Today we welcome back saga author Elaine Everest, whose novel Wedding Bells for Woolworths, was published on 30th April.
Hello Elaine, and welcome back to the blog.
Thank you both so much for inviting me back. I see you have decorated since I was last here!
Yes, we’ve changed the furniture around a bit!
You’ve built up an impressive cast of characters over the course of the Woolworths series. How do you keep track of them all, their stories and their characteristics?
I would like to say that I keep it all in my head, but sadly as I can hardly remember one day from the other right now let alone what I had for lunch yesterday, I will have to confess to keeping records. I have notebooks for each of my books with several pages for each character. These notebooks are usually given to me as gifts and stand out on my desk – there’s no chance of mistaking them for the ones I scribble in and in which I write my shopping lists. When starting a new book (or series) I will simply head the page with the person’s name. Then, as I decide on characteristic and traits, I will add to the pages. I will also cross-reference. Even then it is possible to forget something, so my best reference books are my own novels when checking up on a character.
As for their individual stories I will read back through my timelines of previous books then update the pages in my notebook with current ages etc – and create a new timeline for the current WIP
Freda hadn’t long had her stint in The Butlins Girls. Was it hard fitting her story between the Woolworths books?
It was interesting as The Butlins Girls was written straight after The Woolworths Girls at a time when there wasn’t to be anymore Woolies books. With books taking over a year to be published I was writing a teashop book when The Woolworths Girls was published. A call from my then editor informing me that the book was a bestseller and so write another one really did throw me as I’d taken Freda forward to 1946 and stuck her in the Butlins story. Not only that but she’d mentioned colleagues, babies and her boss. I had to be careful to check the timelines for these characters so as not to make a mistake. Gradually as more Woolworths books were written I was aware we were approaching 1946 so had to keep Freda footloose and fancy free…
For a while we thought A Gift from Woolworths, which finished Christmas 1945 would be the end of the series, but I was wrong. A request for another had me thinking I needed to skip 1946 and carry Freda into 1947 and onwards. It was a joy to give her a major part in Wedding Bells for Woolworths although she has a bumpy journey. I never seem to make things easy for myself!
The name Lemuel, belonging to your Trinidadian character, is an unusual one. How do you select the names of your characters?
I love that name!
I came across it while working on my family tree. The Lemuel in my family was a chimney sweep and my great, great, uncle. I use many names from my Family tree – for my characters –the Caseltons, Nevilles, Whiffens and Missons are all ancestors and from the area where my books are set. Lemuel can be found in Gulliver’s Travels and also the bible (Proverbs). My grandfather and great grandfather were both named Job. When this beautiful man from Trinidad walked into Alan Gilbert’s workshop, I knew I’d met Lemuel.
Dipping into my tree again I’ve come across Esther Hester and Johannah Fitzgerald who are waiting in the wings for a part, while I’ve just used a Tomkins in my last completed MS along with my paternal nan’s name, Cissie. In fact, a little of my nan’s life started the idea for the book.
I know we asked you this question way back when the first Woolworths Girls book was released in 2016, but a lot of characters have come and gone since then. So, who is now your favourite character in the series?
I would have to say Ruby Caselton nee Tomkins, who later became Ruby Jackson. She is the matriarch of the family and loved by all. I have just handed in a book about Ruby going right back to 1905 when she moved to Erith with her son, George and first husband, Eddie. It was wonderful to write Ruby’s story and see how she turned into the person we know so well in the Woolworths books. With the editing process going on at the moment I feel very close to her.
Tell us something about the Medway Maid and the Kentish Queen. A trip down the Thames to Margate sounds wonderful. Have you ever taken this trip?
I did take a trip on a Thames paddle boat as a child. In fact, my parents lost me! Their version of the story was that I ran off but I’m not so sure! The trip was from the pier at Erith down to Southend. My Dad and Grandad worked at Erith Oil and Cake Mills, a major company in Erith with a very good social club. I remember many events and also the dances and the live bands. We’d just docked at Southend and like any young child I ran and ran and ran – they stopped and screamed and screamed and screamed…
The first time I featured a paddle steamer was in Gracie’s War when Gracie Sayers (another family surname – although Gracie was my dog’s name) worked with her dad on his paddle steamer during WW2. The name Kentish Queen came from the PS Medway Queen which was one of the ‘Little Ships’ used during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. I’d followed the campaign to have the steam driven paddle boat restored, so when I needed a name for the Sayers’ boat, I wanted it to be similar. Throughout my Woolworths books I bring in The Kentish Queen and many a trip has been taken on her. In Wedding Bells for Woolworths I didn’t want to use The Kentish Queen – I won’t say why here – so along came The Medway Maid keeping the local theme alive.
So, is this it for the Woolworth’s Girls?
I don’t think so. Woolworths didn’t close until 2008 so there are plenty of adventures for the girls. It is down to my publisher to decide, but I’m sure we will meet the girls again before too long.
What can your readers look forward to next?
We visit the Kent coast for Christmas with the Teashop Girls in September (hardback) and October for the big launch of paperback, eBook and Audio. The book is already listed on Amazon for pre orders.
Thank you for dropping by to talk to us, Elaine, and the very best of luck with Wedding Bells for Woolworths
Thank you for inviting me.
WEDDING BELLS FOR WOOLWORTHS
Wedding Bells for Woolworth is the latest feel-good novel in former Woolies girl Elaine Everest’s bestselling Woolworths Girls series. It sees the return of her well-loved characters in another heartfelt and gripping story.
July 1947. Britain is still gripped by rationing, even as the excitement of Princess Elizabeth’s engagement sweeps the nation…
In the Woolworths’ canteen, Freda is still dreaming of meeting her own Prince Charming. So far she’s been unlucky in love. When she has an accident on her motorbike, knocking a cyclist off his bicycle, it seems bad luck is still following her around. Anthony is not only a fellow Woolworths employee but was an Olympic hopeful. Will his injured leg heal in time for him to compete? Can he ever forgive Freda?
Sarah’s idyllic family life is under threat with worries about her husband, Alan. Does he still love her?The friends must rally round to face some of the toughest challenges of their lives together. And although they experience loss, hardship and shocks along the way, love is on the horizon for the Woolworths girls.
Available on Amazon
ABOUT ELAINE EVEREST
Elaine Everest is from North West Kent and she grew up listening to stories of the war years in her home town of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, and author of nonfiction books for dog owners, Elaine has written over sixty short stories for the women’s magazine market. When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She lives with her husband, Michael and sheepdog Henry. You can find out more about Elaine on:
Read more about Elaine and Wedding Bells for Woolworths by catching up with her tour: