Sunday, 10 December 2017

Chatting with best-selling author, Elaine Everest

I am delighted to welcome Elaine Everest back to the blog. Author of The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls and Christmas at Woolworths, those of us who have read her work will know that she sets her books during the dark times of World War Two. But these are not war stories. Though we learn something of these events, Elaine’s stories are primarily about her characters. They are uplifting and illustrate how good people can be in times of adversity. Elaine kindly agreed to answer my questions.

It was a real pleasure catching up with Sarah, Maisie and Freda, whom we first met in The Woolworths Girls. It’s 1943 and war is still raging as we meet up with them again in Christmas at Woolworths. As well as your original cast of characters you have introduced several more. One of the things I found so enjoyable was following the different threads and your apparent ease in knitting them all together with the backdrop of the war and the store. You never drop a stitch. So tell us how you keep control of all the ends?
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Natalie. It is lovely to make a return visit. Where’s the wine and cake?
I like all of my girls to have something happen to them during each book. It keeps them in the reader’s mind and means they can interact with their mates as the story progresses. This may mean introducing a new character who causes a problem or creates tension in someone’s life. I try to have a character be involved in a local wartime event as it brings home how everyone’s life was interrupted by war. Wartime at Woolworths, which comes out in May 2018, has my girls involved in some distressing events and not everyone survives.

Music plays a big part in the book. There are references to several songs which do a great job of enhancing your scenes and I found myself wanting to join in singing many old favourites. Bearing in mind that you weren’t even born at the time, how did you uncover so many and does music feature largely in your own life as well?
So many of the wartime songs are timeless. Many come from before World War Two and seem to be timeless. These songs were sung at family parties, weddings, and visits to pubs and social clubs when I was young. I have to confess to shedding a few tears when researching and listening to the songs as I can see my much-missed dad and his siblings entertaining us to a song or two. I’ve also found that YouTube is a great aid when researching the songs – it puts me ‘in the mood!’

You will have a natural readership of a certain age but this is a story that I feel will resonate with any age group. What do you think it is that attracts younger readers to your work?
I’m fortunate in that the younger generation remember Woolworths. Many would have worked in the stores, as would their parents and grandparents. I’ve been told by readers that not only are they fascinated in how Woolworths survived during the war but how I’ve weaved stories of young women through those turbulent years. It is rather humbling to know that all generations are reading my books. So far the eldest is 102!

Your novella Carols at Woolworths was released in October. That’s two Christmas books in a very short space of time. Is it your love of this time of year that prompted you to write both?
I had the opportunity to write a short stand-alone Ebook that gave me the opportunity to carry one story over a few days rather than over a year or two like my other books. At times, with the staff and guest of Woolworths trapped by an unexploded bomb, there was the danger of the story turning into an episode of Dad’s Army but I kept focused with a few sad scenes that included my regular girls. 
I’m not a big fan of Christmas even thought it is my birthday on Christmas Eve. Like many people I have sad memories of loved ones who passed away at a time when so many are celebrating the festive period. Losing my mum only days before my eighteenth birthday when she was just forty years of age made December a horrid month to face for so long. Even now I feel it was so unfair that she survived an awful war as a child then faced such a horrid illness. However, I can pull upon my own grief when it is required in my books – come to that the anger helps as well.

I can see how you must have very mixed feelings at this time of year. Such a young age to lose your mother. I hope you are able to celebrate her memory with joy on your birthday.

It seems no time at all since we were chatting about The Butlins Girls and here we are already more than a month after publication of Christmas at Woolworths. By definition a saga is not a short book and this is your third in eighteen months, as well as a novella. How do you manage your time to keep up this pace and is it your intention to maintain your output of two books a year.
Plan, plan, plan! I know my story inside out before I start to write. I’ve looked at what is happening in the war, local news, Woolworths news and also gone back over my notes on each girl’s history – I even read the earlier books. This doesn’t mean I don’t stop and add another idea as they still percolate throughout the months I’m writing. In fact I’ve just added a romance for one of the girls in the book I’m currently writing. I’ll leave you to guess which girl…

Is Woolworths to be a continuing theme or do you have your sights on something else?
I always have my sights set on other stories. Each time a new contract is negotiated my agent has four or five outlines for stories that aren’t Woolies related. However, I appreciate that thousands of readers are waiting to hear what happens next in the lives of Sarah, Maisie, Freda, Betty and Ruby so I’m always pleased to write a little more about them.

