Brenda Squires - Author Therapist and Artist

Landsker published 2004 by Starborn Books

Winner of the RNA Joan Hessayon award for new writing. The inspiration for this book came from old photos and a painting in the fire-damaged mansion we bought in West Wales. A bold woman is seen fencing on the front lawn here. In a portrait she peers down at us in mild disdain. Locals told of her upping sticks and leaving her life of ease, among the minor gentry of Teifi valley, to drive ambulances in the Blitz in the East End of London. In my tale she is transformed to Rhiannon, who is orphaned at an early age, engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart, but tempted off the straight and narrow, by Max Dienst, a German Marxist who visits West Wales. Through him Rhiannon becomes embroiled in the General Strike of 1926. It is a romance, a coming-of-age story against the background of a country in turmoil.

The Love of Geli Raubal  published by Parthian Books 2016 

A German journalist returns to Berlin to cover pending general election in 1932. The Nazis are on the rise and the soul of the German people is being fought over. Berlin is an edgy city and the journalist’s British wife fears for his safety as he delves into the dark secrets behind the propaganda nudging the Nazis towards power. Can the dangerous demagogue be stopped? When the journalist pits all in an attempt to discredit the Nazis, his own life comes under increasing threat. Geli Raubal, Hitler’s niece, died months before. Did she commit suicide or was she murdered? To answer that question becomes all-important.

The Eatons: A trilogy set between the wars in London, Paris and Spain
Book one: Wayward Daughter

In Wayward Daughter Morwenna (Mo) and Derek are passionately in love and marry far too young. Mo, from London’s East End, longs to break away from her family to follow her dream of a singing career. Derek struggles to find his identity as a painter. Passion and ambition draw them together and pull them apart. Are art and love compatible? Can they have both? What is the cost of artistic success? Are they destined to destroy that which they treasure most? Too young to be parents, they are caught in a fast spiral of events beyond their control. Tragedy stalks them. False sirens beckon. It is the heady years of the Twenties, when all seems possible, when social restraints are loosened and women are stepping into new freedoms. But the pull of family, tradition and class are not so easy to slough off.

Exiles in Paris

Some choose exile for artistic reasons. Others have no choice: they are driven by war or persecution from their homeland. In Paris, in the late 1920s, there were many exiles. British artist, Derek Eaton, finds his spiritual home on the Left Bank and becomes involved with Russian émigré artists, particularly with the enigmatic Tanya, while his wife, the West End star Morwenna, re-invents herself as a cabaret singer at the Scheherazade, a night-club run by the urbane Anton Lensky. The couple are caught up in the glamour and excitement of the city’s nightlife and its cutting-edge arts scene. But there is a dark underside to the City of Light. Stalin’s secret agents are lurking in the shadows and Mo is haunted by an unresolved mystery in her past.

COMING December 2023

A Distant Call

In the south of France Mo and Derek have established a life of ease. Derek is selling his paintings and has achieved a solid reputation. Mo continues to sing, now at a southern branch of Scheherazade. She has a following and many admire her combination of musicality and a lively stage presence. But all around them are rumblings of discontent. Europe is unsettled. The Wall Street Crash has ushered in an era of economic decline. People are taking sides as workers are pitted against property owners and new ideologies are declared. In Spain an elected government is threatened by a military coup. Derek feels the pull to action. Artists, writers, intellectuals are lining up to defend democracy. Mo, is torn between the need for stability and the desire to support what they see as a just cause.

What interests me as a writer?

I like to pit the individual against their social and historical background. I see characters as embodying different forces and tendencies and yet they become real to me as individuals. I want my characters to grow and develop and overcome trials and challenges. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I enjoy pitting them against each other too. Most writers do this. I relish a good love story with a happy ending but when I look around me I see we often fail in love, our intentions are misconstrued, our demons sometimes get the better of us. I can’t help feeling we are not intrinsically bad only flawed, complacent and half awake. I spent years working as a therapist so nothing about human nature really shocks me. We are in a process of evolution, socially and spiritually, but it is an uneven process. We enjoy drama. Our brains are geared towards the calamitous and the unexpected. We often find the balanced, harmonious life a trifle boring. So when we read we want escapism, adventure, and romance. We want to experience danger vicariously. They say those who can live things out in their imagination have less need to act things out in actuality.

Interview on the writing of: The love of Geli Raubal

What was your motivation for writing the book?

I’ve lived in Berlin and soaked up the atmosphere of the city. I always wondered what it was like in the pre-Hitler era. I thought there were tales to tell about people such as journalists who were bent on getting to the truth behind the propaganda. I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the death of Hitler’s niece, Geli Raubal.

What did you find most pleasurable about writing it?
I’m not sure pleasure is the right word but I got very involved with researching the historical background: it was like unravelling a string of knots. And I always enjoy the editing process, reworking and refining a messy draft.

What was most challenging?
Two things really. One is taking the reader back to that period when we all know what happened afterwards. Much had been written about the actual war so putting across a sense of Germany in the early Thirties was a challenge. Secondly, getting the balance right between story and background.

What did you discover about yourself in the writing of it?
That I can be a bit of a stickler for detail and that I submerge myself all too easily in the world I am trying to evoke.

What did you discover about the world of books and publishing?
There are so many books being produced right now that it is easy for a book, even a good one, to sink without a splash.

Did that happen to this book?
It didn’t sell as well as I might have hoped. I put a lot of effort into it. There are a lot of good books out there, so the competition is always very keen.
Who or what has inspired you most in your writing life?
I’ve been inspired by female writers who wrote and succeeded against the odds. Women in the nineteenth century were often not even allowed to publish under their own names. I’m thinking of the usual suspects: the Brontës, George Eliot, and Jane Austen. In our own day I’ve been impressed by black writers who’ve overcome adversity such as Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.

How helpful or otherwise were your agent/editor/publicist?
My books were published by independent presses. The people there couldn’t have been more helpful. I was consulted about choice of cover etc. They don’t have the same easy access to distribution networks, but Parthian Books, for example, punches well above its weight.

The Eatons
This is a trilogy set in London, Paris and Spain between the wars. I have written the first two books and will publish the first next year.

Writing Exiles in Paris

Exiles in Paris is the second of my trilogy The Eatons, which is set between the two wars and which tracks the lives, love and struggles of Morwenna and Derek Eaton. I wrote Exiles in Paris largely during lockdown, which provided – despite all its horrors – an opportunity for me to hunker down and find the internal space and solitude which writing often demands. We have a little summer house in the garden, which we call the Cwtch, a Welsh word not easy to translate. Its nearest equivalent is cosy corner or cubby hole. This provided a chance to shut out the troubles of the world and get on with it.

Paris at that time was a very exciting place to be. Jazz musicians, dancers including Josephine Baker, artists from all over such as Chagall, Picasso and Kandinsky were fleeing oppressive regimes, rigidity and rejection. At that time, before the shadow of WW2, Paris had open arms and one could live there cheaply and rub shoulders with writers, artists and refugees struggling for a better vision of life. There was a great influx of Russians; the civil war between Reds and Whites was raging, there were mass enforced movements of peoples, killings and deportations through Joseph Stalin. When I put my characters down into this maelstrom, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But it soon became clear they would have dealings with the Russians. And so it was. There the artists and refugees and then, never far away, were the Russian Security Forces, which the Russians called The Organs.
The book will be published in December.

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