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Publication of

The Ferryman’s Daughter!

The bowl is from Cornwall and as for the apples – well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Today is publication day for The Ferryman’s Daughter, my very first book for Orion. We may be in lockdown, in an uncertain world, and definitely with no opportunities for wild celebrations, but I’m still wonderfully amazed and excited to see my novel sail out into the world.

I loved the time I spent with Hester, the passionate, independent-minded and determined heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter. The original inspiration for Hester was Rosa Lewis, who in Victorian times rose from a kitchen maid to cooking for royalty and owning her own hotel and who was also the inspiration for the popular TV drama series ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, which is still repeated now and again.

But when I was writing my story of resilience and friendship overcoming the uncertainties brought to a community facing

St Ives, in Cornwall, where the story is set

WW1, I never thought how much this would resonate in the lockdown life of a global pandemic. On the other hand, it also feels similar because of the way so many of us have been brought together, and that, for the most part, it’s kindness and solidarity that is getting us through.

So I hope you enjoy the story of Hester, who never gives up on her own dreams, while helping the nurses and volunteers nursing the survivors of the battlefield back to health again. I love that Hester remains doggedly positive, whatever life might throw at her. I’m holding onto that too.

The UK edition is available HERE

The US edition is available HERE

To celebrate publication day, here is the recipe from the book for the most delicious apple cake. Simple but tasty – and the very thing to cheer up life in lockdown.

Jan’s Scrumptious Apple Cake (the inspiration for Hester’s mum’s best apple cake)

250 g butter

225 g caster sugar

3 eggs

Half cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

260 g sifted self-raising flour

2 lemons

 

For decoration:

Two or three eating apples (coxes or russet are best) unpeeled

One lemon

Sugar and water for lemon syrup

 

Preheat oven to 180c/ 350f/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm/ 9inch springform tin.

 

Combine butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and the grated rind of two lemons. Spoon batter into the tin. Slice the apples and arrange until the top of the cake is completely covered. Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour (or until a skewer comes out clean).

Meanwhile, cut thin strips of lemon rind and boil in water and sugar until crystallised. Roll into curls. As the cake cools, make holes with a skewer and pour in the sugar syrup. Decorate the cake with the crystallised lemon peel.

Serve warm or cold, with a generous dollop of clotted cream

 

And the sea is St Ives in Cornwall, where The Ferryman’s Daughter is set. This was a wild and windy day a couple of years ago. I was planning to go back this summer – maybe next year!

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The copies of The Ferryman’s Daughter have arrived!

The paperback is safely in my hands, and the book is also up on NetGalley

as well as for pre-order on Amazon ready for publication day on May 14th.

It’s well and truly out there!

It’s always and exciting moment, the day your book finally becomes real and there it is, sitting in your hand about to go out into the world and have a life of its own. Receiving a box of boxes in the middle of lockdown was quite surreal. Having my feet photographed instead of signing was a first, and then there was the business of opening it, with much handwashing and hand santiser before I could finally get a glimpse of the beautiful cover.

My lovely editor at Orion had sent me a photograph, so I knew the colours were stunning, but they still took my breath away when I was finally able to liberate a copy from the packaging (with the help of Miss Phoebe, who was under the impression that something so exciting could only be gravy bones, of course).

And since then I’ve been looking at it and taking it everywhere with me – even on the day’s dog walk!

It’s an amazing feeling. I still can’t quite believe it’s actually real! I’m a little sad that I won’t be having the planned party in my garden (which is currently in full bloom and just waiting for a celebration), but I know that will come later.

Meanwhile, I feel incredibly lucky for The Ferryman’s Daughter to have made it out into the world at all. When I was writing the story, I had no idea that Hester’s determination to dust herself down, pick herself up and keep on going, even in the face of panic buying of flour and sugar (no toilet paper at the time of World War One!) threatening to destroy her fledgling business would so soon be reflected in our own world. It made me root for her even more.

So here’s to publication day. I can’t wait to introduce Hester to the world – not to mention her delicious recipes, designed to rebuild the strength of recuperating soldiers and help those she loves to keep up their spirits in a world abruptly changed. Go, Hester!

 

Review copies of The Ferryman’s Daughter are available from NetGalley HERE

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK Here  and Amazon US HERE

 

 

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Copy edits are funny things.

 

After months of working on The Ferryman’s Daughter, writing and re-writing, editing, rewriting again and then tweaking, this is the final time I’ll see the book in manuscript form. It’s also the last chance to make any changes. Not major transformations, it’s already too late for that. Copy edits are about consistency, making sure the whole thing hangs together as a whole, with events taking place in the right year with everyone with their right ages all the way through. It’s more about the technical aspects of a story than any previous edits. It’s also where the joins from the different versions (when things like an age change can slip through the net) are smoothed out to make the final whole.

 

I always find it a strangely satisfying process. Frustrating at times. Even irritating, as you hunt down some little detail that then requires changing throughout the book and can drive you mad, as well as zapping all those repeated words you never spotted (may I never use ‘just’ again!). It’s where you have to stand back from the story as a writer and become a proofreader, complete with electronic tracking, with comments on the side to be addressed and corrections in the text. As someone who earns her living as a proofreader (although not for fiction), it’s quite surreal to see my own work this way – and crawl away into a corner at the recognition that I make the same mistakes! Why is it that the brain always adds that missing word, even though you’ve been over that paragraph a hundred times?

The copy edits are a final distancing from any emotional attachment to the story, which is vital to root out any tiny errors that might otherwise slip through, and also a goodbye to the characters and locations that have lived inside your head, 24/7, for the past year or so.

Up to this point, the book is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. It can change, and frequently does. But once you press ‘send’ on this particular email, with the corrected manuscript attached, that’s it. This is where the baby grows up, ready to go out into the world and take on its own life – starting with its appearance in ‘The Bookseller’ (super-proud moment).

The Ferryman's Daughter in The Bookseller

The Ferryman’s Daughter in The Bookseller

 

You could go on with copy edits forever. As with anything, there’s always some tiny mistake, some minor tweak that can be made. But at some point you have to call it a day. Personally, I always know when I can’t do any more. It’s when I loathe the book with a passion you would not believe. When I never want to see another word of it, or have to have anything to do with its dratted characters, ever again, and I seriously question why I thought this was a good idea in the first place.

This may sound disastrous, when there’s promotion just around the corner. But that’s the thing. It’s like childbirth. The moment the book comes back in proof form (okay, even before that), the agony is forgotten. It’s time to fall in love with the story, all over again.

 

Roll on the proofs!

 

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

 

 

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photo-3

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.

frost

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.

mist-in-the-valley

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.

forest-2

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

white-camellia

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