Filter:

Latest Posts

Where I Wrote . . . .

Posted on 26th February, 2021

Last year I ran an occasional series called Where I Wrote . . . which was about various places in Llandudno where I produced certain scenes from my books. One location I was dying to share with you had to wait until now, because I had to wait for The Surplus Girls' Orphans to be published.

 

The scene in question appears quite early on in the story and in it Mary, the heroine, is in the sweet shop where she works. I had a ball describing Mr Upton's shop and all the lovely goodies stocked on the shelves. I didn't want to mention the same type of sweet twice and I will admit that I ended up making up a couple of my own. I shan't tell you what they were - I wonder if those of you who read the book will spot them. All I will say is that they sound delicious!

 

This scene was written in a favourite place of mine - a little bay on the other side of the pier from North Shore. This little bay is just below Happy Valley.

 

Now it's time for the photos. This first one shows the little bay with the tide right in. In the bottom-left corner, you can see the steps leading down to it from the road.

 


 

And here it is when the tide is out a little way:

 


 

* * * *

 

And here is what I wrote. Molly has been collecting money in the shop to buy sweets for the children in the local orphanage, but one of the collecting boxes has been stolen. . . .

 

Well, I did tell you to stop collecting money this morning,’ said Mr Upton, as if Molly should have foreseen the theft. His I-told-you-so air was hard to take, but she swallowed it. What else was she to do? You didn’t answer back to your boss. She felt like answering back, though. No, she didn’t. She was too sick at heart. She had looked forward to giving the orphans a treat and now half the money had disappeared – no, not half. It was the other children’s box that had been taken. The dancers’ box was still here, containing more money even though it was for considerably fewer children.

    ‘Perhaps we could use the dancers’ money for all the children...’ she dared to suggest, but Mr Upton was having none of it.

    ‘That’s for the dancers. I said all along we should be collecting only for them.’

    We? What had he done to help? He hadn’t asked a single customer for a donation, though he had been happy to take the glory when anyone praised the idea.

    ‘Excuse me a minute.’

    She went into the back and took her purse from her handbag. She didn’t have much on her, but it was a start. Back behind the counter, she examined the contents of the farthing and ha’penny trays.

Mr Upton glanced up from behind a display he was constructing of chocolate boxes and Walnut Whips. ‘Do the trays need topping up, Miss Watson?’

    ‘No.’ Molly slid her money onto the counter, eyeing it in the hope that it was somehow more than it had been inside her purse. ‘If I buy dolly mixtures, I wonder how many each child would get.’

    ‘If they get just one each, it would be one more than they have any right to expect.’

    Inside Molly something deflated, but only for a moment. She looked Mr Upton straight in the eye. ‘Will you let me have an advance on my week’s wages? I want to treat the children. Half a crown should do it.’

    ‘Two and sixpence!’ Mr Upton froze. A Walnut Whip fell from his lifeless fingers. ‘My dear Miss Watson, you forget yourself. What would Mr Hartley say if I let you fritter your hard-earned money in such a manner?’

    ‘This is nothing to do with Norris.’

    ‘Of course it is. He’s your fiancé and you know how careful he is with his money.’ As if this settled the matter, he ducked his head behind the display once more.

    ‘Exactly: with his money. This isn’t his, it’s mine.’

    ‘Actually,’ Mr Upton corrected her, his face bobbing up briefly, ‘it’s mine at present.’

    ‘Which I am in the process of earning.’ Oops: that sounded tart. She switched on a smile, injecting all the warmth she could into her voice since Mr Upton was concentrating on his display again. ‘I want to do the right thing. I’m concerned about letting Upton’s down, as well as the children.’

    ‘Upton’s?’ Mr Upton popped up like a jack-in-the-box.

    ‘Now that the collecting has gone wrong, I feel responsible. Please let me put it right.’

