Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
So happy to share this with you here, today, So read on to discover what Jen Gilroy had to say As she kindly answered my questions about her and her book, Read on and then you can take a look!
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
The Sweetheart Locket was inspired by the ‘sweetheart jewellery’ men serving in the armed forces during both World Wars gave to loved ones at home. I discovered that jewellery in July 2019 when I visited the fantastic Homefront Museum in Llandudno, Wales and that’s when the story idea began percolating.
Another story impetus, when Maggie, a young Canadian woman who’d been at school in England stays to ‘do her bit’ when war breaks out, was partly inspired by one of my great-aunts who worked as a teacher in England in the 1930s.
In August 1939, just before war was declared, her father summoned her home to Canada so, as a dutiful daughter, she boarded the ship on which he’d booked her passage. She always wondered, though, how her life might have turned out differently if she’d stayed.
From there my imagination took over and the story that is now The Sweetheart Locket grew.
What is your writing process?
Since becoming a published author, my writing process has, of necessity, become more structured. Whilst before I began with a vague story idea, now working in partnership with editors and publishers means I need to produce an outline of the book before I start to write. My editor and I usually chat about the proposed story too in order to sort any issues early on.
When writing historical fiction, like The Sweetheart Locket, I do background research about the time period beforehand, in this case the Second World War, which helps me develop the story world as I write.
I write between 1,000 and 1,500 words daily from Monday to Friday and, if a deadline is pressing, sometimes on weekends too. When I end my writing day, I always know what’s coming next as that helps me immerse myself in the story world more quickly after being away from it.
Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
I’ve always written drafts directly on a computer.
However, when I’m editing a book my first step is to print it out and edit with pen and paper. I also use pen and paper when I’m planning a story.
There’s something about physically using pen and paper that helps me connect with the heart and soul of a story in ways I don’t when I type on a computer.
You live in Canada and are Canadian but The Sweetheart Locket is set mostly in England. What does England mean to you?
I’m a dual Canadian-British national and lived in England for many years. Part of my heart will always be in England and in many ways, The Sweetheart Locket, my first British-set book, is a love letter to England and British people.
From Victoria Sponge cake to the verdant English countryside, London’s National Portrait Gallery and a fictional Berkshire village influenced by similar villages I know and love, The Sweetheart Locket was shaped by aspects of my own British life.
In the contemporary strand, Willow, an American, also sees England through ‘foreign eyes’ much as I once did. I enjoyed exploring that sense of ‘otherness’ through both Willow and, in the historical strand, Maggie, who is Canadian.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
Since my characters feel like children, it’s difficult to choose only one!
However, in The Sweetheart Locket I have a soft spot for Maggie, the heroine of the historical strand, because her quiet heroism inspires and humbles me.
She’s modelled on the women (and men) who risked their lives during the Second World War as secret agents for the Allies in occupied France.
Through Maggie, I also got to experience things I’ll never do in real life—parachuting out of a wartime aircraft, for example.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
The characters always come to me before story events, and main characters usually emerge almost fully formed including names.
The Sweetheart Locket has two timelines, WWII and contemporary, so those time periods influenced character names.
Margaret (Maggie) in the 1940s fit that character but it’s also special to me as it was my late mother’s name.
Willow, in 2019, is a name I’ve always liked. And since my fictional Willow has hippie parents who came of age in 1960s San Francisco, the name had the right feel for her family background too.
What if the key to your present lies in the past?
On the eve of the Second World War, Canadian Maggie Wyndham defies her family and stays in England to do her bit for the war effort. Torn between two countries, two men and living a life of lies working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Maggie’s RAF sweetheart locket is part of who she is…and who she isn’t.
San Francisco, 2019
Over twenty years after Maggie’s death, her daughter Millie and granddaughter Willow take a DNA test that’s supposed to be a bit of fun but instead yields unexpected results. Willow has always treasured her grandmother’s sweetheart locket, both family heirloom and a symbol of her grandparents’ love story. But now she doesn’t know what to believe. She embarks on a search for the truth, one she doesn’t know will reveal far more about herself…
A gripping and heart-breaking dual timeline novel about love, loss and buried secrets, The Sweetheart Locket is perfect for fans of Lorna Cook, Rachel Hore and Suzanne Kelman.
Universal Amazon link:http://mybook.to/TheSweetheartLocket
Other links (Apple, GooglePlay & Kobo) via Hachette: https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/jen-gilroy-2/the-sweetheart-locket/9781398708365/
Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction—warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home.
A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, ‘Back Home at Firefly Lake,’ a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.
A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London. Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada.
When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.
Visit Jen online at www.jengilroy.com
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Wonderful interview, Elaine.
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