Interview with Marilyn Freeman – Ramona Portelli Blog

Interview with Marilyn Freeman

Author Marilyn Freeman was born in Oldham, England. Her career pathway has been varied, starting out as an industrial chemist, and eventually setting up a company manufacturing toiletries. Teaming up with her now husband, Marilyn was involved for many years in a light engineering company. Since retiring from business, she has been editing and publishing children’s books for her husband and poetry and life-story books for various private clients. Also since retiring she has studied Person Centred Counselling at Bedford College and latterly, trained as a bereavement support worker for a well-known charity organisation. She has been married twice and has twenty grandchildren and twenty-five great grandchildren – quite an achievement in itself!

Always interested in people and the way personalities develop and interact, she is fascinated by the way seemingly straightforward decisions can create effects that resonate down the generations, often with unintended consequences. This seems to be a definite theme in all her writing and certainly is in this, her debut novel.

Tell me more about your latest book?

Confined to lockdown for the past twelve months, I finally fulfilled a long-cherished ambition, to write my own fiction. The inspiration for my debut novel, Karma: A Mystery in Paris was the school trip I enjoyed at the age of sixteen. I found the place entrancing and have never forgotten the delight I felt at the magic of the architecture, the beauty of Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur, and the sense of wonder as I stood in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; in short, the sheer ‘otherness’ of that first experience away from the smoky Northern mill town of Oldham, where I grew up. Yes, my first novel just had to be set in Paris!

The book is about a young woman propelled by a fatal accident and an unexpected discovery, to travel to Paris on a quest to discover what happened to her mother after she disappeared from the family home ten years previously. The story spans three decades, with its roots in the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1942, with many twists and turns and leading to a shocking climax.It is a fast moving page-turner, ideal for reading groups, and with a useful discussion guide.

What was the more challenging aspect of writing this book?

The most challenging aspect of writing the story was to begin it! Having the confidence to believe that I was capable of creating and writing a story that people would want to read, had eluded me for years. Given the time and space offered by Covid 19, I finally decided that it was now or never. Once I began, to my delight it was wonderful to be creating the atmosphere of Paris over the three decades the story spans. The other challenge was keeping track of the rather complicated plot!

What is your normal procedure to get your books published?

Once the book was completed, I thought long and hard about how to get it published. I surveyed the world of literary agents and publishers with some dismay. I went through the process of submitting it to several agents, only to receive no reply, or a standard ‘we enjoyed reading it, but….’

Being of mature years, impatient to see my work in print and having had quite a bit of experience of self-publishing for my husband and private clients, I made the decision to publish it myself. This meant further research into the best way to produce and market ebooks, print books and the audiobook that I was determined would complete the portfolio. In the end, I decided not to place all my eggs in one basket and have published the ebook on Smashwords and Amazon, the print book using IngramSpark and the audiobook using ACX. It has been a little tricky finding my way around the various methods and formatting for each producer, but I feel it has been worth it for the variety of sales channels now available to me. I envisage continuing to self-publish, having found it to be a rewarding experience.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Well, writing this book was a quite magical experience for me, incorporating as it did, memories of that wonderful Springtime in Paris when I was sixteen years old. I found that once I had conceived of a situation and peopled it with characters, they rapidly took control of the narrative. It was an almost spiritual experience, the way the personalities of the actors developed and interacted with one another to shape the story. More than once, things took a turn I hadn’t expected. The resulting plot has many twists and turns, often quite shockingly unexpected. 

How many books have you written so far?

My second novel, Secrets and Lives is now being printed and will be released on 5th June. Once again, I drew on my own life experience, in that it is set in the beautiful Georgian city of Bath, Somerset where myself and my husband spent ten pleasant years. Once again, the over-arching theme involves unintended consequences. This time, it is the decision by a young woman to have her illegitimate baby adopted in the 1970’s that results, decades later, in a tragedy she could never have imagined.

My third project is rather different. I have now embarked on a trilogy based on my own family history. My fifth great grandfather, Joseph Bangham, lived in the Severn Valley, Shropshire and worked for the famous Darby family of Coalbrookdale. They are credited with starting the Industrial Revolution by inventing a new way of producing iron. The first book will cover the period from 1715 to 1780. Of necessity this project requires lots of research, but as I have already delved extensively into my own family history, the framework of the story already exists. I am looking forward to bringing my ancestors to life!

What is the best way to market your books?

Feeling that I am fairly happy with the writing and publishing of my books, I am now faced with the daunting prospect of marketing them. The first stop has been social media, but I rapidly realised that unless one was prepared to spend quite a bit of money, the results would be slow, and expensive, to develop. Local bookshops have been quite helpful in providing shelf space to display the books. As always, friends and family have rallied round in support. There are lots of websites offering to help with the marketing of books, which sound amazing, but the sting in the tail is always the cost. The reality is, that nothing comes for nothing. I have published a couple of blogs and intend to continue with that as they do elicit a quite positive response. I have an author page on Facebook, and profiles on Amazon and Smashwords, which both generate interest. I publish a newsletter to my fans via Hubspot to keep everyone informed about any exciting news I have to share with them. Of course, all this means lots of hard work and my only regret is that it takes me away from what I actually love to do, which is writing.

I now realise that unless I get lucky, it would be a hard slog to establish a career in writing. However, although this would be amazing, at my advanced years, more than anything, I am happy if people read and enjoy my writing. If success comes, that will be wonderful, of course, but it isn’t my chief motivation.

What’s your advice to aspiring writers?

Although I don’t really feel equipped to give aspiring writers any advice, I just want to say, more than anything – enjoy the process, have fun with your characters, and if you get stuck, take a break, go for a walk in the fresh air or even put your story away for a few days then come back to it with fresh eyes. Relax and let your characters decide where to go next. They won’t let you down.

Of course the first pre-requisite is to believe in yourself, have the confidence to begin, and then wait for the magic to happen!

Author Marilyn Freeman links:









Facebook author page:


Twitter: @marilynswriting


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