Elizabeth Chats With…Marcia Clayton

I was introduced to this month’s guest a couple of years ago when she was just beginning her journey towards independent publishing. I watched with delight as she mastered all the skills needed to become an authorpreneur.  This week sees the publication of The Rabbit’s Foot, the third in her Hartford Manor series. I am delighted she has found time to stop and chat. Please join me in welcoming Marcia Clayton to my blog. 

Good morning Marcia and thank you for joining us. We’re going to start in the traditional way, by taking you back to your childhood. What is your earliest memory – and how old were you at the time?

We had a large table in our kitchen, and I have a memory of sitting under it, playing with my toys. I can remember listening to the adults talking, and thinking I wish I could talk like that. I’ve no idea how old I was, but presumably just a toddler.

What was your favourite subject at school – and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?

My favourite subject at school was biology, and it seemed to come to me easily, which is probably why I liked it. For a long time, I wanted to be a nurse, but I left school at sixteen and had to wait a year until I could enrol as a student nurse at seventeen. In the meantime, I got a job in a bank, found I liked it, and stayed until I had my first child.

The lesson I most wanted to avoid was needlework. I have always been reasonably good at knitting, crochet, and even mending, but give me a dressmaker’s pattern, and I have no idea. I once cut along the wrong fold and found the front of my blouse in two pieces instead of one! The teacher was a lady who had taught my two elder sisters, and they had not left a good impression as she seemed to dislike me from day one. I was terrified of her and so nervous I could never even remember how to thread the sewing machine, a fact that annoyed her intensely.

Where is your favourite place on earth – and why?

There are many beautiful places in the world that I love, but my favourite is my garden. I enjoy gardening and growing flowers and vegetables and spend a lot of time there. Whenever something is troubling me, I find solace in my garden. It is a good place to be, whether I am sad, happy, or even angry. There is something very satisfying about attacking the ground with a spade if you are in a rage!

How do you relax?

I’m not good at relaxing and find it difficult to sit still and do nothing. To some extent, the answer can be found in the previous question as I find gardening relaxing. Even dead-heading or watering the plants is therapeutic. I enjoy walking and living in Devon, and I’m lucky to have many beautiful walks right on my doorstep. Other hobbies include reading and watching television, and I enjoy a good natter with friends or relatives over a glass or two of wine.

Describe your ideal menu – and where would you like to eat it?

My husband and I are fortunate to have visited several Greek islands, and we love Greek food. We seldom manage three courses these days, but our ideal lunch is a Greek salad, complete with olives and feta cheese, accompanied by dips of taramasalata and tzatziki and homemade crusty bread. For a main course, it’s difficult to pick a favourite as the Greeks have so many lovely dishes to choose from, but I think it has to be Lamb Kleftiko. This is a dish of lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, and herbs cooked slowly in the oven. It normally comes wrapped in foil, and the aroma as you peel it open is amazing. My favourite pudding at home is a chocolate and raspberry roulade which I make myself, but if in Greece, then simple Greek yoghurt drizzled with honey takes some beating. As regards where I would like to eat my meal, my favourite spot for a holiday at the moment is a little town called Skala in Kefalonia.

That sounds wonderful, Marcia; and as a confirmed Grecophile myself, I’m right there with you in the sunshine. But, moving on, if you could meet one person from history, who would it be?

I suspect this question is intended to mean a famous person from history. However, I would love to meet my Great-Grandfather, Henry Willis. Henry was born in 1842 in the small village of Berrynarbor in Devon. He came from a large family, and his father was a farm labourer. At the age of 16, Henry ran away to sea on a fishing smack from Ilfracombe Harbour. In 1864, he enlisted as a seaman in the US Navy in New Jersey and fought in the American Civil War. He was badly injured, losing an arm in battle and was discharged in 1865 with a generous pension.

From then on, Henry led a double life. When he and his family of ten children lived in Devon, they were known as Willis. However, the family also lived in Cardiff for many years, going by the name of Adams. No one knows why, but it is true. On his US Pension Record, he is described as Henry Willis, alias Adams.

