Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on
The Ludlow Ladies' Society Blog Tour
The Ludlow Ladies' Society Blog Tour
The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin is published 20th July by Black & White Publishing, price £12.99
Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in Manhattan, she moves to Wicklow, Ireland hoping to heal her broken heart, and in search of answers: why did her husband plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died?
Although Connie initially avoids the villagers, she meets local women Eve and Hetty, who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home.
Eve Brannigan is also struggling with pain from her past. After her husband’s suicide, it became clear that he had bankrupted them, and her beloved home Ludlow Hall was repossessed. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing her house is renewed. But as she and Hetty begin stitching memory quilts in order to remember those they’ve lost, can she let go of her past and allow herself some happiness? And can Connie ever recover from the death of her much-loved daughter Molly?
I am delighted to be able to welcome the author, Ann O'Loughlin to the blog today.
Hi Ann, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us today
Without revealing too much, what can you tell us about The Ludlow Ladies’ Society?
This is the story of the enduring friendship among women. It celebrates the resilience of women and how they support and hold each other up through the worst of times.
Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. She comes from America to Ludlow Hall in Wicklow, Ireland desperate to find answers as to why this old mansion existed and yet she knew nothing about it until her husband’s death. Ludlow Hall features large in the life of Rathsorney. Eve lived there until it was repossessed by the bank and later sold on to Connie’s husband.
When Connie meets up with Eve and Hetty from the village and the members of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society, she finds friendship, understanding and compassion. As they make memory quilts together to remember their loved ones, the secrets of the past tumble out and the women begin to confront a painful past.
Connie Carter finds she did not just inherit a house but a whole group of friends who support and hold each other even through the worst of times. This is a story about the power of female friendship and the strength of the bonds that develop over time. As they stitch the patchwork memory quilts, Connie takes the first tentative steps to stitch her life back together.
I was very taken with the description of Ludlow Hall, did you base the story on a particular place or did you draw purely from your imagination?
When I was young in the west of Ireland we used to play in the fields around our home and often in the ruins of big old house there. I think it was from that time, I have loved big old houses. Ludlow Hall is the house in my imagination, but for me it is very real. I have a picture in my head of the house, every nook and cranny. Someday I hope to come across the house in reality. I like to think if I did, I could knock on the front door, confident the occupants will welcome me and I will be invited in to walk through to the kitchen for a cuppa.
The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is set in Co.Wicklow. How important is location to your writing, and did you visit any the places you describe so vividly in your novel?
I think location is very important and I never like to write about a place if I don’t know it well. I think when you know a place well, you know instinctively which way the bus is coming, which way the car should turn when it goes out the gate and little things like that which are so important. While Ludlow Hall is in a fictional village, it is in Co Wicklow in Ireland. I live in Co Wicklow, I know the way the roads are, the type of shops and cafés there and the type of houses. I think that is so important. A proper sense of place for me is very important.
Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you need to do in order to bring the story to life?
Thank you! In my mind I am there by her side when Connie is first walking through the village of Rathsorney, I am walking every step with her. The voice pounding in her head is pounding in mine. When she stands to take in Ludlow Hall for the first time, I am there doing the same thing. I think that is how you bring any story to life. When the ladies of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society sit to have a chat and a gossip, I am the ghost in the room if you like, I am writing what I hear and what I see, it is a great privilege.
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. Do they ever dictate how the story progresses or do you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?
What writing plan? I wish I was one of those writers who had a story board or lots of notes and walls or even the fridge covered with notes, but it is all in my head. The characters shout at me they want the story told in a certain way and I have to oblige.
On a good day, they will keep shouting, getting word count up by nearly 2000 words. On other days, they give up after 1000 words. The characters in my head dictate the pace. One of the saddest things about writing The End is that the voices fade and disappear.
What do you hope readers will take away from your stories?
I hope when readers close any of my books they feel uplifted, also maybe wanting to hear more of the characters, that they enjoyed the time with the characters; and I want them to sigh thinking back on the story and realise while it made them cry in places, there were also a lot of laughs along the way. I trust my readers to know while there is a serious issue running through The Ludlow Ladies' Society like in my other two novels, there is also fun, humour, gossip and a host of characters who I hope the readers love. I want readers to feel they have been touched by the story.
About the Author
A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of the Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two children. Her debut novel The Ballroom Café was a bestseller, with over 250,000 copies sold in eBook alone. Her second novel The Judge’s Wife was an Irish bestseller for 5 weeks, and was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel Award in February 2017.
..Here are my thoughts about the story..
I'm always in awe of those beautiful patchwork memory quilts which stitch together so many hopes and dreams, and as the Ludlow ladies come together to stitch memory quilts of their own, so their individual hopes, dreams and frailties are laid bare.
For Connie Carter leaving her home in America and coming to live in rural Ireland is never going to be easy, especially as she is grieving a loss so great she is doubtful she will ever feel whole again. A town resident and former owner of Ludlow Hall, Eve Brannigan is also coping with loss in her own inimitable style and when a tentative friendship develops between these two very different women, the result is a story which is beautifully tender and yet so unbelievably sad in places that it made me want to reach inside the pages and hug both these women close.
At first the ladies of Ludlow are sceptical of Connie's presence in their small town and it's only when Connie opens up the doors of Ludlow Hall as a place where the ladies' group can come together to stitch memory quilts that she begins, very slowly, to be accepted.
This is one of those gentle stories that really gets into the very heart of female friendship. Friendship which is bonded together by shared experiences, not just of happy moments, but also of those jagged pieces of lives which have, sometimes, been fractured beyond repair.
The glorious setting of Ludlow Hall is the place that holds all of the memories together and for Eve and the Ludlow ladies the memories of their shared past threatens to outshine their future, whilst for Connie, her overwhelming sadness, at last, finds a place of refuge and renewal.
Ludlow Hall is that glorious piece of fabric which forms the centrepiece of an amazing story quilt stitched together lovingly by a very talented writer.
My thanks to the author for answering my questions so thoughtfully and also to Sophie at FMcM.co.uk for my review copy of the Ludlow Ladies' Society.
Follow the blog tour on Twitter @annolwriter #LudlowLadiesSociety