I have never met Angela Barton in person, but I couldn’t help noticing this British author when she joined a group of writers who chat regularly on Twitter. Her voice was friendly, encouraging, and hopeful. Over time I learned a little more about her; like so many writers, Barton had been writing for a long time and was having a hard time finding a publisher for her work. Yet she continued to encourage and celebrate the successes of those in the group who found publishing success.
It was an extra good day, therefore, when I learned that Barton’s latest manuscript, a World War II novel set in France (where she also now lives) had been accepted for publication. It was a pleasure to finally celebrate the first published novel written by Angela Barton.
I decided to find out more about Barton’s path — how it all started, and what motivated this author to work so hard, for so long.
But first, some biographical notes: Angela Barton was born in London, England and grew up in Nottingham. She is married with three grown children and four-year-old twin granddaughters whom she warmly describes as “adorable.” Barton is passionate about writing both contemporary and historical fiction, and she notes that she loves spending time researching facts for her novels.
FRD: Angela, we “met” through Twitter and stayed in touch because we became part of a group of writers and authors who communicate on social media. What role has social media played in your writing life?
AB: Social media is now woven into our lives, so I think that if we want to feel a part of the wider writing community, we should embrace it. I use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and have my own website with a blog. In my experience, Twitter chats are a creative and easy way writers can use social media to connect with other writers, expand their knowledge, and share their experiences. I also have a Facebook author page, and I’m a member of Apricot Plots, a writing group of eight authors who connect with a growing audience. I’m also in a private writing group run by my publisher. I’ve made some lovely new friends online and have met several of them.
FRD: Do you have a career outside of writing?
AB: I moved to France with my husband in April of this year and we’ve become lavender growers. Two years ago on a two-week visit, we planted a field of lavender that has now become established. This year we harvested it in full bloom, dried it and made candles, soaps, bouquets and sachets with it. We were also asked to make flower displays for a wedding in August, which was great fun and opened up a new commercial outlet for us.
FRD: When did you begin writing fiction, and at what point did you start to take your writing seriously?
AB: I’ve loved writing stories since my school days. English Language lessons were always my favourites. In the days when letter writing was still the main way to communicate with words, I would write long, newsy letters to family and friends. Children and a career filled the next twenty years, but in 2007 I woke up with a story in my head. I spent the rest of the day making notes and planning my first book in a frenzy of ideas. I think I started to take it seriously when I’d finished that novel and the few people who read it urged me to try to get it published.
FRD: Your road to becoming a published author wasn’t easy. Tell us briefly about some of the challenges you faced, and how and why you persisted through times of discouragement.
AB: Finding a home for a book is rarely an easy path for writers, and mine wasn’t an exception! After I wrote my first novel, I began my search for an agent. Rejections followed for a
couple of years, in which time I wrote my second novel. Then, one morning a London-based agent emailed and asked to see my entire manuscript. She read it and sent me a contract. Although publishers said complementary things about my book, she failed to secure anyone to publish my work.
Following two contemporary books, I wanted to write an historical novel. My agent wasn’t very supportive of the change, but I was so passionate about the subject I wanted to write about that I chose my book over my agent. I ended my contract with her but was happy to be free to write whatever I wished.
I persisted through disappointment because I didn’t feel that writing was just a hobby – it was a necessity for me, like breathing. I began to enter competitions, and after a while I began to be shortlisted. Then I won a national writing competition. On the back of these successes, I submitted my third book, Arlette’s Story, to Choc Lit and they not only wanted to publish it with their new imprint Ruby Fiction, but they also want to publish my first two books.
FRD: That’s amazing. Congratulations on your persistence and hard work, and your ultimate success. How did it feel when you finally got that first novel accepted, and what has your writing life been like since then? What is different, and what is the same?
AB: My books were accepted for publication ten years after I woke up in bed with an idea for a story. I’d dreamed about it for so long and wished for it every time I blew out birthday candles or dropped a penny in a wishing well. I imagined screaming in delight, running round the house in a frenzy of excitement and phoning everyone I knew. In reality, I was quiet and a little overwhelmed. I think it needed to sink in first that I’d now be a published author. Of course I was happy – delighted, in fact. Sometimes it’s still difficult to believe.
A few things have changed in the last year since I was signed to Ruby Fiction. I have to be more proactive on social media, and although I already had a blog, I needed a website too. I now have an editor, cover designer and publisher who are all amazing and a huge support. I’ve met many writers who also write for Ruby Fiction and Choc Lit and have attended more conferences and get-togethers. I suppose that the overall difference in myself is that I’m now more confident about my writing ability than I was before.
FRD: With Arlette’s Story, why did you choose to write about the time and place that serves as the setting, World War II Europe?
AB: Having visited the martyred village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France, I felt compelled to write an historical novel telling the story of when the Germans visited this small town on 10th June 1944. I was so moved by my visit to the ‘martyred village’ that I wanted to tell the story from a survivor’s point of view. Charles de Gaulle declared that the ruins must be left untouched, so French officials are now panicking that Oradour won’t survive for another seventy-four years of hot summers and freezing winters. I thought that, in some small way, I could help to keep the memory alive.
FRD: You mentioned earlier that you recently moved from your home country of Great Britain to France. What has the change been like?
AB: It’s been both difficult and exciting – and remains that way after six months in France. If my family were here, it would be heaven. I miss loved ones deeply and have been back to the UK to see them five times already! Some family members and friends have also visited us here, which is always wonderful. Overall, France is far less stressful, more peaceful, has better weather, and has quiet roads with so much less traffic. If I drive to the supermarket six miles away, I’ll probably only pass a couple of cars.
Brexit is a worry. I’m hugely saddened (and angry) that the UK voted to leave the European Union. It now leaves many questions unanswered about expats living here – a worrying time.
FRD: I wish you the very best with the changes and how they will affect you. Regarding the writing, can we look forward to next from Angela Barton?
AB: In the New Year, my second novel will be published. It’s set in London and will be one of the contemporary books I mentioned earlier. I have a working title for it, but that will be changed by Ruby Fiction – and even I don’t know what the new title will be yet!
Arlette’s Story will be come out in paperback in 2019, and I’m busy writing my fourth novel. Again, it’s set during WW2 in France, but this time in German-occupied Paris. At present I don’t have a contract for this novel, but I love writing it because of the beauty of Paris, and also Picasso and Irène Némirovsky play small scenes in it.
FRD: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Angela. It’s been a pleasure add a British author living in France to the list of “writers in the trenches” who have spent time sharing their writing journeys in this column.
AB: Thank you so much for inviting me to answer some questions for your blog, Faye. Like yourself, fellow-writers are so supportive. xx
Below are some links where readers can learn more about Angela Barton and her work: