Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Liz Jones

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK  who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Liz Jones

Hello and welcome, Liz. Good to have you with us here today.

Glad to be here, Judith.

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

The Queen of Romance is my one and only (so far…)

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Through a long and tortuous process… My original title, The Many Lives of Marguerite was okay, but didn’t really tell the reader anything. Eventually, I came up with The Forgotten Queen of Romance. The ‘forgotten’ was later dropped… 

What inspired the idea for your book?

It all began when I visited what I thought was just her husband’s grave (that of the controversial Welsh author Caradoc Evans). Then I discovered Marguerite, this incredible woman who had been a bestselling romance author, whose book The Pleasure Garden was became Alfred Hitchcock’s first film, who had appeared in a film alongside the legendary Gloria Swanson, and had run a thriving repertory theatre company in my home town of Aberystwyth. Yet now she lay forgotten alongside her husband, without even her name on the gravestone. I had to find out more…

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The scenes about Marguerite’s childhood in India, during the days of the Raj. I have never been to India and knew little about the Raj, so I had to draw heavily on a combination of research and imagination. But I found this research fascinating. The mindset of the British in India was astonishingly racist and elitist. They were also making huge sacrifices for the sake of the British Empire, which they genuinely believed to be a noble project.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I enjoy visiting places and getting and writing about them in situ. Visiting Broadstairs, where Marguerite lived and ran a theatre company just before the war, was great fun, as was visiting the site of another of her homes, near Aberdyfi, high above the Dyfi estuary.   

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Marguerite as a biographical character was eccentric, endlessly fascinating and also infuriating! The men in her life were (with one exception) pretty awful to here. The character I felt by far the most empathy for was Pauline Bloch, the German Jewish refugee who was Marguerite and Caradoc’s live-in maid during the war. The poor woman was traumatised and not receiving the help and support she needed – least of all from Marguerite who was too wrapped up in her own marriage and money problems to care.  

I was privileged to read some of Pauline’s letters, written some thirty years later, where she reflected on her time with Marguerite and Caradoc. She was a strong, determined and remarkably fair-minded woman who had overcome so much.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

Pauline, without a doubt.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

All I can say is I’m researching another biography. It’s far too soon to reveal any more!

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

I don’t think you can really call yourself a writer after just one book. Although now I do write most days – features for magazines, mostly.

 Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

With a name like Liz Jones? Of course I have! If ever I write a book that’s completely different (a novel, for instance), I might just dream up a far more exotic name for myself!

 What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Writer’s block is something I experience every day. Sometimes I can overcome it. Other times, I suddenly find that cleaning the sink or organising my bookshelf is suddenly far more pressing than writing… Yet once I’m really in the writing zone, I find it difficult to stop. If only I found it easier to get there in the first place – I’m still working on that!   

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Peace, quiet, not too much clutter and, above all, a room of my own. (Virginia Woolf said it all really…)

 Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

As a writer of non-fiction, I’m afraid I can’t really answer this!

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Beginning.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

That’s a very big question! There are so many different kinds of good writing. If I had to say, I think it’s honestly – writing where the author strips away any ‘show-offy’ bits and tells the story with sincerity and integrity, rather than indulging in writing that draws attention to itself. Having said that, I can’t resist the odd flourish or purple passage, although I try not to overdo it! 

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? 

As a biographer it has to be character! I have to feel fascinated by a character to want to write about them.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m on Twitter, which I’ve found pretty useful, in a low-key sort of way. I know Twitter has a bit of a toxic reputation, but it’s great for connecting with other authors and keeping in touch with Honno and the wider world of books. What I also like about Twitter is that it’s okay to promote your own work there – unlike facebook, where too much self-promotion tends to be frowned upon! 

 Why did you [choose? Honno as a publisher?

The honest answer is because Honno is based in my home town of Aberystwyth. When my idea was still embarrassingly sketchy, I contacted the lovely Janet Thomas (a member of the Honno committee and hugely experienced editor). Thanks to Janet’s unstinting encouragement, I began to feel that my idea really could work as a book. Later, as a first-time Honno writer, I felt supported by the team throughout the whole process – from the initial edits to the marketing. Becoming a Honno author is like joining a very special women’s club! 

Author Bio:

Dr Liz Jones is a prize winning writer of creative non-fiction and journalism, and a creative writing tutor at Aberystwyth University. Her book, The Queen of Romance (Honno), a biography of Marguerite Jervis (aka Oliver Sandys and Countess Barcynska), ‘the most successful author and theatre entrepreneur you’ve never heard of’, was selected for The Independent‘s book choices for May, 2021.

Twitter: @LizJonesAber

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Sara Gethin

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.  

If you’re in the area we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno.

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Sara Gethin

Hello and welcome, Sara. And thank you for being with us today. 

 It’s good to be here, Judith

Please tell us how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I’ve written two novels for adults, and I’m going to add an optimistic ‘so far’ to the end of that sentence, as I have another storyline percolating in my head. ‘Not Thomas’ was my first novel. It’s a contemporary story about a neglected five-year-old boy and the people who are letting him down – spectacularly – and those who try to help him. The children in my second novel, ‘Emmet and Me’, are also failed by the adults around them. The background to that story is the extremely harsh industrial school system of 1960s’ Ireland. Picking a favourite from only two books feels like an impossible choice, but the most recently published is ‘Emmet and Me’, so I’ll choose that one.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The inspiration for ‘Emmet and Me’ came from a memoir I read by a man who’d been brought up in an industrial school in Letterfrack, Connemara. Those schools were filled with children whose families had fallen on hard times, and they were run, mainly, by the Catholic Church. They operated all over Ireland from the late 1800s, and some of them – a handful of the infamous ‘laundries’ – were still open in the 1990s.

The Letterfrack school was notorious for the extremely harsh treatment meted out by the Christian Brothers who ran it. Peter Tyrrell, the author of the memoir I read, wanted to draw attention to the terrible plight of children in these schools during the 1950s and ’60s. He felt ignored by the people in power, and eventually took his own life by setting fire to himself on Hampstead Heath. The character of Emmet came to me very clearly after reading Peter’s memoir, and I knew that at some point I was going to write about a boy growing up in the inhumane conditions of a rural industrial school in 1960s’ Ireland.

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

There’s one scene in ‘Emmet and Me’ that readers have said makes them shudder. It’s where one of the characters has a rather nasty and unusual accident. The peculiar thing is I didn’t realise, until I went back to edit that passage, that I’d described an incident I’d witnessed as a child. That same accident happened to a friend I was with in a field when we were seven years old. I had buried the memory until I wrote about it for the book. Writing that scene initially wasn’t as difficult as going back to edit it, and discovering I was reliving the incident from my own childhood.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

I loved writing the conversations between the two central characters, the ten-year-olds Claire and Emmet. The children meet in school and become forbidden friends. They’re misfits. Emmet is looked down on as he lives in the industrial school, or ‘orphanage’ as the locals call it. Claire feels out of place because she’s been uprooted from her Cardiff home and dumped at her granny’s isolated cottage. Both children love reading and horses, and Emmet and Claire bond over a copy of Black Beauty. It was great fun to write conversations alternating between Welsh and Irish accents, although it was also quite a challenge!

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

There are two girls in Claire’s class who are referred to by everyone as the ‘House Girls’. They live in the local orphanage, and they stand out a mile in school because their uniforms are different from the other girls’. They’re ignored or teased by the children in their class, and the teachers treat them appallingly too. Despite this, they show Claire nothing but kindness. I’d love to expand their story one day.

*At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

The first book I wrote was the collection of stories for children, ‘Welsh Cakes and Custard’. When I found it on the shelf of my local library, I truly felt like a writer. That was back in 2013, and I’ve written three more books for children since then, plus two novels for adults. I still get a huge thrill when I see them on the shelves of Llanelli library, although I really hope they get borrowed too!

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I write my children’s books under my real-life name, Wendy White, but I use Sara Gethin as a pen name when I write for adults. That’s because the stories I’ve written for children, so far, have a light touch and are humorous, whereas my stories for adults are in a totally different vein. That’s not to say there’s no humour at all in my novels – I really hope I make my readers laugh or smile a few times when they read ‘Not Thomas’ or ‘Emmet and Me’. But it’s certainly true to say there are darker moments in the stories too.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I love to have music on in the background while I write, but not just any music – it needs to be a playlist I’ve put together for that specific piece of writing. Sometimes the playlist consists of one song, repeated over and over, for a particular scene. I find music is the easiest route back into the mood I’m trying to create for a book, especially if I’ve had to take a break from writing. When I’m struggling to find the words, it’s normally because I haven’t yet discovered the perfect piece of music.

How do you use social media as an author?

Ah, social media – love it or loathe it, it’s not going away any time soon, is it?

I’m mainly active on two platforms – Twitter and Instagram – with an occasional dip into Facebook. My favourite is Insta. I could waste many happy hours on there, scrolling through images of gorgeous scenery and beautiful book covers. My own posts are mostly of sandy walks and shipwrecks. Cefn Sidan is my local beach, and it’s very photogenic. I’ve also been known to post the occasional book-related pic.

On Twitter, I love following authors and talking about books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. I mostly retweet other people’s news, with a shameless flurry of self-promotion when I have a new book out myself, and I’m always so grateful when people share my news too. Pre-pandemic, when I’d organise signings in book shops, I’d tweet about them before and afterwards. My book launch for ‘Emmet and Me’ last year was a Zoom affair. I tweeted  about that to an extremely annoying extent, I’ve no doubt! But it was wonderful to have so much support from the Twitter community for the launch event, and for the new novel too.

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

I love the fact that Honno is run by a committee of women, and I’ve been a fan of the publisher and their books since my student days, many years ago now. Long before I began writing, I knew it would be wonderful to be published by them. I feel it’s a huge honour that my two manuscripts were chosen for publication by Honno, and I’m very proud to be featured among the fabulous female writers they have on their list.

Thank you so much, Judith – I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to talk about books again! I’m so looking forward to getting together in May for the Honno Book Fair at Narberth. It will be a very special event indeed! Sara x

Sara Gethin Bio:

Sara Gethin is the pen name of Wendy White. She grew up in Llanelli and worked as a library assistant before becoming a primary school teacher. Her debut novel, ‘Not Thomas’, written in the voice of a neglected five-year-old boy, was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize. While home is still west Wales, she and her husband spend much of their free time in Ireland.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Hilary Shepherd

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Hilary Shepherd

Hello and welcome, Hilary. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Could you tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

Five written, three published. My favourite is ‘Albi’.

What inspired the idea for your book?

The book is based on a village in Aragon in Spain where we have a house. Over the last 20 years we’ve been told a lot of stories about the impact of the Civil War on neighbours who have all died now. Our house is full of farm implements that would have been in common use then and the sound landscape has changed little – the streets are too narrow for traffic so human voices dominate. The sheep flocks still graze to the sound of their bells and the shepherds call to them as they always did. The golden orioles still sing. I couldn’t not write about it!

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.

Albi himself, a nine-year-old boy who is catapulted into a strange and forbidding world but is still only a child. I think of him whenever I’m in the village and things he got up to and it’s a jolt to remember sometimes that he exists only in my head. And in the heads of my readers.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The ending, because there were so many threads to draw together and I wanted to do justice to my characters and also to history, which doesn’t have resolutions.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The pranks Albi gets up to, and the irony of what he sees compared with what he understands.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Now I’m older, a comfortable chair. 

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

At the moment it’s to keep writing when making physical things seems so much less of a self-indulgence. This is a knock-on of covid though I’m not sure why. At the moment I find myself preferring to make a window than spend time at my desk, which isn’t very conducive to finishing off my next novel.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Writing that isn’t tied to the earth by too many words in the wrong places.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Both – they leapfrog each other until it gets difficult to remember which was the trigger, though I’m pretty certain the characters come second but then drive the plot, sometimes surprisingly.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I’m afraid I don’t. I used to, but I really didn’t like it.

 Why did you Honno as a publisher?

Because they were there, and because Caroline responded so generously to my first submission. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the community that Honno is and the chance to be aware of others’ progress through the otherwise deeply solitary experience of being published.

About Hilary:

I live on a hillside in the middle of Wales where I have spent most of my adult life farming and woodworking, and also writing. My first novel was set in the Sudan where I lived for two years, the second in Ghana, and the third in Spain. Writing about other places is a wonderful way to spend time in them when life keeps you somewhere else.

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Annette Purdey Pugh

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno, the publishers.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Annette Purdey Pugh.

Annette Purdey Pugh

 . Hello and welcome, Annette. Great to see you here today. 

 Glad to be here, Judith

Please tell us, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

So far, I have only had one book published: A Murder at Rosings, published 2021.

So, what inspired the idea for your book?

I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice, but the immediate inspiration was an indulgent afternoon watching the BBC adaptation. It just occurred to me that it would be fun to use some of the characters in a murder mystery.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

It was all great fun to write! This, of course, has a lot to do with Jane Austen’s wonderful characters, who formed a basic framework upon which to build. I was provided with a ready-made villain, in the form of the obnoxious Mr Collins, and a natural suspect, in Mr Bennet. Lady Catherine’s grand establishment at Rosings was ripe for population with all those servants necessary to run it and I greatly enjoyed bringing them to life, together with the two ‘detectives’ who investigate.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

The character I most enjoyed writing about is Mary Bennet. As Jane Austen depicts her in Pride and Prejudice, she is very dull, especially when compared with her sisters, and we learn very little about her, except that she is studious and can be given to pompous pronouncements. This leaves her character open to exploration, and, as my novel progressed, I found my sympathy for her growing. Her visit to Rosings with her father, and her experiences there, both before and after the murder, cause great changes in herself and her life. Hopefully, if there were an alternative universe where fictional characters came alive, she would be happy with the outcome.  

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

I have thought a lot about a sequel, but I do feel that my story came to a natural conclusion at the end of A Murder at Rosings. However, I have been toying with the idea of continuing with the history of the house itself, with reference, of course, to past events.

Meanwhile, I have been working on a completely different mystery concerning buried bones and old wrongs in the Cors Caron area of Ceredigion.

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

I’ve enjoyed writing stories and poems all my life and have won prizes in the Learners’ Section at the National Eisteddfod. I took two full-length Open University courses in Creative Writing and found them immensely fulfilling. However, I don’t think I would ever have considered myself a ‘writer’ until Honno agreed to publish my novel, A Murder at Rosings – and, even now, I feel a bit reticent about it!

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

This is a big question! For me, good fiction writing is a combination of the following: An interesting storyline which draws the reader in quickly and maintains their interest throughout; characters who arouse the reader’s sympathy and a desire to know what happens to them next; a style of writing which flows well and is appropriate to the subject matter. Above all, a piece of prose, whether fiction or non-fiction, should be readable and enjoyable. If it’s a struggle to get from page to page, then it’s not for me.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? 

As a writer, the characters definitely come first, though I’m not always sure where they come from in the first place. I like to see where they will take me, and it is not necessarily in the direction I might have sketchily planned for them. Sometimes, a peripheral character may turn out to be crucial to the plot, when that finally emerges. In writing A Murder at Rosings, I was more than half-way through before I had any idea as to the identity of the murderer, or the circumstances, but the characters eventually led the way. As a reader, I think I have always been most interested in the characters; I faithfully follow some detective series, for example, not so much for the mysteries as for the detectives’ evolving personal lives!

How do you use social media as an author?

I’m very new to social media and did not use it at all until my book was published, when I saw that it is useful for authors to have some social media presence. Consequently, and with the encouragement of an old friend, I joined Twitter, and enjoy interacting with others on that platform – although I am often lured away from writerly things by politics! I try to mention my book in posts from time to time, sometimes including a relevant photo. Twitter is also a good source of advice from other writers, whom I have found to be really supportive. Finally, it is full of news of literary events and publication opportunities, as well as of the myriad of new books which come out every week.

Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

I sent my manuscript to Honno on the advice of my sister-in-law, who used to work for Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. I was encouraged by their website, where I was told that all submissions would be read, and by the fact that it is a company run by women, with the aim of publishing Welsh women’s writing. As an added bonus, it’s based in Aber!

Biography

Annette Purdey Pugh grew up in Flintshire and graduated in English from Lancaster University. She studied Creative Writing with the Open University, and has won prizes for poetry and prose at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. In a varied career, she has worked as a medical librarian, an optical adviser, and a milkwoman. She lives with her husband on the family farm in West Wales, where they keep 300 sheep. A Murder at Rosings is her first novel.

Connect with Annette:

Twitter: @APurdeyPugh

Presenting the Authors at the Honno Book Fair 7th May 2022 at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Today with Crystal Jeans

Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno. 

Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Crystal Jeans.

 Hi and welcome, Crystal. Good to see you here today.

It’s good to be with you, Judith

Tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I’ve written four books and though my latest, The Inverts, is my favourite, I have a special place in my heart for The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, as it was my first.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Someone else did actually – Catherine Merriman, a fellow Honno author, suggested it. She was my teacher at the time and she lifted it out of the text. It was in reference to an illustration from my Children’s Book of Bible Stories – it showed tigers and lambs and people frollocking in paradise (I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness). I’d wondered if the tigers were vegetarian in paradise.

What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?

No particular part was difficult. Overall, it was hard trying to splice together what was essentially a collection of personal essays into a novel. Emotionally, it was hard writing about my mother as I wasn’t on speaking terms with her at the time. But I got to flex my magnanimity muscle, which made me feel very noble (we’re fine now). I also struggled with fictionalising it. Looking back, I could have gone further. I was too close to it.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you tantalize us with a snippet of your plans for it? If not, your plans for your next book?

I’m not writing a sequel but I would like to return to creative non-fiction one day. I thought I’d scratched that itch with The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise but apparently not. I’d like to write very honest essays about sex. I will never write about my family again. I felt awful when VToP came out – my mother loved it but she was very anxious about how she might be perceived and I felt bad for her. Guilty. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel. It’s too early for me to talk about.

 At what point did you think of yourself as a writer?

When I started writing my first novel at age 21. It was terrible by the way.

 Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

No. I love my name. And it already sounds made-up.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?

Hell. I’ve only had writer’s block once, when I was pregnant. I watched a lot of TV and felt very empty.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Tea and nicotine. Radio 2 played on low. And a walking treadmill or a knee stool. Sitting at a desk for years has ruined my back.

 Are there therapeutic benefits to modelling a character after someone you know?

Yes. Writing about my mother made me really think hard about how she might have felt at certain points of her life, like when she lost her own mother at 14. As I said, we weren’t speaking at the time, and part of the reason I ended up wanting to make up with her was the empathy I felt recounting (fictionalised) parts of her life.

 What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

The first draft. I absolutely love the editing process though. It’s like a fun puzzle and I could do it all day.

 How do you use social media as an author?

I don’t. I’m beyond crap at using social media to promote my work. I don’t have a lot of time for it, or enthusiasm. I don’t really understand how Twitter works – am I supposed to add anyone who adds me? I personally have never bought a book because I’ve seen an author’s Twitter feed. I buy books through word-of-mouth. My agent tells me that it does make a difference for some authors – those who seem like they actually enjoy it. I think if I was in my teens/early twenties when my books came out, I would have been brilliant at social media book promotion because I was such a flaming narcissist and attention seeker back then. Now, the prospect fills me with dread and low-level anxiety.

 Why did you choose Honno as a publisher?

Honestly? None of the big London publishers would accept unsolicited manuscripts, I couldn’t get an agent, so I tried the Welsh indies, who did accept unsolicited MMS. Honno turned out to be a great fit though and I have nothing but praise for Caroline, my editor.

Bio

Crystal Jeans has had three books published by Honno – The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise, which was shortlisted for the Polari Prize, Light Switches are my Kryptonite, which won Wales Book of the Year in the English language for fiction, and The Homeless Heartthrob, a collection of short stories. The Inverts was published by Borough Press in 2021. She lives in Pontypridd with her wife and two children.

My twitter – @crystaljeans1

My Review of Making Waves, the sequel to Inside Out by Thorne Moore

As with Inside Out, I was given an ARC copy of Making Waves by the author, in return for an honest review.

I gave Making Waves 5* out of 5*

After reading this book I was happy to give the following endorsement: “Thorne Moore’s writing has three great qualities: the variety of genres, an exceptional sense of place, and characters that come alive on the page.”

I reviewed Inside Out here: https://bit.ly/3tNqwyI. Although both books are brilliant stand alone stories, I recommend reading Inside Out first.

Book Description:

Two hundred years in the future, with the Solar System in the hands of mega-corporations…
Tod Fox, commander of the Heloise, has delivered six rash volunteers to Triton, control centre of Ragnox Inc. But then he took one away again.
Now volunteers and crew face a new chapter in their lives, as human resources at the mercy of Ragnox Director, Jordan Pascal, or as allies of Pan, under Benedict Darke, the relentless enemy of the Triton regime.
Where will their allegiance lie? There is no middle ground in Arkadia. It is war. No mercy. Victory at any price.

Volume II of Salvage. Sequel to Inside Out

My Review:

I need to start by saying that Making Waves is only the second Science Fiction book I have read (and, yes, the first was Thorne Moore’s book, Inside Out). So I have little knowledge of this genre. But my interest in this author’s work is – and has long been – the psychological underpinning of the stories: I am always instantly gripped from the very first lines and by the way she presents the characters with all their foibles, their strengths, their weaknesses. And, juxtaposed with that aspect, are the settings they are living in. Backgrounds that inevitable affect their actions.

Even so, I was taken by surprise in Volume ll of Sequel: some of the characters act… well… out of character. Or, should I say, not with the personalities I expected after reading Volume l. The author gives them a new dimension. The travellers who journeyed to Triton on the ISF Heloise and the original crew of ISF Heloise, are instantly recognisable by their spoken and internal dialogue and by the subtle inclusion of details from their back stories. But they have extra facets to their characters, greater depths in their portrayals by their reactions to what is happening in the plot. Once engaged with that I applauded the courage, the innovative adaptation to the lives they are forced to endure, and I despaired of the evil of those connected with Ragnox on Triton and the desperate conditions there. And I was fascinated by the varied and complex new characters associated with Pan; Benedict Darke, that add even more interest to the story.

Trying hard to resist giving away spoilers here.

And, yet again, as in all her books, and although it’s an alien world. it’s the author’s inherent ability for writing descriptions (sometimes in only a few words) of the settings that evoke a sense of place. That gives credence to this excellent plot.

A plot that is intricate in the way it moves along, twisting and turning, yet with an ease that brings together the expected and unexpected, as in ‘real’ life.

This is a cracking book that kept me riveted and immersed. And, as I said in my review of Inside Out, Making Waves is a novel I would recommend to any readers who enjoys character-led stories – whatever the genre.

The author:

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton.
She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru.

Find Thorne at

Website:https://thornemoore.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

Buy Making Waves from:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3sZufKR

A few Moments With Carol Lovekin #MondayBlogs #Interview @Honno

Handing over to Carol for a moment

Hello, dear reader, and welcome.
Like you, I am a guest; invited by Judith to appear on her blog and answer some questions. This is an event, frankly. Since lockdown has put paid to physical book launches and fairs, sitting down to write about my author self and my books is a treat. So thank you, Judith!
   Judith and I are both published by Honno, the Welsh women’s Press. It’s the longest standing women-only press in the UK and I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say it is an honour and a privilege to be a Honno Girl. That said, we’re not girls anymore! We are both women of a certain age who, although we were already writers, came to publishing later than some. Judith was first published by Honno in 2010; my debut came out in 2016.
   Although we write in very different genres, our stories share some similarities. We both write strong women characters and explore family dynamics, not least, the relationships between mothers and daughters, and sisters.
   I recall first meeting Judith at a Honno gathering before I was published. Ghostbird, my debut, had been accepted but I was very much the new girl. Judith immediately struck me as down-to-earth, friendly and very funny. I was soon to learn her dry wit and no-nonsense Northern persona sat comfortably alongside her kindness and supportive nature.
   Over the years we have become good friends. (I’m still a bit star-struck to be honest. Judith really is a wonderful novelist and her published output is prolific.) It’s an extra special pleasure then to chat with her on her blog.  

