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

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Francesca Capaldi

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. And today I’m delighted to be talking to one of them.

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 second of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today, as I’ve said, I’m so pleased to be with one of the authors who blog at Write Minds, Francesca Capaldi.

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

I only came up with the idea for Heartbreak in the Valleys originally, as the idea was sparked by my great grandfather’s war record. But it wasn’t long after I started writing a scene breakdown for Heartbreak that I came up with the idea for two further books, the second of which, War in the Valleys, has just been published. But I did also make each of them a standalone story.

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

Originally the romantic element was uppermost in my mind, but as different members of the family made their personalities known, the family aspect grew. I’d say it’s probably half and half.

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

Very important, both for the readers and for myself. I like to feel fully immersed in the period, as if I were there myself. Hopefully, that allows me to pass on this feeling to my readers. I’ve had a couple of readers tell me they’ve learnt something about the era through the details, which is very satisfying for me as a writer with a history background.

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

I have a file on Word with all the characters on it, right down to the very minor ones. I put in any details I know about them at the start, then add characters and details to it as I’m writing the story. It’s a huge help in keeping storylines consistent.

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 I’m writing in, World War 1, is a seminal time in British (and world) history, not just because of the war but because of the rise of unions and workers rights, along with women’s rights and universal suffrage. All these aspects inform the story in some way, so yes, the time period is crucial to the narrative.

Thank you for having me on your blog today, Judith. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.

It’s been brilliant having you here, Francesca. I absolutely love the cover of War in the Valleys, and I’ve found your answers fascinating. I’m sure your readers will as well.

About the author

Several years ago, Francesca Capaldi pursued a childhood dream and joined a creative writing class. Lots of published short stories, a serial, and four pocket novels later, she’s now explored her mother’s ancestral history for novels set in a Welsh colliery village. A history graduate and former teacher, she hails from the Sussex coast but now lives in Kent with her family and a cat called Lando Calrissian.

Links

Heartbreak in the Valleys: amzn.to/2XUSTyB

War in the Valleys: amzn.to/2HxbDhT

Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/35REQ06

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FCapaldiBurgess

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/francesca.capaldi.burgess/

Meet Alex Askaroff: The Sewing Machine Man (and Expert at all Things to do with Sewing Machines) #MondayBlogs

Today I want to introduce Alex Askaroff. When I was researching for the background of The Heart Stone https://bit.ly/3kOpZYO, and needed to know the technical details for the manufacturing of sewing machines, I knew there was only one person to contact. The man who knows all is Alex. As the emails flew back and forth ( and I wondered how long it would be before he became fed up with my constant and often boring – I’m sure – questions), I realised that there seemed to be nothing he didn’t know. Eventually – and being a naturally nosy woman – I asked him how he knew so much. And would he write a post about it. So, I was thrilled when he said okay. And here it is!

Over to you, Alex...

I was born in the latter half of the 1950’s in the busy bomb-blitzed seaside town of Eastbourne, on the South Coast of England. Rubble still lay in places from the 11,000 or so buildings damaged by Nazi planes. At the port of Newhaven, along the road, the old fort still had the empty shells and cartridges scattered around its gun emplacements.

My father was a proud Russian, born in Moscow on the first official day of the Russian revolution, in 1917, not a good start. His life seemed to be dramatic from then on. He was smuggled out of the country as a child to his mother in Paris. Some 30 years later (and two lifetimes of experiences by his tales) he settled in the quaint seaside resort of Eastbourne. After WW2 he had heard the call for men and brought his young Austrian partner to Britain to make his fortune. A spell in the 1950’s London smog led him to the clean seaside air of Eastbourne. Here he brought up six strapping lads who were the plague of the neighbourhood.

I had grown up with a passion for Britain and it became clear why! While I had a half-Russian father and a half-Austrian mother, I also had deep British roots running right back to Anglo Saxon England. My mum’s family was a real surprise. As it turned out I was as local as could be with my roots leading back to Victorian Eastbourne, the very place my dad was drawn to in the 1950’s!

My great grandfather was Stanley Carr Boulter, barrister and founder of the Law Debenture, he married Helen D’Oyly Carte of the London Savoy Theatre and Savoy Hotel Empire. My great grandfather, four times along, was the British Dramatist James Robinson Planché, the most prolific playwright of the Victorian era and great friends with Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. His dad was a personal friend of King George III. The best bit for me was discovering Matilda Planche, my great, great granny who later became the prolific author Mrs Henry Mackarness. Over 40 of her books are still in print!

So how did I get into manufacturing? Well the truth is I never got out of it! Mum was a skilled Viennese seamstress and broke! She had a wonderful design ability, inventing such things as the pushchair Raincape and other products like the Top‘n’Tail, a changing-mat that a baby could not roll off. These items were first used around Britain, then the world, and all originally made by mum and dad.

Family at work . Dynasty look alike. And you can see that I worked on the factory floor by my work coat

The family business became the largest manufacturer of baby goods in Europe, supplying every baby shop in the country. At the huge factory the stairwells were lined with patents of mum’s great ideas. Baby goods that were produced in their thousands every week were shipped to the four corners of the world.

For decades the names Simplantex and Premiere Baby were synonymous with the best you could buy for your baby We were supplying the rich and famous, film stars and royalty alike. Silver Cross products were lined with our goods. Harrods would place special orders for special people and even more special babies. It was a real thrill to see Princess Diana carrying our future King in one of our handmade Palm Leaf baskets, and with the rights to such toys as Beatrix Potter, no home was without our merchandise.

Dad talked me out of my dream of becoming a doctor and I undertook a four-year engineering course (which would be far more useful for his machinery problems at the factory). When I started in the family business I had the best of the best teach me everything from mass production and sewing circles to sewing machine repair.

I was the first of the six boys to officially join the family firm that I had grown up in, initially working downstairs with the cutters in the cutting room, where cloth was laid by huge automatic machines rolling up and down all day. Dad eventually retired and mum had a go at running the business but then Nik, my older brother arrived at the factory gates and everything changed. His influence quadrupled sales in a few years, he was like dad on Red Bull, flying around the world, (even on Concorde) bringing back big orders. Suddenly we had machinist stretched along the South Coast with vans collecting and delivering goods. In the factory, noise and commotion was everywhere with rows of sewing girls, cutters and packers. Lorries loaded and unloaded all day every day and we all worked like mad from dusk till dawn. It was around this time that I made an amazing observation. My life was disappearing!

