Annabel arrived at my Chat Room in the middle of September. The autumnal feeling was already in the atmosphere, and I was tempted to light a fire. Annabel was wearing black jeans and a loose blue blouse, clearly indicating that she is not yet prepared to say a decisive farewell to summer. Her handbag was slightly bulky – spacious enough to fit in all the possible gadgets and tools of trade, including, perhaps, an odd typewriter.
She was feeling rather tired after a long journey. Inspired by Annabel’s interest in tea, I had been to a specialist shop, in Bath, to buy some tea. Annabel approved of my quirky 1930s teapot and a vintage tea strainer. Apparently, the Winter Mixture tea was perfect. I served the tea with some shortbread biscuits. I added stem ginger and lemon to the shortbread and the flavour worked perfectly with the tea.
Jessie: The front cover of your debut novel looks intriguing. Tell me more about your book.
Annabel: Three very different women get caught up in the political struggles of the 1930s, in three very different ways. The novel is about the allure of fascism, the allure of love, the power of art and the art of climbing to power.
Jessie: What prompted you to write the book, and what genre does it fit into
Annabel: I’d say it’s a cross between historical fiction and an LGBT novel. I can say it was inspired by the period dramas that followed in the wake of Downton Abbey (I think we all remember that craze!), but in a sort of twisted way. I had this desire to explore the darker side of the world they’ve showed, to dissect all the political conflicts they only hinted at.
Jessie: How do you manage to combine a career in PR with writing?
Annabel: Actually, I can count myself to be incredibly lucky, as most of my duties allow me to work from home and to generally keep flexible hours. Honestly, I cannot imagine how I would have kept up otherwise – scribbled during lunch breaks, probably!
Jessie: It is such a challenge to release a debut novel. What response have you had from the reviewers so far?
“A captivating, stylish… historical novel about the polite society, dangerous affairs … political intrigue and espionage in London in the 1930s.’ Christabel, Goodreads
“So well researched and written, this exciting time in Britain (pre-WWII) is brought life in this lively novel. ” Polly Krize, Goodreads
“A fantastic story line and wonderfully written, the plot is well thought out and a brilliant LGBT tale”. Charlotte McGlinchey, Goodreads
Jessie: It seems as if you have researched the plot thoroughly and developed an intricate plot. Read me a short extract from the book to tempt the reader.
‘It was as if Hester was once again cycling down the hill and feeling the wind roaring in her ears; only this time the brakes were broken, and the map was lost, and the landscape around her was full of dangers”.
Jessie: It sounds like the character is having a difficult time here. Can you provide a little context?
Annabel: She is under a kind of double pressure here. She is drawn into a turbulent affair with a woman… I could have ended the sentence here, as we are talking about a respectable, salt-of-the-earth, small town girl in the 1930’s; but that’s not the end of it – she is drawn into a turbulent affair with a woman, who has her own dark secrets and a continents-spanning political agenda.
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?
Annabel: I’d say it was a mix of relief and regret. Parting with Lucy was especially painful. I missed her terribly in the months to come, the shadows in her heart and her glorious way of making trouble..
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
Annabel: I would have loved to hear Sarah Waters’ opinion on it. Her Tipping the Velvet was a revelation for the nineteen-years-old me.
Jessie: Would your book appeal to fans of Sarah Waters?
Annabel: I hope so! I have always loved her mix of sensuality, unparalleled historical atmosphere and social commentary.
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Annabel: That way you’d be able to get your daily dose of hot jazz, bias-cut gowns and interwar intrigue while on the Tube.
Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
“Into the coming storm”.
Jessie: Is this a note for another book? Tell me more!
Annabel: I would be glad to say so – but, alas, my new book is still in the research phase! This from one of my drafts for the epilogue.
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Annabel: For me it was to piece the intricacies of the plot together. After I was done with that, the actual writing process came surprisingly easy.
Jessie: Did you have beta readers and an editor?
Annabel: Yes, I had good fortune to have as my editor the lovely Clio Cornish at the HQ Digital. She was a tremendous help for me, especially when it came to improving my plot flow or character development!
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Annabel: Probably to disregard the romantic ‘tortured artist’ archetype and work out methods that would cause me as little torture as possible. In my case, it was dedicating enough time to careful research, detailed outline and scene-by-scene planning.
More about Annabel…
Annabel Fielding graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations. She is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. She also posts a mix of book reviews and travel photos on her blog at http://historygeekintown.com“.
Annabel has always been unique. She read The Iliad in primary school to prove everyone wrong. She is obsessed with the dark corners of history and wants to bring them to life in her novels. From an early age, Annabel liked to explore the world – prefect for a writer!