Today is the official publication day for Foxden Acres, the book written by my friend and fellow writer Madalyn Morgan. Maddie has thrown her heart and soul into this book, deciding to self publish via Kindle. I’m so pleased for her….she is an inspiration!
Where did the idea for Foxden Acres come from?
It was a combination of things. My mother inspired me to write about the Second World War. The year before she died, mum said she’d like to give back a brass airplane to the young Polish pilot who had made it for her in 1940. Unfortunately, he had died, but I found his son. He was delighted to have the plane because it was a Wellington Bomber, which his father had flown in the RAF. It was this, as well as stories she told me about her siblings and the groom’s cottage she lived in on a country estate. She told me about the work she did in a factory, the RAF aerodromes, Bruntingthorpe and Bitteswell, the music she liked and the village dances she and her friends cycled to. I found it all fascinating.
I called the book (and the estate) Foxden, after a fox’s den. I was brought up in a pub called, The Fox Inn, and the first book I ever read was, Gone To Earth, by Mary Webb. I like Foxes. I hate foxhunting.
It’s the first part in a quartet isn’t it? Where will the story be going?
Foxden Acres is the first of four novels about the lives of four very different sisters during the Second World War. Each book is carefully time-lined with the events of WWII, as well as the other stories in the quartet. However, each book will stand alone and can be read in any order.
Foxden Acres is Bess Dudley’s story. On the eve of 1939, twenty-year-old Bess Dudley, trainee teacher and daughter of a groom, bumps into James, heir to the Foxden Estate. As children, Bess and James played together as equals, but now James is engaged to the socially acceptable Annabel Hadleigh. Bess takes up a teaching post in London but when war breaks out and the children are evacuated she returns to Foxden to organise a troop of Land Girls. Traditional barriers come crashing down when Flying Officer James Foxden falls in love with Bess. But by this time Bess has come to know and respect Annabel. Can she be with James if it means breaking her best friend’s heart? Besides, Bess has a shameful secret that she has vowed to keep from James at any cost…
The second book, Applause, is about ambition – and is Margot Dudley’s story. At the beginning of the war, Margot leaves Leicestershire to live with her husband in London. Fiercely ambitious Margot works her way from being an usherette in a West End theatre, to leading lady. However, she soon finds herself caught up in a web of deceit, black-market racketeers, Nazis, drugs and alcohol.
The third book, China Blue, is about love and courage – and is Claire Dudley’s story. While in the WAAF Claire is seconded to the RAF’s Advanced Air Strike Force. She falls in love with Mitchell ‘Mitch’ McKenzie, an American Airman who is shot down while parachuting into France. At the end of the war, while working in a liberated POW camp in Hamburg she’s told Mitch is alive. Do miracles happen?
The fourth book, working title, The Bletchley Secret, is about strength and determination – and is the story of Ena, the youngest of the Dudley sisters. Ena works in a local factory. She is one of three young women who build components for machines bound for Bletchley Park during World War II. The Bletchley Secret costs her the love of her life. Some years after the war has ended, Ena, now happily married, is running a hotel with her husband when she encounters someone from her past.
So what made you decide to go down the self-publishing route?
I have submitted Foxden Acres to eighteen literary agents, and come close to getting representation three times. In between the second – who was very helpful – and the last agent, who kept me exclusive for five months, and still hasn’t committed, I met Jonathan Lloyd of Curtis Brown, at Foyles. I asked Jonathan if CB would consider representing a writer who had self-published their first novel. The answer was an unreserved, yes! “Self-publishing is very much part of the future and we need to embrace it. There are some great writers out there and we want them.” So, rather than wait another five months, with no guarantee that the agent will take me, I decided to go it alone. Having said that, I edited and proofread, edited and proofread, and when I felt the novel was ready for publication, I sent it to the professional proofreader that you recommended, Alison Neale, The Proof Fairy. It is being professionally uploaded to Amazon – books and Kindle – by Rebecca Emin and will be available on February 16th. Many books out there have not been edited, proofread, or formatted. Foxden Acres will not be one of them.
What Lessons have you learnt along the journey to publication?
Gosh! There are so many. Research is one. I don’t believe you should write about what you know, but I do believe you should know what you’re writing about. In other words, you must research your subject. I learned the importance of research when I chose to write novels set in the Second Wold War. Another lesson was learning to take criticism. Rejection I was used to. It’s an occupational hazard for an actress to be too tall, too short, too big, too small, but criticism… However constructive, criticism is hard to take, but it’s necessary if you want your writing to improve. Then there’s time. Learning to manage your time is another hard lesson. I was working long hours to pay the mortgage, while I was doing a writing course, and didn’t think I had time to read. “Then make time,” my tutor said. And she was right. It wasn’t long before I realised the importance of reading. So, managing your time is a great lesson to learn. There are many lessons to do with story and characterisation, but one of the most important is, plot. If you’re going on a journey you plan the route. So why would anyone think they can go on a journey through life without a plot? It’s only my way of working – and half way through the novel the plot will probably change – but that’s all right. Lastly, keeping character descriptions and notes. If you don’t, the jeans you so lovingly describe as midnight blue when she enters the restaurant, will come back to bite you on the bum, when you say she leaves the restaurant in black jeans.
What’s the best piece of writing advice anyone has given you?
Read, read, and read. Read well written books. There are millions of good books to choose from, why read rubbish.
Thank you soooo much Maddie, some great advice there, and CONGRATULATIONS! Honey!!!! I wish you every success :)
Please drop in to the virtual launch party and say hello, anytime between 9am and 11pm (GMT) today. There will be a raffle and giveaways :)