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When creating characters, they need to be built from their past experiences, from their back-story. Like all of us, it’s those experiences, and the way each individual deals with them, that forms their motivation, grabs (or even repels) the reader’s sympathies, and forms their character. It’s that funny thing with writing, it’s only when the characters start to take on their back-story that they really come to life. It’s also the point where they tend to take on a life of their own. As a writer, you can no longer direct them. You can give them a nudge in the right direction, but if they don’t want to take it, if it goes against their motivation and their character, then it rings false – just as it does in life. Of course characters in books, as in life, also change, and it’s the emotional journey that the main characters follow that forms the heart of any story.

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Feuding families are always effective means of creating emotionally rich back-stories – think Romeo and Juliet and the Forsyth Saga for starters – and where would Eastenders be without a good feud? The central tension is there, danger is there, and there are endless possibilities and machinations to keep the plot zinging. Plus, let’s face it, there aren’t many families where there aren’t any tensions between acquaintances or different branches of the family.

Two feuding families always lay at the heart of my latest historical novel for Honno Press, The White Camellia. When I was first working on the book, I didn’t want to take the route of star-crossed lovers, but the story of two very difference women across the divide who – like so many women do – are the
ones who have to pick up the pieces as the unforeseen consequences rumble down the generations.

White camellia with dewSo while in Cornwall Sybil has fought her way out of destitution with nothing more than her wits, and is determined she and her family will never again face the horror of being out the streets, Bea loses her materially comfortable life, and is faced with trying to support her mother and little sister in Edwardian London, with few opportunities for women to work, let alone support a family.

Of course, at some point they have to meet, when the past catches up with them, and the two women have to decide whether to continue as enemies or make their peace. Strangely enough, it was that part of the story that was both most challenging and most intriguing, and where the back-story really came into its own.

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The White Camellia began as a very simple idea, but in writing the book, the characters of Bea and Sybil, and the obstacles the past puts in their way by their interlinked back-stories, took on a life of their own, so in the end I just followed, and was taken to emotional places I could not have found as a simple puppet master directing the action according to my original plan. What I had not foreseen was that, for both my heroines, the background of the family feud was also one that set them on a path to self-knowledge, to forgiveness, and (hardest of them all) to self-forgiveness. It’s a journey we all take through life, but it’s the intensity of events and emotions surrounding something as extreme as a family feud that really gives them an edge.

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The book I’m working on now does not have a family feud at the centre. In some ways it’s a relief not having the emotional complexities to resolve, but I also miss it as a structure. I have a feeling it’s a back-story I’ll be returning to again in the future – and send a new cast of characters on their own emotional rollercoaster ride!

 

 The White Camellia

UK edition

US Edition

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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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The White Camellia 2

A few days ago, copies of my book arrived from my publishers, Honno Press.

It’s beautiful. I tore open the packet and lifted out the top one, and sat down and stared. I couldn’t quite believe it was real. Of course, I’ve been looking at the White Camellia 1cover of ‘The White Camellia’ over the past months, and I’ve been working on story for over two years, and this is not my first book – but it still has that punch-to-the-stomach astonishment that it’s there at all.

Holding it lovingly in my hands is a reminder that the creation of a book is such a long, intricate, and at times agonizing process. I love that first moment when an idea hits, like an explosion in the brain, sometimes apparently out of nowhere, and you just know it’s going to work. Then comes the long, hard slog of getting that story down, revising, and revising, and revising until it works. I always find the first rush of enthusiasm inevitably turns to despair at some point, as the whole thing begins to feel like a seriously bad idea, and it just becomes a slog to get to the end, because I’m stubborn like that.

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Then, just as you get it to where you think it’s right, its time for the first outside view. In my case, it’s my editor, the wonderful and totally perceptive Janet Thomas, and the whole process starts all over again. I’ve said before how much I love the editing process. With each book, I’ve also found that each time is different. Each time, I’ve learnt a little more, but also I’m stretching myself, trying something new, and so with something new again to learn. I might pretend to myself that I don’t, but I usually find that the bits that are picked up are the ones that were niggling at me, along with the bits I haven’t thought of at all, and Cadnantwhich are usually down to me still living in the story, and forgetting my reader. Which is where an editor comes in, as a mediator between writer and reader, so that story gets out there just as you want it to be.

I get such a buzz from the to and fro of refining the story, ironing out the glitches and the bits that don’t make sense, and being pushed and pulled and prodded into going places (particularly emotional depth kind of places, where your very soul is ripped apart and hung out to dry) I never thought I’d dare. Then finally, after the line edits and the copy edits, at the point where you loath the story and wish you’d never started this writing lark in the first place, this miracle appears. A real, beautiful, book.

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It’s quite strange, glancing every now and again at the copy of my book propped up on my Welsh dresser to be adored as I pass. At the moment it’s in limbo, waiting for publication day. Very few people have seen it, even fewer have read the story. It hasn’t met its readers yet, so it stands there, in a curious kind of existence, both exquisitely real and not yet quite real at all.

