Hi Jean, it’s great to see you here at Romaniac HQ. How about a welcome cuppa? Tea or Coffee? Oh, and a slice of one of Celia’s legendary cakes (naturally…)
Tea, please, and just a sliver of cake.
We know it’s a hectic week for you (excitingly so) as your new novel Call Nurse Millie is being published on Thursday. Can you tell us a bit about Millie and her story?
We meet Millie on VE day in 1945. As the bombs stop and the troops begin to return home, the inhabitants of London attempt to put their lives back together. For 25-year-old Millie, a qualified nurse and midwife, the jubilation at the end of the war is short-lived as she tends to the needs of the East End community around her. But while Millie witnesses tragedy and brutality in her job, she also finds strength and kindness. And when misfortune befalls her own family, it is the enduring spirit of the community that shows Millie that even the toughest of circumstances can be overcome.
Through Millie’s eyes, we see the harsh realities and unexpected joys in the lives of the patients she treats, as well as the camaraderie that is forged with the fellow nurses that she lives with. Filled with unforgettable characters and moving personal stories, this vividly brings to life the colourful world of a post-war East London.
Although I’m a district nurse, I had a great deal of pleasure researching the equipment and techniques she used to nurse her patients, which are so very different from the ones I used during my time on the District.
How has the run-up to publication been for you? Can you give us a teaser about what’s involved?
In a word: hectic. All writers, be they with a large publisher like myself or self-published, need to do a great deal of promotion. My publisher handles the national press and trade publicity but since I handed in the second part of Millie’s story to my editor in February, I have written at least a dozen blogs and articles. Over the past five years I’ve built up many contacts in local newspapers and radio and I’ve been getting in touch with them for feature articles and afternoon slots on chat shows.
Your knowledge and fondness for the East End of London shines through in all of your novels, Jean. What would you say are the main contributing factors behind their authenticity?
That’s very kind of you to say so. I think the main reason for my books authentic feel is that I know the area and the East End culture through and through. And not because I’ve read books and researched, which I have, but because it is the place where I was born and raised. It’s in my bones, and as I write long-forgotten snippets from my childhood. Stories told to me of what the East End used to be like drift back into my consciousness. In Call Nurse Millie, I draw on much of my immediate family’s history to bring the post-war Docklands alive. Also, and probably more importantly, I just love the place.
You clearly love English history but what in particular inspires you about the 18th and 19th centuries in which your books are set?
To my mind, the Victorians invented the world we live in today. Things we take for granted like railways, mass produced consumer goods, civil engineering, modern medicine and even bank and company regulation, started in the Victorian age, not to mention many revolutionary ideas such as social responsibility of the rich to the poor. It’s also history you can touch as most of us have old sepia photos of our own Victorian ancestors and thanks to the Victorians love of detail, we have the priceless records of the 19th century censuses to draw on for research.
Which genres do you enjoy reading?
Although Historicals always catch my eye, a book for me is always about the story but I try to read something I wouldn’t write, such as a juicy crime by Lee Childs or well-written women’s fiction by people like Carole Matthews or Julie Cohen. I find it difficult to read my own genre as I find myself turning from a reader into a writer and I start thinking ‘I would have done this or that’ and so it pulls me out of the story.
Describe a typical writing day for you, how it ties in with your day job.
I no longer work as a district nurse but lecture in nursing studies at a London University so my day-job hours are more writing friendly. Most days I’m home by 4.30pm so I reply to any emails that I couldn’t deal with in my lunch break then me and the Hero-at-Home prepare the evening meal together. We usually eat at 6.30 as he is often out to 7pm meetings. I go up to my office at 7ish and write until 9.30 when I take a TV break for an hour or so, then most nights back up again from 11-12 midnight to read through and fiddle with what I’ve just written. We both have busy lives, so try to have Friday night as our time together, usually in a local hostelry. I also work Saturday and Sunday afternoons if the family- of three grown up daughters, son-in-laws and their offspring- aren’t around.
You’ve given many valuable author talks and conducted various successful writing workshops – what are the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of these?
The thing I love most about both my talks and workshops is meeting people, particularly if someone tells me how much they loved my book. That’s why I write, after all, to bring others into my stories. I also enjoy helping and guiding others as they learn the necessary skills to write their own page-turning novel.
Who or what (or both) would you credit with being the biggest influence on you as a writer?
That’s difficult to say but I suppose the writer who got me into this was Anya Seton with her fabulous book Katherine but the biggest influence has to be the wonderful Romantic Novelists’ Association who helped me learn my craft and encouraged me to stick with it.
Any other creative passions, Jean?
My dad was an amateur artist and I used to be quite good at drawing and painting but I don’t do it now, however, I am very visual so enjoy art galleries and exhibitions. I often use old photos of East London to help me when I’m writing.
How will you be celebrating Call Nurse Millie’s launch on Thursday?
Packing my suitcase for my well-earned Mediterranean cruise the day after.
And finally, as is customary here at HQ, a few quick-fire questions for you:
Favourite London Landmark? Tower of London
Charles Dickens or Jane Austen? Jane Austen
Celebrity you’d most like to be stuck in a lift with? Hugh Jackman- for the obvious reason!
Guilty Pleasure? Haribo Tantastics
Theatre or Museum? Museum
Dream Holiday Destination? Anywhere on a cruise ship.
Sunday Roast with all the trimmings or Fish & Chips? Sunday Roast.
Novel you never tire of reading? Katherine by Anya Seton.
Jean, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you. Best of luck with Call Nurse Millie.
You can connect to me on my website at www.jeanfullerton.com to find out about me, my previous books, and my East London heritage along with pictures of the actual locations I use in my books.
You can also find me on Facebook as Jean Fullerton and follow me on Twitter as @JeanFullerton__
To buy. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Call-Nurse-Millie-ebook/dp/B00BMUVRT0/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363208639&sr=1-1