It’s the first anniversary of the publication of War in the Valleys, and Francesca explains how you can win a signed copy of it, along with Heartbreak in the Valleys.
I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since the publication of War in the Valleys, the second instalment of the Wartime in the Valleys saga series, set in Wales in the First World War.
To celebrate, I’m holding a competition to win signed copies of this novel, along with the first in the series, Heartbreak in the Valleys. Although all stand-alones as well as a series, this is a good opportunity to catch up with the stories before the third book, Hope in the Valleys, is released in January.
All you have to do is click on my Facebook author page and either like or follow it, then answer a simple question in the post pinned at the top of the page.
Elaine Everest has popped in today to tell us all about her latest saga, A Mother Forever, featuring Ruby Castelton from the Woolworths series
Welcome, Elaine! It’s great to have you visit us once again.
Thank you both so much for inviting me to your blog today.
First of all, can you give us an insight into your main character?
The main character in A Mother Forever is Ruby Castelton. We join her as she is moving into her new home in Alexandra Road, Erith and hoping for a better future for her husband, Eddie and young son, George after living in rooms in an unpleasant area of London. Her mother, Milly is joining them which causes problems – her husband is not enamoured of his mother-in-law.
Collapsing in the street and taken in by neighbour, Stella Green, events unfold that are to shape Ruby’s future.
What inspired you to write A Mother Forever?
For a long time, readers have asked about Ruby Castelton as they’ve only known her since 1938. Gradually the idea came to me of events and family situations that would have made Ruby the strong woman we knew when she was in her later years. Ruby was born and lived through interesting times and it was my job to show this in my story.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Whether I write novels or short stories I know that a character’s name is extremely important. The Christian name must be ‘of the time’ and not stand out as too modern for a historical novel. Of course, there are always evergreen names that seem to stand the test of time. I once had a student who only ever used the name Sarah for her main character. Fortunately for her it was a name that stood the test of time, but would that name suit every character. A name is like a favourite pair of shoes in that it has to feel right and be comfortable for the reader.
Surnames and a few first names I like to take from my own family history. Tomkins, Sayers, Caselton, and many more are also local to the area where my stories are set. I will add that when I visit my online family history charts I can see stories and adventures in so many names, that three hours later I’m no further forwards in my writing.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
For me research is an ongoing project. When I start to think about the plot of a book I will start my research. When this is for a future book I can enjoy reading books, watch documentaries and attend talks (oh, how I long to return to attending talks) and digging into history. This can mean I have a pile of books taken from my vast stock of non-fiction book, or indeed I may be browsing second-hand shops and online sites for new gems I can delve into in the name of research. A recent delivery containing books about the way people die, bastards in history, and crimes set in Kent had my husband asking what I was up to!
I do like a fancy box, so have a stock of them, which I label for a certain project and stash away cuttings, notes and books – that’s when I’m being tidy. I usually have three book ideas on the go at any one time so there are boxes and piles of books everywhere.
What does success look like to you?
To be honest the word ‘success’ embarrasses me. It is so big headed to believe one is successful, but isn’t that what writers strive to be, and why our agent, publisher, and publicist aim for as they build our brand?
For me success means people recognise my books and want to read more. These readers are supportive of what I write and appear at my talks and frequent my Facebook author page while signing up for my newsletters via my website.
What new writers need to understand is that a successful writer also earns above the average income for our profession – and that can be hard!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Now where did I put that list…?
There is the usual advice to keep reading and write new words every day. I would add to that to not be afraid to read your own genre and if you don’t enjoy doing just that ask yourself why you are writing it?
It is never too early to start studying publishers and agents and keeping a list for when you are ready to submit.
Keep attending talks, workshops classes as we never stop learning.
Most importantly be prepared for rejection as it’s is a rite of passage and don’t ever believe that everything you write is going to be published. All the best authors have books languishing on hard drives that should never see the light of day.
Thank you so much Elaine & Francesca for inviting me today.
Thank you for that, Elaine, and the very best of luck with A Mother Forever.
