Guest Author Elaine Everest On Her New Saga, The Teashop Girls

We welcome Elaine Everest once more to give us an insight into her brand new series set in Ramsgate

Hello Elaine and thank you for visiting Write Minds once again with your latest novel.

Hello, Elaine & Francesca, thank you for inviting me. It’s always a thrill to be back with the Write Minds girls.

First off, where did the idea for The Teashop Girls come from?          I feel as though the idea has been with me forever. As you both know I’m a fan of teashops and from my teenage years I can recall visiting Lyon’s Corner House in London although by then it was nothing like the days of the Nippies. I feel that was in my mind when I wanted to write about The Little Ships and how Ramsgate and Margate played a big part in bringing our lads back from Dunkirk. Ramsgate was a favourite holiday destination for my family when I was young. Gradually the ideas blended together until I had a plot. I always seem to have a stock of ideas – I just need to write faster!

Did you enjoy having a change of scenery from inland Erith to the Kent seaside?              Your question made me smile as I’d never thought of Erith as being inland. As it is on the side of the River Thames, and not far from Kent’s seaside towns I’ve always thought of living near water and so the River Thames was a big part of my life and that of my Woolworths and Butlins stories.
It is lovely to be setting a story in a seaside town even if it is back in 1940.

Lyons tearooms seem to have finally closed in 1981, yet your descriptions are quite detailed. Did you ever visit one, and if not, where did you glean all your fabulous information?                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, as I mentioned above, I recall the self-service Corner Houses in London. I’d love to have taken tea in a ‘proper’ Lyons Teashop but by the time I was old enough to eat cake the old-fashioned teashops had disappeared. My research was done online asking people for their memories, although some of this was second hand as those who replied spoke of their parent’s memories. There are a couple of detailed books available about the Lyons industry, with the teashops playing just a small part of the empire. Old photographs are a great way to find details of interiors of teashops and the lives of the Nippies. I have a copy of a wartime menu – such lovely choices of food – and snippets of information about how the Nippies wore their gas masks and ‘made good marriages’ were just perfect gifts for my stories. However, in my story the girls were frowned upon by their stern manageress from dallying at the tea table talking to young men!

In your novel, Lyons provided food for the soldiers returning from Dunkirk during the evacuation. Is this a true detail or created for the novel?                                                                   
It was a true fact that many businesses provided for the troops as they landed around the coast. I’m not sure the Nippies turned out in their uniforms but I thought that it would add a little colour to my story!

A few years back we all visited the tunnels at Ramsgate, which were fascinating. How much did this visit influence your storyline?                                                                                    I’d known about the tunnels since my childhood. A landlady at one of the guesthouses where my family stayed had told of going down them during the war. When I heard that the tunnels were open to the public I was there like a shot and have been back many times since as they’ve opened more parts of the tunnels and expanded the museum information. It was fun to visit the tunnel with both of you as we all absorbed the information as writers rather than tourists. It was a lovely afternoon.

Rose in the novel loves to sing. Do you have some favourite songs from that era?            I do love a good old-fashioned song from past years. For my Woolworths books it was more ‘knees up’ and Vera Lynn. For The Teashop Girls I wanted to show a different kind of music. I spent an age watching YouTube and trying to find music that Rose would like. I came across an American singer, Helen Forrest who sang with the big bands of the time and I fell in love with her music. It was a lightbulb moment as I knew this would be Rose’s favourite singer who she would like to emulate. This was late at night and I woke my husband up to inform him that I finally ‘knew’ who Rose was. I don’t think he was impressed!

Which character was the most interesting to write?                                                                            I love my three main characters but as any author knows it is the secondary cast that can carry the book. As my books are usually about a group of friends, I planned them carefully and gradually the others materialised. Anya was a delight to write and I have big plans for her in coming books. However, it was Mildred Dalrymple, a resident at Sea View guesthouse who surprised me. She was only supposed to walk into the kitchen for her dinner and she grew and grew in importance. She was a gift!

