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…

Time for Tea with Elaine Everest and the Teashop Girls

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 . . .

 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 Twitter @ElaineEverest or Facebook /elaine.everest

Read more about Elaine and Christmas with the Teashop Girls by catching up with her tour:

Welcoming Guest Author Judith Barrow

We welcome Judith Barrow today, talking about her research and settings

Hello Judith, and welcome to the blog. First of all, could we ask what kind of research you do?

Writing historical family sagas necessitates a lot of research. It’s what I enjoy. It’s fun discovering the fashions of an era, the hairstyles and cosmetics. The toys, the games that occupied the children tell a lot about the times. Mostly I research late nineteenth and early twentieth century when children had less time to play; childhood often ended before the age of twelve, with chores and work to bring in money for the family. I researched the kind of employment given to them, unbelievable in this days and age. And it has made me see how far society has changed when it comes to the houses built: from terraces to high-rise flats to housing estates. And how there are differences in the furniture, the ways people cooked, the food, the way clothes were washed. How life was lived.

The Haworth Trilogy

But of course, there is also the background to those lives, the environments: the state of the towns, the countryside, the country I’m researching. And that’s when politics play a huge part in the lives of the characters that have formed in my mind. Because I mostly write about early twentieth century, I’ve explored the time of two major world wars, of smaller but no less dangerous conflicts between maybe two or three countries, of internal strife in Britain, in Ireland. And, trying to understand the effects on populations, on ordinary people, I read as many memoirs I can find and, so often, when I read about life in the past, I realise that little has changed in the human psyche. Emotions don’t change; we react to situations, to others’ actions, in much the same way now as they did in the past, depending on our own personalities. On our own memories.

Often these memoirs are the hardest to read. It’s difficult not to feel, to empathise with the emotions of the women who fought and suffered for the right to vote, the soldiers in the trenches and battlefields, the women left behind to worry, to fill in the gaps in the workplace and to run a home, with the despair of unemployment and despair. But then there are also the success stories, of overcoming all the odds, of adventures, of peace and fulfilment to lift the spirits.

Tell us about your settings and why you chose them?

My books are mostly set between a fictional Yorkshire town and a fictional place in Wales because I feel the closest affinity to both areas. I grew up in a village on the edge of the Pennines and have lived in West Wales for the past forty years.

For me, the settings are a character in themselves.

Glen Mill

The setting which was the inspiration for my earlier work, the Haworth trilogy, was Glen Mill, one of the first POW camp to be opened in Britain. It was a disused cotton mill, built in 1903, that 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 railway, a road and two mill reservoirs.

The earliest occupants were German merchant seamen caught in Allied ports at the outbreak of war. 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 and ill-disciplined. 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 who ruled the inner workings of the camp and the camp commanders had to deal with them.

Prequel to the Howarth series

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, to imagine that something good could have come out of their situation.

Which is why I introduced Mary Haworth, the protagonist of the trilogy. All POW camps had to house a hospital to care for the prisoners. Mary is a civilian nurse. I was originally informed that only Alexandra nurses could work in the hospitals but, through research, I discovered that there was one civilian nurse, so I decided there could be another: Mary. Haworth.

Thank you for dropping by, Judith, and the best of luck with all your books

Judith’s latest book is The Memory

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

Buying links etc:

Amazon.co.uk  

Amazon.com 

Honno  

Goodreads 

BookBub  

NetGalley 

About Judith Barrow

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, England. for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place. I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads was published in  2017. The Memory was published in March 2020. My next book, The Heart Stone is due to be published in February 2021.  I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I work as an interviewer of authors for an online TV company; Showboat tv. I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run private workshops on all genres.

Social Media Links:

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Don’t We All Love A Wedding?

Francesca and Elaine are chatting to the lovely Jean Fullerton about her new novel A Ration Book Wedding.

Hello Jean, thank you for joining us today. Can you give us an insight into your main character?

My main character at the moment is Cathy Brogan who is the middle sister of the three Brogan girls. Like the rest of her family she lives in Wapping East London, a few streets back from the London Docks. Like a great many in the area they are a second-generation Irish family. We first met her in A Ration Book Dream, which started the morning of her wedding on Saturday 2nd  September the day before Great Britain declared war on German. She married Stanley Wheeler. He had his own van and worked at Spitalfields fruit market as a delivery driver. He also rented a more spacious semi-detached house with a garden, a step up from her parent’s three-up three-down tenement house with just a backyard.

When war started her father, Jeremiah, was the local rag and bone man but because the price of scrap metal  was being strictly controlled by the Government, he has now built a successful delivery and removal business. Her mother, Ida, who used to scrub other people’s floors, now looks after the office side of the business. Unperturbed by the turmoil of war, Cathy’s feisty gran Queenie Brogan, tealeaf reader and one-time bookies runner, keeps a close and affectionate eye on the family.

However, since then life hasn’t been easy for Cathy as her husband has turned out to be a brute with dangerous friends.  Mercifully, now he, like most men of fighting age, is in the army, leaving Cathy at the mercy of his equally vicious mother. She is now reconciled to her sister Mattie after a rift caused by her husband Stanley’s actions. She’s also seen her two sisters, Mattie and Jo, marry the love of their lives, but for Cathy after three years of marriage, love and happiness are just a crushed dream.

Her only joy is her two-and-half-year-old son Peter. That is until a chance meeting with Sergeant Archie McIntosh, a member of East London’s Bomb disposal team, while the bells are ringing after the victory at El Alemain, is set to change all that.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I am all my heroines and fall in love with all of my heroes.

If you could tell your younger self anything what would it be?

To start writing sooner. I only began writing twenty years ago and I really wish I’d started a decade earlier.

Where do your ideas come from?

That’s an easy one to answer. I have absolutely no idea. I write to contract so I can’t just write the first thing that pops into my head so I start by thinking of a period or scenario that might suit the story then mull it over both consciously and subconsciously for about a week, making notes and sketching out possible scenes, after which I put a very loose plan together. I then start and as I get further into my characters and story the initial ideas just seem to build and develop.

What does success look like to you?

Although the money’s nice, success for me is having a reader contact me and tell me how much they enjoy my books. That is how I measure my success.

A Ration Book Wedding.

In the darkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.

It’s February 1942, and as the Americans finally join Britain and her allies, twenty-three-year-old Francesca Fabrino is doing her bit for the war effort in a factory in East London. But her thoughts are constantly occupied by recently married Charlie Brogan, who is fighting in North Africa with the Eighth Army.

When Francesca starts a new job for the BBC Overseas department, she meets handsome Count Leo D’Angelo and begins to put her hopeless love for Charlie aside. But then Charlie returns from the front, his marriage in ruins and his heart burning for Francesca at last. Could she, a good Catholic girl, countenance an affair with the man she has always longed for? Or should she choose Leo and a different, less dangerous path?

Amazon:  A Ration Book Wedding

Bio

Jean Fullerton is the author of twelve novels all set in East London where she was born. She worked as a district nurse in East London for over twenty-five years and is now a full-time author.

She is a qualified District and Queen’s nurse who has spent most of her working life in the East End of London, first as a Sister in charge of a team, and then as a District Nurse tutor.

She has won multiple awards and all her books are set in her native East London. Her latest book, A RATION BOOK WEDDING, is the fourth in her East London WW2 Ration Book series featuring sisters Mattie, Jo and Cathy Brogan and their family.

Website

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Thank you for talking to us today and we look forward to catching up again in the near future.

Guest Elaine Everest talks about Wartime at Woolworths

Today we welcome Elaine Everest back to tell us about the next episode in her saga series about the Woolworth’s girls

Hello Elaine, it’s lovely to have you back on the blog once more.

Hi, Elaine and Francesca, thank you for your kind invitation.

We know you lived in Erith and this shows in your precise descriptions of characters’ trips around the area. Are there many differences between when you lived there and during World War 2? 

Sadly, Erith bears no resemblance to the Erith in my novels. In 1966 ‘the powers that be’ decided to flatten the town and build a concrete jungle. The beautiful Victorian shops and building were gradually flattened and in their place were square ugly boxes. Erith lost its soul in the sixties. The concrete jungle has since been replaced with another monstrosity. I visited recently and could have cried to see what had become of a once beautiful town.

The Woolworths store was still functioning, being part of the last block of buildings to go, when it was hit by tragedy when a fire swept through the building. The store’s cat died in the fire. Rumour has it that skulduggery was afoot, as many didn’t want the store to leave the town… It was later rebuilt as a concrete box and the building remains to this day but is now a carpet shop.

Maisie’s talent as a dressmaker has been highlighted in all the novels. Have you ever had any interest in sewing?

Like most women of my age we were taught to sew in school. My mum also had an interest in dressmaking and I grew up wearing homemade outfits. I made my bridesmaids dresses and continued sewing when married making cotton summer skirts that my stepmother sold at work. I moved on to making and selling soft toys and rag dolls for a few years. My last sewing venture was supplying made to measure raincoats and boots for show dogs, which was very successful, featuring on TV and in magazines. I finally gave that up when I became too busy with my writing and arthritis in my fingers stopped me doing as much as I’d have liked.

There’s a lot of historical detail about the war on a day-to-day basis. Where has your information come from?

I grew up hearing about the war and, living in the town, I had learnt how it fared during WW2. I lived in Alexandra Road, where Ruby lived, for twenty years and knew the people and the way they lived intimately. Like many saga authors I read books, watch films and use as many research facilities as possible. Woolworths has a very good online museum and the London Borough of Bexley’s archives are second to none.

The different characters in the Woolworth’s novels have so many exciting stories going on at the same time. How do you keep track of them all?

I wonder the same at times! Like all good authors I plan my books and know what will happen to my characters. I do like my three Woolworths Girls Sarah, Maisie and Freda to each have a story in the book but of course their boss, Betty along with nan, Ruby and a few other people shout out to me to be included. It’s a matter of blending their stories around the war, local events and also Woolworths – and not forgetting one of them along the way.

Who’s your favourite character in the Woolworth’s books?

My goodness it changes all the time. I always enjoy writing the scenes between Ruby and her nosy neighbour, Vera. They have a love hate relationship although Vera seems unaware of the fact. I’ve known several people like Vera and she is probably one of the few characters based on someone who once walked this earth. I’ll say no more! Then of course Ruby has her own romance with Bob so I do like letting them have some fun. Over all I confess to liking Betty Billington and so her part has grown from book to book. After all, if it weren’t for Betty hiring the three girls there wouldn’t be a story to tell.

When you get some time off writing your own books, what do you enjoy reading? 

I enjoy a well-written saga but can also have my nose in a psychological thriller by C L Taylor, one of the Women’s Murder Club novels by James Patterson or perhaps an old-fashioned crime novel – I’m re-reading all the Dick Francis books at the moment. I’m also a big fan of Milly Johnson and Carole Matthews so you could catch me with their latest romcoms. If the book blurb calls out to me I’ll read almost anything.

Is there anywhere you’ll be appearing/talking while promoting Wartime at Woolworths where your fans can go and see you?

I’m still firming up talk invitations but can announce that I’ll be at:

Sidcup Library: Saturday 12th May 2.30 pm

Erith Library:  Monday 14th May at 2.30 pm

Crayford Library: Tuesday 15th May at 2.30 pm
*Tickets for the above three events are free and available here on Eventbrite.

Hempstead Library: Tuesday 29th May at 3.30 pm

Eltham Library: Tuesday 5th June at 7 pm

The War and Peace Revival Show, Paddock Wood, Kent Saturday 28th July where I’ll be signing books in the author tent and being interviewed during the day.

I’m also book signing and holding a launch event on 31st May at the Waterstones store in Bromley at 7pm.

Thank you for taking some time out from what we know is a very busy period for you. The very best of luck with the book.

Thank you for such interesting questions xx

 

About Wartime at Woolworths: 

The Woolworths girls have come a long way together . . .

Fun loving Maisie is devoted to her young family and her work at Woolworths. But her happy life with her RAF officer husband and their baby daughter leads her to think of the family she left behind . . . With the war now into its fourth year, what will she find when she sets about searching for them?

Sarah and her husband, Alan, are blissfully happy and long for a sibling for their daughter. But dark days lay ahead for this close family. Freda heads home to Birmingham, to go in search of her family, back to the life she fled – far from the safety of Woolworths and her new friends.

With families’ separated by war, will the Woolworths girls be able to pull together?

Wartime at Woolworths is the fourth moving instalment in the much-loved Woolworths series by bestselling author Elaine Everest.

PRAISE FOR ELAINE EVEREST

‘A warm, tender tale of friendship and love’  Milly Johnson

‘Heartwarming . . . a must-read’  Woman’s Own

 

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls & Christmas 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 as well as Slimming World where she can often be found sitting in the naughty corner.

Links:

Amazon Author Page

Author Facebook page

Twitter

Author Blog

 

Remember, Remember: A Novel Approach to War

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, Elaine and Francesca reflect on the wars and on their own World War One novels.

2014-08-24-12-42-45

Elaine: Remembrance Day and all that it stands for is important to me. I was brought up in the armed forces and the 11th November was sacrosanct in my home. I have made sure that my children have grown up knowing it is important to remember that men and women made the ultimate sacrifice so they can have the freedom of life and speech. I am not interested in the politics of it all; for me the poppy is a symbol of peace, courage and loss, amongst other things.

A newspaper headline the day WW1 started for Great Britain

A newspaper headline the day WW1 started for Great Britain

The research I have done for my historical novel has made this year even more poignant. The patriotism to King and country was astonishing and the numbers in which men volunteered to fight was incredible. Then there was the work that the women did on the home front. Trying to find the words to convey this in my novel, without getting carried away and it becoming a war story, has been difficult.

I have read many articles on how writing a historical romance is not taken seriously. However, the facts still have to be correct, but they are woven into the story so the readers don’t necessarily take them in, but it adds reality to the story.

While I am fortunate to have never lost anybody close to me from either World War, I have lost friends, or have friends whose lives have been changed forever, through various subsequent conflicts. The day never fails to reduce me to tears as I remember them and all that have gone before.

@RobertsElaine11

It hasn't been easy trying to translate the writing on this Italian document.

The Italian document from World War 1.

Francesca: This is always a very poignant time of year for me. As I ‘remember’ members of my families who died in both wars. I say, ‘remember’, as obviously I never met them. Despite that, I still feel a profound sense of loss. 

Two of my great uncles, Tommy and Cyril Jones were both killed in 1943 . They were 35 and 22 respectively. Tommy was killed in action in Sicily. Cyril died at sea when his ship, the HMS Fidelity, was hit by a U-boat. 

My grandfather, Lorenzo, died in 1915 at the age of 29, from septicaemia caused by a gunshot to his thigh, in a Red Cross hospital in Modena. These details are contained on a hand-written document that belonged to my father, which gives an account of Lorenzo’s death. 

But it was a kind of non-war record that got me started on the historical novel I’m currently working on. A ‘hint’ on the Ancestry website led me to discharge papers which hugh-morgan-jnr-discharge-ww1did in fact turn out to belong to a maternal great-grandfather, Hugh Morgan. I’ve never seen a photo of him (he died in 1927), but I know from the document that at 24 years of age he stood 5′ 5″, weighed 140 pounds, and that his chest measured 38″ when expanded. It also tells me he had tachycardia and that his heart beat at 130 bpm. And that’s the reason he was being discharged in 1915, after only 227 days service.

It was the stamped message on the form that gave me the story: ‘Never likely to become an efficient soldier.’ Poor bloke. He’d marched away with a Pal’s Battalion, wanting to do his bit, only to be rejected. How did he feel about it? Relieved? Annoyed?Ashamed he wasn’t up to it? Gradually I wove the beginnings of a story from it, but I’m not entirely sure where it will end. I look forward to finding out.

@FCapaldiBurgess

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

Six Things You Didn’t Know About Us

Elaine and Francesca reveal six snippets each about themselves you may not know.

Elaine:

1: I wrote my first novel when I was in my mid-twenties, I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was, but it’s suffice to say I’m now a grandmother. I sent it off to Mills and Boon, as they were known then, and received a lovely rejection. However, it was at this point that life got in the way and the decision was made to bury my dream, because things like that don’t happen to people like me. Joining The Write Place and The Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) has taught me to follow my dreams, because every author I have met has been like every other person you meet.

Alas CD's and not vinyls.

Alas CD’s and not vinyls.

2: I grew up listening to various types of music, my mum was a Rat Pack fan and my father was a massive Beatles fan and both play a huge part in my music collection. However, what was a shock to me, and consequently I am sure no-one else could possibly know, is that my favourite decade for music is the sixties. The only exception is the Glam Rock years, ahh my teenage years.

3: Before the writing took hold, my creativity was in the form of needlework and crocheting. I found it relaxing, with some wonderful finished items. It was always a favourite hobby of mine and as a young mum, I saved money by making my own clothes and my children’s. I also did alterations and made outfits for other people.

IMG_01434: For as long as I can remember I have been a home girl. There is nothing I like better then being curled up in a chair with a good book. As a child, my mother worried I wasn’t getting enough fresh air, and in her mind I should have been out playing, having fun; what she didn’t understand was that I was having fun in my imaginary world. Unfortunately, the more I write, the less I read and that is something I do miss.

5: My father was a military man and when I was just over fourteen, we moved to Germany. I had to wait several months for a school place and consequently found a job working for the Navy, Army, Air Force Institute (NAAFI) and I stayed working there for nearly three years.

Elaine at the RNA Awards evening.

Me at the RNA Awards evening.

6: I am going to end on something that might astound some people. I am a very shy person. It takes a lot for me to walk into a room of strangers and I will very rarely speak to someone I don’t know. I always assume nobody will remember me. It probably comes across as standoffish and that is hopefully not what I am. If you see me at an event at any time, please come and say hello because I will definitely be too shy to come over to you. I am more secure in my imaginary world.

Francesca:

1: Anita Roddick of Body Shop fame was my second cousin. Both her father and step father were first cousins of my dad, and of each other. Her parents’ love story, both complicated and fascinating, is detailed in Anita’s biography. It would make a great premise for a novel. FB & EJ

2: Several years ago I met actor Elijah Wood and had this photograph taken with him. I was at a London Comic Con with fellow Lord of the Rings fans. Elijah was utterly charming.

3: I’ve spoken often of being half Italian and half Welsh, but in fact I am one sixteenth Devonshire on my mum’s side. Many people in the late 19th/early 20th century, farm labourers and tin miners for instance, moved from the West Country to South Wales to work in the coal mines. Most of the rest of my Welsh family came from farming in West Wales and the slate mines in North Wales. I’ve written two stories based on them so far and I’m sure there are many more stories to be told.

Lorenzo Capaldi, c1908. He won a medal for his work during the 1908 earthquake.

Lorenzo Capaldi, c19o8

4: One of my middle names is a boy’s name. Andrea (pronounced ‘Andraya’) means ‘Andrew’ in Italian and is never used for girls.  My mother wanted it as my first name but my father wouldn’t hear of it. My other middle name is Giuliana.

Islwyn Morgan, late 1930s.

Islwyn Morgan, late 1930s.

5: Both my grandfathers died long before I was born. My maternal grandfather, Islwyn Morgan, died of cancer at the age of 30 during World War II. My paternal grandfather, Lorenzo Capaldi, was killed in World War I in his early thirties. His widow and son (ie, my grandmother and father) featured in an imagined short story I wrote that you can read in the anthology 7 Food Stories from Rome.

6: I was a millionairess for ten years… That is to say, I was a lire millionairess! After my aunty Carmela died she left my father several million Italian lire. It took ten years for Italy to release the money, by which time my father had died and I became the ‘heiress’. The resultant money was worth around £2,500.

Have you any little nuggets to share?

 

The Wonder of Woolworths!

Elaine Everest continues this month’s theme by taking a look at research for her current novel set in World War Two.

Mention the word ‘research’ and for me two thoughts come to mind. The first is an excuse many of my students use for not having added to their novel since the previous class. ‘I can’t write as I need to do research.’ is heard often. My second thought is, great, I can find more information to make my work shine and if I’m lucky I may just fall upon a historical event I can use to make my work sparkle.

At the moment I’m halfway through a novel set in NW Kent during World War Two. I know the area well and have been brought up hearing family stories of times gone by. Anecdotes are fine as long as they aren’t historically incorrect. I love tales like what happened to Mrs X the day she was blown from the toilet in the local cinema. Change the name and as the lady was unhurt it becomes a funny scene for my main character’s nan. However, if I require something to happen during an air raid in a certain month I have to check details more carefully. I cannot rely on anecdotes. This is where the Internet is invaluable. Local council archives have been a godsend giving me details of what happened and when. Newspapers and records of the time back up the information. I do like to have two primary sources when researching.

What about my characters? How do I find information about the people who lived in Kent at that time? How do I dig deep into their lives, thoughts and feelings? The BBC came to my aid here. Between 2003 and 2006 the BBC asked the public to contribute their memories of World War Two to a project called WW2 Peoples War. Along with my husband, Michael I helped by attending events and interviewing the older generation about their lives during the war years. It was a privilege to speak to people who served at that time as well as those who were children. Each person had a unique story to tell and gradually a social and wartime history was formed for all to read online. Now, I can go to the public site and search for information about what happened to ‘the man and woman in the street’ at that time. Whilst writing my last novel, Gracie’s War I wanted to know what the weather was like in Gracie’s village on 3rd September 1939. Not only did I find a local man’s record of that very day but also his memory of the following year when the ‘little ships’ headed to Dunkirk. Reading someone’s personal account can bring the era to life much more than delving into a hundred reference books.397Erith-1930

Research for my current novel meant that I had to not only find out about Woolworths at the end of the 1930s but a particular store. Get this wrong and I’m sure a reader would soon let me know. A local nostalgia group on Facebook came to my aid. One member’s mother worked at the store during the war years and could confirm my research. However, my greatest joy was discovering there is a Woolworth museum curator. What a gentleman! I sent just a few simple questions as I don’t like to impose on people’s generosity too much. Within a day I received two emails that gave me information, not only about the store but also about some of the people who worked there and how they coped at the height of the war. My main character, along with her two friends, came to life as they relived the lives of those who lived and worked in Erith during the war years.

That’s the wonder of Woolworths, as the advert used to say – that’s also wonderful research!