Saturday, 21 June 2014

Inspiration by Anne Bennett

Many times I am asked when I am giving talks how I get inspiration to write my books and I have to say truthfully that in the main I don't know. 'A Girl Can Dream' came out on 22nd May and I wrote it because, reading round the research for the books about the war work woman took up in WW2,  the girls who enlisted in the Land Army interested me greatly, I found it was so much the Cinderella of the Services, they have only in recent years been included in the Remembrance Day Services for example and yet these intrepid woman from all walks of life fed the nation and without their valiant contribution Britain would indeed have been in dire straits.  Many of these woman were not brought up to the life they seemed to embrace with such enthusiasm.  Nothing seemed too beyond them, though the work was physically demanding and the hours long and yet most women when recounting their time as Land Girls claim they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. 

The name Meg Hallet sprang into my mind when I was in Malta on holiday a couple of years ago.  I don't know where it came from, but once I had the name the story unfolded in my head till I was forced to start putting it down.  I hope those of you who have read it like the finished product and many have asked if there is going to be a sequel and I would like it if there is one, but it all depends on the publisher. We will have to wait and see.

Now we come to 'A Strong Hand to Hold' and this time I know when this book began.  I lived in the inner ring till I was nearly seven, born in the road I placed the Hallets family in 'A Girl Can Dream' and when we were moved under slum clearance my mother asked for the north  of the city, as my father was working at Fort Dunlop, and we moved to a big council estate called Pype Hayes.  It had had its share of bombing and across the road from our house one house stood on its own.  Since it was not Birmingham City Council's policy to erect detached houses on their estates, the house fascinated me.  I was married and had moved away when they realized the houses were sinking and all the people had to be found alternative accommodation.  As a result of that, reminiscence sessions were held at the library chaired by local historian and broadcaster Carl Chin and the people's memories were compiled into a book, and there it was, the history of the estate before we moved onto it.  The house on its own had once been in a terrace of six and the others had been destroyed in a raid on 19th November 1940 when 350 bombers attacked Birmingham and few areas were left unscathed.  Immediately, my head began to fill the ruined houses with fictional people and 'A Strong Hand to Hold' was born.

I was with Headline publishing then and this book was the third book I wrote for them and it was first published in 1999.  In 2001 I joined Harper Collins and over the years the 4 books I wrote for Headline went out of print and the rights were returned to me.  Last year, Harper Collins bought them and will be re-issuing them all in due course.  This does mean though that people might not realize they have already bought this book earlier, for while the title is the same, the cover is very different and I am doing my best to advertise the fact that it is a re-issue, and that is part of the reason for this blog.

One part of that book was very difficult to write and shows perhaps how much I live with my characters through all their trials and tribulations and without spoiling the story it transpired that Jenny O'Leary as an ARP warden was the only one small enough to crawl into a really confined space to try and reach a trapped child.  I was with her every step of the way as she inched her way forward over fractured lumps of wood and mangled iron, broken bricks and plaster and shards of  glass.  Sometimes the space was too tight for her to raise her head and her face would scrape along the ground, and writing it I sometimes found it so difficult to breath that I had to stop writing for a while and return to it later.

So that's it, two books out in the market place at more or less the same time, and I hope anyone who reads them does enjoy them because my readers and their comments and reviews are really important to me.

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