Back in 2014 I started writing a historical novel based in The Potteries (Staffordshire) where I grew up. Stoke on Trent was the hub of the pottery industry from the early eighteenth century and most people don’t know that there was also a big mining industry and steel works that employed thousands of people.
As with most industrial towns there was massive poverty mingled in with huge riches, and that was what interested me: a poor working class girl falling in love with a rich industrialist’s son, who wanted to be a doctor and help the poor – against his mother’s wishes. The plot came to me in a moment of inspiration, but I quickly realised I knew very little about the early Edwardian times and subsequently most of my paragraphs had huge gaps where I needed to add research. Cobbled stones or cinder strewn pathways, clogs or boots? Did the poorer classes even have proper stoves or inside toilets? I knew nothing – but that didn’t stop me rattling along, enjoying Maddie and Daniel’s journey, trying to do them proud by making them interesting, rounded people.
So, I finished my story and started to research the area where I was born: Stoke on Trent. I visited the Hanley museum and the Burslem working pottery and found myself immersed in the history of my ancestors. I even found a plaque with our surname on, which depressed me a bit as I would rather have been the Viking descendent mum always said I was. King Ragnor Brunt of Stoke on Trent doesn’t have quite the right ring to it, does it? Hmm.
Anyway, I then put the novel, (called Set In Stone) to one side and started another one. (which is normal for me – my hard drive is littered with characters who didn’t come up to muster) I came across the novel again last year, and on a whim started reading it, just to see if my writing had improved since then. Well, do you know, I stayed awake all night, I was so engrossed. I’d forgotten so much of it that it was like reading someone else’s book.
It needed a fair bit of editing but I was so excited that I started kicking it into shape straight away. When I’d finished, Margaret Kaine, who is a fabulous Potteries writer, kindly read it through, as did Sharon Booth whose work I love and the verdict was very positive.
Moving swiftly on, I had an in depth conversation with an agent who was very interested in the novel but wanted it to be more of a saga, which really wasn’t me, and deep down I hoped Choc Lit would love it for the romance I wanted it to be. I was sitting on my hands, itching to send a follow up email when the requisite three months from submission had passed, when finally an email from Choc Lit popped into my inbox.
Hurrah it was good news!
I had a good old chat with the lovely Lyn Vernham from Choc Lit and ta-da, the deal is done. The Potter’s Daughter will be published by Choc Lit next year. I’m looking forward to being welcomed into the lovely Choc Lit gang, many of whom I already know. (I have been stalking Choc Lit for a long time now. My novel, Air Guitar and Caviar was shortlisted in their Search for a Star competition)
I’m already researching the music halls of the era for a follow up novel, but fear there may be quite a few blank spaces! I know nothing – did I already say that? But I will – by the time I’ve finished the next novel, I’ll be a bloody expert, but if anyone wants to help, I’d be very grateful!