Today we have Juliet Greenwood as our guest author, she wrote We That Are Left which I reviewed yesterday, see this link for the review http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-5MX
Let’s find out more about Juliet and her books.
1) Where is your home town?
I live halfway up a mountain on the edges of a village in Snowdonia in North Wales. In one direction I look up to the mountains, and to the other I look over the romantic Island of Anglesey, and some pretty gorgeous sunsets. I lived next to the Hammersmith flyover in London for several years, so I certainly appreciate the peace and quiet!
2) How long have you been writing?
All my life! I wrote my first rip-roaring historical at the age of ten, and never looked back. It’s taken me a long time to be actually published and begin to be the writer I want to be. It’s been a long learning curve, but I feel that time and experience is often vital to the creating of a long-term career as a writer. Having your first book published is really only the beginning of the journey.
3) What was the one idea behind this book?
I wanted to write about the amazing women in WW1, who not only kept life going at home under the most difficult of circumstances, but also worked on the front line risking their lives as ambulance drivers, doctors and nurses, but who have been largely forgotten.
4) For readers who don’t know the book yet, can you introduce us to Elin?
At the start of the book, Elin is a typical wife of her time, living a comfortable, but rather unfulfilling existence in the country estate in Cornwall. Her husband, Hugo, is much older, and sees her in the way women were generally viewed at the time, as delicate and in need of protection, and is quite unable to share his own traumas from fighting in the Boer War. Like many women, Elin is left to take charge of the estate when WW1 breaks out, discovering new strengths and depths that eventually take her on a desperate rescue mission in the battlefields of France. It’s an experience that changes her forever.
5) Mouse is such a fun character, can you tell us about some of her beliefs.
I love Mouse! Like Elin, she’s frustrated by the limitations of being a woman in Edwardian times, but coming from a rich, aristocratic family she has far more choices. She is adventurous, and loves to shock. She flies her biplane over to France and back for a bet, wears trousers (very shocking at the time), speaks her mind and is determinedly independent. She has no wish to be tied to a rich husband and forced into tedious domesticity. When the war comes and her brothers go off to fight, she is determined not to be left behind. Like many rich women of the time, she takes off with supplies to help on the frontline of the fighting. Despite the things that she goes through, she never loses her free spirit.
6) How does Elin grow into her role as leader at Hiram Hall once Hugo leaves for war?
Elin soon realises that she will need to use the estate’s kitchen garden to help the local population as food prices rise, and eventually shortages kick in. She rediscovers old recipes and remedies to cope with the shortages, and she also rediscovers her own passion for baking, inherited from her mother.
As the war goes on, Elin takes on more of the responsibilities, learning to deal with staff and the accounts, and discovering that she is perfectly capable of running a large estate, as well, if not better, than her husband. Like many women during the war, she becomes the linchpin of the local community, dealing with the grief and loss of those around her, and reassuring them in the face of the danger from Zeppelin air raids. When Hugo returns, he can no more understand this change in her than she can understand his experiences of war, meaning that, for Elin, the end of the war is where her own battles begin. It was something that happened for many couples after WW1, in fact so much so that the level of those seeking to divorce after the war finally led to divorce being made possible for ordinary people.
7) What do Mouse and her friends do to help the war efforts?
In WW1 there were plenty of wealthy women who were determined to do their bit for the war effort, despite being scornfully dismissed by those in authority. It was totally chaotic, with volunteers simply taking off with supplies and going over to France to do what they could. Mouse and her friends fit out a truck and set off with food and medical supplies to help on the frontline, driving ambulances and helping in the makeshift field hospitals. One of the real-life women who did this was the Duchess of Sutherland who set up her own field hospitals: http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-on-land/casualties-medcal/2383-millicent-duchess-of-sutherland-ambulance.html They were truly brave and heroic women!
8) Can you explain how the front line might move from day to day and how the field hospitals coped?
The part set in France is not only in the trenches but on the edges of the battlefields, the tiny bits of land that were fought over constantly during the years of the war. What was horrible about the fighting was that it was over such small advances that caused huge losses on both sides, and then the line moved back again, with the civilians who had nowhere to go caught in the middle. This meant that in places the front lines were constantly shifting, which caused huge suffering not only for the soldiers involved but also for the French civilians. I have family in France who experienced the effects on civilians in both wars, something that has always haunted me. I also read accounts of the women working on the frontlines, in field hospitals in whatever building they could find, who frequently had to move as the fighting grew too close, losing precious vegetable gardens that supplemented the lack of food, and desperately trying to take wounded and dying men to some kind of safety. So much is written about the soldiers and the battles, I wanted to give a sense of what it must have been like for civilians caught in the middle of the horror and the chaos of war.
9) Is this your only book set in this time period? What else have you written?
This is the only book I’ve written that covers the period of the war. My first book for Honno Press, ‘Eden’s Garden’, is a timeshift set in Cornwall, London and Wales in contemporary times and the late Victorian era. The historical story of ‘Eden’s Garden’ ends just before WW1, and it was during my research that I stumbled across the stories of the women during the war, and so the idea behind ‘We That are Left’ began.
10) Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
These are my media links:
‘We That Are Left’, Honno Press, 2014
The Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month, March 2014
The National Museum of Wales Book of the Month, March 2014
Waterstones Wales Book of the Month March, 2014
Amazon Kindle #4 May 2014
‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, 2012
Finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’, May 2014
Amazon Kindle #5 June 2014
We That are Left
Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.
With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much needed food, sharing her mother’s recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.
And when the Great War is finally over, Elin’s battles prove to have only just begun.
Waterstones Wales Book of the Month, Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month and Wales National Museums Book of the Month, March 2014