I hesitate to ask this question but what do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? Haha! Now my husband has retired I often down tools and we head out for a few hours. It may just be an extra walk with our dog, Henry, or a trip to the garden centre but it is something I never used to do. We are also able to take more trips to Cornwall or away for the weekend, which is nice. I also enjoy research trips and meeting fellow authors at SWWJ and RNA events. However, any leisure time has to be made up so my life is still planned around writing my words.

Finally, would you be able to give us a short sample that you feel epitomises your work and brings to life the spirit of community that was so evident all those years ago.

This scene shows the interaction between some of my characters:

Betty turned as she made to cross Pier Road, where the Woolworths store was situated. ‘Why Sarah, Freda, is there a problem?’
            ‘There will be if you don’t come with us to Nan’s,’ Sarah said breathlessly. ‘She’s made a meat and potato pie.’
            ‘Enough to feed an army. We’ve been sent to invite you for your tea. Please say yes or we will be eating it in our sandwiches for the next week,’ Freda begged.
            Betty laughed, all thoughts of her long lost loved forgotten for the moment. ‘I’m interested to know how Ruby came by so much meat,’ she said raising her eyebrows.
            ‘Goodness, there is little meat in the pie. It’s just that she was busy arguing with Vera from up the road and peeled too many spuds. Not that we wouldn’t have invited you anyway,’ Sarah added quickly incase Betty was insulted. ‘Nan had to add another can of corned beef otherwise it would have been a spud pie,’ she explained.
            ‘I could always donate a can or two of snoek,’ Betty suggested to which both girls shrieked in horror.
            ‘Please, no!’ Sarah said with a look of distaste. Even if I was starving I couldn’t eat the stuff. Why, it’s revolting.’
            They girls tucked their arms through Betty’s and set off for Ruby’s house in nearby Alexandra Road. It was as they turned the corner into the High Street that Sarah looked back and spotted the man. He stood on the pavement in front of Woolworths where Betty had stood only minutes before and was watching Betty intently. Sarah knew she had seen the man before. With a cold chill running the length of her back she turned away and joined in the chatter about their friend Maisie who was babysitting Sarah’s adorable daughter, Georgina.

‘You say you’ve seen the bloke before?’ Maisie whispered as she dipped her hands into the washing up water and retrieved a fork, then checked her nails. Maisie wasn’t one for washing up as a rule but the others were listening to a play on the radio so she’d had no choice but to volunteer after the grand meal Ruby had proved for them all.
            ‘Yes, I remembered just now,’ Sarah whispered back, it was in Woolies a couple of days ago. I was helping Betty collect takings from the tills and he was there, at the corner of the haberdashery counter. I called out to Deirdre to serve him. You know how that woman likes to chat. The last thing I wanted was to have to pacify a customer if she wasn’t doing her job. But, he walked away and headed for the door. A couple of minutes later I spotted him watching through the window.’

            Maisie snorted with laughter before clapping her hand over her mouth incase the others heard. ‘Come off it. You’re ‘aving me on… why he could ‘ave been a normal customer thinking about a purchase. You’ve got too much time on yer ‘ands my girl,’ she snorted again using one of Ruby’s favourite sayings that was done in jest as her granddaughter, along with her mates, were doing more than their fair share of war work along with their everyday jobs at Woolies.
            ‘I’m serious, Maisie. I really do think that man is watching Betty.’
            ‘So, what can we do about it?’ Maisie asked. She knew better than to joke about something when Sarah looked so serious.
            ‘What’s all this?’ Ruby asked as she entered the kitchen with a pile of cups and saucers on a tray. ‘Anyone would think the pair of you have a secret.’
            Maisie and Sarah looked at each other and Maisie sighed. ‘It’s your idea so you explain to Ruby. I’m not so sure it’s not all in yer ‘ead.’
            Ruby frowned. ‘Come on spit it out then. I haven’t got all day. You can wash these cups and saucers while you talk. Give me the tea towel, Sarah, you won’t dry a thing twiddling it between your fingers. So, what’s the problem?’ Ruby asked as she started to dry a dinner plate.
            Sarah explained how she thought a man in a dark brown overcoat was following Betty and where she had seen him. ‘Do you think we should tell her, Nan?’
            Ruby thought for a moment as she stacked the dry crockery on the shelves of the pine dresser that covered the wall of the small kitchen. ‘I’m not so sure, you should say anything at this moment in time.’
            Maisie grinned. ‘See I told yer she wouldn’t believe you, Sarah.’
            Ruby looked seriously at Maisie. ‘Oh but I do believe Sarah. I’m more concerned that Betty, living alone as she does, would feel frightened.’
            ‘Perhaps we could lay in wait and catch the man next time we see him?’ Maisie suggested.
            ‘And what if we are wrong? We’d be the ones locked up. Leave it with me. I’m popping over to see Sergeant Jackson later on. I’ve saved him a plate of meat and potato pie. I can ask his opinion while I’m at it.’
            ‘Is Sergeant Jackson’s dad staying with him?’ Maisie asked with a glint in her eye, ‘I heard he was coming back to Erith,’ Maisie nudged Sarah and the pair of them fell into a fit of the giggles.
            Ruby’s cheeks turned a light shade of pink and she puffed herself up to her full height. Even so she was shorter than the two girls who were now laughing uncontrollably. ‘Stop it now, the pair of you. I’ve known Bob Jackson far longer than you’ve both been on this earth. He was a good friend of your granddad, Sarah, and his son, Sergeant Jackson went to school with your dad so you can stop all this right now.  There’s no harm in offering a bite to eat to a neighbour is there?’
            ‘No, Nan,’ Sarah said trying to keep a straight face.’

It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Elaine. Thank you for joining us and I look forward to seeing you here again next time.
Thank you, Natalie. It has been a pleasure to chat about my work xx

Author Information

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novel The Woolworths Girls and The Butlins Girls 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, Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors as well as Slimming World where she can been sitting in the naughty corner.

Like my Facebook author page and answer a simple question to win a signed copy of Christmas at Woolworths. Entries close midnight on Sunday, 17th December.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

After NaNoWriMo - Did I rise to the challenge?

Well that’s it. I’ve DONE it and with two days to spare. And I have a certificate to prove it. Fifty thousand words.

It’s been…interesting. And it’s altered my perspective.  In the mists of time - about sixteen years ago - I began writing and immediately it became a compulsive activity which quickly evolved into an obsession and ended up becoming a career, though the obsession is still there. I’ve set myself targets and achieved them (I work better under pressure). What has become clear over the past month is that to some extent, though not entirely, I have previously arranged my writing around my 'other' life. For the past four weeks I have accommodated my life around my writing. One day, because of a pre-arranged fully booked day, I got up at four-thirty and by seven am I’d completed my target for the day. I know this isn’t unusual for some people but for me it’s unheard of. Prior to NaNoWriMo I would probably have left it and doubled up the next day but I couldn’t afford to do that this time. There was no way I wanted even to consider playing catch up. There are many people who habitually get up early and work before they leave home for the day job. I’ve always admired them but my admiration has increased immensely.

So what comes next? I have a complete story in fifty-seven thousand words – I started this book before the beginning of November. I haven’t read it through yet. There will be holes in the plot for sure. I can think of one or two already. Some parts will need to be expanded upon and others I suspect cut out completely. I’m quite apprehensive about this next part because it isn’t the way I usually work. My first edit always happens as I go along and it may not be comprehensive but it sets me on the right road. Have I deviated onto those narrow single track lanes with barely a passing place? Will I be able to find the route back to my goal, a well-crafted story that will satisfy my readers - and me? I hope so. I’m tempted to let it lie for a few days but I know myself well enough to be sure that tomorrow morning I’ll be opening the file and reading it through. I’m pretty certain that I’ll want to edit as I go along but I’m hoping to resist that temptation. I need to reacquaint myself with the whole story now before I do that.

This book is different from anything I’ve ever done before. What if it hasn’t worked? Will I have wasted my time? That would be a definite NO. Time is never wasted when trying to perfect one’s craft and it’s good to experiment occasionally. The longest and hardest part is yet to come. Whatever happens it won’t be a quick fix. I’m hoping that ultimately I will be left with a novel of which I can be proud. One thing is for sure though. I am incredibly proud to have taken on and completed this challenge. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.

My footnote is by way of congratulation to everyone who has participated in NaNoWriMo 2017. Some will have finished and some will not, but all will have a substantial number of words and a part of or whole story that didn’t exist a month ago. And that is an achievement in itself.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Before NaNoWriMo

Don’t you just love a challenge? Well I suppose really it depends on the nature of the task in hand. If it’s physical violence you can count me out straight away. If it’s a crossword or a puzzle of some nature bring it on. But what if it’s a challenge that you want on the one hand to embrace and on the other to run away from, a very long way away from. Such for me is the nature of NaNoWriMo.

NoNoWriMo Shield
I'm loving the steaming
mug of coffee

For those who don’t know, this is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It happens in November and has done for several years now. The aim is to write the first draft of a novel. The target fifty thousand words. To save you doing the calculation I can tell you that equates with 1,666 words a day, every day. Take a day off and you have to make up the shortfall, though to prevent this happening it’s better if you can stack some extra words away in the first few days. Much easier than having a deficit and trying to catch up.

My first attempt at this challenge was in 2012 and I reached over thirty-seven thousand words before having to withdraw for personal reasons. I am happy to say that the book I began then went on to be published…eventually. There are many helpful pointers on the website so if you too like a challenge I’m throwing down the gauntlet. It focuses the mind and the feeling of achievement is well worth the effort involved.

If, like me, you write by the seat of your pants, with maybe just a few notes and pointers, then NaNoWriMo will suit you down to the ground. I have done some plotting but it isn’t detailed so perhaps I’ve got to the stage where I fall between two stools – neither plotter nor pantser but something somewhere between the two. There isn’t really time to refine the writing as you go though, as with my daily grind, I always read the previous day’s work before continuing. For one thing it takes you straight back into the plot and for another, well actually I can’t work without doing some editing as I go along.

If you are a plotter then I’ve left this post a bit late for you. However, it may be that you already have plans in place for your novel in which case go for it if you can. I only decided a week or so ago to participate again this year and I already had several commitments in my calendar for the coming month, but then it’s difficult to clear any month completely. I shall be scribbling furiously on my laptop – yeah, I know, doesn’t make sense – at every opportunity because falling behind is the one thing I really don’t want to do.

I sincerely hope that by 11.59pm on 30th November I will have reached my goal. That is my aim but even if I don’t achieve it I expect to have a large chunk to take forward that will eventually become my next novel. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Out of my comfort zone

A work in progress
We’ve been having our bedroom decorated this week and are thus sleeping in the spare room.
Nothing unusual about that, you might say, but after seven days I can’t wait to get back into my own bed. And then I realised it isn’t just the bed but the whole room (now in soothing tones of cream and mushroom). The bathroom is in a different place when I get up in the middle of the night. The window is on the wrong side of the room. So that all got me thinking. Are we always happy with where we write and does it have an effect on what we write?

We live in a traditional three-bedroomed house and some years ago the smallest of these was turned into a home office for me. I was SO excited. Bookcases lined the walls, a new desk assembled – not a posh one but perfectly serviceable. The printer was set up. I could look across the road into a field in times of reverie or when searching for inspiration. What could be better? 

Well, the temperature for a start. The room is north-east facing and has two outside walls. Even with the central heating on it never felt warm. With my back to the rest of the house, as it were, I felt cut off. This should have been a good thing as far as writing was concerned. No distractions, nothing to pull me out of my concentration. But it didn’t work. Not from the word go. Like my current experience in the spare room, I was out of my comfort zone. I felt a little sheepish when I told my husband that thank you very much but I would be returning to the hub of the home to work as before. Fortunately we hadn’t expended huge amounts on the transformation.

Writers often talk about their office or their garden shed or that place which is exclusively theirs. Some people dream about having their own space. But when it comes down to it we all have to go with whatever works for us. So I don't have white boards and pin boards and other such useful tools.

What I do have is a place where I feel at ease and can lose myself in the adventures, antics, activities, hopes and fears of my characters, all from the comfort of my armchair. My laptop sits on a cushioned tray. I have a table to right and left on which I stack the things I might need to refer to.

Do you have a dedicated office or writing space? Is it something you yearn for? Think twice before you take the plunge. Sometimes the things you most wish for are those you already have. I hope that by tomorrow night I will be sleeping in my own bed. But for now, as I write this piece, I am happily in my comfort zone. How about you?

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Pocketful of Dreams

It would be untruthful to say I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The idea didn’t even occur to me until about fifteen years ago but, when it did, it took over my life and doesn’t look like it’s going to let go any time soon. I wrote about my journey on this blog a few months ago here but there have been a few developments so I’d like, if I may, to bring you up to date.

Escape to the Cotswolds was published two months ago and what a two months it has been! Like many of my writer friends, I would rather be creating a story and developing my characters than pushing myself forward on social media. However, there is no point in having a book published if nobody reads it. I haven’t yet found anyone who can tell me how much promotion is too much or too little. I organised a blog tour and people were kind enough either to feature me on their blog or to write a review of my book. Then there was Twitter. This was perhaps (then) the least appealing aspect of the whole thing to me. While never actually using the words ‘please buy my book’ it has nonetheless been necessary to present it in such a way that people could, if they chose, click on the link that gave them the opportunity to do so.

With the aid of I learned to create my own straps to enhance my tweets – things always look more appealing if they’re accompanied by a pretty picture. And it was/is fun! And I’ve learned to like Twitter – sort of. Here’s an example below. While I’m not proficient yet I have acquired another skill which I couldn’t have imagined even a few short months ago.

My hope is that I haven’t alienated my friends on Facebook with too much exposure there. Facebook is far more personal than Twitter. I’m a member of several forums where I like to chat to people about things completely unrelated to my writing.

So why have I called this piece A Pocketful of Dreams? Because I have recently sold a novella to DC Thomson’s The People’s Friend. This shorter book will appear in December as a Pocket Novel. It’s possibly my favourite book so far. Set in Regency times, it’s called The Ghost of Glendale. There’s a strong hint in the title!

One of my earlier books, Honey Bun, was first published as a Pocket Novel and it’s a wonderful outlet for shorter fiction. It’s now available on Amazon for any of you who prefer a book the size of which slips into, well, your pocket, or at least your handbag.

Dreams? My pockets are full of them. I hope yours are too.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Fifteen Days and Fourteen Nights

It’s two weeks since Escape to the Cotswolds was published, and what a two weeks it’s been.

The build-up was amazing enough with pre-sales going along nicely. The blog tour began three days prior to publication and I don’t think my feet have touched the ground since. But what about the dreaded P word. Promotion! My publishers, HQ Digital, provided me with some eye-catching shareables which certainly enhanced many of my posts and even made me want to read the book.

But promoting oneself isn’t something that comes naturally, either to me or, as I understand it, to most other writers. My biggest problem was where to draw the line. If you don’t advertise yourself then no-one will know you are there. That’s undeniable. But is there also a danger of over-promotion? Being irritating? Prompting people to think ‘Oh no, not again’! If this has happened to you I apologise here and now, and wholeheartedly, if I have been guilty of over-egging it.  

So what have I learnt? Amazingly that I like Twitter! I’ve always enjoyed Facebook. To me it’s a friendly place where I’ve met many people, writers and others, and it’s truly a sociable medium. Members of groups I belong to who have nothing to do with the writing world have been incredibly supportive. Some have even bought my book! But I’ve struggled for some time with Twitter, knowing that my knowledge wasn’t sufficient to take full advantage of its possibilities. I still have much to learn but I’m getting better, finding it easier to negotiate my way around.

Yesterday I ran a campaign on Twitter. Well, it felt like a campaign. There was the opportunity to win a free copy of Escape to the Cotswolds – all you had to do was retweet to be in with a chance. Not having participated in anything like this before I was staggered at the response. I carefully noted and cut up the names of all who hit the RT option and put them in…a shoe box. Here’s me picking out the winner.

For me this blog post is an opportunity to say a huge thank you to all those bloggers, reviewers, Facebook pals, Twitter supporters and anyone else who has taken the time and the interest to become involved.

See you next time.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Escape to the Cotswolds

If you read my last blog post you will know that I came to writing by accident. I had a huge amount to learn. I still have a lot to learn. Like most things in life, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. Or as properly as one can.

My first published
short story
Yes, it's Norwegian

After selling more than thirty short stories to women’s magazines worldwide I turned my hand to novels and soon discovered it’s a completely different discipline. Like many writers my first attempt ended up in the bottom drawer, or at least hidden carefully away on my laptop. Undeterred – writing friends had told me this was par for the course – I persevered. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme which I cannot recommend too highly and my next book was taken up that same year and published in the summer three years ago. Come to that, so was the one after that, this time a pocket novel with The People’s Friend. So, with two books published within seven weeks of each other, I set to with a will.

It doesn’t do to become complacent in this industry. I have written four books in the time between then and now, diversifying, trying different things. I ventured from contemporary women’s fiction into the realm of historical Regency romance. And what fun I had. An almost lifelong fan of Georgette Heyer (I didn’t read her books as a child) I just had to have a go at writing one myself. And then another. One full length, one novella. I have yet to find a home for them but my next contemporary romance was taken up two weeks after submission to HQ HarperCollins and will be published on 21st June.

On 20th May HQ revealed the beautiful cover of Escape to the Cotswolds. Since then I have been answering questionnaires sent by people who have kindly agreed to host me on their blog. Others will be posting reviews of my book - my fingers are crossed so tightly it hurts. I have been tweeting and posting on Facebook using some of the lovely shareables sent to me by my publishers. Here’s one of them. So pretty. And now publication day is fast approaching. You can almost feel the excitement in my home. But there’s a lot to be acknowledged elsewhere as well.

This is not a journey I’ve made alone. With beta readers to point out my many glaring errors and a creative writing school (The Write Place) to make sure I made as few mistakes as possible - inevitably there are some – I seem to have come out the other side relatively unscathed. I am SO looking forward to publication day. I’m also preparing to write my next book, another contemporary for which an outline and chapter breakdown have already been done, sort of. No time to sit on my laurels BUT I’m so looking forward to 21st June. Do join me if you can.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Accidental Writer

I was delighted to be invited to give a talk to a local group last week. It wasn’t a writers’ group and for me that made it all the more enjoyable. As far as I am aware only one of the twenty-two had attempted creative writing but they were really interested and asked me lots of questions. What made it so nice for me was the chance to share my journey from where I began as ‘The Accidental Writer’  to publication. It’s so easy to lose sight of the overall picture when focused on what’s happening in the now. So what did I tell these lovely ladies?

Can't wait to add
Escape to the Cotswolds
In the beginning…It was a time when I was looking for a new challenge. The ten week creative writing course I enrolled in might have been chosen from the list with a pin. In fact, though I don’t remember, that could easily be what happened. It turned my life around. It’s a worse addiction than wine or chocolate. It seemed I couldn’t leave it alone, and I still can't.  For a while I belonged to a writing group which was incredibly enjoyable but I had ambition to improve so I joined a creative writing school, the Write Place in Dartford, which I still attend. In time I had a short story accepted by a magazine in Norway. You can imagine how excited I was. In the same year another of my stories was accepted by The People’s Friend. And for a while this was my writing life. But later, after more than thirty published short stories, I wanted to move on. It was time to attempt a novel. 

Success came with the publication of two books within seven weeks of each other and the high was such that I can’t even begin to describe how I felt. Now I am awaiting the forthcoming publication of my third  on 21st June. Escape to the Cotswolds is a contemporary romance in a beautiful setting. As yet I don’t have a cover photo or a link to Amazon. Not long to go now though. As soon as my lovely editor, Charlotte Mursell, at HQ Digital lets me know, I will be sharing with you. You can be sure of that! What I can give you now is a little taster:

Taking her courage in both hands, Holly leaves London and her cheating husband to start anew in the peaceful Cotswold village of Cuffingham. A talented artist, she opens a small gallery and life seems good except for the intrusion on her peace of the local vet, Adam Whitney. Gorgeous or what! And then she adopts an adorable Bordie Collie puppy. Will Tubs bring them together or will their inauspicious start only serve to drive them further apart?

Not a Border Collie
but a much loved/much missed companion

Well, I love dogs and I love The Cotswolds and as I wrote him I fell in love with Adam as well, but don't tell Holly or my husband. Will Holly and Adam ever get together? I leave it to you to guess. In the meantime, as I wait for further news, I hope you’ll be at my side as events unfold. Watch this space!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Author Interview: Elaine Everest

My guest today is Elaine Everest. With publication of her new saga, The Butlins Girls, around the corner, I just had to ask her a few questions.

Thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog, Natalie. I can’t wait for Thursday and publication day.

You join me just days before publication of The Butlins Girls. Readers of your Sunday Times bestseller, The Woolworths Girls, will be eagerly awaiting another dose of nostalgia. For some it may be a trip down memory lane, but you aren’t old enough to have lived in the period you write about, yet your research and attention to detail are impeccable. How do you do it?
I was fortunate to have been born in the fifties when times hadn’t changed that much. I lived in a town which not only had a lot of history but also still has many people who love to talk about ‘the good old days’. My family loved to chat about what happened (and when) so I grew up listening to stories of the war years. The next step was to read about those times in books – who doesn’t love reading a book?

Did you pick the era or did it choose you? In spite of the hardship of those post-war years, it seems a much kinder and gentler age than the one we live in now.
Like many writers I’ve dabbled with other genres. I have a modern romcom collecting dust but although never picked up by a publisher it did help me become shortlisted in The Harry Bowling Prize. I’d been a fan of Harry’s for years as he wrote about the area where my Aunt Doll and Uncle Geoff had their pub and his writing resonated with me. Somewhere inside me there has always been that interest in times gone by. So, to answer your question I’d say that history and sagas picked me.

Can your readers look forward to more of the same? What else do you have in the pipeline?
I’m thrilled to say that readers loved The Woolworths Girls so much I’ll be returning to Woolies later this year. Old friends and new faces - it was a joy to write. Then in 2018…

You allude to your family’s history in the world of the travelling fairground. What stories you must have to tell. Perhaps a future novel?
My love of the fairground is a link to my maternal family and my mum who died when I was seventeen. She told us of the hard life she had as a child and the bullying because she was so different to fellow school children – that’s when she got to attend school due to travelling with the fair. She made us value education and aimed to having good jobs once we had our exams. The fair closed down after WW2 so I never experienced the fun of the fair. My granddad did still own the ground and some of the old-fashioned caravans, which I remember fondly. Brightly polished lamps, china, a fierce parrot that hated kids! It’s all there locked in my memory ready to use in stories. Oh, and the family link to Billy Butlin…

In addition to writing novels, short stories and articles, you also run a creative writing school The Write Place in Dartford, as well as being in charge of social media for the Romantic Novelists’ Association. How do you fit it all in?
It’s a case of making sure I do fit it all in and all part of being a full time writer. I often tell new writers that if they wish to earn a living and be thought of seriously as a writer they need to do more than write a novel. We have to learn our craft and that can take years. Short stories help us create a piece of fiction with a beginning a middle and an end – just like a novel but not quite as long. I love the time I spent writing more short fiction. I could think of an idea and write it in one day. My record from having an idea to making a sale is 36 hours. Feature writing pays well and authors have to pay the mortgage and eat! Both fiction and features helped me build relationships with editors whilst learning the craft of writing novels. Teaching classes for Kent Adult Education Services in Dartford and Gravesend came about after I won the BBC Radio Kent short Story Writer of the Year competition in 2003 and was invited to run a few classes. I later moved on to run my own classes and workshops as I preferred to make my own decisions. Being part of the RNA committee is an honour as I get to meet so many authors and also watch as new writers progress with their career – they have great parties too!

Many of your readers will know of your love of and association with the dog world. In the past you’ve written non-fiction books on the subject. Is there any genre, fiction or non-fiction, you would like to turn your hand to in the future?
I could talk for hours about dogs and the show world! I’m honoured to have been part of a world where people breed sound healthy dogs and do their best to promote new owners. I’ve sat on a few breed committees and done my bit to keep the positive side of our breeds alive. Even though I’m not quite as active in the show world as I used to be I’m still called upon to broadcast about dogs – usually when something nasty happens. It is down to us to wave the flag for responsible breeding which means closing down puppy farms and not promoting designer dogs.

As a personal friend, I know how wholeheartedly you throw yourself into everything you do. Outside of the writing world, is there an unfulfilled ambition?
Are you giving me three wishes? To be honest I’m living the dream. I have a fabulous literary agent in Caroline Sheldon and I’m with a wonderful publisher, Pan Macmillan. So, outside of the writing world… Hmm I love Cornwall and would really like to move there but it would have to be a very large house so I can run workshops and writing retreats. I can be found most days on Rightmove dreaming over houses in the two million pound bracket. I suppose I’d better write faster!

Twitter: @elaineeverest

Thank you for such interesting questions. Xx

I’m delighted, as I’m sure your readers will be, to hear that Woolies will be returning later in the year. In the meantime, very best wishes for The Butlins Girls. I may just have to book a holiday

Monday, 6 March 2017

How are those resolutions going?

Two months in and they’ve been pretty busy ones for me – and my excuse for such a large gap since my last post.
When I was last here I talked about starting a new book. Ten thousand words in and I realised it wasn’t working for me. I just wasn’t engaging with my heroine. Usually when I’ve written this much my characters are telling me where they want to go and the excitement of following their lead, or reining them in as is sometimes necessary, is one of the joys of this job. Reluctantly, but only because of the hours lost, I abandoned her. Perhaps we’ll come together again at some time in the future. In the meantime I read through an unfinished Regency and oh boy did that call me back. I had to finish Phoebe’s story! Not only did she demand it of me but I demanded it of myself. When I typed ‘The End’ we were both satisfied. I hope one day my readers will be too.

So the moral of this little tale is, know when to give up but never delete. Phoebe was tucked away in a file waiting to be rediscovered and, who knows, maybe one day so will Peta.

I may have to
visit a few of these

Where do I go from here?
Plans are being laid for my next book, a contemporary this time, but with a thread which will take a considerable amount of investigation. Wonderful as Google is I may have to take several excursions in the name of research. I know. It’s tough, isn’t it! But someone has to do it. My characters are ready and my outline is there. Frankly I can’t wait to get started but…

I HAVE JUST SIGNED A CONTRACT with HQ | HarperCollins Publishers
…which will necessitate me dropping everything else when the edits come in. The turnaround time was pretty quick from submission (30th January) to acceptance (15th February), with projected publication in the summer. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m actually looking forward to the edits. And I can’t wait to see what the cover will be like! And…well, there are lots of ands. Suffice it to say I’m pretty excited.

So, if you don’t see me here again for a little while, at least you’ll know where I am. Till next time.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Turning Over a New Leaf

I’ve looked up this phrase and can’t find the origin anywhere. Sources say ‘unknown’. So does this mean literally turning over a leaf…on a tree? Why would you unless you’re looking for caterpillars and I don’t suppose that applies to too many of us? Not enough anyway to have generated a special phrase. And if it’s on the ground it’s probably an old leaf. So without further information I have to conclude that it refers to a new page, a leaf in a book. Today, 1st January, is not just a new page, it’s a whole new book. Take the one on the right for example. A 2017 Diary. Unprepossessing on the outside but inside a leaf for every single day. I hope by this time next year it will be filled with wonderful things. 

Coincidentally I am writing a whole new book. You’ll forgive me I hope for a tiny bit of cheating. I have already written the first chapter but this venture is still very much in the planning stage so I think it’s fair to describe it as new. I’ve decided to return to contemporary romantic fiction and to my beloved Cotswolds. I’m planning a short visit with my daughter next week, in the name of research of course, and maybe to buy some sweeties. It’s some months since I was last in the area and the feel of a place is so important. The warm honey-coloured stone seduces me every time and it would lovely to think I could instil some of that into my novel. So, with a few leaves already turned over, it is still to me a new leaf.

I woke up this morning wondering what it must be like to have a birthday on New Year’s Day. Yes, I really am writing this on Sunday, 1st January 2017. I’ve always felt sorry for people whose birthday falls on Christmas Day – one or other must inevitably be diminished. But the beginning of a whole new year, a personal whole new year. That must surely be something special. So I leaped out of bed, figuratively speaking, and ran down the stairs, also figuratively speaking and here I am. I had no thought of writing a blog today but sometimes you have to go where the mood takes you and this one has me all fired up.

So, for anyone who has a birthday today, may your day be as wonderful and special as you would wish. For the rest, the overwhelming majority, I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope every leaf you turn produces some magic.