Friday, 3 May 2013

Author Interview: Sharon Robards, author of A Woman Transported

Author Sharon Robards is here with me today to discuss the hard-hitting account of survival in her latest release: A Woman Transported. 

It's good to have you here, Sharon. Now, this novel offers a few different angles for me. Not only does it center around a female lead (Isabel McGuire), taking me away from my usual M/M pairing, but it also deals with the brutality of convict deportation to Australia and its impact on the lower-class families left behind. That portrayal is something that, as an English author, I found really intriguing and disturbingly good in many ways: it's a period in history that rarely seems to be covered in fictional terms, especially surrounding the brutal treatment of both women and children during that period.  

The locations for A Woman Transported cover both Australia and England, Sharon. How did you research the back streets of London and the period surrounding 1803 and up? And for either country, was there any part of your research that was particularly hard to deal with?

I spent two years writing and researching the English section. It took lots of trips to the library, and the Internet has a wealth of information. The treatment of the convict women in early Australia was horrendous. For many years there was and still probably is the perception that these women were prostitutes and somehow deserved to be shipped to other side of the world, and in turn many Australians were afraid to reveal their convict past, but that has changed greatly in recent years and most of us now brace our heritage and acknowledge the contribution these strong women stamped in our society and had on future generations.

Where did your inspiration for Isabel’s character come from?

Isabel came from nowhere LOL She just popped on the page one day, in a horse drawn carriage, going somewhere through the outback, and I had to find out who she was, where she came from, and where she was going, little by little.

Do you always write with a lead female? Why?

With this particular story, the intention from the outset was to stick with Isabel’s pov, as it was a bit of a challenge for myself. I had previously only written omnisciently.

Which is your favourite scene, and why?

There’s a scene near the end where Isabel is reflecting on the choices she’s made throughout the story and everything she has lost in her life, while at the same time plotting the downfall of the antagonist. It’s my favourite because I’m sure some readers will want to slap Isabel throughout the story for the choices she makes, but I think we are all vulnerable to not only our own choices but to what fate throws at us and she should be as hard as steel by this stage, but she’s still vulnerable inside:

Isabel stepped out of the tub, rubbed hair and the rest of her dry, and stepped into the bedroom. The knowledge that she could put his world in a state of unbalance made her feel the most devilish sense of control, but only for a moment. He was likely to walk in here tomorrow and kill her.
She secured her satin robe by the hasp around her neck, let the robe fall into place around her and had the unsettling memory of the night she came back from his cottage. She sat on the bed and tried to steady her thoughts, her emotions, and the urge to run — right this minute, back to England, before he discovered what she was doing. Pull yourself together. Snap out of it. What’s done, can’t be undone. It’ll all work out.

Which is your darkest scene?

Mmmmmm Darkness has various shades, and Isabel gets herself into some horrible situations. Some of which I wondered if she’d survive. This isn’t the darkest day she has, but certainly one of the darkest scenes, when she is confronted by her husband for infidelity and there is no way she can escape his rage and anger:

He unbuckled his pants. “You want to act like a whore, I’ll treat you like one.”
“Pray think, when would I have had the opportunity to have met anyone here? Why would I risk all I have with you?”
“Because you’re a whore.” He gripped his belt. “Because all I’ve ever meant to you was a way to get to Sydney Town.”
“That’s not true,” she cried with all the truth she could muster, but it was not enough.
He threw his belt at her, whacking her across the legs. “The mark on your neck proves otherwise. How dare you treat me like a fool.” He trembled, the veins in his neck pulsing. “What did I do to deserve this betrayal?”
She pushed herself off the bed and reached for his arms. “Pray, let me explain. I’ll tell you what happened?”
The back of his hand cracked across her cheek. “I’m sick of your lies. Lies, lies, lies.”
She held her arms by her side and bowed her head. What have I done? He’s going to kill me.
He ripped the robe from her body and pushed her onto the end of the bed. He stared at her thighs, the redness in his face increasing. “You disgusting bitch.”
Then she saw what he did — a purple mark like that on her neck on the inside of her thigh.
What do you do to relax away from writing?

Read and spend time with my husband and daughter.

Which novel inspired you to start writing?

Oh, dear. Robin Hood.

Who is your favorite author now?

I love Steven Carroll, Australian author of The Lover’s Room, and hope he puts out another book soon. I also adore Sarah Dunant author of In the Company of the Courtesan, Sacred Hearts, and The Birth of Venus — all set Renaissance Italy.

What is your next project?

I would like to write a sequel to A Woman Transported.

Where can readers catch you hanging out away from all the stresses of life?

I have a blog, which is found here, I also have the usual Twitter/Facebook hangouts too: Twitter  and   Facebook

Sharon, thank you for stopping by today and taking time out to discuss you novel. For those wishing to sample a flavor of A Woman Transported and see the brutality of Isabel’s situation, here’s a fine taster:   

THE CONSTANT clank and the bolting of the heavy doors opening and shutting throughout the prison continued day and night, each clank, each bang, cementing Isabel’s fate, which she wished she could predict. Babies and toddlers constantly cried — screamed. Exhaustion rarely quietened the children. Only the delivery of scraps of bread passed through the bars on the door’s window silenced the little ones for a few moments. That contented silence of children, brief and heart warming as it was, and the little light coming from the grated window above was the only way to distinguish the shadowy gloom of day to the darkness and freezing cold of night.
Isabel took a bite of stale bread each day and passed the rest to Mary for her child, then turned away and softly cried, praying for sleep. She dared not meet the stare of wild desperation in Mary’s eyes, while she rubbed the bread against the listless child’s tiny lips and tried to get her to eat.
When a shriek of a tortured woman, a woman on the edge of madness screamed beside Isabel, it echoed through the entire gaol and started a maddening chorus of wailing children. Before Isabel opened her eyes, she knew it was the cry of Mary who’d lost her child. Isabel swallowed the urge to stay huddled in the corner, eyes closed, ears covered. She didn’t want to bear the sight of a broken woman cradling a lifeless child, a woman who’d lost a precious, priceless, piece of her heart. But Mary sobbing, screaming children, and the sudden shuffling movement within the cell made it impossible to stay immune to having your heart and conscious ripped open. Isabel couldn’t contain the sickening tremble spiralling through her body.
A silhouette of a large woman sprang from the cell’s darkest corner, lunged through the dull streams of light toward Mary, holding a naked baby on her hip. “Give me her clothes. They’re no good to her now, no they’re not. Give me the clothes.”
“Bessie, pray, let her be.” Mary hugged her dead toddler to her breasts. “She’s cold. She needs the shirt. There’s nothing underneath.”
“She’s dead,” Bessie screamed, balancing her baby on her hip, while her other hand tugged at the dead toddler’s shirt. “She needs nothing. Me Carla’s freezing.”
Isabel stood and grabbed Bessie around the waist. “Stop it. Stop it now.”
With the fierceness of a wild horse, Bessie pushed Isabel against the wall and put her fist under Isabel’s chin. “Keep out of this, you whore. Nothing to do with you.”
Isabel smacked Bessie’s hand away. “You can have my dress to wrap around your baby.”
“I want the fucken shirt,” Bessie screamed over the cries of her child while clawing at the shirt on Mary’s baby. “Get it off, or I’ll rip it off.”
Isabel removed her own torn dress, stepped beside Bessie, and grabbed her arm. “Pray take it and leave Mary’s little one some dignity.”
Bessie swung around. “I said keep out of this.”
“It is bigger than the shirt, softer, and you’ll be able to wrap it around your baby several times.” Isabel held the dress toward Bessie. “I beg of you, take it. It can’t keep me warm, but it will your baby.”
Bessie snatched Isabel’s dress then scuttled back into the dark corner.
“Thank you, miss,” Mary said through her tears, hugging her toddler against her breasts, while she kissed the tiny forehead. “Sleep, little one. You’ll get better soon.”
Isabel wrapped her fingers around the rusted bars crossing the window in the door. “Guard!” she screamed, over and over, until blackness took away the grated window’s light, leaving total darkness in the room, and she lost her voice from shouting. She closed her eyes, let her aching and grazed fingers fall from the bars, and sat on the floor beside Mary who rocked back and forth humming.
The shackles on Isabel’s ankles cut deep, the pain horrid, but it wasn’t enough to block out Mary’s broken heart and the inhuman cruelness of allowing the growing stench of death to rise and fester in a mother’s arms. Oh, dear God. Bless Mary’s little one. No one’s going to come.

Links to A Woman Transported by Sharon Robards: Kindle on Amazon Print on Amazon Epub on Kobo

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