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


  1. Super blog, Wendy. Great interview with Elaine Everest, very interesting. I love the Woolworth series of books. Great. I'm looking forward to reading Wartime at Woolworths.

    1. Thank you, Madalyn, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one too.

  2. A great post Wendy and interesting answers from Elaine, many thanks x

    1. Thank you, Caroline. I’m glad you enjoyed Elaine’s interview.

  3. Lovely to hear more about the background to Elaine's Woolworth's Girls!

    1. I especially liked the part where Elaine and her friends bunked off!

  4. Enjoyed reading this interview with Elaine, Wendy.

    Thank you both.