    It was the right thing to say. Mr Upton gave her half a crown, which she spent on boot laces, which she cut into quarters, and midget gems. It looked like a decent haul if you didn’t think closely about the hundred and twenty children for whom it was destined. Meanwhile Mr Upton, having finished his display, prepared the sweets for the dancers, each of whom was going to receive a paper bag of goodies from the ha’penny and penny trays, lucky beggars.

 

* * * *

 

Click here to go to

The Surplus Girls' Orphans

on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Look at Some Lovely Covers

Posted on 19th February, 2021

Now that the second Surplus Girls book, The Surplus Girls' Orphans, is available as an audiobook on CD and MP3, I thought this was a good opportunity to take a look at my audiobook covers, as it's normally the book covers that are used for photos.

 

Here are the two Surplus Girls audio covers:

 

 

They are a good match for one another, aren't they? As are.....

 

 

Here are my other two Susanna books in audio format:

 

 

 

Which cover do you like the best? I have a special fondness for The Deserter's Daughter because it was my very first audiobook. And I love the quiet determination of The Sewing Room Girl. And the model on the cover of The Surplus Girls has a gorgeous smile, doesn't she?

 

I hope you have access to your public library in these strange times. Here in Llandudno, I am browsing online through the catalogue and making requests, which I can then collect at an allocated time. If you have a similar set-up where you are, then you might like to borrow one (or more!) of my audiobooks. The Susanna books are also available on Audible (click here) and so is The Surplus Girls (click here), while The Surplus Girls' Orphans will appear on Audible by the end of the month.

 

I always have two books on the go - one print book and one audio. I love to think of my readers also being my listeners!

 

Stay safe

Susanna / Polly xx

 

Welcome Back, Kirsten . . . and Poppy!

Posted on 12th February, 2021

 

This week I am delighted to welcome Kirsten back to my blog. As many of you will remember, Kirsten used to have a monthly slot here, when she was in the porcess of looking for an agent. Well, that is all in the dim and distant past. She signed with a wonderful agent and her debut novel, Another Us, has just hit the Amazon bestseller position for the second time.

 

But today Kirsten isn't here to chat about the success of Another Us. She's here to tell us about her latest venture in the writing world.... writing a new saga series under the name Poppy Cooper.

 

 

 

Kirsten, welcome back!

 

Hello Sue. Thank you very much for having me. It’s super to be back on your lovely blog.

 

First of all, please can you introduce Poppy books to us.

I’d be delighted to. The Post Office Girls is a ‘lively, engaging saga’ about the lives, loves and adventures of the women working in the Army Post Office in World War One. There were so many letters being sent to the various fronts, that the Army Post Office built a huge wooden ‘Home Depot’ on The Regent’s Park to cope with it all. At the time, it was the largest wooden structure in the world and there are some amazing photos of the interior.

 


 

How did you set about researching for the books?

It’s been a really steep learning curve! As well as finding out everything I could about the Home Depot, I’ve also had to grips with life on the home front during World War One. And all this during a global pandemic when the libraries and museums have been largely closed! Of course, I’ve read as widely as I could about the period – both fiction and non-fiction – and also read a variety of contemporary diaries and picked the brains of as many experts as I could get talk to me! The Postal Museum has been a wealth of information – a large book has survived which lists details of many of the women who worked at the Home Depot together with any accidents which befell them at work and things that they were reprimanded for. It’s absolutely fascinating!

 

Can you share a fact that particularly stood out for you?

In terms of interesting facts, it is often the little things that have stood out and tickled me. Did you know that in world war one, there was an underground station called simply Post Office - and the main post office it served looks more like a palace than a post office! It’s now an accountancy firm.

 

What did you find out about the way women were treated?

