Today it's my pleasure to welcome Evie Grace back to the blog for the A Place to Call Home blog tour.
Thank you very much for welcoming me on this stop on the blog tour. I’m delighted to be here.
A Place to Call Home is the third novel in the Maids of Kent series that was inspired by my family history. Having written contemporary fiction in the past, I’m really enjoying my foray into the Victorian era.
I was born in Kent and one of my earliest memories is of picking cherries with my grandfather who managed a fruit farm near Selling. I spent many happy holidays with my other grandparents in Canterbury - I can remember feeding the ducks in Westgate Gardens, and buying shoes at Kennedy’s shoe shop on Sun Street. My experiences, and the time I spent with my grandparents and great-grandmother, inspired me to write about this beautiful and historic area.
I’m living in Devon now with my partner, and I have a daughter and son who have flown the nest.
If you had to give an elevator pitch for A Place to Call Home, what would it be?
Rose Cheevers lives a happy life with her patchwork family at the tannery beside the river Stour in Canterbury until disaster strikes and she is forced to flee with the younger children. Moving from the city to the Kent countryside and then on to the brickfields of Faversham, Rose struggles to keep her family together and find a place she can call home.
Describe Rose in 3 words.
Resourceful. Caring. Strong.
Is there a specific message or theme that you wanted to get across to your readers with your Maid of Kent series?
My great grandparents were very poor and lived in the slums of Victorian Canterbury. They worked as ostlers who looked after the horses at local inns, and as tanners who were exposed to potentially fatal diseases such as consumption and hide-carrier’s disease. They didn’t waste anything, not a scrap of food or cloth, and more importantly, they stuck together, helping each other out.
I wanted to write this series as a tribute to my family and others, who found the strength to thrive in straitened circumstances, and found happiness in the small things in life, not material possessions.
During the Maid of Kent series we have heard Agnes', Catherine's and now Rose's stories, which of these three women is your favourite or is that too cruel to ask?
That’s a difficult question! I think Rose is my favourite by the smallest of margins – I admire the way she looks after her younger brother and sister.
Your Victorian saga Maid of Kent series is very different to the previous books you've written, how much research did you need to do before/whilst writing?
When I was writing as Cathy Woodman, I didn’t need to do much research because I was creating stories set in the present in a vet’s practice in the fictional town of Talyton St George. As a qualified vet, I had plenty of inspiration!
When I started writing Rose’s story I wanted to convey a sense of how she would have lived, what she would have worn, used and eaten, so I did a considerable amount of research using books, the internet and visiting antique shops and auctions. One of the pieces of research that I’ve enjoyed the most is looking into Victorian slang and the Kentish dialect to find words unfamiliar to us that Rose might have used.
Have you ever fallen in love with a character of your own creation?
All the time. When I create my characters, especially the heroes, I know I’ve got it right when I fall in love with them. When I finish a book, I often feel quite bereft leaving my characters behind, even though I’ve left them in a good place.
What essentials do you need to have close to hand when you are in writing mode?
A pen with four colours of ink, a pad of A4 paper with narrow feint and a margin. A laptop. Lots of tea and chocolate.
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
One of the best things about writing is being able to organise your working hours, but it’s also one of the worst things because people get the impression that you are always available! I have to be very strict with myself, making sure I do my quota of words every week so I can meet my deadlines.
What type of books do you like to read? What novel have you read that you wish you had written?
I like to read many genres of books, but when I’m writing I tend to stick with crime and thrillers because they’re a complete contrast to the sagas. There are too many novels that I wish I had written, but if pushed, I’d say Pride and Prejudice. I love Jane Austen’s use of language and her observations of social situations.
What writers inspire you?
Again, there are too many to list. Georgette Heyer, Catherine Cookson, Harry Bowling, Nancy Revell, Elaine Everest, Margaret Dickinson, Jean Fullerton, Dilly Court…
Do you treat yourself to something to celebrate the publication of your books?
On publication day, I like to have a glass or two of Prosecco to celebrate.
And finally what can we expect from your next?
I’m in the middle of editing the next book, A Thimbleful of Hope, which is Violet’s story set in Victorian Dover, and I’m already researching the one after that.
East Kent, 1876
With doting parents and siblings she adores, sixteen-year-old Rose Cheevers leads a contented life at Willow Place in Canterbury. A bright future ahead of her, she dreams of following in her mother’s footsteps and becoming a teacher.
Then one traumatic day turns the Cheevers’ household upside-down. What was once a safe haven has become a place of peril, and Rose is forced to flee with the younger children. Desperate, she seeks refuge in a remote village with a long lost grandmother who did not know she existed.
But safety comes at a price, and the arrival of a young stranger with connections to her past raises uncomfortable questions about what the future holds. Somehow, Rose must find the strength to keep her family together. Above all else, though, she needs a place to call home.
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