I’m delighted to be welcoming Miriam to JJ today. I was fortunate to be in the audience at Miriam’s talk in 2012 during the Summer Audience (organised which was then, Love a Happy Ending) held in Tetbury.
Miriam Wakerly has a BA Degree in English, French, Sociology and Politics. Whilst bringing up three children, she combined other work with writing short stories and articles; many were published in magazines. She lives in Surrey with her husband, and Appley Green is in many ways typical of this
Her writing activities also include twelve years in public relations and marketing, as employee and as a consultant, writing for company and product brochures, press releases, web sites and substantial feature articles on a huge variety of topics from fibre-optic cabling and logistics software to puppy training pads and bees!! She made a decision to change direction to work with people and became a part-time Community Support Worker, a role that put her in close touch with many present-day social issues. She worked first with teenage single mothers and then with people suffering from Parkinson s Disease. She was born and brought up in a small town in Gloucestershire and those years also influenced her creation of the village of Appley Green.
Please summarise Secrets in Appley Green a 1960s village novel, in 20 words or less.
Sixties love story with a twist, embracing homosexuality; sex before marriage; housewife s dilemma; man loving a schoolgirl; pregnancy, turmoil, gossip!What was the idea/inspiration for your novel? Many things came together. I have very fond memories of the 1960s, a decade of huge social change, and of my schooldays, even if teenage years tend to be fraught with angst! My first three novels are all set in Appley Green and I became curious to know what some of the older inhabitants were up to in their younger days! Also I felt I should answer the big question left hanging over the end of Shades of Appley Green.
Please tell us about the characters in your book
It is the summer of 1960; a year that is not yet swinging . Three na ve, 15-year-old schoolgirls, Alison, Nicola and Molly, in a Surrey village are suddenly bound together in friendship through a freakish accident and pledge to stick together and share innermost secrets. We know from the book cover that one of them will get pregnant and, as the reader gets to know them, the first big question is which one? What chain of events could lead to such a thing?
The story introduces the reader to their contrasting families, against a backdrop of big social changes that are beginning to stir, although attitudes, lifestyle and legislation of 1960 are still rooted in the 1950s.
The story moves through the ensuing years as they become young women, each living in a world that is different different from each other s and different from how it was. I found it fascinating to create three contrasting girls of the same age, and see how they bounce off each other – and grow. I also enjoyed making the male characters come alive and give them a voice too, but I can t say too much about them or it would give too much away!
If you could choose to be any of your characters which would you be Miriam?
People who know me personally say that Kay, the main character in Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served, is in some ways like me and perhaps they can see this better than I can myself. I think she steps up to the plate more than I would in her mission to right a social wrong.
I rather admire Steph, the main character in Shades of Appley Green, who is more than 30 years younger than me so I cannot really hope to be like her! She is strong and feisty, has to overcome tragedy in her life and wants to prove herself to be a good mother whilst caring for people in a career that was initially foisted upon her, but which she then loves with a passion. I don t want to say too much about her love life, but no, I won t.
What scene did you most enjoy writing the most?
I think the scenes that play out the final resolution are always the most satisfying. You find yourself muttering, Oh thank goodness, at last! Go, go, go or something like that. But in Secrets in Appley Green one of the other favourite scenes was snowbound filled with memories of the Christmas of 1962/3. People who were alive then will all have special pictures in their mind of that time and of what they were doing.Your book tackles a social barrier Miriam. How have you incorporated it into the story?
All my books explore strong social themes. It must be something to do with the way I think and see the world and perhaps reflects the Sociology part of the degree I gained all those years ago. The first two books speak for themselves about prejudice, racism and the problems of displaced people that can go on for centuries. I decided to incorporate strong social themes into a story that is actually easy-reading with humorous touches, with a love interest.
Then Shades of Appley Green looks at isolation of the elderly and how the community can help. The key character, Steph. lives through some of the daunting dilemmas that may be faced by a single mother. The new one, Secrets in Appley Green, looks at the shifting loyalties in a threesome and the stigma, heartache and practical considerations of being a pregnant teenager fifty years or more ago.
Do you make use of local resources for promoting your book?
For me, this question relates to how things have changed since I published my first novel, Gypsies Stop tHere in 2008, before ebooks had taken off. Most people had not even heard of them although there was talk of digital print , which seemed like a brilliant idea until you saw what the unit cost was and took account of bookshop and Amazon discounts!
As a self-published author, I am rather proud of having launched all my novels in my local Waterstones, going on to do at last 40 book signings in other branches. Leaflets also helped spread the word. I did talks on Gypsies and Travellers, Past, Present and Future and my books are in all Surrey and most of Hampshire libraries. They were also promoted through various Gypsy and Traveller organisations and I spoke on several local radio stations many times not about my books but about issues . My latest venture to reach out to people is through writing workshops So you Want to Write a Novel? , with two done and two more planned.
Finally Miriam, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Positive feedback! My books do not sell in their millions. Fifty Shades of Grey they are not, but I love it when I get a completely unexpected review or email from someone. No volume of sales can replace this. One example: a man with whom I was a school from the age of 5 had, unknown to me, years ago moved to live with his wife in the Philippines. I have not seen him since we were 15. He had somehow heard about my books, acquired all three in print, and enjoyed them so much he joined Twitter especially so he could make contact and tell me! There have been other instances of people contacting me but that was perhaps the most unusual.
Thank you for sharing with us Miriam. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
In 1960 three na ve, but very different, Appley Green schoolgirls pledge to stick together for ever, but when one of them gets pregnant, this pushes their promise to the edge. A young girl in need of love is vulnerable to the charms of a much older man with heart-breaking consequences.
This is Great Britain s Sixties, gathering pace then in full swing as social change sweeps aside past attitudes, laws, fashion and culture. Youth is finding a voice as parents struggle to adjust.
Miriam Wakerly s Appley Green village stories all standalone and can be read in any order, but they are connected. This one can serve as a prequel to all three, especially Shades of Appley Green.