Hi Elaine, thanks for coming to chat to us today!
Thank you for hosting me, Rachel. It’s an exciting time!
Q1. The Woolworths Girls is a subject close to your heart, with you being one yourself. Did this first hand knowledge make it easier to commit your story to paper, or harder, and why?
I have to confess to not thinking about my own experience as a Saturday girl in the late sixties until I had done much research and was thinking about starting to write the book. It was then that I realised the working routine and staff training had not changed much from my girls’ time in 1938 to when I worked for FW Woolworths in 1969. I then started to recall the bells that rang to notify staff of lunch, tea breaks and home time as well as how we were expected to present ourselves on the shop floor and what it was like behind the scenes.
Q2. Your book has it all: friendships, wartime storyline, and romance. Is there a happy ever after for Alan and Sarah?
I’m not sure I should give the end away. However, I will say that I throw quite a few bricks at Alan and Sarah right up to the last page…
Q3. Are your characters from scratch, or are there parts of any people from your days in Woolworths?
One character is built on my memories of the supervisors and management I recall from my Woolworths’ days. The rest are built on from the type of local characters who did, and still do, live in Erith. It’s a town I hold in my heart as it reminds me of my childhood and my family. One, not so nice character, was designed on the request of one of my cousins. An upright citizen in real life, Terry had always wanted to play a villain. I changed his name to be on the safe side!
Q4. What, in your opinion, made people take the store into their hearts so much?
An interesting question. For me Woolworths was a constant in my life and I’m sure it was the same for others. People didn’t travel so far to shop. We didn’t have out of town malls or jump on trains to go to London, or other major cities, to shop. Walking, or catching a bus, to a local town meant there was always a Woolies to pop into for essential items as well as special gifts. We could rely on Woolworths to stock what we were looking for.
Q5. In addition to writing books, you also write stories and features. Which do you prefer and why?
Since 1997 I’ve been a ‘jobbing writer’ and that means that I have to earn a living from creating words. Features pay well but I love fiction. Being commissioned to write three non-fiction books was another way to earn a crust. However, I’ve always wanted to be a novelist so joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme gave me a yearly deadline to produce a novel and also the chance to meet and network with other like minded people. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I have a lot to thank them for. However, you will still find me writing the odd feature or short story. I just love to write! I’d advise any writer to try other forms of writing which will help the bank balance while they hone their craft.
Q6. Do you have plans/ideas for your next book yet?
My next book (for 2017) is already with Pan Macmillan. In fact the edits have just arrived – gulp! The Butlins Girls is set in 1946 when Billy Butlin reopens his Skegness holiday camp after WW2. My main character, Molly, arrives from Erith to a strange new world, a handsome actor and makes new friends. However, there is a familiar face in the book from The Woolworths Girls. I just can’t say goodbye to my girls.
Q7. For people wanting to write historical fiction, do you have any top tips for writing and researching?
- My main advice is to love the historical era you write about. Don’t just think that it is a lucrative genre or there are always historical novels in the bestseller lists. It’s probably one of the harder genre to write.
- Feel comfortable with the settings and enjoy research. Look at local council archives for help with research. 3. Get to know other historical authors and attend talks – and the RNA conference.
- Don’t forget that we also write romance in our historical novels – there has always got to be romance!
- Enjoy writing as it takes a fair few days to write 100,000 words.
Thanks very much and good luck with the book! Thank you Rachel and good luck with your book too.
Links: Books are available in WH Smiths and most supermarkets Amazon for paperback and digital