Sunday 13 December 2020
Monday 12 October 2020
Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Elaine Everest to the blog once more.
Well here we are again, Elaine, chatting about another new book, this time Christmas with the Teashop Girls. So, with your builder’s tea and my rather weaker version, let’s begin.
Thank you for having me, Natalie. Any chance of a digestive biscuit with my mug of builder’s tea? Certainly, but if you’re going to dunk let me know so I can turn away.
In Christmas with the Teashop Girls, no less than with all your previous books, you take us back to a period in our history in which you are so obviously immersed that you live and breathe it. Bearing in mind that you weren’t even born then, can you talk us through the process that has given you such a deep understanding of east Kent in the Second World War years?
I rely heavily on my own memories of the late fifties and sixties and those of friends and family who have told me about life in the forties. I’m a Kent girl through and through. If I was a stick of seaside rock, I’d have ‘Kentish Maid’ running through me! Born and bred in North West Kent many of our early holidays were spent in Ramsgate and, while there, Mum would arrange for us to take coach trips out into the countryside. We’d journey down by coach or train and I still have vivid images in my mind of passing farms and hop fields until we spotted that first glimpse of the sea. I’m still the same now, but sadly many farms and hop fields have vanished to be replaced by housing and industrial estates – and lorries!
Non-fiction books, documentaries, postcards, photographs, newspaper archives, films, museums, and anything remotely related to my favourite era and I’m back there in an instant. As I write this it is Saturday afternoon and I’m waiting for the film ‘Genevieve’ to begin on the Talking Pictures channel. Yes, it is set in the fifties, but much is the same as the forties and I can sigh over Kenneth More…
If it comes to sighing over Kenneth More I’ll join you. And that first glimpse of the sea is still wondrous, isn’t it? Staying on the subject of research, you move some of your characters to London for part of the story. Did this aspect require a different approach? What ‘tools’ did you use?
Your locations – Sea View, Lyons Tea Shop (Margate), Lyons Tea Shop (Ramsgate), the Ramsgate Tunnels – fact or fiction?
Mainly FACT! Both the teashop in Margate and the one in Ramsgate did exist but now sadly long gone.
Do you recall that during one of our writing retreats we tracked down the old sign to the Margate teashop in a back street of Margate? Oh yes, I remember that! The terrace overlooking the sea is part of a hotel. Nothing remains of the Ramsgate teashop and the building is now part of a chain of pubs. I did stand on the pavement in front of the building to get a feel for the street and look at the view down to the harbour so I am aware of what my girls could see.
The Ramsgate Tunnels are very real and still exist. They saved the lives of thousands of locals during WW2 when they were used as air raid shelters. It is said that every local was no more than ten minutes
|Courtesy of Ramsgate Tunnels Museum|
from an entrance. Today we are able to visit the tunnels and take part in a guided tour and hear the stories of the war years. I’d recommend every person visit at least once. There is also a 1940s café for anyone needing a cuppa and slice of cake.
Sea View is my invention although is you stroll up Madeira Walk there is a hotel at the top of the road that I adopted as Flora’s guest house. These days it is a hotel and restaurant. I wonder if they realise …?
It isn’t just a sense of place. Your characters are central to your plot and we come to feel we know them personally. You have a large cast. Where do you draw them from?
I start with my main characters and ask myself what kinds of family and friends she would have. I need to get under the skin of my characters to see what makes them tick; this shows me what kind of person they would not like – and that’s when my ‘baddies’ appear. As each book in a series comes along, I won’t drop a character from a previous story as in real life this does not happen. I’m fortunate that my publisher gives me a free hand with my stories and doesn’t ask for a different person to take the main stage in each book. My stories wouldn’t work like that as every character is important and my readers would soon complain. I value my readers and their input will always be important to me.
It seems appropriate that we’re drinking tea while discussing the famous Lyons Tea Shops and Corner Houses. With Butlins, Woolworths and Lyons you have picked iconic settings for your fabulous stories. Can we expect more of the same or do you have another in mind?
Any chance of a second cup? Good idea.
My first series was never meant to feature an iconic workplace as it was just where the girls worked. Come to that it wasn’t supposed to be a series! However, such is the heartfelt nostalgia that I continued with another book and a series was born. By the time The Woolworths Girls was published I’d already written The Butlins Girls with the setting ideas mainly coming from my childhood holiday to Warners Holiday Camps and also my maternal grandparents’ links to Billy Butlin’s fairgrounds. The Teashop Girls series stemmed from my fond thoughts of time spent in Ramsgate and Margate and also visiting Lyons Corner houses during the 1960s. It was so funny when The Bookseller labelled me ‘The Queen of the Workplace Saga’ as I’d not given any thought to my settings. These days I seem to have started a new bandwagon with publishers and authors jumping on board a new and popular sub-genre. Some of their books work and some don’t.
Personally, I love a prologue. What makes you use this particular device?
Books always need to start by drawing a reader in on the first page – as I often tell my students! Sagas often don’t as they have gentler starts in the first few pages. That’s why I feel they need a prologue. I like to write a prologue in order for the reader to want more and then read on. Often it is a scene from later in the book that does not give away any spoilers but starts the reader wondering…
My next book, A Mother Forever does not have a prologue but does have an epilogue. It suits the story, plus the first pages starts with more of a bang.
2020 has been a very difficult year, almost as if we are also living in a war zone. How have you coped?
Gosh hasn’t it been a year and a half? I like to think I have coped. If anything, I’ve had more time to write and also to consider my future as an author. There are new genres I’d like to try and ‘things’ I’d like to change. I miss going out to meet readers and chat about books.
I’ve also missed going away to the coast, and also seeing friends and running
my classes. Thank goodness we have a very good Facebook page where students
attend online classes, so successes continue. I do know that come the end of the
war on this virus I’ll be very choosy about where I go - and possibly never venture
into London again. I value life more and get very angry at people who don’t
follow guidelines to help stop this horrible virus in its tracks.
I do know I’ll never get off my soap box though!
Finally, if you hadn’t been an author (No, you’re not allowed to stop) what other profession might you have chosen?
A very interesting question!
At different stages of my life there have been career options. As a teenager my mum suggested working for Warner’s Holiday Camp as a Green Coat. I loved the idea of entertaining and had always attended dance classes since the age of three. Sadly, school exams and boyfriends meant I never gave that career choice another thought.
At the age of sixteen
with a bright future ahead of me I did consider teaching. I attended open days
at teacher training colleges and spoke to the right people about this. It would
have meant staying on at school for a sixth year to gain my A-levels, but my
parents could not afford to support me, even though by then like all girls of
my age I’d taken on a Saturday and holiday job to save. They would not consider
a grant as that was taking charity and they were proud people. Considering the
options and talking to a neighbour who had a high-flying job in London I
decided to look into business courses at Erith College of Technology. The
course I followed back in 1970/71 was called ‘Business Machines and Commerce’
and certainly covered all aspects of what a young woman needed to find a great
job. I left with more qualifications than I’d ever have needed to attend
teacher training college and doubled up on ‘O’ levels for English subjects due
to the college using a different exam board and gained an A level in the
subject as well. Mum was pleased as by the time my exam results came through
and I’d secured that first job she was seriously ill and passed away a couple
of months later.
I wish she’d lived to see me climb the career ladder to work in management then succeed with my writing. She’d have chuckled to see me gain the required teaching certificate to teach as well – and to run my own writing school. I like to think she knows. To use an old expression, you’ve done her proud.
Thank you so much for your interesting questions, Natalie, and taking part in my blog tour.
It’s always a pleasure, Elaine. I look forward to the next time
ABOUT CHRISTMAS WITH THE TEASHOP GIRLS
The friends return in a moving story of love, bravery and hope set in 1940 – a guaranteed winter warmer full of festive spirit. Bestseller Elaine Everest is the author of the much-loved Woolworths Girls saga series.
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 . . .
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
Elaine Everest lives in Kent is available for interviews and to write features.
The Teashop Girls is
published by Pan Macmillan on 15th October price £7.99 as paperback original.
And if you want to follow Elaine's Blog Tour just check out the banner below:
And if you want to follow Elaine's Blog Tour just check out the banner below:
Tuesday 8 September 2020
Language evolves all the time and the rules (there are rules) change. I know that. I accept that. But, being a bit long in the tooth, it took me many years to do so and even more to implement some of those changes into my writing. You will no doubt have observed that I began the previous sentence with the word ‘but’. But is a conjunction. Its purpose is to connect ideas that contrast. For example:
I like my coffee black but she likes hers with milk.
Had I put…I accept that but, being a bit long in the tooth etc…there would be no controversy. However it seems to me that it carries more weight this way. And, while I’m talking about breaking old rules, what is more important? Adhering to convention or using the best way to make your point? My poor English teacher would turn in her grave. Not only have I begun one sentence with But, but I began another with And.
A fairly recent innovation in the spoken word, not so much yet in the written, is the use of the word So at the beginning of speech, a propos of absolutely nothing at all, with not the remotest connection to what is to follow or anything that came before. Now this one really irritates me – I’m sorry if you’re a convert but I’m not.
Imagine my dismay then when, in the middle of the night, one of those times when a jumble of thoughts comes flooding in when you’d far rather be asleep, I found myself thinking…So, I wonder how my day will pan out tomorrow? Why the So? What’s the matter with just I wonder? And then I giggled. Silently. I didn’t want to wake my husband. Well, (a similar misuse I fear) was that so very bad? It isn’t the best example but it made me (metaphorically) sit up and think.
