Posted in Reading, Writing

Inspired by Books About Boarding Schools

This post was originally written for my publisher Boldwood Books’ blog to mark the launch of Artful Antics at St Bride’s, my fourth Gemma Lamb Cozy Mystery set at the eccentric St Bride’s School for Girls. 

When I dreamed up St Bride’s School, the setting for my Gemma Lamb Cozy Mystery series, I was drawing not only on my experience of working at a girls’ boarding school, but also on my love of the various boarding school stories I read as a child.

Continue reading “Inspired by Books About Boarding Schools”

Posted in Family, Personal life

Suit Yourself

Although it’s nearly a decade since I last worked in an office, I couldn’t help but cheer at recent reports of the demise of the suit as business wear. While some blamed working from home, journalists were making predictions pre-pandemic that lounge suits were on their way out. About time too, considering they first became fashionable in the 1860s.

Why didn’t this sartorial shake-up come sooner?

Starting my career under Thatcher’s government and the era of the power suit for woman, I spent a large part of my working life in an environment in which formal suits were expected, but I never felt comfortable in one, resenting their depersonalising effect.

My favourite pinafore dress is almost exactly the same shape as my old school uniform. Made of thick denim instead of gabardine, it is about as sturdy too.

This may seem surprising, considering how much I liked wearing a school uniform, albeit a more modern version than the one imposed on my sister, six forms ahead of me. Hers was the last class to have to wear berets, for example, on their journey to and from school. For my cohort, the old-fashioned gymslip was replaced by a straight-sided, waistless polyester tunic. In the third form, we switched to an A-line skirt of the same material. Our blue blouses were nylon instead of cotton, presumably chosen for their drip-dry, no-iron properties.

Whoever thought kitting out adolescents entirely in artificial fibres was a good idea had clearly never worked in a classroom in high summer.

Changing schools at 14 to one without a uniform added a new source of stress to my morning routine. I dithered over what to wear to fit in with my peers while remaining true to myself. For the rest of my teens, I lived largely in jeans, a habit that eventually went the same way as my slender teenage waist.

Looking back, my changing attitude makes perfect sense. As teenagers, we were still working out who we were and took comfort in looking like everyone else, but by the time I entered the workplace, I knew who I was, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to be just another suit. When I gave up my last day-job to stay home and write, my wardrobe underwent a revolution.

Best commute ever: strolling down to the hut at the bottom of my garden in the comfiest of clothes

Except that, fast forward to the present, as I put my summer clothes away and dig out my winter ones, I spot a startling similarity between my current wardrobe staples and my old school uniform, only now my clothes are in natural fibres. There are abundant straight tunics and pinafore dresses, of which my favourite is in my school’s standard navy blue; plain cardigans and jumpers; and sensible Mary-Jane flats.

Addicted to berets, I’m frequently told when bumping into someone who doesn’t know me very well, “Ooh, I didn’t recognise you without your hat!”

Group photo of Caroline, Claire and Debbie
Seldom seen without a beret – this time in the BBC Radio Gloucestershire studio with fellow writer Caroline Sanderson and BBC presenter Claire Carter

A recent newspaper article bemoaning the sudden ubiquity of elastic-waisted trousers strikes me as a positive step to wean ourselves off lockdown pyjamas. While M&S may have stopped stocking suits in half their stores, the shop-floor space will surely come in handy for housing more trousers to accommodate our newly expanded waists. And that suits me very well indeed.

This post was originally written for the October issue of the Tetbury Advertiser.


On the subject of school uniform…

cover of Secrets at St Bride'sI had fun devising the uniform list for the fictitious pupils in my Staffroom at St Bride’s series of romantic comedy mystery novels, giving the girls at this quirky English boarding school crisp white shirts and purple kilts. When new English teacher Miss Gemma Lamb first meets them in Secrets at St Bride’s, she is impressed:

“You all look very smart,” I began, surveying their neat shirts and ties. “I expect it feels strange to be back in uniform after the summer holidays.”

A red-headed girl with straight plaits gave an enormous sigh. “Oh, it’s a blinking relief, Miss Lamb. No more worries about what to wear or what other people are wearing. I mean, no-one cares what they look like here.” 

“Well, I think you all look lovely.”

“So do you, Miss Lamb,” one of them replied. I didn’t mind whether or not she was just being polite. It was first time anyone had told me that for a very long time. I liked these girls already.