Now let’s learn a little about Carol and her books

Judith: What do you love most about the writing process?

Carol: The opportunity to create story, Judith. Showing up and losing myself in the process. The lightbulb moments which illuminate a previously dim corner, or the ones that change the narrative’s trajectory. Being led by my characters because I threw away my breadcrumbs and allowed them to show me the way. Days when I punch the air because an unexpected tangent is about to make the story so much better.   

Judith: Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Carol: I’ve never knowingly based a character on a real person. I do confess to having ‘borrowed’ certain character traits. For instance, the narcissism of Allegra in Snow Sisters definitely has echoes of someone I used to know. The wonderful thing about it is of course, you don’t have to worry about being accused of writing negatively about a narcissist. They would never believe they could be that flawed therefore the character couldn’t possibly be based on them!

Snow Sisters

Judith: If you could write about anyone fictional/nonfictional who would you write about?

Carol: No one comes to mind. My writing feet are firmly set in the land of make-believe. I would be scared of mucking up a story about someone I admired!

Judith: What do you think makes a good story?

Carol: The perfect hook. An opening sentence that causes me to stop, go back and read it again. A sense of place and a central character who immediately piques my interest. To use a cliché: somebody who makes me care about them. They can be unreliable so long as they are largely sympathetic. And language – I am quickly put off by lazy language, which isn’t the same thing as bad editing. A good storyteller with a grasp of her craft will still shine through a tardy edit.  

 Judith: How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

Carol: The only ones I’m prepared to own are the three I’ve seen published plus the one in transit. There are the cobwebbed stories of course, in the back of metaphorical drawers. And the one I seem to have been writing forever, whose destiny is to be discarded each time a new, more exciting idea crops up. (My mentor calls it ‘the one my other books bounce off’ and a writer friend described it as being like ‘an old lover you parted with on good terms – between great passions, this lover is comfortable. . ’  (Like old lovers, some stories are best left to fade?)
   Not sure I have a favourite but okay – for the sake of a good yarn, I’ll have a go. Ghostbird because it was my first published book and Cadi, the central character, retains a special place in my heart. She presented herself, fully formed from a dream and I knew everything about her. She made writing what was a vague outline a possibility. Snow Sisters because it validated me as more than a one-trick pony and I love the relationship between the sisters, Verity and Meredith. My heart still aches for Allegra – a narcissist yes, but made that way by circumstances and upbringing. Wild Spinning Girls, my most recent book is my favourite because I can see my process as a writer; the improvements that come with practice I guess. And it has the best ghost! If I ever come back, as a ghost, I want to be Olwen!

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Judith: Have you considered writing in another genre?

Carol: Good question, Judith. When I began writing Ghostbird, I thought, naïvely and a little smugly, that I was writing literary fiction. I had nothing else to call it to be honest. I knew nothing about how genre works in publishing – in book shops – and in any case, I disliked the idea of being pigeonholed. Time has taught me that the Lit Fic label is as meaningless as the Women’s Fiction one.
   (My favourite quote about genre comes from Matt Haig who said: “
There is only one genre in fiction. The genre is called book.”)

   Once I realised Ghostbird was a ghost story my first thought was, ‘Who knew?’ My second was that it suited me. There was a palpable shift in my thinking and my next two books were specifically planned as ghost stories – with hints of Welsh Gothic – and with an emphasis on family dynamics.  
   Having found my “niche” so to speak, I see no reason to deviate.

 Judith: Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book? And why it’s a must read?

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Carol: Wild Spinning Girls came out just before the first lockdown and unlike so many of my writer friends I was able to have a physical launch. I remain hugely appreciative of this.
   The book is, like my previous ones, a ghost story. It concerns Ida Llewellyn, a young woman who loses her job and her beloved parents in the space of a few weeks. Her life thrown off course she sets out for Wales and the remote house her father has left her. When Heather, the daughter of the last tenant turns up, Ida is confronted by a series of terrifying events, not least the ghost Heather claims is her dead mother. The two young women embark on a battle of wills and in the process uncover a dark secret that has lain hidden in the house for twenty years.
   Anyone who likes a ghost story rather than a horror one; family intrigue and mother daughter relationships will, I think, like Wild Spinning Girls. There is a ballet theme too and allusions to the fairy tale, The Red Shoes. It has been described as ‘stunning and utterly unforgettable’ and ‘a timeless tale alive with a wild, old magic.’

Judith: Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

Carol: Reins!? I was about to say, ‘I wish’ but as I mentioned previously, what I particularly love about the writing process are the tangents. Yes, I am a serious plotter – other than scribbled outline notes I’m reluctant to type Chapter One until I have a pretty good idea what the story is about, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Equally, I’m open to suggestions!
   Like real people, fictional characters evolve. And often indulge in spontaneous hijacking. It can be startling, but it really is part of the process. When characters behave in ways that differ from my original concept, it makes them more real to me. I can only hope it does the same for my reade
r.  


Judith: If you could spend a day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that time?

Carol: What a brilliant question! It would have to be Olwen. I adore her as a ghost and love her as a living woman. Her story is a thread though, with only hints about her life before she died. I’d like to go for a long walk with her, take a picnic and sit “out on the wild moor near the stone where the black birds watch” where she grew up; ask her to tell me about her life, the one I have half imagined for her and only vaguely outlined.   

Judith: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Carol: I wrote my first story when I was about ten or eleven. It was called The Veiled Lady and although I hadn’t written the end, I read it to my younger sister. I told her she would have to wait until the next day for the dénouement. The next day came but because she did something to annoy me, I refused to finish the story. We are both in our 70s now and she still hasn’t forgiven me.


Judith: Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Carol: I used to be a ballet dancer and drew on that dormant past when I wrote Wild Spinning Girls.

 Judith: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Carol: I have a pair of writing earrings. They’re odd – their partners lost. Because they were so pretty, I paired them up and wear them when I’m working.  

Judith: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Carol: In the middle of what Marion Keyes calls, The Pandemonium? Think about not being in it? *Wry grin* Covid restrictions on meeting family and friends and attending book events apart, my life is pretty much as it was. I walk (I’ve always walked alone), read a good deal the way most writers do. In the morning I practice Qigong and have recently taken up yoga.
   I like to knit, watch long series on telly and tend to my house plants. Currently, I’m obsessed with growing avocado trees from the stones. It’s fascinating, watching the tap root emerge in water, the stone splitting and a tiny green shoot pushing its way up. Potted on these shoots soon begin turning into tiny trees and over weeks and months they can become really tall.     

Judith: What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing?

Carol:Does tripping over outside the chip shop and landing on my face count? Or on my knee, running (why would I even do that) to open the door to answer the postman? Or breaking my leg tripping over an inch of iffy pavement in the dark? Three times in two years and I’m not even kidding. I’m an accident waiting to happen, Judith, but you have to see the funny side. And small things amuse me every day. I am drawn to the absurd and see it everywhere. It’s what keeps me cheerful I think.      


Judith: Give us a random fact about yourself.

Carol: I’m continually and endlessly home-schooled. Seriously – I left school with two O-levels and once I caught up with myself and refused my father’s “education is wasted on girls” doctrine, I began educating myself. I’ve been doing it ever since.


All my books are available from my publisher, Honno: www.honno.co.uk

LINKS:
Website: carollovekinauthor.com
Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin
Instagram: www.instagram.com/carollovekin
Honno: www.honno.co.uk/authors/l/carol-lovekin

Thank you for being with us today, Carol. And for giving us a glimpse unto your writing world.

I loved being here, Judith. Thank you

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

The Heart Stone Kindle Edition
The Memory Kindle Edition

A Few Moments with RNA Saga Author Liz Harris #RNA #TuesdayBookBlog

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, who you’ll soon be able to read about here.

