When I wrote Martha’s Girls I wanted to recall some of the traditions of my Belfast family and one of the happiest for me was at Easter time when we decorated hard boiled eggs and a wicker basket to carry them to our picnic. I don’t know if many families on Easter Sunday in the North of Ireland still go in search of a good hill down which to roll their eggs and I’m not sure it’s ever been a tradition in the rest of Ireland or the UK. Anyway, click on the link below to join Martha and her girls on their egg-rolling picnic to experience some nostalgia or an insight into one family’s Easter ritual.
I’m delighted to say that Martha’s Girls has now been published by Blackstaff Press, the leading Northern Ireland publisher.The novel is set in Belfast during the early years of World War II – indeed I’ve always thought that Belfast is as much a character in the book as Martha and her daughters – so it seems particularly appropriate that Blackstaff have decided to publish it.
New publisher- new cover
I love the new image of the book with its soft colours and the striking picture of the girls set against the view up Donegall Place towards the City Hall. The blurb, too, concentrates on the girls and brings to the fore the romantic aspects of the novel.
I’m looking forward to being in Belfast next week to promote the novel and to meet some of the readers who bought the first edition as well as new readers who enjoy family sagas with plenty of romance and drama. If you’re in Belfast on Saturday 19 October I’ll be at Easons in Donegall Place – please come along and say hello.
The Next Big Thing is a blog hop interview giving authors from around the world the chance to answer 10 questions about their new book. At the same time they introduce the writer who first tagged them and add another 5 writers who repeat the process . . . simple!
E. M. Powell, author of The Fifth Knight, tagged me in The Next Big Thing blog hop. The Fifth Knight is her debut novel. It is published by Thomas & Mercer and is currently on Kindle Serials release in the US, with UK release planned for 2013.You can read E.M. Powell’s Next Big Thing post here.
Now it’s my turn.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on The Golden Sisters, the sequel to my first book Martha’s Girls.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Both novels were inspired by stories I heard as a child about the experiences of my family – grandmother, mother and aunts – during World War II in Belfast. I have a scrapbook from that time full of newspaper cuttings, concert programmes and photographs of my mother and her sisters, who were members of ENSA and entertained the people of Belfast and the troops stationed there to raise morale and money for the war effort. The Golden Sisters, as they were known, were similar to the Andrews Sisters and their repertoire included the popular songs of the time. They sang on the radio and even appeared on the same bill as George Formby.
What genre does your book fall under?
It is by definition a Family Saga I suppose, but it breaks some of the conventions of the genre. It isn’t told from the point of view of one character or even two, instead there are five women in the family so the narrative moves between them. There is a lot that goes on that Martha doesn’t know about and sisters always hide things from each other! There are also plenty of scenes when the whole family are together and the dynamics of their relationships are revealed. Some family sagas are very depressing, but I like to think these books will make readers laugh as well as cry.
Which actors would you choose to play in a film rendition of your novel?
Great question, hard to answer! I’d like to cast actors from the North of Ireland. I think Amanda Burton would be brilliant for Martha, the mother, because she’s very good at combining stern with sensitive. There is a policeman who could be considered a villain, just right for James Nesbitt or Liam Neeson; both have tremendous presence and can be very threatening. I’d cast Kenneth Branagh as Goldstein the impresario and finally, Martha’s girls themselves should be cast by holding open auditions in Belfast for unknown aspiring actresses. Gosh I enjoyed that!
What is the one sentence synopsis for your book?
The Golden Sisters bring music and romance to a bombed and desperate city, but struggle to find love themselves . . . then the Americans arrive.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Like Martha’s Girls, the sequel will be self – published, unless I can find a publisher to take the trilogy – yes there will be a third book!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m still working on the first draft of The Golden Sisters and I expect to finish it in June or July.
What other books would you compare this to within this genre?
Family sagas set in Belfast are rare – Mary Larkin’s novels are the only ones that come to mind – but Martha’s Girls has been sitting alongside books by Maureen Lee and Helen Carey (Liverpool), Maggie Craig (Glasgow) and Freda Lightfoot (Lancashire) on the Amazon rankings since it was published, and I hope The Golden Sisters will do as well.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Obviously, I was inspired by the story of my family and I felt that writing a novel based on them was a way to put them centre stage again.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The Golden Sisters is a stand-alone novel, but it follows the lives of five feisty women first introduced in Martha’s Girls. Once again they will be caught up in the dramatic events of war, but the relationships within the family and the opportunities for romance and excitement drive the narrative.