Miss Lamb is particularly impressed that the little girl assigned to escort her to her first school meal is sporting a prefect’s badge, even though she’s in the youngest class in the school – as are all the girls on the table of Year 7s that she heads for lunch, as she remarks later to her colleague, maths teacher Miss Oriana Bliss.

“I feel honoured to be put in charge of – or is it in the care of? – so many prefects.”

Oriana raised her immaculate eyebrows. “Oh, Miss Lamb, did you not look around you at all? Did you spot a single girl who wasn’t wearing a prefect’s badge?”

I had to admit I hadn’t. 

When she sat down beside me to explain, I took the opportunity to sneak another forkful of egg.

“A father of a particularly undeserving daughter insisted she wouldn’t return to the school for her final year unless she was made a prefect. The Bursar was quick to agree, to make her father sign on the dotted line and stump up the annual fees. When Hairnet found out, she said she’d rather make every girl a prefect than honour that obnoxious man’s child for the wrong reason.” 

I laughed. My respect for Miss Harnett was going up by the minute.

“I don’t suppose the girls objected?”

“No, nor their parents. It’ll look good on everybody’s CVs and add perceived value to what they are getting in return for their school fees. Still, it’s not as good as what happened in a similar incident three years ago.”

“What was that?”

“She made them all Head Girl.”

Like to read more about the intrigues and adventures of the staff and girls in this extraordinary school? Both Secrets at St Bride’s and Stranger at St Bride’s are available in ebook and paperback, and the first in the series is also available as an audiobook. I’m also currently writing the third in series, Scandal at St Bride’s, and I’m very much enjoying being back in the lively company of Miss Lamb and friends!

cover of Stranger at St Bride's

Order Secrets at St Bride’s

Order Stranger at St Bride’s

(DID YOU KNOW? Secrets at St Bride’s was shortlisted for The Selfies Award 2020, given to the best independently-published adult fiction in the UK by publishing industry news service Bookbrunch. )

Posted in Reading, Writing

My Favourite School Story: The School at the Chalet – with Juliette Lawson

The seventh in my series of interviews with author friends who love school stories

cover of a modern edition of The School at the Chalet
I reread a modern edition of this story, nearly a century old now – original copies are now collectors’ items!

When last year I launched my St Bride’s series of school stories for grown-ups, I discovered that many of my author friends had a secret passion for school stories of one kind or another – from children’s classics (such as Anne of Green Gables) through affectionate parodies (Molesworth) to adult novels set in schools (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie).

I’m delighted that this month’s guest, Juliette Lawson, has chosen one of my favourite vintage children’s school series, Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s Chalet School books, which was launched in 1925 with The School at the Chalet.


 

headshot of Juliette Lawson
Meet Juliette Lawson, Historical Novelist, whose debut novel A Borrowed Past I very much enjoyed

Hello, Juliette, and welcome to my blog! To kick off, could you please tell us a little about The School at the Chalet for the sake of any readers who aren’t familiar with it? 

This is the first book in the series. Madge Bettany sets up a school in Austria after her guardian dies; she believes the climate will help her younger sister Joey’s (Jo’s) fragile health. It attracts locals and boarders, girls of various nationalities. There are conflicts, disasters, and bad behaviour among the girls, but all ends well, with lessons learned and peace made.

I’ve chosen the first book in the series, but I read many of them while at school, all in hardback. I don’t think the library had all 64 of them though!

How old were you when you first read it, and how often and at what age have you reread it?

I was probably around twelve, because I remember our classroom was next to the library in that year, and I was always finding an excuse to go in there. I think I was attracted to the story after going abroad for the first time when I was eleven, to Switzerland and France with Girl Guides. Another favourite book was Heidi by Johanna Spyri, so perhaps I had a thing about mountains! I didn’t re-read any of the Chalet School stories until recently, and I’m 60, so it’s been a very long gap.

How has your perception of the book changed with later readings?

It is still very evocative of the Tyrol and has a charm that has lasted. With hindsight I can see why it appealed to me at the time; there’s a sense of freedom, exploration and constant adventures, none of which I ever had. I was drawn to foreign languages (I did French, Latin and German at school and I have a Classics degree), so the idea of a multi-lingual school was fascinating to me.

The characters are still larger than life, full of energy and enthusiasm, and they navigate their way through various problems and challenges with gusto. My original reading was so long ago that I can’t remember if I was aware of the naïveté or whether the old-fashioned language felt alien to me, being from quite a poor background. Now all the interjections of ‘spiffing!’, ‘splendiferous’, and ‘tophole’ are slightly irritating. As an author, I can also spot lots of telling and head-hopping too, which obviously I wouldn’t have known about at the time.

