A Chat With Polly - Part 1

Posted on 10th February, 2020

A while ago, I was interviewed for Isis Soundings, my audiobook publisher, who have recently released The Surplus Girls in all audio formats.



I have shared the interview on FaceBook, but in case you missed it, I am going to post it here as well. The published interview was edited down a little for reasons of space, so I am going to post it in full here.


Here is the first half:


* * * *


What encouraged you to turn your hand to writing?

I was a child writer. I adored Enid Blyton’s books and used to churn out boarding school stories. For a time, I wrote about a school called High Towers, which you won’t be surprised to learn bore a striking resemblance to Malory Towers. Then I created a school that was situated on a cruise ship. I also loved writing about twins (no, I’m not a twin).


The appetite for family sagas feels bigger than ever. Why do you think this is and what drew you to this genre?

I think the appeal of the saga is two-fold. Firstly, these are stories which explore relationships of all kinds, and this is endlessly fascinating to readers; and secondly, they are stories about overcoming obstacles. For me, a great part of the appeal is that sagas are set in the past, when the social, legal and financial status of women was a lot more precarious. This in turn means that the obstacles present more of a challenge for the heroine. I also enjoy the domestic history – the clothes, furniture, food and so on.


Are there any current saga authors you’re enjoying?

I love Anna Jacobs. My favourite series of hers is the Kershaw Sisters. As well as print copies of her books, I have two shelves of audiobooks. I also love sagas by Carol Rivers, in particular her Second World War stories. I love Dilly Court too – and I hear Annie Aldington’s voice in my head when I read them! In my opinion, possibly the best saga ever written is Paradise Lane by Ruth Hamilton.


What prompted you to write under a new name?

As Susanna Bavin, I have so far written four stand-alone novels, but as Polly Heron I will be writing a series set in the early 1920s for Corvus, which is the commercial fiction imprint of Atlantic Books. When a saga writer writes for a new publisher, it is normal practice to use a different name – unless you are terrifically famous, of course!




What inspired the story behind The Surplus Girls?

When my dad was a boy, his mother used to take him every Saturday morning to visit his great-aunts, who were spinsters and who all lived together. From hearing about them when I was a child, I know he adored them. Strictly speaking, they weren’t surplus girls (the generation of young women whose possible husbands perished in the Great War) because they were a bit too old for that, but I was always fascinated by the thought of these sisters living together and supporting one another without the benefit of the kind of money a man could earn.


Introduce us to Belinda Layton. What faces her at the start of the book?

Belinda got engaged to Ben when she was just 15 and went to live with his mother and grandmother. But Ben was killed in the final year of the Great War, leaving Belinda in the odd position of being almost-but-not-quite a widow. Four years later, when the story starts, she has laid Ben’s memory to rest, but his mother and grandmother very definitely haven’t. How can Belinda start to make something of her life when the two women to whom she owes so much are determined to keep her swathed in black for ever?


Belinda also has to cope with her own family, who are pretty awful – a money-grabbing father and self-pitying mother, not to mention younger brothers running wild. When Belinda goes to night-school to learn office skills in the hope of getting a better job, her life opens up in unexpected ways.


What advice would you give to Belinda if you could?


I’d give her a big hug and tell her to believe in herself. You have to do what you know is right for you, even if other people don’t like it.


 * * * *


That's the first half of the interview. I hope you enjoyed it - I loved answering the questions. I'll post the second half later in the week.


In the meantime, take care, especially in this stormy weather.


Susanna/Polly xx


* * * *


My Susanna author page on Amazon


My Polly author page on Amazon




Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (1)

A super interview, Sue. Having read all your books and loved them, it was good to read more about you and the story behind 'The Surplus' girls. I warmed so much to Belinda and how she dealt with her struggles that I was delighted you'd give her that hug and such sound advice. Looking forward to part 2.