Please help me welcome my guest author, Sylvia Broady, to the interview hot seat! I think you’ll enjoy finding out more about the inspiration for her stories, so let’s look at her background and then dive right in. Ready?
I was born in Kingston upon Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which has a rich tapestry of history. I live near to the market town of Beverley where stands the magnificent Beverley Minster, and for 17 years I welcomed visitors from every part of the globe. These wonderful places and its people inspire my writing. My novella, The House by the Mere, was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Short Novel Award. The setting of Wassand Hall gardens and grounds, and the mere, which I love, was instrumental in my story.
Writing is my enduring passion and when I am happiest, apart from my beloved family. My daughter is my biggest fan and I am lucky that she and her family live nearby. I recently returned from a six-week stay with my family in Australia. On a road trip with my son, we stayed over in Inverloch, and visited the library where I spied two of my books. The librarian asked if I would give a book talk. If only I didn’t live on the opposite side of the world.
I keep up with the writing market with memberships of the RNA, The Society of Authors and the Historical Novel Society. Plus, I attend my monthly writers group. I regularly give book talks. And I am eternally grateful for my wonderful readers.
Author Social Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you are sharing with us today?
Sylvia: The inspiration to write Orphans of War started way back. I interviewed a man for local radio for a programme about World War 2. He told me that as a young boy he was on the cliffs at Hornsea when an amphibious craft came along the beach and out stepped General de Gaulle. Fast forward a few years and when I visited nearby Wassand Hall, I learnt that stationed there during WW2 were the Free French. Soon, the idea for my book went into creative mode and became a reality.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story?
Sylvia: I didn’t exactly struggle. However, 70,000 words into my story and researching the best way for my Free French soldier to travel from Paris with his wife and daughter to the safety of his parents’ small farm, I came across the terrible massacre of the Villagers of Oradour-sur-Glane. I realised that this was the refugee children’s story who were being cared for at the manor house by my lovely character Charlotte Kirby, and this was the main storyline. Though the Free French soldiers were still important to the story. With this in mind, I rewrote the 70,000, and the book finished near to 100,000 words.
Betty: Which characters were the easiest to get to know?
Sylvia: Without a doubt, Charlotte Kirby. We first meet her during an enemy bombing raid in the city of Kingston upon Hull, and the attack killed her mother. Her father had died years earlier, so at 16 Charlotte was an orphan. When she goes to live with her aunt in the village of Mornington, she understands the loss of the refugee orphans of war living in the manor house. Feeling an affinity for their suffering, she volunteers to care and support them by helping them to lead as normal a life as possible. I also loved the three ladies who come into her aunt’s pub and tell her stories. And the old man Jack, and the Free French officer Emile, who both play an important role in Charlotte’s life. There is a spirit of camaraderie amongst the villagers, which is a character in its own rights.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write the story?
Sylvia: I love researching and have a tendency to do more than necessary. A friend loaned me copies of his mother’s letters of when she went out with a Free French Soldier. From these, I could gain an insight into authentic life, a part of social history. And other people were generous with information. I read many books and documents, and local history books, far too many to mention. The Free French in the area were the 2nd Tank Armoured Division, under the command of General Philippe Leclerc, and they were training for a special battle mission across the English Channel. Later, they liberated Paris. The bombing raids on the city of Kingston upon Hull, were relentless, causing the loss of many lives. With several books written on the subject and the tragedies well documented. In the past, I have interviewed people about their memories during the WW2 period. Juliette is the Free Frenchman’s daughter who survives to be cared for by Charlotte. While researching this story, I came across a photo of Julia Bricht, age 3 years, with lovely bright eyes and shiny dark hair, and she became my Juliette. Sadly, this beautiful child didn’t survive the death camps.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Sylvia: About 5 or 6 drafts. Each time I rewrite and edit, I polish, adding finer details or deleting words. Sometimes I have given minor characters the same name. If a sentence become too long and straggly, I reword it so that its meaning is clearer. Double check facts, like the colour of a character’s eyes, or a date of a battle. The list becomes endless, but I enjoy the process, which I feel enriches my writing. Something I have learnt over the years is to know when to stop rewriting.
Betty: Do you have a place to write? Revise? Read?
Sylvia: I have a cosy study where I write, with a view of my garden and the ever-changing sky, and its shelves full of books. Books for research that I have collected over the years. Some with intriguing titles: Every Women’s Enquire Within, Cassell’s Book of Etiquette by a Woman of the World, Women in Wartime. A North-East Coast Town, this is about the city of Kingston upon Hull, and the bombing it suffered during WW2. This is to name but a few of my books. I revise in my study and usually read books on research at my dining room table. Here I spread out maps of the areas I am writing about. However, when the weather is warm and fine, you will find me in the garden surrounded by my writing paraphernalia.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Sylvia: Most definitely the last book I have published, Orphans of War. So the last book I have published will always be my greatest achievement, though I will always have a place in my heart for the first full-length book I had published. It started with the publication of The Yearning Heart. Previously, I had written short stories and novellas. Over a few years, I wrote a 120,000 words manuscript, which had gone through many changes. With my writers group, I discussed my prospect of publication–it was now or never. I sent off my beloved manuscript to Robert Hale Publishers. To my surprise, it thrilled me to receive an email the next day to say they loved my work and would publish it if I cut 40,000 words. A dilemma! After discussing it with a writing friend, I decided I would cut all those words. My greatest joy was to hold the hardback edition of The Yearning Heart in my hand. And so my joy continues with each book I have published.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Sylvia: I worked full time with a demanding job, a family to care for and aging parents, which didn’t give me much time for myself. Until I answered an advert to attend an evening creative writing class to be held in the local community hall. I loved it, having found my niche. I wrote short stories and a three-part serial and colleagues encouraged me to enter a short story competition on local radio. Imagine my surprise, when at work, I received a telephone call from the literary presenter at the radio station to say that my stories and serial were to be broadcast on the radio and they would pay me. I knew then that my destiny was to become a writer. It took a few years, but I made it. I am passionate about my writing and finding my inner happiness, which pleases me to know that now I can write forever.
Kingston Upon Hull, 1941.
German bombs are raining down on the city. Racing to the nearest air-raid shelter, Charlotte hears an almighty explosion. Her mother’s haberdashery shop has taken a direct hit – killing her mother. Suddenly, Charlotte, 16, is all alone in the world. Then a mysterious aunt comes forward who she didn’t know existed, her mother’s sister, and offers Charlotte a home in the village of Mornington, and to work in her pub. She works hard, despite her aunt’s coldness towards her. When a group of distraught French orphans arrive to live in the big house, Charlotte volunteers to help care for them and finds a new purpose in life.
Then a band of Free French soldiers are billeted in the village, including a handsome young officer, Emile. Soon he and Charlotte become friends, and then they fall in love. Though will it survive? The events of war mar their joy as Emile returns to France and to face more tragedy in his life. And Charlotte must uncover both his and her own family’s secrets if they have a chance of lasting happiness.
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Thanks so much, Sylvia, for telling us about the inspiration for your stories and your writing process.
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.