Let me try to explain. Ten years or so had passed in a blur. I was suddenly in my early 30’s. I had eaten, slept and even dreamt about work. It was an all-consuming passion. A thousand deadlines on a thousand products, (we had over 2,600 items on our prices lists).  What was happening outside of my immediate circle was irrelevant. I was unable to measure time. Most weeks, or months, even years, were the same. Rush, rush, rush. When I had my revelation, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Work was silently and efficiently stealing my life!

I decided to leave the family firm, throw caution to the wind and start out on my own. I had spent a lifetime in the manufacturing business and I hoped that there were people out there looking for my expertise. One day I parked my new company BMW in the yard and walked the three miles home, never to return.

I started my own sewing machine business and never looked back. I even bought roses so that I could smell them when I got home. How funny!

I suddenly had the time to play with my kids before they went to school and help them with homework later. In 1991, I became a Master Craftsman as I practised my trade around Sussex. During my travels I came across people that had wonderful stories to tell. At last I was ready to listen. My first great story was from an old dear who personally knew Rudyard Kipling! I knew these tales had to be captured before they were lost forever. I needed to write a book!

I’ll tell you a funny thing. When I started to put pen to paper no one could have ever imagined what would happen next! Every person that I spoke to advised me that writing a book full of ‘old dears’ reminiscences was a dangerous game. Lots of time and money invested and little reward. Out of the thousands who try only a handful make it. How wrong they all were! Now that’s a lesson for every budding author, ignore yourself at your peril.

My first book sold out so fast that I had hundreds of pre-paid orders for the second edition before I could get them printed. And don’t forget this was in a time when people had to write a letter, enclose a cheque and post it with faith! If only I could have bottled the printers face when I asked for another print run!

And so my world turned. I used my expertise in manufacturing and passion for sewing machines to earn a living and in my spare moments I put pen to paper. Now with 25 books under my belt and seven No1 New releases on Amazon it seems almost normal. My Sewalot Site: https://sewalot.com/ for antique sewing machines is the No1 of its kind on the planet. It connects me with countless enthusiasts all over the world and even the odd TV appearance.

A Tiny taste of Alex’s books.

So what’s the secret? I’ll tell you just like my dad told me when I moaned about becoming a sewing machine engineer. It’s so simple, learn to love your job! Yep that’s it. You have to really work at it, but the second you crack it, you will never work another day in your life!

Links to Alex Askaroff:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UKWHQ6

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3pQkInk

http://www.sewalot.com: https://bit.ly/3kVT7xm

https://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

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Tania Crosse

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.

Today is the first interview and I’m thrilled to introduce a prolific and wonderful author, Tania Crosse.

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

Please tell us, when you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga or series of stories rather than one book?

I never intentionally set out to write a series, it just seemed to evolve. My debut novel, Morwellham’s Child, is set at Morwellham Quay, the major Victorian copper port in Devon that’s been a living history museum since the early 1970s. I discovered it in the late 1990s on our first family holiday in the area, and was amazed to discover that nobody had ever written a story to illustrate its history. Living two hundred miles away, over the three years it took me to complete, we made frequent trips there for research purposes, and fell in love with nearby Dartmoor. So much so that in 2003, we bought a tiny cottage in a  small village on the moor, which we owned for fifteen years, spending one week out of every month there throughout the year and becoming part of the local community. The more I learnt about the moor’s fascinating history, the more subjects I discovered that I wanted to illustrate in human, if fictitious, terms. I’ve written about mining, farming, the gunpowder mills, the infamous prison, quarrying, Tavistock workhouse, the arrival of various railways, the Great Flood of 1890 and the Great Blizzard of 1891. The first five books covered the Victorian era, followed by two illustrating Dartmoor’s part in the Great War. Then I was asked by my then agent, the lovely late Dot Lumley, to set two sagas set in the 1950s, and I set those on Dartmoor, too, again basing them on local history, but also bringing in wider events such as the legacy of WW2 and then the Korean War of 1950s. Although each book in the series stands alone, there is a thread running through them, which readers love to follow. After completing the Devonshire series, I had to take a break for various reasons, but eventually came to write Twentieth Century sagas, Nobody’s Girl and A Place To Call Home, originally one story inspired by a visit to Chartwell. The publishers, Aria Fiction, however, liked it so much that they asked me to expand it into two volumes, although each can be read alone. Finally, the Banbury Street series of two books is set in the London back street where I lived as a small child. The stories are set a decade apart and are completely separate, the main link being the matriarch of the street, Evangeline Parker, who I loved so much in the first book that I wanted to explore her more in the second. I’m so glad I did, as that was the book,The Street of Broken Dreams, that won Saga of the Year in the RNA Awards 2020 earlier this year.

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

For me what is actually more important is the historical background and the facts that I want to illustrate. I like to place my characters into what was a real life situation and see how they cope with it, weaving a tense, emotional story out of true fact. Inevitably, a family story and a romance will grow out of it, but it’s the social history behind it that’s most important. The Quarry Girl, for instance, illustrates life at remote, windswept Foggintor Quarry, which was a complete little community with cottages, gardens and even a chapel-cum-school, the ruins of which can still be seen today. Then the Princetown Railway opened in 1883, giving the quarrymen and their families easier access to the outside world. How might their lives have changed? One thing I discovered was the particular way in which the quarrymen would conduct the funeral of a colleague, and that found its way into the story as a major event in the life of the heroine and her family.

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

Absolutely essential! As you can see, the historical background is what I aim to illustrate in the first place, but I will always go all out to track down the tiniest detail. If I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for, I will never make it up. If I’m not certain that something is correct, then it doesn’t go in the book. But meticulous research must be the same for any genre, except perhaps fantasy and sci-fi! What is fantastic is when you suddenly hit on something that’s exactly what you’re looking for. I’m currently working on the first of a trilogy set in Plymouth – again, all stand alones that happen to be set in the same city – and came across an actual film of George V’s Jubilee celebrations there in 1935 that I wanted to write about. I was cock-a-hoop!

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

Copious hand-written notes! (I don’t trust technology!) Date of birth, stature, colour of eyes and hair, and any other particular features or anything they’ve done before coming on the scene that I might need to refer to later. All quite important if you bring back characters from earlier books as I do particularly in the Devonshire series. In The Ambulance Girl, I wind up what has happened to all the characters and their families from the Victorian era through to 1919, so I had to get that right. The book finishes with an epilogue set in 1939 that provides a link through to the first of the 1950s Dartmoor sagas, Lily’s Journey, which was pretty poignant with most of the earliest characters having passed away by then. There are also tiny links to the Kent/London based series, too. The hero of the two Kent stories is in the RAF during WW2. There were a number of aircrashes on Dartmoor during the conflict, and when his plane comes down one night, he is rescued by descendants of earlier characters in the Devonshire series who remain farmers on the moor, so I had to have all their details correct. Very discerning readers might spot Lily as a small child in London-set The Street of Broken Dreams, so I had to have her at the correct age, of course. I’ve only ever made one continuity mistake. I’m not going to tell you what! Nobody’s ever noticed, or at least, they’ve never said, and I think that with so many books under my belt, I can be forgiven – although I have to say, it annoys me intensely to know I made such an error!

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

It really depends on what the story demands. My books do tend to cover a period of years, sometimes four or five, or sometimes taking a character from childhood to maturity. I do make use of prologues and/or epilogues in some of my novels if I think it’s appropriate. In The Street of Broken Dreams, for instance, I have a prologue set in 1944 that’s crucial to the plot, although the main part of the book takes part during the summer of 1945, from April to the autumn. There is then a gap before the epilogue in 1951, necessary as the heroine tries to come to terms with the trauma she suffers in 1944, but then something happens in 1951 that finally sets her free. The break is also necessary for the sub plot involving her best friend whose moral fibre has driven her to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of another. However, whatever I consider the necessary time scale to be, the most important thing is that the characters find peace or at least hope for the future in one way or the other, bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion for the reader.

Thank you for being here on my blog today, Tania.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tania Crosse was born in London and lived in Banbury Street, Battersea, the setting of her two latest novels, The Candle Factory Girl and The Street of Broken Dreams. Later, the family moved to Surrey where her love of the countryside took root. She  wanted to be an author since she was a child, but having graduated with a degree in French Literature, she did not have time to indulge her passion for writing until her own family had grown up. She eventually began penning historical novels set on her beloved Dartmoor. After completing her Devonshire series, some of which are currently being re-published by Joffe Books, she took her writing career in a new direction with four Twentieth Century sagas set in London and the south east, which were published by Aria Fiction. She was thrilled when the last of these, The Street of Broken Dreams, won Best Saga of the Year in the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2020 Awards. Tania and her husband have lived in a small village on the Hampshire/Berkshire border since 1976. They have three grown-up children, two grandchildren and a variety of grand-dogs! Tania’s interests, apart from reading and writing, of course, are dance, gardening and rambling, especially on Dartmoor, naturally!

A list of Tania’s books:

Morwellham’s Child: amzn.to/2OFElhq

The River Girl: amzn.to/2oQzRd4

The Gunpowder Girl: amzn.to/3iDAXjh

The Quarry Girl: http://amzn.to/35Dxf5P

The Railway Girl: amzn.to/2FL56io

The Wheewlright Girl: http://amzn.to/2SHQXFw

The Ambulance Girl: amzn.to/2uGaGxd

Lily’s Journey: amzn.to/2Z0qgAL

Hope at Holly Cottage: amzn.to/335SNEo

Nobody’s Girl: amzn.to/31m6Ioi

A Place to Call Home: amzn.to/2kzxcCJ

The Candle Factory Girl: amzn.to/2oqyq16

The Street of Broken Dreams: amzn.to/2Bjeg0g

For further details, visit Tania’s website at

www.tania-crosse.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter: @TaniaCrosse

Follow her on Facebook: https://bit.ly/3fZ8BQ7

Tania Crosse Author

Introducing Jan Baynham, Author of Her Mother’s Secret and a worthy Romantic Novelists’ Association contender for the Joan Hessayon Award. #WritersLife #WriterWednesday

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I am so pleased to be talking with Jan Baynham on my blog today. Having known Jan for some years and seen her writing going from strength to strength I was thrilled to hear that she is one of the contenders for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) 2020 prestigious Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, the award for all the authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.Before I knew this I’d read, loved, and reviewed her book. This is my review: Her Mother’s Secret.

Her Mother's Secret: The Summer of '69 by [Jan Baynham]

I began by asking Jan what was the inspiration behind Her Mother’s Secret. This is her reply:

I have always been intrigued by family secrets and the fact that these sometimes do not come to light until after a person has died. I read of someone who was sorting through her mother’s things after her death and found a diary. In there, the young woman learned about a part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about. The ‘what ifs?’ started in my head. At the time, I’d been reading a novel where the rustling in the trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took on the form of ghosts of the people they represented. Perhaps the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by the bond between mothers and daughters, this was basis for Her Mother’s Secret. Very often, the close relationship between mothers and daughters means that they would know things about each other no one else would. I wanted to explore how my character, Alexandra, would feel when she found out about her mother, Elin’s secret life. How could her mother have kept this from her? How would she feel? I needed Elin to have been able to keep her secret from everyone, even her own mother, until she died. Did Elin have a conscience when she left her diary to Alexandra?

I decided that Elin would be an artist, having just finished art college. She travels to Greece to further her painting skills and while there, something happens that she never mentions again. I chose a setting where the colours would be more vibrant and intense perhaps than in her home country of Wales. Having visited many times and being struck by the wonderful palette of colours seen in every landscape, Greece was my obvious inspiration. Elin’s daughter, Alexandra, arrives on Péfka, a small island off the Peloponnese in Southern Greece, to follow in her mother’s footsteps to find out what happened there twenty-two years earlier. Péfka is purely fictional and is not based on one particular place; it’s an amalgam of areas I’ve visited – a beach or street here, a taverna or workshop there where I’ve met characters when getting out into Greek villages. Every holiday has inspired me with contributions to create characters and settings that are hopefully authentic showing the climate, the vivid colours of the sea and the flowers as well as the warmth of its people.

Her Mother’s Secret was published in April this year by Ruby Fiction. I’m grateful to the Romantic Novelists’ Association for the role its New Writers’ Scheme played in helping me realise my dream of becoming a published author. The novel was critiqued on two occasions by experienced scheme readers. The first time, I’d submitted a partially written manuscript that was followed by the full manuscript the next year. The helpful and incredibly positive advice I received on both occasions was invaluable and gave me the motivation to submit my novel to publishers. Having ‘graduated’ from being unpublished to published via the scheme, I am eligible to be a proud contender for the 2020 Joan Hessayon Award along with twenty other debut novelists.

Blurb for Her Mother’s Secret:: A secret left behind in the summer of ’69

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

About the author:

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and short listed in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in more depth and delve further into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters. Set in the last year of the ‘60s, Her Mother’s Secret takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. She values the friendship and support from other RNA members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of Cariad, her local RNA Chapter.

‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on from Amazon:

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter: @JanBaynham  https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer  https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/

Blog: https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/      

And more exciting news: Well, two pieces of exciting news, really…

Jan is on the Not the Booker long list https://bit.ly/31nyGBo

And…   

Jan’s second book,Her Sister’s Secret: The Summer of ’66, is now available to pre-order: https://amzn.to/3k5xjzU   

  Another wonderful sixties saga from the author of Her Mother’s Secret.

