BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Interview with Author Jean Fullerton & Excerpt from Call Nurse Millie

Today I have the lovely author Jean Fullerton here and she kindly answered some questions for me concerning her new book and her writing. So get comfy and let's talk. Jean was born into a large, East End family and grew up in the overcrowded streets clustered around the Tower of London. Jean still lives in East London, just five miles from where she was born. She feels that it is that her background that gives her historical East London stories their distinctive authenticity.

She first fell in love with history at school when she read Anya Seton’s book Katherine. Since then she has read everything she can about English history but is particularly fascinated by the 18th and 19th centuries and my books are set in this period. She just loves her native city and the East End in particular which is why she writes stories to bring that vibrant area of London alive.

She is also passionate about historical accuracy and enjoys researching the details almost as much as weaving the story. If one of her characters walks down a street you can be assured that that street actually existed. Take a look at Jean’s East End and see the actual location where her characters played out their stories.

Find Jean Online:


Bea: Hi, Jean, just tell us a little bit about yourself if you don’t mind. 

Jean: Not at all. I have four previous historical novels all set in Victorian East London. I’m also a qualified District and Queen's nurse and have spent most of my working life in the East End of London.
I have three grown-up daughters and I lives just outside my native City with my Hero-at-Home husband, an eight stone Bernese Mountain Dog, called Molly, and two cats.   

Bea: What’s a typical day of writing for you? 

Jean: There’s no such thing. I am a qualified District Nurse but I don’t practice any more as I’m now a full-time university lecturer I teaching nursing studies at a London University so I could be teaching, seeing students, interviewing prospective undergraduates or preparing lectures.  After finishing my teaching duties I hurry home and start writing. I usually manage 1500 words a day but on a good day it could be 2000. I also write on weekends and when a deadline is looming I have been known to take a few days leave. 

Bea: Are you a planner or do you wing it?

Jean: I plot out my work on a grid as you can see from the first chapter of Call Nurse Millie below. With so many subplots in my books I find it easy to keep track of characters by plotting out the story. I even colour code the scenes on a grid with a particular colour for some characters to ensure I keep an eye on how often they appear.   

Of course, it’s not written in stone and it changes as I go along but it helps keep me on track. It’s very easy to get lost in a 140,000 word novel. Even your own! 

I also have a work schedule on which I mark dates when I should have reached a certain point of the story. I usually start writing for a February deadline after Easter with an aim to finish before Christmas. Of course it doesn’t always work out that way but so far the system has helped me hit my deadline with a week or two to spare.   

Bea: What prompted you to start writing? Would you continue to write if you were no longer published?

Jean: I won’t stop writing until they wrench the keyboard out of my cold dead hand but how I started writing is another matter. 

I am District Nurse and eight years ago I was a manager in the NHS in charge of six community clinics when my boss sent me on a stress management course. In order to unwind at the end of the working day the tutor advised us to take up a hobby so I thought I’d have a bash at writing a story- just for fun. You know. Nothing serious! But after just a dozen or so pages the story just seemed to pour out as if someone had shaken up a bottle of cola and undone the top.

After writing 10 books, submitting to umpteen agents and editors I finally wrote No Cure for Love which won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006. Through that I got my first two-book deal with Orion and when A Glimpse at Happiness was shortlisted for the 2010 Romantic Novel of the Year, I got my second two-book contract. I’m on my third contract now and waiting for number four.
Bea: What is your favorite part of writing? 

Jean: Living a different life through my characters and falling in love with my hero and having someone who has read your book tell you they’ve done the same.   

Bea: What is your least favorite part? 

Jean: Edits. And I’m sure every author would agree. 

Bea: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? 

Jean: I have to have a bag of Haribo Tangfastic at hand as I write, which does nothing for my ‘writer’s rear’. (Oh, nommy, but I bet it doesn't the rear. :D ~ Bea)

Bea: Was there someone who was, or is, particularly helpful to you? 

Jean: Not so much as someone but something; the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. It’s the only organization in the world, as far as I know that allows probationary members to send in a whole manuscript for critique as part of their membership. 

Bea: What genres do you enjoy reading? Do you have any favorite authors?

Jean: I enjoy romance and crime although not always in the same book. I’m a bit of a medievalist at heart so I like well-written and factually-accurate stories with multiple characters, such as those Elizabeth Chadwick and Bernard Cornwell writes. I also enjoy contemporary women’s fiction from authors like Carol Matthews, Jill Mansell and Julie Cohen, too. And as for crime give me a Lee Child any day.

Bea: Does your family read your books? What do they think?

Jean: I have three grown-up daughters who all read my books and love them. 

Bea: Do you prefer to read paper books or ebooks? Why?

Jean: I prefer to see paper books on my shelves but I don’t mind how I read and having a kindle means I can take dozens of books on holiday.  

Bea: Tell us what you’re reading at the moment and what you think of it.

Jean: I’m reading my own manuscript as I’m doing edits and all the time I hope readers enjoy it. 

