Favourite childhood book
Anne of Green Gables Em & Me tells the story of Delphine Jones, a single mum whose life was derailed as a teenager. The book is about her getting her life back on track, and revealing how it all unravelled in the first place. The idea was mainly about wanting to show how success in life is often dependent on circumstances, but you can fight against those circumstances with the right help. When I was working in telly, I designed a show called ‘The Real History Girls’, which was a real-life female version of the play The History Boys. I wanted to help a group of girls get to Oxbridge – girls who wouldn’t usually think of going there. That was probably the seed of the idea – can education help people change their lives?What is the best writing advice that you have received? Is there anything that you wished you had done differently when trying to get your first book published?A book you would re-read
Venetia, by Georgette Heyer
ABOUT THE AUTHORFor too long – since the sudden death of her mother as a teenager, since the birth of her daughter, Em, when she was just seventeen – Delphine has been unable to let go of the past, obsessed with protecting Em and clinging to a secret that could ruin everything. She’s been living life in safe shades of grey. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog Beth, would you please tell us a little about your background?
Favourite holiday destination
Is there any character from your books that you would want as a friend?
Delphine is an elusive figure – quite guarded and ground-down initially, but then she opens up and flourishes. Where did she come from? I’m not quite sure – she wouldn’t tell me…
Beth lives in London with her husband, two sons and a dog named Polly.
The day that Delphine finally stands up for herself is the day that changes everything.
Which comes first, plot or characters? Do you plan in detail or just see where the story takes you?
Looking back, I should have been more gung-ho in my querying – I was possibly too apologetic and timid in my approach. It’s just really hard to contact an agent saying ‘Yes, I think my writing can be compared to Marian Keyes and Nina Stibbe!’ So embarrassing. But necessary to get noticed.
Are there any authors whose books have made an impact on you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?
Previously Creative Director at RDF Television, Beth now writes full time. She was previously shortlisted for the Grazia-Orange First Chapter award.
A big-hearted, hopeful novel about finding second chances – and taking them.
The writers whose books made most of an impact on my writing are probably: Jilly Cooper, Sue Townsend, Nick Hornby and maybe Kate Atkinson. That’s some combo, right?! There is no one type of book that I’ll read for pleasure – it depends on my mood and what’s out there. At the moment I’m reading several books at once, because I’m writing, and worry I’ll copy the writing style if I focus on one author too heavily! So I’m reading Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander, A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe, Taste by Stanley Tucci and book about the Hampstead Ladies Pond. I’m enjoying them all, but going very slowly (and stopping to cry every time I pick up A Terrible Kindness).
Without giving away too much, can you please tell us a little about Em and Me? You’ve said that the inspiration for your debut novel, Saving Missy was inspired by pushing a pram around your local park whilst on maternity leave. Where did the character of Delphine come from?
with Beth Morrey
Delphine begins to remember what it’s like to want more: rediscovering her singing voice, opening herself to friendship, and reviving not only her mother’s roots, but her mother’s memories. As her life begins to fill with colour, can she be brave for herself and for Em? And what would happen if she finally told the truth?
I think a lot of writing advice is far too vague. My favourite (and most precise) is that you should vary the lengths of your sentences so the prose doesn’t get too monotonous. Be wary of the word ‘suddenly’ and don’t have someone look in the mirror at themselves at the beginning of a book in order to describe them – I got the last two from an editor at a masterclass. I appreciate really specific tips like that.
My thanks to Susanna of Harper Collins for the invitation to take part in the tour and for arranging the Q&A and thank you to Beth for taking the time to provide the replies. I really enjoyed Saving Missy and looking forward to reading Em and Me.
Q & A
Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?
Favourite place to read
A pub in the village where I grew up
Overarching theme comes first, I think – what is the book about? The main narrative arc – in Saving Missy it was a woman being pulled out of loneliness by a dog. In Em & Me it was a woman being pulled out of hardship through education. It all evolves from there, and changes slightly as I develop the characters. The nitty gritty of the plot comes as I write it – if I’ve developed the characters enough, then they show me the way. I find that a more organic, authentic process, though of course every writer is different.
I’m a TV producer by trade, and worked in television development for over 20 years. I was involved in various shows including The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and Your Face or Mine? and have worked with stars like Terry Wogan, Mel Giedroyc and Buzz Aldrin… Now I write a blog about my viewing habits, and also host a podcast called ‘One Torn Every Minute’, where I interview women about giving birth. In my spare time, I like cold water swimming, cooking vegetarian curries and dog-spotting.
Sylvie in Saving Missy because of her contacts, and ability to sort out mess. Letty in Em & Me for entertainment value – and since Letty is Sylvie’s mother, I guess I’m keeping it in the family! I also quite fancy Dylan – I’m a sucker for a Welsh accent and playing jazz piano is quite sexy.