Is this the end of Rose, Lily and Katie’s story, or will we be hearing more from the teashop girls?                                                                                                                                                                  There will be other books about the Teashop Girls. In fact, I’m about to start the second which should be published towards the end of 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing what life throws at them.

Thank you for visiting us, Elaine, and the best of luck with The Teashop Girls.

Thank you again for inviting me xx

 

The Teashop Girls

It is early 1940 and World War Two has already taken a hold on the country. Rose Neville works as a Lyon’s Teashop Nippy on the Kent coast alongside her childhood friends, the ambitious Lily and Katie, whose fiancé is about to be posted overseas in the navy. As war creates havoc in Europe, Rose relies on the close friendship of her friends and her family.

When Capt. Benjamin Hargreaves enters the teashop one day, Rose is immediately drawn to him. But as Lyon’s forbids courting between staff and customers, she tries to put the handsome officer out of her mind.

In increasingly dark and dangerous times, Rose fears there may not be time to waste. But is the dashing captain what he seems?

The Teashop Girls is the new book by Elaine Everest, much-loved author of the Woolworths Girls series. Available on Amazon

About Elaine Everest

Elaine Everest, author of bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths, and Wartime at Woolworths was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty-two years and has written widely for women’s magazines and national newspapers, with both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to broadcasting on radio about our four legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.

When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school at The Howard Venue in Hextable, Kent and has a long list of published students. Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors.

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Guest Tania Crosse talks about The Street of Broken Dreams

Historical novelist Tania Crosse tells us what inspires her novels

With fourteen historical novels under my belt, I am often asked where I get so many ideas from. I often wonder myself, but it does appear that I have been blessed with an exceptionally fertile imagination. I even have the occasional totally unexpected flash vision that gets my mind working. But as an experienced author, I’m also well aware of the ingredients that make for a magical novel, and much of that requires a great deal of thought and exercising of the old grey matter. Engaging characters with natural dialogue, a gripping story with sub-plots that weave around the main theme, maybe a secret or an adversary, and most definitely oodles of inner conflict are all essential.

My main source of inspiration, however, is a mix of location and personal experience. Each of the ten books in my Devonshire series set out to illustrate in fictional form different aspects of the fascinating history of West Dartmoor and the surrounding area. I simply allowed myself to imagine what it would really have been like to scrape a living from the moor in the past, but the savage beauty of the moor itself is part and parcel both of my characters and the passions that shape them.

The same is true of the new Twentieth Century sagas I have now written for Aria Fiction. The first mini series comprising Nobody’s Girl and A Place to Call Home was inspired by a visit to Winston Churchill’s home of Chartwell, where the great man himself spoke to me in a vision. And the two books in my Banbury Street series are definitely inspired by both location and personal experience, as I lived there myself as a small child many decades ago.

The Candle Factory Girl is set in the 1930s and is based around Price’s Candle Factory that was just down the road, although many other childhood memories also came into the story, the creepy railway arches at Clapham Junction Station being one example. My latest release, The Street of Broken Dreams, is set at the end of the Second World War, and as such is much closer to the period when I lived there. I remember well the camaraderie among the neighbours, which I hope to have conveyed in my new tale.

The main plot of what happens to Cissie in the opening prologue was inspired by a true wartime incident which fortunately failed to develop into the terrible ordeal she suffers. The person in question was a nurse making her way home late at night after her shift, but I sought a different reason for the circumstances. I decided to make my main character a dancer walking home after a performance, since dance has been a life-long passion of mine.

I first began ballet classes when I was four years old and living in Banbury Street. Later, we moved to Surrey, and I started at a new dance school. At this point, there was nothing I yearned for more than to attend tap and modern classes as well. Just like Cissie, though, my parents couldn’t afford it.

When I was eleven, we moved again. After a spell at ballroom school, I insisted on returning to ballet, and my mother took me along to Miss Doris Knight’s to assess which grade to start me in. In later years, my mother admitted to astonishment at how much I knew. As for myself, I recognised what a brilliant teacher Miss Knight was, little realising this was to become a life-long friendship.

