Thank you for the invitation to join you for tea. I love your teacups, and those scones with jam and cream are to die for. I think I might just have room for a piece of chocolate cake too, though.
It's a delight to have you.
Where do you live? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in a cottage halfway up a mountain in Snowdonia, in Wales in the UK. I look out over the island of Anglesey, where Prince William and Kate live. I can’t quite see their house, but we do shop in the same supermarket. Sadly, we haven’t met across the cheese aisle yet – but a writer friend did serve Princess Catherine once when she was shopping for William’s tea. We were all very envious!
I lived and worked in London for years, and I still enjoy going back and visiting, but I love the peace and quiet and the beautiful countryside - and it’s the best place in the world to write.
I’m traditionally published by Honno Press. Eden’s Garden is coming out as a paperback and also as an Ebook on March 15th. Honno are small, but have a really good reputation, and they support women writers living in Wales. I count myself incredibly lucky to be published by them. I had the privilege of working with one of their editors before my book Eden’s Garden was accepted for publication. It was a year of intense hard work, and the steepest learning curve I’ve ever been on. And it changed my writing, and my life, forever. I think I can truly say this is the moment I feel I really became a writer!
What are your hobbies?
I am a passionate gardener. My cottage is two cottages knocked into one, so I also have two gardens. Because the cottages were built in the 1840s for slate miners, who were paid very little, the gardens are quite large as the workers used them to supplement their wages by growing food. I don’t quite go that far! I have part of the garden for flowers and for sitting in and the most amazing summer parties where all my friends come round to sit in the late evening sun and relax. I have built two wildlife ponds, which are full of tadpoles and newts in the spring. The February day each year when I hear the croak of frogs gathering, I know the time for gardening has arrived!
The rest of the garden is taken up by herbs, a few veg, and my lovely polytunnel, in which I grow tomatoes and salads, and I even have a vine, which is a cutting from the Great Vine from Hampton Court Palace in London. Although I’m up a mountain, the garden is surrounded by stone walls of the sheep fields, so is quite sheltered and has the sun all day. I’ve even managed to grow an Australian bottle-bush, which seems to thrive even after the deepest frost and snow.
I also love family history. My mother’s family were nail makers in the industrial ‘Black Country’, near Birmingham, where the Industrial Revolution began. I became fascinated after my aunt used to tell me how her grandmother – my great-grandmother- used to be bashing out nails over a hot anvil, while rocking the baby’s cradle with her foot. That was such an amazing picture of a woman’s life!
For my ‘day’ job, still use my hobby by working on oral history projects, helping older people write down their stories. I’m about to start working in the medieval walled town and castle of Conw learning about the mussel and pearl fishermen. They’ve been finding pearls in Conwy since Roman times, so it should be fascinating. http://www.castlewales.com/conwy.html
Tell us about your current book. What was your inspiration?
Eden’s Garden is a time-slip, with the contemporary story intertwined with one from Victorian times.
It’s the story of Plas Eden, a large, crumbling mansion with a collection of mysterious statues in its overgrown gardens, and the family and servants who once lived there.
When Carys, who is in her thirties, returns to her home village to nurse her mother after a fall, she finds herself drawn back to Plas Eden, home of her lost love, David Meredith. A chance discovery then leads Carys and David on a journey through London and Cornwall, following the trail of a mysterious woman from the past.
In Victorian London, Ann, once a rich, spoilt beauty with the world at her feet, stands destitute on Westminster Bridge, the near-by Meredith Charity Hospital her only hope…
There are many twists and turns as Carys and David begin to uncover Ann’s story – and plenty of shocks along the way, before the surprising truth is revealed, and changes everything. If you love ‘Downton Abbey’ and the novels of Kate Morton, this is the book for you!
How did you become a writer? When did you start?
I began writing seriously about ten years ago, after a severe viral illness in my mid-thirties had left me with debilitating ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for years.
M.E was the worst, and the best thing that ever happened to me -although I could see nothing of the positive at the time. One the one hand, it sent me from being able to walk up mountains with ease to struggling to do the simplest of everyday tasks for more than a few minutes at a time. At my worst I could barely walk and my brain was a foggy haze. But on the other hand, this forced me to re-evaluate my life and my priorities. When you are only able to think clearly and do any physical activity for a couple of hours a day, it doesn’t half concentrate the mind!
I’d always been lost in a book, and the only thing I’d ever really wanted to do was write, but although I’d tried in my twenties – when I was far too young and foolish and self-absorbed to have anything to say – I’d allowed following a sensible career to take over.
