Thursday, 7 August 2014

Debut Author Spotlight: Frances Evesham

Today, I'm delighted to welcome to the blog author Frances Evesham, whose début novel, An Independent Woman, is set in the Victorian period, one of my favourite eras. I only recently started the novel as my TBR list is toppling over, in print and e-book, but I can’t wait to continue it from a great beginning that conveys the period very well. Frances has kindly answered the questions I put to her but first, here’s a little about the book.

An Independent Woman

With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes the dangers and fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to end her quest for independence and freedom.

Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of the great country house, she hears whispers of the mysteries that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.

Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.

An Independent Woman is available from Amazon UK and US, Amazon Universal and the Wild Rose Press
For UK residents only, signed print copies are available from Frances Evesham’s author website and blog.

Here's the lovely trailer to whet your appetite!

A warm welcome, Frances, and thanks answering the following questions!

Hello Rosemary. I'm very proud to be interviewed by you on your blog. I've admired your progress as a writer and used your success as a prompt for myself when I wondered whether I would ever find a publisher for my first novel.

Oh, that’s such a lovely thing to say - thank you so much! It’s great to see your first book published.

Please tell us a little about how you became a writer.

I wrote my first story sitting on the floor of my bedroom. It was about horses, because every book I read was about horses when I was ten. I think the world is better off without that book.

I don’t think I would ever have completed a full-length novel except for the invention of the word-processor, or at least the type-writer. I love the idea of writing with a beautiful pen on silky paper, but my handwriting is so bad that anything not typed is indecipherable. I truly envy anyone who writes in longhand.

I aim to write mystery stories with a strong plot, plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing and a little feel-good romance. I want my reader to keep turning the pages until the end, then sigh with pleasure.

Is there a particular reason why you chose the Victorian period?

When I was a child, I met my two tiny great aunts, Annie and Winnie. They were Victorian ladies living in a village post office in the Cotswolds. They wore lace collars, their manners were perfect and they expected me to behave properly, too. They kept a caddy of tea in a special corner cupboard, hung on the wall in the parlour, for visitors.

True Victorians, they were interested in everything I had to tell them, even though they were over 90.  They’d worked all their lives, one as the post-mistress, the other as a teacher. They never married. I loved their active minds and they would have adored the internet.

Passionate curiosity about the world led the Victorians to build railways and bridges, construct sewers and invent photography for all. They even designed special hidden cameras for spying.

The world was changing fast in the 19th Century and I found it exciting to set a novel in that time, when people believed anything was possible.

Your aunts sound lovely!

Did you have to do a lot of research for this novel and how did you do it?

An Independent Woman moves from the London slums to a great country house, so I had to understand both these settings. Fortunately for me, there is a wealth of information available about the Victorians, both on line and in print.

I have a shelf of books, including the wonderful London Labour and the London Poor, by Henry Mayhew, which includes rich verbatim conversations with people on the streets of London. “Gander,” for example, was a crossing sweeper, proud of being “the fust boy as ever did ornamental work in the mud of my crossings,” drawing anchors and laurels in the black mud.

Mrs Beeton is a great source of information on the ways of the Victorian middle classes.

I think one of the challenges of setting a story in the past is avoiding the trap of modern expressions without resorting to convoluted “historical” speech. I'm constantly amazed to find the Victorians talked much like us. I was part of a project a few years ago, editing some of Charles Dickens’ journals as they went on line, looking for errors in the scanned versions and I often look at the Old Bailey Online to read the witness statements.

Sometimes I find surprises – like the woman who described how she “tea’d” with her aunt, in the same way we would say we “dined.” I hadn't come across “tea” used as a verb before.

Great resources and fascinating snippets!

What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?

It’s hard to marshal all the ideas buzzing around in my head into a single narrative. There’s so much that has to be left out.

An Independent Woman took shape first when I found out about a real event, the Sonning Cutting train crash on the Great Western Railway, that happened on Christmas Eve in 1841. That event became the catalyst that threw Philomena, a poor, working girl, into contact with the aristocratic Lord Thatcham.

Once the hero and heroine became real, they took hold of the story and it moved into areas I hadn't expected when I began. It’s very strange how characters take on a life of their own. They become part of the family!

How do you promote your book and does it work?

Like so many other writers, I find this the hardest part. My great aunts would have been shocked at the very idea of marketing or promoting themselves. They would think it very vulgar! On the other hand, I've met plenty of interesting people through social media.

I do have a written strategy and plan for marketing, because I spent many years working as a project manager so I like to know where I think I'm going. It’s long term, because I'm planning to write a good many more books, so I don’t yet know whether it will work. It’s based on identifying exactly who likes to read my books, growing my Twitter presence and building an email list, so I can talk directly to readers.

I love Twitter, because I can talk to anyone about anything, whenever I want to. It’s great to meet other writers there and it’s also full of people who do other, equally exciting things.

I do have a Facebook account and a separate author page, but I spend less time there. I like writing guest posts and have hosted one or two on my blog. I think that’s one of the best ways writers can help each other.

I write snippets of Victorian trivia on my blog, and I even made a video trailer for An Independent Woman, mainly because I took your advice, Rosemary. I used iMovie on my iPad. It was enormous fun and I’d recommend everyone to have a go, so thanks for that great tip!

I also followed your example and held a Facebook launch party. I held a Victorian tea party, the sun shone, it lasted for just three hours and was tremendous fun. I’ll certainly do that again next time.

