Tuesday 22 May 2018

Sorry - Am I Boring You?

Have you ever been caught by one of those people who insist on shoving an album of their holiday photos in front of your nose and then rambling on for the next hour about how wonderful their trip was?

Well, I might be in danger of becoming one of those very people. I can't help it - I just can't! When I discover somewhere I love, I want to tell everyone about it, share my photos and say, "But why haven't you been there?"

In the interest of keeping the readers of this blog happy, I shall try to keep it short but there might just be a touch of over-enthusiasm from time to time. Sorry!

So where am I? Yes, you've guessed it. I'm back in my beloved Lake District - the setting of many of my People's Friend stories and also the setting of my second novel. One day, I hope you will get to read it. Actually, you will definitely get to read it as, come hell or high water, and whether it be through a traditional publisher or self-published, I will get this novel out into the wide world.

Whenever we stay in The Lakes, we take our dog, Bonnie, with us. Apart from one year, we've always stayed in one of the little miner's cottages in the village of Chapel Stile (this is where the family in my novel live too). This year, we were a bit concerned that Bonnie (who is twelve and a little arthritic) might not be able to manage the 8 or 9 miles of walking we were planning to do each day. We needn't have worried though as she appeared completely rejuvenated by the Lakeland air. Always in the lead, she splashed in rivers, scrambled over boulders and probably would have herded up the sheep if we hadn't stopped her! Cue cute photo of lambs.

We have a list of our favourite walks, and every time we holiday in the Lake District, we like to revisit four of these and then add on two new ones. We don't do high level walks but beautiful low or medium level ones with stunning views such as this one at Buttermere. I must admit, I'm pretty proud of this photo.

One place I've been wanting to visit for ages is Cathedral Quarry. It features a lot in the novel but I've never actually been there - just researched it online. Once inside, it made me realise that nothing can ever beat seeing the real thing. The quarry is reached through a tunnel which opens up into a forty foot chamber called 'the Cathedral'. Those more adventurous than me can take a torch and explore the other tunnels... but I prefer to see a bit of daylight.

As usual, when we weren't exploring, we were eating. We discovered a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Ambleside, called Fellinis, whose dishes looked as if they should grace an art book. It was linked to the local cinema so we took advantage of their combined meal and cinema offer and followed our delicious meal with a viewing of the film The Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. I'd been interested in seeing is at my People's Friend serial, Charlotte's War was also set during WW2 in Guernsey. I'm ashamed to say our long walk that day, a big meal and a glass of wine got the better of me and I might just have closed my eyes once or twice.

We also liked to stop off somewhere on our walk for afternoon tea. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn't it. This might be the reason we always come back the same weight as we leave, despite all the exercise!

My husband and I hated saying goodbye to The Lakes at the end of our holiday but I know it won't be long until we return. In the meantime, I have already written and submitted my latest Lake District inspired story to my editor at the People's Friend and hope he enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Which leads me onto writing news. Since I last posted, my stories have been published in these three magazines.

Also, I am The People's Friends 'Writer of the Week' and have been interviewed for their website. If you'd like to read it, you can find it here.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Still a Woolies Girl at Heart - Guest Post Elaine Everest

Today, I am delighted to welcome the lovely Elaine Everest back to my blog. I still remember how kind Elaine was to me when I first joined the RNA - taking me under her wing at the conference, introducing me to a host of people and always being there to answer my random questions about writing and the publishing world. Since then, Elaine has become the very successful author of her 'Woolworths' series and her latest book, Wartime at Woolworths, is in the shops now.  I decided to ask Elaine a few questions about her writing and, I have to say, there were one or two surprises in her answers!

The ‘Woolworths Girls’ series is set during the second world war. What drew you to that period?

I grew up listening to my mother talking about the war years. She was a child at the time and even though her family lived close to the banks of the River Thames in Kent she wasn’t evacuated. As a child they fascinated me and when I married and purchased a house, in Erith where my Woolies series is set, that had survived WW2 my interest grew.

When you wrote the first novel did you know it would become a series?

No I didn’t. I’d written a standalone book but readers took the girls to their hearts and my publisher suggested we try another, and another… Wartime at Woolworths is the fourth in the series, if we include the E-book novella Carols at Woolworths, and there’s one more to follow in November.

Is anything in your novels based on a real-life experience?

It has to be every scene in Ruby’s house in Alexandra Road in Erith. Number thirteen is the house I purchased along with my now husband on Maundy Thursday 1972. We lived there for twenty years and I’d go back in a flash if I could. At that time there were people who had been born in the road of bay-fronted terraced houses and told such wonderful tales of the close community. Did you know that poet, Wendy Cope, lived in the road at one time when her parents were managers in the department store Hedley Mitchell? In my mind I can see the house as it would have been before the trend for ‘through lounges’ and removal of chimneybreasts. I can see Ruby putting the kettle on in the original kitchen and the air-raid shelter where Sarah gave birth to Georgina. They are like ghosts in a house that still stands in Alexandra road. I’ve been told that people have been seen stopping to look at the house. I apologise for the new windows we had put in after a horrendous fire there back in 1988 – they seemed a good idea at the time.

Do you think it’s easier to write a series than a standalone novel?

I’m not sure about any book being easy to write. There is more planning in a series, as we need to tell a complete story but then be able to pick up the threads of the friends and throw more at them in the next book. I’m aware that some readers will not have read the earlier books so it is important not to give anything away about earlier stories, which can be hard sometimes. I found introducing new characters each time also kept the books alive. Some are transient characters but then a few, like Gwyneth and Mike Jackson, demanded to remain.

What was your favourite chapter to write and why?

It has to be the prologue, as I love to give a hint of what is to come and tease my readers. Wartime at Woolworths does have a few heart breaking scenes and I did my best to treat the situations with sensitivity, as I know that my readers’ and their relatives could have faced the same situations. In my book there is a time to laugh and a time to cry.

You used to be a Woolworths girl yourself – do you have any funny anecdotes of your time there?

I recall the day that I played truant from my Saturday job. Along with my mates we worked half day, telling the staff manager that we had a ‘school trip’ in the afternoon. With our pay packets burning a hole in our pockets we jumped on a train in Dartford and headed to London to visit Carnaby Street. It was 1969 and we had great fun but made sure to return home at the same time, as we would have done if we’d worked all day. For some reason my friend, Amanda, travelled home sitting in the luggage rack. Thanks to social media we made contact recently. She now lives in Australia and the years disappeared as we chatted about our childhood.

Is there any particular book, or author, that has influenced your writing?

I’d have to say it is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I wanted to be Josephine March so much that I would write plays and have my siblings and friends play the parts. Even as a child I was a fan of musicals so would throw in a song or two.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I was going to say I catch up on my reading but instead will say ‘read more’ as I never stop reading. I enjoy the garden but I’m no gardener. I leave that to my husband although I do like to supervise and visit the garden centre to purchase more plants. I also have my writing school to oversee and I’m always planning lessons and projects for the talented writers.

What project are you working on now?

I recently filed A Gift from Woolworths with my editor, Caroline Hogg, at Pan Macmillan. This will be published in November.  Already I’m working on a book for May 2019. It is a step away from Woolworths as we head to the Kent coast and Lyons Teashops and I hope readers will take my new ‘girls’ to their hearts as much as they have Sarah, Maisie, Freda and their families. 

Any advice for budding authors?

Don’t be in a hurry to be published. Read books, which are currently on sale in your chosen genre. Take feedback on the chin and be brave.

Many thanks for visiting my blog today, Elaine.

About Elaine

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.

Twitter: @elaineeverest

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, 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.
‘A warm, tender tale of friendship and love’  Milly Johnson
‘Heartwarming . . . a must-read’  Woman’s Own