Lexa Dudley, author of Children of the Mists
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Lexa Dudley, author of Children of the Mists. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Lexa.
Lexa Dudley: Thank you for inviting me, the pleasure is all mine.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself and your work?
LD: I have always written either a diary or kept notes. I started writing my first novel The Whispering Wind in the late 1970’s, between helping my husband run his company and bringing up four boys. It was difficult to find the time I needed, but I finally sent it off to numerous publishers, and received a mountain of rejection slips, enough to decorate the bathroom walls. We moved, so I packed everthing away and forgot about it.
When I retired my husband suggested I get out the book and have another look at it. When I reread it I knew why I had had so many rejections. So I sat down and rewrote it and finally found someone willing to publish it. They wanted to change the ending. I wrote the ending they wanted but it never felt right. It was then I decided to publish it myself. And I am happy to say that it won finalist in the Romance and Literary in the National Indie Excellence Book Awards 2014 and finalist in the romance in the Next Generation Book Awards 2014 in America. I have also had it translated into Italian.
This latest book Children of the Mists took a lot of research, but as I collect books on Sardina, I had all the information about the island in 1800, so had time to sit and read, take notes and generally enjoy the process of putting a story together.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
LD: My ideal place to write is on the beach in Sardinia. I have nothing to do, no cooking, no telephone calls, everything is done for me and I can sit in the shade and let my imagination run wild. But a lot of the writing is done in my head; I like to have some scenes ready in my head before I actually write, then when I sit down I can watch it like seeing a film. But I usually write in note books whenever I have time to get away in the garden shed or in my office. I always carry a notebook with me to jot down any ideas.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
LD: I think it was always there that I would, one day, like to publish a book and it was my husband who finally convinced me that it was something I should do.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style that you do?
LD: I tend to write in a rather poetic way. When I read a book I like to have a description of the place where the book is set. I want to feel the heat or the cold, smell the earth and feel the character of the place. Some say that I give too much description, but to me it is part of the story, it is often the land that makes the people and forms their character.
SPS: What would you say, if anything, best differentiates you from other authors?
LD: Probably the fact that I don’t have to earn a living at writing; I am in my seventies and feel that I can write for me and not for any particular genre.
SPS: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
LD: My inspiration comes from Sardinia from its people, its culture and warmth. It was something I wanted to capture and share with others. I love the island and wanted to try and convey some of that to my readers.
SPS: Have you received a favourite review of your work?
LD: Yes, I was lucky enough to receive 6 reviews from Readers Favorite which were all 5 star. This one from Cee-Jay Aurinko was wonderful.
Sometimes love breeds vengeance, vengeance breeds tragedy, and tragedy, in turn, breeds love again. Set in Sardinia between the years 1855 and 1860 and divided into two parts, everything comes full circle in Children of the Mists by Lexa Dudley. More than anything else, Dudley shows us exactly what transpires before one generation of Sards makes way for the next, and how it is that, no matter how terra incognita we might figure some culture to be, it is just as powerful, wonderful, and pulsating as every other.
Raffaella Canu had been sent to Itteri for a decent education. Gestinu, her father, had high hopes for her future. Whatever they were, Raffaella only wished for one thing: to be with Antonio, the shepherd boy she had loved since childhood. Orlando, her brother, however, doesn’t want Antonio in his sister’s future. To Orlando, his sister is still just as soft-witted as she was before she went to Itteri. She could have a wonderful life if she would just see reason and agree to marry Luigi, a prominent doctor who also happens to be his best friend. It might take more than a promise for Raffaella to finally be with the man of her dreams.
Change is a thing that dwells just between the realms of good and bad, unbiased and final. For some, change can mean a new, more wonderful life. For others, it can only mean more misery. For the Sardinians in this novel, change means abiding to laws that are not their own, but the laws of some king who is out to unite every single Italian state so that everyone “can prosper as one country”. The Sards have land, but there are those who would take it away from them within the blink of an eye. One misstep and a language known as legalese renders them fugitives, after which they are hunted by the Carabineri or doomed to the nullified life of a bandit.
The first part, starting at 1855, introduces us to the lifestyle and customs of the Sards. We are introduced to the Sannas and the Canus, and can easily see how the lives of these two families are connected. “Vitoria and Orlando were promised to each other in marriage; in a contract made between Gestinu and Salvatore, as Salvatore had saved his friend’s life when he first came to live in the mountains.” In the second part, three years after cholera made its way into their lives, the stage is set for a beautiful tale of love, vengeance, and redemption.
It doesn’t take much to imagine Sardinia and all of its beauty. “Although she couldn’t see the river, Raffaella could hear it in the valley below as it grumbled and chattered its way over a bed of shiny, cold, grey stones; as it bubbled in the ravine with the fullness of extra water from the melted snows of the distant, haze-green mountains.” We are taken to ravines, caves, small churches, and bedrooms in which the very light of dawn that enters it is graced by the author. Refined human life is faraway, neither important to the reader nor more desirable than Dudley’s craftily recreated setting.