What did you particularly like about this book/series and about the author? Anything you disliked?

The action never stops – I was always gripped by the story and it kept me reading. I used to get in trouble for reading at the dinner table and not hearing my mother ask me a question (I have to confess it still happens with my husband; he despairs!) There was a core set of characters, but new girls were always coming and going, giving rise to different friendships and inevitable clashes. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have worked my way through so many of the series if I’d disliked anything at the time.

Which character did you identify with?

Joey – not in the sense that she was like me, but rather because I wished I could be as confident as her, full of ideas, likeable and very adaptable to whatever situation she ended up in.

How did it affect you as a child and influence you as an adult?

I didn’t have a very happy childhood, so reading this series was an escape for me. I could let my imagination run loose, picturing myself in the setting. Because the school library held such a lot of titles from the series, I became very used to borrowing books; it probably influenced my lifelong love of reading and appreciation of libraries more than any works of literature (I started university reading joint English Literature and Classics). It definitely opened my eyes to the wider world and showed me that you could make things happen if you worked hard enough – Madge’s confidence that she could set up the school and make it successful was inspiring. One of my greatest pleasures as an adult has been travelling, and I’m pretty sure it gave me that global interest.

How did it affect your writing?

I’m afraid there was too long a gap for me to take lessons from it; I didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties!

What type of school(s) did you go to yourself?

I attended the primary school across the road from my home, then passed the 11-plus and gained a place at the local high school for girls, the equivalent of a grammar school, which was run on a traditional basis; some of the older teachers wore university gowns and we all had to stand up when a teacher entered the class. After three years, it was merged with the grammar school for boys and a secondary modern to form a comprehensive school, which was a revelation. We were kept in our academic streams for O Levels, but it didn’t take long for the boys and girls to start mixing in the playground! The change coincided with me gaining more confidence, but I’m not sure whether there was a causal link.

I was very musical and from the time we went comprehensive I threw myself into more activities and clubs. School became my oasis, and I was always attending orchestra, choirs, or rehearsals for Gilbert and Sullivan productions. We also had an Archaeology Society and used to go to historic sites on a weekend in the school minibus, driven by our Latin teacher. It would never pass health and safety rules today: there were two benches in the back facing each other, and when we went round a corner, we’d often slide off into each other’s laps, which was great for a group of hormone-ridden mixed-sex teenagers!

Were your friends also fans or did you feel that this was your own private world to escape into?

In the earlier years of my secondary school, I found it difficult to make friends, so it was very much my own private world, where I could imagine being happy. I never felt lonely when I had my nose in a book.

Would it still resonate with young readers today?

I very much doubt it – they would probably be in stitches at the language and the old-fashioned tone of it!

Thank you, Juliette, it’s been great fun to share your delight in the Chalet School books. 


About Juliette Lawson

cover of A Borrowed Past by Juliette Lawson
Highly recommended: Juliette Lawson’s debut novel about an aspiring young artist in the north-east of England

Juliette Lawson writes heart-warming historical sagas, bringing the past to life through vivid characters in strong settings inspired by her seaside location in NE England.

Find out more about Juliette Lawson and her work at her website: www.juliettelawson.com

Follow Juliette Lawson on Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/juliettelawsonauthor

Join her Reader Club for regular newsletters and insights into her writing life: www.subscribepage.com/a7f7t3

 

 

Posted in Reading, Writing

My Favourite School Stories: The O’Sullivan Twins – with Madeleine D’Este

The fifth in my occasional series of interviews with author friends who love school stories

photo of Madeleine D'Este
Meet Madeleine D’Este, who joins us from Melbourne, Australia

When I launched my St Bride’s series set in a British girls’ boarding school, I asked some author friends which school stories they’d most enjoyed when they were growing up and invited them to share their enthusiasm on my blog.

So far I’ve run posts by Jean Gill talking about Anne of Green Gables, Helena Halme on Pippi Longstocking, Clare Flynn on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Helen Hollick on Ruby Fergusson’s Jill’s Riding School Stories – all very different books set in different countries: Canada, Sweden, Scotland and England.

This month we’re heading to the other side of the world to talk to Tasmanian author Madeleine D’Este about her love of Enid Blyton’s The O’Sullivan Twins.

I first got to know Madeleine last year when she kindly invited me to be a guest on her lively podcast series. It was great fun to speak to her online in Melbourne, Australia, at opposite ends of our day, thanks to the twelve-hour time difference! You can hear our conversation on her podcast site here. 

Madeleine is the first guest in this series to choose an Enid Blyton classic – which has surprised me, as when I mention school stories, most people immediately think of Enid Blyton.

(However I do have another post lined up for later in the year in which Malory Towers will be the guest’s choice.)

cover of The Flower and the Serpent
One of Madeleine’s own school stories – an exciting horror story for teens & young adults

Madeleine also writes school stories herself, aimed at teenagers and young adults. Her latest novel, The Flower and the Sword, nominated for a prestigious Australian Shadow Award last year, is a horror story set around a high school production of Macbeth. What a great idea, especially as in the UK at least “the Scottish play” is on the syllabus for the GCSE public exams!

Now, let’s find out why Madeleine so loves The O’Sullivan Twins


Madeleine, welcome to my blog! To kick off, for the sake of those unfamiliar with your favourite school story, can you please tell us a little about it?

Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan are back for another term at St Clare’s and this term the twins are determined to buckle down and do well.

But the new term brings new faces to St Clare’s, including their vain cousin Alison, the pretty Lucy and the sullen Margery who seems determined not to make any friends.

There are blow-ups and pranks and midnight feasts to distract the twins from their school work, but when a fire threatens St Clare’s, which of the girls will turn out to be the real heroine?

How old were you when you first read it, and how often have you reread it since?

I devoured all the St Clare’s books when I was around eight years old in the early 1980s. I re-read The O’Sullivan Twins about five years ago and now again in 2020.

How has your perception of the book changed with later readings?

When I read The O’Sullivan Twins about five years ago, I was struck by how the key theme of the book seemed to be the need to conform. Through peer pressure, the twins and their friends ostracise and basically bully those girls who don’t fit in.

Now as an adult, I understand the historical context and that the book was written in the midst of World War II when diverting from the norm had real consequences, but the undercurrent of bullying tarnished my pristine innocent memories of the book.

But… re-reading again in 2020, I saw another side to the story. While there’s no denying the peer pressure to conform, this time I also noticed how each “outsider” character is given an opportunity to explain why they are behaving in a certain way.

The O’Sullivan Twins highlights that the non-conforming characters have various, and perfectly valid, reasons for their behaviour, they each have their own issues and traumas which the other girls may know nothing about. For example, Margery feels abandoned by her father and Mam’zelle (the French teacher) is thorny because she is worried about her sick sister. Everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Who knew Enid Blyton was so layered?

What did you particularly like about this book and about the author? Anything you disliked?

I was obsessed by boarding school books and desperately wanted to go to a boarding school myself. I think I was drawn to the fun and friendship and the food. The rituals of the schools were exotic and enticing to me, the midnight feasts, the trips to town in twos and I always wondered what ‘prep’ was.

In retrospect, the way the girls are described physically was irritating. A girl who is pretty is generally good while an ugly or “unattractive” girl or woman is something to be pitied or distrusted. Sigh.

Which character did you identify with?

I was fascinated by the “sneak” character, Erica, the villain of the story – the girl who went behind everyone’s backs to spoil their fun. Her motivation intrigued me and how she continued to cause trouble even though she didn’t seem benefit or gain any status from her mean tricks.

I often wonder why people act this way in real life. What are they gaining from it?

How did it affect you as a child and influence you as an adult?

I never went to boarding school, although I did play lacrosse (very badly) in high school, but I became obsessed with creating my own school rolls. I would take out an atlas and a book of baby names and create a list of names of the girls in my class along with their home towns (I was also influenced by The Chalet School books and so every hometown was very exotic).

My mother still thinks it was very strange but now I understand I was creating character lists!

How did it affect your writing?

Three words: sizzling fat sausages. Enid Blyton gave me a love for sumptuous and evocative food descriptions which I still love to write (and read) today, and I continue to write feisty female characters.

What type of school(s) did you go to yourself?

I attended Australian state schools in Canberra, Launceston and Hobart.

Were your friends also fans, or did you feel that this was your own private world to escape into?

Reading has always been my private world, my little retreat from everyone and everything. And it still is.

My favourite time of the day is when I turn off all the devices and start to wind down by reading a good book with a big mug of herbal tea.

Would it still resonate with young readers today?

Young readers would find The O’Sullivan Twins very old fashioned, I imagine. The distinct lack of technology would make St Clare’s an alien world. However, if a young reader could overlook the “olden days” setting, I believe the themes of conformity, friendship and compassion would remain constant.