WW1 clearly opened up opportunities and broadened horizons for many women. In fact, my main character, Beth, would probably have stayed at home, serving in the family shop until she got married were it not for the war. And, of course, there were men who were unhappy to come back from the war and to find women in ‘their’ jobs. I think this was particularly true for the Post Office which has traditionally – and well before WW1 – been the place that invalided soldiers were given work. I’ve tried to touch on some of these tensions in the book. That said, the book is set in the latter half of 1915 when there was an enormous recruitment drive to cope with the staggering amounts of post in the run up to Christmas - so I think it really was a case of all hands on deck. It was later in 1916 when huge numbers of injured men began to return home – including those from the Post Office Rifles. – that the tensions reached breaking point – and I hope to cover these in later books.

 
When you are writing as Poppy, do you use a different writing voice to when you are writing as Kirsten?

I think so. The two protagonists lived a century apart and are from different generations so I hope that’s reflected in the writing. Also Another Us (as Kirsten) is written in the first person and we spend a lot of time in Emma’s head, with all her hopes and fears and skewed perceptions. I deliberately wrote it to feel a bit uncomfortable. The Post Office Girls (as Poppy) is written in the third person. I’ve written it as quite a close third, so it is always from Beth’s point of view, but I hope it’s not quite as claustrophobic.

 
Another Us is a very emotional book, full of highs and lows, with moments of deep poignancy and also laugh-out-loud moments. Do your Poppy books have the same wide emotional range?

I hope so. There are definitely highs and lows in The Post Office Girls and I hope moments of deep poignancy interspersed with much more light-hearted and lively ones. However, Another Us has been marketed as a funny’ character-driven novel (although I didn’t necessarily set out to write a ‘funny’ book) and The Post Office Girls is more a plot-driven drama. (I think!)
 
Has writing as Poppy enabled you to explore different themes?

A couple of weeks ago, I would have said definitely yes. I would have said The Post Office Girls was a coming of age story exploring themes such as ‘how far would you go to do the right thing?’ and ‘you have to know what you believe in, even if it means hurting those close to you’. Another Us explores themes such as what can happen when communication breaks down - in the space between the words? But then, blow me, a reviewer described Another Us as an adult coming of age story – so maybe they aren’t that different after all.
 
Tell us what a writing day looks like for you. Has lockdown affected your writing regime?

I’d say lockdown has affected my head, rather than my writing regime, if that makes sense? The past year has been difficult, hasn’t it? For example, my teenage daughter had to have two hospital stays for throat surgery last summer – and I don’t think I’ve yet processed how hard I found it not to be able to visit and comfort her. And I would give anything to hug my parents. So, on the one hand, yes, I have found it difficult to both read and write at times – whereas I also think it has been the ability to keep writing and meeting deadlines that has kept me vaguely sane in the midst of all this madness! Swings and roundabouts.

 

* * * *

 

Blurb:

1915. On Beth Healey's eighteenth birthday, she hopes that she will be able to forget the ghastly war and celebrate. But that evening, her twin brother Ned announces that he has signed up to fight.

 

No longer able to stand working in her parents' village shop while others are doing their bit, Beth applies to join the Army Post Office's new Home Depot on the Regent's Park, and is astounded to be accepted. She will be responsible for making sure that letters and parcels get through to the troops on the front line.

 

Beth is thrilled to be a crucial part of the war effort and soon makes friends with fellow post girls Milly and Nora, and meets the handsome James. But just as she begins to feel that her life has finally begun, everything starts falling apart, with devastating consequences for Beth and perhaps even the outcome of the war itself. Can Beth and her new friends keep it all together and find happiness at last?

 

Link to The Post Office Girls on Amazon UK

"The Best Saga I Have Read..."

Posted on 5th February, 2021

Last week I shared with you my review of THE FERRYMAN'S DAUGHTER  by Juliet Greenwood, which was far and away my favourite book of 2020. This week I was amazed and very proud when a similar sort of accolade was given to THE SURPLUS GIRLS' ORPHANS.

 

 

The book was reviewed in Frost, the online culture and lifestyle magazine, and let's just say the reviewer loved it.

