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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

white-camellia

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Finding the Snowdon Lily

Today, I would like to introduce my good friend Heather Pardoe, who writes serials and short stories, and is now published by Endeavour Press.

Heather’s first book with Endeavour, ‘Finding the Snowdon Lily’, (if you are in the US click HERE) is a historical adventure sent on and around Snowdon during the great Victorian fern-collecting craze (yes, there really was such a thing) is published today.

Dolbadarn Castle with Snowdon behind

I was going to celebrate the occasion by interviewing her, only this might be a little predicable, as, er, (as most of you will already know), she is, in fact, me.

I’ve written before about the pros and cons of writing under two names for the Novelistas Ink Blog http://novelistasink.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/serials-or-novels-that-is-question-by.html Over the past few months I’ve been in even more of a whirl between my two identities. I’ve been writing the next serial and editing further books for Endeavour as Heather, while at the same time bashing away at the new book as Juliet, trying to get as much done as possible before the edits land for the novel out with Honno next year.

And yes, I have ended Daughter of Conwy 4 smallup talking to myself! Luckily, my four-legged secretary and research assistant takes such things in her stride.

Today, however, I’m going to celebrate as Heather. There I was, taking it all in my stride, telling myself, just another Heather adventure out there – but now it’s come to it, I’m just as excited as when a Juliet book comes out!

And so, what does Heather write? Well, much shorter books, for one. But they are also historical exciting adventures, inspired by the many wonderful women we generally don’t hear about, who never let a crinoline or corset get them down, but were off up mountains and outwitting villains with the best of them. And like her serials, they are set in Snowdonia – including on Snowdon itself.

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Climbing Snowdon in the mist

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Reaching the summit

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The cloud clears – this is what Catrin would have seen from the top!

So this evening Heather and I will be raising a glass of champagne (possibly of the homemade elderflower variety, it being a weekday, and having a hero to rescue from particularly dire straights) to ‘Finding the Snowdon Lily’ – and Heather Pardoe’s future writing career!

Heather’s website is HERE

You can follow her on Twitter HERE

And on Facebook HERE

 

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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!

National Museums of Wales Book of the Month small

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.”

WWI Seed Cake

‘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

Seed cake

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WW1 Seed Cake small

It’s a year (given a week or two) since the publication of ‘We That are Left’.

And what a whirlwind of a year it’s been. After all the hard work getting your baby to as near perfection as it can be (to the point where you hate the very sight of the little tyke), it’s always an anxious moment when your darling/little horror goes off into the world to the most uncertain of fates.

I’m not sure what I thought this time last year. Probably because I was so busy between madly doing interviews and getting bookmarks printed and dancing all over the Internet to think at all.

Juliet at launch from Trisha

Thanks to my lovely author friends, the Novelistas http://novelistasink.blogspot.co.uk/, I had a wonderful, stress free and utterly happy launch party – complete with the WW1 poppy seed cake from the recipe in the book.

WTAL at BBC Radio Wales

I certainly had no idea then that the poppy seed cake would take on a life of its own, making it to the local studios of the BBC and the recipe having over 4300 hits on the Oapschat website alone (you can find the recipe here).

I had never dreamed that We That are Left would become Book of the Month three times over, for Waterstones Wales, The Welsh Books Council and the inaugural Book of the month for the National Museums of Wales.

National Museums of Wales Book of the Month small

Most of all, I absolutely and totally never, ever dreamed that ‘We That are Left’ would reach #4 in the Amazon Kindle store and number 1 in all its categories.

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I think this calls for a party.

So in celebration, I’m working with my publishers, the awesome Honno Press, with a giveaway of ‘We That are Left’ up and running on Goodreads, and two chances to win a signed copy and a box of handmade Welsh chocolates inspired by the recipes in the book.

Chocolates!

The Goodreads giveaway is up and running (click here to enter) – and details of the other two will follow shortly.

Thank you to all my wonderful readers and everyone who has tweeted and re-tweeted and shared on Facebook – and not forgetting all those amazing reviews.

Seed cake

Watch this space!

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I am delighted that my WW1 novel ‘We That are Left’ is £0.99 pence in the Kindle Daily Deal today –

But for one day only!

 “We That are Left’ was published by Honno Press in February 2014. It is the story of the brave and resourceful women of the First World War, both at home and on the battlefields of France, and of one woman’s journey of self-discovery from which there is no going back. It is a story of friendship and survival, and includes original recipes and remedies of the time. ‘We That are Left’ was completed with the aid of a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and in March 2014 was Waterstones Wales Book of the Month, Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month and Wales National Museums Book of the Month.

‘We That Are Left’

National Museums of Wales Book of the Month small
“August 4th, 1914: It was the day of champagne and raspberries, the day the world changed.”

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.

The Trailer for ‘We That are Left’

Praise for ‘We That are Left’

You can read the 9/10 review of  ‘A Spoonful of Happy Endings’ here

and Rosie Amber’s five star review here

“powerful and moving”
Trisha Ashley (http://trishaashley.com/)

“‘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/)

The legendary WW1 Poppy Seed Cake from an original recipe that you can find in the book. Delicious!

Seed cake

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My room 2November is Novel Writing Month and to celebrate NaNoWriMo, Webucator is asking writers for their perspectives on novel writing and to answer the following questions. I may not be trying to write a novel in a month, but I’m in hermit and no-housework mode as I wrestle with finishing one – so I’m delighted to part in answering Webucator’s questions.

 

What were your goals when you started writing?

When I wrote my first novel at the grand age of ten, it was to create my own version of the worlds I adored in my favourite books. The author I loved most was Rosemary Sutcliff and her vivid historical novels – so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that I eventually ended up as a historical novelist.

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The writer’s life …

My room with a view!

My ideal writing room in beautiful Portmeirion. One day …..

When I began to write seriously as an adult, around fifteen years ago, my goal was simply to be published. I knew that what I was actually producing was turgid, pretentious, and dreadful, but somewhere inside me that flame from my childhood passion still burned. As I could feel myself beginning to improve with experience, and even had a few short stories published in magazines, I found a new goal – the one I now know I should have had from the start of my adult writing: to work with an editor.

That chance finally came when Honno Press liked the book that was to become ‘Eden’s Garden’ and gave me the chance to work with the wonderful Janet Thomas. No promise of publication, just to work with an editor. That year working with Janet was the biggest rollercoaster ride of my life. I always say it was like having a personal trainer: I was pushed and prodded and inspired to be more ambitious and explore more depths in my writing than I could ever have believed, and to be more rigorous in my approach. It was the year that changed both my life, and my writing. (And yes, there were times when I wanted to crawl into a corner and for it all to go away – but who said writing was easy?)

You can find out more about my experience on working with an editor HERE and about throwing the best bits away HERE

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The proud moment I first held ‘Eden’s Garden’ in my hands.

 

What are your goals now?

 To earn my living from my writing! It’s begun, but it’s a long, slow process. My two books for Honno Press ‘Eden’s Garden’ and ‘We That are Left’ both reached the top 5 in the Amazon Kindle store earlier this year, so I’m moving in the right direction, but I still earn very little from my writing. I also write serials as ‘Heather Pardoe’ for The People’s Friend magazine, which helps. I find the real problem is time: all writing is speculative unless you have a contract for several books or a serial has been commissioned. Bills arrive come what may! But I’m plodding on. My three month Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary to finish ‘We That are Left’ gave me a small taste. And when I think that only a few years ago just being published seemed an impossible goal and the word ‘bestselling novelist’ was a daydream, to even have this goal feels a miracle!

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Becoming book of the month with ‘We That are Left’

 

 

What pays the bills now?

Some comes from my novels and serials and I have a small amount of PLR (Public Lending Right – the writer’s best friend) each year. But the majority still comes from an admin day job I do for one and a bit days a week, and I also work as a freelance academic proofreader, mainly for students with English as their second language. It’s fascinating – and good training for proofreading my own work.

 

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

I’d die if I didn’t. Like most writers, I sometimes wonder why exactly I put myself through the agony – but I know I couldn’t give it up if I tried. I don’t write to be rich (although that would be nice) but earn enough to be able to write. And I don’t care how long it takes …..

WWI Seed Cake

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