Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meet Sue Roebuck! My Next Guest On Our Awe-struck Author Tour!

Hi Regan and thank you so much for having me today on Regan Taylor’s World. It’s great that we’re fellow Awe-Struck authors and I’m so enjoying this blog tour.

You gave me the chance to go back in time and meet one person and then asked who I’d like to meet and what I’d ask him or her about my latest work in progress.

I thought about this for ages because there are just so many people I’d like to speak to who are from the past. I can’t say I need to talk to anyone about my novel “Perfect Score” because although it’s set in the 1960’s and 70’s I was alive then and feel I got information pretty straight (excuse the pun). I currently have two works in progress – one a Novella called Hewhay Hall that will soon be on the market, but that’s a dark thriller. My full-length novel, When the Moon Fails, is set mostly in Portugal and harks back to an era before the Revolution (1974). I wouldn’t mind talking to a revolutionary – especially one who was imprisoned by the Secret Police (PIDE) during the difficult times. But no I won’t go there just yet.

Who I’d really really like to talk to is my Dad.

When I was a kid, my Dad was omniscient, infallible. Just there. Then when I was a hormone-fueled teenager, full of angst, thoughts of boys, and negatives, I didn’t think too much about him at all. Oh dear, that sounds terrible and makes me teary.

Since his death I’ve found out so much about him, yet – at the same time - have so little information. And that’s why I’d love to speak to him now. I want to know just who my father was.

He was only sixteen when the WWII broke out, and – probably by lying about his age – joined the Royal Air Force. Throughout the War, right to the end, he flew on the Lancaster bombers and a Dutch friend of mine who is a Navy officer and who saw my father’s log-books was astounded that he survived so many flying missions.

I do know my father had some hairy times. His Lancaster was caught in enemy fire one night and the wing caught fire. The crew carried knives in their socks because they’d rather kill themselves than be caught. But the pilot had two options – to try and limp to Sweden or to put the plane into a steep dive. He chose the latter and succeeded in extinguishing the fire so they managed to get back to England.

That’s my Dad I’m talking about – I’m so amazed because he was such a quiet, gentle man who never spoke about his experiences. I’ve seen photographs of him in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) – where he went on a troop ship on which conditions were abysmal and which was constantly under threat of being torpedoed. In the sunny photos he looks so happy and relaxed, posing with other officers, leaning against a Jeep and holding a mongoose.

How I’d love to know more about this wonderful man. Perhaps one day I’ll find a way of discovering something and then I’ll write a book about it.

A huge coincidence is that I work with two British women whose fathers were also in Ceylon with the RAF at exactly the same time as my father. But, like me, they’ve lost their fathers and their stories with them.

A friend who is an RAF Wing Commander at the moment with NATO saw my father’s portrait photo taken during the War and in which he’s wearing his uniform. After studying the photo for some time, my friend said, “Those were the boys who really knew how to go through it.”

Now onto literary matters!


“Perfect Score” (http://www.awe-struck.net/books/perfect_score.html) was published first as an e-book in Sept 2010 and then as a trade paperback in May 2010 and has been receiving great reviews.


Here’s a short excerpt:

Spring 1968



The wind blew straight off the frozen prairie and rattled the ill-fitting window panes in his hut. Sam opened one eye. Five am. Don't ask him how he knew. It wasn't the owl hoot, or the coyote yip, or the creek ice splitting, or even the cattle coughing that gave it away because these noises were constant throughout the night. He just knew it was time to get up.

He rolled out from under the warmth of an old moth-eaten wolf pelt and, without bothering to light his paraffin lamp, pulled on jeans and a stiff-with-wear plaid work-shirt. He laced up scruffy, ancient leather boots before finishing it all off with a green wool jacket.

I'll block those holes with creek mud, he thought as the wind whistled through the gaps in the raw-wood plank walls. He put his shoulder to the door. Oil for that too -- maybe Josh Pike had some in the barn.

He'd hardly put his left foot outside when snow seeped through a hole in the boot sole. Standing on one leg, he broke the ice in his ceramic sink, splashed the small amount of water pooled there on his face and drank a handful.