Wow – you’re much more organized than I am and it sounds as if you’re doing all that you can to succeed. And I enjoyed that tea party!

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I'm not sure it’s exactly my favourite place, as it’s the tiniest bedroom in the house, available now that my three children have grown. I searched high and low for the smallest desk in the world, so it fitted in. I write with my nose inches from the monitor!

The truth is, once I'm writing, I don’t even notice where I am, so I keep the garden views for coffee breaks.

Do you find time for hobbies?

I'm truly lucky. Writing feels like a full-time hobby because I love it so much. I live in beautiful Somerset, within reach of both the beach and the countryside, so I walk when I need to untangle a messy plot.

I enjoy good food and wine and I like to try out new recipes, though really I'm happiest with pasta and cheese!

What are your current writing plans?

I've returned to Thatcham Hall for my next novel, with a new hero and heroine who have to untangle a different mystery. Along the way, they meet some old friends from An Independent Woman. I'm hoping to get that off to my editor in the autumn and then start work on the next story.

Thatcham Hall is beginning to turn into a sort of Midsomer, where anything can happen!

I also write about communication. I worked as a speech and language therapist for many years, and I've written books for parents on helping their child learn to talk. I've got a non-fiction idea that keeps tapping me on the back and asking me to write it, but at the moment I'm having too much fun in Victorian England.

Lots to keep you busy there!

Any tips for new writers?

I read everything I can get my hands on to help me write, from Stephen King’s On Writing to writing blogs. I also read advice from publishers on how to write query letters and synopses.

I wrote one draft of An Independent Woman, then went back again, and again … The story that came to publication was version 13.

I think the best tip of all is to keep going, learning from rejections. I truly did not believe I would find a publisher, but one day, after hard work, disappointments, despair, nail-biting and vast quantities of Earl Grey tea, I found someone who liked my book. It really can happen.

Great answer – and it shows the necessity and power of perseverance!

You can connect with Frances on her website, Amazon Author Page, Facebook and twitter

Frances Evesham writes historical romances and books on communication, leaving her enough time to enjoy bad jokes and wish she'd kept on with the piano lessons.

She collects grandsons, Victorian ancestors and historical trivia. She likes to smell the roses, lavender and rosemary, cooking with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. She loves the Arctic Circle and the equator and plans to visit the penguins in the south one day.

She's been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper and she's worked in the criminal courts. Now, she walks in the country and breathes sea air in Somerset.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rosemary, for the opportunity to be grilled for your blog. It was great fun!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Good to see you here, Frances!

Ashantay said...

I very much enjoyed your interview. Best wishes for a successful series of books!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ashantay - and good luck with the new book I know you've just launched!

Sandra Dailey said...

Wonderful interview, ladies. An Independent Woman sounds intriguing. Who doesn't love to visit Victorian London in a good book now and then. It sounds like you've put a lot of work into your research. That makes all the difference in the world. Good luck and great sales!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Ashantay - many thanks for commenting.

Thanks a lot for your comment, Sandra!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your kind comment, Sandra. I loved writing An Independent Woman and found the research fascinating.

Anne Gallagher said...

What a lovely interview. Your aunts sound like quite the thing. And yes, tea'd is a verb, or rather was, at one point in history.Thank you Frances.

Thank you Rosemary.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anne. My aunts, Annie and Winnie, also had a sister, Minnie, my grandmother. Aren't they the most wonderful names? It's great that you've come across tea-ing before. I plan to tea every day at 4pm!

Wendy's Writing said...

I found this really interesting as the serial I am writing is set in a large house in Victorian England. So glad your perseverance in finding a publisher paid off.

Patsy said...

I used to live in Thatcham. Wonder if there's any connection to the hero.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wendy, I'll look forward to seeing your story!

Anonymous said...

Hi Patsy. I chose Thatcham for its location in terms of the GWR and for its historical interest as one of the oldest settlements in England. The great house that used to be there is no longer standing, so I thought Thatcham Hall should take its place!

Joanna said...

I loved this interview, Rosemary and Frances, especially the wonderful aunts! I am very keen to use 'tea' as a verb now. It sounds very elegant.

I sympathise with the need to tease a single narrative out of all the strands. Leaving things out is so difficult, but worth it once you see the end result.

An Independent Woman looks like an excellent read with some fabulous settings and characters. Congratulations and best wishes for its success. xx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Anne - many thanks for commenting. I'd never heard of tea'd like that before!

Your serial sounds very interesting, Wendy!

What a coincidence that you used to live in Thatcham, Patsy!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks for your lovely comment, Joanna - I love those aunts too and I think we've all learned a new verb!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joanna. My outtake folder was as long as the movel in the end! Do you keep your discarded ideas for future writing?

Anonymous said...

Oops. sorry for the typo. I meant novel, of course.

Joan Fleming said...

Such an interesting interview, Frances and Rosemary, particularly as I have a yen to write a book set in Victorian times. Like others, I loved the aunts - and the new verb! I'm really looking forward to reading An Independent Woman.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for your comment, Joan!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, Joan, how very kind. Hope you enjoy writing your novel. There was so much going on then!

sydney st. claire said...

Nice interview and nice trailer. Love the cover. It's always interesting to read about other writers and how they write.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sydney. Debbie Taylor from TWRP designed the cover and captured just the atmosphere I wanted. She's such a talented lady!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks for your comment, Sydney - I love that cover too!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks for your comment, Sydney - I love that cover too!