How far would you travel to find the truth?
It’s the 1960s and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.
Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.
But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …

Why Honno? Just Asking the Question. @Honno #authors

Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.

Why Honno was a question I wanted to ask each of the following Honno authors when I started the interviews with them over the last few months.

I mean, I knew why I liked being published by Honno:

Judith Barrow

Honno  is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of  books they want to publish and don’t accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing is hard, but fair, and leads to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides.
Because it is known to be a Welsh press it is sometimes assumed that all its authors will be Welsh as well. So, often, when I’ve appeared at events, people are surprised to hear my broad Northern English accent. The supposition is false; Honno’s aim as an inspiring, feminist, Welsh press is to provide opportunities for women writers. The only proviso is that they are either Welsh, are living in Wales or have a connection to the country – which actually covers a great many writers. I love their strapline -. “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” So it always gives me a thrill when the manuscript I’ve been toiling over for months (or years!) is accepted by them.

I’ve had experience of having an agent, of being asked to conform to the commercial market; to fit in. And it wasn’t for me. As a creative writing tutor, I’ve spent the last couple of decades encouraging students to “write in their own voices”. So when the agent told me I needed to conform if I wanted to be published by one of the big publishing companies, I knew it wasn’t for me. This, after she’d placed me with a commercial editor who, not only wanted me to write in a different way, but also wanted me to write in a different genre.”The talent and skill as a writer is there but you need to be open to change.”, was the advice.

I took it; I changed from being a client with an agent ( who had, after all, accepted me on the strength of my first book) to seeking other outlets for my work.

I was lucky, I found Honno.

But, enough about me.

But, enough about me.

Honno’s mission is to publish Welsh women writers – for the purposes of submission to Honno this means that you must be a woman born in Wales or resident in Wales at the time of submission. Honno also publishes titles of exceptional interest to women within Wales from writers who may not meet the first two criteria i.e. that they are female and that they are of Welsh birth or residence.

I started each of the interviews with the statement:”My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We’ve met up in real life on many occasions…”

That being said, the question all the Honno authors were glad to answer was:What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?”

To learn more about the authors and their books, please click on their names

In order of appearance their replies:

Thorne Moore:

It’s a small press, which means it’s personal. Maybe famous sportsmen or ex-cabinet ministers can be lauded (promoted) to the skies by big publishers, but most of their less famous authors tend to be lost in a very impersonal ocean, with very little one-to-one attention. They are names on a spreadsheet. With Honno, you know the team and they know you. You feel far more valued, even if the big bucks aren’t there.

And there’s the fact that Honno is a Women’s Press, run by women, publishing women (as well as being Welsh, of course). It’s not an anti-man thing, but I grew up in the era of the rising tide of women’s lib, when women didn’t just sit around arguing their case but took really positive actions to prove themselves, such as setting up publishing companies like Virago. Unlike others, Honno is still going strong and flying the flag.”.

Carol Lovekin

The intimacy. The sense of being part of a family. Honno’s reputation as an independent press publishing writing exclusively by women appealed to my feminist heart from the start. And it felt like the right fit for my debut, with its connection to The Mabinogion and the legend of Blodeuwedd.

A small press may not have the financial resources available to bigger, mainstream houses; they do tend to have a broad vision. They’re less bureaucratic, more collaborative and if they believe in a project enough, will invest time, expertise and energy in it. This has certainly proved to be the case for me with Honno.”

Alison Layland

It feels like being part of a close-knit family. The small but dedicated and talented Honno team are accessible and supportive at all stages of the process, and it’s been lovely to become friends with so many of the other Honno authors. We’re a wonderful community, and although we’re scattered all over Wales and beyond, it’s particularly lovely when we get to meet up in person.

Wendy White

When I was writing ‘Not Thomas’ I knew exactly where I wanted to send it when I’d finished, and that was to Honno. I’d long admired their work and I loved the fact that they’re a female-only press and have a committee of women who decide what to publish. Added to that was my huge respect for Caroline Oakley, a Honno editor who had worked closely in a previous role for a number of years with (the aforementioned) Ian Rankin. I was absolutely delighted when I heard from Caroline that Honno were going to publish ‘Not Thomas’ and my whole experience of being part of the Honno family has been fantastic. All the staff and other authors are extremely supportive and go out of their way to make everyone welcome. I’m constantly recommending Honno to my female friends who are writers. It may be a small indie press but it commands huge respect and publishes wonderful books.”

Jan Newton

“I love the team spirit which goes with being a Honno author. The other authors are so supportive of each other, and you really feel part of the gang. You get to know everyone who makes Honno work, and feel part of the enterprise, in a way which would surely be very difficult in a larger organisation. I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed at the generosity of everyone involved. It feels like a real joint-venture, which is a pleasure to be a part of.”

Jane Fraser

I think with Honno, my forthcoming novel has found the perfect home with the UK’s longest-standing independent press that champions Welsh women and Welsh writing. I am proud that I now find myself among a list of authors I so admire.

Alys Einion

First, the fact that I am published by a women’s press is a major achievement. I grew into my own identity reading books by Honno and other women’s presses, and I felt that there must be something really special about authors who are published by smaller presses who can’t afford to take a gamble in the way in a bigger publishing house could. I am in awe of my fellow Honno authors, and I really do feel honoured to be in their company. It is so great to have a good relationship with my editor, and the community of Honno authors is so supportive and helpful. It is a huge plus to not have to have an agent to get your work read. I could paper my wall with rejection slips and after a while it just wears you down. Then there’s that personal experience of being nurtured by an editor who really knows her stuff and is invested in making sure your work is the best it can be.  

I think with Honno, the authors are all excellent, and that kind of sets a standard. It makes me strive to be better, to be worthy of the association. And it’s a feminist press, so what’s not to like?

Juliet Greenwood

I’m eternally grateful that I had the experience of being published by Honno before finding an agent and having a two-book deal with Orion. Having been through the process in the slightly less pressurised atmosphere of Honno, and learning the different stages of the editing process, gave me the confidence to feel I knew what I was doing – and even more importantly know that I had done it three times before so could do it again! That experience has been utterly invaluable. Honno also gave me time to develop as a writer and become more certain of who I was as an author.”

Hilary Shepherd

Text Box:

The community of writers and the friendship that has come out of being published by Honno. Having the confidence that I’ll be taken seriously with the next book (though as with big publishing houses there’s no guarantee a book will be taken on). And going to the seaside whenever I go to talk to my editor.”

