November 21st 2019
An Author’s Mind is always delighted to explore the writing processes of someone who is so involved in the writing process that one standalone novel has turned into a trilogy. And this month, we look at why Patricia M Osborne – a February 2019 graduate in an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Brighton – has done this and how, and who has helped. Welcome, Patricia!
Patricia: Thank you, Lizzie. It’s a welcome opportunity to think about some important issues.
Lizzie: So let’s go straight on with the author interview. Could you describe the story you are telling in this trilogy?
Patricia: Certainly. House of Grace is the first book in the historical fiction family saga trilogy. In summary, the story is briefly:
All sixteen-year-old Grace Granville has ever wanted is to become a successful dress designer. She dreams of owning her own fashion house and she spends her spare time sketching outfits. Her father, Lord Granville, sees this as a frivolous activity and arranges suitors for a marriage of his choosing.
Grace is about to leave Greenemere, a boarding school in Brighton. Blissfully unaware of her father’s plans, she embarks on a new adventure. The quest includes a trip to Bolton’s Palais where she meets coal miner, Jack Gilmore. Grace’s life is never the same again.
Is Grace strong enough to defy Lord Granville’s wishes and find true love? Will she become a successful fashion designer? Where will she turn for help?’
Lizzie: And which three words describe how you felt, having finished writing House of Grace?
Patricia: ‘Happy. Sad. Lost.’ In that order. But that’s because writing a novel takes so much of my time, energy, focus and commitment that it’s like I’ve lost a part of me. And, because I missed my characters I decided to write a trilogy.
Lizzie: The trilogy is the result of a sort of Bereavement then. So who is your favourite character and why?
Patricia: My protagonist, Grace Granville, because she’s been with me a long time. She was born during an exercise after studying George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier, starting as a miner’s wife. But that wasn’t enough for my character. She needed more. I therefore made her a young girl who longed to be a fashion designer. Her father, Lord Granville, saw her ideas as frivolous and instead he wanted to marry her off to a suitor of his choice. From this, I developed a ‘riches-to-rags’ story and gave Grace a lot of my late mother’s traits. As a writer, Grace was my first main character and has grown with me.
Lizzie: Who is/are the hero(es)? Who are the villains? And why?
Patricia: Grace is the heroine. She manages to stand up to her titled father and seek her own pathway in life, even if that means going from riches to rags. Despite dealing with a lot of trauma, she is a strong, caring woman who manages to overcome obstacles throughout her life.
Lord Granville, Grace’s father, is the villain. He arranges what he considers to be suitable husband material for an arranged marriage, despite it being 1950. When Grace stands up to him to follow her heart, she is disowned. He uses privilege and power as a lord, and major landowner, to undermine Grace after she’s thrown into desperate measures to escape him.
Lizzie: Do you empathise with any of these people or wish you were more like them?
Patricia: I empathise with Grace as an independent woman, a hard worker and a caring loving mother. In a lot of ways, as mentioned earlier, Grace is based on my late Mum, so yes, I do wish I was more like her.
Lizzie: Do your characters change in your story? Is this important?
Patricia: My characters do change and I believe it is important that they do, because no one wants to read a book where characters don’t change and develop. For instance, Grace has to quickly learn how to cope as a miner’s wife, then as a widow, then she needs to work through grief and find happiness again. Even the baddie in House of Grace learns some humility near the end and he also learns to show love, something he couldn’t do before with his daughters. The characters mature. An example of this is in
The Coal Miner’s Son when George must grow up quickly, he has to learn to stand up against bullying and abuse and learn how to compromise.
Lizzie: What moments in the novel do you like best?
Patricia: Too many nice moments – makes it difficult for me to choose.When Grace escapes to Bolton for a holiday with, Katy, her best friend. When Grace tastes Sarsaparilla for the first time and gets the chance to see what life is like for most young girls. Katy’s mother setting Grace’s hair using Kirby grips, making her up for the very first time. When Grace steps into the red gown she designed, standing in front of the mirror and seeing herself as beautiful rather than plain. Her first visit to The Palais de Danse in Bolton when she dances with a man, a coal miner, Jack Gilmore, for the first time and her first kiss, also with Jack. Her wedding, the fashion shows, Christmas with her newfound family. The list could go on forever.