 

Here is the review:

 

Much as I enjoyed Polly Heron’s The Surplus Girls, I can honestly say that The Surplus Girls’ Orphans is the best saga I have read. The restricted lives of women in the inter-war period is captured perfectly, but with a fresh eye and brilliant story-telling that avoids the ‘grit and grim’ which I find makes some sagas less than a pleasure to read.

 

I know, as a writer, that the essential structure of a saga is to pour increasingly huge problems onto the heroine, twisting and turning the plot until she (apparently) has no way out. But of course, as a reader, you know she will find one. While all the time I find myself wondering how much more of the unremitting misery I can take.

 

Polly Heron’s books are not like that. There is joy and beauty in small things; in the orphans playing pirates on a wet evening, in the barley-sugar legs of a washstand, in children dancing around a maypole. And the plots and subplots are so beautifully drawn together than even when life is incredibly tough – which was, after all the reality of the time – as a reader you are led from one storyline to another without ever having time to get depressed. Angry, frightened, heart-warmed, amused… but never down right miserable.

 

Drawing on some of the characters in The Surplus Girls, and still wound into the story of the Miss Hesketh’s business school, The Surplus Girls’ Orphans is a standalone novel in its own right, although readers will get more out of the story having read the first book. As well as the Hesketh family, two of the Layton children feature, also as Mrs Atwood, and of course the backdrop is still the Chorlton area of Manchester.

 

However there is an entirely new main character in the form of Molly Watson, who is suffering perhaps the longest engagement ever, to a penny-pinching, controlling man. Deciding she would rather be a surplus girl, to the horror and shame of her family she breaks free to find work in an office, and then the orphanage, where she looks to change the lives of those around her and not just her own.

 

Her relationship with Aaron Abrams unfolds beautifully; the initial misunderstandings never overdone, the attraction between them perfectly paced. Nothing is sugar-coated and although the ending is perhaps inevitable (as it has to be to satisfy the genre) their journey feels unforced in a way all the best fictional romances do.

 

The subplots work perfectly too, in symmetry with the main story. A single thread connects Molly and the Hesketh household as secrets are revealed, with certainly some big surprises along the way. And Jacob Layton’s bullying at the hands of the inescapable thug Shirl brings an at times terrifying tension to the book.

 

Polly Heron has tremendous skill as a story-teller, but on top of that the quality of her writing shines through. She has a knack of wasting not a word on description, but of weaving detail into the action so the reader had a perfect mental image of a place and time as the story unfolds around them.


 

 

My Favourite Book of 2020

Posted on 29th January, 2021

At the end of each year into the beginning of each new year, there are plenty of lists doing the rounds of Best Books of the Year. I haven't nominated my own personal 'best book' before, but this year I simply have to share with you a book that I think is outstanding.

 

It is The Ferryman's Daughter by Juliet Greenwood.

 


 

This is a novel that will appeal to historical fiction buffs and saga lovers alike - an enthralling tale set in rural and coastal Cornwall in the early part of the 20th century, written with warmth, honesty, pace and a deep understanding of the human heart.

 

In Hester, Juliet Greenwood has created an exceptionally strong and appealing heroine and I loved and admired her as she fought to follow her dream in spite of numerous setbacks that occurred thanks to the conventions and expectations of the day. I lived every single frustration with her.

 

Hester is the ferryman's daughter, but she is also the daughter of a cook and I asked Juliet Greenwood about this aspect of the story. This is what she told me:

 

"I loved researching recipes for Hester, particularly for when she becomes a cook in a soldiers’ convalescent during the First World War. Before the war, those who could afford it were used to consuming large amounts, including of meat, so the shortages came as a bit of a shock. Many of the recipes I found were ones from newspapers of the time and were for things like potato bread, a meatless meal (basically leeks on toast!), preserving fruit without sugar and tips on making the most of the vegetables in your allotment."

