Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Victorian Fashions

On a recent trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I took some photos of the fashions featured in my books.


Monday, 12 March 2018

Poverty during the War

Little remains of the original Ancoats save for a handful of decaying factories and the dark red brick edifice of the old hospital. But this was once an area of row of back to back houses, where Irish and Italian immigrants jostled side by side with fiercely proud Lancastrians; a tight knit community where folk had a loyalty to their particular street and a dread of being accused of ‘getting above themselves,’ or ‘mekkin’ out they were summat.’ For a man to lose his job in the late 1920s was bad, though sadly quite common, but to lose his dignity and pride as well was unthinkable.

In a world with little or no interest in women’s rights over their children, no free medical assistance or welfare benefits, workers’ long hours and low pay, life was tough during the depression and war years. The laws of renting property, wills and insolvency, the means test, the dole, rationing, being bombed out or evacuated, would all create problems. Even a middle class family could fall into difficulties. If the father lost his job, as frequently happened, or he died leaving a young family, who would support his wife and children? The family might be split up and farmed out to reluctant relatives, put in an orphanage, or find themselves facing the workhouse.

And what if someone in the household was sick, or giving birth? How could they afford a doctor when only the man as the wage earner of the family could be insured? Unmarried mothers suffered the asylum, institutions and reformatories of various kinds, or simply had their children taken away.

Social issues are a vital ingredient of a saga. Readers love to discover how women coped. Even domestic life was hard, doing the washing with a mangle and dolly tub, no central heating, vacuum cleaner, fridge or similar household gadget, and a privy down the yard. Perhaps some look back on hard times with a rose-tinted view, remembering when a community pulled together, didn’t need to lock their doors as they’d nothing worth stealing.

I try to lighten the tragic nature of the tale with a little humour, because that’s what helped people to cope. The Lancashire sense of humour was rarely lost, women stood ‘camping’ on their donkey-stoned doorsteps, arms folded over their apron-fronted bosoms with their own set of morals, as if handed the tablet of stone by Moses himself. Yet despite the hardships, or perhaps because of it, neighbours stood by you, giving you a pinch of sugar or cup of milk because it might be them needing it next week, and when poverty yawned and hungry stomachs ached, even children must learn to live by their wits.

The gritty northern saga usually concerns a strong woman fighting against the poverty of her surroundings, as well as the trials and tribulations of the times in which she lives. Disasters abound, but the heroine must win through against all odds, stronger in spirit than before. I seek out stories of the social under-classes in towns and rural backwaters. I’ve interviewed so many old folk with fascinating and deeply disturbing stories. That, to my mind, is what history is all about.

My family were weavers for generations on both sides of the Pennines. I have vivid memories of my grandmother black-leading her range and donkey-stoning her doorstep. You could have eaten your dinner off her stone flag floors for although she was poor, she was scrupulously clean. Therein lay her dignity. She would tell of how my grandfather, confined to a wheelchair, couldn’t work so in addition to caring for her children, one of whom was scalded to death while in the care of a child minder, she minded her six looms throughout a long working week, sang "I Shall not Want" three times every Sunday in chapel while worrying about what to find to eat for their tea. I linked Flo in Polly’s Pride to her character to a certain degree.

Living in the deprived area of Ancoats, Manchester, Polly Pride feels luckier than most … until her husband, Matthew, loses his job and her life is thrown into turmoil. In a desperate act to save her family from starvation, Polly sells all the family goods and buys a handcart from which she sells second-hand rugs and carpets. But struggling to deal with poverty and her husband’s hurt pride are only the start of her problems. For when tragedy strikes, Polly must summon all her courage to keep herself and her family from falling apart. 

Available in most good book shops and online.
Amazon UK

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Researching York

I've been deep in research for the current novel I'm writing which is set in York. I've bought some books to help in getting the feel of the city again, as it's been a while since I wrote my last book set in York (for those interested Kitty McKenzie and Aurora's Pride are set in York). It's so lovely to be writing in the Victorian era again, after a few books set in WWI.
I've been studying old maps which is so helpful to figure out where my characters would live and the areas they would shop and socialise. This novel heavily features the poorer areas of the city, and it's been fascinating reading about workhouses and the slum areas.

York is a beautiful city full of history and I enjoy going there and walking the streets, and now I have the perfect excuse to keep going there - for research of course!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Evacuation Of Children in WW2

It began the first day of September 1939 due to the threat of bombing. Parents were expected to pay 6s per week. Those who were not so well off were charged less and assisted by the government and people taking in evacuees were paid around eight shillings or as much as sixteen, according to the age and needs of the children. Billeting officers helped find them foster homes. Some sent out by Operation Pied Piper at the outbreak of war, involving over a million children being moved to the countryside within just a few days. More were sent in 1940 when the phoney war was over and bombing really started.

Indication of the official return was sent out in May 1945 but permitted until the war was completely over in the east. Not all children chose to come when instructed to do so. Megan, in Peace in my Heart, much preferred to stay with the landladies she thought of as their kind and caring aunts, having lived with them for three years. This was very often the case. Some children hardly recognised their parents, looking and feeling like strangers, not having seen them for years. This was often because they had little memory of their parents, felt they’d been neglected and abandoned, or simply loved their surrogate parents more. Coming home often didn’t seem much fun.

The parents were devastated when they found little show of affection from the children they’d badly missed. And many had lost loved ones for whom they were grieving. In this story Cecily and Megan discovered that their home had been bombed and had no idea where their mother was living, or even if she was still alive. Evie was, but finding her children was equally difficult, as was locating a new place for them to live. And when they found them, would they ever agree to come home and would they still their mam and dad?

Settling in with their family after years away was never easy and adjustments had to be made by all. For some the place they’d been living during the war had been exciting, and they found it difficult to return to their previous life they considered more boring. Their personality too had changed as they’d gradually grown up with caring people in a different area. However, if they’d suffered problems as an evacuee, perhaps been overworked, neglected or abused, they ceased to trust anyone. Sometimes their class or religion could be considered wrong by their surrogate parents. Whatever problems they suffered could result in them feeling rife with stress and anxiety, depression or obstinacy. Nor had they any wish to discuss these problems with their parents, once they returned home, not wishing to recall what had happened. Evacuation had saved lives but in many cases did create yet more problems for the family.

The war is over and Evie Talbert eagerly awaits the return of her three children from their evacuated homes. But her carefree daughters and son are barely recognisable – their education has been disrupted, the siblings split up, and the effect on them has been life-changing. Her son has developed serious behavioural problems and with her daughters, there’s jealousy and a nervous disorder that cannot be explained… 

Evie’s husband also has problems. Having returned from being in action, he suffers nightmares and fits of rage. He’s no longer the gentle, quiet man Evie married. Peace may finally be here, but Evie’s family is in shreds. Now she must rebuild a loving home to achieve the happiness she’s always dreamed of… 

Available in WH Smith and other good books shops, also online:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Friday, 9 February 2018

Valentine's Day Hearts on Sleeve!

What does Valentine’s Day mean to you? A chance for giving a special gift, an excuse to say I love you, an opportunity to dine out, visit the theatre, watch a romantic movie - or just curl up in bed and cuddle? 
In medieval times the knights wore the colours of the lady they championed on their sleeves. Hence the saying “wearing your heart on your sleeve”. How much more romantic can you get than risk being knocked for six by a whopping great lance in front of a zillion spectators? Other suitors were less adventurous and drew a name from a pail to find their potential true love. A couple of hundred years later, out came the bell, book and candle, with a love potion to rival any vintage Dom Perignon.
Perhaps the cutest historical Valentines were simple “X”s that even now we use to signal our affection on paper. This tradition is said to originate from the times when folk couldn’t read or write. The X was used as a signature, which was then ‘kissed’ to polish off the deal.
Today’s technology allows us to send Gifs, Jpegs, digital cards, emoticons with symbols and as many variations of mood changes on FB as it’s possible to think of!
Imagine one of our medieval hotties riding his charger into the 21st century on Valentine’s Day and finding a world of flashing cell phones and virtual reality! Well, anyone can dream and perhaps that’s the message of this very special day - an escape route to love and romance - in someone’s arms or between the pages of book - plenty of scope then, for passion.
I love writing a strong romance; love holds the book together just as it does in real life. So guys and gals, happy reading romance and smooching with your fella. Make the most of Valentine’s Day 2018 and spoil yourselves.
As my own little homage to the goddess Aphrodite, I’ve reduced my book ‘Christmas to Come’ to 2.99 for the week only. Even though it has a Christmas title, out of all my books I chose Bella Doyle’s story because she is to me, the epitome of a woman who refuses to give up on her man - no matter what! So happy Valentine’s Day one and all - have an awesome Wednesday - and just for the record, LONG LIVE LOVE!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Publication Day for The Orphans of Ardwick

