Pure chance. After attending a NHS management course where they advised taking up a hobby to relieve stress. I knew absolutely nothing about plot, structure, writing techniques or punctuation and just thought writing a story might be a fun thing to do to get my head out of the day-job. That was eleven years ago and the rest, as they say is history.
I know you have to juggle writing with the day job in nursing? What is your work schedule?
Jean in her uniform
Do you edit and revise as you write, or after you have completed the first draft? What method works best for you?
When I started I used to write straight through the first draft but now I find if I know a plot line or character isn’t right I can’t just plough on. Although this slows my writing down it often saves me writing myself up a blind alley and having to scrap great chunks. It’s a sort of instinct I’ve developed and although I take longer to write a book I’ve found it saves me a great deal of time in the long run as there are a lot less edits returned from my publishers.
Have you ever suffered rejections, if so how did you deal with them?
Have I? I’ve got a ring binder full of them. I know it’s hard to have your ‘baby’ mauled and rejected. But if you’re determined to be published I’m afraid it’s a process you most likely have to go through. It’s a general rule of thumb if an agent or editor doesn’t get your story then a reader won’t either. If you get any constructive feedback then I would strongly advise you to read it objectively and learn from what they say. That’s why the NWS is so brilliant because it gets you used to receiving and working with critical feedback.
You write wonderfully popular family sagas. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer wishing to break into this market?
Thank you for your kind words. As with all genres there are certain things that a reader expects from a saga such as a strong heroine and an insight into a very different way of life and time. I’d advise any would-be saga writers to read widely in the genre, do their research and write a full-bodied story with a cast of interwoven characters.
Jean on her bike outside her home in Anthony Street
I have to know everything about them even stuff that never gets into the story. Once I can hear their voice and know their inner thoughts I can bring them to life.
Have you ever been interviewed on TV? Did you find it a pleasant or a scary experience?
I was phoned at work by Catherine Jones one day and told the BBC needed a romantic novelist to appear on the 6 o’clock news to talk about the sale of the unfinished Jane Austen manuscript, The Watsons. As I was in London would I like to do it? I love Austin but wouldn’t describe myself as an expert on her work so I phoned the Hero-at- Home and asked him to get together a prep-sheet on the story.
I dashed home, changed and was back on the tube half an hour later heading for Broadcasting House in Shepherds Bush. I arrived at 5.30 and was taken into the studio to meet Gavin Esler. He asked me a few questions about the enduring appeal of Austen followed by a discussion about romantic fiction and then it was over. To be honest it was all so fast I didn’t have time to be scared and was thrilled they spelt my name right on the rolling credits.
So tell us about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.
I wasn’t so much inspired as asked by Susan Lamb, the Head of Fiction at Orion Books to write it. Orion publishes Call the Midwife along with Jennifer Worth’s other three books.
Susan thought as I’m a District and Queen’s Nurse and an East Ender I would be the perfect person to write a fictitious account of a District Nurse and Midwife’s life and work in post-war East London.
I was apprehensive at first but my wonderful editorial team were so sure I could bring the duel strands of my background and profession together in Millie’s story I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did because I had a wonderful time researching my own profession and creating Millie’s family, friends and patients.
For 25-year-old Millie, a qualified nurse and midwife, the jubilation at the end of the war is short-lived as she tends to the needs of the East End community around her. But while Millie witnesses tragedy and brutality in her job, she also finds strength and kindness. And when misfortune befalls her own family, it is the enduring spirit of the community that shows Millie that even the toughest of circumstances can be overcome.
Through Millie's eyes, we see the harsh realities and unexpected joys in the lives of the patients she treats, as well as the camaraderie that is forged with the fellow nurses that she lives with. Filled with unforgettable characters and moving personal stories, this vividly brings to life the colourful world of post-war East London.
Find out more:
You can also find Jean on Facebook as Jean Fullerton and on Twitter as @EastLondonGirly
Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today Jean. We wish you continuing success with your books. Best wishes, Freda
Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org