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A Sense of Place

 I’m often asked where I get my ideas from, quickly followed by how do I create a character. Surprisingly, not many readers ask about the place in which the story is set and, if they do, they’re content with the name of a city, town or region. And that’s fine, but as a writer I need to know in detail the places where a character actually is while I write a scene.
My novels are set in either Manchester or Belfast; I’ve lived in both cities, and I know them well. So, one of the first things I do is to choose a street where the main character lives. Just doing this gives me an insight into the woman’s life. Then there’s her place of work, for example a specific factory, and her social life in dancehalls, cinemas, pubs… all authentic and used to create the atmosphere of WW2.
In ‘The Girl in the Pink Raincoat’ Gracie meets Jacob on a sunny Sunday in Heaton Park, just days before war is declared. I live ten minutes’ from there and, walking in their footsteps imagining the anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons, it’s easy to conjure up the atmosphere and sense of foreboding. Sometimes I find an unknown location (usually on the internet when I’m looking for something else) and it suggests a whole new idea that’s just right for the story, like the internment camp in a disused cotton mill still standing, but now a business centre. And of course, even in wartime there are opportunities to get away from it all: a trip to Blackpool to fall in love; or a walk on the moors to mourn a death.
In my second Manchester novel, ‘The Girl from the Corner Shop’, the main character Helen goes from living above the family shop to joining the police force. On the beat, she experiences the hidden underbelly of the city dealing with vulnerable women and children, black marketeers, petty criminals. Many of the streets where she walked are still there, transformed into trendy restaurants and bars.
Writing my Belfast family sagas, the ‘Martha’s Girls’ trilogy, I loved spending time in the city where I grew up. The books were based on my family in WW2 and to be honest it was so easy to imagine it in that era. I went back to my grandmother’s house, the centre of the novels. I didn’t see inside, of course, but there was no need; I remembered it so well from when I was a child.
It’s eighty years since the war began, but walking through my cities it’s easy to see the wartime setting. The buildings that survived the blitz are still there: town hall, pubs, dancehalls, hotels, railway stations… and I like to think that a reader, with a little imagination, could easily walk in the footsteps of all my characters.

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FIRST REVIEW

 

Corner cover (2)

It’s always a bit nerve wracking on publication day when the book you’ve spent a year writing is suddenly released into the big wide world. The girl from the corner shop is on her own now and I hope she does well. The first review from book blogger Grace  is lovely and I’m so glad she enjoyed it.

“This is a well-written tale of life in Manchester during WWII. The hard life endured, especially by women and children, is all between the pages and the pioneering spirit shines through. With a great variety of characters and some skilful writing, it’s a very easy read and packed with detail. Several interweaving stories all twist together beautifully to make a very endearing read with, along with grief and sadness, a bit of mystery and a bit of romance. By the final page, all the loose ends are neatly tied off – my much preferred ending! An excellent wartime saga and well worth reading. For me, this is a five star novel.

The Girl from the Corner Shop #BookReview #BlogTour #HeadOfZeus #NetGalley

PUBLICATION DAY!!

Corner HB gracesAt last “THE GIRL FROM THE CORNER SHOP” has stepped into the limelight to tell her story. Set in WW2 Manchester, a young widow battling grief and despair, resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. She joins the police force working with evacuees, the destitute, the vulnerable, and finds a renewed sense of purpose. But there’s still something missing in her heart. Can she find the courage to change her life and accept love and happiness? Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2FeDe3g

Lovely 5 ***** review from https://gracejreviewerlady.net

This is a well-written tale of life in Manchester during WWII. The hard life endured, especially by women and children, is all between the pages and the pioneering spirit shines through. With a great variety of characters and some skilful writing, it’s a very easy read and packed with detail. Several interweaving stories all twist together beautifully to make a very endearing read with, along with grief and sadness, a bit of mystery and a bit of romance. By the final page, all the loose ends are neatly tied off – my much preferred ending! An excellent wartime saga and well worth reading. For me, this is a five star novel.

 

 

Not Long Now!

My new WWII gritty Manchester saga will be published as an ebook and hardback on 11 July and you can pre-order it right now. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07H97TC7D/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Pre-order now WW2 Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.
Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.
But there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and happiness and find the courage to change her life?

PUBLICATION DAY

I’m delighted that my new novel ‘The Girl in the Pink Raincoat  is published today. It’s a family saga set in WW2 Manchester full of drama, romance, betrayal and heart-stopping moments. 

You can read the opening chapter at http://www.myreadingcorner.com

Read another chapter at http://www.bookaddictrambles.com

Read a review at http://www.sibzzreads.com

Enter a competition to win a beautiful hardback copy  at http://www.rachelbustin.com

Another extract to read on Ali’s book blog http://www.cancersuckscouk.ipage.com/blogtour-extract-the-girl-in-the-pink-raincoat-by-alrenehughes-hoz_books/

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