And of course, the truisms of growing up and blossoming into your own person never goes out of fashion.

Thank  you so much, Madeleine D’Este, for this entertaining and insightful analysis of The O’Sullivan Twins – and best of luck with your own school stories, as well as your series for adult readers.


photo of Madeleine D'EsteTo find out more about Madeleine D’Este, her books and her podcast, visit her website:

www.madeleinedeste.com

You’ll also find her on Twitter at:  @madeleine_deste


Now Over to St Bride’s…

If our conversation has whetted your appetite for a more contemporary take on school stories for grown-ups, now’s a good time to try my St Bride’s School series:

  • SPECIAL OFFER: The ebook of the first in series, Secrets at St Bride’s, is currently on special offer at 99p/99c or the local equivalent all over the world, until the end of July. (Buy online in the ebook format of your choice here – also available in paperback here, or ask your local bookshop to order a copy for you.)
  • JUST LAUNCHED: its sequel, Stranger at St Bride’s is hot off the press (published 1st July 2020), and already earning great reviews. (Buy online – click here for ebook or click here for paperback – or ask your local bookshop to order a copy for you. )

advert for Stranger at St Bride's

Posted in Reading, Writing

My Favourite School Story – Helen Hollick on Ruby Ferguson’s Jill Series

The fourth in my occasional series of interviews with author friends who love school stories

First in my own series of school stories for grown-ups

When I launched my St Bride’s series set in a British girls’ boarding school, I asked some author friends which school stories they’d most enjoyed when they were growing up and invited them to share their enthusiasm on my blog. So far I’ve run posts by Jean Gill talking about Anne of Green Gables, Helena Halme on Pippi Longstocking, and Clare Flynn on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – all very different books set in different countries: Canada, Sweden and Scotland.

Now at last it’s time for my home country to get a look in, as historical novelist Helen Hollick explains her passion for a classic English series: the Riding School stories by Ruby Ferguson.

Helen Hollick writes:

First in my own series of school stories for grown-ups

From an early age (about four years) I always had my nose buried in a book. My favourites, back then in the late 1950s, were Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit series. Not exactly school stories – although I do vividly remember one of them being about Fuzzypeg the hedgehog going to school and learning to read.

(Debbie: I love Little Grey Rabbit too, and recently bought a vintage copy of Fuzzypeg Goes to School!)

I do, vaguely, remember reading one school story. It might have been Malory Towers, but to be honest I didn’t like this genre. You see, I hated school. For my first year at  school I couldn’t see much because I was short-sighted and needed glasses, but it never occurred to Mum that this was the reason I was always bumping into or falling over things. And why I couldn’t see the blackboard.

I hated (even with glasses) always having to sit at the front. Hated being told off for bad handwriting. Hated being moaned at in sewing because I couldn’t see to thread a needle..  So there wasn’t much incentive to spend my own time at school. Even fictional ones.

School Stories with a Difference

Jill’s Gymkhana got Helen Hollick hooked on Ruby Ferguson’s classic series

Those school stories always seemed to have popular, clever, girls with friends. Lots of them. I didn’t have friends. I wasn’t popular or clever. I was shy, scared and unhappy. My friends were the characters I met in books. I met a special fictional friend when I was given a book for my ninth birthday. Jill Crewe in the book Jill’s Gymkhana.

You see, I was pony mad. Jill and her pony Blackboy introduced me to pony stories. From that day onward through my school days I read, lived, breathed – wrote – pony stories. Fiction made up for the pain of being so lonely and desperately wanting a pony of my own. (I had to wait until I was sixteen. Now at sixty-seven I have three ponies, three horses  and two donkeys in our fields here in Devon. Dreams do come true!)

The Jill books brought out the passion for ponies in a simple, funny, quirky and educational way. The first story follows Jill learning to ride and care for her pony, and I learnt with her. Then the second book brought in Mrs Darcy and the local riding school. That was it, I wanted to work there too. Funnily enough, when I did, eventually, get my own horse the owner of the riding school where I kept him reminded me of Mrs Darcy.

Classic 1950s Stories

There was a whole series of Jill stories to enjoy

The stories are very dated now – they are set in post-war England in the early 1950s. That in itself makes them interesting, for the historical detail of life back then. At the very least it wouldn’t be allowed in the 21st century for a girl of thirteen or fourteen to run a riding school! But this is exactly what happens in the second book in the series Jill Has Two Ponies.  Mrs Darcy has to go away so Jill and some friends offer to run the riding school in her absence. All well and good, but Mrs D’s valuable horse, Blue Smoke falls ill. Jill has to summon the vet:

“You girls clear out,” said the vet, cheerfully, “and let me have a look. Go and make me a cup of tea. I’ve been sitting up with a cow for hours.”

