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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

It has been a cold spring this year, here in Snowdonia. I’ve been keeping my head down, getting on with the next book. Okay, wrestling with the dratted tome. It’s got to that point, just before it all falls into place, when it feels like nothing will ever make sense, and why did I start the thing in the first place, why did I ever think it was a good idea, but it’s too late to back out now. ARG!  Having been through this before, I should know this always happens, and you just keep plodding on until it works, but somehow, this point in the process  never seems to get easier!

Then, over the last few days, spring has burst into flower. It’s been so sudden and unexpected (I think we’d all given up), it’s been a magical experience. A real reminder of just what a miracle it is. The green of leaves has grown brighter and fresher, changing day by day, and my garden is growing more colourful every time I look. Finally, my baby beetroot and the broccoli, the peas, beans and salad leaves have been set out on their journey in my veg patch and the polytunnel, and the vine is showing signs of life.

Just before I did my back in with too much enthusiastic digging and weeding (okay, mega-procrastination), I snuck away from the computer and the dratted tome and went up to the coast with friends to visit one of my favourite places, Bondant Garden.

The last time I was there, it was autumn, when there were red and crimson maples and the final glory of the year. This time, it was all about the vibrant, wonderfully clashing colours of azaleas and camellias  – including some beautiful white camellias, to celebrate my rebellious Edwardian ladies’ tearooms of ‘The White Camellia’ , with Millicent Fawcett’s suffrage movement battling for equal pay for equal work, women’s right to education and financial independence, along the dignity of all men and women having the vote.

We were lucky, it was a clear day, with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. In the end, we walked for miles, between the azaleas, and down to the dell, following the river and around the pond to the wilder part of the gardens, with banks of wild garlic, and then back past bluebells.

Finally, there was the trip to the garden centre, where I did my best to be restrained. (ahem)

My plan to spend the evening deep in wrestling my characters into submission didn’t quite work, I was far too relaxed to get the brain back into gear. But the next morning, I was fired up and raring to go. I hadn’t thought I’d been thinking about the tome while I was in Bodnant, I’d been too busy enjoying the sights and the scents and time relaxing with friends. But strangely, the bits that had been bothering me began to fall into place. The possible became possible. And that ginormous hole in the plot that had snuck up on me without me noticing (as they do) had a perfectly sensible solution, the facepalm, why didn’t I think of that before, kind of solution.

The trouble with wrestling, as I should know by now, is that the characters always win (it’s their story, after all), and you just end up going around in circles getting crosser and crosser until you can’t see a way out.

There’s nothing like a bit of perspective to make the impossible work, and beautiful gardens in springtime are the best way.

Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. And those rebellious characters of mine had better agree, or else …

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I’m excited to find that my latest book from Honno Press, ‘The White Camellia’ is currently in both the Amazon and Kobo sale at 99p, and in the Amazon US sale at $1.22  

(links below)

 

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Cornwall 1909

Sybil has fought her way up from nothing to become a successful businesswoman. It seems she has the world at her feet.

Against her better judgment, she buys faded Tressillion House on the wild Cornish cliffs. A house with a tragic past of greed, folly and revenge, linked to the goldmine in its grounds. Sybil cannot forget that the Tressillion family once destroyed everything she held dear, or the revenge that, in a moment of bitter fury, she took to pay them back. Her actions have had consequences that have haunted her ever since, and surround her with secrets that could destroy everything she has fought so hard to become.

But help comes from the most unexpected places, from the very family she has destroyed, setting Sybil off on the long, hard road towards self-forgiveness and the chance of happiness once more.

A thrilling, moving and uplifting story of loss and redemption, of the power of friendship, and the enduring power of true love.

AMAZON

99p from Amazon UK HERE

$1.22 From Amazon US HERE

KOBO

99p From Kobo UK HERE

 

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Praise for The White Camellia:

This was an effortless read that glided through the scenes perfectly… a great book for reading on a rainy Sunday or on the beach while waiting for afternoon tea.“
 Katie Scott, Blooming Fiction

There’s nothing I enjoy better than being wrapped up in the pages of a book that totally transports you into its world, to such an extent that you really don’t want to leave… Beautiful writing, wonderful storytelling, and onto my Books of the Year list without a moment’s hesitation.“
 Anne, Being Anne

This book effortlessly transports us to a time where much of what we as women take for granted was definitely not a given!… This is one of those books that you don’t want to put down….to hell with the washing up and the laundry! It will wait until the last lines are read!“
 Andrea, A Chance To Blog

“The White Camellia is a moving story, portraying the lives of ordinary women who take huge risks in standing up for themselves and fighting for justice… full of suspense, mystery and engaging characters, with a small portion of romance and plenty of drama.“
 Rachel Carney, Created To Read

This is Juliet Greenwood’s third novel and in my view, her best to date. Her writing has matured, settings are beautifully drawn; characters leap off the page insisting on being heard.“
 Word Bird, amazon.com

The setting is immediate and revealing. The author has used all her senses to portray the era the novel in based in. And this talent continues throughout the book, in every scene described… I’ve always held Juliet Greenwood’s work in great esteem; her style of writing, gentle but with an honest reality about it. This is one book I can thoroughly recommend. A great read.“
 Judith Barrow

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The range at the Squatters’ Cottage in Blists Hill

I loved the BBC’s ‘The Victorian Slum’. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a reality TV series in which a group of twenty-first century families and individuals were sent to live the lives of the inhabitants of a Victorian Slum, in the conditions of the 1860s to 1900.

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The Squatters’ Cottage

I was initially interested because of my research for ‘The White Camellia’, which included the campaigns to improve the lives and working conditions for women, which was part of the suffrage movement’s struggle for women to have the vote. I’ve also been researching the Victorian period for the book I’m working on at the moment. It’s all very well reading about conditions, and the struggle to pay the rent each week in a system stacked against you however skilled and hardworking you might be, but watching the struggles – and the anger – of people you get to know as they live the reality week by week really brought home what it must have been like.

A domestic cooking range from New York Cottages Museum, Penmaenmawr

A domestic cooking range from New York Cottages Museum, Penmaenmawr

 

It also reminded me of the inspiration for my own fascination with history, which came from stories of my Victorian great-grandmother, forced, like so many, from a rural life to the industrial heartland of Lye in the Black Country near Birmingham, and who rocked the cradle with her foot while hammering nails to keep the family afloat. This wasn’t a side of history I’d heard from anywhere else, and brought home vividly the realities of women’s complex lives and complex roles at the centre of a family’s survival. Ever since, I’ve loved visiting living history museums like Blists Hill in Ironbridge, and the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, where I stepped inside a nail-making workshop just like my great-grandmother’s, where women supplemented the family income, being paid half the rate men were paid for making exactly the same nails (unless you could say they were made by the men, of course). You can see the nail shop HERE

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The pantry of the Squatters’ Cottage

Like the inhabitants of the Victorian Slum, this wasn’t the unfair practice stacked against my ancestors, paid the lowest possible piece-rates, so that however skilled, and however hard you worked, you could never make any more than the rent and, if you were lucky, enough to eat. Even in the 1920s, when my father started work at 14, he wore his mother’s shoes, as there were no others.

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The bedroom of the Squatters’ Cottage

Like many such families, mine survived against the odds, and with the help of campaigners, libraries and adult education (not to mention the protection of the welfare state), broke free of the tyranny of the weekly rent. To be honest, I spent much of ‘The Victorian Slum’ in tears, at the unfairness and the total lack of understanding by many of the prosperous, made rich by perpetuating grinding poverty in one of the richest countries in the world. It also gave me added respect for social campaigners like Josephine Butler, who gathered the facts to prove that the true price of cheap hats was paid by the milliners who, even on a 70 hour week, could not make enough to survive, and were forced into part-time prostitution to keep a roof over their heads.

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Blists Hill

Most of all, ‘The Victorian Slum’ brought home the strength of family and community to overcome the odds. It reminded me of my mother’s family, the nail-making side, centred around my aunts, and the slightly eccentric great-aunts who lived in the house with the nail-making workshop at the bottom of the garden until they died.

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The garden of the Squatters’ Cottage

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The pigsty

Many of my memories as a child are sitting in a garden while the menfolk tinkered with their cars and their vegetable patches, and the women ‘gossiped’. What I only began to understand later was that this exchange of conversation between a group of closely-knit women was, as it had always been, the invisible and unheralded glue that held the centre together. And they were making sure that we, the next generation (even the girls), were part of the small percentage at that time who got to university, so we would never dread the rentman’s knock on the door.

 

The Victorian Slum can feel like ancient history, but it’s not. The grandmother who held me in her arms was the baby rocked in that cradle as her mother hammered nails to survive. That close.

I’m not sure I’d have had the stamina to live through the conditions of ‘The Victorian Slum’, and I have the greatest admiration for those who did. And I shall be keeping the DVD at hand in case I ever feel my life is uncertain or hard as a reminder – along with the Victorian nail found when my cottage was being repaired, and which still gives me goose-bumps.

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Last weekend, I travelled to Aberystwyth to celebrate the 30th birthday of my publishers, the small but mighty Honno Press. In my hand I was clutching my author copy of The White Camellia, published only a few days before.

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I loved meeting my proofreader!

juliet-and-white-camelliaIt was great to meet up with fellow Honno authors, who I usually see only on social media, as we all live too far away from each other to meet up often. It was also a time to meet up with those keeping Honno punching above its weight, and who, as you do, I usually meet in the fevered intensity of getting a book in on time to meet its publication schedule. I loved meeting Lucy who proofread The White Camellia – and as I know from my day job as a proofreader, definitely a vital part of the process.

There was cake, and champagne, and a celebration of the history of Honno Press, from humble beginnings round a kitchen table to the many books, both new and classics, laid out on the tables.

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I was very proud to see all three of my novels there – I still have to pinch myself that they happened at all!

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One proud author with her books!

So here’s to a true celebration of books, and the sweat, blood and tears that go into creating their stories, and a supportive group of authors and publishers getting those books out there.

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Judith Barrow, Editor Janet Thomas, And Thorne Moore, with Carol Lovekin and Alison Layland deep in conversation in the background

And after the party, as a fan of Welsh noir series, Hinterland, there was only one way to end the day – drinking in the atmosphere of an Aberystwyth dusk.

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So thank you everyone for a memorable day, and the best way to celebrate publication day – and here’s to 30 more years of Honno Press!

You can find out more about Honno HERE

The White Camelliawhite camellia

A gripping story of love, loss and revenge, set in Edwardian London and Cornwall.

UK edition

USA edition

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Cornwall, 1909 

 Her family ruined, Bea is forced to leave Tressillion House, and self-made businesswoman Sybil moves in. 

Owning Tressillion is Sybil’s triumph — but now what? As the house casts its spell over her, as she starts to make friends in the village despite herself, will Sybil be able to build a new life here, or will hatred always rule her heart?

Bea finds herself in London, responsible for her mother and sister’s security. Her only hope is to marry Jonathon, the new heir. Desperate for options, she stumbles into the White Camellia tearoom, a gathering place for the growing suffrage movement. For Bea it’s life-changing, can she pursue her ambition if it will heap further scandal on the family? Will she risk arrest or worse?

When those very dangers send Bea and her White Camellia friends back to Cornwall, the two women must finally confront each other and Tressillion’s long buried secrets.

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There was only one way to celebrate publication day for ‘The White Camellia’.the-white-camellia

In homage to the Victorian and Edwardian ladies’ tearooms that gave women the freedom to escape their families, talk freely to other women and even (shock, horror) men who had not been vetted by their fathers as suitable husbands, it had to be cream tea with friends. What could be better than cream tea in Anna’s Tearooms, a traditional tearooms within the medieval walls of Conwy, and in the shadow of its castle?

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Celebrating with fellow Novelistas Trisha Ashley, Louise Marley, and Anne Bennett. Thank you to Trisha for the photo!

It was a lovely relaxed day after all the last minute dash, as there always is, to get a book in on time and get all the publicity up and ready to go.

It was a strange feeling, as it always is, to see the book up there – especially when the kindle edition appeared. That’s when you know it’s definitely out there!

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Thank you to Trisha for the photo of the proud author with her baby!

So now the story that has been my obsession, day and night, for the past two years has finally flown the nest, and is where it should be, with its readers. It’s still quite a strange feeling! I’m excited and nervous – but also caught up with the next book. Oh, and that thing called housework (only where strictly necessary, of course).

But for one September day, it was lovely to relax with friends, and wander around Conwy in the sun, with the visitors out enjoying the sudden return to summer.

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So here’s to ladies’ tearooms, rebellion, good conversations and friends!

There’s still nothing like holding your book in your hands, and seeing it out there, taking on a life of its own.

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Thanks to Louise for the photo – with scone, of course!

The White Camellia

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For US edition click HERE

For UK edition click HERE

Cornwall, 1909 

 Her family ruined, Bea is forced to leave Tressillion House, and self-made businesswoman Sybil moves in. 

Owning Tressillion is Sybil’s triumph — but now what? As the house casts its spell over her, as she starts to make friends in the village despite herself, will Sybil be able to build a new life here, or will hatred always rule her heart?

Bea finds herself in London, responsible for her mother and sister’s security. Her only hope is to marry Jonathon, the new heir. Desperate for options, she stumbles into the White Camellia tearoom, a gathering place for the growing suffrage movement. For Bea it’s life-changing, can she pursue her ambition if it will heap further scandal on the family? Will she risk arrest or worse?

When those very dangers send Bea and her White Camellia friends back to Cornwall, the two women must finally confront each other and Tressillion’s long buried secrets.

My previous novel, ‘We That are Left’ is £0.99p at the moment

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p1090718I love visiting Erddig, near Wrexham. It’s a big old house with gardens, set in a green and rolling landscape. It’s also beautifully preserved, not only the formal rooms for the family, but also the bedrooms and sitting rooms under the eaves that were inhabited by the servants, and to be honest look a great deal cosier than the equistitly decorated and furnished bedrooms below, in which I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have dared to sneeze for fear of damaging some priceless wallpaper or ornament.

p1090712The servants’ rooms, although plain, give a sense of the less visible members of the household, the ones who made it actually function, making themselves comfortable with what little time they had free, of friendships, rivalries and the ebb and flow of a close-knit community.

It’s that sense of community, and the distance, yet proximity, of very opposite, separated, and intertwined lives that I love in ‘Gosford Park’ and ‘Downton Abbey’. And it’s what makes the big old house, seething with secrets and an unknown past that raises all kinds of possibilities.

Like my first book for Honno Press ‘Eden’s Garden’, ‘The White Camellia’, published this week, starts with a big old house, this time on the wild cliffs of North Cornwall. Tressillion House was once as grand as Erddig, but is now ruined, the family dead, or forced to leave in such haste their belongings are still scattered around, like ghosts of a past that had once been.erddig-car

Into this ruin of lives comes the woman who, many years ago, set in motion the perfect revenge that has broughtp1090722 the family to its knees. Sybil has no intention of taking on the ruin she has created, let along falling in love with the dilapidated house and garden. But revenge is never that simple, and for every human being, life changes us. As Sybil stands among the remains of the past, and the lives that once lived there, a new story begins, one that can heal, or destroy, her.

p1090705That beginning of the story was one that sparked in my brain several years ago, when I first visited Erddig. It was strange going back, with the story completed, the book itself about to arrive from my publishers, and the publicity ready to begin. It reminded me too of just how much I loved watching ‘Downton Abbey’ and that sense of upstairs and downstairs lives intertwined. Like Miss Marple, it’s possible to see all life in a small village – including the tightly-bound village of a large old house and its inhabitants.

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I can’t wait to visit my next old house and gardens …

PUBLICATION DAY THIS THURSDAY!

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Lake Idwal in Snowdonia – an early morning walk!

I’m at that odd point in the writing life, where ‘The White Camellia’ has been waved off to the copy editor, and so finally complete, never to appear in manuscript form again, and the next WIP has reached that grind-to-a-halt stage where it looms large as a complete dud. This happens to every book at some stage or another, but (like childbirth) it’s the bit you forget, or you might never attempt another, ever again. No way.Camellia 2

What I had forgotten, of course, is my old remedy. It’s been too cold and damp a spring here to really get into walking, but now the sun’s arrived, I’ve taken a few hours each day to lengthen the dog walk.

Despite the creaking, it’s worked. I’d wondered if it had been wishful thinking, and this was just a way of avoiding getting down to writing. But there’s something about walking, ambling along with a dog, taking in the view and not too much a slave to the 10,000 steps a day, that doesn’t half get the brain de-knotted. I’ve realised I’m still processing the last bits of ‘The White Camellia’, still letting go of the characters I’ve lived with for so long, and that I’m still at the fluid, early stage of the new book where anything could happen. Indeed, one has already inadvertently changed sex, and several have appeared from nowhere at all.

 

Pool 1The light is stunning at this time of year, and I’m lucky to live near to forests and rivers, with the mountains of Snowdonia a few minutes’ drive away, where I can shoot off in the early morning before the day job and the writing calls. Taking the time from bashing at the keys to be out there has calmed me down, loosened up the creative muscles, and reminded me that writing is a process. It’s always hard to go from the final finishing touches, where a book falls into place, back to hewing a vague shape out of nothing, before the real work begins.

Gate reflection

 

I always start with an amorphous mass of stories and ideas, however hard I think I’ve planned. I always get to the point where it feels totally beyond me, and I ask myself why I don’t just stick to proofreading others’ work and have a nice life in between. But of course, I’m always called back. My battered old writing laptop is always sitting there calling. I can’t walk away. The characters and stories are still there, demanding to get in, taking over the place, and leaving a trail of havoc behind.water art 2

In the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So thank you to the rivers and lakes, and the pristine light of early summer in Snowdonia. My doubts (and my plot) have been de-knotted (for now), and inspiration has returned.

Let a summer of walking (and a new book) begin!

We That are Left is on Amazon UK at £0.99p at the moment: Click here

At on Amazon.com at $1.45: Click Here

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