I’m delighted to welcome author Elaine Everest to the blog with her new release The Woolworths Girls. I love finding out how and why writers choose historical fiction, but first, here’s the beautiful cover and the blurb . . .
It’s 1938 and as the threat of war hangs over the country, Sarah Caselton is preparing for her new job at Woolworths. Before long, she forms a tight bond with two of her colleagues: the glamorous Maisie and shy Freda. The trio couldn’t be more different, but they immediately form a tight-knit friendship, sharing their hopes and dreams for the future.
Sarah soon falls into the rhythm of her new position, enjoying the social events hosted by Woolies and her blossoming romance with young assistant manager, Alan.
But with the threat of war clouding the horizon, the young men and women of Woolworths realize that there are bigger battles ahead. It’s a dangerous time for the nation, and an even more perilous time to fall in love . . .
The Woolworths Girls is a heart-warming tale of friendship, family and hope in the face of war.
Sounds wonderful! So tell me, Elaine – because I love finding out where writers’ ideas come from – what was the initial kernel of an idea that got you started writing The Woolworth Girls?
I had set a previous book, Gracie’s War, in Erith, North West Kent where I was born and grew up. When first married I lived in a Victorian terraced house that had survived two world wars and had often wondered what it would have been like to live there during WW2. Older neighbours and my own family had told me stories of the people at that time and one day Sarah appeared in my head. She had come to live with her Nan, Ruby, and had to find herself a job. Knowing the nearby town so well from my childhood, before it was knocked down in the mid sixties, I thought that Woolworths would be a good place for her to work, meet new friends and fall in love.
I think it’s fascinating, imagining how people used to live. I presume you had to do a lot of research? Did you enjoy that?
I love research. Every little kernel of information I come across, that I may be able to use in my book, is like unearthing a rare jewel. Fortunately, local history groups, council archives and the Woolworths museum had plenty of information that I was able to incorporate in The Woolworths Girls.
I had no idea that there is a Woolworths museum!
What drew you to writing historical fiction?
Being born in the fifties I have always been fascinated by what happened in the decade before I was born. We were never taught about WW2 in history lessons when I was at school. The teacher preferred Romans and cave men. Knowing that the town I lived in was affected so much, as were my own family, made me want to know more.
Is there any one character in The Woolworth Girls that you enjoyed writing most?
I have to confess to changing my mind a few times. My three girls, Sarah, Maisie and Freda were delightful but the secondary characters were so interesting. Sarah’s nan, Ruby, held the family together and was such a feisty lady that I recently wrote about her in a short story for My Weekly magazine. Along with her friend Vera, from up the road, there were a few lighthearted moments in The Woolworths Girls. So I’d have to say that Ruby was a joy to write.
Have you started your next book yet, and if so, can you tell us a little about it?
My next book, The Butlins Girls, has not long been handed into my editor, Victoria, at Pan Macmillan and the edits will be with me soon. It starts in Kent but moved on to Butlins in Skegness as Billy Butlin reopens his iconic holiday camps after WW2. Again I have three friends and we follow them as they fall in love, fight their own battles and have a jolly good time as Redcoats. It will be published in early 2017 and I’m already planning the next book for 2018.
That sounds like a brilliant slice of nostalgia! Thank you so much for visiting, Elaine – it’s lovely getting to know you and your work better 🙂
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Helen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I was born and brought up in the North West of Kent and love to write stories set around Erith and Slade Green – places I know so well. It is heartwarming to know that many people look back with fondness to the town, the people and a life long gone.
Twenty years ago I moved a few miles away from Erith and now live in Swanley with my husband, Michael, and Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, where I write nostalgic stories set the war years. When not writing novels I can be found with my nose in a book or at a dog show.