I studied under Miss Knight until I went to university. I was never going to be good enough to audition for the Royal Ballet School, but I loved my dancing with a passion. Miss Knight only produced a show every two years – but my, were they shows! Her husband, Mr Lightowler, was a conductor. So when it came to the main performance, we were accompanied by a full orchestra at – wait for it – prestigious Wimbledon Theatre. Which is why it features in the book!

I was lucky enough to do three shows with Miss Knight. I was seventeen at the final one, and danced the role of The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Miss Knight choreographed a wonderful solo for me. I remember leaping across the stage to a dramatic score, black cloak swirling around me. I felt as if I was flying, putting everything I had into that dance, and received a roaring applause. That moment was the pinnacle of my dance career, so I know exactly how Cissie feels when she performs to Tristan and Isolde in the book – even though her career continues to flourish and mine did not!

After university, I returned to Miss Knight’s for three years until my husband’s job took us sixty odd miles away to live in the country. My one and only regret was having to leave Miss Knight’s. However we corresponded regularly for over thirty years. When I began writing, she was a huge fan and bought every one of my books.

Sadly, in her late eighties, she was diagnosed with Parkinsons. She knew I hoped one day to write a novel about a dancer set possibly in the 1940s, and told me all about her wartime experiences in a repertory company which inspired Cissie’s career in my story. I so wish she had been alive to read it for herself, but her friendship and all that she taught me will remain in my heart forever.

My own ballet days are long over, although peek through the window and you might catch me spinnning a few posé turns across the kitchen floor. So throw into the melting pot my love of dance and the street where I lived, and sprinkle with imagination dust, and you will see why The Street of Broken Dreams is probably closer to my heart than anything I have written before.

 

A Street of Broken Dreams

Summer 1945. The nation rejoices as the Second World War comes to an end but Banbury Street matriarch, Eva Parker, foresees trouble ahead.

Whilst her daughter, Mildred, awaits the return of her fiancé from overseas duty, doubts begin to seep into her mind about how little she knows of the man she has promised to marry. Or are her affections being drawn elsewhere?

Meanwhile, new neighbour, dancer Cissie Cresswell, hides a terrible secret. The end of the conflict will bring her no release from the horrific night that destroyed her life. Can she ever find her way back?

Under Eva’s stalwart care, can the two young women unite to face the doubt and uncertainty of the future?

Thank you for visiting us, Tania, and good luck with your latest novel

Playing Catch Up

Where has the time gone?

I realise it’s been a while since either Elaine or I have posted on here. Life and work has got in the way for both of us, though we did manage to get together to change the look of our blog a couple of months back. We thought the maps were rather attractive but also appropriate, what with us both writing historicals set in World War 1.  We hope you agree.

So what have we been up to? I’ve had a couple of short stories published since Christmas, in The People’s Friend and My Weekly, and also a novella by My Weekly Pocket Novels. There are a couple of other short stories coming up in the future. I’ve just started working on a new novel, having put my previous one on the back burner for now. The reason for that I’ll reveal sometime in the future. So I’m both in the thick of both writing and researching at the moment.

Elaine has had an exciting writing year so far. After her debut saga, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, being published last June, the second in the series, The Foyles Bookshops Girls at War was published in January. She recently finished work on the third book, Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop, which is due out in August. What she’s up to next I’m sure she’ll tell you herself in the not too distant future.

In the next couple of months we hope to bring you more, including a couple of author interviews so look out for those.

Now back to the research…

@FCapaldiBurgess

@RobertsElaine11

 

 

Guest Elaine Everest Discusses A Gift from Woolworths

We welcome back regular guest author and friend, Elaine Everest, to talk about A Gift from Woolworths

Hello Elaine, and welcome back to the blog.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog again. I’m looking forward to answering your questions and hope you’ve been gentle with me?

Of course we have.

First of all, Fred, and particularly Cynthia, are among some of the more ‘colourful’ characters in your book. Are you ever inspired by real people?
I love writing colourful characters especially if they are transient people who will not be around for long. They can be as horrid or deceitful as I wish, as I don’t have to keep up the ‘harshness’ of the character. As for them being real people I wouldn’t say I’ve ever lifted a real person and plonked them into my books but I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to pinching certain traits. It is one of the joys of being a writer…

Ah yes, we know just what you mean!

The dialogue in your World War 2 novels are of its time. Do you find it difficult to keep each character individual when they speak?
I can see my characters and they perform as if they were in a soap opera. I’m never comfortable writing a story or book until I can see each person move and speak. I like to get under their skins and know how they think. Then, when they come to speak I can feel how the words leave their mouths and whether they speak slowly, fast or stumble over each word.

Have any historical events, with the exception of WW2, given you ideas for a plot or setting for your novels?
Most certainly! A few snippets of information about a great grandmother perishing in the 1918 flue epidemic and leaving behind a young family had me taking them off on an adventure. Most recently I came across information of a grandmother who listed herself as working in munitions in 1920 when she had her first child. I’d grown up knowing about the local disaster of young women being killed in a munitions accident in the early 1920s and knowing my grandmother had been there has made me wish to write a story around what happened. I only have to read something about an historical event and my mind starts to plan a story…

You run a writing school, The Write Place, so what advice can you offer new writers, and is it different for a budding historical writer?
To new writers I would say just keep writing and try to write something every day. Don’t think about publication but just get into the habit of sitting down and creating a few paragraphs. You need to read – all the time. Absorb the area of history that interests you most and then start to think about how your characters would live in that time. I would also say you have to love history and enjoy writing and researching as most historical books are around one hundred thousands words in length. Finally, remember to see what is selling in the bookshops. You can write the best book going but if it isn’t fashionable no publisher will touch it. However, as a new writer just enjoy creating words.

That’s very sound advice. What do you consider to be the most important aspect of writing a novel?
The most important aspect is to be able to tell a good story and to have the kind or characters that readers will take to their hearts. Not all characters are good people and not all are a hundred percent bad. Someone in the industry told me once that even the Kray twins loved their mother…
As I mentioned before, an author needs to read all the time and that means reading books in the genre they write – and read newly published books, as this will show us what publishers are looking for. This won’t affect our writing style. One of my editors told me that they saw me as being their xxx author and named an extremely revered long published writer. I did my best not to look too shocked and muttered ‘no pressure there then!’ However, it made me read many of this person’s books to see how they wrote and why there was a comparison, the bonus being I got to read some very good books.

We love the way the war has been bookended with weddings (we’re saying no more!). But is this the end of the road for the Woolies Girls?
Haha well spotted! No, it’s not the end of the girls from Woolies. My publisher has an outline for another book and a suggestion for one after that. I’m really keen to write more so fingers crossed!

What can your readers look forward to next?
I’m at the editing stage of my book for May 2019, which is called The Teashop Girls. I’m still in WW2 but this time the story is set in Ramsgate and Margate on the Kent coast in the Lyons Teashops where my three girls, Rose, Lily and Katie are Nippies. I’ve had fun creating these new characters along with their friends and families. This part of Kent played a big part in the evacuation of Dunkirk, which has been weaved into the story. I hope readers enjoy it as much as they did my girls from Woolworths and Butlins.

That sounds like another good read to look forward to. Thank you, Elaine, for your insights and your writing advice. We wish you all the best with A Gift from Woolworths.

Thank you so much for inviting me to visit your blog xxx

 

A Gift from Woolworths…

Will the war be over by Christmas?

As the war moves into 1945 the lives of the women of Woolworths continue. When store manager, Betty Billington, announces she is expecting Douglas’s baby her future life is about to change more than she expects.

Freda has fallen in love with the handsome Scottish engineer but will it end happily?

Maisie loves being a mother and also caring for her two nieces although she still has her own dreams. When her brother appears on the scene he brings unexpected danger to the family.

Meanwhile Sarah dreams of her husband’s return and a cottage with roses around the door but Woolworths beckons.

Will our girls sail into times of peace, or will they experience more heartache and sorrow? With a wedding on the horizon, surely only happiness lies ahead – or does it?

A Gift from Woolworths is the next instalment in Elaine Everest’s much-loved Woolworths series. Available on Amazon

About Elaine Everest

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths, and Wartime at Woolworths was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty years and has written widely for women’s magazines and national newspapers, with both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to broadcasting on radio about our four legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.

When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school at The Howard Venue in Hextable, Kent and has a long list of published students.

Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors.

 

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What’s Your Dream?

Elaine Roberts talks about what a difference a year makes.

Firstly, Francesca and I should apologise for being missing for so long, where has this year gone?

Due to a few family problems I have been in a reflective mood lately and it’s made me realise a few things, mainly how lucky I am. I thought I’d share a snippet of my world, without boring you with too much detail.

A few years ago my niece visited me and while we were talking she asked me, if I could do anything, what would it be? I told her I didn’t know. What was interesting was that, apparently, my sister had said the same thing. We came to the conclusion that we had never been asked about our own dreams and ambitions. It was from that conversation that I remembered, when I was in my early twenties, I used to write in the evening when my children had gone to bed. I had sent my work to Mills and Boon who sent me a delightful letter. It was a rejection, but it was encouraging. That was in the early eighties, I think, but then life took over.

In 2012, I joined a writing class and my dream was resurrected.

In April 2016, I had the opportunity to take redundancy from work and grabbed it with both hands, because I had a dream I wanted to follow.

In September 2016, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which is a World War One family saga, hadn’t even been thought of. I was writing a Victorian novel.

At the end of November 2017, I signed my three-book contract with Aria.

My debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, was published in June 2018.

The second novel in the series, The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War, is published in January 2019.

I am currently writing the third novel, Christmas At The Foyles Bookshop, which is out in August 2019.

It’s all been very exciting. Since signing the contract, my life has been dogged with my own self-doubt and serious family illnesses. At times, I have wondered if I had time to write another novel, or even if I could. I have questioned myself, over and over again, but my laptop went everywhere with me in case I got ten minutes to lose myself, away from the stresses of my reality at that time.

I also wondered whether all writers go through the same emotional rollercoaster, and having spoken to a few authors, I believe the answer is yes.

Anything creative is subjective, so that is easily followed by self-doubt, because everyone has an opinion, and definitely won’t all agree with each other.

A magazine short story

It took me a long time to tell someone I was an author. I built it up in my head to be this great unveiling, and didn’t want to come across as something I’m not. Haha, it was such a let down when I finally got round to saying it out loud, because I got no response whatsoever. The second time I said it, the response was “I don’t read books”. How sad is that? I can’t imagine going through life without a book on the go. My biggest problem is not having enough time to read all the books I want to.

I love a good book, and to write a novel has been a dream of mine since I was young.

Thanks to my hard work, determination and a great support network around me, and to my readers I have achieved my goal. The biggest thanks must go to my niece for asking the question in the first place and my tutor for guiding and bullying me into writing short stories as well as the novel.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what life throws at you, don’t lose faith or hope that you will achieve your dream. It may not be your time now, but remember, it’s never too late.

Guest Author Vivien Brown talks about Five Unforgivable Things

Today we talk to friend and author Vivien Brown, who’s new gripping novel, Five Unforgiveable Things, is due out tomorrow

Welcome once again to the Write Minds blog, Viv.

Kate, the main character in your latest novel, Five Unforgivable Things, has undergone IVF treatment in the past. What kind of research did you do on this subject?

The novel looks at a long marriage, from the 1970s to the present day, and the infertility treatments in the story take place at the end of the 1980s when things were done a little differently, and with far less success, than they are now. Having been in Kate’s situation myself back then, and undergoing five ‘rounds’ of IVF, I had to dig more into my own memory than do any kind of formal research! But I made sure not too much of the actual nitty-gritty needles, medicines and operations stuff made it onto the page. It’s the emotional side of it all, the ethical dilemmas and the effect on the couple’s relationship that I wanted to convey more than the physical processes. In fact, it is the long-reaching results of the IVF that create many of the ups and downs of the story, much of which is told through the eyes of their now adult children in the present day.

Like your last novel, Lily Alone, Five Unforgivable Things looks set to be full of twists and secrets. Do you work these all out before you start the book or do some occur to you as you’re writing?

I always knew I wanted there to be a few big events/ mistakes that defined Kate and Dan’s marriage – the moments when if one or the other had done things differently or made a different decision then all that followed would have altered. I soon settled on the number five (not too many, not too few, and it made for a good title!) but it was only as I wrote that I decided exactly what the five things were. But the children of the marriage have their secrets and heartaches too – things they cannot always talk to each other about, for various reasons which will become clear as you read!

Do you have a favourite character in the book? Or a least favourite character?

I do love Kate because she is there throughout the whole book, from page one until the end some forty years later. Alternate chapters are told in her voice, so I guess I know her best – what is in her head and why she does what she does. Some of her husband Dan’s traits may be annoying or seem rather cold, but he is a practical person, an accountant, led by his head and his wallet rather than his heart. I certainly don’t dislike him for that.

What songs would be on Kate’s playlist, and why?

Kate has no interest in music. And, later, she has no time for it! I could try to think up songs that fit with her life, but they would be my choices, not hers.

When you begin a new novel, do you have a particular type of reader in mind?

Having written for the women’s magazine fiction pages for a very long time, I suppose I can only ever see my readers as female, interested in relationships, families and emotional stories, preferably with happy endings. That’s the type of story I enjoy reading so inevitably it’s what I end up writing too. But I do make sure I include a wide range of characters, from babies to the elderly (In my first novel, Lily Alone, one of my main characters, Agnes, was in her eighties), so I hope to appeal to readers of all ages. I have also written short stories in the past about a downs syndrome teenager and a blind baby, and in this book I introduce my first major novel character with a disability.

You’ve been a prolific writer over the past twenty years with short stories, articles and now novels. Do you ever get writer’s block?

I wouldn’t call it that. I gave up my day job four years ago and now that I work from home I do feel I can allow myself days off, even weeks off if I feel so inclined, but when a deadline looms I will just sit and get on with it. Planning goes on all the time, in my head, so when I get to the desk I hope to already know what to write and where the story is going. There is nothing worse than staring at a blank screen with no idea what to write, so I never do that. There is always admin, social media and promo to take care of in between creative bouts.

Which book has most influenced you in your life, and why?

Dictionaries! I have always loved them, and discovering new words, old words and unexpected meanings is always fascinating. As an avid ‘crossworder’, they have often saved the day when I have got stuck solving or compiling a clue. When it comes to novels, so many leave their mark – in terms of their use of language, emotional connection and just generally not wanting the story to end. I couldn’t name just one.

You introduced us to the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, the meetings of which we’ve greatly enjoyed. Tell our readers something about the organisation.

The SWWJ is a wonderful society, which I discovered about fifteen years ago and have belonged to ever since. It is the oldest society in the UK for professional writing women (and a few men these days too), and celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2019. I am now a Council member and a Fellow, and run both their social media platform and their writing competitions programme. With some prestigious and very  enjoyable social events, well-known past and current members and patrons (Joyce Grenfell, Shirley Williams, Victoria Wood, Jane Corry, Tim Rice, Floella Benjamin), a lovely quarterly magazine, and a press card for every full member, it is well worth joining – and if your level of published writing doesn’t quite qualify you for full membership, you can join as a ‘friend’. Take a look at the website for more info: http://www.swwj.co.uk

 It’s been lovely as always to have you on the blog, Viv. The very best of luck with Five Unforgivable Things.

 Thank you!

 

FIVE UNFORGIVABLE THINGS

Almost thirty years ago, Kate’s dream came true. After years of struggling, she was finally pregnant following pioneering IVF. But the dream came at a cost. Neither Kate nor her husband Dan could have known the price they would have to pay to fulfil their cherished wish of having their own family.

Now, years later, their daughter Natalie is getting married and is fulfilling her own dream of marrying her childhood sweetheart. Natalie knows she won’t be like most brides as she travels down the aisle in her wheelchair, but it’s the fact her father won’t be there to walk beside her that breaks her heart.

