Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.
I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.
This is the eighth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Elaine Roberts, who, alongside Francesca Capaldi Burgess (who I interviewed in the second of this series) is one of the RNA Saga Writers who runs the Write Minds blog .http://bit.ly/3qIydoy
Welcome, Elaine, and thank you for spending some time with us.
Thank you for inviting me on to your blog Judith, it’s lovely to be here.
- When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?
When I wrote the Foyles Bookshop Girls it was written as a one off, which was born from a Victorian novel I had written and not published, whereas The West End Girls was always a series. I’ve always wanted to write about families and relationships so that definitely put me in the saga category, even if I didn’t realise it when I started writing.
- Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?
I think most books have romance in them regardless of the genre but I would say my novels are more about relationships, which include family, friends and romance. We all have good and bad relationships, and they all have their ups and downs, that’s what makes them interesting. I believe as a reader you can empathise with what’s going on in a characters life, where you may not be able to with the war as a backdrop. War aside, every generation has had to deal with similar issues, which could be anything from financial hardship, alcohol or family relationship problems. I love writing about families and friendships, it’s the dynamics of it all that interests me, so it’s all in the mix for me.
- How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in?
Research is a big topic, I would say you can’t write a historical/saga without doing the research. I always look on it as similar to an iceberg, what I put in the books is the tip of it but the amount I actually do is the chunk that sits under the water. I have a tendency to get lost in the information, especially on the internet. It’s a wonderful asset, but it’s always best to check the information is correct. For that reason I prefer to use reference books. I have a numerous amount of books on WW1, including recipe books, theatre shows, cinemas and a book that was written for a child. One of my most precious books details the timeline of when the bombs were actually dropped in London and how many were killed and injured in each case. I purchased several old maps of London, which have enabled me to work out things like routes taken to work and often, to add a complication, I discovered that road names have changed over time. I visited museums, including the Imperial War Museum, and downloaded some of their podcasts. Archive libraries were also valuable, to gain more information. I have pages of old newspapers, so that headlines could be mentioned in my novel. Pinterest is great for images of the time. The BBC Schools website is an excellent place to go, because it’s factual, but written for children, so easy to understand. I looked at the census for popular names at that time, as well as my own family tree. For my first book, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, I also looked at the history of the company and found some fabulous stories. All of it can help form the story line and give the feel for the time. The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War was written because I had seen a photograph of the devastation caused when a munitions factory blew up.
- How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?
Once, I fell into the trap of having a year long pregnancy for one of my characters. Thankfully, that was quite early on in my writing so that taught me I needed more than my memory to keep on top of these things. I now have spreadsheets and chapter breakdowns, which are colour coded. I also create a family tree to remind me who is related to who, where they live, it also contains the character’s date of birth, when they passed away, and any anniversaries I might need to remember.
- A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative.
That’s a difficult question because it depends on the story and the event that’s leading it. My novels tend to run over no more than a two year period but everything can change quite quickly in a war setting and dealing with loss. Showing a character dealing with things outside their normal life, is portraying they have the strength they didn’t know they had is a change. Personally I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule about it, but if there is I’m prepared to be corrected on it.
Thank you for the interesting questions and for having me on your blog, Judith.
It’s been so interesting, Elaine. Thank you
About The West End Girls
Growing up on a farm in the country, Annie Cradwell has always dreamt of singing on stage. So when she hears her friend Joyce has a room to spare in London, she sets off with best friend Rose for an adventure beyond anything they could have imagined.
In London, Annie and Rose stumble into jobs at the Lyceum Theatre. Being a dresser to capricious star Kitty Smythe wasn’t exactly what Annie had in mind. But then the musical director, Matthew Harris, offers her singing lessons. And Annie starts to wonder – could this be her chance? Or is it all too good to be true?
With the threat of war in the air, everything is uncertain. Is there a place for hopes and dreams when so much is at stake?
Annie, Rose and Joyce are three girls with very different dreams – but the same great friendship.
Amazon: The West End Girls
Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way again until she picked it up again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine is very proud of her debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which went on to become a saga trilogy. Her late husband always supported her dream and encouraged her to write. She, and her extended family, live in and around Dartford, Kent and her home is always busy with children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.
Amazon Link: The West End Girls
Facebook Author Page: Elaine Roberts Facebook Author Page
I really enjoyed this interview and was impressed by the the amount of time and effort Elaine puts into her research. Her comparison with an iceberg of the information gathered with the information actually used put it in a clear context!
Thanks, Alex, I loved Elaine’s answers. And the iceberg analogy is so true!!