Six hours of shoveling hay and muck, he thought as his boots rang on the iced-up alkali path leading to the main yard. A Canadian goose hooted a teasing honk. Laugh all you want, birdie, Sam stuffed his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders. At least I'm not up to my butt in freezing water. Just my left foot. His hair blown horizontal, he bent into the biting wind and squinted through stinging hail as three yellow cow dogs rushed up the path, their tails whirling, breath white and freezing on their whiskers.  

"Can't find a darn cow dog when I want one," he'd heard Josh Pike complain the previous day.

"That's because they're always with the boy," Mrs. Pike responded. "Sam."

"But I feed 'em."

"Animals love Sam because he has such a kind face and everyone knows amber eyes make the animals feel lucky."

"Never heard such a load of horse poop in all my life," Josh Pike muttered, his eyes skimming his land.

The Pike place had pretensions to be a ranch but Sam didn't think it quite made it. Divided into three sections: a creek, steep terrain and some disordered pastures lying in a flood plain, the property bordered the much larger Raw Pines ranch next door. Josh Pike told Sam he'd worked the land for twenty years but, as far as Sam could see, with little to show for it except the old man's love for the place which was as rigid as the winter weather: driving stinging snowstorms that stank of rusty nails. And a wind that could blow a calf over.

Three hours later, the range in the distance just visible across the frozen prairie, Sam removed his jacket, hung it on a gate post and pondered his next task.

He took a closer look at the steer lying on its side, kicking its legs and bellowing as if Sam was about to knife it. Can't have been easy forcing your darned head through the rails in the fence, he mentally told it. He rolled his sleeves up, picked up an axe and got to work on the fence rail with several powerful swings, taking care not to jolt the animal's head.

"Cain't you smell that good air?" Josh Pike had clambered onto a section of the fence, unaware or uncaring that he was tossed up a few inches every time the axe hit the rail. He raised his weathered face to the watery sun with all the pleasure and leisure of a sunbather on a distant beach. "Have to punch the bastard to get him in the chute." He nodded at the struggling steer, his words jarring with each blow of the axe. "Yet he done puts his head through the fence happy as a flea. Takes some beatin' huh?"

Sam had no breath for words but Pike continued undeterred. "HBetcha we could show them folks you worked with in Silver Creek a thing or two, eh boy? On how to run a cattle ranch. Betcha learned more up here in this month than you did in the three years you were down there. Eh?" He leaned closer to Sam, his face alight as he waited for Sam's affirmative. "Eh?"

"Near…nearly," Sam gasped, referring to the fence.

With one final massive blow, the axe-head wobbled as it finally split the fence rail. Sam kicked at the steer's rump to encourage it up and watched it skitter back to the herd, still bellowing its woes.

"You reckon you could slaughter beef?"

"If…if I have to."

The old man nodded as if satisfied with the answer. "Make some people weep. So pretty."

Sam rubbed his hand over his face. Like so many conversations in his life, this one made no sense at all. Why was the old man leaping from subject to subject like a demented grasshopper? And what was pretty? The back end of the rapidly retreating steer or a slaughtered cow?

"The view," Josh Pike explained although Sam hadn't voiced his question. The old man nodded at the distant range where the peaks were shining pink like his bald pate. "And you know little guys like us can."

Sam raised his eyes to the gun-metal grey sky above them. Can what? Sam was the first to admit that even on a good day his own mind was at best in total disarray but it wasn't in the chaos Josh Pike's evidently was.

"Cry. Cry at the view." Josh spoke as if explaining to a first grader. "Little guys get away with it. Betcha bawled when you left your family in Silver Creek. Eh?"

Bawled? Cry? Sam stared at the farm owner in disbelief. Sure he'd been sorry to leave -- Silver Creek held all he loved. But cry? Sam couldn't remember the last time he'd cried. When did he last cry? He wracked his brains.


Twitter: @suemonte

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3 comments:

  1. That's a wonderful story about your father, Sue. My dad was also a soldier in WW2. He was in the Canadian army and took part in the Normandy invasion. He was captured after a couple of days and spent the rest of the war in German POW camps. He never talked that much about it, just bits and pieces. It's ironic that he passed away ten years ago at just about the time I was becoming really interested in what he and others went through during the war.

    In other news, congratulations on finaling in the EPPIES with "Perfect Score". Well done and good luck!
    Jana

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  2. It always amazes me, Jana, at what our fathers went through.

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