So pleased to have you here Elaine. I’m looking forward to hearing more about you and your writing.
Firstly, Congratulations on The Woolworth’s Girls – Love the cover!
Thank you, Karen. I’m delighted to be on your blog today. Thank you for inviting me.
The Woolworth’s Girls is a great title – where did you get the idea?
I have to reply honestly and say that the Pan Macmillan team came up with the title. I’m pleased they did as I really like the The Woolworths Girls and it is much better than my working title, Sixpenny Sarah,
Tell us how and what you did to research The Woolworth’s Girls?
The book is set in Erith, Kent, which is where I was born. I lived in the area most of my life so know the people, the old streets that no longer exist and even the Woolworths store where my story is set. One of my characters lives in a house in Alexandra Road where I lived when first married. The council (LB Bexley) archives were a great help as was the archivist of The Woolworths Museum. It was a joy to dig deep into stories that I grew up with.
If the Woolworth’s Girls was made into a musical, what ten songs would you feature in it?
I do have a playlist for The Woolworths Girls that is mentioned throughout the story and I write in the back of the book about my songs. So many have personal memories for me from my family singing them at parties and wedding although I couldn’t squeeze in Are you Lonesome Tonight or My Way!
The ten songs I would feature in my musical would be:
I’ll See You in my Dreams
If You Were the Only Girl in the World.
Hello, Hello, Whose Your Lady Friend?
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty
Bless ‘Em All!
Over My shoulder (goes one care)
By a Waterfall
I Found a Million-Dollar Bay – in a five and ten cent store
(The American version of Woolworths)
Your Woolworth’s girls were likely to have bought their Christmas presents in the store. What presents do you imagine they would give to each other and the people they know?
The girls did purchase calendars for their mothers one Christmas. Remember those pretty chocolate box cottage pictures with a piece of ribbon to hang on the wall? Make up became scarce as the war progressed and to get hold of a lipstick for each other would have been a delight. Maisie was the seamstress and was always sewing pretty items as well as make do and mend. Her gifts were often items of clothing whilst Freda would knit something practical and useful.
As well as a musical, I believe The Woolworth’s Girls would make a lovely Sunday evening drama – who would play your major characters?
I would love my main character, Sarah, to be played by Jessica Raine from Call the Midwife.
Sheridan Smith would make the perfect Maisie and Sophie McShera, who played kitchen maid, Daisy, in Downton Abbey, would make an ideal Freda.
For the handsome Alan it would have to be Julian Ovenden, again from Downton Abbey. He is also an amazing singer and Alan did like to sing.
I’d always envisaged Victoria Wood as Sarah’s nan, Ruby, but sadly that could never be now.
As well as writing your novels Elaine, what else do you fit into your time?
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m mad about dogs. Since the seventies I’ve exhibited, judged, sat on committee and bred the occasional Old English Sheepdog litter. These days we just have Henry, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog, who has already qualified for Crufts 2017. Apart from that I always have my nose in a book and enjoy writing retreats and writerly events with friends.
And, as my tutor, and very good one at that, could you share how you came to start ‘The Write Place’ Creative Writing School and what you have in store for its future?
Thank you! I am a qualified teacher of adults and for some years taught creative writing for Kent Adult Education Services. However, it became apparent that the management only really cared about ‘bums on seats’ and I wanted to help students become published writers. So, I upped and left. Soon after I set up The Write Place (www.thewriteplace.org.uk) at The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford and have never looked back.
For the future: I will keep waving my ‘big stick’ so you all keep writing and will continue to enjoy our celebrations (cake and wine) as all the fabulous students become published, win competitions and sell more books. We have a fab crowd of wonderful writers at all levels of their writing careers. It’s a very special place.
What would be your top six writing tips?
1. Keep writing
2. Interact with other writers
3. Don’t be despondent
4. Never stop learning
5. Read a lot!
6. Never believe your own PR!
And finally, The Woolworth’s Girls is bound to be a big success, can you tell us what’s next?
I hope so – wouldn’t that be lovely? It’s been a fascinating journey to be with a major publisher and have a fabulous agent. Next is The Butlins Girls (Pan Macmillan) that will be published in early 2017. The story starts in Erith and moves to Skegness as Billy Butlin reopens his holiday camps after WW2. Love, friendship, intrigue and lots of fun!
Wishing you every success Elaine, can’t wait to read it and look forward to your next. Thank you for visiting my blog.
Thank you so much, Karen, for asking such interesting questions. Xx
About Elaine 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 in and around the county.
Elaine’s new Novel The Woolworth’s Girls is available from: Amazon