Frank Rossi promised Matty the world. The Cockney Canary would become a world famous movie star. As his wife, she would be one half of a power couple, feted and adored by all.
But the Wall Street crash puts paid to that and as Frank becomes more violent and unstable, Matty knows she must escape and so she flees at dead of night.
Once home in Bermondsey, she goes into hiding and starts desperately looking for work. But only the hated biscuit factory, Peek Frean's, is hiring.
Then, as a secret from her past comes back to hurt her, Matty learns that Frank is on the move, determined to find her and get her back.
1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
Ursula K. Le Guin. I have always admired her spare, vivid writing style. A science fiction/fantasy writer may seem an odd choice as a collaborator, but we both write about world’s that do not exist – hers are imagined and mine vanished. She is also a great teacher of the craft of writing and I’m sure I’d learn a lot on the way!
2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I am fortunate to have a small study where I can shut myself away. I usually start writing around 10am. I write straight on to the laptop and like to move from desk to a sofa where I can look up from the screen and see my favourite winter flowering cherry tree. I begin by reading over what I’ve written the previous day, making quick edits as I go. I find this the best way to encourage the new writing to flow! I am most prolific in the afternoons and aim for a word count of at least 1500 words a day. When you are producing a book a year, you have to be disciplined about writing - even when you’re not feeling inspired! So, I keep a writing calendar with monthly reminders of my target word count. I usually finish writing at about 5pm and like to come down and cook the evening meal. I find It’s a good way to ground myself back into this reality after living in bygone Bermondsey all day!
3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Plotting is the hardest part for me. Settings, characters and situations seem to flow naturally but I am always looking for new tips and tools to help with plotting. I use graphs and charts, time lines and chapter outlines - but I think over planning can also be a mistake and can squash creativity. Sometimes the characters and their stories just refuse to fit the plan!
4. When and why did you first start writing?
I have always written short stories but it was only after I took early retirement at the age of fifty-six that I wrote my first novel. I was looking into my family history and realized that the tale of my great-great grandfather might make a good basis for a novel. He cycled from Hull to London on a penny farthing in order to find work and make a better life for his family.
Sadly, that novel is still unpublished. However, it did get the attention of an agent who asked to see my second novel Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts, which is a loose sequel. I again used a family story as my inspiration – that of my grandmother who worked at Pearce Duff’s custard factory and was part of a ground-breaking women’s factory workers’ strike in 1911.
5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Lots of readers wanted to know what happened to Matty Gilbie, the budding music hall star who appeared in Custard Tarts. In Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams, I pick up her story in 1930, when she’s found fame in music hall and is trying to break into the talkies in America. But the Wall Street crash, a bad man and a personal tragedy, force her to flee home to Bermondsey, where she is thrown into factory life once more at the Peek Frean’s biscuit factory. Needless to say, with a heroine as resilient as Matty, she doesn’t intend to stay there for long!
6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I’ve always been a great reader. I love the 19th Century classic novelists and am currently re-reading Jane Eyre - the second book ever to make me cry, the first being Little Women.
7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Read a lot. Write what you can, when you can and don’t worry if it isn’t perfect - that’s what rewrites are for! Make sure you finish something - even if it’s only a very short story. Finally, never give up. I didn’t have my first novel published until I was 60, it’s never too late!