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When I saw my first book, ‘Eden’s Garden’, I couldn’t believe it was so small. After all that blood, sweat and tears, it felt it would be at least size of a building. It still felt a bit the same with my second, ‘We That are Left’. With ‘The White Camellia’ it just felt beautiful. It wasn’t any less hard work, but it wasn’t such a totally overwhelming experience. I’ve grown in my writing journey.

 

Juliet in Cadnant

So, while I wrestle with the soggy middle of the next book, and wonder why I ever though this was a good idea in the first place, while making notes for the one after that, which is in the totally pure inspirational state (as in, I haven’t started writing it yet), I’m getting ready to send my latest baby out into the world. I’m enjoying having ‘The White Camellia’ all to myself for a couple of weeks, before she sets out to find her own way in the world, in her rightful place among her readers, and doesn’t really belong to me any more.

Because, in the end, it’s readers who make each book really live – and that, I’ve realised, is the whole point of the editing process, after all.

I can’t wait until September 15th – publication day for The White Camellia’, when Sybil and Bea, and all my beloved characters (even the ones that make your skin crawl) finally become real.

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I never expected to find myself in ‘Good Housekeeping’.

I’ve been published in magazines before, but it has almost always been fiction. So when I was given the chance through my publishers, Honno Press, to pitch for an article in the Christmas edition, my first reaction was that it wasn’t for me. The article was about ‘How we remade Christmas’ after a family change, or the dead of a loved on who had been central to family Christmases. What could I write about? My Christmases are very quiet and ordinary. I had nothing to say.Tynysimdde in the snow


DSC_1677By a strange coincidence, I was joining up with my family in the cottage in the wilds of Snowdonia where we used to spend Christmas. Being there, I remembered all those Christmas, fourteen vegetarians sitting down to (a very delicious) Christmas dinner, cooked by my dad, who was always the centre of Christmas. It wasn’t that we were just all vegetarians. The cottage really is in the wild and for many of those Christmases had no electricity (candles were not just for Christmas) and a loo in the pigsty at the bottom of the garden (in an isolated valley with no lights, surrounded by forest – just the thing to develop the imagination …) and several times were snowed in and had to be rescued.

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Candles (and oil lamps) were not just for Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

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The cottage is there somewhere!

In fact, it was one of those times were were snowed in at Christmas when I was very small, and were down to our last handful of coal and tins of baked beans, and having to break the ice over the spring to collect water, that became the very first story I ever had published, the story that made me a professional writer. It was something I’ll never forget, following the rest of the family, clutching my doll as my mum clutched my baby brother, making my way through snow that was nearly higher than me, as we made our way over the fields to be sledged down the steep hill to my uncle, who had battled his way along treacherous single-track roads in a battered Landrover.

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The old fireplace with the remains of the range

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Mum at the cottage at Christmas in the 1950s

So, in fact, it turns out the Christmases I thought of as ordinary, were not really ordinary at all. And the way we remade Christmas after my dad died, in Swedish style, reindeer sausages and all, was about as different as you can get. And then there was the fact that this Christmas would have been my dad’s one hundredth Christmas. The Christmas he was born, was in the midst of the horror of the First World War. History is that far away, and yet so close.

 

I’m delighted my article was chosen to be in ‘Good Housekeeping’. I’m not sure what my dad, the child of working-class Victorians, brought up in a level of poverty unimaginable in Britain today, and a proud, stubborn, Yorkshireman to boot, would have made of it all. Although I rather suspect that secretly he would be chuffed to bits, and (as a non-drinker) might even have raised a small glass of wine to the occasion.

And the Swedish bit? Ah, well you’ll have to read the article to find out!

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I’m delighted that ‘We That are Left’ is an Amazon Kindle Daily Deal for Easter Day! 

In the UK it’s £0.99p                 In the USA it’s $1.47

Just for one day only!

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Thank you to Literature Wales and their wonderful writer’s bursary that helped me concentrate on finishing the book.

In 2014 ‘We That are Left’ was the Book of the Month for Waterstones Wales, The Welsh Books Council, and The National Museums of Wales.

“August 4th, 1914: It was the day of champagne and raspberries, the day the world changed.”

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‘We That are Left’

Honno Press

Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.

And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.

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Praise for We That are Left

A Country Wives Top 10 Riveting Read of 2014:
“When I started to read it, it was like putting on a pair of comfortable old slippers. I just slipped into the characters lives and I devoured every page for its simplicity and honesty.”
Annabel, Country Wives

“Ms Greenwood is a mistress of storytelling. Her novel pulls the reader in from the very first page… I have no doubt whatsoever that you will simply adore Juliet Greenwood’s latest novel. I know I did!”
Edith O’Nuallain, Story Circle Book Reviews

“This is such a moving story, one full of emotion and the author captures the atmosphere and adds details that make you feel as if you are there too with Elin. It really was a delight to read this book and I didn’t want it to end at all.”
Rosie Amber

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” I just slipped into the characters lives and I devoured every page for its simplicity and honesty.”
Annabel, Country Wives (http://www.countrywives.co.uk/left-juliet-greenwood/)

“‘We That Are Left’ spans the four long, life-changing years of 1914-1918 and beyond, portraying the effects of the war not merely on the novel’s characters but on British society as a whole, capturing the final days of a passing era and way of life. It is beautifully written, wonderfully paced. There is romance, adventure and suspense. And there is, as in Eden’s Garden, quiet contemplation of the themes of grief, loss and loyalty, and of the way in which our past experiences shape our future selves. It is, quite simply, a riveting read.”
Suzy Ceulan Hughes, http://www.gwales.com

“There are few greater delights than a book that draws you in from the very first pages and immediately makes you care about what happens next, that demands your attention in every free moment you can conjure until the end.”
Claire McAlpine, Word by Word (http://clairemca.wordpress.com/)

“powerful and moving”
Trisha Ashley

“Juliet writes with obvious passion for and knowledge of her subject. Indeed Juliet communicates with an emotional eloquence and understanding that’s contagious in a good way making her novels very much worth our time.”
Ani Johnson, thebookbag.co.uk

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Congratulations to the winners!

First of all congratulations to Shirley who won the Oapschat competition with a prize of a signed copy of ‘We That are Left‘ and a box of handmade Cathryn Cariad chocolates inspired by the recipes in the book. Choc 1 small

Congratulations to the winners of the Goodreads giveaway of ten (hotly contested) signed copies of ‘We That are Left’ which are currently being packed up all ready to go winging their way towards you.

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My publishers have generously found me a second box of Cathryn Cariad ‘We That are Left’ chocolates in need of a good home.

Watch this space!

And thank you to everyone who tweeted and posted and shouted out loud that ‘Eden’s Garden’ was in the Amazon Kindle sale on April 1st – propelling it to number #1 in the Women’s Historical Fiction Charts for the third time in a year.

Eden's Garden Full Price 1 in Womens Historical Fiction

I think this calls for Elderflower champagne – and cake!

We That are Left’ UK       ‘We That are Left’ USA

‘Eden’s Garden’ UK     ‘Eden’s Garden’ USA

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It’s not an April’s Fool! (I had to look twice just in case)

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I’m delighted that Eden’s Garden is 99p today in the Amazon UK Kindle Store!

It’s also $1.47 on Amazon.com (click here)

This calls for Sara Jones’ infamous (if you are watching your waistline) chocolate cake.

You can find the recipe here. Enjoy! 

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Sometimes you have to run away, sometimes you have to come home.

2011 – Carys agrees, with mixed feelings, to look after her mother after a fall. This decision unsettles everything – her job, her plans, her relationship with Joe. Once home she is drawn back into village life, into her family history hidden in the attic, and into the history of Plas Eden, the ramshackle great house that was so much part of her childhood. Where, at 18 she forced herself to say goodbye to David Meredith. How will she feel when they meet again?

1898 – Ann, destitute, stands on London bridge. She remembers her last visit to London, a spoilt aristocratic bride, sure of the power of her youth and beauty. Now she is running from everything she trusted. Is the river her only option, or will the Meredith Charity Hospital hide her?

Two women struggling with love, family duty, long buried secrets, and their own creative ambitions. But over a hundred years ago, Ann left a trail, through North Wales, Cornwall and London, that may help Carys find her true path. What is the secret of the statues in the garden?

Finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’ 2014

Welsh Book of the Month May 2012

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Praise for Eden’s Garden

“Eden’s Garden is a novel rich in detail, nuance and meaning… a tale of romance and mystery, self-sacrifice and fulfillment, each element lovingly enveloped in the atmospheric mists of an ancient story told again as if for the very first time.” Edith O’Nuallain, Story Circle Book Reviews

“a wonderful, scrumptious read…” Sharon, Magical Musings (http://magicalmusings.com/)

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“this story covers multiple generations of a woman’s struggle and heartache with a deft touch. Sensual and romantic, the story swept me away with its strong female characters… It is filled with Welsh charm and romance, and delights with a sweet, lovingly tended story that leaves the reader deeply satisfied” Nadine Galinsky Feldman (http://www.nadinefeldman.com)

“don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in this delightful, intriguing tale which unravels family secrets” Claire McAlpine, Word by Word

“Written on the grand scale, this powerful and moving story of two deeply creative women, seperated by time but both struggling to balance the conflicting demands of family duty and the desire for freedom, held me gripped until the final family mystery was resolved and the entirely satisfying resolution reached.” Trisha Ashley

“A great romantic read and also a very atmoshperic, ingenious mystery.” Margaret James, Writing Magazine

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“Beautiful writing and a charming, intriguing story.” Sue Moorcroft

“Juliet’s characters are so believable and richly drawn – the reader really cares what happens to them…” Anne Bennett

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