There is more than one love story, the one towering over every other in the book of course being that of Raffaella and Antonio. They have loved each other since childhood, and a doctor with “clammy” hands can be seen as the hand that aims to snatch cupid’s arrow out of the air just before it strikes its target. Another love story is that of Marina, who is Antonio’s little sister, and a bandit named Gavinu. Dudley also throws in an unexpected romance that I found to be quite a surprise. Because of the alternating third person narrative, we get to follow each of them without much of a fuss.
Raffaella might be the main protagonist, but it is the characters around her, what with her just wanting to be with Antonio and all, that keeps things interesting. Even Sergio, an old shepherd, can make one burst out laughing when he works on the nerves of Orlando with his superstitious babbling. Small characters get to play pivotal roles to move the story along to its dreaded, and I mean this in a positive way, conclusion. Gabriella, Antonio’s mother, is the character through which we can get a lot of information about the Sard culture. She is important to the community, a healer who gets called upon many Sards when they fall ill.
Orlando is the personification of ambition, making decisions based purely on logic rather than love. While not the main antagonist, he is perhaps the main reason for all the conflict and heartache in this novel. He is not an evil human being, but for some reason, his destiny doesn’t seem to be one that is filled with happiness. “’You’re cursed, you’re cursed,’ repeated the shepherd, whimpering.” His decisions tend not to end up well. When one looks at his development in the book, it’s easy to see how the author took great care with him.
The theme of change and the different outcomes it has for different people was well explored. Raffaella was proud of her homeland and to her change didn’t involve a life away from her home and married to a doctor. Orlando was exactly the opposite. Change was his way of forgetting the past. Other themes like vengeance and redemption also played a big part. The Sards seems to have a particular notion when it comes to revenge. “As a fellow Sard, you must know the importance of revenge.” Orlando himself seemed to encompass almost every theme book.
I got a lot from this book. I got laughs and I got tears. I got to experience Sardinia from 1855 to 1860 and all its greatness. I could see greenery, mountains, and people in love. I felt that I was reading a wonderful romance novel set in a magical place.
I reviewed this book for Readers’ Favorite and extended the review for my blog.
SPS: Tell us about your latest release, Children of the Mists?
LD: Children of the Mists is set in Sardinia in 1855, and life has hardly changed in the mountains since the time of the Ceasars. The story is about two families the Canus and the Sannas who live in a small mountain community where their lives are ruled by omens and superstitions. Gestinu Canu married a girl from the area, but came from the city of Sassari. He insists on lessons for all the children and sends his children to school. They are all united by friendship and honour; love and laughter; joy and promises, youth and experience transcend generations.
But, Raffaella and Antonio, find their love becomes entangled in revenge. Death changes devotion. Promises are forgotten. Vendettas can’t be ignored. Ambitions clouds judgements. They are committed to one another and they will have to fight for their love against all the odds.
SPS: Did you find it easier second time around? Were there any particular lessons you learned from your first book?
LD: I’m not sure it gets easier. I enjoy writing, and as a hobby it is great. The one thing I learned was that editing is the most important thing. However much you think you have written a master piece a good critical eye is important.
SPS: This is your second book set in Sardinia. Where did the love come from?
LD: I fell in love with Sardinia when I first visited the island in 1972 with my family. I knew from the moment I stepped off the plane that it was something different and I have never lost that feeling in all the years I have been going there. There is something very magical about both the island and its people.
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for yourself?
LD: I am collecting thoughts and ideas for a third book set in Sardinia, but set in the main town of Cagliari. I stayed up in the old part of the town when I went down to a presentation for my first book and spent time wandering around the narrow streets and characters starting coming to me which was great. It is at the notebook stage and hopefully will develop over the coming year.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
LD: No I must admit with the first novel, new to writing and full of confidence, I was sure the publishing world would be beating a path to my door, something you soon learn is not usually the case; I had an offer for publication, but they wanted to change the ending, something I was very adamant should remain. I even wrote a new ending, but it never sat right. It was my husband who said we should publish it ourselves; and so I found Matador and it has been a good partnership.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
LD: Yes, it has been amazing. Every decision is down to you. You have help along the way, but you are still very much in charge, which I find both frightening and liberating.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
LD: Buy yourself a piece of software that reads your manuscript. Upload your book and go somewhere quietly with a printed copy and listen to it and make notes. You will be amazed at how differently some things sound when read to you. Enter into competitions and get reviews, but above all don’t give up. You might have to wait until you are in your dotage, but it is well worth it. And, seeing someone on the beach, actually reading your book is amazing.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
LD: I like Hannah Fielding she is also an independent author and I find her books descriptive and make a place come alive which is important to me. Her books are set in Spain, Italy and Kenya.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, and all the best for the future.
LD: Thank you for your time and for inviting me to talk about my work.
SPS: For more information on Lexa and her work, please do visit here