Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | January 12, 2011

My Guest Today: Frances Pawley, Author of the Merlin’s Crystal Trilogy

I’m delighted to introduce you to a British lady, Frances Pawley.  If you watch for her on Facebook you’ll find that, in addition to writing, she is quite a photographer.  I’ve read the trilogy and was immersed in the world of her characters.  My grandsons had a wonderful time with the book.  I hope you enjoy the interview, get a copy of the book and share it.

T. Frances, what is the name of your book?

F. Merlin’s Crystal Complete Trilogy – for children aged 12 to 112!

T. What is it about?

F. Three books: Merlin’s Crystal, Secrets of Manor Parsley and Old Ghosts of Manor Parsley all combine to tell the complete story of twelve year old Sylvie and her brother Josh who go to stay with their aunt and uncle in Cornwall for the school holidays. They take along their best friend Tom. Mysterious things start to happen right from the start. A portrait changes. A tunnel, a cave, mysterious keys, a secret passage, unexplained noises and happenings and a jewel encrusted book that nobody can read.
The Beast of the Moor is sighted and it’s looking for someone special to take charge of the Crystal it protects.
What are the secrets of the Crystal, the house and its previous occupants; the disabled boy and his spiteful sister?
Who is the occupant of the grave? What is the secret of the locked room?
Who is the aged Professor who seeks Sylvie out in order to show her the way?
A little girl lies dying in a hospital bed, her dearest wish to see snow for the first time in her life – will he wish come true?
Does the long dead Captain return for the woman he loved on the night of the New Year’s Ball?
And ghostly horsemen arrive through the mists of time, from the sea, onto the beach, carrying the red dragon banner of King Arthur’s Court!

T. Where will it be available?

F. It’s available from all internet bookstores worldwide.
Amazon will also have it on Kindle for ‘Kindle’ or PC.

T. What inspired you to write this book?

F. In the area that I live in the UK,  numerous sightings of black panthers have been seen over the years but nobody has been able to photograph one of them. I got my idea from these sightings, giving them a reason to be here.

T. How did you choose the title?

F. I saw a beautiful ‘Merlin’, which I could easily afford, but couldn’t have carried and in his hand was a Crystal. Sadly when I arrived at the store to purchase it I was too late and I’ve never seen one like that since. I’m still looking!

T. Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

F. I like Harry. Probably because he’s such a nice considerate person and although he goes through a lot in his life, he always considers others.

T. Who is the ideal reader for your book?
F. Anybody from age 12 to 112!

T. What are the publicity plans you have coming up?

F. My book has been out since August 2009 and I have more coverage from the USA and Canada than I have in the UK. I have no publicity plans. I shy away from radio interviews and I wouldn’t like store signings. I achieved what I wanted to achieve by having my work published.

T. Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

F. Yes, put your mind to it and you can achieve anything. There’s always another place on the shelf for another book – let it be yours.

T. Where can readers learn more about your book?
F. My website:

T. Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

F. I’m working on four – yes four – all at the same time.
‘The Mystery of The Four Chimneys,’ a follow-on from ‘Old Ghosts’, about the house that William and Alice are staying in. It centres on what happened to their grandmother’s younger brother who disappeared during a storm many years before.
‘The Rissoles of Hartington Park’, which is about a mature couple and their three children who inherit a stately home from an uncle they never knew existed.
‘Ghost Dogs’ (I’m still working on this plot).
And a family saga, so far untitled, based loosely on my own ancestors.

T. Tell us something about yourself. (Where are you from, what is your background, how long have you been writing and anything else we might find interesting about you.)

I was born in Leicester in the UK in 1948. I was writing from a very early age and earned the princely sum of ten shillings (50p) for my first story at the age of 13 years.
I have done numerous things in my life: I trained as a secretary before going into law. I designed and made wedding gowns and had two businesses selling the same. I was a nurse and have delivered babies as well as laying out the dead. But the one thing I loved above everything else was writing. I will be writing to the day I die, and hopefully my books will grace the bookshelves long after that.