Jo Verity

The informality and camaraderie of an indie publisher suits me and my way of working. I’ve been a Honno author for fifteen years and everyone I’ve worked with there has been approachable, supportive, flexible and available. I’m extremely blessed to have Caroline Oakley as my editor. She ‘gets’ what I’m trying to achieve and nudges me, firmly but sympathetically, in the right direction. I couldn’t bear to hand ‘my babies’ over to people whom I didn’t know, trust and consider to be friends.”

Jacqueline Jacques

My association with Honno began with their anthology, Luminous and Forlorn, which included my short story, Lovey Dovey Cats Eyes. I like that they are real people, who treat their authors as real people, rather than as a means to an end. They respect your wishes, offer sound advice and editing and pull out all the stops to provide a really good quality product you can be proud of.

Stevie Davies

“Being published by Honno is like going home. The first publisher of my fiction was The Women’s Press, where writers experienced warm support and a shared outlook on the politics of gender. At Honno there is a sense of solidarity such as one rarely finds in larger and more impersonal firms. Caroline’s editing skills are second to none and I have been grateful for her experience and insight.

Submitting your work

Honno is always interested in receiving unsolicited manuscripts  but currently does not intend to publish  poetry, works for children, novellas or short story collections by a single author. Honno does publish full length works of fiction and non-fiction for adults (manuscripts of between 60,000 and 120,000 words).

Honno is open to all genres of fiction and is particularly interested in increasing the number of literary fiction, crime/thriller, commercial women’s fiction, science fiction and fantasy titles it publishes. Honno is also building a list of non-fiction works to include biography (untold tales of remarkable Welsh women, places and industries), memoir, nature and travel writing. For a good idea of the types of work Honno is interested in study the Books pages on this site and the Editor’s blog posts.

However, whatever kind of work you are submitting, please ensure that you meet Honno’s criteria (see ‘Submission guidelines’ below) BEFORE doing so.

Honno is keen to publish work that shows all sides of life in Wales, but will consider stories not set within Wales. Honno is a feminist publisher and that influences the kinds of work selected for publication.

During the Coronavirus crisis we are happy to take submissions by email. Please attach your covering letter and submission and email it to post@honno.co.uk with ‘submission – your name ‘ as the subject line

https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with Stevie Davies #Honno

My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We have a Facebook group where we can chat and ask for help, information and generally boost moral when it’s needed. And we’ve met up in real life on many occasions. About three years ago I shared interviews with some of them. Since then there have been other women writers who have become Honno authors. So this is the new set of interviews and today I am with Stevie Davies. Although new to Honno with this genre, Stevie is a prolific writer of many genres, on many platforms, as you will see when you check out her website

Welcome, Stevie, please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Mumbles, Swansea, 10 doors down from where my parents once lived. I am a feminist, cyclist, sea-swimmer, music-lover, mother of 3 and grandmother of 4. I’m a long-time member of CND. I stood for Cheadle Council in the 1990s as a Green Party candidate. I didn’t win.

I taught English Literature at Manchester University, leaving to concentrate on writing fiction, before coming home to Swansea University in 2001 as Royal Literary Fund Fellow and then Professor of Creative Writing. I’m a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the Welsh Academy. The Party Wall will be my fifteenth work of fiction. I’ve published 14 books of non-fiction. Euan Thorneycroft of A.M. Heath is my agent.

When did you start writing?

I started writing stories at the age of 5 or 6, which was more or less the age when my feminism kicked in: I saw the way the world was organised along gender lines and felt compelled to argue with it. My Morriston-born father was an Air Force sergeant so we were constantly on the move. My home from home was always the public lending library, from Oystermouth to Cornwall; from Kinloss to Hildesheim in Germany. My earliest works included an illustrated tale set in the Second World War, in which a group of Nazis gunned down everyone in sight, including one another – at which point the story found its natural terminus.

What genre do you write in and why?

I like to experiment. Writing is a process of exploration and discovery: it’s boring to repeat yourself. In non-fiction, I’ve written biography (Emily Brontë, Henry Vaughan), literary criticism (Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Virginia Woolf), popular history (17th century).  In fiction: historical fiction, novella, short story. In The Party Wall, I’ve tried a slow-burning psychological thriller, domestic noir. For me the most powerful form of realism is tragicomedy because it represents a spectrum of experience and response.

How important is location in your novels?

Super-important, and especially location set in a historical period – from 20th century Yorkshire (Four Dreamers and Emily), Shrewsbury (The Web of Belonging), 17th century Cheshire and Wales (Impassioned Clay), Northern Germany pre- and postwar (The Element of Water), South Wales (Kith & Kin, The Eyrie, The Party Wall), 1940s Egypt (Into Suez), 19th century Gloucestershire (Awakening), Manchester (Equivocator).

When I came to write novels, I found that the varied landscapes of my childhood had given me different settings, enabling me to ponder history in a very personal way. From my early childhood in Egypt came Into Suez; from the lakeside Forces boarding school in Northern Germany, where I had been profoundly homesick, came The Element of Water, when I discovered that in 1945 High Admiral Doenitz had been named as Hitler’s successor, in those same buildings. Such coincidences enable us to focus the great wheel of history from the small arc of an individual’s destiny.

In The Party Wall, interior space is the central motif and the way people’s lives connect and are separated by the walls of home. I’ve lived all my life alongside party walls – overhearing the coming and going of neighbours, snatches of chat, arguments, muffled laughter. If you stop to think about it, how strange it is that we live our lives side by side, a few metres apart, hidden but throwing out unconscious clues. How little we know one another’s inmost hearts. I’ve sometimes imagined all the walls of a terrace turning to glass – we’d all be revealed in our most private (and embarrassing) postures and activities. Perhaps a novel functions like those glass partitions, revealing what is intimately concealed. In its double narration, oscillating between male and female narrators in adjoining terraced houses, The Party Wall tracks the convergence of a traumatised outsider and a free but broken spirit.

Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?  

I read voraciously and my tastes are catholic – forever changing and broadening, often according to the joyous principle of serendipity,  so I can’t give you a favourite. Since 1981, I’ve kept a Commonplace Book as people used to do in the past, noting the title of every book I read, with comments and quotations. Here are the openings of the first notebook and of the current one.

Where do you write?

At the dining room table and at a desk in the loft. With coffee. Up to and including the writing of The Eyrie, the first draft of every novel was handwritten. I redraft drastically many times and find it just as fascinating to revise as to create an original draft. You learn so much from your mistakes – and I think I have been a decent teacher of writing precisely because I have, over the years, committed every technical mistake in the book. You can’t beat a life rich in examined mistakes.

Who is your favourite character in your books?