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 ninth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Liz Harris

Hi Liz, and welcome. Lovely to see you here today.

Pleased to be joining you, Judith

When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

At the outset, I’d intended to write a family saga centred upon the Linford family. There were to be three books, throughout the course of which the reader would follow three main story lines. I’d planned to end the first book in 1938, by which time I expected the novel to be about 120,000 words long.

The first book began at the end of 1919. 118,000 words later, I was still only in 1933, and I realised that I’d have to rethink my original idea. I decided that the reason I’d written so much at that stage was because each of the three story lines at the heart of the novel had so much meat on it that it could, in fact, have carried a novel on its own. And at that moment, I decided to extract each story line and make each into a 90,000 word novel.

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.Because of this change of plan, the three books in the Linford Series are contemporaneous. The challenge to me was to ensure that not one of the novels tells readers what happened to family members who are not central to that novel, and who have a story of their own. I’m delighted that a number of those who’ve reviewed the first two books in the series, The Dark Horizon and The Flame Within, have commented that each book can be read on its own, and that they can be read in any order.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

This is difficult to answer. In the case of a series that focuses on a family, as does the Linford Series – Book 1 tells the story of Lily and Robert Linford, Book 2 the story of Alice and Thomas Linford and Book 3 is the story of Dorothy Linford – and where there is a love story at the heart of each novel, it’s hard to divorce the two since the romance involves a member of the Linford family.

But to answer the question as it applies to my novels, it is the love story in each book that drives the story on, but this is ultimately a saga about a family. The relationships between the members of the family are as important in their way as the relationship between the hero and heroine, and they frequently impact upon each other.

Generally, in a novel where the romance is more important than the family story, I imagine that the spotlight would have to be on the hero and heroine throughout most of the novel. That works really well for a vast amount of romantic fiction, but that is not how I see a family saga, which, to my mind, is generational.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in.

Extremely important. A saga is an historical novel. An historical novel isn’t a non-fiction account of an historical period or an event. While it’s a novel that shows the reader how people lived at the time during which the novel is set, it goes beyond that – it transports the reader to that period.

People who read sagas want to walk alongside the characters who inhabit that fictional world, and to get to know the central families and what motivates them, and authors can only recreate the world in which their characters move if they have a sound knowledge of every aspect of the history of the relevant period.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I use a huge piece of white card, purchased from the Art department in a local store, in order to keep the family tree in front of me. I draw a chart on part of the card on which I record the ages of the main Linfords in the years that are key to the story.

I keep an online up-to-date chapter plan for every novel, which I fill in at the end of writing every chapter. This enables me to locate very quickly something that I’ve written earlier in the book. On the chapter plan, I record the page at which the chapter begins, the time and place where it’s set, a brief outline of the content, the word count, and notes. The notes’ column is for key points that crop up in that chapter, such as hair colour, eye colour, name of servant, etc.

I have such a plan for each novel, and it’s easy to refer back to the plan when necessary. I find such a plan essential for purposes of continuity, and extremely helpful when it comes to editing the novel.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative.

I think it’s very important. Just as we are reflections of the customs and beliefs of our time, so, too, should our characters reflect the mores of their time. Thanks to TV and films, most people today know enough about the 18th century, for example, for it to jar if they read a book with 18th characters who see the world through a 21st century sensibility. Authors should be alert to this.

If readers are to be drawn into a fictional world set in years gone by, a sense of place is vital. One of the ways of achieving this is subtly to introduce aspects of a time period that are different from those today. This will stimulate images of the period in the reader’s mind. These differences can also be used for dramatic effect, and might well even give birth to ideas for the story. A character could, for example, embody an aspect of life that is pertinent to the period in which the novel is set, and this could help to propel a page-turning plot.

Many thanks for having me as your guest, Judith. I’ve very much enjoyed thinking about, and then answering, your questions.

About the Author;


Liz is the author of the historical novels The Road Back (US Coffee Time and Romance Book of the Year), A Bargain Struck (RoNA shortlisted for the Best Historical Novel), The Lost Girl and the novella, A Western Heart. Her almost-contemporary novels are Evie Undercover and The Art of Deception. Liz’s latest two novels, The Dark Horizon and The Flame Within, are the first two books in the Linford Saga, which is set between the wars.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society, Liz gives talks and workshops at conferences and literary festivals, and regularly speaks to WI and book groups.

Links:

Website: www.lizharrisauthor.com

Twitter: @lizharrisauthor

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/lizharrisauthor

Instagram:  liz.harris.52206

A Few Moments With #RNA #Saga Writer Elaine Roberts #TuesdayBookBlog

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.

  1. 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

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1914. 

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

Author Bio

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: Author Page

Amazon Link:    The West End Girls

Facebook Author Page:  Elaine Roberts Facebook Author Page

Twitter:   @RobertsElaine11

A Few Moments With #RNA #familysaga Writer LinTreadgold #TuesdayBookBlog

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 seventh of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Lin Treadgold

Welcome Lin, it’s lovely to see you here today.

Glad to be here, Judith.

Let’s start by my asking you, when you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one account?

When I began writing ‘The Tanglewood Affair’, my second book, I knew precisely where the story was going, and therefore it was easy to write.  It could only be labelled as a family saga, and when I’d completed the work, the genre was spot on.  However, in my first book, I spent many hours changing the story, and what was purely a romance novel, became a family saga.  Sometimes the genre is laid out in front of you without you realising what it is you are writing about.  I am now a saga writer, but I really don’t want to be labelled as such throughout my writing career.  I hope to make changes to my genres as I move forward with the romance theme.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

I think that when I write a novel, I am very aware of the balance between the family saga and the romance.  The saga part of the story should lead the reader to empathise with the characters. Whereas romance is what brings it all together. So, in my opinion, the two should have a delicate balance, tilting this way and that. You have to ask yourself if you’ve spent too long on the romance, and vice versa.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in.

You cannot write a novel without doing your research.  I think that’s what makes the book very real to the reader, to read about places they have visited.  Also, it has to ring true as well. For example, my first book ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street’ was based on the Isles of Scilly and in Whitby, Yorkshire.  The feedback from my readers is that they have visited the places I mention in the story, and it makes them want to go back there.  This book has sold in Austria, Portugal and Sweden and the USA, and those readers have told me I made it so realistic that they wanted to visit the beautiful islands on the south-west coast of England.

So now I am writing my third and fourth books, and the research I had to do for my World Ward II story ‘The Trail to Freedom’ (not yet published),  has been a long haul, but the book is now ready for the publisher.  You can never stop researching your work.  There will always be a reviewer who points the finger at incorrect research.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I think it’s essential to keep a record of the timelines for your story—Eg. The ages of the characters, when and where, etc.  On book number four, I have a lot more characters,  and so I have written a family tree at the front of the book, but I keep records as well to ensure that, e.g. young Jamie isn’t six years old and then suddenly he’s only five. 

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world. How important is the timing of the development in your narrative?

The essence of a good saga is to hold the reader’s interest as the story unfolds.  There will be the usual ups-and-downs of life, but the writer should be aware of the exact timing on where to make those exposures throughout the book.  There is no sense in having  ‘John leave his wife ‘ halfway through the book.  I would start his story at the beginning and show the consequences of his actions and how those actions lead from one set of circumstances to the next.  So yes,  regarding the period of development, the writer must know where in the book the revelations will take place to help keep the story moving forward and make those changes,  from troubled times to resolve.

Goodbye Henrietta Street

The Tanglewood Affair

The Trail to Freedom (Coming soon)

Links:

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/39HEDxj

Facebook:http://bit.ly/38VnEZm

Twitter: http://bit.ly/39JChOr

Author Biography

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Lin Treadgold

In 2015 Lin Treadgold returned to the UK after spending 15 years in The Netherlands. She gave up her profession as a driving instructor to be with her husband and his job as a professional in the steel industry. Now retired, they live in the heart of Devon with their Jack Russell dog, Dylan.

