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

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts, who you’ll soon be able to read about here.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

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

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

Pleased to be joining you, Judith

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-dark-horizon-cover-small-web-1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author;


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

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

Links:

Website: www.lizharrisauthor.com

Twitter: @lizharrisauthor

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

Instagram:  liz.harris.52206

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

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the eighth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Elaine Roberts, who, alongside Francesca Capaldi Burgess (who I interviewed in the second of this series) is one of the RNA Saga Writers who runs the Write Minds blog .http://bit.ly/3qIydoy

Welcome, Elaine, and thank you for spending some time with us.

Thank you for inviting me on to your blog Judith, it’s lovely to be here.

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

When I wrote the Foyles Bookshop Girls it was written as a one off, which was born from a Victorian novel I had written and not published, whereas The West End Girls was always a series. I’ve always wanted to write about families and relationships so that definitely put me in the saga category, even if I didn’t realise it when I started writing.

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

I think most books have romance in them regardless of the genre but I would say my novels are more about relationships, which include family, friends and romance. We all have good and bad relationships, and they all have their ups and downs, that’s what makes them interesting. I believe as a reader you can empathise with what’s going on in a characters life, where you may not be able to with the war as a backdrop. War aside, every generation has had to deal with similar issues, which could be anything from financial hardship, alcohol or family relationship problems. I love writing about families and friendships, it’s the dynamics of it all that interests me, so it’s all in the mix for me.

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

Research is a big topic, I would say you can’t write a historical/saga without doing the research. I always look on it as similar to an iceberg, what I put in the books is the tip of it but the amount I actually do is the chunk that sits under the water. I have a tendency to get lost in the information, especially on the internet. It’s a wonderful asset, but it’s always best to check the information is correct. For that reason I prefer to use reference books. I have a numerous amount of books on WW1, including recipe books, theatre shows, cinemas and a book that was written for a child. One of my most precious books details the timeline of when the bombs were actually dropped in London and how many were killed and injured in each case. I purchased several old maps of London, which have enabled me to work out things like routes taken to work and often, to add a complication, I discovered that road names have changed over time. I visited museums, including the Imperial War Museum, and downloaded some of their podcasts. Archive libraries were also valuable, to gain more information. I have pages of old newspapers, so that headlines could be mentioned in my novel. Pinterest is great for images of the time. The BBC Schools website is an excellent place to go, because it’s factual, but written for children, so easy to understand. I looked at the census for popular names at that time, as well as my own family tree. For my first book, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, I also looked at the history of the company and found some fabulous stories. All of it can help form the story line and give the feel for the time. The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War was written because I had seen a photograph of the devastation caused when a munitions factory blew up.

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

Once, I fell into the trap of having a year long pregnancy for one of my characters. Thankfully, that was quite early on in my writing so that taught me  I needed more than my memory to keep on top of these things. I now have spreadsheets and chapter breakdowns, which are colour coded. I also create a family tree to remind me who is related to who, where they live, it also contains the character’s date of birth, when they passed away, and any anniversaries I might need to remember.

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

That’s a difficult question because it depends on the story and the event that’s leading it. My novels tend to run over no more than a two year period but everything can change quite quickly in a war setting and dealing with loss.  Showing a character dealing with things outside their normal life, is portraying they have the strength they didn’t know they had is a change. Personally I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule about it, but if there is I’m prepared to be corrected on it.

Thank you for the interesting questions and for having me on your blog, Judith.

It’s been so interesting, Elaine. Thank you

About The West End Girls

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0

1914. 

Growing up on a farm in the country, Annie Cradwell has always dreamt of singing on stage. So when she hears her friend Joyce has a room to spare in London, she sets off with best friend Rose for an adventure beyond anything they could have imagined

In London, Annie and Rose stumble into jobs at the Lyceum Theatre. Being a dresser to capricious star Kitty Smythe wasn’t exactly what Annie had in mind. But then the musical director, Matthew Harris, offers her singing lessons. And Annie starts to wonder – could this be her chance? Or is it all too good to be true? 

With the threat of war in the air, everything is uncertain. Is there a place for hopes and dreams when so much is at stake? 

Annie, Rose and Joyce are three girls with very different dreams – but the same great friendship.

Amazon: The West End Girls

Author Bio

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way again until she picked it up again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine is very proud of her debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which went on to become a saga trilogy. Her late husband always supported her dream and encouraged her to write. She, and her extended family, live in and around Dartford, Kent and her home is always busy with children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

Amazon: Author Page

Amazon Link:    The West End Girls

Facebook Author Page:  Elaine Roberts Facebook Author Page

Twitter:   @RobertsElaine11

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

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

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

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

Glad to be here, Judith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Henrietta Street

The Tanglewood Affair

The Trail to Freedom (Coming soon)

Links:

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

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

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

Author Biography

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lin-headshot.jpg
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 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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yearning-heart-1.jpg

     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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lost-daughter.jpg

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.   

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is time-for-peace.jpg

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:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is my-pic-and-profile.jpg

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3.png

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 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/

From my Archives: The Inspiration Behind Pattern of Shadows. Ah, the Memories! #Bookbub

I’m thrilled that Pattern of Shadows is on BookBub this month and grateful to my publishers, Honno, for the support and belief in my writing. When I discovered the first of the trilogy was going to be promoted, I remembered the research that set off the idea for the book, and thethoughts it brought back.So this is a return to memory lane…

Glen Mill was the inspiration for the first of my trilogy: Pattern of Shadows. Glen Mill was one of the first two POW camps to be opened in Britain. A disused cotton mill built in 1903 it ceased production in 1938. At a time when all-purpose built camps were being used by the armed forces and there was no money available for POW build, Glen Mill was chosen for various reasons: it wasn’t near any military installations or seaports and it was far from the south and east of Britain, it was large and it was enclosed by a road and two mill reservoirs and, soon after it opened, by a railway line.

The earliest occupants were German merchant seamen caught in Allied ports at the outbreak of war and brought from the Interrogation centre of London. Within months Russian volunteers who had been captured fighting for the Germans in France were brought there as well. According to records they were badly behaved, ill-disciplined and hated the Germans more than they did the British. So there were lots of fights. But, when German paratroopers (a branch of the Luftwaffe) arrived, they imposed a Nazi-type regime within the camp and controlled the Russians.

Later in the war the prisoners elected a Lagerführer; a camp leader. This hierarchy ruled the inner workings of the camp and the camp commanders had to deal with them.

Image courtesy of Lancashire At War.co.uk
Image courtesy of Lancashire At War.co.uk

The more I read about Glen Mill the more I thought about the total bleakness of it and the lives of the men there.  And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in.

And that’s where Pattern of Shadows came in. Pattern of Shadows was published  by Honno in 2010.

Reading about the history of Glen Mill as a German POW camp in Oldham brought back a personal memory of my childhood.

In the nineteen fifties and sixties my parents worked in the local cotton mill.

My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels – bobbins – in order for the weavers to use to make the cloth). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school I. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I remember the rumble of the wheels as I watched men pushing great skips filled with cones alongside the winding frames, or manoeuvring trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the cotton and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them in the warehouse, reading until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift.

1950s Lancashire Cotton Mill
Image courtesy of Lancashire Life
Image courtesy of Lancashire At War.co.uk

When I was reading about Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. 

Pattern of Shadows was published by Honno in 2010, followed by Changing Patterns and then, the last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows. When all three books were published the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, clamoured for their story to be told. I actually think they thought they’d been unfairly represented in the trilogy. In the end I gave in, and wrote A Hundred Tiny Threads as the prequel.

Links

Website: https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

Facebook: 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