, where iPads didn't exist, where we didn't have mobile phones, and life was very different. Things we take for granted now didn't exist or were in their very early stages of development. It was a very different way of life and a very interesting one. The other two reasons are I wanted to have a Rover 2000 as a lead character vehicle at a time where Rover was at its strongest as a car manufacturer. I've grown up with Rover my entire life and my family runs a parts and restoration business geared towards the Rover P6 so we're very passionate about Rover. In modern day memory, Rover is best known for its collapse in 2005 and for the cars not exactly being brilliant and that's not a true reflection of Rover in its entirety so this is my way of showing Rover at its best. And finally I wanted to acknowledge the work of the Andersons because they made my childhood so fantastic with Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet.
Do you have a writing schedule?
I don't really have a writing schedule, I just go with the flow. Sometimes I have periods where I can write for hours on end, other times I don't write anything for a couple of days or so. Sometimes I'll work on other projects instead and then come back to the A Bulldog Named Gruffy universe. But ideas are always in my mind and I do write things down in my note book or on the laptop in between, such as develop the extended universe or work on character development.
… And yes I know I'm a chatterbox, I apologise.
Don't worry about it!
Having a creative mind is like having 2000 tabs open in your mind, near constantly. It drives you scatty sometimes!
I know that feeling...
… Anyway, what other projects are you working on?
Presently I'm working on the second A Bulldog Named Gruffy book which is due out in November of this year. In addition I'm working on a couple of spin off short stories to the second book. Away from those, I have a not child friendly book in the works which is my first original sci-fi horror novel.
Finally, what advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?
Never give up, especially when you're up against the odds.