Martha’s Girls has been very well received by readers, with many asking for a sequel : ‘One of those reads where you just can’t put it down…I found myself grabbing a few minutes to read more of ‘Martha’s Girls’ and reading far too late into the night.’ and ‘A beautifully written novel with outstanding passages both touching and convincing.’
That’s it from me. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about The Golden Sisters and now I really have to get back to writing it – It’s a moonlit night in Belfast and the Luftwaffe are overhead, but one sister is refusing to spend another night under the stairs and is out in the street watching the incendiaries fall.
Let me introduce you to the next writers who will be posting their Next Big Thing on Wednesday 23rd January – a real mixture of genre, but a touch of the Irish is evident.
Bernie McGill is a short story writer and author of The Butterfly Cabinet which was named by Julian Fellowes (creator and writer of Downton Abbey) as his novel of the year in 2012. She was the winner in 2008 of the Zoetrope: All-Story Contest in the US. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for numerous prizes including the Bridport, the Fish, the Asham, the Michael McLaverty and the Seán O’Faóláin short story awards. A short story collection is forthcoming in 2013 from Whittrick Press.
Blog at Simon & Schuster:
DJ Kelly is the author of A Wistful Eye – The Tragedy of a Titanic Shipwright. Born in Manchester, England, of Irish parents, she speaks seven languages and has lived and worked in 20 countries across 4 continents during a long career in government service. A co-founder of Chalfont Writers’ Circle, she now lives in Buckinghamshire, England, researching and writing historical fiction and a successful series of local history books.
Tom Paver was born and raised in Liverpool, one of six children in a typical Catholic household. He didn’t so much attend school as turn up for dinners before a miraculous (if late) conversion to the value of education saw him earn a degree in marketing. He has enjoyed an award-winning career in the media industries and divides his week between London and the north west of England. He’s a half-decent fly fisherman, has trekked most of the way across the Spanish Pyrenees and is partial to a good Ribero del Duero. Oh, and he’s a triplet – and the other two are keen to point out that they don’t earn a living from murder. Tom has written four crime novels in his Redemption series, which follow the adventures of Anna Heuston, the globe-trotting head of PR at a major shipping and resources business. Together with her partner, a fallen priest called Joe Delahunty, they tackle Russian mobsters (Put Right), the Argentine government (The Colony), Basque terrorists (The Blood Puzzle) and a Jamaican killer fuelled by a hatred spawned during the days of slavery (The Sanctuary Stone). In their forthcoming adventure, Take the Soup, the pair find themselves the number one targets for the combined muscle of Dublin’s vicious underworld.
A published writer at University, Tom Barry spent 20 years in management consultancy with Accenture, Deloitte, and PwC, His latest novel, When the Siren Calls is set in Tuscany and is both a sensual emotional drama and a page turning thriller.Five things about me:
- one of eight kids, lifestory is the classic immigrant tale of seeking to live up to parental expectations, while working to mark out your own trail.
- I have aspects of an obsessive personality, establishing a work-life balance was a major challenge.
- I gave up on my business career in my mid-forties, I just didn’t tell my boss! Find something you enjoy doing, and you’ll never work another day.
- I tell my kids education is the best gift I can give them – no weight to carry and no-one can take it off you.
- I believe almost everyone has an agenda; explore perspectives outside the mainstream, and beware suppliers bearing gifts.
Fiona Audley from the Irish Post interviewed me at an Irish World Heritage Centre conference in Manchester, prior to the publication of Martha’s Girls, where I spoke about my experience of writing an Irish novel. Her article was published last week and you can read it by clicking on the link below. I warn you it’s lengthy – did I really say all that!
It’s the first Christmas of the war and Martha Goulding is down town trying to make her wee bit of money go a long way.
Click on the link below to read how she takes leave of her senses in the market and a handsome young man saves the Gouldings’ Christmas.
On Friday 20 July the News Letter, a Belfast morning paper, published a feature on ‘Martha’s Girls’. Click on the link below if you’d like to read it.
Thanks to everyone I met at Waterstone’s in Liverpool One on Saturday 21 July and to staff at the store for hosting the event. I hope to be back in Liverpool again in December. In the meantime I’m (quite) hard at work on the sequel, which will follow Martha and the girls from 1941 to the end of the war. No title for it yet – any suggestions?
‘Martha’s Girls’ was featured on the US based Kindle Romance Novels blog this weekend. Click on the link below if you’d like to see the feature and review.