Publishing 15th October 2013
Do our actions and decisions mark us and stay with us for the rest of our lives? Gracie has her life before her as the dark clouds of the Second World War gather.
Though she and her family cope well with the stresses on the home front, Gracie's transformation to adulthood is swifter and more brutal than she could have ever imagined.
Gracie meets Tony, who arouses such feelings in her that she has never experienced before - not with Joe her regular beau who considers her his girl. Then, one night, one mistake, and she realises she is carrying Joe's child.
And now Tony has gone to war.
JB: Why did you decide to write about this particular period in history?
ELAINE: I grew up hearing my parents talk about the war years along with stories of family life ‘back then’. The community I grew up in Slade Green, NW Kent was very close. These days it has been swallowed up as part of outer London but even in the sixties it had a village atmosphere where everyone looked out for the children and it was safe to leave the door unlocked. Again, when I married and moved to nearby Erith in the 70’s I knew many people and learned how my street has survived the war. In fact Gracie’s friend Peggy lived in my own house in Alexandra Road. I knew and loved the people as well as the area so it was an easy choice to set my story there.
JB: Did Gracie’s character develop the way you had originally plan or did she develop completely differently?
ELAINE: I knew Gracie as a young woman. She was exactly as I had designed her. However, as the story grew darker I was surprised how she coped when I threw danger in her path. But then she was like many women at that time. They had to grow up quickly as the War took over their lives.
JB: What sort of research did you have to do for the book?
ELAINE: I needed to check local history. I couldn’t rely completely on family stories. I found that reading the BBC website containing war memories was very helpful as it gave me glimpses of what people thought about, the weather the day war broke out and people who saw the boats go off to take part in the relief of Dunkirk. I wanted to know about real people and that’s where I found it. I also immersed myself in films set in those years and played records from the war years. My mother was rescued from the floods in 1953 only weeks before her wedding to my dad. Although she passed away when I was 17 (she was 40) the stories she told me have stayed with me all these years.
JB: From start to finish, how long did it take to write the book?
ELAINE: The book went through the RNA New Writers Scheme in 2012 and took around six months though it had been in my head for a while until I was ready to write.
JB: You have written many short stories throughout your writing career. Tell us a little bit more about the process for writing a short story and how that differs from writing a full length book?
ELAINE: I write short stories for women’s magazines (womag) so my first ideas have to fit the right market. Not only the word length but the style of that magazine and what the readers like to read. I have to be able to sell the story to more than one market so I may have several versions that also fit overseas magazines. I also have to write ahead all the time so for some magazines I am writing Christmas stories in the summer months which can be tricky. The difference between writing my short stories and novels is that I have the luxury of more words to play with and being able to include extra sub plots and in depth characters.
JB: Was the short story market a difficult one to break into?
ELAINE: Yes, I had to learn my craft. We wouldn’t expect a plumber to fix our loo on the first day at work and I didn’t expect to sell stories straight away. However I did send some awful stories off and thankfully they were rejected. It was all part of the learning process.
JB: You are involved in adult education and founded The Write Place, a creative writing school. You must find this a very worthwhile venture. Tell us a little bit more about how this came about.
ELAINE: I’m very proud of The Write Place and have seen so many beginners not only enjoy their writing but succeed in competitions and placing their stories in magazines. We run all classes month by month so that no one has to fork out for six month terms like other educational institutions. We are a very happy crowd and not at all stuffy. One week we can be writing hints. Tips and fillers and the next family pieces for a newspaper or a horror story for a competition. We like to try all kinds of writing. We have classes for novel writing, womag writing and also a general writing class. Cakes feature highly in our classes as we love to celebrate a student’s success.
JB: Do you have any invaluable writing tips?
ELAINE: Keep writing. It’s no good thinking about starting to write. Just pick up a pen and do it. Also network as much as possible and attend classes and talks. Many of my students are NWS members and we attend the events together. We also trek off to the Writers Holiday each year. I’m away soon with three writing friends for our annual writing retreat in Whitstable. This needn’t cost a lot of money in fact we often challenge students to sell hints and tips etc to fund their writing trips.
JB: Do you have any writing rituals such as favourite music playing while you write?
ELAINE: When writing Gracie’s War I did play music from that era but to be honest I’d stop writing to read the CD covers and pick new songs. I can’t write in silence. I have the television running all day long – although I have to switch over when Jeremy Kyle comes on the screen. We’ve always had dogs in the house so my daily writing had to fit around their needs. If I forget them too long they would come and tell me! We only have the one young dog, a Polish Lowland Sheepdog at the moment. He does like to stay with me when I write but has the annoying habit of shredding pieces of paper. I must be the only writer who has one eye on the computer screen and the other on the dog!
Thanks so much to Elaine for taking time out of her busy day to answer my questions.
About the Author
Elaine Everest is a freelance writer and lives in Swanley, Kent with her husband Michael and Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry. She has written over sixty short stories for women’s magazines worldwide. Her features have appeared in publications ranging from The Guardian, The Daily Express and the Daily Mail to My Weekly and Your Dog. Her opinion pieces have led to many appearances on radio including chatting to Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour about having a husband under her feet all day long. Elaine has written numerous columns for canine publications centred around her expertise in the world of dogs. This has led to commissions to write three successful books for dog owners.
Elaine’s successful writing life led her to become a qualified teacher for adult education. Four years ago she founded The Write Place creative writing school and holds regular classes at The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford Kent.
Elaine was BBC Radio Short Story Writer of the Year in 2003, short listed for The Harry Bowling Prize in 2012, Short listed for The Festival of Romance novel competition in 2012 and winner of the Myrmidon Books (Pulse Romance) Write for Us competition in 2013.
Gracie’s War is her first published novel and is set in North West Kent where she grew up. A member of the Romantic Novelist Association, Elaine is a graduate of the RNA New Writers Scheme. Gracie’s War is short listed for their Joan Hessayon Award in 2014.