Today, I am delighted to welcome Elaine Everest to my blog. Elaine's novel, The Woolworths Girls, was published by Pan Macmillan on 5 May and I decided to find out a little more about it.
How long did it take you to write The Woolworths Girls?
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Wendy.
It took around nine months. The Woolworths Girls (it had a different working title at that time) was taken to my agent, Caroline Sheldon, as a few ideas on one sheet of paper. We discussed my previous writing and Caroline signed me up at that point and I started to write the book. With three chapters and a synopsis she secured me a two book contract with Pan Macmillan – and a deadline. I feel very fortunate to have such a lovely agent and publisher. I think they are the best - but then I would!
What was the inspiration behind the novel?
I’d already written a novel set in my hometown before the idea for The Woolworths Girls popped into my head. I wanted to keep my sagas in the area of North West Kent where I was born, grew up and knew so much of the local history. I felt it was ‘my patch’ and once I had my character in my head I knew she needed a job – where else but the very Woolworths where I shopped since an early age.
Your first novel, Gracie’s War, was also set during the second world war. What is it that attracts you to this era?
The romance of war and men in uniform! The uncertainty of a future for couples and knowing one had to live for today is always very much in my mind. Saying that, I hate to kill off my characters and wept buckets when it happened in The Woolworths Girls.
I remember going to Woolworths with my mum for a bag of Pick ‘n’ Mix. Do you have your own memories of this shop?
I have many memories of Erith Woolworths, where my book is set. It is as much a character in the story as my girls. Mum bought my first bra in Woolies – white with embroidered cherries – I can still feel the embarrassment of wearing it to school and changing for PE. My younger sister and I also shopped at Woolies for our parents' Christmas presents. It was a safe walk from where we lived and we would often go to Woolies after our ballroom dancing lessons in the town where we were taught by Len Goodman’s in-laws.
Which of the Woolworths Girls’ characters is your favourite and why?
I like them all and tend to change my mind. I like a woman who has struggled in her lifetime and at the moment that would be young Freda who ran away from the Midlands to look for her brother who has escaped from prison. Fortunately she went to work in Woolies and made friends with Sarah and Maisie who took her under their wing from day one.
What was the hardest part of writing this novel?
Knowing that I was with a large publishing house and so many people had great hopes for my story. I still feel that way. As for writing the novel – I loved it and I will always have a special place in my heart for The Woolworths Girls.
Can you describe the moment you heard The Woolworths Girls had been sold to Pan MacMillan?
I was at a funeral. Looking back it feels a little like a movie where a character has to keep dashing from the room to take phone calls. Someone asked what I was doing and it felt so pretentious to say, ‘it’s my agent,’ but I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Then, when I rang Caroline she was in a meeting… Its very hard trying not to wear a big grin on one’s face whilst at a funeral wake. Such a long afternoon but at least I’ll remember it!
Do you think being a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association helped you on your path to publication?
Most certainly. Even though I was a working writer with short stories, articles, and three non fiction books under my belt as well as many charity anthologies I joined the RNA as a member of it’s New Writers’ Scheme. When I graduated with Gracie’s War I was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award in the year there were fifteen of us. I met my agent via the RNA so will always be a big supporter of the Association.
What next for Elaine Everest?
Gosh! So much is happening at the moment. I feel as though I’ve been interviewed by most women’s magazines and have radio interviews lined up. My next book with Pan Macmillan for 2017, The Butlins Girls, is at the edit stage and as I’ve been working on your questions an email has arrived from my wonderful editor to say cover designs are beginning and asking for my input. I have an outline for my 2018 novel which I’m itching to get started on. Life is very exciting and what I’ve dreamt of for so many years!
Thank you again for inviting me to your blog, Wendy
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