So with nothing to lose anymore, as soon as I began to recover I found a part-time job I could cope with, and slowly began to work on my writing. As I worked, I found my brain starting to clear, so learning my craft also became part of the healing process. I started with competitions, and a few of my short stories were short-listed, which was a huge boost and I then began to sell stories to magazines here in the UK. But my real breakthrough came when a friend told me about the Romantic Novelists’ Association and their brilliant New Writers’ Scheme. I only had the chance to have one novel go through the scheme, as my first ‘pocket novel’ was accepted that same year, but I learnt an incredible amount from my reader.
I’ve been on a huge learning curve ever since. When I first started, I thought that you did was write a book and that was it. Now I know that to become a published writer is an evolving process, with – for me at least - plenty of false starts and books that shall never see the light of day along the way. I feel I’m only now at the beginning of being a writer and I’ve still so much to learn. And I’m loving every minute of it!
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Eden’s Garden is my first full-length book. I first had the idea about six years ago, after visiting Plas Brondanw Gardens, which was the home of Clough Williams-Ellis, who created Portmeirion where the original BBC series of ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed. http://www.brondanw.org/
I was trying to find my feet as a writer at the time. Over the next few years, I wrote several books, none of which really worked, but I kept on coming back to the idea of a crumbling old house with a collection of mysterious statues hidden in its overgrown garden.
It was when Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, said they were interested in the book, but it needed quite a bit of work, that my breakthrough came. I was given the amazing opportunity of working with an editor to develop my story before it was considered for publication again.
We worked for about a year, and I learnt and incredible amount from the process. I’d always been worried that an editor would be a restriction on my work. How wrong I was! Working with an editor – a good editor – is more like having a personal trainer, one who pushes you to dig deeper inside yourself and to achieve far more than you could ever have believed possible. Under my editor’s guidance, my time-slip story of two women, living a hundred years apart, but each struggling to find love and their own creative fulfilment, became the novel I had always wanted to write. My life and my writing will never be the same again.
Where do you like to write?
Because I live in a traditional Welsh cottage, the only upstairs room is a tiny ‘crog loft’, under the eaves, which would once have been the children’s bedroom and reached by a ladder. So this is my writing room. It means I can return to my work exactly as I left it, which is great for getting yourself back into the scene. And I can shut the door and leave it behind at the end of the day.
From my desk I have views over the garden and some spectacular sunsets over Anglesey in the distance. I work on a Mac, which I love, and I mostly write straight onto the computer. When I’m working on a first draft I try not to look back or to edit, but concentrate on getting the bare bones of the book down. I prefer to edit when I can stand back a bit and see the story a bit more objectively. And see where it’s taking me.
My favourite novelist is Charlotte Bronte. She writes so vividly about being a passionate, intelligent and independent woman trying to find her way in the world, especially in a society that denies women can be any of these and values only the pretty and the docile.
I have loved Dickens ever since I first lived in London. I adore his intricate storytelling and his rage against greed and injustice. His child-bride heroines drive me to distraction, but his minor characters - even the female ones - are wonderfully human in their foibles, and the way they jostle together amongst the city streets is exhilarating.
I have loved the novels of Kate Morton ever since I picked up The House at Riverton. I instantly fell in love with the fact that they are time-slips- although I didn’t quite realise at the time that Eden’s Garden was just crying out to be a time-slip, and that was what I, too, would end up writing.
How many books have you written, so far? Do you plan to write more?
‘Eden’s Garden’ is my first full-length novel. I’ve written six ‘Pocket Books’, published under my pen name ‘Heather Pardoe’, and I had a short novel published several years ago.
Eden’s Garden is definitely the kind of book I want to write, and I’m now working on my next. Watch this space!
Would you like to share a link where we can purchase your books?
Eden’s Garden will also be available as a paperback and an Ebook from March 15th 2012. This is the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Edens-Garden-Juliet-Greenwood/dp/1906784353
What about a link to your website?
My website is being updated at the moment but should be up and running by March. This is the link to my Blog, where you can find out more about me and my work.
I’m on Twitter as: @julietgreenwood https://twitter.com/#!/julietgreenwood
And on Facebook as Juliet Greenwood:http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000610446040
Thank you so much for the afternoon tea. Great company – and great cake. What could be better?
I agree, and thank you for stopping by for the interview, it was lovely! I wish you every success with your new book.