T. What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Favorite book? Why?
F. I like to read family sagas, set in the 1800’s. I can really get into them and I’m going to surprise most people by saying the Catherine Cookson’s – ‘Katie Mulholland’ is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s a masterpiece.
I love Emily and Charlotte Bronte and Thomas Hardy – ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ being my favourite. Charles Dickens is another favourite – I’ve visited all their houses!
Anita Shreve is another favourite of mine, I have all her books.

T. What is your guilty pleasure read you turn to for sheer entertainment value (book, particular author)?

F. I love Catherine Cookson – I have a whole set of her books and if I were stuck on a desert island it would be her books I should like to take with me.

T. Who is your literary idol?

F. Hard one to answer: It would have to be Charles Dickens.

F. When I could hold a pencil I think.

T. Was there a favorite writing teacher or mentor?

F. My old school teacher Mrs. Taylor, I say ‘old’ because she was around 65 when she was teaching me. She provided a lot of encouragement and saw my potential.

T. Name one fun/weird/frightening fact about you that we don’t already know.

F. I lost my former husband and 30 year old son within 5 weeks of each other in 2006. Almost immediately I was aware that my son was with me on my left side. I used to talk to him, and he would talk to me. However if I tried to ‘call him up’ I would be bombarded with voices; some so loudly that I couldn’t sleep. I had to ask them to go away. I’m not a religious person, but this actually happens to me. It has been suggested that I take it further, but I am loath to do this, because I have no idea what the consequences would be.

T. Where can readers learn more about you?

F. At the back of my book or on my website.

T. How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

F. I loved to read and the ‘Janet and John’ books I read at school filled me with so much joy. I loved them. On my tenth birthday my mother bought me ‘Little Women’ by Louise M. Alcott (I still have it) and although it was a little old for me at that time, it took me to another world, and I loved it.

T. What sorts of things inspire you as a writer?

F. I love beautiful things. I love to photograph beautiful things.
Conversations I overhear, anything that provides a starting point for a story. I stood beneath a tree and a white feather fluttered down in front of me, I wrote a story about that just recently.

T. How do you approach a story? Do you start with outlines or something else? Planner or pantster?
F. I always know the beginning and how it will end. What comes in between comes along as I write. I never plan anything. I doubt it would work if I did. My characters take me along.

T. Where do you work when writing? What is your ideal creative environment?

F. When I moved into my current home it took me 18 months to find the perfect place to write. The area I intended to use proved to be the wrong area. I’m like a expectant bitch who is about to give birth, I need to find my own place to produce my young and nobody can place me somewhere I don’t want to be and expect results.

T. When do you write (morning, night)?

F. During the day only. I like to relax in the evening.

T. Do you have any writing rituals?

F. Yes, my husband writes too, but when I’m deeply into something I will wear a ‘Crystal’ on a chain around my neck and this is his prompt not to interrupt me. For my intense moments, I have a sign on my door saying: ‘You are now leaving your world and entering mine, kindly respect my silence!’ Last thing I need when writing very sad parts that make me cry, is to be interrupted by someone asking me “what’s the matter?” My husband is wonderful in this respect.

T.How do you come up with the names for your characters?

F. I wouldn’t use silly names like they do in the American soaps. I try to use unusual names that are ‘pretty’ for the girls and more lifelike for the boys. Using names like Ashley or Montague just wouldn’t fit with my kind of writing. I leave them to the Forsythe Saga!

T. Is writing your main creative outlet, or do you have other talents/creative pursuits?

F. I do a bit of sewing now, but not much. I will never lose the talent I have for designing and making wedding gowns, but I shall never use it again, as it makes too much mess. Writing is cleaner.

