As any writer will tell you, this writing life can be a lonely old process. Hours and hours sitting alone at some makeshift form of desk or office can leave you feeling a bit like Alice falling down a rabbit hall. One minute you feel toweringly tall after producing a thousand wonderful words from nowhere, while at other times you begin to shrink to the size of a pea after staring at a blank page for most of a morning. You start to mutter strange ditties to yourself and imagine that your cat is grinning inanely at you. So, when I was asked to participate in an author blog hop, to share something of my latest work in progress, I though, yeah, why not!
How The Next Big Thing Blog hop works: An author answers ten questions and then tags up to five authors to do the same thing the following week. “Easy peasy, squeeze the lemon.” (any Horrible Histories fans may chuckle at this, everyone else, feel free to carry on).
Dianne Ascroft, author of Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves:A Short Story Collection and Hitler and Mars Bars, tagged me in The Next Big Thing. Dianne loves to lose herself in the past, particularly in stories set in Ireland and Scotland. Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves includes tales of outsiders who discover they belong, a humorous slice of life yarn, heartwarming love stories and a tale of taming fear. The shadows are on the wall, in the heart and clouding a woman’s memories while tangible foes tramp through the physical landscape. You can read Dianne’s Next Big Thing Post here.
Here are my answers to the ten gruelling questions:
1) What is the working title of your next book?
The working title is ‘Daughters of the Flowers’ although I’m still not completely happy with that and am constantly scribbling down other possible titles.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
It is an amalgamation of a couple of ideas which I have been mulling over for years and have been making notes on in various notebooks. Having initially started writing the story in one direction, I felt that something wasn’t quite right – that I wasn’t writing the story I wanted to tell. With further research and reading around the people and period of history I was basing my story in – street sellers in Victorian London – I discovered a fascinating interview with two young orphan flower sellers and details of a Christian philanthropist, John Groom who was helping the very poor. This took the plot in a different direction, and eventually led to me starting again and writing, what became, ‘Daughters of the Flowers.’
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Historical Fiction – although I prefer to call it ‘contemporary historical fiction’ as it isn’t ancient history or a historical novel based on royalty.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oooo- rubs hands with glee! It would have to be a very English cast, with Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith as two of the leading ‘more mature’ characters! I would also love someone like Mia Wasikowska (the actress who played Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) to be my female heroine, with someone like Andrew Strong (who played the character Egg in ‘This Life’) or Benedicte Cumberbatch as my hero. For the children – who knows. Perhaps we would discover another Daniel Radcliffe or Emma Watson!
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I will interpret this as one ‘long’ sentence!
Spanning several decades, Daughters of the Flowers tells the story of a young girl who is searching for her lost sister, a young woman who is searching for acceptance and how a small, pink, paper rose, and one man’s incredible vision, eventually allows them to discover what it is that they are really looking for.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ultimately, I hope to find a publisher for ‘Daughters of the Flowers’, even though I self-published my first novel ‘The Girl Who Came Home’ in 2012. People often ask me why I want a traditional publisher when I have successfully self-published. The reasons are many, but essentially it is because I want the full experience of working with a publishing house – with an editor who believes in my writing and in my novel and who can really bring the best out of my writing and push me to write the best novel I can. I also want my novels to be physical things which are picked up in bookshops and kept in libraries, as well as downloaded onto Kindles – basically, I’m a traditionalist at heart!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took around six months to write the first draft (after I’d scrapped nearly fifty thousand words and started again!) and then around three months to re-write and edit .
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
At its historical heart, this is a novel about orphaned and disabled flower sellers in Victorian London and is inspired by true events which, as far as I’m aware, haven’t been covered before in novel form, so I’d like to think there is something unique about it! In terms of style, I would love my writing to be compared to that of Sarah Waters, Rose Tremain and Philippa Gregory.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The novel was inspired by true events surrounding orphaned and disabled flower sellers in Victorian London, who were taken off the streets by a Christian preacher, John Groom, and employed to make artificial flowers in a workroom at his chapel. The flower girls went on to make millions of roses for Queen Alexandra Rose Day in June, 1912, the first charitable event to raise funds through the sale of artificial flowers. The John Groom charity still operates today, under the name Liveability. It was also inspired by my love of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and by Henry Mayhew’s amazing social history study, ‘London Labour and the London Poor’.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The novel combines elements of the paranormal, romance and family saga while being firmly rooted in the contrasting lives of the very poor and the very wealthy in London at the turn of the century. The novel has a very strong emotional pull, portraying a personal, very human side of the lives of Victorian street sellers. It is a gentle, redemptive and hopeful tale and takes the reader on a compelling, emotional journey which challenges them to consider what they would do if they were faced with the same circumstances.
The authors I have tagged, and who will post their own responses to these questions on their blogs next week are:
Elizabeth Carden is an author of historical fiction and freelance writer. Before embarking on writing fiction full-time, she worked in politics as a gubernatorial press secretary and speech writer. She was runner up in the Historical Novel Society’s 2012 Short Story Award in London. Elizabeth lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and two children.
Gaynor Alder is a Melbourne based writer with a penchant for vintage glamour and all things Parisian. She is Editor-in-Chief of The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide and Teenage Girl’s Survival Guide and gallivants around the country as a Travel Writer, testing the thread count of sheets and the fluffiness of hotel pillows.
She started writing The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide, after the umpteenth person told her, you know you should really write a book. Her fingers struggled daily to keep up with the thoughts that desperately wanted to become words on pages, to take centre stage in a book that she knew was going to become the new voice of womankind. Her calling, her destiny, her whatever you want to call it, Gaynor writes because she can’t not write. She stands by her adage that the quality of your life, is dictated by the quality of your hair.
Over to you, ladies!