It was inspiring to meet Jennifer Robson, in Burlington, on May 2nd. She spoke of her latest novel, Goodnight from London at an event promoted by A Different Drummer Books as a fundraiser for a local church. As a fan of historical fiction, I was thrilled to hear that her own grandmother had influenced this latest novel.
On her website, Jennifer Robson describes herself as an “academic by background, a former editor by profession, and a lifelong history geek”. She has a Phd from Oxford, has worked in both journalism and pubishing and is now a full-time author writing great historical fiction that highlights strong women during the trauma of war.
It was interesting to learn that Jennifer was pulling together this book but struggling as the “heroine was not presenting herself to me”. She visited her editor who asked why she was not writing about her beloved grandmother who had recently passed away. Her grandmother had been a journalist during the second World War and had been a central maternal figure for Jennifer after she lost her mother.
After this conversation, Jennifer returned to her hotel room and was inspired! Although the character of Ruby is not her grandmother, it was “through my memories of my wonderful grandmother that drew me to this character of Ruby”. Her grandmother had started in journalism as a “girl Friday”, progressing to writing the military beat reporting the ships coming in and later leading to an interview with Eleanor Roosevelt.
Her novels portray strong women in a time when those living with war had the spirit of “getting on with it” and that “whinging was ok but not whining”. The war was endured and the women in her stories played an active role during a time when women were often looking after their families at home.
As always, I am interested in the writing process of authors and Jennifer shared that she is a “plotter”. She gets the history and research out of the way before she begins writing the fiction, “creating a scaffolding for the story”. She writes a chapter by chapter outline trying to avoid the “rabbit hole of research” distracting her from getting “the novel out of you head and on the page”.
When asked about the most challenging part of writing, Jennifer identified the plot as a “millstone around my neck” as her books are so character driven. She wants “to write books where you remember the people” and needs to be disciplined in her writing. As a full-time writer she writes every day and recently joined a 5am writing club finding 2 solid hours of focused writing before her family awakes.
She thinks of setting like another character. She often writes about places she has been in the modern time acknowledging while she may have walked through the streets, it is not the same as being in the setting during the historical period especially since so much of London was destroyed during the blitz and later rebuilt. She walked the same route which was described in the scene where Ruby and Bennet ran through the streets and notes that imagination had to help create the scene as so much had changed.
For those of you involved with book clubs, it is interesting to know that Jennifer writers her novels with her own book club in mind. As she plans and writes she thinks of this group whether “the book I’m creating is something my friends would enjoy and find memorable”. Her website also offers the opportunity for her to call in or Skype with book clubs which would make for a great book club evening!
I have enjoyed reading and blogging about Jennifer’s other novels including Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight in Paris . I am looking forward to reading Goodnight from London and have added it to my growing ‘to be read pile’.