☼ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic ☼
☼ I'm delighted to welcome author, Mary Wood to our Summer picnic ☼
☼Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Mary. What favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?
I love rolled smoked salmon rolled stuffed with cream cheese, so I will pack that. But I’m not fussy when it comes to food so will eat anything you bring too – oh, and cake. There must be cake. Preferably carrot cake, please.
☼What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial, or a thermos of tea or coffee?
What? No red wine? Red is my favourite tipple, but maybe not for a summer picnic, so I think I will go with the Pimms, please.
☼Where shall we sit, by the pool, in the garden, in the countryside or somewhere hot?
Countryside. I love the smell of the grass and the wildflowers, and to listen to the birds – that feeling that you are away from all the stresses of life. We used to make daisy chains as kids, and I still like doing that. But we need to be careful if there are any cows around. They look such peaceful animals as they chew the cud, glance at you with their big brown eyes as if they aren’t interested in you, but just as suddenly, they can turn and decide to play buffalos and charge at you. Very dangerous, so no fields with cows in.
☼Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?
Has to be a wicker hamper, like my own with gingham serviettes and the cutlery neatly strapped to the lid. Little plastic wine glasses, and plates. And places to put all the food.
☼Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?
Yes, it is called Brock Bottom. It is in Lancashire where I live and is a haven. We have had so many family picnics there on the riverbank. Our grandchildren paddling or floating in a dingy. Lovely walks and a profusion of wildflowers, trees, and little babbling waterfalls.
☼Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?
Catherine Cookson, her books inspired me to write. I had read the classics and many popular romance books, but when my sister-in-law leant me a book she’d just finished and said that it was amazing, I read it and knew that I wanted to write like that – to bring the characters alive as Catherine did – to make the reader feel part of the book, like Catherine did – she was and is, my inspiration. That book was called The Dwelling Place. Catherine and I would talk about writing and her love of the northeast, which I share, and how she coped with deadlines and edits. And I want to ask her about her Hamilton books with the imaginary talking horse, they were so different to her other books. I want to know what led her to write it and how difficult it was to handle such a story. For many of her fans it is their least favourite book.
☼Which summer read are you bringing with you today?
‘Heads You Win’ by Jeffrey Archer. I love his books. He isn’t classed as a saga writer but to me he is one of the best in the business. One of the highlights of my life was to chat with him when I went to a book signing of his. He is a very funny man and amused us so much with his antidotes. I laughed out loud when at question time a gentleman really shocked us all by asking why he hadn’t addressed his time in prison in his talk. There was an embarrassed hush. Then Jeffrey walked slowly and in measured strides towards the gentleman till he was very close to him. I held my breath – was he going to punch him? But no, he simply said – ‘Ahh, I recognise you now, you were in the next cell to me.’ The room erupted. I think the man regretted his question. When the laughter died, Jeffrey said, ‘If you want to know about that time, read my prison diaries.’ The moment passed, but I felt like cheering the way that was handled.
☼What is your earliest summer memory?
For a lady of my age that’s quite a question. It’s true – I know that now – that as we age our memory of the past becomes clearer, and yet, we can’t remember why we walked into a particular room! So, I have so many. My mum sitting in the garden with her embroidery listening to the cricket on the radio – a beautiful picture of tranquillity as the gentle voices of the commentators chatted about cake and occasionally about the game. The fair coming to our village, how magical that was with its jangling music and magical rides and side shows. Picnics with my sister. Two little girls with a bottle of water and jam butties. We’d see who could make the longest daisy chains and pick buttercups to hold under our chin – if there was a yellow reflection then it meant you liked butter. And avoid the dandelions because it was said that if you picked them then you would wet the bed. And eat berries – we knew which the poisonous ones were to avoid. And paddle in the brook while using a jam jar to try to catch tiddlers. Then there was the garden fetes and village sports days. It seemed that the sun always shone, and yet there were rainy days when we would each pick a raindrop on the windowpane and cheer it on as the first one to reach the bottom was the winner – simple, easy, lovely days.
☼Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so, will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
I like songs that touch the heart, like ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’ the very best version is sung by Matt Cardell, an X Factor winner – wonderful. But my bestest is ‘Lady in Red’ by Chris DeBurgh. This is mine and hubby’s song as when it first came out, we were in a pub having a drink when Roy said to me, ‘I heard a song today that made me think of you, I’ll put it on the Juke Box.’ When I heard it, I cried. Whenever we hear it, we dance, and then, on our Golden Wedding Celebration, our son’s partner, Scott, who has the most beautiful voice, sang a version, only changing the ‘red’ to ‘gold’ it was a wonderful moment as we danced together – always makes my heart sing. So, don’t be surprised if you play that and I get up and dance around the buttercups.
