The second author to feature in my online interviews was Ann Patras, a funny lady who, in the early-80s, moved from a technologically-advanced Britain to Zambia with her husband and three young children. And thirteen crates. Of course there are challenges, both culturally and materially, such as the shortages like… no, I'll let Ann explain it to you in her books.
She has moved around over the years and now lives in Spain, and I suspect eventually she may write about all the places she has called home.
Now, to get some idea of what might come to light during our online meeting, I asked Ann to supply me with some amusing and memorable facts about herself – something I might use in my introduction. "Well, I was given a sex change between wards at a Malaga hospital in 2012," was one of the things she mentioned.
A-ha! I thought, this could be interesting. I was rather taken with the idea of her living in sunny Spain, which instantly got me playing Y Viva Espana round and round in my head (memories of the mid-70s and that rather attractive Sylvia Vrethammar who sang it). So, if I wore my Madrid cap (to set the scene) and did the intro out in the snow, surely there would be some comedic value based on the climatic contrast…?
For one thing, right where Ann was in Spain the temperature was miserably low (though not exactly freezing like it was here in Costa del Pennine), and I couldn't help myself saying that today's guest author had undergone a "sex change operation", which wasn't exactly the case. And although I knew this, I just couldn't say it any differently. Well, I did say it was cold out. It was only after nine takes (that's when I lost count) that we decided to go inside for a hot drink and a shot of rum…
…but could only find some port. Anyhow, a rethink of the intro was in order, and we hadn't yet done the interview – but hey, what else could possibly go wrong?
We did a practice Skype call, in which we seemed to be constantly interrupted by the audio disappearing, then the video, then freezing (no, not the weather this time), but whilst we were chatting away (as if we'd known each other for years, which was uncanny), both of Ann's dogs were outside, and one of them, JD, let herself in the house.
That's when Ann told me that she can open the door (and also the outside gate) from either side, but refuses to close them after herself. But that's okay, you see, because the other one, Marti, will then close the door. And if she doesn't quite manage it, Ann only has to say, "Now do it properly," and the dog will apply a little more weight until the latch can be heard to catch. You can see my reflection from the screen on the glass door.
This seemed like too good a treat to not use on the night of the interview, only I feared that any attempt to engineer this would appear contrived … but then on the big night it did indeed happen – and without any attempt to shoehorn it in.
Here's a recent video of JD and Marti following prompts from Ann's daughter Vicki:
During their time in Zambia, Ann took many photos, but admits the film quality was lacking and the prints haven't fared well over the past 30-odd years. However, she did send me some scans to use in the interview, and I managed to squeeze some extra resolution and colour from them. A small selection was included in a short 35-second animated sequence. This little video, would you believe, made using Adobe After Effects software, took many hours to render. Apparently, long processing times are par for the course. I used it again later to show some of Ann's excellent book illustrations presented in a revolving drum.
The interview lasts around 18 minutes, so shorter than other online author videos and, we hope, more comfortable and convenient to watch. And together with the graphics and image presentations, the eBook Showtime programme lets readers see Ann as she really is: friendly, funny, and doesn't suffer fools gladly. We had one hell of a good chat and I think we both enjoyed discussing her books and generally talking shop.
Here's the interview:
and here is Ann's website: