Romantic Novelists' Association

Rosie Parker – Only Hummingbirds Fly Backwards

2 September 2022

book cover for only hummingbirds fly backwardsWe are delighted that you could join us to talk about your new release, especially as a graduate of the NWS scheme. Could you tell us a little more about it? My novel Only Hummingbirds Fly Backwards is published under the pen name of Rosie Parker. It’s based on what happened following my brother’s brain injury, but is a fictionalised account.

What was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story? My brother and I were as close as twins and my world fell apart when he came off a motorbike, receiving a devastating head injury. My writing came and found me, like a friend putting their hand in mine.

How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book? The names did take a while, that’s true. I didn’t want any of the characters to be identifiable as real people. The setting is based on Beg Meil, a lovely coastal town in Brittany where I spent a holiday soon after my brother’s accident. I took many photographs and did some writing on location to aid authenticity. I liked the way it twinned with the West Country and some flashback scenes were based on a similar location in Somerset.

How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you normally do? Honestly? This book has been hanging around for about 30 years until I found a way to write it so that it remained authentic but was not an autobiography. Normally, a first draft of a novel takes me about two years. (I’m slow!) This novel had so many rewrites that I don’t know how many it took!

What is your writing day like? I’ll go to my writing shed to write for about 2 hours. I agree with Ernest Hemingway who said that any more than 2 hours writing is not productive.

Without giving too much away, what was the hardest part of the book to write? The beginning. Too often I’ll go off at a lick and only then realise that the beginning needs fixing. Also there are so many options – should I start here? There? Somewhere totally different?

What kind of research did you do before beginning the book? I knew a fair amount already – having been a physiotherapist – but I still needed to do extra re. brain injury and the workings of the brain.

When did you realise you wanted to be an author? When I was at school and soon after I wrote and wrote all the time – writing my first novel when I was seven. But I didn’t value my scribblings as the message from school was that writing was something you could be good at, but not something to consider for a career. I returned to writing following my brother’s accident.

Which fictional character(s) would like to invite to dinner? What would you like to talk about? Lizzie Bennet has to be the one you’d have a right laugh with and end up spluttering at her caustic quips. Paddington Bear because he has no filter and would ask everyone just the right questions. And to get the flirting under way it would have to be Rhett Butler.

Who were your favourite childhood authors? Richmal Crompton and her Just William stories, Jean Plaidy for her historical romances, Paddington books – these are the ones which stick out. But I was an avid reader from pe-school and read at least 5 books a fortnight, and there are so many that I cannot remember them all.

What book do you wish you had written? There are so many authors which make me think – hmmm she’s good. I’m not sure that I wish I’d written any of their books, because then they wouldn’t be so good.

If you could give your younger writing self any advice, what would it be? Don’t stop writing. It was what you were meant to do, but you lost your confidence. Keep writing and learning.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Write. You can only truly learn to write by writing. But there’s also a craft, so do go to writing classes, join writing groups to find a community (especially the RNA). Don’t wait. Natalie Goldberg said, ‘Writers write, everybody else makes excuses.’ There are always excuses. Write a little every day. 10 minutes each day can do wonders.

Can you tell us what you are working on now? A romcom based in Devon including a mermaid, a boy with Down’s syndrome, a drag queen, and a cart horse called Dave.

Facebook: Rosemary Dun
Facebook: Rosie Parker 
Twitter: Rosemary Dun
Twitter: Rosie Parker

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About the Author

Woman in blue flowery dress

Rosie Parker is the pen name for Rosemary Dun. As Rosemary Dun she is also the author or a romcom called The Trouble With Love (pub by Sphere in 2016). An author, a poet, a stand up performer, she has won prizes and published short stories and poetry. She performed a one-woman show at Hay-on-Wye’s How The Light Gets In called If Love Is The Answer, and has appeared on television and radio. She is a freelance tutor and mentor as well as an Associate Lecture on the Open University undergraduate and M.A. courses in Creative Writing. She teaches her own course, Writing A Commercial Novel, at Bristol Folk House adult education centre, and is tutoring a retreat on Developing and Pitching Your Novel at Retreats For You in Devon. She lives on the Somerset coast in a 400 year old fisherman’s cottage, has two grown-up daughters and a cockapoo. For the first time she’s achieved her dream of a writing shed! It’s blue and cute, providing a space to dream and write.

Rosie has been speaking with:

Woman wearing white top with brunette hair

Julia Boggio is a writer, photographer, mother, Peloton lover, runner, and Christmas card enthusiast. She is one half of the popular podcast, Two Lit Chicks (like desert island discs, but for books). Her first book, SHOOTERS, is launching in March 2023.