A MOTHER FOREVER
1905: Ruby Caselton may only be twenty-five years old but she already has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Heavily pregnant with her second child, penniless and exhausted, she is moving her family into a new home. The Caseltons left their last place when they couldn’t pay the rent, but Ruby’s husband Eddie has promised this will be a fresh start for them all. And Ruby desperately hopes that this time he will keep his word.
With five-year-old George at her feet and her mother having a cross word for everyone and everything, life is never dull at number thirteen Alexandra Road. It doesn’t take long before Eddie loses another job and once again hits the bottle. It’s up to Ruby to hold them all together, through thick and thin. She remembers the kind, caring man Eddie once was and just can’t give up on him entirely. What she doesn’t know is that Eddie has a secret, one so dark that he can’t bear to tell even Ruby . . .
Through Ruby’s grit and determination, she keeps food on the table and finds herself a community of neighbours on Alexandra Road. Stella, the matriarch from across the way, soon becomes a friend and confidante. She even dreams that Ruby will ditch the useless Eddie and take up with her eldest son, Frank. But when war breaks out in 1914, the heartbreaks and losses that follow will fracture their community, driving both Stella and Ruby to breaking point. Will their men ever return to them?
A Mother Forever is the moving story of one woman’s journey through the worst trials of her life – poverty, grief, betrayal – but through it all is the love and comfort she finds in family: the family we’re connected to through blood, but also the family we make for ourselves with neighbours and friends.
Paperbacks are available now from all supermarkets and booksellers and all good online sellers.
Elaine hails from North West Kent and grew up listening to stories of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, author of non-fiction books for dog owners, and qualified creative writing tutor. Elaine has written well over one hundred short stories and serials for the women’s magazine market. When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent.
Elaine is currently published by Pan Macmillan for her Sunday Times Bestselling historical sagas including the Woolworths Girls series and The Teashop Girls series. She is represented by Caroline Sheldon at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and lives with her husband, Michael and Polish Lowland Sheepdog Henry.
Today we say hello once again to Elaine Everest, talking about the latest Teashop Girls book, World War 2 and her characters
Hello Elaine, and welcome back to the blog with your second ‘Teashop’ novel.
Thank you for hosting me on your blog and being part of the blog tour for Christmas with the Teashop Girls.
You often mention the lovely Forties’ clothes that your characters are wearing. Do you like Forties’ fashion, and where does your research for it come from?
I do like fashions from the forties as despite rationing women always dressed smartly and made the most of what they had. I enjoy reading about women’s clothing from that time and have quite a collection of books, magazines and newspaper cuttings that I refer to – everything from couture designs down to home dressmaking and make do and mend. I even refer to my collection of Woolworths staff magazines. The New Bond is an invaluable source for fashion ideas. I spend far too long reading these publications.
There are a lot of details about Ben’s mill business in the East End, along with the docks. It’s almost like you’ve walked around it yourself. Where did the details come from? Were there photographs of the area to study?
Being born and brought up close to the Thames in Erith I grew up watching life on the river and knowing people who worked in the docks. Dockland wasn’t just in London. When I decided that Ben’s family business required the shipping of grain from Canada, I started to research how the docks worked during the war. I was able to watch Pathe News as well as look at images of that time. I was also fortunate that some of my relatives lived close to Tower Bridge which meant that at time we’d go along the Thames and see the old warehouse that still remained after the devastation of the Blitz. Even in the sixties there was still much to see before the buildings started to be turned into expensive apartments. News reports told of ships containing grain being sunk during the relentless bombing on the first day of the Blitz. I used much of this in my story.
The air raids come thick and fast in the book, set in 1940 as it is. Was it really as bad as that? 1940 was the year the air raids started in earnest after the ‘phoney war’. I pride myself in never inventing an air raid that didn’t exist. My plots have to fit around what happened during the war, and at times I wish there had been something happening in the area where the book is set. For the people of Ramsgate, it was truly horrendous, but thankfully they had the famous Ramsgate tunnels in which to take shelter. It is said that no resident of the town was more than ten minutes from a tunnel entrance. It was the foresight of own mayor, Alderman A. B. C. Kempe, with the backing of the borough council that permission was granted and work on the tunnels began in March 1939 saving thousands of lives.
