Thank you to Julia Gregson for agreeing to feature on my Author’s Chats strand. I became a fan of Julia’s after reading East of the Sun a novel set in India in very different times. As a traveller I am often drawn to stories with a foreign back drop and of course a pretty cover! Julia did not disappoint!
Just like myself and many other authors Julia was a fan of Enid Blyton as a child and she says “I devoured Enid Blyton until one day, according to my mother , I flung the Famous Five across the room and shouted , “Oh, picnics, and potted meat and Uncle Quentin,” it was time to move on, but I would never discount the author who lit the flame of my childhood passion for reading. I also was captivated by a Victorian melodrama called ” Froggies Little Brother ” in which two street sweepers were orphaned and had to fend for themselves. Like most children the idea that horrified me most , the idea of my parents dying, most enthralled me.” I must admit to not knowing anything about Froggies Little Brother so had to google it! Must add it to my ‘to read list’.
I asked Julia who her current favourite authors are and recently she enjoyed “Beautiful Ruins” by Jesse Walters and “All The Light we Cannot see” by Anthony Doerr. Of the classics Julia likes Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and George Eliot’s “Middlemarch“.
I really enjoyed Julia’s East of the Sun and asked her what was the inspiration behind this story. “On our first date my husband told me about the Fishing Fleet, the unkind name given to the young women who, having failed to find a husband during the London season were shipped out to India to meet and sometimes marry single men there. Sometimes the period of engagement was disastrously short, the getting to know you sessions at the Bombay Yacht Club were the colonial version of speed dating . I filed it away as a great idea for a story .
Also, When I was five years old my parents rented the attic rooms of a lovely Queen Anne house, which sadly burned down in the 80’s. Mrs Smith Pearse, who owned the house had just come back from India, where her husband had been the headmaster of a boy’s school. She was a marvellous story teller, and let me dress up in Indian clothes she’d brought home. I was hooked.”
When you are writing do you have a set timetable and a special place to write?
I share my writing hut with two rescue ponies and two chickens. It was once a horse shelter. It’s up a steep hill , so once I get up there , it helps me stay put. I like to write mostly in the morning, the aim is from 9-1 p.m.
I walk the dog in the afternoon, but always with a notebook in my pocket . It’s often where you get the best ideas. During the editing process l usually work in the afternoon too.
How many years had you been writing before you had something published and what was it?
I’d been working as a journalist for twenty two years. I was a feature writer, and later worked in New York and Los Angeles as a Foreign Correspondent, always longing to write a novel and always afraid l couldn’t. I started to write short stories, got some of them published, and then one day l was doing a story for the Sunday Times on the drovers road in Wales when l stumbled on a plaque outside a small church, commemorating Jane Evans, who ran away with the Welsh Cattle drovers, and later joined Florence Nightingale in Scutari. It was an exciting moment and confronting too. I’d found my first book when I’d least expected it.
What are you working on at the moment?
Something completely different, about a group of elite showgirls and the power they wield. lt’s set in New York and the South of France.
Any tips for aspiring authors?
Learn to pay attention to stories, to domestic situations, to good jokes , how people express themselves. You’ll transform them into something else, but you have to learn to get outside your head. Don’t be scared of failure we all are ,but learn to get over it.
Set up a routine, it won’t happen if you wait for flashes of inspiration, writing is a peasant like activity too. Apart from that there are no rules!