They say a little of the author goes into their books and this has certainly been the case for me with my latest, out today, The Orphans of Ardwick.
Several years ago, out of the blue, I began suffering with panic attacks. Anyone who has experienced this will appreciate how horrible it is. Anxiety completely incapacitated me for a while and at one point, I could see no end to it. I was stubborn, proud and afraid - seeking help was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make.
Would people think I was weak, crazy? I hated the condition and hated myself more for being unable to control it. However, I understand now it's not something you can just 'shake off'. Professional assistance is required. There is no shame in asking for help.
None. At. All.
A round of medication later, I began to feel the real me slowly returning. The relief - and pride in myself that I'd fought through this - was indescribable. To anyone suffering in this way, please know you're not alone. Speak to a doctor. You won't regret it.
Anxiety, I believe, never really leaves us. We just learn to control it better. I still have bouts but have devised a few coping strategies that work for me. Everyone is different - what works for one person might not for another, you have to find what is right for you.
As with the sufferer in a strand of the story in The Orphans of Ardwick, I find reciting poetry helps me. Creating the character was at times difficult - dredging up my own experiences to effectively get into their head and portray the illness authentically left me drained most days. But I'm glad I did it. It proved therapeutic and, hopefully, will send the message to readers going through the same thing that help is out there. Perhaps, as my character discovers, in the most unlikely of places...
Emma xx

Emma Hornby is the bestselling author of gritty, Lancashire-based family sagas. Her third historical, The Orphans of Ardwick, is available now. Get your copy here.

Visit Emma's website to learn more about her and her books.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

New Cover for Broken Hero!

Sometimes, as much as we try, not all covers work for certain books. I found this with Broken Hero, my World War II story.
I felt the previous cover didn't reflect the genre & era very well. So a change had to happen.
Below is the new cover, which I feel is so much better.
The woman on the front cover is 'Audrey' the main character in the novel. She works really well.

The new cover will be 'live' online this week, but the print version will be a little longer, but hopefully changed before the end of the month.

With war raging, can she heal his broken heart?

#WWIIromance #99p #EastYorkshire #Bridlington

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Book 17!

 So, I've started a new story which will be book number 17.
After writing a few books in World War One, this time I'm going back to the Victorian era. It's set in York, Yorkshire, which is where I have set other books such as Kitty McKenzie and Aurora's Pride. I've researched Victorian York for some years and it is one of my favourite places to visit.

For the sake of this story, I'll be focusing on the poor areas of York as the main character, Victoria, becomes involved in assisting a doctor to help those more unfortunate.
I've more research to do as I write, but I'm looking forward to meeting the characters of this new book.

A Victorian street

Petergate, York.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Working Class- an ingredient of Sagas.

We may be living in a classless society now, but class was once vitally important and is a favourite ingredient of the saga. A heroine is often aspiring to break out of her class and better herself. Seeking out stories of the social under-classes, the rural backwaters, the ordinary farmers and folk of the hills and the dales is fascinating. That, to me, is what history is all about, and how ordinary people cope with the difficulties of life.

Some people are victims of their class. Others thrive on it, rise above it, or slip further down the ladder, either because of marriage or fate. Some develop a chip on their shoulders or become inverted snobs. How does that affect a character? Does she know her place and is content with it? What problems does she face and how can she cope with it? All questions I ask myself as I write.

Every aspect of any particular class is ripe for fictional exploration. Most poor families needed their young to go out to work as soon as possible, no matter how bright they were. That was true in my youth in some families. Even buying them a school uniform could be beyond their ability. But everyone feels themselves above someone else, no matter how hard up they are. There’s no such thing as an amorphous mass. Every section of society has its own hierarchy. It’s not just the upper classes being snobby about the middle classes. Whether below stairs in an Edwardian household, or the skilled man or artisan, the apprentice, the labourer, the unfortunates. There are divisions within working classes. A shop keeper, carpenter, engineer etc. could be considered quite well off by a factory labourer. Street cleaners and refuse men were considered the lowest, no matter how justified their reason for being there. Class is influenced both by character and region. It is wrong to assume that the very poor are all feckless, or that they have no morals, are dirty and have coal in their baths. Moral standards and prejudices among the working classes can be fascinating

Social issues are a vital ingredient of the saga. Readers love to discover how women coped. Even domestic life was hard, doing the washing with a mangle and dolly tub, no central heating, vacuum cleaner, fridge or similar household gadget, and a privy down the yard. Perhaps some look back on hard times with a rose-tinted view, remembering when a community pulled together, didn’t need to lock their doors as they’d nothing worth stealing, and entirely trusted each other. And working for a family who consider themselves high ranking, gave Brenda the sense she was being treated as a servant, not a friend.

Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil. 

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

Available in W H Smith and most good books shops, also online.

Amazon UK  

Amazon US


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Sagas on Twitter

Readers, just to let you know that the Saga authors of this blog also post every Saturday on Twitter using the hashtag #sagasaturday
By searching #sagasaturday on Twitter, you'll be able to follow our news via Twitter.