Thursday, 13 February 2014

London's East End, pre-First World War

My mother was born in Shoreditch, East London, in 1905.  Her father abandoned the family and my grandmother scrubbed doorsteps, took in washing and made lace to keep her children fed and out of the workhouse.  My mother still lived in fear of the workhouse up to the day she died in 1987.

I grew up hearing stories about her childhood, her family and the struggles they survived and I thought with a bit of imagination her reminiscences could be turned into a good story.  So I peopled my book with some of the characters she told me about as well as some new, invented ones and I published The Romany Princess

 Book Description

When Stella McKenzie is summoned to meet her Great Aunt Bess, her grandmother's sister, on the occasion of that lady's one hundredth birthday, she keeps the appointment with a great deal of trepidation. All her life she has been told about this mysterious lady, to whom her grandmother has not spoken since the first world war. She has been told that she is mean and spiteful, that she wrecked the engagement of her sister to the man she loved out of spite and jealousy. Stella could hardly have guessed the secrets the old lady was about to reveal, secrets she had kept for seventy five years, secrets she does not intend should die with her.

During one long and unforgettable day, Stella learns the real history of the family, not the version she has been taught. She learns about the lies and misconceptions of the past, she learns about a lost love and a passion which overruled everything else to end in tragedy.
 
This was the first book I published on Kindle.  I actually wrote it about thirty years ago, before the internet, before Kindle, when a writer had to send a chapter or two to a traditional publisher and hope they were willing to take a chance on an unknown author.  I had a couple of very nice letters, saying thanks, but no, thanks, but life got in the way and I shelved the whole thing. 
 
I only had a hard copy, so I had to type the whole thing out and my big mistake was in being in too much of a rush.  I published it with some typing errors, but I still got a 4 star review, so I thought I must have done something right.  I have corrected all the errors and it is doing quite well. 
 
The picture on the cover is of my mother taken in 1924, when she was nineteen years old.  She would have been thrilled.

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