 

Thinking about the Covid situation we are all living through at present, Juliet added: "It was rather unnerving seeing this humdrum advice set in between reports of horrific battles and the lists of the dead, all just part of the fabric of life. It really brought home how it must have been for those living through those years. This was just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so of course I look back on those newspapers with a new understanding. Now, they remind me just how resilient human beings can be, and how, for the most part, such experiences bring us together, even when we are apart. It’s also quite strange to think that future generations will be looking at our own newspapers and social media and wondering what it must have been like to live though something like this, and how on earth we coped …."

 

The Ferryman's Daughter is a thoroughly engrossing and satisfying book, packed with drama and emotion and enhanced by a strong sense of time and place, all served up by a gifted writer.

 

Here is the purchase link: The Ferryman's Daughter on Amazon. I hope you love it as much as I did!

 

 

 

A Cloudy Walk

Posted on 21st January, 2021

Last week, I said that I intended to share one of my lockdown walks with you and also that, after such a long time of rain and overcast skies, I was hoping for a sunny day .... Well, that didn't happen, unfortunately, but I'm going ahead with the blog anyway, because the view are beautiful even when they aren't bathed in sunshine.

 

The walk started on West Shore/Pen Morfa, looking across the Conwy Estuary. Rather a moody-looking picture, don't you think?

 

 

Here is the old toll house at one end of Marine Drive, which goes all around the Great Orme.

 


 

I then went up to the Invalids' Walk on the side of the Great Orme and walked along to Haulfre Gardens. Here is the view looking towards North Shore - alongside the same view on a sunny day.

 

 

From here I walked down off the Orme - and this is what I saw across the road! The leaves on those trees were evidently very tasty, though the goat obligingly broke off from eating them in order to do a nice pose for me.

 

My walk ended on the promenade. Here are the Grand Hotel and the pier on an overcast day ....

 

 

.... and here they are on a gloriously sunny day.

 

 

 

A Good Week for The Surplus Girls' Orphans

Posted on 15th January, 2021

It's been a very happy week following the publication of The Surplus Girls' Orphans on January 7th. Early reviews are saying . . . .

 

"This is another brilliant storyline that centres around the women after the war and the expectations that were placed on them by their family and society, no matter what their own hopes and dreams were!"

 

"This is a book which has completely engaged me and I really have felt as though I have been right there with the characters."

 

"I am totally in love with these books. I love the characters. Molly is such a sweetie and doesn't let anything stop her or hold her back. Such an inspiration. I loved the 'will they won't they' moments with Aaron. It was nice to see a few characters from the first book and see a softer side to them. Beautifully written, uplifting with lots of charm. I can't wait for the next book."

 

Many thanks to all the reviewers who have shared their thoughts about the book.

 

* * * *

 

Last week, I promised that today I'd share my list of Reading Group questions for The Surplus Girls' Orphans, but before we get to that, may I share another couple of pieces of news?

 

For those of you who are Kobo readers, The Surplus Girls' Orphans is one of Kobo's Books of the Month in its Romance section.

 

Here's the link: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-surplus-girls-orphans

 

And the book is also doing well on Amazon. Here it is in the Hot New Releases chart for Coming of Age fiction.

 

 

 

* * * *

 

And now (big fanfare) we finally come to the promised questions for your Reading Groups. I hope you find them interesting and that they add to your enjoyment of the story.

 

 


 

The Surplus Girls’ Orphans

 

1. Do you think Molly is happy at the start of the book? Does Molly think she is happy? What compromises has she had to make?

2. Why is Norris generally seen as good husband material? How do you think Norris views himself? How does he view Molly and their relationship?

3. In the first book, Patience Hesketh was a viewpoint character, ie part of the story was seen through her eyes and her experiences. What difference does it make to this book to have Prudence Hesketh as a viewpoint character? Has it changed your opinion of Prudence?

4. If you have read the first book, what was your opinion of Lawrence Hesketh then? What have you learned about him in this book through what happens to Lucy?

