Born in Cairo, Egypt, Loretta came to Britain during winter and saw her first view of snow! Her English Dad fell in love with her beautiful Greek Mum in Athens during the war and wrote a forty page love-letter when fighting in the desert so maybe writing is in her genes! She wrote her first novel in an exercise-book at sixteen and many others after that, won some prizes in the 1960’s for poetry and a play but then gave up writing for a long time. She is now retired and living in Malvern, UK and busily writing again..
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First off, a big Hello and welcome to Loretta Proctor who has dropped by Fiction Fascination for an interview! :)
1. Tell us a little bit about The Long Shadow?
I began this story many years ago. Being half Greek and half English, it took me some years to get to grips with the duality this created in my nature. Where did my heart lie, in Greece or in England . . . or would it always be torn in two! The Long Shadow was my attempt to understand this dichotomy through the eyes of a man who is born to an English nurse serving in Salonika, Greece during WW1. She has a tragic love affair with a Greek officer. Interestingly my stories always have a sense of duality about them. A woman torn by love for two different men, two countries, two widely separated cities, town and country…so the dual aspect lingers on in my psyche.
2. Why did you decide to re-publish the title?
I wanted to publish this quickly back in 2005 while my Greek mother was still alive. I wanted her to hold the book in her hands as she really loved the story. It made her so proud to see it, especially as she had helped me greatly with her many memories of the past. Rather than the long tedious drag of waiting to find an agent and then a publisher and all the interminable process of getting published, I went to a US publisher who published in pdf. It was a mistake I lived to regret as I was then signed up for 7 years with them and shipping the books over to the UK proved very costly. They did little to promote it and few books were sold from their end though I sold several myself with a lot of sheer hard work! However, I don’t regret it as my mother had a stroke shortly afterwards and wasn’t mentally okay enough to take in my next book, The Crimson Bed. She died before Middle Watch came out.
So, you can imagine how happy I was when the rights reverted to me this June and I was able to make a Kindle version. This has sold more in two months than I managed to sell in seven years!
3. Can you give us a little teaser or a quote from The Long Shadow to wet our appetites?
This is Dorothy, the Red cross nurse, watching Captain Cassimatis leave her hospital ward which he has just visited. She’s falling in love quite fast! One of my readers said she fell in love with Cassimatis herself!
I watched them go and admired once more his proud bearing, one hand behind his back holding his horse whip, a walk which was not stiff but almost animal like in its flexibility yet rather like an animal that is ready to move swiftly to flight or else, if cornered, to fight to the death. I felt he had lived a dangerous life; it seemed to breath from ever pore of his being. It was something our soldiers didn’t quite have, this strange watchfulness, this sense of wildness and suppressed cruelty that peeped out from the nobility of such a face.
4. Out of all your titles which is your favourite? Why?
I do love Middle Watch because it reflects my love of the sea and lighthouses and all the drama of that. And I like the characters in it, even the baddies. But I have to say The Long Shadow will always be my favourite. It’s closest to my heart. A soul story.
5. Who is your favourite character (your own)? Why?
Ryan Waterman in Middle Watch is one of my favourite male characters. He’s dark, intuitive, brooding, bit Heathcliffe-like but kind, not cruel. He loves Bridie with a controlled passion and is loyal, forgiving, totally straight and true. He is close to nature and respects the sea and its dangers. But I guess Costas Cassimatis in The Long Shadow is also a winner for me. He’s a really passionate, crazy Greek! There’s a wildness in him that appeals to many women! He is fiery, stirs with life and longing.
6. Tell us about your writing process?
Oh dear, it’s not at all disciplined! I write for hours at a time when I get into the story. It took a year to write The Long Shadow and the research was the wonderful part of that. I went to the Imperial War museum in London, visited the Red Cross headquarters and read hundreds of letters and diaries of the time there. It was humbling and moving. The Crimson Bed took about a year and again, research into the Pre -Raphaelite movement was fascinating and enlightening. Middle watch was written in four months and I visited many lighthouses around the English coasts with my husband to get the atmosphere. Once I’m inspired I write mostly in the mornings and just let it flow. I never work it all out in advance but write on the wing…the characters and stories take their own course. I simply watch the play unfold.
7. Are you working on anything at the minute that you can tell us about?
Currently I’m half way through the first draft of Dying Phoneix which will be a sequel to The Long Shadow and is set in the 1960’s when a right wing military Junta took over Greece and did some pretty horrendous things till they were booted out 7 years later. It will be another love story but this time between a married couple who have separated at the start of the story and events will conspire to bring them together again. I will visit Greece in October to do some research and meet people who can still recall this period and share their stories.
8. Tell us about some of your favourite reads?
Classics like Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Gone with the Wind, Madame Bovary, Therese Raquin…do you see a pattern emerging? I love stories about strong passionate women. Guess, it’s the Greek in me. But I also love psychological crime novels and dramas like those of Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Donna Tartt and also the great gripping tales by John Grisham. And the great Greek writer Kazantzakis of course. He formed much of my thinking when I was young.
9. Favourite fictional character? (not your own)
Has to be Zorba the Greek. But, you know…it was Edward Rochester when I was younger and a part of me still loves him!
10. Do you have a favourite quote from a book?
Now you’re asking something! I could quote reams. However, here’s one from Zorba.
I never tired of seeing with what elaborate precautions, with what gentleness, Zorba removed the cloth in which he wrapped his santouri. He looked as if he was removing the skin from a purple fig, or undressing a woman. He placed the santouri on his lap, bent over it, lightly touched the strings . . . ,as if he were begging it to wake, as if he were trying to coax it into keeping company with his wandering spirit which was tired of solitude.
Thanks so much for taking the time out to do an interview, Loretta!
The Long Shadow
Fourteen-year-old Andrew discovers his mother's hidden diary at his grandmother's home during a Christmas gathering. His eyes are opened to a family secret when he reads about her time as a nurse in Salonika during the First World War, and the tragic love affair she had with his father, a Greek Officer who died in battle. Four years later, Andrew is impelled to visit his father's land and trace his roots. What - and who - he finds there will change his life forever.
The Long Shadow is filled with descriptions of Greece and its people. Dramatic images of battle and the terrible conditions endured by the Allied Armies entrenched around Salonika in the “Birdcage” are authentic and vivid. Greek music and dance play a vital role, reconciling in Andrew the dichotomy of belonging to two very different cultures and helping him to unite them in his heart and soul.
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Some of Loretta's other works :
(click to be taken to Goodreads)
The Crimson bed