     We thought it very heartless of the vet to want tea, but we went into the house and made him a cup. We didn’t make any for ourselves, it would have choked us. Every time I caught Wendy’s eye she gave a gulp, and every time Wendy caught my eye I gave a gulp. We did nothing but gulp at each other. I set off down the yard with the vet’s cup of tea and slopped it all over into the saucer. Then suddenly I saw the vet before me. The heartless man was grinning all over his face.

“She’s just been playing you up,” he said. “A touch of a toothache, that’s all, but you know what these thoroughbreds are like, the least touch of pain and they act as if they were dying.”

(As a horse owner . . .  oh don’t they just!)

I still have that original birthday present hardback edition of Jill’s Gymkhana, and paperbacks of the others in the series – all somewhat battered because I read and re-read them as a teenager (along with many other pony stories). I re-read the first one not long ago and still thoroughly enjoyed it. Alas, I can’t read the others as I am now visually impaired and the paperback print is far too small and faded. A great shame that they are not on Kindle.

Modern Meddling

Jill was a victim of political correctness in later years and appeared in republished (awful) editions. The name ‘Blackboy’ was banned, (why, he was a black pony for goodness sake!). These re-writes completely spoil the feel of the stories – if you want to read them, get the originals!

(Debbie: It irks me too when publishers try to put a modern spin on timeless classics – such as reissuing Just William stories featuring William Brown sans school blazer and cap but with t-shirt and trainers instead. What nonsense!)

Inspiration for a Budding Novelist

The main thing Jill, her ponies, her friends and the Riding School did for me was to teach me to write.

Throughout those years I was either reading or writing. I had my own fictional pony: Tara, a palomino. (I must have heard of Gone With The Wind somewhere around then). I even wrote a story set in a riding school during a GCE exam. I’d finished the questions and had about an hour to kill. So I started writing a story about someone stealing a horse from the local riding school. I filled one A4 sheet of paper. Asked for another. And another.  I had quite a pile on my desk.

What I didn’t realise, the other girls in the class (Chingford’s, Wellington Avenue Secondary School for Girls) assumed I was answering exam questions. Like me they had only filled one A4 sheet and had no idea what else to put. But there was I, scribbling furiously…

They didn’t speak to me again for ages. I didn’t care, that meant they left me alone to escape into the world of ponies and riding schools.

© Helen Hollick


More About Helen Hollick

Thank you, Helen, that’s a fascinating insight both into Ruby Ferguson’s Jill books and into your own evolution as a writer.

I must admit that in my own childhood these stories passed me by, possibly because I’ve never been interested in horses, although my older sister remembers enjoying them. But given Helen’s persuasive tribute, I’m now keen to try one. As they’re all out of print now and have become collectors’ items, I’m going to have to keep an eye open in secondhand bookshops – a favourite haunt of mine, especially on holiday – until I can find one.

Debbie Young with Helen Holllick
Me with Helen Hollick, a great friend and mentor to authors all over the world

Meanwhile Helen grew up to write award-winning historical novels, fantasy and historical non-fiction. I’ve especially enjoyed her pirate fantasy series, which is a must for anyone who is a fan of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, and her straight historical novels with Arthurian and Saxon themes are among my mum’s favourites!

She’s also become a firm friend and mentor to many, many aspiring novelists worldwide, well known for her generous spirit and kind heart. I’m thrilled therefore to have her as my guest on my blog today.

Find out all about Helen Hollick and her many books via her one of her links below:

Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick
Amazon Author Page (Universal Link) http://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick
Twitter: @HelenHollick
Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog (submissions welcome): https://discoveringdiamonds.blogspot.co.uk/

Meanwhile at St Bride’s…

In the meantime, my own school stories are coming along nicely:

  • Book 2 in my St Bride’s School series will be published on 1st July 2020

    The first in the series, Secrets at St Bride’s, was a finalist in The Selfies Awards 2020, given to the best independently published fiction in the UK. With the paperback and ebook selling well, I’m planning to produce an audio version this autumn, narrated by Siobhan Waring, the voice artist responsible for the audiobook of Best Murder in Show, the first in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries. You can order the paperback here and buy the ebook here.

  • The second in the series, Stranger at St Bride’s, will be published on 1st July in ebook and paperback. You can already preorder the ebook here.