Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Amelia Marriette, author of Walking into Alchemy – a celebration of the restorative power of the nature and of walking in the great outdoors. An inspirational and uplifting book for anyone who has suffered heartache, depression or exhaustion …
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am British but I live in Southern Austria. I am a curator and Shakespeare Lecturer by profession. I also like to write plays and apparently, I am absolutely crazy about walking in the hills and mountains of Austria, and I also love gardening. However, these two pursuits are relatively new additions to my life.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I think I have wanted to write a book since I was about 9 or 10. It was always something I thought that I would do.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I began writing for the stage in 2001 when I joined a playwrighting group, and I have been writing for the stage on and off since then.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It took me exactly a year to walk fifty-two walks in fifty-two weeks – which was the catalyst for my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature. I then spent a further two years completing the writing of my book – much longer than I expected. I also completed one extra walk and included it at the end of the book to give the book a sense of closure, which delayed the publication, but I think the book is better for it.
What made you want to write Walking Into Alchemy?
I was made redundant from my job as a Keeper of Art, but I was fortunate to meet my partner, Katie, and be able to relocate to Austria. I was surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Carinthian region, which was inspiring. However, I was still without work and my depression returned after the initial joy of moving to a new country. I needed a project and a purpose – a reason to be. I had no idea what to do, but my body seemed to know the answer and told me to “move”. So, I began to walk and as the weeks passed, I began to find my sense of place and find my new path in life.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Walking Into Alchemy?
Finding the time to write when other pressures of life are always present. Losing confidence. Losing my notes! Feeling afraid.
What was your research process for Walking Into Alchemy?
Walking, looking, looking and seeing (which is quite different). Reading other authors about walking, nature, and flora and fauna. Consulting reference books and using reputable internet sites, but always cross-referencing several sites to ensure accuracy. Checking local records. Asking local people for advice and including their knowledge in the book with permission. Making a proper note of references and providing endnotes – which helped me and hopefully helps my readers.
How did you plan the structure of Walking Into Alchemy?
I made myself have a fairly long gestation period – a pregnancy if you like – by committing myself to a year-long period of weekly walks of 13 miles. This helped me in many ways: it is a sensible period of time for a project, and it is a structure but not a very rigid one. I also deliberately prevented myself from deciding what I would write before the year was complete.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Walking Into Alchemy need?
In the first instance, my book was edited by a friend of mine who is a university professor and a writer. I know that this improved the book greatly – I was fortunate in this regard because she was firm but gentle. My publisher Mereo Books of Cirencester then worked on the manuscript and made small changes, picked up errors, suggested some alternative sentence construction and improved my punctuation. Again, this made the final version better and tighter.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Take time – a gestation period is essential. Write, write, write. Wait. Then self-edit. Read it aloud. Print out the whole manuscript several times and read it with a pencil in hand. If you have a bad feeling about a sentence or a section, you probably need to cut it or rework it many times. Don’t be in too much of a hurry, but eventually, you must press the button and get it published too!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
My father was a professional, commercial artist, but he was called up and was stationed in Austria between 1946-1948. He lived in the region that I now call home – Carinthia at RAF Klagenfurt. Having visited me in Austria when he was 89 he gave me his diaries – 17 beautifully handwritten notebooks – from that period of his life. He also gave me the watercolours that he completed in Austria. I have a real desire the bring his story to life and have already begun my research and making field trips.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am very proud of my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature, mainly because I receive messages fairly regularly from readers who have been inspired to walk more because of my book, and others who find it a comforting and calming read.
It was hard work writing the book and launching it just before a global pandemic was shall we say unfortunate. But on balance I believe that it was worth it, because it became a helpful lockdown book. I have started giving book readings again too. I ran a successful crowdfunding campaign with a team during the lockdown and raised 10,000 Euros to bring the book out in a German edition: Alchemie des Gehens: Selbstfindung in der Natur will be published in November 2021.
“Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature” by Amelia Marriette is published by Mereo Books (paperback, £20) and available through the author, the publisher and bookshops.
Connect with author, Amelia Marriette:
Amelia also has a blog (new posts roughly once a month): www.ameliamarriette.com/blog
See the walk described in the book: Here is the link to Amelia’s drone film – walk the walk with the author. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THLpE8rNf4c&t=11s
Special offer! 10% discount on signed copies via the author’s website:
The author is currently selling full-colour, signed copies of her book directly from her website with free P&P.
Just use the promo code WIA to receive your 10% discount www.ameliamarriette.com/shop
(NB: Currently, it is not possible to get the full-colour version via amazon)
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