#shortbookscribe #bookreview – The Street Orphans by Mary Wood + #QandA @AuthorMary @panmacmillan #BlogTour
I’m absolutely thrilled today to have the great honour of kicking off the blog tour for The Street Orphans by Mary Wood. I’d like to say a very Happy Publication Day to Mary as it’s out today in ebook and paperback. I’d also like to thank Kate Green from Pan Macmillan for the review copy.
I’m reviewing this fabulous book today and I also have a Q&A with Mary for you to enjoy. I don’t know Mary personally but from the dealings I have had with her and from following her on social media, I can say that she is the most lovely person and most definitely a superb writer.
The Street Orphans is an emotional story set in 1850s Lancashire, from Mary Wood, the author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps and Brighter Days Ahead.
Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.
Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.
This is only my second Mary Wood book but she’s fast becoming one of those authors whose books I would pick up without question. I read and reviewed Brighter Days Ahead at the end of last year and I loved it but I have to say that The Street Orphans is even better. And that’s something coming from somebody who generally sticks to books set in the 20th and 21st century, not the 19th like this one.
Ruth Dovecote was born with a club foot, something that in the mid 1800s marked her out as not only a cripple but somebody to be viewed with suspicion, maybe even considered a witch. We meet Ruth and her family as they are travelling over the Bowland Hills after being turned out of their home after the death of her father. This tragic event is only the start of what turns into a nightmare and there follows another tragic event which leads her into the path of the Earl of Harrogate.
Ruth is a wonderful character. I winced sometimes at her fate but throughout it all she’s strong and inspirational, especially to her younger brothers and sisters. What she goes through in the course of the book is more than most people could endure, but endure it with little complaint is what she does.
The Earl of Harrogate is a prominent character too and his life provides a complete contrast to that of Ruth. He has money and luxury, the kind of which Ruth can only dream of. I liked him a lot though – to find a ‘toff’ with integrity in the midst of those who swan around doing as they pleased was extremely refreshing.
This truly is a book with endless twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, something changed and I had to re-think. The author talks about her research at the end of the book and the detail really came through in the writing, in the landscape, the settings, the treatment of the poor and the misbehaviour of the rich.
Mary Wood has such warmth in her writing. Her characterisations are just wonderful and her storytelling is sublime. In the world of sagas I think she is top of her game. In The Street Orphans she has weaved a story that drew me in completely, had me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and made me want to pick it up in every spare moment. I cared so much about what was happening to all the characters, they were so well-formed, so real. It really is an absolutely superb read!
1. First of all, can you tell me where the idea came from for The Street Orphans?
The book was born from a visit to a working Mill in Upper-Mill Lancashire. The town is steeped in Cotton Mill history, and I wanted to set a book with this background. Once I had the basic idea, I set about writing a synopsis of a story and it all evolved from there.
2. From reading your bio on your website it seems to me that you have had many different experiences in your life. You grew up with many siblings, have had various jobs and have a large family yourself. How much have your own experiences shaped your writing?
I think all writers who write from their heart put a little of themselves into their work, I know I do. I take my knowledge of what it was like to be poor, and to make-do-and-mend, and draw from my experiences of working for the National Probation Service. Not any particular case, but my writing is influenced by the cases I was involved in, through typing pre-sentence reports, to reading prosecution papers, to meeting the victims and finding out first-hand what they went through. This element of my own experience gives my writing its gritty edge.
3. Despite having been a writer for some time, you got published relatively late in life, firstly by self-publishing and then after being picked up by Pan Macmillan. What advice would you give to budding writers who might be struggling to get published and would you recommend going down the self-publishing route?
I would advise them to really learn their craft first, and to write the very best novel they can. Then it depends which route they want to take. If traditional publishing, then do their research into which agents handle the genre they are writing in. Once they have identified a few, then prepare a really professional pitch, giving details about themselves, how they came to write, and politely ask if the agent would consider taking a look at their work. Most will tell you on their website what they like to receive by way of synopsis and chapters etc.