It’s a mistake to keep looking back and ogling one’s earlier works. Probably the historical radical women I studied for Unbridled Spirits: Women of the English Revolution, 1642-1660 (Elizabeth Lilburne, Katherine Chidley, Anna Trapnel, Margaret Fell , Mary Fisher etc), have been the greatest inspiration. The characters of radical Quakers Hannah and Isabel in my novel, Impassioned Clay, are based on this research. Then come the complex, never-say-die rebels of my later novels: ‘Red Dora’, veteran of the Spanish Civil War, in The Eyrie; Ailsa Roberts, the adventurous spirit in Into Suez; Hannah Pentecost in Awakening; Quinta and Tertia in the Roman Britain of the title story of Arrest Me, For I Have Run Away.

What was your favourite bit of research?

Research might involve travel, a reading odyssey, and/or the learning or relearning of a language: for The Element of Water I read widely in German history, relearned German at the Goethe Institut and travelled to Lűbeck in Schleswig-Holstein. To research Into Suez, I made two unforgettable trips along the Suez Canal with my daughter Grace and corresponded with veterans of the Suez War.

What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses.

Being published by Honno is like going home. The first publisher of my fiction was The Women’s Press, where writers experienced warm support and a shared outlook on the politics of gender. At Honno (as also in other Welsh presses like Parthian, who have been wonderful supporters of my work) there is a sense of solidarity such as one rarely finds in larger and more impersonal firms. Caroline’s editing skills are second to none and I have been grateful for her experience and insight.

Find Stevie at her website: http://www.steviedavies.com/

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with Jacqueline Jacques #FridayReads #Honno

Welcome, Jackie, please tell us a little about yourself

Raised in smoky, post-war Walthamstow, mostly in brick terraces, prefabs and flats, I have always loved escaping to fresh air and trees and, as soon as I could, moved to Essex. Now, in retirement, my husband, Peter, and I can watch ducklings and moorhens on Buckhurst Hill’s village pond, from our front windows, I couldn’t be happier. To cap it all we have the freedom of Epping Forest just a few hundred yards down the road. Perfect.
In spring and summer I spend half my time working an allotment with a friend; in autumn and winter and on rainy days, I cosy up indoors to do my writing. In between times, I paint, I run a Creative Writing group and Bookclub for the local U3A, and attend other art-based groups, a Scrabble Group and indulge in hilarious Parlour games with my friends. Before lockdown, I helped out at a Memory Cafe for people with Dementia. I consider myself blessed in my son and daughter, my daughter-in-law and in my four grandchildren who spice up our lives and keep us on our toes.


When did you start writing?

I have always loved make-believe. As a child I spent too much time daydreaming or immersed in a book for my own good, or so they told me. I loved play-acting, adored cinema and theatre and knew I would write stories eventually. But teaching put paid to that idea. It was only when I could see an end in sight, in the early 1990s, that I actually swapped my pottery kiln for a word processor and began writing short stories. Honno took one for an anthology they were compiling, and the rest – you’ve guessed it – is history.


What genre do you write in and why?
I’d written five novels before I decided, as an experiment, to have a go at crime, mainly because I thought I would reach a wider audience. I didn’t read crime myself, only seen police procedurals on TV which I found ‘samey’ and, for the most part, predictable. What did attract me, though, was historical research: the Victorian era and early policing. How did they solve crimes before fingerprinting and DNA? If I could combine all that with art, I’d be happy. So I invented a police artist named Archie Price, born in Wales but painting and working in Walthamstow, a town I know very well.

How important is location in your novels?

I have set many of my books in old Walthamstow, as I grew up there. I knew my way around the streets, the market, the shops, schools,the park, the railway station. I knew the Palace theatre watched pantomime and music hall there. I even danced the Highland Fling on its stage when our ballet class put on a show. I knew the journey to and from London, by train and bus, and all the stops along the way. I knew the walk down to the river, the marshes, the pubs and bridges. Loving a place, it’s easy to set a story there, imagine your protagonists walking around, inhabiting the place, having adventures.The place, and the time, of course, have such an influence on who they are and the way they think, react.

 Jackie’s painting of the Buckhurst Hill village pond outside her front window.

In all my books I need to have been to the places I write about, so that I can look around, recognise, touch, taste the air, get the atmosphere, put myself there and, through me, my characters.


Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?
Before she wrote Handmaid’s Tale I would have said Margaret Atwood. Now, I have to return to my first love, Thomas Hardy. My daughter is named Tamsin after his heroine in Return of the Native. My favourite live author Is Maggie Farrell. No one can break your heart as she can

.
Where do you write?
Anywhere in the house where I can find a quiet spot. Now that I have discovered I can write in Word on my iPad in bed and have it appear on my laptop downstairs, the world is my oyster.


Who is your favourite character in your books?

Archie Price – my ideal man – flawed but well meaning and kind.  Julia Margaret Cameron made a photograph of an enigmatic and mysterious man she called Iago. Those are his looks. He is not Shakespeare’s Iago, however. He does not have a disloyal bone in his body. He is rather like my husband, in fact
.

The Illusion of Innocence (Archie Price Mystery) by [Jacqueline Jacques]

The Illusion of Innocence (Archie Price Mystery): https://amzn.to/2B606Co

What was your favourite bit of research?
Any forensic Art – how an artist can build up the likeness of a villain from a witness’s description. How a face can be made for a skull, as in pmy latest novel Shades of Deception.But I also love researching the suffragettes for my current work in progress.


What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?

My association with Honno began with their anthology, Luminous and Forlorn, which included my short story, Lovey Dovey Cats Eyes. I like that they are real people, who treat their authors as real people, rather than as a means to an end. They respect your wishes, offer sound advice and editing and pull out all the stops to provide a really good quality product you can be proud of.

Links to Jackie:

Honno: https://bit.ly/2ysM2C9

Amazon.co.uk:https://amzn.to/2Twe2Mz

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today with JO VERITY #TuesdayBookBlog #Honno

My greatest support has come from the group of authors published by Honno. We have a Facebook group where we can chat and ask for help, information and generally boost moral when it’s needed. And we’ve met up in real life on many occasions. About three years ago I shared interviews with some of them. Since then there have been other women writers who have become Honno authors. So this is the new set of interviews and today I am with Jo Verity.

Welcome,. Jo. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in North Cardiff with my husband of 53 years. We have two daughters – one lives in Bristol, one lives in London – and four grandchildren. Before retirement I worked as a medical graphic artist at the Dental Hospital in Cardiff. (I drew teeth!)

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To date, I have had six novels published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press – the first in 2005, the most recent in 2018. I also write short stories, many of which have been published or broadcast.

When did you start writing?

