Write about what you know is possibly the most suggested piece of writing advice. So why, then, did I embark on a trilogy set in the early 1900s? I’m not that old! But I do know it to be a period that’s well documented, not least WW1 and all its sadness, although I knew I didn’t want to write about war. When I took a novel-writing course at the beginning of this century my tutor said something that struck a chord … ‘People don’t fundamentally change. They have the same hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, fears and confidences in every generation. It’s only the times that change.’ Good advice, I thought, because don’t we all have all of those things? I’d been getting nowhere writing contemporary fiction so I decided to change genre and write historical romance. And so began my ‘Emma’ trilogy.
Book three of my trilogy, EMMA AND HER DAUGHTER, was published on 9th January 2015 by Choc Lit. To the advice about writing about what we know, I would like to add here ‘write about where you know’. And I know coastal Devon – where my trilogy is set – very well, having been born here, and lived here all my life. If nothing else it made research cheaper because I could walk to all the locations in my book! I can’t imagine living anywhere but Torbay. And this is where my heroine, Emma Le Goff (who becomes Emma Jago in the telling of her story), lives and struggles with her own hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, fears and confidences.
EMMA AND HER DAUGHTER begins in 1927. Emma is now a widow and has returned to Devon with her daughter, Fleur. I decided that Emma would have a change of career in this book – baking was her thing in the first two books – and so I turned her into a dressmaker. Now then, what was that about writing about what you know? I can turn up a hem but that’s about all in the dressmaking stakes. But ….my mother was a gifted dressmaker and ran a little business from home. And I realise now that the writer in me must have been storing up the elements of that – the fabrics and the colours and the fashions and the streams of people coming for fittings, and going to the haberdasher’s with my mother as she chose the material that was rolled, like carpets, from things called bolts. That for me was all the way through the 1950s and into the mid 1960s. But the fashions in the 1920s were quite different and goodness did I have a wonderful time poring over books about Chanel and all her wonderful designs!
I also discovered in the writing of this book that Torbay had changed very little between the 1920s and when I was a child growing up post WW2. Old newspapers had adverts for the same shops my mother used, the same cafés she took me to, the same hotels. And I could remember all those places. A few of them are still there! And Paignton has steam trains to this day, albeit a heritage steam railway now.
I based Romer Lodge, where Emma and Fleur live in EMMA AND HER DAUGHTER, on a Victorian Villa my parents lived in as live-in companions to an elderly widow. I spent a lot of time there, visiting my parents and if I close my eyes I can see the house, the garden, the high-ceilinged rooms, the tiled hall floor and the room my mother used there to continue her sewing. The view from the tower bedroom across Torbay was second-to-none.
A writing friend who read EMMA AND HER DAUGHTER in manuscript form commented, ‘Goodness, but you’ve written in a wonderful sense of place.’
I like to think my readers will think so too.
Can ‘second love’ be true love?
It’s 1927 and Emma has returned to England from Canada with her teenage daughter, Fleur. After the tragedies of the past, Emma is ready to start again in Devon, the place she used to call home – despite the bittersweet memories it brings back.
But memories are not the only thing that she has to contend with. There’s also the secret she’s been keeping from her daughter; the secret that’s revealed when an unwelcome visitor comes back and threatens to turn their lives upside down.
Throughout it all Matthew Caunter is rarely far from Emma’s thoughts and, as it happens, much closer than she thinks. Could he be the key to her finally finding happiness, or will Emma discover the hard way that some people are just destined for heartache?
A big thank you Linda Mitchelmore & Choc lit for stopping by today