I’m delighted to welcome Anne Harvey to my blog today. Thank you for taking part, Anne!
You’ve written two books so far, A Suitable Young Man and the follow-up novel Bittersweet Flight. Tell me about the setting for these books. Was it inspired by a real place?
That’s an easy one to answer. I based both the books on a real place, Horwich, a small former mill town in Lancashire. I’ve been told by writer friends that it’s always a risk to use a real place as people tend to see themselves as characters, even more risky if the character is flawed. For instance, I had to be particularly careful about naming my villain! He’s in both books and in the third book in the series, which I’m working on at the moment. They’re nostalgic tales of family, friendship, love, loyalty and loss set in 1950s Lancashire, a time when rock and roll first came to Britain and, hopefully, reflect the social attitudes of what was seen as a new Elizabethan era.
Which brings me to my next question, do you have any idea of the layout or maps?
Well, Horwich is my home town and, although I spent much of my childhood with my parents living in domestic service, I spent my formative teenage years there. Because of this, the layout is imprinted on my mind, especially the places where we used to hang out as teenagers. As the timing is the 1950s, that’s how I remember it. During that period, it was a thriving, bustling sort of place, with the massive Locomotive Works and three cotton mills. It’s that vibrant period that I hope I’ve captured in the books. Now, with the Works and the cotton mills long since closed and a retail park built a couple of miles away, it’s mere shadow of its former self, though there are signs of new life, like the former butchers/abbatoir that is now a trendy coffee shop called, ironically, ‘The Cow Shed.’
The only visual aids I have are a reasonably up-to-date street-map of the town to refresh an ageing memory and an old street-map dating from the early 20th century. Obviously some things had changed by the 1950s but, because the first half of the 20th century wasn’t a particularly affluent period, not by that much.
Interestingly, part of my third book is set on an RAF base. Because of ongoing security problems, my base is completely fictional, though it is loosely based on a real RAF base in similar location. In this instance, I did lots of research on the internet and also obtained a couple of brilliant books about what life was like around that time for a serviceman’s wife. That’s been fun to do! The rest of the book is still centred around Horwich though, and yes, readers will be pleased to know that my villain does get his come-uppance.
What’s the first book you remember where the setting made a vivid impression?
Now you’re asking! At my advanced age, I must have read thousands of books so it’s hard to be specific. Having said that, one series that does stick in my mind for its setting is the ‘Clan of The Cave Bear’ by Jean Auel. That’s because it’s set in a pre-historic time and some of the descriptions of the various landscapes and the way of living are portrayed vividly. As one of my interests is archaeology, I found these books particularly fascinating.
What are you working on at the moment?
As I’ve said previously, it’s the third book in the series, working title In The Thick of It. I’ve written the first draft and completed an initial edit but it needs a lot more work before it will be ready for publication. Fortunately for me, I’m independently published and can work at my own speed. At my time of life, I don’t need the pressure of working to a deadline!
I’ve also been putting together a collection of short stories with the theme of everyday angels and I had hoped that this would be available for pre-order by the time your blog came out. Unfortunately, a problem with the cover has been discovered so that needs to be resolved first.
Looking into the future, my dearest ambition is to write a ‘real’ historical novel and I’ve already done lots of research. Again, and importantly, the setting will be Horwich but it will be in the 18th century when Horwich was a sleepy little village until a prominent Lancashire family, the Ridgways, decided to base their bleaching and dyeing business there. Although it will be fictional, much of the action will be around the Ridgway family and their influence on the town. And to whet your appetite, one of their descendants is a well-known ex-Prime Minister!
Anne has written many family history articles and short stories published in national magazines. Having been unsuccessful in finding either an agent or a publisher, she took the decision to self-publish, a decision she has never regretted. She has published two family sagas, A Suitable Young Man ( www.tinyurl.com/qy9yth7) and Bittersweet Flight (www.tinyurl.com/zmnek57) and has enjoyed considerable sales success, not only in the UK, but also among ex-pats in the United States, Canada and Australia.
She has a memoir-based blog Passionate about the Past at www.annelharvey.blogspot.co.uk, is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Anne.Harvey.10 and on Twitter as @annelharvey1.
My writing, research and any other randomness that seems like a good idea at the time.