I began writing in 1999. I was scheduled to spend a week in Budapest with an American friend but at the last minute Ruth pulled out. I was furious with her for letting me down. An avid reader all my life, I’d never written anything before but, for some reason, I decided to get it off my chest by writing a short story about an egocentric American sculptress who got her comeuppance. Within days I was hooked. Obsessed in fact. After about six months of short story writing, I began working on a novel – naively assuming that this was the natural progression. (I’ve since discovered they are very different animals.)  

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What genre do you write in and why?

Those first short stories were about ordinary people, everyday life and set firmly in the ‘now’. When I decided to have a stab at a novel, I stuck with that. I’ve always been drawn to ‘quiet’ novels in which characters face the same dilemmas most of us do. They give us a chance to rehearse how we might react were we in the same position. To examine our own attitudes, prejudices and weakness.    

Genre? Amazon classifies my books as ‘contemporary urban fiction’ or ‘contemporary family fiction’. I’m not sure whether that’s a genre or simply what’s left after you eliminate crime, fantasy, sci-fi, historical etc.

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Who is your favourite (non Honno) author?

Anne Tyler. She has the knack of making the ordinary seem extraordinary. Her characters, flawed and unsure of themselves, linger around long after you’ve put the book down. I’ve just finished her latest novel (number 23!) – ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’. Once again, in her quiet, ruthless way, she hits every nail squarely on the head.

May I cheat and choose another? Elizabeth Strout. Strout covers the same territory but is perhaps a little tougher on her characters. If you haven’t read her, I suggest you start with ‘Olive Kitteridge’.

 Where do you write?

I’ve concocted a writing cave at one end of the spare bedroom where I sit surrounded by writing paraphernalia – printer, scrap paper, pens, pin up board, etc. I work on a PC with a large screen. I find laptops uncomfortable to use – not good for posture or eyesight. When I’m away from my desk, I write by hand in a notebook. (It has to be a Pukka Pad and a black PaperMate Flexigrip. It is a well-known fact that all writers are stationery geeks.) I transfer what I’ve written to my machine as soon as I can, using this as an editing opportunity. And I’m rigorous about backing up my work.

Who is your favourite character in your books?

Mmm. That’s like asking a mother which child she most loves. I couldn’t possibly choose between my various protagonists.  

Secondary characters can be more broad-brush and quirkier than those taking centre stage although they mustn’t be ‘cartoonish’. I have a soft spot for the eccentric old codgers Mrs Channing and Mr Zeal who appeared briefly, yet to great effect, in ‘Sweets from Morocco’. Children and teenagers are delightful to ‘work with’. They ask awkward questions, stir things up and make a nuisance of themselves. They are fun to write about and a useful way of eliciting information and forcing grownups to address tricky issues.

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What was your favourite bit of research?

My stories are set in the ‘now’. I make them up as I go along. Consequently any research I do is on a ‘need to know’ basis. A character might recall what was in the charts when their first child was born or what the weather was like one particular Christmas. Small details evoke memories in the reader and make a fictitious character ‘real’.  A quick Google and I have the song title or weather report. (Get it wrong, and a helpful reader will soon let me know!)

Having said that, I did send Gil Thomas (from ‘Left and Leaving’) back to his home in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Thanks to Google Maps, I could ‘virtually’ wander around the town and surrounding area which gave me confidence to describe it. https://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au gave me the local lowdown – right down to shops, café’s, train and bus services. Several globe-trotting acquaintances remarked that they didn’t know I’d been to Australia – so I think I got away with it.

What do you like most about being published by Honno, an indie press rather than one of the big publishing houses?

The informality and camaraderie of an indie publisher suits me and my way of working. I’ve been a Honno author for fifteen years and everyone I’ve worked with there has been approachable, supportive, flexible and available. I’m extremely blessed to have Caroline Oakley as my editor. She ‘gets’ what I’m trying to achieve and nudges me, firmly but sympathetically, in the right direction. I couldn’t bear to hand ‘my babies’ over to people whom I didn’t know, trust and consider to be friends.


Links to Jo:
Honno:https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/v/jo-verity/
Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2XiFmPm

Honno: “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” Today Thorne Moore interviews me: https://bit.ly/2WWQ1jW #weekendReads #Honno

Thorny matters

Thorne turns the tables on me today!

Fellow Honno author Judith Barrow has been running interviews on her blog (https://judithbarrowblog.com/) with other authors published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press. (Read her interview with me)  I thought it was about time that the table was turned on her, so here is my interview in similar vein, with Judith Barrow.

Judith Barrow

So, Judith, you are the tireless champion of other authors. Let’s hear about you, for a change.
How did Yorkshire lass come to be a Pembrokeshire author?

We found Pembrokeshire by accident. After we were married, and before children, we always holidayed for a week in July in Cornwall. But after seven years of marriage and with three children under three and our only mode of transport being an ancient van, we decided it was too far with a young family. So we thought we would go to Wales; not too difficult a journey from Yorkshire, we believed.
I borrowed books on Wales from the library and, balancing our 8-month-old twins, one on each knee, I read as much as I could about the county of Pembrokeshire. With wonderful beaches it sounded just the place to take children for a holiday
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We booked a caravan and, when the big day came, packed the van to the hilt with everything the children would need, remembering only at the last minute, to throw a few clothes in for ourselves.

It took us ten hours. In 1978 there was no easy route from the North of England to West Wales. We meandered through small lanes, stopping for emergencies like much needed drinks, picnics and lavatory stops. The closer we were to our destination the slower we went; in the heat of the day the engine in our old van struggled; we needed to top up the radiator every hour or so. For the last fifty miles we became stuck in traffic jams. We got lost numerous times.

All this and three ever-increasingly fractious children.

We arrived at the caravan site in the middle of the night so were relieved to find the key in the door. The owner, a farmer, had given up and gone home.

The following morning I woke early. Leaving David in charge of our exhausted and still sleeping family, I crept out. The air was warm; a breeze barely moved the leaves on the trees around the field. Although the caravan was one of four in the farmer’s field, we were the only people there.

I walked along a small path. Within minutes I was facing the sea, glittering in the sun; dark rocks jutted out of the water surrounded by foaming waves. The horizon was a silvery line far in the distance. Faint voices from two small fishing boats carried on the air. The cliffs curved round in a natural cove. It was so quiet, so peaceful.

I fell in love with Pembrokeshire.

Within months we’d thrown caution, and our past lives, to the wind and moved into a half-built house in what was a field. It took us years to finish it but it’s been a labour of love.

How could anyone not fall in love with Pembrokeshire? But your books are mostly set up north. How important is location in your books?