Then it is fingers crossed. But if this fails and/or they want to self-publish, then yes, this is an excellent way to build readers, and earn money for your writing – as well as giving you a track record, so later, once proved themselves, they can try again, with reviews and sale figures to add to their pitch. One major piece of advice is – make sure they have their work edited by a professional editor before self-publishing. Even if they have to sell the family silver to fund this, it is a must – writers are nothing without their editors.
4. If you weren’t a writer what do you think you would be doing now?
I can’t imagine not being a writer, but if I have to, then I would be retired, and helping in charity shops, and or visiting hospitals or prisons. One thing I wouldn’t be doing is sitting in a rocking chair knitting – Oh, I don’t know though. . .
5. Do you plot your stories meticulously or do you just write and see where it takes you?
Both. I write a synopsis that is very detailed, and then let the story develop around it. I make more notes as I go, such as descriptions of characters. This is because, as they grow they become alive in my head, and it then that I can accurately paint a picture of them in words. Notes are a very important part of my work and they end up pinned to a board to keep me on track.
6. Could you tell me about your writing day? Where do you write and do you have a daily routine?
My writing day begins at 5am. I have a little bedroom office, though some mornings the comfort of the bed is too strong, so I sit up, propped against a mound of pillows with my laptop and begin writing.
My daily routine is to write for several hours – I try to achieve 5000 words a day, then have a break and write emails and interact on social media, or update my website, or send out a newsletter to my followers.
I like to finish work around 2.30pm to spend some quality time with my husband.
7. Do you have time to read yourself and if so what kind of books do you enjoy?
Not a lot of time, but when I do, I love sagas, and general fiction.
8. Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
Mmm, had to think about that one. And yes, I suppose I do. My involvement with my characters is such that sometimes I get the strangest feeling that they once lived and are telling me their story. Not sure that is a quirk or just plain weird . . .
9. What are you planning to write next and where will it take us?
I have completed two books of a trilogy, and am writing the third. It will take you on a journey with three girls who meet as they catch a train to go to Belgium at the beginning of WW1. All are VAD’S and whilst they form a deep friendship that brings them through many horrors, they each have a story from their past that is shaping their future. So they each have a book of their own.
The first book – THE FORGOTTEN DAUGHTER, travels with all three girls and then goes on with Flora’s story – her rejection by her mother, which leads to her being banished from the home. Her love story that turns into a devastating heartbreak, and her ultimate happiness. Published by Pan Macmillan in Nov/Dec 2018
The second – THE ABANDONED DAUGHTER, takes up Ella’s story, how she continues to nurse in The Somme, but is constantly yearning to know who she really is. She knows she originates from Poland and that an allowance is paid into her bank every month for her needs and those of the woman who cares for her and loves her, and who brought her to Britain. But beyond that she knows nothing. Her love story, brings her pain and heartache, and grief, but, there is a happiness for her in finally finding a lasting love, and her lost family. Published by Pan Macmillan in May 2019
The Third story is in progress – THE WRONGED DAUGHTER and tells of Mags’ life – seemingly privileged, but taken advantage of, and being female, fighting against not having any right to keep the business left to her by her father. Her husband is devious. His emotional blackmail tactics bring Mags to her knees. But she is a strong character and wins through to find happiness.
All three girls eventually reunite and find their friendship is still strong, and still sustains them through hurt.
Thank you so much for this interview and hosting me on your blog. I have really enjoyed your questions. Much love, Mary x
And thank you for such great answers, Mary. I love the sound of your upcoming trilogy. And as for your writing quirk, I think you manage to make your characters seem real to readers too.
Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary’s family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.
Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter – a place that Mary calls, ‘her writing retreat’.
After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 – 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels
Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.
Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.
When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening. One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers on her Facebook page.
And on her web page.
She is also on Twitter.
Mary welcomes all contact with her readers and feedback on her work.