T. Do you ever get writers’ block? How do you tackle it?

F. I can walk out through the fields near me (we have over 800 acres around us), I take a few photographs, but to be honest I don’t really get it. Mostly because the things I write have been stewing away in my head for years and I only add to the ideas. ‘Ghost Dogs’ was actually a dream I had one night which is why I am struggling a bit with it. I also like to help others on the writing site Scribophile.

T. What’s the most personally challenging aspect of writing?

F. If you have to write a true account of something that happened personally, then I think that would be a challenge. I admire people who can be so open about their own lives, but raking tragedies up is not something I would like to do, not at the moment anyway.

T. What is the best advice you can give other writers about writing?

F. Just write it. Take your time, don’t rush it. Think of your work as a picture. Nobody can see it unless you ‘paint’ it, so paint those descriptions so your reader can see what you see. When it comes to dialogue let your characters speak as you would speak i.e.,
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” NO.
“Fancy a coffee?” YES
If you wouldn’t say it yourself why let your characters say it? They will sound as wooden as the trees.

T. What genres do you write in? Why?

F. Children at the moment, I love to write about boys. I had boys of my own and I used to listen to them with their friends. It makes fascinating listening.

T. Can you tell us about any themes you have running through your stories?

F. Yes, all work should have emotions. Mine have, laughter, tears, jealousy, dislike, spite,
love, care, thoughtfulness. One part is so sad that I cry even now when I read it – (hence my sign on the door!)

T. Tell us your “story of getting published.”

F. A mainstream publisher showed interest in my trilogy, but wanted to publish it one book at a time over a period of three years. I didn’t want that, and I ‘ummed’ and ‘aarrhhed’. I then approached another publisher with the intention of self publishing all three books at the same time. The price was prohibitive and I would have had to pay extra to have it proofread and edited beforehand. I then found a publisher who would proofread, edit and publish each book for me; he had a string of degrees, so I was very impressed and I handed over my work to him.
I had an artist friend read the first book and paint a beautiful watercolour for one of the covers. She had just painted this when she became ill and she sadly died. I then decided that nobody could paint the other two covers as well as she would have done, so I published all three books as a trilogy under the same cover and Merlin’s Crystal was born.

T. What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

F. Finding the right person to proofread, edit and publish, taking the whole matter out of my hands for one price and in one package!

T.Did you learn anything from publishing this book? What?

F. I’d achieved what I set out to do.

T. If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

F. I wouldn’t have wasted £275 sending it to someone who was a so called proofreader. Make sure you choose someone who has references and the qualifications needed.

T. What is the best advice you could give other writers about publishing?

F. Have it professionally proofread, edited and published. You get what you pay for, don’t try and do anything you are unsure of, like publishing it on a site where it will be just one of many that are badly laid out, not proofread, not edited, and leave you disappointed. When you hold that first book in your hands you need it to be totally professional from beginning to end.

T. What are your ideas about the future of digital publishing?

F. I feel that it will take over the market (if it hasn’t already) and there is a great deal of potential for all writers in this digital age. Print on Demand doesn’t mean that your book is moldering on a shelf somewhere, it is fresh and specially printed and you know that each book is going to arrive at someone’s door the way you would like it to be.

I recently placed my book on Kindle and I would recommend any author to do the same. It is instantaneous for the purchaser and within minutes they can be reading your book. You make more money from it than the paperback too, which is bound to be an incentive.


  1. Thank you so much!

  2. Frances Pauley certainly is a very sincere and honest writer, who knows how to tell a story that children of all ages, 5 to 55, will love! Indeed, the greatest gift a writer can have is the ability to tell a story, and I found her story more realistically imaginatve, and her characters more endearing and believable, than the story and characters that inform the world of Harry Potter. I am pleased to hear that there is more from her pen in the pipeline!

  3. Frances Pawley is an imaginative and talented writer, but more than all, an open source of information and encouragement to those she encounters (and quite humble about it too!). She deserves success and all the blessings in the world.

    Thank you Thomas for giving us a little more insight into that wonderful brain of hers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: