Wednesday, 19 July 2017

I've moved

I have moved!

Please go over to my new website here where you can find out
more about the behind the scenes research for 'East End Angels' series.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Maps of WW2 London

I like maps. It's a hangover from my A level geography studies and now where ever we go on holiday I buy the local OS maps to pour over before we go - it helps me get a feel for the area. I wanted to do the same for war time London and used "The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945" by Laurence Ward.

It's a big, heavy book and has detailed maps covering the whole of London.
Area covered by each numbered map

The maps were created by the Architect's Department of the London County Council and were meticulously hand coloured in to document the scale of  damage caused by bombing.
Key to LCC bomb damage maps
Black shaded areas were totally destroyed, purple shading indicated buildings damaged beyond repair, while at the bottom of the scale yellow showed minor blast damage.

Map 62 Holburn, Bloomsbury, City of London (west)

Map 62 (above) shows the huge area of purple shaded buildings which were damaged beyond repair in the streets surrounding St Paul's, a lot of which happened in the huge raid and fire storm of December 29th 1940, when the famous photograph of St Paul's rising above the smoke and flames was taken. 

Map 63 City of London (east), Whitechapel

The maps were helpful for finding the setting for the ambulance station in East End Angels, just a short raven's flight from the Tower of London shown on map 63.

More details of where the bombs fell in London during WW2 can be found at Bomb Sight here  along with photos and first hand accounts from people who were there.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Story Behind The Story

For the past eight weeks The People's Friend magazine has been publishing my WW2 serial "A Home From Home", and it's been a delight to see the fantastic illustration by Mandy Dixon which has accompanied each episode. Sadly the serial's come to its conclusion this week and I thought it would be good to write about the story behind the story.

Episode one
When I write historical fiction the ideas come from so many places and it's a challenge to weave them together into a story. "A Home From Home" was partly inspired by my family history. My mother grew up at Catchetts Farm in Norfolk during WW2 and though the farm wasn't a market garden like the one in the serial, I loved the name so I pinched it to name the fictional farm. The surname for the main characters, Bray, is also a family name.

My Dad used to tell me tales of his childhood adventures in wartime Norfolk, like the times when he and his friends had to hide behind hedges or walls when enemy planes were flying low over the countryside on the look out for people to shoot. I knew I had to include that in the serial.

Episode two - Phylly and Jimmy are safe from the enemy plane.

Episode three - not everyone likes the Italian POWs.
A few years ago while I was doing some research in the archives at the Imperial War Museum in London (which are brilliant and a place where you can spend hours and hours engrossed in all the wonderful diaries and letters), I came across a land girl's record of how she and some others working with her, caught who they thought was a spy on the farm, shutting him in a greenhouse while they sent for the police, only to find out he was part of the Free French on a navigation training exercise and not a spy at all. It was a gem of an idea for a story so I squirrelled it away hoping I'd be able to use it some day - and it inspired part of episodes four and five.

Episode four - a parcel of goodies from America.
Episode five - jitterbugging at the American base

If you saw the excellent BBC series "Wartime Farm" which was on a few years ago, where the historians reenacted life in WW2, you may have seen the part where Ruth Goodman tries her hand at reputed black marketeer tricks. All military issue petrol was dyed red to identify it from rationed fuel, so stolen army petrol had to be treated to remove the dye before it could be sold on the black market. In the programme they tried out the bread filtering method and it worked. The dodgy soldiers are discovered doing just this in episode six.

Picture from the above book - filtering the dyed petrol through a loaf.

Episode six - it's time to call in the police.

Episode seven - The Italians are singing in the orchard.

For the final episode, when Jimmy goes to the American airbase to celebrate Thanksgiving, I spoke to Pat Everson, a lovely lady who I met when I visited Seething Control Tower Museum see here. Pat was one of the children from her village who went to the Thanksgiving celebrations at Seething airbase during WW2 and kindly told me all about it.

The final episode - celebrations all round.
"A Home from Home" was my third attempt at writing a serial, the first two didn't make it but were published as People's Friend pocket novels. The two historical WW2 pocket novels have also been epublished as one book, though under a different name here.
I shall miss Phylly, Gracie and Jimmy and all the others in the serial, but I'm very happy to be writing the story of some new characters facing the challenges of life in WW2. This time the story is set in a London Auxilary Ambulance Station, focusing on the lives of Winnie, Bella and Frankie, whose story is set to run over several books. Here's the gorgeous cover of the first in the series - East End Angels.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mind mapping research

Writing historical fiction is wonderful if you like doing research - which I do - but you can get bogged down in facts and your desk can disappear under a sea of paper.

So I make a big mind-map to summarize my research and stick it up on the dining room wall where I do most of my writing. Creating the mind map helps me get an overall feel for the subject, and is somewhere I can quickly go to find a fact.

Apologies for the poor photos, the mind map's high up and I had to work around the table in the middle of the room.

I've still got lots of books and bits of paper piled on my desk but it would be a lot worse without the  mind map.

The whole thing - 4 sheets of A4 sellotaped together and pinned on the picture rail.

Close up - can you read it?.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

"You have an offer of a three book deal!"

Friday 26th February 2016 is going to be a date that I'll remember for the rest of my life - it's when a teenage dream finally came true.

I'd just got home after meeting the wonderful members of the Norfolk Chapter of the RNA for lunch in Norwich, when the phone rang. It was my brilliant agent Felicity, who I think said, "Are you sitting down?" I did. Then came the magical words, "You've got an offer of a three book deal!" This was followed by much squealing and jumping around which brought my husband rushing in to see what the matter was.

Unbelievably a second offer came in the following week, and negotiations started. Having one offer was amazing but to have two was way beyond my dreams. Both were excellent offers with fantastic publishers, so I went down to London for to meetings at both publishers as it was important to meet them and hear what they had potentially planned for my books. 

Then came the hard bit. I had to choose between them and it was a very difficult decision because they were both so good. I even made comparison charts to try to make it easier. In the end my heart knew who I should choose because they felt so right for me. It had to be the wonderful Little Brown Sphere.

Manpreet Grewal, who's my editor at Sphere made the announcement in The Bookseller yesterday see

It's there in print so I didn't dream it after all.

The home of Sphere just across the road from the River Thames.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Forgotten Service

How much do you know about the London Auxuliary Ambulance Service's work during the Second World War? I knew very little when it was chosen as the setting for my novel. I'd heard more about the Auxillary Fire Service and the A.R.P. wardens, but the crews of the L.A.A.S. seemed to have slipped under the radar and their work hasn't been given the recognition it deserves. Like those in the Fire Service and the wardens, the ambulance crews were out in the middle of air raids ferrying casualties to hospital. They had to deal with some gruesome sights.

When it came to starting my research the title of the first book I read was quite appropriate - The Forgotten Service by Angela Raby. Written from her aunt's memories and with many photos and lots of details about the work of the LA.A.S. crews, it's an excellent research source that I keep going back to again and again.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

When you're least expecting...

Welcome to my blog.

I've been writing for years and have had short stories and Pocket Novels published and have nearly finished writing my first serial for The People's Friend magazine. Last year when I was least expecting it, I met wonderful agent Felicity Trew from the Caroline Sheldon Agency, who has since taken me on and my writing has gone off in a direction I would never have expected.

It's thanks to the brilliant Romantic Novelists' Association, who give writers a chance to meet agents and editors at their annual conferences. Last July's was in London, and for months I wasn't sure if I'd be able to go or not because of family illness. In the end I was able to book my place but didn't have any new writing to show an agent or editor so nearly didn't try for any one to one appointments with them. It makes me shiver now when I think how close I came to not taking that opportunity. In the end I thought I would send in the first three chapters from one of my Pocket Novels to get a bit of feedback. I certainly wasn't expecting what happened.

The day before the conference I saw an email from Felicity in my inbox and thought she was going to say don't bother coming for your appointment. To my amazement, it was quite the opposite, she liked my writing. My one to one appointment with her went brilliantly and although the writing I'd given her wasn't quite what she was looking for, she saw potential in my work and liked my "voice" - that illusive thing that each writer has to find. We arranged another much longer meeting and from that my new book was born.

I'm now working on a book which follows the fortunes of three different women working in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service during the Blitz. I've immersed myself in research, reading books, visiting the archives of the Imperial War Museum and London Metropolitan Archives. It's fascinating and wonderful. I've been pushed way out of my comfort zone but I'm loving it as the story grows and develops and the characters take on a life of their own.