Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I chatting with Francesca Capaldi in the tearoom. It’s lovely to have you here.
Thank you for inviting me to your clubhouse, Paula. It’s rather nice here, isn’t it?
It is lovely, very peaceful with the view of the lawn edge with the trees and lake. Let’s start by ordering our drinks. What would you like?
A vanilla latte please, decaff, with oat milk?
No, trouble at all. Here in the Clubhouse everything is available. Now we have our drinks, let’s start by asking you when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I started off with short stories for magazines, before moving to young adult, then contemporary adult. I’d written five of these novels altogether before it occurred to me that I should take advantage of both my history degree and my Welsh heritage and write a saga. This lightbulb moment came when a record hint for my family popped up on the Ancestry website. It was a World War 1 military record for my maternal great grandfather, Hugh Morgan. He enlisted in March 1915 but was given a medical discharge in November the same year, because of tachycardia. Somehow the opening scene wrote itself and it became Heartbreak in the Valleys.
Tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Well, currently I have two projects that I’m working on, but the main one is for the third book of my Valleys series. This moves onto the stories of two of the secondary characters readers will already have met, Gwen and Elizabeth, their tales intertwining as they cope in their own way with the fallout of the Great War. The other book, one I’ve been mulling over for a year or so, is also set in World War 1, but this time by the seaside in the town I grew up in, but that’s all I’m saying for now!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Aghhhhh! A sore point. Loads and loads. Most are short stories, which I still occasionally submit and have published, but there just aren’t enough hours in a day to write as many as I used to and concentrate on the novels. And the pocket novels. Which is quite sad, really, because I do enjoy writing them.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
In the past I’d have ploughed on with chapter 1, but these days I write a kind of rough synopsis first, then a scene breakdown, so I can see exactly where the story is going and how it’ll end up. Even doing that, the characters often surprise me and have their own idea of what they want to do!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
The male protagonist in Heartbreak in the Valleys, Idris, was sort of based on my great grandfather Hugh, since it was his story that gave me the inspiration for the novel. However, he died several years before my mother was born, and I never thought to ask my great uncle Glyn, his older son, about him, although Glyn would only have been fifteen when he passed away. In looks, Idris is supposed to be a cross between my grandfather Islwyn, Hugh’s younger son, and the actor IoanGruffudd.
A minor character in the book, Mary Jones, an allotment worker, is my great grandmother of the same name (not the wife of Hugh, the other maternal one). I love having her pop up and trying to imagine what she might have been like as a young woman, as she lived in the village my imaginary Dorcalon is based on. She died when I was twenty-nine, so I knew her well.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
I’m not sure I’m that interesting!I do, however, have a famous second cousin in Anita Roddick, the creator of The Body Shop. We’re both children of Italian immigrants. I never met her, only her mother, but her father and mine were first cousins and knew each other. Apart from a serial I wrote for People’s Friend a few years back, the Italian side of my family is not one I’ve really explored for my writing. Perhaps in the future.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
It depends what aspects I’m working on, but I do try to treat it like a nine to five job. Each day I write a list of what I want to achieve, but it’s not set in stone. If I’m working on edits, I’ll still put by a couple of hours to work on actual writing. Then I have to factor in time for social media and often research too. I like to have a deadline because I’m much more likely to get on with it then.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
That’s an interesting question. I kind of do, as I write novels under my maiden name. My short stories are now also written under Capaldi, although my earlier stories were written under my married name, Burgess. I guess I thought it sounded more interesting, especially after Peter Capaldi became Dr Who! I was told by an agent, who was interested in Heartbreak,that I should dump my maiden name if I was going to be a saga writer and shorten my first name to Fran. Eek! I’ve always fought shortening my name. I did consider using my mother’s maiden name, Morgan, if they wanted me to sound more Welsh, but my eventual publisher was perfectly happy with the name I chose, so I left it at that.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Sometimes I hit on the right name for a character immediately, but often characters will go through several name changes. For Heartbreak in the Valleys, I looked through a website of Welsh names alongside a list of baby names popular at the turn of the century and the 1911 census for Abertysswg, the village I based Dorcalon on.
I try and decide a few basic things about a character before I start, what they look like, their mannerisms and their temperaments, but often something will occur in the story which gives me new insights into their lives. I do always keep a list of characters and add to their profiles as the story progresses.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The last scene of any novel, or any short story come to that, is what I find the hardest. Even when I know what happens at the end, actually making sure it finishes in the most satisfactory manner can take a while.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Francesca. It’s been lovely. I shall get our driver to run you home.
Here are Francesca’s Links:
Heartbreak in the Valleys: https://amzn.to/3449WQ6
Write Minds Blog: https://writemindswriteplace.wordpress.com/
Author Page: https://bit.ly/3cF5N94
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.