Interview with Janet Macleod Trotter (part 2)

  Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?    (continued) Did you miss Part I

JT.  I once created a totally imaginary strong-willed heroine who was a suffragette called Maggie Beaton. Then speaking at a talk to a convention of Women’s Institutes, a woman told me that her great aunt had been called Maggie Beaton and she sounded just the same sort of person! I got a tingle down my spine at that!

Other characters have been inspired by people closer to home. My grandparents lived and worked in India for years, where my granddad was a forester. I have used their background and some of their experiences in my second India novel, THE TEA PLANTER’S BRIDE, to get a really authentic feel of 1920s Scotland and India. Three years ago, my husband and I did a trip back to India to trace where my grandparents had been, and also where my mother had been brought up for the first 8 years of her life. I had a thrilling moment in Shimla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, when I managed to track down the old guest house where my family had lodged after trekking in the mountains in 1928. It still existed! Standing inside, I could almost see my mother toddling across the hallway. Shimla features in my third tea novel, THE GIRL FROM THE TEA GARDEN.

Bedroom where family had slept/ India

Q. What first inspired you to write your stories?

JT. I’ve been writing stories since I was a wee girl. I lived in a boys’ boarding school where my father was a history teacher and house master.  The kind matron used to type up my stories so that, in my eyes, they looked like proper printed pages! My father was a great story teller of clan and family history, and my mother always read fiction aloud to us when we were young, so I grew up with a thirst for stories. Added to that was a love of history, so that it was natural for me to want to set my stories in the past.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JT. I think actually it is the setting! I start with a historical incident or momentous event (First World War, the Suffragettes, Miners’ Strike etc) and then read around the subject. First, I must have a sense of place. Once I’ve visualized the setting – the home, village, tea plantation, city slum, Hebridean island – then ideas for the plot and characters come.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JT. On a good day yes! It’s thrilling to check the time and realize that I can’t remember the last hour – I’ve been off in some other place at a deeper level of concentration.

Q. Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment?

Janet & Friends dressed up as Suffragettes

JT. My mother! I’ve just begun writing another tea novel set at the end of WW2 and the time of Indian Independence with a heroine who returns to India after being ‘exiled’ in Britain during her schooling and the war years. She is the same age as my mother would have been, who was also in that situation – separated from her father in India because of the war. Though my mother never got back out to India, I am trying to imagine what she would have done if she had.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

JT. The next novel in the pipeline which has already been written is THE FAR PASHMINA MOUNTAINS and is set in Britain and India during the early 19th century. It has a spirited Northumbrian heroine and a Scottish hero who joins the East India Company Army to seek his fortune. (One of my own MacLeod ancestors also did this a generation earlier in the 18th century). India was an exciting and fascinating place for Europeans at this time, a place of exploration, romance and where fortunes could be made, but it was also fraught with dangers. In the novel this also includes the first ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

At university in Edinburgh I wrote articles for the student newspaper but it was a couple of years later that I decided to take a correspondence course in writing. I wanted to have the discipline of writing to deadlines and trying out different forms of writing.

Q. How long after that were you published?

JT. I finished the course of twenty assignments and then offered my money back because I hadn’t been published by the time it was completed! Instead, I elected to take a further course, concentrating on fiction writing. Before this was finished I began getting short stories published in teenage comics – providing the storylines and the words in the bubbles! So I suppose that was after about two years of learning the craft. I continued to get short stories published in women’s magazines but the first break-through into novels was after about five years. I had a teenage novel, LOVE GAMES, published in the same year as my first Scottish historical novel, THE BELTANE FIRES. Three years after that, I had the first of my historical family sagas set in North-East England, THE HUNGRY HILLS, published. That was in 1992. I’ve been writing for over 30 years and produced 21 books.

Join us for the conclusion of this wonderful Interview  July 21st


MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?     June: Mehreen Ahmed.  July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter and in August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.
                                         Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!

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