Her siblings, Ollie, Beth and Jenny, gather around Natalie, but it isn’t just their father who is missing from their lives… as the secrets that have fractured the family rise to the surface, can they learn to forgive each other before it’s too late?

Click here to buy from Amazon

 

ABOUT VIVIEN

Vivien Brown lives in west London with her husband and two cats. She worked for many years in banking and accountancy, and then, after the birth of twin daughters, made a career switch and started working with young children, originally as a childminder but later in libraries and children’s centres, promoting the joys of reading and sharing books through storytimes and book-based activities and training sessions. She has written many short stories for the women’s magazine market and a range of professional articles and book reviews for the nursery and childcare press, in addition to a ‘how to’ book based on her love of solving cryptic crosswords. Now a full time writer, working from home, Vivien is combining novel-writing and her continuing career in magazine short stories with her latest and most rewarding role as doting grandmother.

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Food, Glorious Food

Elaine and Francesca on researching food and how they use it in their writing.

Victorian China

Victorian China

Elaine: If we write short stories or novels, historical or modern, regardless of genre, we should always include food and of course plenty of cups of tea. When writing about a character eating, the author is giving the reader information about them. What food they eat could reveal their social standing in society. How they eat it could depict not only their social standing, but also when they last had a meal, and of course their manners. Food is often used in romantic and sex scenes; that was nicely depicted in the Disney film, Lady and The Tramp when they had a spaghetti dinner. What and how we eat has changed over the years and therefore, the meal could indicate the time the novel is set in.

I remember attending the opening of the first McDonalds in Britain, I believe it was 1972. The group I was with were totally shocked that we had to eat with our fingers and we decided there and then that it would never take off. Obviously, we couldn’t have been more wrong. This demonstrates the importance of making sure the food facts are correct because it is easy to get caught out.

Mrs Beaton's Cookery Book

Mrs Beaton’s Cookery Book

I am writing a first draft of a Victorian Saga and there is a lot of information about everything on the Internet; sometimes I wonder how authors managed twenty years ago. However, I purchased a Mrs Beaton’s Cookery Book, which is wonderful. It is more than a cook book. There are pages and pages of etiquette of that time, even what to do if the Queen pays you a visit.

@RobertsElaine11

Francesca: Looking through my fiction I find that food features large – quite apart from those endless cups of tea/coffee imbibed in the kitchen!

Competitions often have a food theme to comply with. I have a couple of stories in this category that have enjoyed comp success. Far From Home, set in 1915, features an Italian called Margherita who is in England without many of the ingredients normally available to her. She has to use lard instead of olive oil, for instance. Through research I also discovered that garlic wasn’t often grown and was viewed with suspicion! Food is the means by which she gets to know a handsome Canadian soldier.

A table of characters ready for a romance, a family bust up or a little mischief?

A dinner table full of characters: are they ready for romance, a family bust up or a little mischief?

Insatiable included the themes of gluttony, lust and greed (the general theme of the comp was the Seven Deadly Sins, so I thought I’d go for a few!) Cue lots of food metaphors in the lustful parts! More research, this time into 1950s food, was required, bearing in mind there was still some rationing in the early years.

But I don’t seem to need a set theme to employ food in my plots. Goat’s Head Soup is about Miranda who holds a dinner party for her husband’s condescending friends. They get their comeuppance when Miranda serves up something a little unconventional.

Then there is Thinking Outside the Cakebox (about a cupcake shop), Foolproof (where the pensioner next door saves her neighbour’s dinner party) and An Alternative Christmas  (where the local hippies save Christmas for their neighbours after a power cut because they have an Aga!).

The cafe above which I was born in the late '50s.

The cafe where I was born, in the late ’50s.

Two of the novels I’ve written are set in cafés. Not surprising since I was born in one. They are a great basis for all sorts of shenanigans. In one of these novels, and in a couple of my others, the main protagonists indulge in dinners a deux – not to be underestimated for their romantic potential.

Yes, food is certainly very handy when it comes to time and place setting, for the senses, for a family bust up, a romance or a little mischief. It’s something we can all relate to.

@FCapaldiBurgess

You can read Far From Home  in the anthology 7 Food Stories from Rome