We begin with the online chat, Jean and I had:
Welcome Jean, it is lovely to have you here. I have so many questions, I, and I know my followers, would like to ask you.
It is lovely to have this chance to ask a few of them. May I begin with a question that all of us authors are asked:
When did your love of books begin?
Loved books from the moment I could read, or at least make some sense of the letters on the pages of children’s books. I remember being 4 or 5 and telling my father he should go and see my teacher at infant school and check with her how to spell cat. As he did it differently to her. The memory of the moment always makes me smile.
Ohh, would so love to know your dad's version. Maybe you will let us into the secret one day. So: When did you start to have the wish to become an author?
I never saw myself as an author. Though I was writing articles and short stories for a few glossy magazines and was involved with script writing, it never entered my head to write a book until the moment I saw Dorothea slate quarry in Talysarn, North Wales.
I had been asked to write an article about pollution in the abandoned quarries in the mountains.
The day I saw Dorothea quarry for the first time was a perfect autumnal day. During the vaguely warm and brilliant afternoon, I walked around the edge of the quarry, now a vast lake over 600 feet deep.
Stepping over rusting blondins lying in the weeds I began to imagine the men that had once worked here in the 19thcentury. Eager to know more, I explored the derelict buildings and climbed over the fallen walls of the old pump house.
In my mind the place became alive, bustling with 700 or 800 men working here. The noise of the machinery hauling slate up from the galleries. The blast of explosives firing out of the cliff-face, men running for the lives to the cabans and stone buildings before the hundreds of tonnes of slate broke free, thundering down the galleries and tearing the old mountain to the spine.
I couldn’t wait to get home to my converted chapel and turn on the computer to type, The Widow Makers. The story became a historical series telling the tale of a quarryman, Joe Standish and the wealthy owner of the quarry, Bertram Bellamy.
This so explains the detail in your novel of what everyone is doing, I loved that aspect. It brought the kitchen of both the Workhouse and The Manor alive. So: How have you found the process for becoming an author?
It took a long time before I could begin to think of myself as an author. I found I loved research and hunting out old quarrymen to pick their brains about their and their fathers working lives. I learned about the turmoil in the communities when the idea of a union was first conceived. Incredibly exciting stuff. Murder and mayhem and everything in between.
I was lucky as I had a great source of information in the archives in Caernarfon. The Welsh Books Council liked the first book in the series and they gave a publisher a literary grant to publish the second one. So I had a lot of support, especially from the libraries and the helpful staff.
Fascinating and a route I have never heard of before. And so, now you have done it - What would you say to those wanting to become an author?
Write every day and believe in yourself even when the demons say you are aiming too high.
Yes, I can see this as good advice as with the process of going through rejections before you are finally accepted, the demons do visit you urging you to give up.
Now, with having achieved success, tell us which one of your book/books is your favourite:
Love all my books. After writing The Widow Makers, I did something completely different, a Viking era fiction. Freya 800 AD was wonderful to write. Could hardly wait to start work each day.
Finishing Freya I should perhaps have gone on to write another historical fiction but my agent at the time was convinced a contemporary mystery was the one to write. Kate’s Secret saw the light of day. Not so the agent. I fired her before she could set me off on the completely wrong road.
Hannah, and the sequel, Hannah’s Inheritance. It is the 19th century characters and places that soothe my soul.
Staying with my chosen century, Just One Winter, came into being. This is a story of a deep infatuation but it is not all about love and sideways eye contact, there’s an accidental death, a planned demise and a fair bit of mayhem too.
Orphan’s Secret is the most recent book. It was time for a story set in dark alleys and slums of London. An era when young people and the poor were often used by those with standing and wealth.
A wonderful selection of different genres. Tell me, what do you love about the writing/reading community?
Now living in France, I have moved away from the writing community I knew in England and Wales. Though I am blessed with supportive readers in person and on social media. I love meeting folk and talking about books, mine and everyone else’s.
I can relate to this since covid. The community of writers I used to meet up with each month haven’t been together since the start of the outbreak. Thank goodness for social media, which is where you and I keep contact and support each other. Tell me, if you could say anything to readers, what would it be?
Please, please, please, if you liked or loved a book leave a rating or a review. Reviews help writers grow.
Hear, hear! All authors, are so grateful for our reviews. Even the bad ones can help us to learn to improve – though we all hate bad reviews!
This has been a lovely, and insightful chat. Thank you so much for taking the time to come onto my blog. I know that everyone will want to know more and to get to know you, so, where can people connect with you?
Happy to be contacted on Facebook at Jean Mead or Jean Mead Books. Leave a message or make a comment. I always reply as I love contact with readers.
Thank you, Jean, I wish we could have sat side by side and had this chat. I loved having lunch with you that time I was on my way back from a stay in Spain and caught the ferry near to where you live. I hope it happens again in the future. Much love, Mary x
MY REVIEW OF 'ORPHAN'S SECRET' - CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO BUY THE BOOK
'THIS IS HISTORICAL FICTION AT ITS BEST - AN UNFORGETTABLE READ'
I so enjoyed reading this book.
As I said earlier, the fascinating detail of the work of the poor workhouse folk, and of the servants of a manor house, add so much to the enjoyment of the read. It takes you into the depth of life in the era for both the very poor, the fairly fortunate poor (those with a job and good food) and the rich of the times. Something that all historical writers research, but may not always put across. Jean has done this excellently and in a way that it doesn't intrude on the story, but enriches is.
The story is full of emotion and pulls at your heart strings as it takes you on Eliza's journey from the depths of poverty and depravation in the workhouse to her time in service - where lies the dark secret of her life.
Discovering this secret gives pain and frustration as Eliza has to face the truth of her existence, but it also leads to her salvation.
Eventually, love conquers all to bring this book to an unexpected, but wonderful conclusion. Well done, Jean, this is a winner in my book and I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in it.
MY RATING * * * * *
CLICK ON THE IMAGE OF THE BOOK WITHIN THIS REVIEW TO BUY THE BOOK
And finally, thank you for being such a lovely guest on my blog, JEAN, and for writing such an enjoyable book - but most of all for giving me the honour of reviewing and endorsing it. Good luck and as always, Much love,
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Jean and I would love you to leave us a comment. Thank you. Much love to you all. Mary x