Friday, January 20, 2012

Interview with Maureen Lee

We welcome Maureen Lee, one time winner of the Romantic Novel Award to the blog today. Maureen was born in Bootle, on the outskirts of Liverpool during the Second World War. Later, she attended commercial college and became a shorthand typist. She started with short stories around the time the children began to arrive, and, she says, being a rather inefficient mother, at least had a hope of getting these finished. 

In fact, Maureen sold about one hundred and fifty short stories, published in magazines all over the world, and also wrote two unpublished novels. These were followed by a successful full-length musical play, WHEN ADAM DELVED AND EVE SPAN, produced at a local theatre. 

However, it wasn’t until 1990, when the boys had left home, (one still regularly returns with his washing), that I rented an office and got down to writing full time. Four years later my first saga, STEPPING STONES was published by Orion. It seemed only natural to begin the story in Liverpool and, following this, Orion commissioned me to write a trilogy set in ‘my city’ during the war.Since then, I have had a saga published every year.

I admire your tenacity, Maureen, and it’s a lesson to us all that a writing career can take a good deal of time and effort to build. So, tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it.
My husband and I were on holiday in Paris and we walked past a very narrow street called La Rue de La Grande Truranderie. I decided immediately I must write a novel about it. I had often wanted to include something about the French Resistance during the war - somewhat difficult when my books have to be set in Liverpool. However, I was able to fashion a story set half in Liverpool and half in Paris. AU REVOIR LIVERPOOL was published this Christmas.

Is a sense of place important to you in your writing?

A sense of place is extremely important for me. I am easily able to go back to my childhood home in Bootle, Liverpool, and visualise living in a little terraced house in a working class area close to the docks. I know the house intimately, can actually remember sheltering beneath the stairs with my mother and brother when the bombs dropped during the war.

You won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award in 2000. That must have been a great thrill, and certainly helped your career. 

I can honestly say it came as a total surprise to me. I didn't have a speech prepared, forgot everyone's names and made a terrible show of myself. However, since then, I have felt a sense of pride to see myself described as an 'Award Winning Writer'. I was also short-listed and long-listed for two other books.

Are your books generally stand-alone titles, or do you ever write sequels? 

I would love to write sequels. My second, third and fourth books formed a trilogy set during the war, so I knew what I had to do when it was started. However, I have tried a few times to write sequels because I get very fond of my characters - but find I have done all there is to do with them and can't go any further.

What are your views on the new digital revolution. How has it affected you as a successful writer?

Many years ago I wrote three thrillers - not the sort full of gruesome murders and lost body parts - but quite mild with a touch of romance. However, my publisher turned them down and they had been languishing in a drawer all this time, the print getting fainter and fainter. Then I heard about Kindle, discovered the thrillers had actually been typed on my first computer, an Amstrad that took 3" disks. I had the disks put on a CD and put one of the books, DUSK, on Kindle at 99p. But my publisher was upset and offered to publish it in print form one of these days, so I took it off. I do miss being able to check daily to see where it was in the chart - it reached fifteen. All my other books are on Kindle, but not so cheaply.

That’s an interesting take on it. A pity your publisher couldn’t see it as an advantage or form of promotion. But now for some less serious questions. Do you manage to ignore the housework?
I do very little housework, which wouldn't matter if I didn't fret about the place being so untidy.

Which is your all time favourite author?
Charles Dickens - I love his books.

Do you have any little quirks or habits you carry out before starting work each moring? 
I always start my writing day with a tiny bar of chocolate that is less than 100 calories.

Do you still have an unfulfilled ambition? 
I would love to see one of my stories made into a film or a TV play.

Any superstitions about your writing? 
I never tidy my desk until the current novel is finished.

That has been absolutely fascinating Maureen. Thank you so much for sparing the time to talk to us.  To find out more about Maureen Lee’s books, visit her website: 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me


Victoria Connelly said...

Lovely interview! Hope 'Dusk' sees the light of day again soon, Maureen.

Beth Elliott said...

That was most interesting, Maureen. I'm also from near Liverpool, so love to find that element in a story. good luck with those thrillers.

Anne Whitfield/Anne Brear said...

I love Maureen's books. I'm looking forward to reading her latest one, too. Great interview.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

What a lovely interview - I enjoyed getting to know about your books, Maureen, and how your career developed.

Julie Day said...

I have enjoyed your books. It is a shame your publisher wanted you to take your ebook off. It could help to expand your readership, like Stephen Leather did.

Sheila Everett said...

I met Maureen just after she had won her award - I was attending, with my husband, a most enjoyable chapter meeting at Eileen and John Nichol's lovely thatched cottage in Essex - Maureen was the first person to speak to us, and she has been a good friend eversince. She is incredibly modest about her achievements and is always so encouraging to newer writers. Her stories are ones you remember and the characters and their voices too.
Maureen, I feel I need worry no more about my untidy desk - just tidy it up when a new story begins... Are you still working in your "shed?"
Hope to meet up again this year, all being well.
Love Sheila