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For me it’s vitally important, because it sets the scene for where my characters live. |And I try to portray the locations as they would exist in a certain era. It takes a lot of research to make sure the details of both the place and the time are correct. Luckily I enjoy researching.

I always draw a map of the town or village so I can see the characters moving around, see what they see; experience what they experience. It’s the only way I can picture it.

Location was especially important for the trilogy. The first book, Pattern of Shadows, was inspired by my research into a disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country. Rather than the noise of the machinery, the  colours of the cotton and cloth, the smell of oil, grease and the new material, I envisaged only vehicles coming and going, the sounds would be of men with a different language and dialect, no riot of colour, no tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres; just the reek of ‘living’ smells.

And the camp retains its importance throughout the trilogy after the war and into the sixties. It falls into ruin at the same time as the cotton industry is declining and the mill town where it is situated also deteriorates.

But, in the sequel, Changing Patterns and the last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows, the characters are also in a small Welsh village; a complete contrast to the industrial town. And this disparity between the two locations is where the many layers of the human condition can be explored in order for me to create rounded characters that, hopefully, come to life on the page.

I hope that makes sense?

Perfect sense. Your first books, the Howarth stories, are a family saga. What appeals to you about that genre?

I love writing about the intricacies of relationships within families; it fascinate me. We live in such diverse situations and, a lot of the time; tend to take it all for granted. Being a family member, with the casual acceptance of one another that the circumstance brings, can bring the best and the worst out in all of us. So there is a wealth of human emotions to work with. It’s fascinating to write about that potential.  And, of course, behind closed doors, anything can happen. So the family saga is a genre that can cross over into historical fiction and the crime, mystery and romantic genres.

Your latest, The Memory, is still family-based but quite different. What made you shift direction for that one? What inspired it?

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It is new territory for me but the book is still set around a family unit so, from that point of view, I don’t think I strayed too far with The Memory. In the Haworth trilogy and the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, (set against the background of the first World War, the Suffragettes and the Irish War of Independence),  there is still an underlying theme of reactions to a situation. But the difference between those books and this one is that those characters, as well as reacting in a domestic setting, respond to a wider situation; their lives are affected by what is happening in the outside world.  In The Memory it is only Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist that the reader learns about; mainly from the claustrophobic atmosphere she is living in presently, but also through her memories.

It’s a more contemporary book than the others and also it’s written in a different style. The book runs on two timelines: Irene’s life from the age of eight, after her sister is born and her grandmother comes to live with the family because her mother refuses to accept her second daughter, Rose, a Downs Syndrome child. That’s written in past tense. The second timeline, over the last twenty-four hours is written in the present tense and shows Irene’s life as the carer of her mother, who has dementia.

I don’t know that it was inspired by any one thing. The Memory actually began as a short story I wrote a long time ago, which just grew and, which, in turn, started from a journal that I’d kept from when I was carer for one of my relatives who had dementia. I read many articles on coping with the disease at the time, but writing how I felt then helped tremendously. Writing like that always has; it’s something I did through many years from being a child.

Another memory was of was a childhood friend of mine; a Down’s syndrome child, though I didn’t realise then. We would sit on the front doorstep of their house and I would read or chat; well, I would talk and he would smile and laugh. I didn’t think that it was odd that he never spoke. Thinking about it, I never even wondered why he wasn’t in school either. Anyway, one Monday after school, I went along the lane to their house and the front door was closed. I didn’t understand; one day he was there and the next gone. No one explained that he’d died. I‘m not sure I even understood what that meant anyway. So, I did what I usually did; I wrote about it; how I felt losing a friend. So, from finding the short story in a drawer I was clearing out, my memories, and remembering the journals, came The Memory.

What matters to you, apart from your writing? 

Family and friends. At least the small family that David and I created. I suppose that sounds odd; perhaps even a little selfish to exclude any extended members of our families. But I’m being honest here. I wasn’t close to my parents for various reasons; reasons that partly underlined the decision to move so far away from Yorkshire. They weren’t bothered about their siblings, who we rarely saw, so I never really got to know any of them.  Don’t misunderstand me; when any of them needed us we willingly did what we could. But moving away from where most of them live meant we were unable to rely on instant support; there was no childminding, no unexpected welcome visits. It made us more self-sufficient. So by family I do mean David and the children. And their children; our grandchildren. Whatever happens; however much changes, whatever life chucks at us, they will always matter to me.

 And friends? Well, at my age (and I think this happens to most people as they get older), friends are fewer and become more important. And, at this stage, true friends tend to know you inside out; all the good bits and the not so good bits. And they still like you. I think that’s wonderful. And it works both ways!

How did you come to be a Honno author?

For many years, whilst writing books that stacked up in drawers, never to appear again, I was writing poetry, plays and short stories and entering creative writing competitions. I also used to look for notifications for submissions to anthologies. A friend told me about a call that had come from Honno. The remit was to write a story around the subjects of gardens and life. The title of the anthology, published in 2008, is Coming up Roses. My story is called Whose House is This? (I wrote a post about it here).

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Shortly after the anthology was published I attended a workshop run by Honno and, in conversation with the editor, Caroline Oakley, I said that I had recently completed a manuscript. I think I should mention here that this book was the first I’d ever been truly excited about; even reluctant to consign it to the drawer with the others. Caroline told me to send it to her, which I did.

But, previously I’d sent the book to an agent.  And this is where it all gets a bit messy, drawn out  and tedious; so all I will say is that the agent wanted me to work with a commercial editor to change the genre from family saga to chick lit ( not that there is anything wrong with chick lit, it’s just not what I write.) So, after much discussion, the agent and I parted company and it was a great relief when the book was accepted by Honno as a family saga. That book became the first of the Haworth trilogy, Pattern of Shadows.
The rest, as is often quoted, is history. I’ve been with Honno for over twelve years now and had five books published with them and another, The Heart Stone, to be released in 2021
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What do you value most about Honno?

Honno  is my kind of publisher; small, independent, and led by strong women who know what kind of  books they want to publish and don’t accept anything but the best that an author can produce. So the editing is hard, but fair, and leads to many discussions – and a few compromises on both sides.
Because it is known to be a Welsh press it is sometimes assumed that all its authors will be Welsh as well. So, often, when I’ve appeared at events, people are surprised to hear my broad Northern English accent. The supposition is false; Honno’s aim as an inspiring, feminist, Welsh press is to provide opportunities for women writers. The only proviso is that they are either Welsh, are living in Wales or have a connection to the country – which actually covers a great many writers. I love their strapline -. “Great Women, Great Writing, Great Stories.” So it always gives me a thrill when the manuscript I’ve been toiling over for months (or years!) is accepted by them.

Judith’s website

Judith at Honno

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