Since writing her first book in 2012, ‘Goodbye Henrietta Street,’ nominated for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award, Lin has spent her time refurbishing her new home and writing a further two novels.‘The Tanglewood Affair’ is her second book. She recently completed her third book, The Trail to Freedom’ centred around World War II and the war letters her father wrote during his time in a prisoner of war camp In Italy. Book number four will be a sequel to this.

Lin is the group organiser for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Exeter Chapter, and enjoys art, photography, and wildlife. After sailing around the world in her youth, she has acquired plenty of life experiences to assist her future novels.

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Rosie Hendry

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 sixth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m so pleased to be with Rosie Hendry

Rosie Hendry

  1. When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

The Mother’s Day Club, was always intended as the first of a new series called Women on the Home Front, as I wanted to explore how the second world war affects a family and the village community in which they live. Each book will bring new characters and challenges to the family as the course of the war progresses. The plan is to write more stories stretching across the years of wartime following the lives of the family.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

Definitely the family story in these books. There are romances but they are woven in amongst everything else that’s going on.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in?

Absolutely essential. I always think the wartime situation is like another character, having a huge effect on the story and the challenges faced by the people. It’s important to get the historical details right, and having not lived through those times myself, the only way to ensure that what I write is as correct as I can make it, is to do lots of research. Luckily, I really enjoy that aspect of writing historical fiction, especially discovering the social history of that period and how people’s lives were affected in so many ways. I especially love finding out snippets which didn’t make the history books but were important to people. It’s a wonderful feeling when I discover a forgotten gem of historical fact which inspires my storytelling.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I’m a planner – this helps me keep track of all the characters and what’s happening with them. I have a notebook where I record each characters’ details like eye and hair colour, family details etc, which I can refer back to.

 I use different colour post-it notes on a board to plot out the story scene by scene, giving a set colour to each character. This helps me keep a balance of different characters viewpoints within the story, so that no one has a lot more than the others. I found this is the best way for me to write a multi-viewpoint story and weave the different strands together.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, how important is the time period to the development of your narrative.

Writing books set during the Second World War gives me a time period against which to set the story. I will hang characters’ storylines on different events from the wartime, so the factual events act rather like a scaffolding. I choose events carefully so they are appropriate to my characters’ lives, but which will also challenge them.

When I’m plotting the story, I print out calendars from the wartime and mark on the historical events that I want to use to ensure I keep the story’s timeline accurate to the time period. One thing I love about writing the Second World War stories is how women’s lives were challenged, and they were required to step outside of their comfort zones and do things they would never have been asked to do during peacetime. It makes perfect fuel for storytelling!

Blurb for The Mother’s Day Club –

Norfolk, 1939

When the residents of Great Plumstead, a small and charming community in Norfolk, offer to open their homes to evacuees from London, they’re expecting to care for children. So when a train carrying expectant mothers pulls into the station, the town must come together to accommodate their unexpected new arrivals . . .

Sisters Prue and Thea welcome the mothers with open arms, while others fear their peaceful community will be disrupted. But all pregnant Marianne seeks is a fresh start for herself and her unborn child. Though she knows that is only possible as long as her new neighbours don’t discover the truth about her situation.

The women of Great Plumstead, old and new, are fighting their own battles on the home front. Can the community come together in a time of need to do their bit for the war effort?

Out on 18th February.

 Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mothers-Heart-Norfolk-Rosie-Hendry-ebook/dp/B07YD6TW8Z/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+mothers+day+club&qid=1609520131&quartzVehicle=845-899&replacementKeywords=the+mothers+day&sr=8-1

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-mother-s-day-club-1

Apple – https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-mothers-day-club/id1481637535

Keep in touch with Rosie Hendry via

Twitter – @hendry_rosie

On Facebook Rosie Hendry Bookshttps://www.facebook.com/RosieHendrybooks/

Website – www.rosiehendry.com

Introducing Jan Sikes With her Latest Book: Ghostly Interference

I’m so pleased today to be with Jan Sikes, author of Ghostly Interference. Welcome Jan.

Thank you, Judith lovely to be here.

Please tell us, how did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

That’s such a great question, Judith. I was so green writing and publishing my first book. I knew absolutely nothing about self-publishing, but I had a story that begged to be told. The editor I hired was not a professional, but I didn’t know that at the time. The first clue should have been when he consistently misspelled my name. So, two years ago, I pulled the book down off Amazon and re-edited it. I was ashamed to have my name on that first version. It was not an easy decision, but my reputation as an author had started to blossom.  I had learned so much in the process of writing four books. So, while it was not easy, it was worth the effort. That year, “Flowers and Stone” was chosen as the book of the year by the Rave Reviews Book Club, a large international organization.

So, in answer to your question, writing that first book was a huge learning curve. Not only the process of writing, editing, and publishing, but marketing about which, by the way, I knew nothing. I joined various writing organizations in Texas and learned more about marketing through conferences and connecting with other authors.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The most difficult part of my artistic process is time management. Finding and allocating dedicated time to writing is hard for me. The story ideas flow, and especially when I keep my mindset in that creative vein. Transferring the story I see in my mind to the written word is sometimes challenging. I tend to be wordy and end up cutting lots of extras from the manuscript once I finish and go back to clean it up.  But by far, the most challenging aspect of the artistic process is dedicating time to it and sticking with that no matter what. I am very OCD about my Email Inbox and can’t stand for it to be over twenty-five or thirty. So, in the process of cleaning out emails, I can lose precious time going down rabbit holes.

The other thing that I sometimes struggle with is research. I get impatient when I can’t find what I need right away. But, with the new story I’m working on, I visited a local horse sanctuary, and that kind of research was fun!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not necessarily. I like to leave small hints about future events in the story, but not so much that the reader can guess. (Or at least that is my goal.) But I can’t say I’ve hidden secrets that would be hard to find.

What was your hardest scene to write?

By and far, the most difficult scenes for me to write are sex scenes—the scenes when they’ve moved beyond kissing and are now in the bedroom. There is a fine line between a well-written sex scene and erotica, and mostly it’s the language.  I took a class on writing sex scenes a couple of years ago, and the instructor said, “If the sex scene you are writing doesn’t turn you on and get you hot and bothered, most likely it won’t affect your reader.”

I thought that was a pretty good gauge. Mostly, I focus on the emotions of the lovers rather than the act itself. Sex scenes can be a great way to show more about a character. It can show insecurities or, on the flip side, ego. I like to use sex scenes to advance the story, especially in a romance.

What did you edit out of this book?

Really, not much. Mostly just my wordiness. Learning to say more with fewer words is my goal. Substituting powers words is the key. I can’t say I’ve accomplished it yet.

Have you ever had reader’s block?

I think we can all say we’ve experienced times where the ideas didn’t flow, but somehow I never think of it as reader’s block. I think of it as a dormant time when things need to simmer on the back burner or seeds need to germinate. During those times, I find that watching movies, listening to music, walking on the treadmill, or reading always helps me get back on the right track.

GHOSTLY INTERFERENCE

BOOK BLURB:

Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

BOOK TRAILER LINK: https://youtu.be/NHaLVSe_flI

BOOK PURCHASE LINKS:

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Ghostly-Interference-White-Rune-Sikes-ebook/dp/B08KW1KFMW/

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghostly-interference-jan-sikes/1137871003?

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/ghostly-interference

iTUNES: https://books.apple.com/us/book/ghostly-interference/id1535082886

GOOGLE PLAY: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=PCwNEAAAQBAJ

JAN SIKES: SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

http://www.jansikes.com

https://jansikesblog.com/

Twitter: @JanSikes3

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikesBooks

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00CS9K8DK  (Author Page)

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Sylvia Broady

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 fifth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m delighted to be talking to Sylvia Broady.

Welcome, Sylvia, lovely to see you here today.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Judith.

Let me start by asking, When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

Yes, I always did intend to write my sagas as stand-alone books, though reading your question, Judith, made me consider, what if?

      DAUGHTER OF THE SEA, my latest book is set in the 1930s to 1940s, stems from a novella I wrote many years ago. That story was set in the 19th century, and the main male character, Christian Hansen, is the grandfather of the present day Christian Hansen. A wealth of historic and social information for the deep sea fishing community, most written about men, very little written about women. And I write about strong women.

     THE LOST DAUGHTER spans over twenty-five years, 1930s to 1950s and is one story of mother and daughter. The long, often a dangerous and thwarted journey of their lives, apart and together.

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     THE YEARNING HEART spans twenty years, 1940 to 1960, a complex story, centres around the female protagonist Fran. It is her story, which is intertwined with her mother, her sister, her daughter, and her son, their stories. Plus, her relationship with the love interests is complicated.  On reflexion, cutting 40,000 words for my then publisher, I would have written a series. First Fran’s mother, then Fran’s story, and of her son who went to live in Australia.  

    

A TIME FOR PEACE is definitely a stand-alone story. 1945, the end of World War 2 and peace, which brings many challenges. Originally a short story, which I knew deserved to be a novel. It originated from an incident told to me by my late husband. As a young boy, he witnessed the last killing raid by the Luftwaffe on the city of Hull. 

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

It depends on the storyline. I write sagas, set mainly in the 20th century. Family orientated, with romance, I am a big believer in that romance makes the world go round. I enjoy listening to popular songs, and most of them have a romantic theme. And in the stories I write, romance is intertwined with the family story, and the social history of the time. Though forbidden love can play havoc with the family life, and tragedy can turn a family and a romance upside-down. 

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in

Most important. I have to admit; I love the historical research of the period I am writing about. What clothes they wore, food they ate, education, the rights or non-rights of women, working-class attitudes, and social history of the time. Music of the era, the pictures and film stars, music hall and entertainers. World War 2 brings freedom to women to do men’s work and fight for the country and peace. 

DAUGHTER OF THE SEA, my latest book is set in the Hessle Road area of Kingston upon Hull, and the fish dock is Saint Andrews, between 1930s to 1940s. The men who go deep sea fishing to distant waters are trawlermen, not fishermen, and they are away for 3 weeks and only home for about 3 days. And known as the “Three Day Millionaires”. It is the strong women of this close-knit community who hold the family together. Little is written about the women, and researching I found that when a trawler sank with all-hands, the women received no money from the trawler owners. Their children would be sent to the orphanage, so as well as losing their husbands, they also lost their children. And the children lost both parents. This, and other complications, is the heart of the story I write about. How these strong women fought to keep their children and to survive? 

When I wrote A Time for Peace, 1945-1946, I was delighted to receive an email from a reader in Canada, telling me she lived in the area when young and knew the streets and other place name I wrote about. If possible, I like to talk to eye-witnesses. I spoke to a dear lady who in March 1945 saw the Luftwaffe flying so low she could see the pilot as he drop his bomb. He then went on to gun down and kill 12 and injure 22 patrons, leaving the Savoy cinema.

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The Lost Daughter also covers WW2 and heroine, Alice, a nurse, joins the WAAF and has special training to fly in a Dakota on missions to the war zones to bring back the injured. They are allowed chewing gum and an orange before each flight. Their medication equipment in their panniers also contains morphine and oxygen.

The Yearning Heart is set around the river and area near to where I live. I had taken artist licence with place names of pubs and streets, and added an extra lane, but local readers still recognised the area. I am a fan of the TV programme, “Long Lost Families”, which fascinated me. My story is about twins separated at birth and a mother’s quest to find them.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

When I start writing the first draft of my book, I have a clipboard, A3 size.  On the left-hand side, I write down my main characters and all their relevant details: d.o.b background, occupation, relationship to other characters, etc. On the right side of the clipboard, are details of minor characters and how they interact with the storyline and other characters.

I also have a notebook for each book, in which I write a summary of each chapter, the characters, location, and everything connected to the story and timeline. This keeps my finger on the pulse and works well for me. In the past, I have tried other methods, but this system works well for me.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative?

In my latest book, Daughter of the Sea, time span is 9 years. Jessica, the main character is a young, naïve girl in 1937 and over the years, she experiences, heartache, betrayal, disaster, WW2 and all its tragedies, and finally, true love. She has grown into a compassionate woman of many strengths.

The Lost Daughter spans twenty-five years. Alice is the mother and Daisy is her missing daughter. It is a long, hard road to find her. In the early 1930s a young frightened mother, married to a wife beater, Alice finds herself homeless and penniless, and her daughter has been fostered to a person unknown. Her determination to survive and find her daughter, shapes her into a strong woman who will succeed.   

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A Time For Peace set 1945-1946 and the aftermath of war brings more heartache, especially for Rose, disillusioned by love. She sets out to help others, becoming involved in their heartaches and family problems, bringing joy into many lives and in doing so, finds her soulmate. 

The Yearning Heart spans twenty years, when age 16, Fran is raped by her sister’s husband. Sent away from the family home, she gives birth to twins. The twins are cruelly taken from her and it becomes her quest in life, to find her children and to be reunited with them. But every avenue she searches is blocked and filled with lies. It twists and turns, jumping upside down, leaving her facing her greatest challenge. The decision she makes.

About Sylvia:

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My latest news for Daughter of the Sea – paperback publication date 18th February 2021

My website: https://sylviabroadyauthor.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SylviaBroadyAuthor

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/SylviaBroady

I am a member of the Romantic Novelist Association. The Beverley Chapter.

Also The Historical Novel Society and The Society of Authors.

To sum me up in 4 words: My passion is Writing.

 

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Tracy Baines #TuesdayBookBlog

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 fourth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m delighted to be talking to Tracy Baines

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Welcome, Tracy, so happy you’re here today.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Judith.

When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

It was always going to be a series. My friend, author Margaret Graham had suggested I write a wartime series as they were popular. I’d wanted to set something in my home town of Cleethorpes for a long time. My parents managed a pub, The Pier Hotel opposite  Cleethorpes pier and I lived and breathed entertainment – but only from the safety of the wings. I wanted to set the stories among the people who work at the theatre in a small seaside town. Variety people have to be versatile; they sing, dance and take part in sketches – they have to be able to turn their hand to anything. It gave me a broad canvas to work with and the chance to have some larger than life characters. When the cast of a show come together they form a bond and become a family as such. It gave me lots to play around with – what is family after all?

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

Not so much a family as a sense of community. I think that’s important – a sense of people coming together and helping each other, especially in wartime – for children would be evacuated and families torn apart. Family became a hotch-potch of people and that’s what interested me most of all. There’s still romance because that’s part and parcel of life but it’s not the only thing.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters livein.

Hugely important. I know the area of my story well, but I didn’t know what it was like in 1939. There has been huge change, some things remain but many of the places of entertainment had changed entirely – or disappeared altogether. I could find very little in the way of images of the interiors of the Empire theatre so I made one up based on what would be familiar to readers – what their expectations would be. I used to walk past the back of the theatre and knew there were windows at pavement level so imagined them high up on the wall of the dressing rooms. I had enough knowledge to work a layout. As for reading, I read many biographies of entertainers of the time such as Gracie Fields, Jessie Matthews and Evelyn Laye, as well as text books on World War 2 to fact check. I watched old movies that were filmed late 1939s early 1940s to get a sense of the furnishings and language. I watched a lot of Talking Pictures TV. I also looked for eyewitness accounts on the internet. The BBC site The People’s War was a great resource.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I keep them in a file. I write down characters as they appear – their ages, details such as colour of hair and eyes, height, shape and distinguishing features. I have a chapter grid so I know what happens in each chapter and who appears in it. Each time I edit I add to or delete as necessary. This also helps me work out a time-line. People will have had birthdays even if they aren’t mentioned in the books. It became my ‘bible’.

When I was writing book two I could refer back to it and it helped enormously. It’s amazing how easily you can forget something quite crucial.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world. How important is the time period to the development of your narrative?

It’s vital. Everything has to be plausible. It has to fit with the confines and morals of the period. If you don’t get this right you lose the reader, not just for that book but for all your consequent books. It’s a matter of trust between the reader and the author. My Variety Girls inhabit the world of Variety theatre just before WW2. Variety theatre, child of the music hall was frowned upon by many. The attitudes then were not those of today. If you get the time period wrong you break the illusion.

Christmas with the Variety Girls

Will Christmas bring an unexpected reunion?

Frances O’Leary has always dreamed of being a dancer. But after war is declared and the theatres begin to close, Frances and the variety girls must search for work elsewhere.

However, Frances is hiding a secret. As far as her best friend Jessie knows, Frances is a young aunt who adores her niece, Imogen – but what she doesn’t know is that their relationship runs much deeper. Now, with the sweetheart who cruelly abandoned her returning to England, will her secret finally be revealed…?

A heartwarming festive saga for fans of Katie Flynn and Elaine Everest.

https://amzn.to/3niiE60

About Tracy Baines

Tracy Baines was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. When she was eight her parents took over the management of the pub opposite the pier, The Pier Hotel.  Her father opened one of the rooms as a music venue bringing performers such as Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Billy J Kramer and Billy Fury to start the ball rolling. So began her love of live entertainment.

From the age of sixteen, Tracy worked backstage during summer seasons, pantomimes and everything else in-between on the pier.  She met her husband when he was appearing with the Nolan Sisters and she was Assistant Stage Manager.

The first two books in the Variety Girls series are set in Cleethorpes, in the square mile that was her childhood home.

Tracy lives in Dorset with her husband and springer spaniel, Harry. Her children and grandchildren live close by.

Website: www.tracybaines.co.uk

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/tracybainesauthor/

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/tracyfbaines

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tracyfbaines/

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Elaine Everest #TuesdayBookBlog

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 third of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m delighted to be talking to Elaine Everest.

Welcome, Elaine, lovely to see you here today.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Judith.

Let me start by asking, When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

That’s an interesting question as when I was fist contracted by Pan Macmillan it was for ‘The Woolworths Girls and one other book.’ I recall at an early lunch with my then editor I asked about writing series and was told they never commission series. Fast forward a year to publication of The Woolworths Girls, and by then I had submitted book two (The Butlins Girls) and was away on a writing retreat working on The Teashop Girls – a second contract. A phone call from my, editor who was thrilled to tell me the Woolworths book had gone into the bestseller charts. I was told to stop what I was writing and start another Woolies book. A series was born! Readers have been wonderful and still ask for more books set in that iconic store. I also started something of a trend and was named Queen of the Workplace Saga by The Bookseller. Since then I’ve started a series set on the Kent coast in WW2 about the lives of Nippies working in the well-known Lyon’s teashops, which seems to have started a trend for café and teashop novels.
I’m fortunate in that I’m not commissioned to write a series but can move between different books so that if readers enjoy a story I can write a second. My current novel, Christmas with the Teashop Girls is the second in the series and I’d love to return to tell more about the lives of Rose, Lily, Katie, and their extended families but that will be for another year as there are currently two books written for 2021. The first returns to Erith and the girls from Woolworth, but with a twist. It is 1905 and we follow matriarch Ruby Caselton as a young woman when moves into her new home in Alexandra Road
.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

It has to be the family story. Sagas contain the trials and tribulations of multi-generational families and although romance does play a part in their lives there is so much more to tell. Social history plays a big part as well as the warmth and frustrations of family life along with good times and bad.  I do love a good romance in my books, but I also enjoy throwing bricks at my girls, so their lives are never straightforward. Let’s face it our lives hardly ever run smoothly so why should a character in a book?

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in

Research is paramount even before a book is suggested to my publisher. What’s that saying, ‘we live in interesting times?’ Well, so must my characters. Readers want to learn more about the town where our girls live and work. Research also throws up little nuggets of information we can weave a story around. In A Mother Forever (Jan/Mar 2021) I cover munitions workers in the 1920s and knowing my grandmother, Cissie Whiffen, worked in the very factory where my characters earned a living made it extra special. I even gave her a small part in the book. I only learned of her work after her death, so it is very much a fictional part for a real person.

We should never throw too much history into our sagas as the plot is paramount. It is easy to tell when new saga authors have done this – I call it ‘product placement!’ Although I’ve written many books set in WW2, I did venture back to Erith in the early 1900s and it was a joy to attend talks about brickworks, WW1 and hospitals treating the facially wounded in that area. Local history is a gift to a historical novelist.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

Chatting to author friends we all have different methods. For me I like to have a nice new A5 hardback notebook – any excuse to buy stationery! This book has a few pages for each character and I diligently add information about them as I write the book. This becomes my bible, and if the time comes to write another in the seirs I have that book to go back on not only to read but to add to.

I’m just planning a book for 2022 that revisits Woolworths in the 1950s and this time I am writing about the older children and in a way I’ve moved on a generation, although my old characters will still be around. I’m excited about this as not only will it carry on the series, but I can show Erith and the surrounding area after WW2 and how people are still coping in a time where there is still rationing, and for some deprivation. This will mean I’ve covered fifty years of history of the town where I was born. Another one book and I’ll appear as a baby!

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative?

The time period is very important. For one thing it has to interest my reader and for another it is part of carry the story forward through the years. As my books are set in a real place I do feel an obligation to the families living there to get my story right. It may be that their loved ones lived through a tragedy, or perhaps a happy time, and to have my characters live it to and then be told ‘you got it right’ is truly satisfying. One of the biggest honours I’ve experienced was when I reader write to me to say her daughter had never been interested in history so when she had to take part in a school project her mum gave her a copy of my books and the young lady was hooked and now enjoys the subject. Thinking back, I too learned so much about the love of history from saga authors such as Dee Williams, Carol Rivers, and Iris Gower.
Although my Woolworths series is now moving into the 1950s – and also visited 1905 – I’m not sure if it had started then the books would have been so popular. World War Two is a big draw to readers as it can relates to their own family history with parents and grandparents having played their part in what was a most important time in world history. This is why I feel we authors should do our best to write the truth and not make it up as we go along.

About Elaine:

Elaine Everest hails from North West Kent and she grew up listening to stories of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, and author of non-fiction books for dog owners, Elaine has written over one hundred short stories for the women’s magazine market. A winner of major competitions including BBC Radio short story of the year writer, and runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize she enjoys a writing challenge. This includes broadcasting live on radio and having to think on her feet when asked awkward questions while giving talks.

When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She lives with her husband, Michael and Polish Lowland sheepdog, Henry.

Elaine’s next book, A Mother Forever, is available for pre order on all good selling site and available in supermarkets and bookstores from 4th March (hardback January 2021):

1905: Ruby Caselton may only be twenty-five years old but she already has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Heavily pregnant with her second child, penniless and exhausted, she is moving her family into a new home. The Caseltons left their last place when they couldn’t pay the rent, but Ruby’s husband Eddie has promised this will be a fresh start for them all. And Ruby desperately hopes that this time he will keep his word.

With five-year-old George at her feet and her mother having a cross word for everyone and everything, life is never dull at number thirteen Alexandra Road. It doesn’t take long before Eddie loses another job and once again hits the bottle. It’s up to Ruby to hold them all together, through thick and thin. She remembers the kind, caring man Eddie once was and just can’t give up on him entirely. What she doesn’t know is that Eddie has a secret, one so dark that he can’t bear to tell even Ruby . . .

Through Ruby’s grit and determination, she keeps food on the table and finds herself a community of neighbours on Alexandra Road. Stella, the matriarch from across the way, soon becomes a friend and confidante. She even dreams that Ruby will ditch the useless Eddie and take up with her eldest son, Frank. But when war breaks out in 1914, the heartbreaks and losses that follow will fracture their community, driving both Stella and Ruby to breaking point. Will their men ever return to them?

A Mother Forever is the moving story of one woman’s journey through the worst trials of her life – poverty, grief, betrayal – but through it all is the love and comfort she finds in family: the family we’re connected to through blood, but also the family we make for ourselves with neighbours and friends.

Links:

Website:  www.elaineeverest.com

Twitter: @elaineeverest

Facebook :Elaine Everest Author

Amazon: (Christmas with the Teashop Girls) https://tinyurl.com/yxagxk7r

Amazon: (A Mother Forever) https://tinyurl.com/y2fswqsl