☼Do you find that your reading tastes differ between winter and summer?
I have to admit that I do very little reading, unless it is for research. Writing four books a year takes such a lot of my time, so I can switch this question a bit and say that my writing changes. In the summertime I find myself thinking of mince pies and Christmas pud as I write a Christmas themed book, and in the winter, it can be anything from war to factory life. All engross me.
☼Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or during the winter?
Possibly winter. Summer has so many distractions – gardening, which I love. Visitors – when allowed. Picnics, like this one. But I do love to sit in the garden with my laptop, so often combine the pleasure of sunshine and writing. The winters are mostly spent in Spain, so again, I do have the sunshine, but with a difference. We rent a villa, so the garden isn’t my responsibility. We don’t have casual visitors, only planned family and friends visits as they come and stay for a week. We don’t have the distractions of everyday mundane things to see to. So, this is my best writing time and I always write two books while I am there.
☼What can you tell us about your current book or WIP?
The latest to be published was the second in a trilogy set in a Jam Factory. The Secrets of The Jam Factory Girls continues the story of Millie – The daughter of the owner of the factory. And Elsie and Dot who work in the factory and have been friends since birth. In book one, ‘The Jam Factory Girls.’ Elsie and Dot meet Millie and as they have always been drawn to each other, so they find they are drawn to her too. An unlikely friendship develops – but that is a fateful meeting as life holds many secrets that when revealed unfold a sequence of events that will have dire consequences for the girls – These secrets bring heartbreak and yet joy too. The girls will battle against the rich, poor divide and a man that charms them all but has ulterior motives. We see them grow – in particular, Elsie, who rises to help to run the Jam Factory. We’ll see Dot battle with mental health as the revelations affect her in an adverse way. We go through thwarted love, and misguided loyalties. But through it all, nothing can break the bond these girls have and in the end they win through in The Jam Factory Girls Fight Back, out in December. These are the latest of my Mary Wood books.
I also write under the pseudonym of Maggie Mason and it is one of these that is my work in progress (WIP) ‘The Halfpenny Girls at War’ is the last of a trilogy. This trilogy is set in Blackpool as all Maggie’s books are. This time it is Blackpool of the thirties – a thriving town, but with hidden poverty in its back streets. Alice, Edith and Marg live in Whittaker Ave. Friends all of their lives, they are each coping with family problems. For Alice it is a violent dad. She has to protect her young brothers at all costs. For Edith, a drunken mother and an aggressive brother. For Marg, a failing-in-health, mother and a gran with dementia. All these problems are compounded by a lack of money. But these girls are strong. They have a bond between them that sustains them. We’ve been rock bottom with them, we’ve lived their tragedies, and seen each one triumph and find love. Now we are going to see their courage as they struggle through the war, with husbands and brothers called up and their own efforts to join with the country in beating Hitler.
Elsie’s worked her way up at Swift’s Jam Factory from the shop floor to the top, and now it’s her time to shine. But when she’s involved in an incident involving her half-sister Millie’s new husband, she is forced to keep it secret – the truth could threaten their sisterly bond.
Dot is dogged by fear, coming to terms with her mother’s rejection of her. She should be enjoying the happiness she craves with her beloved Cess; instead, she’s trapped in an asylum, haunted by the horrifying cries of inmates. All she wants is to get married, but what chance is there for her if she’s locked away?
Millie is trying to build a life with her new husband. But the man she loves is not all he seems . . .
Can the Jam Factory girls create the future they all deserve?
It is 1937 and Alice, Edith and Marg continue to face hardships every day, growing up on one of the poorest streets in Blackpool. Penniless, their friendship has helped them survive this far, but it'll take more than that to see them through the dark days that lie ahead . . .
Alice is coping with a violent father and the weight of the duty she carries to support her family, Marg is left reeling after a dark secret about her birth comes to light and threatens to destroy the life she knows, and Edith is fighting to protect her alcoholic mother from the shame of their neighbours and keep her brother on the straight and narrow.
A chance encounter at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom promises to set their lives on a new path, one filled with love and safety and hope for a brighter future. Will The Halfpenny Girls, who have never known anything but poverty, finally find happiness? And if they do, will it come at a price?
Mary, where can we follow you on social media?
Facebook page: I have two pages:
Instagram : Mary Wood.7796420
Thank you, Mary for sharing your summer picnic with us today.
Thank you so much for having me, I’ve had a wonderful time. You’ve conjured up happy summers of days gone by and taken me to a buttercup and daisy fields in our beautiful English Countryside. We’ve ate delicious food, washed down with ice cold pimms. Chatted about books, mulled over memories, listened to music, and had a quiet time reading. It’s been magical.
Much love to you and to all of your followers, Mary (Maggie) x
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