Bea: If you could be a character in a book, which one would it be, and what part would you play? (Romantic lead, sidekick, etc)

Jean: I am the heroine in all my books but If I had to choose one I’d be Millie as I’m already a nurse and I get to go dancing with Alex Nolan.
Bea: What book on the market does yours compare to? How is your book different?

Jean: Call the Midwife is the closes book to mine and it differs in that Jennifer Worth’s book is her biography and Call Nurse Millie is fictional. 

Bea: On your site, you mention your love of history and all of your books have been set in different eras in English history. Did you ever consider becoming a historian? What was the appeal of 1945 for your new book? 

Jean: I’d loved to have studied history formally but sadly never had the opportunity to do so and the appeal of the immediate post-war period is being able to incorporate so much of my own family history into the story.  

Bea: What is your favorite era in history? 

Jean: I don’t think I’ve got one really. Whether the characters are in togas or crinolines is all the same to me as long as there’s a cracking plot. 

Bea: If you could travel in time, when and where would you go?

Jean: Everywhere!

Bea: Is there anything else you want to add or say to your readers?

Jean: Just to thank them for dropping by and to give them the few details about the book below:
You can purchase a paperback or ebook copy of Call Nurse Millie most easily from Amazon.

  Book description: An absorbing and richly detailed novel following the life and work of a young
   nurse in post-war East London - perfect for anyone who loved CALL THE MIDWIFE
It's 1945 and, as the troops begin to return home, the inhabitants of London attempt to put their lives back together. For 25-year-old Millie, a qualified nurse and midwife, the jubilation at the end of the war is short-lived as she tends to the needs of the East End community around her. But while Millie witnesses tragedy and brutality in her job, she also finds strength and kindness. And when misfortune befalls her own family, it is the enduring spirit of the community that shows Millie that even the toughest of circumstances can be overcome.

Through Millie's eyes, we see the harsh realities and unexpected joys in the lives of the patients she treats, as well as the camaraderie that is forged with the fellow nurses that she lives with. Filled with unforgettable characters and moving personal stories, this vividly brings to life the colourful world of a post-war East London.



Chapter One

Millie Sullivan pushed an escaped curl of auburn hair from her eyes with the back of her hand. She wished she’d put on her cotton petticoat under her navy blue uniform instead of the rayon one.

    Although the milk float was only just rolling along the street, it was already sweltering hot.
    With a practised hand Millie wrapped the newborn infant in a warm towel. ‘There we go, young lady, say hello to your ma.’
    She handed the child to the woman propped up in the bed. Mo Driscoll, already mother to four lively boys, took the baby.
   ‘Thank you, Sister,’ she said, tucking her daughter into the crook of her arm and gazing down at the baby. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’
   ‘She’s an angel,’ Mo’s mother, standing on the other side of the bed, replied. ‘And a welcome change.’ She looked at Millie. ‘I’ll clear up, Sister. You look done in.’
   ‘I am, but thankfully it’s my last night on call.’ Millie handed a parcel of newspaper containing soiled gauze to the older woman. ‘Could you pop these on the fire?’
   ‘To be sure.’ She took the packet and threw it in the zinc bucket alongside the dirty linen. ‘That superintendent works you nurses too hard. You should try and put your feet up when you get back.’
   Millie smiled.
   Chance would be a fine thing. She plopped her instruments into the small gallipot half-filled with Dettol, took off her gloves and glanced at her watch.
   Eight-thirty a.m.!
   Thank goodness.
   She’d be back by the time Miss Summers gave out the day’s work. Also, as Annie Fletcher, the trainee Queen’s Nurse student assigned to Millie, was laid up with tonsillitis, Millie had given a couple of Annie’s morning insulin injection visits to Gladys to do, and she wanted to make sure she’d done them.
   ‘Do you know what you’re going to call her?’ Millie asked Mo, washing her hands in the bowl balanced on the rickety bedside table.
   ‘Colleen, after me mum,’ she replied.
    Mother and daughter exchanged an affectionate look and Mille glanced at her watch again.
    She ought to get on, as she’d promised her own mum that she’d pop home in time for Churchill’s announcement at three p.m.
    Her parents, Doris and Arthur, only lived a short bus ride away in Bow but, as Millie had two newborns to check plus a handful of pregnant women to see before she swapped her midwifery bag for her district one for her afternoon visits, it would be a close-run thing.
    Millie packed the four small enamel dressing-bowls inside each other, then stowed them in her case between her scissors and the bottle of Dettol. She snapped the clasp shut.
    ‘I’ll call back tomorrow, but if there’s any problem just ring Munroe House to get the on-call nurse,’   Millie said, squeezing down the side of the bed towards the door.
    Like so many others in East London, the Driscolls’ home was just the two downstairs rooms in an old terraced house that Hitler’s bombs had somehow missed.
    Colleen took the manila envelope tucked into side of the dressing-table mirror and passed it to Millie.
     She opened it and taking out two crumpled ten-shilling notes, popped them into the side pocket of her bag. ‘I’ll write it in when I get back to the clinic.’

1 comment:

  1. Fun interview, I love learning how writers write.


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