Anya is an interesting character, fleeing from Poland as she did. Where did you get the idea for her, and her husband Henio?
When Anya popped into my mind it was a gift. She appears in the opening of The Teashop Girls when Flora comes to her rescue with young boys stoning her for being a German. I wanted to show how people in WW2 reacted to anyone with a foreign accent and assume they are the enemy. The invasion of Poland started our involvement in WW2 and for me the Polish have a special place in my heart. Our current resident freeloader, Henry, is a Polish Lowland Sheepdog and through exhibiting him and belonging to breed clubs I got to know some lovely Polish people both online and in person and wanted to depict them in my stories. As for Anya’s husband, Henio – his name is Polish for Henry, so yet again I manged to feed one of my dog’s names into a book.
Some pretty nasty characters pop up in the book (we won’t give away who!). Do you prefer to write about the nice guys or the bad guys?
I love a nasty character! At times it can be quite therapeutic to write a nasty character and see how the main characters react to the person. I do like my Nippies as they are plucky women and tend to fight back when the baddies appear.
Who’s your favourite character in the book?
I do like Mildred as she is a character that calls a spade a spade, come to that so does Anya! In Christmas with the Teashop Girls I have developed Lady Diana’s story and had such fun with her I had to be careful she didn’t take over the book.
We’ve had two outings with the Teashop Girls now. Can we look forward to any more?
I hope we can return to Thanet one day to continue with stories about the Nippies. I would like to tell more of Anya’s story and follow the residents of Ramsgate through the remainder of WW2. In fact, I’ve just purchased a Polish cookery book, and that alone has given me ideas …
What can your readers look forward to next?
Both my books for 2021 are now filed with my publisher. I’m excited to be able to tell Ruby (from the Woolworths Girls series) story of her younger days in A Mother Forever which is on sale in January, for the hardback version, and March for paperback/audio/digital etc. The story starts in 1905 when Ruby moved into her new home in Alexandra Road with such hopes for the future. I hope readers enjoy finding out about Ruby’s early life. Pre order details here
Thank you very much for popping in, Elaine, and the best of luck with Christmas with the Teashop Girls.
Christmas with the Teashop Girls
It’s late 1940 and the war feels closer to home than ever for Rose Neville and her staff at the Lyon’s Teashop in Margate. The worry of rationing hangs overhead as the Nippies do their best to provide a happy smile and a hot cup of tea for their customers. When a bombing raid targets the Kent coastline, Lyon’s is badly hit, throwing the future of the cafe into jeopardy.
The light in Rose’s life is her dashing fiancé Captain Ben Hargreaves and she’s busy planning their Christmas Eve wedding. But she must also plan to take two new stepdaughters into her life and get on the right side of her wealthy mother-in-law, Lady Diana. Is Rose ready to become a mother?
When Rose’s half-sister Eileen makes contact, it seems that Rose’s dreams of having a sibling are coming true at long last. But her friends begin to suspect that she’s hiding something… As the wedding draws near, the bombings intensify, putting everything and everyone Rose loves in danger. Only one thing is for sure: it will be a Christmas she never forgets . . .
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 Twitter @ElaineEverest or Facebook /elaine.everest
Read more about Elaine and Christmas with the Teashop Girls by catching up with her tour:
Francesca shares the dates for the upcoming blog tour for Heartbreak in the Valleys
Only one more sleep and it’ll be publication day for my debut saga, Heartbreak in the Valleys. Despite all the short stories and the three pocket novels I’ve had published, this marks a new chapter in my writing life.
The blog will be a mixture of interviews and reviews. Do pop in if you have time and say hello.
In the meantime, Heartbreak is available for downloads by reviewers and bloggers on: