Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, Jules!
Let’s talk about your new book, The Walls We Build, which has Winston Churchill’s estate, Chartwell, as the backdrop. It centers around three friends and has a dual timeline. Wow! What’s your inspiration for the story?
Lovely starting question, and thank you so much for having me here.
I’ve always been intrigued with the life of Winston Churchill and so when I came across a photo of him addressing his troops in 1943 Tripoli, North Africa, I had that ‘what if’ moment. What if a soldier amongst the crowd was Churchill’s old employee from Chartwell? Perhaps his bricklayer, as I was intrigued with Churchill’s passion for bricklaying in his spare time! Perhaps they had a unique relationship – I liked the idea of juxtaposing the ordinary and the extraordinary man. How will their paths cross again? And in what capacity will Florence, my other main protagonist, and Frank’s friend but true love, fit in to the story? I knew then that at the heart of the novel would be an unconventional love story, as well as a mystery, and all set against the rich backdrop of war and its aftermath. But I also knew too that I needed a present day protagonist, Richard, Frank’s grandson, to untangle the intrigue of the past.
Please share an excerpt with us.
This section is told from Florence’s viewpoint in October 1940, the setting is Blitz London. At her lodgings she’s getting ready to attend a fundraiser at the Savoy hotel, invited by Mary Churchill, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s, youngest daughter.
Florence was late getting home from Kings Cross where she’d bought her ticket to go up to Yorkshire to visit Anna; tomorrow’s train, 3 o’clock. First though, was the Savoy bash. Tonight. It was time to wear her dress, and try to be someone she wasn’t. Her mum had told her not to worry, born in the wrong household you were, my girl. You’ll fit into the Savoy as easily and snug as ol’ Cinder’s foot slipped into that slipper. She missed her mum.
Florence surveyed her tiny bedroom but the mirror on the wall was huge and she could see herself in full, nearly. Her feet were missing in her reflection. She didn’t mind this though, because she hadn’t been able to afford new shoes. But as she looked down at her suede turquoise slip-ons that she’d buffed up with an implement Elizabeth had lent her, she was pleased at the match with the emerald green dress.
She’d straightened her hair with irons and put on the reddest lipstick she’d ever worn. She fiddled with her hat. She loved it but was unused to such frivolity in her headwear. It sat precariously on the front of her head, just as the shop assistant had shown her. The ruffles of red fabric seemed to her to be asymmetrical. She pushed and pulled them but finally, after hearing the church clock outside strike six, gave in. She scrutinised her reflection. Not bad. Not bad at all. Momentarily she thought about Frank, guessing the shine in the eyes staring back at her was due to the afternoon in his hotel.
She picked up the red gloves, checked her hat one more time, and left her room.
Florence was ready.
‘You could have come with me, you know, Elizabeth.’ Florence went to sit at the kitchen table, but not before shoving a paper handkerchief under one of the legs of the uneven surface.
‘Not my thing, Florence. I want ol’ Churchill to win the war for us. He is the right man for the job. I mean, he likes a good war doesn’t he? But I hate all that upper-class stuff.’
Elizabeth was at heart a staunch labour supporter, not a commie though, she was always keen to emphasise. Left in her politics, although it didn’t stop her from sleeping with a wealthy man who lived in Knightsbridge. Elizabeth’s socialism was a bit like Churchill’s domestic communism. When it suited. Wednesdays were Elizabeth’s nights with her lover. Florence’s room was the one below where Elizabeth slept. Every Wednesday Florence had to sleep with cotton wool stuffed in her ears, and every Thursday morning there was always a late breakfast. The gentleman politely doffed his cap to her on leaving, a huge smile in place. He reminded her a bit of Mr Churchill, the way he was able to appear quite ordinary and at home with the lower class, in a way peculiar to the confident and rich.
‘It’ll probably be deathly boring,’ Florence said.
Elizabeth grinned. ‘Probably. Lots of lovely food, though, I’m guessing.’
‘I hope so.’
Elizabeth laughed. ‘Never known a girl with an appetite like you.’
Do you have a favorite character in the story?
I have three point-of-view characters in The Walls We Build, and I do like all three, but I love Florence the most. She’s ahead of her time, liberated and mischievous, but ultimately she is driven by love, honour and duty. She is the character who has a fair amount of page time in both the past and present sections, and it’s Florence who links the two timeframes.
What’s your favorite genre to read?
I love reading modern historical fiction, anything from the beginning of the 20th century onwards. I do have a degree in modern history. But I like a modern day thread too, which is why I suppose I tend to often write in this structure. I like a good thriller/mystery and love it when a story set in the past incorporates these elements too.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading a biography on Gladstone, a Kate Morton novel and CJ Tudor’s new book!
Where are you from?
I was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire but went to uni in London at 18, where I completed a history degree. I’ve lived in the south east for a long time now, although I’m still a ‘northerner’ at heart. “You can take the girl out of the town but not the town out of the girl” sort of thing!
Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?
With the publication of The Walls We Build I’m joining the ranks of the Hybrid Author Club, using my pseudonym, Jules Hayes. My debut psychological thriller, Falling Suns by JA Corrigan was published in 2016 (Headline Accent.)
Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?
For the past 3 years I write pretty much full-time.
Where do you get the most writing done?
I’m lucky as I have a study and its there where I do most of my writing, although in the summer I take my laptop and sit on the patio; sometimes in the summer I also write in our summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. It’s perfect as it has no internet! I have a treadmill in there too, so that comes in handy!
Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?
We have a very cute cockapoo, champagne-coloured – Harley. He follows me everywhere, although that does change when my daughter comes home from university, when he follows her everywhere and I lose my shadow for a few weeks!
Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?
I don’t think I’m addicted but that’s what all addicts say! I wish I could sign-out to be honest, but I do find out so much in there and have made a lot of friends on social media. I’m a big Facebook user (that’s my generation my daughter tells me!), not so into Twitter, although I loved it 8 years ago when I first started out writing, but it’s a much more hostile and commercial selling place these days. I’m just getting into Instagram, it’s a forum I like, even if my photography skills aren’t up to much.
What’s your next project?
I’m working on my next Jules Hayes novel – another dual timeline historical, although simultaneously, I’ve also begun work on another JA Corrigan novel, which is a speculative thriller – although still in its early stages.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Success in the literary world is all about stamina, passion and having an extraordinarily thick skin. It’s also about being able to sift through good and bad advice. Interact with other writers, find your tribe, it’s the only way to survive in such a brutal, transitory, mercurial and ultimately, supremely competitive environment.
**Many thanks to Jules Hayes for spending a few minutes with us today! Scroll down to get your copy of The Walls We Build–which is also in the Kindle Unlimited program–and don’t forget to enter her international giveaway. You could be the lucky winner of a signed copy of The Walls We Build!**
Three friends …
Growing up together around Winston Churchill’s estate in Westerham, Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable. But as WW2 casts its menacing shadow, friendships between the three grow complex, and Frank – now employed as Churchill’s bricklayer – makes choices that will haunt him beyond the grave, impacting his grandson’s life too.
Two Secrets …
Shortly after Frank’s death in 2002 Florence writes to Richard, Frank’s grandson, hinting at the darkness hidden within his family. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light, including a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill during the war and the existence of a mysterious relative in a psychiatric hospital.
One Hidden Life …
How much more does Florence dare reveal about Frank – and herself – and is Richard ready to hear?
Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption, reverberating through three generations and nine decades.
For readers of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Katherine Webb, Lucinda Riley and Juliet West.
“Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page turner. I loved it.” #1 bestselling author, Nicola May
Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.
Jules is currently working on her second historical novel, another dual timeline story.
Jules also writes contemporary thriller and speculative fiction as JA Corrigan.
Jules Hayes can be found at:
Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor
Writing as JA Corrigan, Jules can be found at: Website
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