Who was John Boy Walton?

As a kid (and yes, as an adult too) I loved the TV series ‘The Waltons’. My favourite characters were the absolutely marvellous Mary-Ellen and John Boy, Mary-Ellen because she never let being female stop her achieving anything and John-Boy because he wrote stories about his extraordinarily large, but otherwise very ordinary, family.

Having recently seen a now unsurprisingly older Richard Thomas on other programmes, including NCIS New Orleans, I thought to look up the ‘real’ John Boy, ‘The Waltons’ writer (and voice-over narrator) Earl Hamner Jr.

One of eight children (one more than John Boy) Hamner was genuinely brought up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia – in a town named after its first postmaster. ‘The Waltons’ was based very much on his personal experiences, just as everyone who watched it hoped it must have been (those people are real, right?) Yes, even the Baldwin sisters were based on people Earl Hamner actually knew.

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Hamner had a string of high-profile work to his name, not just ‘The Waltons’. He was a best-selling novelist who wrote numerous books (including ‘Spencer’s Mountain’), he was the author of a number of episodes of the 1960s TV show The Twilight Zone and he adapted the popular children’s story Charlotte’s Web into a successful 2006 film. He also created the long-running TV drama Falcon Crest and wrote for other TV shows including Gentle Ben, Wagon Train and The Wild Thornberrys. He continued writing into his 90s and died in 2016.

All this new information just makes me love Hamner’s stories and his characters even more. Perhaps I’ll have to dig out that box set …

If you’d like to find out more about Earl Hamner, visit the official website for Earl Hamner

Photo: Earl Hamner with Richard Thomas on The Waltons set ©Copyright 1976 CBS Television

Real or Perfect?

I see so many books where the cover image is a smouldering, topless guy with a six-pack who has a gorgeous, physically perfect girl wrapped around his shoulders/chest. These are books I, personally, never pick up. Not because I think the story will be erotic (although I admit I’m not keen on that genre – each to their own) but because I want to read stories about characters to whom I can relate.

I am not a tall, slender woman in her twenties with hair that would be at home in a shampoo advert, a figure like a tennis pro, sparkling, green eyes, a posterior that turns heads and immaculate dress sense. Nor do I have a home straight out of an interior design magazine, an impressive investment portfolio and an adorable, well-behaved dog. I’m ordinary which, the Encarta dictionary tells me, means ‘Not remarkable or special in any way, and therefore uninteresting and unimpressive.’ (Wow, that smarts!)

My characters are also ordinary, but the story comes out of the fact that something extraordinary is happening in their lives. To give you a couple of examples, in ‘Splitting Infinities’ there’s Dawn, a fifty-something bereaved mother who finds an object with extraordinary powers, and in ‘Finding the Falling Man’ there’s Faye, whose brother has visions and who turns amateur sleuth to save a life. The stories are about how my distinctly ordinary characters react to being thrown into extraordinary circumstances. I like my readers to think ‘I get this person, they’re like me’, because it makes a fantastic story feel more like a personal journey.

I completely understand that some people enjoy books where the characters have walked straight off the red carpet into the pages and perhaps, one day, one of my own storylines will lend itself to a perfect protagonist (no, I don’t think it will, and if it does, it will have to be a hundred percent necessary to the plot).

Meanwhile, work-in-progress novel number eight opens with a mid-forties male with mousey, shoulder-length hair and overcrowded teeth.

Find my books on my Amazon author page. Find me on Facebook and Twitter

Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

First published in 1976

My first work ever to be published was a poem I wrote when I was ten or eleven. It was about the Red Arrows air display team. There was lots of swooshing and diving, from what little I remember. Somehow it impressed my teacher enough that it ended up being published in the school magazine. I think perhaps the fact that carnival week was coming (along with the Red Arrows’ annual seafront display) might have helped. I don’t even have a copy of the magazine now.

After this brief glimpse of ‘fame’, I didn’t publish another word for well over thirty years. In truth, I didn’t write much either, except for an occasional poem. I remember one about a girl who fell in love with the statue of a knight and then disappeared, only for her name to join his on the tomb in the church yard. Perhaps this was the first hint of my later interest in writing stories with a paranormal element. I always liked the idea of writing novels, but couldn’t come up with a storyline. Honestly, I didn’t ever sit down and properly try.

Then, for a couple of years, I worked in a school. There was one particular student who kept telling me she wanted to write novels. It made me think about my long-forgotten half dream. My mother had died a couple of years before and I wondered if – just perhaps – I could write a novel based on her early life. I decided to try. It took a long time and a very patient editor, but I finished it and self-published. After I’d written Mum’s story, I joined a writers’ group where we’d often write short pieces on a given theme.

As a child, I’d been intrigued by all things paranormal, and even subscribed to a magazine on the topic. It made the world seem more interesting, I guess. While writing for my writers’ group, I soon realised that my contributions were predominantly contemporary stories with a paranormal element. Finally, one leant itself towards being turned into a novel.

Today, I still find that I have to start writing a story before I know whether it’s novel material or merely enough for a short story, but enough of them have had the potential for significant length that I’ve now published seven novels (and a couple of short story compilations). I’m currently working on novel number eight.

Find my novels on Amazon and Smashwords.

Pen and paper photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Amazing Free eBook Website!

The aspect of being an independent author that I find most challenging is self-promotion (I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before – possibly several times). Every once in a while I stumble across something helpful online that makes me think ‘Why didn’t I know this existed before?’ and Voracious Readers Only’s website falls into that category.

VRO’s aim is to match readers with up-and-coming novelists in their favourite genres. Readers simply complete and return VRO’s contact form and pretty soon they’ll start receiving regular emails offering FREE review copies of books in their preferred genres. Once they’ve finished reading a book, they are encouraged to post a review on Amazon/Goodreads/social media, thus helping the author achieve better visibility for their work. Win for the reader and win for the author – fabulous!

I’m pleased to say that my novel Sweet Erin will be featured on VRO on 15th May. Perhaps I’ll do a blog in a few weeks saying how that went for me. I’ve also signed up to the service as a reader and am happy to be helping out some amazing authors by posting reviews for their books. If you’d like to check out VRO, here’s a link to their website: https://voraciousreadersonly.com/