Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. 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 it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today I’m welcoming Juliet to the tearoom to chat about her writing and books. Welcome Juliet and could you please tell me what you would like to drink?
Thanks for the invite, Paula. Please could I have a cappuccino, thank you.
Now we have our refreshments, I’ll start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I started writing stories as a child, and just kept on going when I became an adult! I’ve always loved historical fiction, which probably goes back to my discovery of ‘Jane Eyre’ as a teenager, and the realisation that human dilemmas don’t change much over the centuries. My current books are set in the 1920s, which I love because it’s a time when women were starting to break free of restrictions and being able to earn their own money and follow careers, giving us the opportunities we have today. It’s also a time when people were coming to terms with the trauma of WW1 – something I suspect is going to be very relevant in our (hopefully soon) post-COVID-19 world.
Tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
The book that is coming out next year, ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’ is something I’ve been mulling over for a while. The heroine works as a blacksmith and a silversmith, which reflects my own family history, when my great-grandmother worked as a nailmaker in industrial Lye, in the Black Country, near Birmingham. I used to love the stories of her wielding a hammer while rocking the cradle with her foot. Respect!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
More than I can count! And that’s without the exceedingly dire first attempts at books that I’m trying to root out and remove. One of the less dreadful is waiting in the wings to be revamped when the time is right, and the rest are being mined for any good ideas – while (hopefully!) leaving the ham-fisted execution behind.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter, or let the characters lead you?
I find I have to write the first three chapters before I attempt a synopsis. When I start a new book I generally have a clear idea of the main characters and where it is going, but I always find that when I start new characters come in, usually to resolve logistical problems. This is especially true for books set in the 1920s when social norms meant women couldn’t just move around as they wished, and being seen with a man could be social ruin. I find such characters appear from necessity, then refuse to remain in the position of convenient chaperone, ending up with a starring role of their own.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
I think they all are, even when I think they aren’t. Many of my female characters are inspired by the stories of real women, which have often been forgotten, such as those working under fire on the front line in WW1, like Rachel in ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’ and those who set up and ran hospitals and convalescent homes in private houses, like Miss Chesterfield in ‘The Ferryman’s Daughter’. When I look back at a book once it has been written, I often realise that most of my characters are amalgamations of aspects of myself and those I know. It’s a fascinating process.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
When I first set my books around the time of WW1, I had no idea just how much research was involved, but I’ve found it utterly fascinating. It made me realise just how much of women’s history, and particularly that of working class women, is simply ignored. It’s gradually being rediscovered, but there was so much I didn’t know, particularly just how independent and active women were in the past. I think the main thing I realised was just how much the suffrage movement achieved, with so many indomitable women dragging legal rights and protections for their sisters from unwilling politicians. I also, I’m ashamed to say, was unaware that the fight for the vote (like that for employment rights) was for men too, and that universal male suffrage was only achieved in the UK in 1928, on exactly the same day as for women. I’m glad I learnt that women might, until recently at least, be invisible to history, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there, making their own lives and battling away, with many, like the amazing Millicent Fawcett, running rings around the most powerful men in the land.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I work my writing day around my freelance work as a proofreader and editor, which often has tight deadlines. I try and get that out of the way as early as possible. Then I clear my head by taking my dog for a walk. I live amongst the mountains of Snowdonia, in North Wales, so as well as enjoying the glorious scenery, it’s very peaceful (we give Snowdon a miss), so I see this as my thinking time. Once I’m back, the coffee is on and I plunge straight in before the dreaded procrastination sets in. I try and work solidly until the afternoon dog walk, which is much shorter, then settle down to reading, research and social media. In normal times, I break up the routine by meeting up with friends for coffee several times a week. One day soon …
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
I try and write at least 1000 words a day. If I’m feeling stuck, or the day job has frazzled the brain, I make sure I still write, even if it’s rubbish, as it keeps the mind on the story and inspiration does eventually appear, however unlikely it seems at the time.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
My career as a published writer started with short stories, serials and pocket novels using the pseudonym of ‘Heather Pardoe’. It was when I was just finding my feet and didn’t know in which direction I wanted to go, so I felt more comfortable doing them under another name. I also wasn’t very confident that my writing was any good, so meant I didn’t have to own up. I really enjoyed writing all of them, so I have definitely owned up since!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes about a year in all. I tend to write a (very) rough draft in about three months, so I know where I’m going. Then the hard work really begins…
Thank you for joining today, Juliet. If you would to find out more about Juliet’s books and writing please click the links below.
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.