Lizzie: What moments do you like least?
Patricia: If a character has died, showing their death or funeral. I have one section where a character’s dying that I rushed the writing. My editor pulled me back and told me to slow the scene down so the reader could see it. It was hard because this meant I experienced all of Grace’s pain.
Lizzie: They say all fiction is autobiographical. What is the most significant event/setting for you personally in the story and why?
Patricia: In House of Grace a lot of the setting is set in Bolton. Although Part I is set in the 50s I have used my childhood memories from when I lived in Bolton during 1962 – 66, for instance visiting Bolton Museum and the Palais de Danse. I was too young to have experienced the Palais and was able to find out from a Facebook Memories page. They even gave me details about the colour and texture of the upholstery and how much a cup of coffee cost in 1950.
Lizzie: Could you lose yourself in this novel’s world? Why?
Patricia: As a writer, yes indeed. I do lose myself in this novel’s world because I become my character. One of the reasons I like to write in first point of view is I can get closer. If Grace cries, I cry. If Grace feels pain, I feel pain. If Grace is happy, I too feel joyous. But, for the reader, the era detail I have used brings them to 1950s-60s. Women who grew up in this period particularly enjoy the novel because while travelling with Grace they reminisce. The younger woman likes to learn how things were then – through details such as the outside toilet in the back yard or a tin bath. The novel also offers the contrast of the poor working-class families against wealth at Granville Hall. Feedback has shown that the reader is gripped. More than one reader has told me that I owe them a night’s sleep because they couldn’t put the book down. And again, because it is written in first point of view, the readers say that they become Grace.
As a writer, I am very aware of making sure there’s nothing to jolt the reader out of the world I’ve created, but to keep them interested in the characters and plot.
Lizzie: Where and when would you set another novel? Why?
Patricia: My next novel begins in 1962 and ends in 1969. This is Book 2 in the House of Grace series but stands alone. It follows Grace’s son, George, using his point of view from events that happen in Part 2 of House of Grace.
Lizzie: How would you describe the genre of your book, if any? What drew you to this genre?
Patricia: It’s a family saga, historical fiction. I love stepping back in time, particularly to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s because I can fictionalise a lot of my own memories.
Lizzie: How do you describe it? Sensory perceptions? Stream of consciousness? Reflection? Anything else?
Patricia: When writing novels, I like to incorporate sensory perceptions. Being a poet, and one that aims to be an imagist, certainly helps.
Lizzie: On re-reading, have you noticed anything that is inaccurate or inconsistent? How would you explain this away if challenged?
Patricia: Luckily, I have a fabulous editor so anything inaccurate or inconsistent is picked up by her. However, if the odd inconsistency goes unnoticed then I have a great team of Beta readers who will spot something that isn’t quite right. For instance, one of my Beta readers picked up when a character’s hair had changed from one chapter to another. Thank goodness for Beta readers.
Lizzie: What first draws you into a book? The cover? The blurb? The first sentence or paragraph? Why? How did this affect your production of this novel?
Patricia: Definitely the cover. If a cover catches my eye, then I’ll turn to the blurb. For a writer, the blurb is harder to write than the actual novel.
Lizzie: How far along are you with your new project?
Patricia: I am probably around two-thirds through Book 3, The Granville Legacy – the final book in the trilogy. Although the reader becomes acquainted with the characters in the other books, and although it follows the series, it may be read independently. The Coal Miner’s Son (Book 2) is due for publication shortly but hopefully the reader will not have to wait too long between Books 2 and 3. Reviews and messages from my fanbase show me that readers love House of Grace and are already excited about the unveiling of The Coal Miner’s Son.
Lizzie: Thank you, Patricia, particularly for flagging up the role of professional editors and the value of beta readers.
Patricia: And thank you for having me, Lizzie. I enjoyed answering your questions.
Patricia M Osborne is a novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her poems and short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies and her first poetry pamphlet, Taxus Baccata, will appear next year from Hedgehog Poetry Press. Her debut novel, House of Grace, A Family Saga, set in the 1950s/60s, was released in March 2017. If you want to find out more about Patricia, see her website, Facebook and Twitter Accounts.