Henry had many jobs, ranging from innkeeper to builder and from what I have read of him, he was quite a character. He was once charged with an assault on a gentleman over a dispute concerning fishing rights. Henry allegedly shook a stick at his landlord and threatened to put him in a straitjacket and lock him up in the beast-house! There is an amusing account in the local newspaper describing him thus: “Willis a bluff, powerful-looking man, with all the appearance of the old campaigner, spoke with a decided American twang, which added to the humorous effects of his serio-comic expressions.” He clearly enjoyed entertaining the jury, and fortunately for him the case was dismissed. I think Henry could tell a good tale or two.

If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?

I would love to take part in The Repair Shop. This is a programme where people take in old and treasured items, which are usually in a terrible condition, and the experts on the show restore them. I have two postcard albums that used to belong to my grandmother. She was born in 1889 and died in 1984, and the postcards all date from 1901-1905. The albums are falling apart and desperately in need of some tender loving care. The messages on the postcards are intriguing. They are about everyday life and the sort of thing that these days one would put in a text or an email.

Marcia, I’ve set the earlier questions; now it’s your turn: Write the last question yourself and use it to tell us something about yourself, your life or your work.

It’s tempting to write about my books, but instead, I will tell you about an event I was lucky enough to attend in 2006. I’m retired now, but over the years, I held a variety of jobs. I worked in a bank when I left school, but have also worked as a Marie Curie Nursing Auxiliary, which was very rewarding, and various administrative jobs.

The post I held before retirement was that of Education Transport Manager for Devon County Council, a particularly enjoyable role, and before that, I was the co-ordinator for a transport project called “Life in the Bus Lane”. This was an initiative to improve the public services in North Devon, encourage more young people to use the buses, and introduce smartcard technology. The project was successful and won second prize in the National Bus Industry Awards. At the time, the government was piloting a reward card for students, and we merged our smartcard with theirs, providing the added benefit of discounts in various shops and outlets.

This necessitated me to work with a lady from the Department for Education. She was called Victoria, and one Friday afternoon, she rang me. I was more than surprised when she extended an invitation to attend an event at 10 Downing Street on the following Monday evening and meet the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. At first, I thought she was joking, but as the conversation continued, it became clear she was serious.

So, on Monday morning, armed with my passport as identification, I caught the train to London and booked into a hotel. I took a taxi to Downing Street and joined several other people waiting outside number ten. It was a fascinating experience. We had to hand over our mobile phones as soon as we entered the building and were then led up the famous staircase to a large reception room. We were served with wine and canapes, and each guest met and shook the hand of the Prime Minister. Tony Blair pulled forward a small footstool, which he climbed onto and gave an entertaining speech, thanking all those present for their work in transport. It was a relaxed evening with interesting people, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Thank you, Marcia, for taking time out of your busy schedule, especially during launch week, to come and talk to us. I wish you loads of success with the new book. Readers, you can find Marcia Clayton on Amazon, on Goodreads, on Facebook or on Twitter. But the very best way to find out more about Marcia and her books and keep up to date with new releases is to visit her website to join her mailing list.

The Hartford Manor series is a Victorian family saga based in North Devon.

Set against the harsh background of the rough, class-divided society of Victorian England, The Mazzard Tree is a heart-warming and captivating novel portraying a young woman who uses her determination and willpower to defy the circumstances of her birth in her search for happiness.

In The Angel Makera young man helps a friend search for the child she has lost. Set alongside the absorbing detail of country life and budding village romances, dark forces are at work, which ultimately test the bravery and resourcefulness of the whole community.

The Rabbit’s Foot tells the tale of an old man, who has spent his life with barely a penny to his name, but suddenly finds himself rich beyond his wildest dreams. However, there is only one thing Sam Fellwood truly wants, to be reunited with his son, Marrok, whom he abandoned at the age of five. Will Sam find the happiness that has eluded him for so many lonely years?

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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