Today I'm delighted to welcome bestselling author Jean Fullerton to my blog as part of her tour for her latest book All Change for Nurse Millie which has recently been published.
Jean Fullerton is a native Londoner and was born in the East End within the sound of Bow Bells. Until she was five her family lived in Wapping, alongside the Thames, and then moved to Stepney. She is a trained nurse and teaches healthcare and nursing. No Cure for Love won the 2006 bi-annual Harry Bowling Prize for a novel set in London and written by an unpublished author. Jean's husband is a Church of England vicar, and his parish includes the site of the 2012 Olympic Games. She has three daughters.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book All Change for Nurse Millie?
In the first book of the series, Call Nurse Millie, we meet Millie on VE day and follow her and her various patients though the three years from the end of WW2. We see her tend to her patients and sacrifice her own happiness to care for her ailing mother. In All Change for Nurse Millie we catch up with her on the day the NHS started in 1948. She is now Nurse Millie Smith, having married aspiring MP Jim Smith. Millie and her fellow nurses are busier than ever with the introduction of the NHS as the community realise that they no longer have to pay for the services. Minor ailments need attention, babies need to be helped into the world and some of the larger-than-life characters need keeping in line, so Millie has enough drama to deal with without having to deal with more from home . . . and Alex Nolan, her ex-fiance, is back in town.
Did your medical background as a district nurse play a part in the inspiration for this series?
Very much so and having researched the story using 1940/50s nursing text books and talked to retired district nurses who worked in East London during that period, I have a huge admiration for their dedication. Of course, it was a different world then without many of the things we now take for granted. There were no antibiotics and everyday operations such as hip and knee replacements weren’t available but despite this nurses worked hard to relieve their patients’ suffering and always with a friendly smile.
What was the most enjoyable part to write about in All Change for Nurse Millie?
Researching the nursing techniques Millie would have used to treat her patients as they were so very different from the ones I had at my fingertips.
As a nurse Millie must cross paths with a lot of characters, did you have a favourite to write about?
I loved Mrs O’Toole, the sharp old lady who ran a scrap yard. I actually laughed when I wrote about Millie’s husband Jim’s two elderly aunts, Georgina and Augusta. I also enjoyed writing Millie’s Aunt Ruby who was really my Aunt Nell and of course, I love Alex Nolan, Millie’s ex-fiancé and I was very happy to bring him back into Millie’s story in this book.
Are there any plans for further books in the series?
Oh, yes. In fact I’ve almost finished the next book in the series due to be released in Feb 2015, which features Millie’s friend Connie Byrne who we meet in Call Nurse Millie and All Change for Nurse Millie. Once I’ve handed that into my publishers in May I’ll get cracking on Connie’s second book.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I had no idea I would ever be a writer. I have dyslexia so at school English was torture so the thought of earning my living by the written word seemed utterly ridiculous. It’s only by an odd twist of fate that I started writing fourteen years ago at all. At that time I was a District Nurse manager in the NHS and was sent on a management course. It recommended we take up a hobby to relieve stress. I’d been a lifelong historical reader so thought I might take a stab at writing an historical novel. It was just for a bit of fun, nothing serious. It was only when stories, plots and characters started to materialise in my mind that I realised my writing gene had been unlocked.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
I started writing in February 2002 and my first book was published in December 2008, so almost seven years.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
On a weekday I arrive home from the day job at 4ish and reply to any emails outstanding. At 6ish I get an evening meal and by 8 I’m at my computer for a couple of hours. I can usually get a scene done in that time. I break at 10ish for a bit of TV then, if I’m not up too early the next day, I’ll write again until midnight. On a weekend I squeeze in a bit of writing between family but try never to write on a Sunday and just relax. Sometimes, however, with a deadline looming I have to.
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Thankfully no, but I’ve heard the best way of dealing with it is to carry on writing.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I still have another career as a university lecturer teaching nursing and health studies but I would love to just be a writer. Sadly I’m not yet JK Rowling.
Where do you get the inspiration from for your stories?
My East London background inspired all my books but especially Call Nurse Millie and All Change for Nurse Millie as many of the settings and characters are drawn from my past. Growing up in the 1960s, the Second World War was still a vivid memory to my family. My dad and his brothers fought with the 8th Africa and my mother and aunts lived in London all through the blitz. To them, life events were always ‘before’ or ‘after’ the war.
Would you say that any of your characters are like you? If so, which one(s)?
Indeed they are as I am the heroine in every story I’ve ever written.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
Political thriller as I love all the intrigue of The West Wing and House of Cards.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Learn your craft and never give up.
Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hindrance?
Both. Facebook and Twitter allow me to reach and chat to so many readers but it’s a
distraction when I’m trying to write. I often switch off the internet when I’m writing to stop me popping over.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
I suppose that would have to be Jane Austin for her wonderful studies of people falling in love but I’d like to add Chaucer and Charles Dickens, again for their wit and observation of people.
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I really happy with either although I prefer a kindle on holiday as it saves on weight.
Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Penman
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
No, just slump over the keyboard with a large gin in my hand.
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
My office. I used to be able to write anywhere but over the last few years I find I concentrate much better in my own environment.
I’m very lucky to have the fourth bedroom to myself with bookshelves full of research material on three walls, a full-size desk with my PC and a printer under the window. I have lots of little quirky historical keepsakes scattered over it like a Braveheart Winnie the Pooh, a glass coaster from the Tower of London and a 1953 Coronation Mug, which holds my editing pens. Unfortunately, I have to share my space with Fudge and Tilly, my two cats who seem to think it’s their recreation room and drape themselves under the computer screen and curl around the keyboard.
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Tough one. Actually, the Bible as there are hundreds of stories in there, Katherine, by Anya Seton which read when I was about 13 or 14 and I totally fell in love with historical romance at that moment and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell rather than Pride and Prejudice, as I’m more of a John Thornton than Mr Darcy type of woman.
All Change for Nurse Millie is out now! Find out more here. If you love the sound of this book then you're in luck as thanks to the generosity of Jean's lovely publicist Harriet there are 5 copies up for grabs in a giveaway. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below (UK residents only), winners will be selected on 12th March and contacted for their postal address.
Visit Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog tomorrow to read a fantastic extract from All Change for Nurse Millie!
a Rafflecopter giveaway