#BlogTour #QandA with Elaine Everest, Author of Wartime at Woolworths @ElaineEverest @ed_pr @panmacmillan
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Wartime at Woolworths by Elaine Everest which is published today. Happy Publication Day, Elaine!
I’m so pleased to be able to share my interview with Elaine with you today. I’d like to thank Elaine for asking me to take part in the tour, and ed pr and Pan Macmillan for kindly sending me a copy of the book.
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 third moving installment in the much-loved Woolworths series by bestselling author Elaine Everest.
Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Nicola. It’s an honour to be here.
1. First of all, can you tell me a little about your new book, Wartime at Woolworths?
We’ve reached 1943 and Sarah, Maisie and Freda are very much thinking of their families as WW2 progresses into it’s fourth year. It is a time not only to ‘do their bit’ but to welcome new members of the family and say goodbye to loved ones.
2. I was going to ask you where the idea came from to write about Woolworths but then I read that you were a Woolworths girl yourself. Can you tell me about your time working there and what you liked and disliked most about it?
I was a Woolworths Girls back in 1969 when I had a Saturday job at the Dartford, Kent branch. I loved receiving my first pay packet and who knew that my memories of that time would come in useful so many years later? Bells ruled our working day and rung for opening time, tea breaks, lunch breaks and when the store closed. I recall the camaraderie of fellow staff and the warmth of the staff room along with having to dust everything when we weren’t busy! It was the time before tills added up purchases so we had a notepad and pencil tied to the waistband of our overalls and we had to add up purchases before taking the money. This was a time in my life when I was still at school taking exams before heading off to college and like all happy memories it still holds that rosy glow.
3. Can you tell me more about how you became a writer? If you weren’t a writer what do you think you would be doing now?
Like many writers I dreamed of writing for years and scribbled away whenever I could. My writing progressed when I started to edit a magazine for a breed club for Old English Sheepdogs and needed content. With deadlines looming I started to write pieces myself. I left a job in 1997 where I’d been unhappy and also losing my dad and father-in-law in that year it made me decide to try to earn my living as a writer rather than just think about it. I started with short stories and articles while I learnt to be a novelist. If I wasn’t a writer I’d most likely have stayed in the boring office manager job where I’d planned to retire when I was fifty. Now I’ll be writing for as long as I can as I love my job – even the deadlines!
4. You’ve turned the Woolworths books into a series. Did you anticipate there being more than one when you first starting writing The Woolworths Girls? Are there challenges to writing a series or is it just a pleasure to get back to writing about familiar characters again?
No, The Woolworths Girls was supposed to be a stand-alone novel and that is why my next book was The Butlins Girls. However, readers took my girls to their hearts and I’ve been fortunate to be able to continue their stories further into WW2. It has been a challenge to come up with stories for Sarah, Maisie and Freda, along with Betty and Ruby, as readers have their own favourites and I don’t want to disappoint anyone by leaving out one of the girls. In this book they all face sadness and changes in their lives but along the way there are the usual laughs and fun.
5. Do you plot your stories meticulously or do you just write and see where it takes you?
As a historical novelist I’m afraid it is impossible to write and see where the story takes me as I have to take into account what is happening in WW2, the local area as it affects my girls and of course what is happening with Woolworths. On top of that I need to have a storyline for my characters and there are a fair few of them! Saying that, once I’ve planned the story I can still lets the girls’ characters take over and that is when I start to enjoy bringing their stories to life.
6. Could you tell me about your writing day? Where do you write and do you have a daily routine?
I’d love to say that I write from an old cottage looking out over the sea in St Ives – that is my dream! However, I have my office at home in Swanley, Kent although I’m often writing at the kitchen table with the TV on watching This Morning, Countdown and Tipping Point while I work. I love to multi task! From my office manager days I still have to answer correspondence and have a clear desk before I start that day’s work. I hate to leave a job unfinished at the end of the day. These days that includes social media where I like to chat to readers, my students from my writing school and also friends. I can’t write in complete silence and need noise around me whether that is my dog or the television. I don’t have set hours to work and if there is a deadline or I’m enjoying answering questions etc. I’ll be on my laptop until past midnight. Saying that being freelance means I can take a few hours off whenever I please which is very nice.
7. Do you have time to read yourself and if so what kind of books do you enjoy?
I can always find time to read a book even if it is my Kindle when I finally get to bed although it can be painful when I fall asleep and the Kindle falls out of my hand and hits me in the face! I’m always reading sagas – I couldn’t write them if I didn’t like reading them. Fiona Ford, Kate Thompson, Annie Murray, Rosie Hendry and Jean Fullerton are amongst my favourites but I also like to read the upcoming saga authors and there are a few good ones on the horizon. I love crime novels and I’m trying to reread all the Dick Francis novels and always have one on the go. Today I uploaded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Tattooist of Auschwitz and have just finished reading Clare Mackintosh’s Let Me Lie. Then there are all the non-fiction books stacked on my desk for the current work in progress. Yes, I’m one of those people who have several books on the go at the same time…
8. Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
Good question. When I’m really getting stuck into my writing I tend to drink cold coffee as I forget it is there but then can’t spare the time to get up and make a fresh one. I also have to have a Cath Kidston pen to hand to scribble down notes. They are lovely colourful chunky pens that are easy to hold. I have arthritis in my fingers so they are easier to grip.
9. What are you planning to write next and where will it take us?
I’ve just filed the final book in the Woolworths series, A Gift From Woolworths, which was quite a sad thing to do. I hated writing the last chapters as it meant waving goodbye to the girls. I live in hope of revisiting them at some point – perhaps in the 1950s? The next book to write is The Teashop Girls and already I’m getting to know my new girls and their families. Hopefully this will be a new series – fingers crossed!
10. A silly question to end with: Woolworths were known for their pick ‘n’ mix. What’s your favourite pick ‘n’ mix sweet?
I really liked the flying saucers but was also quite partial to lemon bonbons. There was always too much choice!
Thank you so much, Elaine. I really enjoyed reading your answers.
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.