This is the fabulous Maddie Morgan – author Madalyn Morgan – whom I’ve known for umpteen years (not going to age either of us by saying how many, Maddie). We met when I joined the Young Vic Studio Company as resident director. Maddie was an actor already in the company. It was her welcome and that of our mutual friend, Jane Goddard, that gave me the confidence I needed to take up the ropes. The three of us have remained friends ever since. I remember Maddie starting The Writers Bureau course and have intense admiration for the way her writing has not only blossomed but flourished since then. Certainly puts me in the shade.
Maddie – for old times’ sake, will you take your cue, please?
I was brought up in a pub in the Midlands. I had a hairdressing salon and wig hire business, before going E15 to Drama College. Aged fifty, with fewer parts for older actresses, I taught myself to touch type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writers Bureau, and began writing.
What first inspired you to write? Three things happened at the same time. The first was having my heart broken; I wrote about it to exorcise it, get it out of my system. A friend who is a prolific reader said it was good and I should do a writing course.
At the same time, Mum wanted to give back a brass aeroplane – a Wellington Bomber – that had been made for her by a Polish pilot in WW2 who had made it for her in WW2. Franek and his crew escaped Poland in 1939 and crash landed in the Midlands. Living quarters on the nearby Commonwealth Aerodromes – Britteswell and Bruntingthorpe – weren’t ready, so every house in the village took in a Polish airman. I didn’t find Franek, he had died, but I found his son, who was delighted to have the aeroplane.
My mother told me about her life in the Second World War; the work she did in the factory de-greasing magnetos for aircraft engines, the dances she went to, and the letters she wrote to servicemen overseas. When I came to the biography module on the writing course, I wrote about Mum. My tutor liked what I’d written but said because Mum and I were both unknown, I should turn it into a fiction.
I have always been fascinated by the achievements of women in the Twentieth Century, especially women who worked and served in the two world wars. So, as I had a mountain of information in my mum, I decided to write about women in WW2. I had too many ideas for one book and plotted four: Four different sisters, four wartime careers, and four loves. I still have Mum’s biography. One day I will turn it into a fiction.
I still have Mum’s biography. Her wartime experiences are just a small part of it. As the Landlady of a big working-class pub from 1955 to 1983, lots of interesting things happened. We had a dance room and a jukebox and which attracted the GIs at Bruntingthorpe and, unfortunately, the Teddy Boys. We had Mods to Rockers – with a few gangsters and famous showbiz people thrown in. One day I shall turn Mum’s personal story into fiction.
What was your first piece of creative writing? How old were you? I wrote my first piece when I was eleven. It wasn’t as much creative as an article on how Lutterworth – the town I lived in – was named. The second was about John Wycliffe, the English theologian and reformer who had been the rector of our church in the 1380s and was instrumental in translating the Latin Bible into common English.
I was a pub kid with a jukebox to dance to after school. Three records for five pence – it doesn’t get much better than that. My dream was to be an actress and I was lucky enough to have the lead role in the school play every year. As for writing. Apart from local history stories and essays that I wrote in English lessons, I didn’t write until I went to E15 Drama College at twenty-four. Reading Shakespeare and writing character breakdowns and histories was mind-blowing. It was at E15 that I began writing poetry.
Which writers do you particularly admire? I have writer friends who I admire, including you, Lynne, but among the writers who are not friends are, Robert Harris, Ken Follett and C.J.Sansom.
What do you love about writing? I love creating characters and writing their biographies. And I love plotting the action. I love it when I am woken in the night by an idea or when I’m doing something mundane and an idea pops into my head. However, the best feeling is when I read what I’ve written at the end of the day and the plot falls into place, or a character’s problem has been resolved. For me that is the magic of writing. I also enjoy creating posters to promote my books using Canva, writing catchy phrases to go with the posters, and making trailers using Animoto.
What do you hate about writing? Punctuation, as you have probably already noticed. I also hate editing. The first draft edit is fine, but after that I hate editing. I don’t mind cutting and developing, but I am prone to rewriting. Mending what isn’t broken. And I hate proofreading. I do it because I have to. I’m an Indie author so the buck stops with me. In my first novel, a chicken became a turkey. Everyone involved in the novel missed it. Then one day – after the book had sold near on a hundred downloads – a reader spotted the mistake and messaged me. I had the book taken off Amazon – Kindle and paperback – corrected the mistake and I paid to have it put back on. I want my books to be as professionally written and produced as any on the shelves of Waterstones and WH Smith.
Describe your ‘portfolio’ of writing I have written seven novels and have an idea for the eighth. I have outlined a memoir: My life through the work I have done. It will include the funny things that have happened to me, the wonderful people I have met who have influenced me, and the famous heads of hair I cut or coiffed when I was a hairdresser. I shall add the work I did as an actress with character breakdowns and photographs, the radio shows I presented with rock band profiles, the poetry I’ve written, and a variety of articles with subjects ranging from the Civil Rights movement, Live Aid, to the Saints.
FOXDEN ACRES First book in the Dudley Sisters Saga
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. Bess and James played together as equals when they were children, but now James is engaged to the more socially acceptable Annabel Hadleigh. Bess takes up a teaching post in London but when war breaks out and London schoolchildren 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…
APPLAUSE The second is Margot Dudley’s story
In the early years of World War 2, Margot Dudley works her way up from usherette to leading lady in a West End show. Driven by blind ambition Margot becomes immersed in the heady world of nightclubs, drink, drugs and fascist thugs – all set against a background of the London Blitz. To achieve her dream, Margot risks losing everything she holds dear.
CHINA BLUE Third in The Dudley Sisters Saga
At the beginning of World War Two, Claire Dudley joins the WAAF. She excels in languages and is recruited by the Special Operations Executive to work in German occupied France with Captain Alain Mitchell, of the RCAF, and the French Resistance. Against SOE rules Claire falls in love. The affair has to be kept secret. Even after her lover is taken by the Gestapo, Claire cannot tell anyone they are more than comrades. As the war reaches its climax, Claire fears she will never again see the man she loves.
THE 9:45 TO BLETCHLEY Fourth in The Dudley Sisters Saga.
In the midst of the Second World War, and charged with taking vital equipment via the 9:45 train, Ena Dudley makes regular trips to Bletchley Park, until on one occasion she is robbed. When those she cares about are accused of being involved, she investigates, not knowing whom she can trust. While trying to clear her name, Ena falls in love.
The subsequent novels are stand-alone sequels –
FOXDEN HOTEL – a sequel to FOXDEN ACRES
The fifth novel is a story of intrigue and secrets, threats and blackmail, romance, happiness and love. Foxden Hotel brings the Dudley sisters together along with their husbands and friends to celebrate the opening of the hotel on New Year’s Eve 1948 (ten years after Foxden Acres opened on New Year’s Eve 1938).
As the countdown to 1949 begins, a terrifyingly familiar voice from Bess’s past rasps a New Year’s message in her ear. Bess turns, a camera bulb flashes – and the man has gone. The uninvited guest, an enemy from the war years, threatens to expose a secret from Bess’s past that will ruin her happiness and the new life she has worked so hard to create. Bess’s husband, Frank, throws the man out, but Bess and her sister Margot follow him. Is that the last they will see of him? Or will he show up again when they least expect?
Bess had hoped fascism was a thing of the past, buried with the victims of WW2. Little does she know the trouble that lies ahead, not only for herself but also for her husband and sisters.
CHASING GHOSTS – a sequel to China Blue
It is 1949. After receiving treatment for shell shock in Canada, Claire’s husband disappears. Has Mitch left her for the woman he talks about in his sleep? Or is he on the run from accusations of wartime treachery? Claire goes to France in search of the truth, aided by old friends from the Resistance.
I am also writing a Memoir; my life through the work I’ve done. The ‘what if’s’, my acting career, characters, biographies, photographs from productions, the funny things that have happened to me, the wonderful people I’ve met, my poems (currently a work in progress) and a variety of articles with subjects ranging from the Civil Rights movement, rock concerts, and the Saints.
What is your proudest achievement? My proudest achievement is not in writing or acting, it is in market research. When I was out of work as an actress I built code frames and coded questions for research companies. One research project was with specialist, doctors and nurses. They answered the questions and I built the code frames (using only their words). I very carefully coded the questionnaires and now, fifteen years on, young lives are being saved.
What is your current project? THERE IS NO GOING HOME – A Cold Case – is a cold war spy thriller and the sequel to THE 9:45 TO BLETCHLEY. In 1958, Ena sees someone in Oxford Street whose funeral she had been to in 1944. The search to prove the person is still alive leads her into life-threatening situations. When a colleague is killed, Ena is taken back in time to Berlin 1936 and Adolf Hitler’s Olympics.
The cold war is a dangerous era. People are dying. Are their deaths accidents or murder? I am currently editing THERE IS NO GOING HOME and hope to publish in July.
Anything you’d like to add? I think research is paramount in historical fiction. It’s important to get the facts right. For example, the Dudley sisters are together at Foxden in the first novel Foxden Acres and at the end of the book their futures are decided. Each story stands alone, but each is interwoven with the other stories. When the sisters are enjoying Christmas in Foxden Acres they have to be enjoying Christmas at Foxden in their own stories. The same for events in the war: the bombing of Coventry, The Battle of Britain, D-Day, etc. Dates and events must be correct when setting a story in any documented time in history.
To ensure someone was not enjoying Christmas in one book and overseas fighting in another, I kept a day-diary. Every time something significant happened in Foxden Acres I made a note of it – leaving four blank pages – one for each of the other books and one for luck. I couldn’t have kept control of who was doing what, when and where, without the diary.
I was one of the first Indie authors to be accepted into The Romantic Novelists Association. I am a member of The Society of Authors and the actors union, Equity.
Last but by no means least, thank you so much for inviting me to be a Guest Writer on your blog, Lynne!
Great pleasure, Maddie – and all the very best for THERE’S NO GOING HOME
FOXDEN ACRES: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BCX59LE/
CHINA BLUE: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00XD85NQW/
THE 9:45 TO BLETCHLEY: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GEVW3Z8/
FOXDEN HOTEL: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LDYD2D/
CHASING GHOSTS: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07D42HP1Q/