Exclusive Extract from The Patchwork Girls by Elaine Everest

Today we are thrilled to be able to publish an exclusive extract from the first chapter of the brand new novel, The Patchwork Girls, by well-known saga writer and regular visitor to our blog, Elaine Everest

Chapter 1

‘I’m sorry, Mrs Wentworth, but you shouldn’t be here,’ the grey-haired porter said, reaching out gently to take the young woman’s arm. He could see she was in shock, her face pale and her body trembling.

Helen looked up at the damaged facade of the Victorian mansion block. The building where she’d started her married life with so many hopes and dreams had fared badly: several window panes were missing and the red brickwork was chipped on the first floor. ‘I need to collect a few things,’ she pleaded. ‘I promise to be careful . . .’

‘Okay, missus, but I’ll have to accompany you. I would never forgive myself if something ’appened to you after – well, after what went on here yesterday.’

Without a word Helen entered the building, heading towards the ornate iron lift residents used to travel to the upper floors.

‘Best we don’t use it,’ he said, steering her towards the wide staircase. ‘It’s not been checked out yet and gawd knows what damage has been done.’ He scowled. ‘I don’t know what the world’s come to.’ He fell into step beside her as they started to climb the winding black-and-white tiled staircase. Already some of the ornate windows had been boarded up, although chinks of light from the midday sun shone through the cracks, illuminating dust motes dancing around them.

‘Here we go,’ the porter said, pulling open a heavy oak door that led to the upper hallway and the entrance to her home, along with several others. ‘You’ll find a couple of coppers in there. I did tell them not to hang about, as that ceiling’s bound to come down before too long. Who’d have thought this could ’appen here in Cadogan Mansions?’ He shook his head. ‘I’ll come with you to make sure you stay safe. Do you really want to go in there after . . .’

Helen thanked him, but didn’t say any more. The porter and his wife liked nothing better than a juicy morsel of gossip to keep them going during their live-in job of caring for the old building. She usually did her best to slip quietly past if either of them was hovering in the entrance lobby. They could chat for England, and what had happened in her apartment would certainly keep them interested for many a day.

‘Oh, my goodness; I never thought there would be so much damage! A few broken windows and ruined furnishings, but this . . .’ She clasped a hand to her mouth to stifle a sob. The remains of damask curtains flapped in a light breeze coming through the gaps where once there’d been floor-to-ceiling windows. All around the drawing room were scattered pieces of wood and fabric that Helen could only just recognize as her furniture. The desk where John had worked was intact, although scratched by debris, while a large breakfront cabinet had lost its upper doors. Books were everywhere, pages fluttering in the cold air. ‘He didn’t stand a chance.’ Shrugging off the porter’s attempt to place an arm round her shoulders, Helen took a deep breath. ‘I just need to collect . . .’

The Patchwork Girls

A moving story set during WWII, about how the strong bonds of female friendship can carry you through the most difficult times.

1939. After the sudden and tragic loss of her husband, Helen returns to her mother’s house in Biggin Hill, Kent – the one place she vowed she’d never go back to.

Alone and not knowing where to turn, she joins the local women’s sewing circle to find some companionship and comfort, despite being hopeless with a needle and thread. These resourceful women can not only ‘make- do and mend’ clothes, quilts and woolly hats, but the fast-formed friendship with Lizzie and Effie mends something deeper in Helen too.

When the reason for Helen’s husband’s death comes to light, her world is turned upside down yet again. The investigating officer on the case, Richard, will leave no stone unturned – but it’s not long before his interest in Helen goes beyond the professional. As she pieces together old fabrics into a beautiful quilt, will Helen patch up the rifts in her own life?

The Patchwork Girls is out on 14th October and published by Pan Macmillan

About Elaine

Elaine Everest is the author of bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The
Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths and The Teashop Girls. She was born and
raised in North-West Kent, where many of her bestselling historical sagas are set.
She grew up listening to tales of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which
has inspired her own stories.

Elaine has been a freelance writer for 25 years and has written over 100 short
stories and serials for the women’s magazine market. She is also the author of a
number of popular non-fiction books for dog owners.

When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She now lives in Swanley with her husband, Michael and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry.

You can find out more about Elaine on:

Twitter        

Facebook      

Website       

Instagram     

Follow the tour…

Welcoming Elaine Everest with A Mother Forever

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.

Elaine xx

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.

About Elaine

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.

You can find out more about Elaine on:

Twitter        

Facebook      

Website       

Instagram     

Woolworths Lives On: Interview with Author Elaine Everest

Today we welcome back author and former Write Minds contributor, Elaine Everest, whose novel The Woolworths Girls, was published on 5th May

Elaine image blue topThank you for inviting me to your blog!

It’s lovely to have you back! Your novel is set in Erith, which you obviously know well as you grew up there. How did you find out what it looked like during the war years? Had the shops and street plan changed much?

My memories of the Erith from my childhood in the late fifties and sixties are very similar to the Erith of 1938 when The Woolworths Girls starts. Some buildings had been demolished but it was in 1966 that the local council started to knock down all the lovely old buildings in Pier Road and the High Street that formed the major shopping area of the town. Beautiful Victorian town houses that lined the railway line also disappeared as did a church and smaller homes. The street where I lived when first married is one of the only remaining complete streets from ‘the old days’ and is where Sarah and her Nan, Ruby, live.

It amused me at the time to see a sign declaring that the company ‘Sid Bishop’ was demolishing the church although much later we were sad to see the old town vanish and be replaced by a horrid concrete jungle. This has now been replaced and looks no different to shopping malls throughout the country.

We can tell you did a lot of other research for your novel. Were you in danger of getting caught up in it? Do you have any advice for others needing to do research?

I’m always in danger of getting caught up in what to me is local history. But, I went in with a list and tried to find only information that I needed for my story. If I can advise other writers I would stick to your research list. Then I started to browse local news reports and found stories that I knew my girls would have become involved in…
I was also fortunate to make contact with the curator of the Woolworths museum, Mr Paul Seaton, who delved into his archives and found some interesting information about the Erith branch of Woolies that again my girls could be part of. I loved the story of the branch taking part in the local cottage hospital fete and one of my girls was the carnival queen while another moaned about playing a part in the proceedings. I’ll leave you to guess who!

Some of your secondary characters clearly have their own stories to tell. Are there books in the pipeline for any of them?

I loved inventing my secondary characters as much as my main characters. In some ways they are able to be a little more naughty than the main cast. Ruby, Sarah’s nan, along with her friend, Vera from up the road, appear in a short story in the My Weekly magazine. This should be published in the next few weeks. It was fun to write about their antics early in 1938 before Sarah moved to Erith and The Woolworths Girls began. Freda pops up in my next novel, The Butlins Girls (Pan Macmillan ,2017) and she does mention her friends Sarah and Maisie. As this novel is set in 1946 we get to hear more about my girls from Woolies.

I would love to write another novel about Sarah, Maisie and Freda and how they lived through the rest of the war years. I’m sure I could get them into all kinds of trouble and add some romance at the same time.

Which of the characters in The Woolworths Girls was your favourite, and why?

I’ve been asked this question before and each time I’ve chosen a different character. The problem is I like so many of them. This time I will say Betty Billington who was the staff manager who hired Sarah and her chums. As the war progressed she takes over as temporary manager and her life becomes entwined with Sarah’s – in fact Betty is another Woolworths girl. Being older her life suffered during the Great War and I would really like to go back and investigate her life more. Hmm I seem to be thinking of even more books to write!

Were any of the characters based on real people?

Not really but… I have a cousin who confessed to me that he had always wanted to play a baddie. This surprised me as he is such an upright citizen. So, I gave him a small part in the story and changed his name slightly. I wonder he will recognize himself?

Also, Charlie, who was Betty’s lost love is based on my great uncle Charles who died at Ypres on 17th August 1917. Although he came from a large family and died at the age of 32 he had no children or spouse. In mentioning him in The Woolworths Girls I feel I’ve kept his memory alive.

Have you always wanted to write sagas?

Part of me always wanted to be a saga writer as I really like the genre. However, like many writers I have a few novels tucked away that will probably never see the light of day. Mine are a romcom that did place me as a finalist in The Harry Bowling prize and also crime novels set in my favourite dog showing world. However, sagas won and I’m more than delighted to be able to write them.

We know a lot of hard work goes into writing a novel. How do you organise yourself to achieve it?

Plan, Plan, Plan! I like to have timelines in place. For The Woolworths Girls this was not only my fictional timeline but also local history and world events. I also had a timeline of Woolworths events and how they progressed through the world while it was at war. During my research I got to know my main characters and fleshed them out. Story outline was turned into a basic chapter breakdown – then I started to write.

Thank you, Elaine. We’ve both read The Woolworths Girls and thoroughly enjoyed it. The very best of luck with it.

Woolies GirlsIt’s 1938 and as the threat of war hangs over the country, Sarah Caselton is preparing for her new job at Woolworths. Before long, she forms a tight bond with two of her colleagues: the glamorous Maisie and shy Freda. The trio couldn’t be more different, but they immediately form a close-knit friendship, sharing their hopes and dreams for the future.

Sarah soon falls into the rhythm of her new position, enjoying the social events hosted by Woolies and her blossoming romance with young assistant manager, Alan. But with the threat of war clouding the horizon, the young men and women of Woolworths realize that there are bigger battles ahead. It’s a dangerous time for the nation, and an even more perilous time to fall in love…

Elaine’s book, published by Pan Macmillan, is available on Amazon

About Elaine

Elaine Everest was born and brought up in North West Kent, where The Woolworths Girls is set, and was once a Woolworths girl herself.

Elaine has written widely for women’s magazines, with both short stories and features. When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford, Kent, and the blog for the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent.

 Links:

Pan Macmillan page

Facebook Author page

 Twitter: @ElaineEverest