Saturday 27 August 2016

Isle of Wight Virtual Mini Book Festival - Introducing Mary Grand

Welcome to my mini book festival! A few months ago I decided I wanted to do something a little different here on my blog and I came up with the idea of a virtual book festival, but instead of inviting authors from far and wide I thought it would be nice to concentrate on authors from a specific area. After some more thought I realised that I knew two authors that live on the very picturesque Isle of Wight,so why not see if I could find a few more? I've been there a few times and it's in the same county that I live in, so it seemed like the perfect choice.

So how does this virtual mini book festival work? Well throughout today and tomorrow I'll be introducing you all to seven authors from the Isle of Wight. Each author has written a guest post on a variety of different bookish topics and you can find out more about them and their books. I think it's a great way to get to know some new authors and to hopefully get them some new fans. Before I start introducing you to the authors here are a few interesting  facts about the island:

The Isle of Wight is the sunniest place in the UK with 1,800 to 2,000 hours of sunshine each year which is more than Spain!

It's famous for it's garlic. It's been produced on the island for centuries and they even have a garlic festival  where you can sample many forms of garlic including garlic beer, garlic fudge and even garlic ice cream!

Despite it's size it's said to be the most haunted island in the world.

It's home to what's thought to be the world's oldest amusement park: Blackgang Chine. Built in 1843, the park was named after a former chine (coastal ravine) and provided entertainment for Victorian holidaymakers.

The island has more overseas visitors per year than it does residents. In 2011 the population was around 140,000 but the island received over two million visitors.

Due to it's location, the Isle of Wight was considered an excellent location for housing some of the UK's most infamous prisoners. Notorious names incarcerated here include the Kray twins and King Charles I.

Now that you know a bit more about this little island I'd like to invite you in and introduce you to the first of today's lovely authors.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you all to the lovely Mary Grand, as without her help this virtual book festival wouldn't be taking place.

Photo courtesy of Mary Grand

Mary's biography.
I was born in Cardiff and have retained a deep love for my Welsh roots. I worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught Deaf children in Croydon and Hastings.
I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I walk my cocker spaniel Pepper and write. I have two grown up children.
'Free to Be Tegan' was my debut novel. It is to be the first of a series of novels set in Wales. The second will be set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula. I have also published a short book of short stories 'Catching the Light'.
Do send feedback to me at

                                        What inspired me to write a book?

‘Inspiration exists but it has to find you working’ Pablo Picasso

I know this sounds crazy, but I was not thinking of writing a novel when I signed up to the course ‘Writing your First Novel’.  As an avid reader I was interested in the process of writing and thought I would go to learn about it.  Anyway, I turned up on the first evening and was surprised, and rather alarmed, to find myself amongst a group of highly motivated individuals, most of whom had started novels and had a clear idea of where they were heading.  Fortunately, I had a fantastic teacher, Felicity Fair Thompson, a published writer and very inspiring, positive teacher who gently guided me into writing. I am so glad she did as it introduced me to a wonderful world I never knew existed.   

We started by creating characters and then building stories around them as well as learning all about the structure and skills needed to start writing a novel. I was hooked. Writing became part of my life, a daily habit and now I can’t imagine life without it.

The inspiration to attempt to write a novel developed a bit like an old fashioned photograph, in stages.

I started thinking about the trauma myself and others had suffered through our experiences of being raised in cults, sects and High Demand Groups and then, in particular, the journeys of healing that some of us have been on. Slowly, the idea of writing about this in a novel formed. I created a fictitious cult called ‘The Last Week Community’ which incorporated teachings I had received with others I had read about. 

The central character Tegan is inspired by several young woman I knew in the sect where I grew up. Likewise, other members of the cult are based on people I knew there. The characters are not a direct portrait of individuals but each is an amalgam of several people that I slowly knit together to become the character in the novel.

I was brought up in a village in Wales and it was memories of the warmth, chattiness and sense of community, along with all the usual dramas and scandals that inspired the creation of the village of Ty FFynon.  I felt it would make an interesting place for Tegan to start her journey of recovery.

This village is set in the Cambrian Mountains, a vast wilderness between Brecon and Snowdonia where you can walk for miles without meeting anyone, with only the red kites soaring above you. The setting is a very important part of Tegan’s healing, as Albert Einstein said. ’Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.’ 

Writing a novel can be really hard work but for me inspiration from the people in my past and present and writing about things I cared passionately about were the motivation that kept me going to ‘the end’.

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I'm delighted to tell you all that Mary has a new book available on kindle which came out just days ago called Hidden Chapters. It's a powerful novel exploring motherhood, adoption and family secrets. The beautifully told story of a family haunted by ghosts from the past. So make sure you take a look.

Free to download, a compelling and heart warming set of four short stories. You can read my review of Catching the Light here.

Free to be Tegan, a novel about one woman’s journey of recovery from her upbringing in a cult.

If you'd like to connect or find out more about Mary you can find her using the links below.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Mary for all of her help, for putting me in touch with all the wonderful authors who are involved in this event and of course for taking the time out of her busy schedule to write her guest post. Mary, you're a diamond!


  1. This is a great idea, and from such a wonderful setting also. Another brilliant addition to your' blog Hippo. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks Sue, I'm happy that you like it. There's lots more to come so please do come back 😉

  2. Fantastic start to the IOW blog idea... thanks for organising it! I have read Mary's books and highly recommend them!

  3. Love the idea of a virtual lit festival! Inspired!! Great blog post!