5. What do Vivienne and Molly see in one another that makes them become friends?

6. Is Molly right to take Danny to Southport to see his dad? Why/why not? Is Mrs Rostron right to dismiss her?

7. After living under his brother Thad’s thumb, is it inevitable that Jacob won’t get free of Shirl? Is Jacob a natural victim or is he just unlucky?

8. How does the bond grow between Danny and Aaron?

9. In what ways is the theme of ‘family’ explored in the story?

10. In what ways is the theme of ‘independence’ explored?

 

* * * *

That's all for this week. I'm hoping that there will be a lovely sunny day in the next few days so that next week I can share one of my lockdown walks with you.

 

Something else to look forward to, at the end of January, is a blog about my Book of the Year 2020. If you are on Twitter, or if you are a reader of the Sister Scribes pages of Frost magazine, you'll already know which book was my runaway winner. If not, you'll have to be patient for a while longer....

 

Stay safe.

Susanna/Polly xxx

 

I'm writing this on January 7th and it is publication day for The Surplus Girls' Orphans, the second in the Surplus Girls series, which I write as Polly Heron.

 


 

Publication day is always an exciting event and I'm grateful to my writer friends and colleagues who have taken to Twitter and Facebook to share the celebration.

 

In my next blog, I'll be sharing the Reading Group questions I've prepared to accompany the book. In the meantime, here is the blurb:

 

THE SURPLUS GIRLS' ORPHANS

 

Manchester, 1922

 

Molly Watson has had enough. Engaged for the last three years to a penny-pinching pedant, she finally decides she'd rather be a 'surplus girl' than marry a man she doesn't truly love. Aware of the need to support herself if she is to remain single all her life, Molly joins a secretarial class to learn new skills, and a whole new world opens up to her.

 

When she gets a job at St Anthony's Orphanage, she befriends caretaker Aaron Abrams. But a misunderstanding leaves them at loggerheads and damages her in the eyes of the children she has come to care so deeply about. Can Molly recover her reputation, her livelihood and her budding friendship before it's too late?

 

* * * *

 

 

  The Surplus Girls' Orphans  at Amazon UK

 

..... at Amazon US  

 

..... at Amazon Australia  

 

..... at Amazon Canada

 

 

 

 

 

Another Special Day

Posted on 18th December, 2020
Last week I told you about receiving my box of author copies of The Surplus Girls' Orphans. This week I have another special moment to share with you....

.... the cover of the audiobook.

b

Isn't it lovely?....

....and such a good match for the audiobook of the first book in the series, don't you think?

The paperback and ebook of The Surplus Girls' Orphans will be published on January 7th. The audio book follows on February 1st (publishing details to follow).

 

* * * *

 

This is my last blog until the new year. Many thanks to all my regular readers for your support throughout this year. I hope you all stay safe over the festive season.

 

Gyda dymuniadau gorau ar gyfer y Nadolig a'r Flywyddn Newydd.

 

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

 

* * * *

 

 

 

 

A Special Delivery

Posted on 11th December, 2020

I had a wonderful surprise this week - my box of author copies of The Surplus Girls' Orphans arrived, so of course I want to show you this photo so you can share the excitement.

 

  

 

Here is the blurb:

 

Manchester, 1922

 

Molly Watson has had enough. Engaged for the last three years to a penny-pinching pedant, she finally decides she'd rather be a surplus girl than marry a man she doesn't truly love. Aware of the need to support herself if she is to remain single all her life, Molly joins a secretarial class to learn new skills, and a whole new world opens up to her.

 

When she gets a job at St Anthony's Orphanage, she befriends careaker Aaron Abrams.  But a misunderstanding leaves them at loggerheads and damages her in the eyes of the children she has come to care so deeply about. Can Molly recover her reputation, her livelihood and her budding friendship before its too late?

 

 

The Surplus Girls' Orphans

 

on Kindle

 

and in paperback

 

Published on January 7th