I’ve been known, when editing my work, to alter the text because it feels old-fashioned and stilted. I know I write historical fiction but I still want it to flow. Does the grammar really matter when what we’re trying to do is entertain? Old habits die hard but newly-acquired ones aren’t always so bad. (acceptable use of both but and so in that sentence)
And (see, I’ve done it again) don’t even get me started on split infinitives. I’m prepared to be shot down in flames. What do you think?
Until next time
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Sunday 19 July 2020
Also by Agatha Christie, though featuring neither Miss Marple nor Poirot, The Mousetrap, the world's longest running play, opened in London's West End in 1952 and ran continuously until March 2020 when stage performances had to be discontinued due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Let's hope it comes back soon
Thursday 18 June 2020
Tuesday 16 June 2020
I love a chat about books at any time, and if there's tea involved too, then even better. Thank you for the invitation.
It seems to me that the beautiful cover of Bird in the Hand conceals a novel filled with a multitude of emotions, which begs the question, is your writing character or plot driven? Do you find yourself living in Charmian's skin? Does she take you on her journey or do you take her?
Many of my books have started with the main character, who I picture in great detail, both physically and emotionally, from the beginning. I could picture Charmian's wild curly hair and brown, long-limbed figure. I knew she was rebellious and restless. Having said that, more recently my books are concept driven. That is to say I have in mind a 'what if'. What if the girl has two people who wish to have a relationship with her but through a particular circumstance she decides to relinquish both? Or...what if the decisions she makes for her partner or are made for her by others case her intense difficulty then...the plot thickens. It's great fun whether it's character, plot or concept.
You've written several books in different genres. Was that a deliberate choice or was each one a story demanding to be told?
My very first book, soon to be reissued with Sapere Books, demanded to be written. It was the one that released me. We all have those dramas in life at some point and people say to write it down can help. It's not my own story, I must emphasise, but it was useful. Then, each book since has come with its own clamour to be written. The 20th century historical series arose from family history delving and, living in the area of many WW1 battlefields at the time, the research was fascinating. Thus, three sisters and three times of major conflict of the last century were born. My contemporary novels are just fun to write, even though each has a serious social interaction or family drama at its heart. I do quite enjoy the difference in time periods and therefore different types of research.
I see you lived in France for ten years. Was that prior to your retirement and, if so, were you teaching in an English or a French school? Or something entirely different? Can you tell us something of your experiences there?
Both my husband and I took early retirement here, and that's when we went to live in France. He did work for a French builder and I did do some voluntary English teaching in our local primary school there, but really it was great to do very little in terms of work! That's when I took up writing. I had tried in my twenties, but 'life' got in the way. My mum, who was a published author, always encouraged me and I'm sorry she never knew of my more recent success.
We lived in a small village and had a good community of French and English friends. The language was not a problem for me, and my husband took a short course which gave him confidence to have a go. He was able to converse with lots of people using French and gesticulations. Getting into the bureaucracy of a foreign life was sometimes frustrating and often hilarious but people were always helpful. Life was calm but punctuated by parties and outings. We enjoyed it all.
As a head teacher you must have needed to be extremely organised in your working life. Is that a natural trait or an acquired one? Does it follow through to your writing?
Yes, that's very perceptive. My working life had to be highly organised, especially with family and children to sort out. Often I had evening meetings and long days, so I had to think ahead and write lots down. Nothing else is particularly so. Housework definitely got forgotten. I'm not an in-depth planner with my writing. I usually plan each of the first ten chapters but leave the next ten until I get there and so on. I do know at roughly what part major plot points will happen, though, just not the fine detail of how to get there.
Writing is a somewhat sedentary occupation but I notice from your biog that when you're not at your desk you are often indulging in some physically demanding activity. Do you, for instance, ever find a plot running around in your head when you're walking the dogs or is it a complete getaway for you?
I have plots and conversations running through my head all the time. Sometimes I must make myself concentrate on talk going on around me. However, when we're ballroom dancing, I need to focus closely so it's probably just as well to get away from novels for a while. Then an idea or a resolution will ping home when I least expect it, often in the middle of the night.
Friday 1 May 2020
Being a very crafty saga author I needed to be able to bring in a few historical events to my book. The last book in which some of ‘the girls’ featured was The Butlins Girls set in 1946, so I needed to work forward. With Princess Elizabeth’s wedding in her handsome Philip in 1947 and then the Austerity Olympics of 1948 those two years were a gift. The girls weren’t likely to receive an invitation so how else could I weave a story around that happy event…?
I’ve also just handed in the manuscript for a very special book. I was delighted when my publisher approved the idea and I could go back in time to 1905 to the day that a young Ruby Caselton moved into her new home in Alexandra Road, Erith. Publication will be for Mother’s Day in 2021.
At the moment I’m writing the first chapter of yet another idea which takes me to Biggin Hill during WW2 and that’s as much as I’m saying …
Thank you again for inviting me to your blog, Natalie. I can rely on you to ask me some interesting stories