Welcome Elaine. Your new novel is called The Foyles Bookshop Girls. Can you tell me a bit about it?
It begins in 1914 when the threat of war with Germany hangs over the country.
There’s a strong bond between Alice, Victoria, and Molly, which stems back to their childhood, and continues as they work together in Foyles Bookshop.
When Alice’s underage brother, Charles, joins up, her boyfriend, Freddie, consoles her. He declares his love and wants to marry at the earliest opportunity, but her excitement is ripped away when he admits to signing up and leaves the following day.
The girls pull together and their friendship helps them to survive the trials and tribulations that lay ahead of them.
What are the challenges with writing a historical novel? What was your planning process like?
One of the biggest challenges is the research. It is easy to get lost in the events. At one point I had so much information, I had to remind myself I wasn’t writing a World War One book. This is inextricably linked to not wanting to let the reader down.
After all my research is done, I construct a historical timeline of events. This will be the basis of my story. My characters lives, and things that happen to them, are woven around, or into, the historical setting.
In The Foyles Bookshop Girls, I had three timelines – the historical facts of the war, the history of Foyles and my characters’ lives. All the information is put on to a spreadsheet in chronological order. The skeleton of my story is there, so that leaves the task of adding the detail, and that’s when I become creative.
What was it that drew you to the historical setting and why Foyles?
My setting evolved. Alice’s mother was originally a young girl in a Victorian novel I had written, but I was advised by an industry professional that this period wasn’t popular unless you were an already established author, which I obviously wasn’t. Someone close to me suggested I move my characters forward in time, so I started looking at events in history.
I have a love of books, so I was playing with the idea of having my main male character working in, or owning, a bookshop.
What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals or habits?
I have a system of working. I try to write every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words, and my best creative time is first thing in the morning. I’m often answering emails and on social media on my phone by about six in the morning. That’s the time I used to get up for work and I can’t seem to get out of the habit of waking up early.
I’m sitting at my desk by nine every morning, often accompanied by two cats that like to get into and sit on all of my paperwork. I don’t leave my office, apart from twenty minutes at lunchtime, until three in the afternoon, unless a visitor arrives. It sounds hard work doesn’t it, but in those six hours, I do spend time gazing down my garden, looking for inspiration, stroking and taking photos of the cats. I’m quite fortunate that my husband keeps me fed and watered.by