It is such a honour to have Rosie Clarke appear on my blog. I am a big fan and loved her latest book The Girls of Mulberry Lane.
Here is our interview:
Tell us about your new book?
The Girls of Mulberry Lane is a WW11 drama about a community of East End folk. Set during the run up to and the beginning of the war, it tells of how the shadow of war affects lives even before a shot is fired. Peggy, the local landlady and friend to many, is aware that the rift in her marriage is growing wider, perhaps exacerbated by her husband’s memories of the first big war, and also his reluctance to let his daughter Janet grow up and find her own happiness. Maureen is also a main character and the war brings new factors into her life, which has been one of duty tied to her father’s shop. This is the first of a series, which follows the lives of these characters and brings in many more new ones weaving them into intricate plots of love, life and death as the shadow of war deepens.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Peggy is one of the main characters and she is the pivot around which the local life swirls. It is to Peggy that her friends go in trouble and she is there holding the threads of normality in a world that is falling to pieces around them. Even though her own life is in turmoil, Peggy is there for her daughter Janet, Maureen and the other folk in her lane in need of help.
How much research do you do?
I research particular events to give the book authenticity, but most of it is down to memories of London soon after the war, early fifties, and my grandmother’s stories of what London was like when she was young. My father was brought up in London and sometimes had no shoes for school when times were hard; also I watch everything going about that time and read as many books on the times and area as I can. It’s just sort of there and if I make mistakes they’re the result of being too caught up with the plot, which sometimes makes me forget which month or year we’re in. Luckily, my editors always pull me up if I make a slip so we usually iron out any little faults before the book goes to print.
What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
I write sagas these days, mostly set in London, and often around the time of WW11 or just after. The era of the fifties is very much mine, but I heard so much of the war and I experienced the shortages as a small child. I have vivid memories of no sweets and very little fruit in the forties. I suppose I just feel that I belong to this era even though I was very young when the war ended, but it is a part of me.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I began by writing historical romances, which were the books I loved to read when I was younger. I read them from a very young age and began to write them when I was first married. It took me quite a while to leave my rose-tinted glasses behind and go for something closer to the truth and a lot less romantic, though I still like a good love story as the heart of the book.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
Yes, I have a lovely big study, where I have a desk and a printer and all the rest, but I write sitting in a comfortable chair on my laptop. I have two so that if one plays up I can transfer to the other and don’t lose lots of writing time, which sends me mad. I can look out at the drive and some bushes, which are pretty in spring and summer, and the roses are gorgeous just now.
What is your writing process?
Very simple. I just get an idea and start. I research when and as I need to but if you do reams of it, you put too much in and it reads like a history lesson, so I just get on with the story and build the atmosphere and background gradually. I do a synopsis only when my publisher asks for one – or my agent says we need a new contract. I need to have written several chapters before I’m sure enough of my story to write the outline. So, back to front if you like. I’m not a forty page synopsis writer. I just go with my gut – or my heart. Once the tears start to fall as I write I know I’m on the right track.
How do you come up with your ideas?
That’s where the thinking comes in. I know it’s time to start a new book so I think about what kind of setting we want. Is it 1940’s or perhaps 1912-1918? Once you decide that you can picture the streets, what they looked like, what kind of houses, shops etc.; is it town or a country village? Now we have a sweet shop and a girl working behind the counter. Is she pretty or plain? That will probably decide if she has a boyfriend or someone who wants her – and is her father a tyrant? Well, of course he is, because there is your story right there. If you can’t write a book on those few facts you’re not a storyteller. Variations of setting and theme give you different types of stories, but war or industrial conflict like strikes and the depression, people out of work and desperate for money, are very helpful for plot ideas.
From your novels do you have a favourite character?
There are so many and the current hero is usually favourite. At the moment one of my favourites is Tom Barton in the Mulberry Lane series. He’s too young to be the hero yet, but he carries a plot well and I really like him. If the series goes long enough he is sure to become a hero in the end.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I have a website, which lists the books and tells a little about me. However, Aria’s own website is very useful for lots of information, not only on me but so many other good books. You can sign up for their newsletter. I have a twitter account @Anne Herries and my websites are: