Posted in Author Interview, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Romance

Lorna Gray Author Interview Mrs Ps Book of Secrets/The Book Ghost #AuthorInterview @MsLornaGray @0neMoreChapter_ #30DaysofBookBlogs #PublicationDay #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #Romance #Mystery

#LornaGray #AuthorInteview

December 14 2019 is publication day for Mrs Ps Book of Secrets (UK) and The Book Ghost (US). I reviewed this original literary fiction novel on Wednesday, as the first stop on the #30DaysofBookBlogs Tour. Read my review here

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Today I have an author interview with Lorna Gray to share…

Author interview with Lorna Gray

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets (UK) / The Book Ghost (US)

What are the inspirations behind your latest story?

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets explores several themes, such as loss, returning home, belonging and family. But as you probably don’t want an essay from me, I’ll just describe the first idea I had for this book – where it all began.

The opening lines in the book speak about Lucy’s mother and grandmother performing a rather unusual war service. They were spiritualists and throughout WWII they regularly held séances in an attempt to guide the wandering souls of poor lost soldiers out of the filthy quagmire of war into the peace of the hereafter.

Those few lines in the book are autobiographical. Only in my case, it was my grandmother and great-grandmother. They acted on the principle that some of the war dead might be so shocked by their sudden end that their souls wouldn’t quite know how to move on. My great-grandmother believed she was playing a vital role in reaching out a kindly hand to them through the medium of a séance. She certainly gave comfort to their families at home who had received awful news.

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets grew from that little piece of history. It is in part a ghost story, although this definitely isn’t a novel about wartime spiritualism. What those women did was done in the spirit of giving. I didn’t want to turn the dead into a speaking part for Lucy, my heroine, where she might simply move a marker around a table to instantly demand answers to her questions.

Instead, her story is more about being sensitive to the echoes that are left behind when someone has passed. Have you ever gone into the library of an old house or a quiet garden and felt a sense of the people who have gone before? Do you ever go somewhere and find that your mind can strip away the modern layer from the scene to leave you with an idea of its history?

This is what Lucy experiences as she is pushed by the secrets of her uncle’s publishing business into exploring the boundaries between her memories and an old mystery that ought to have nothing to do with her at all.

I wanted her to walk that very fine line between reaching out and letting go.

And while she experiences all of that, I particularly wanted her to find a new friendship with Robert, her uncle’s second editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press. He is the key to the other elements of the story, which involve books, and being valued, and about putting down roots in a new place and discovering whether or not they will hold firm.

Ampney St Mary near Fairford and Cirencester helped to inspire the mystery
Image Credit Lorna Gray

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets / The Book Ghost is set in the immediate post-war era, 1946. What made you choose this particular time?

I knew I wanted to bring Lucy home to a small old fashioned publishing business. I nearly set it in the present day. But then I uncovered a small piece of research about paper rationing in the war and post-war period.

Paper rationing had a massive impact on books and publishing in the 40s and early 50s. Did you know that during the war, one of the big London publishers – Penguin, I think – managed to get a large order to supply paperbacks to the Canadian army? They didn’t take payment in the form of money. They arranged for the Canadian government to send them a shipload of paper across the Atlantic because they were so desperate for supplies.

After discovering all that, I couldn’t wait to delve into the world of a small publishing business and its secrets in the era of paper rationing.

Moreton in Marsh was a wonderfully atmospheric location for a 1940s publishing business
Image Credit Lorna Gray

What is it about the post-war period that interests you?

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets is my fourth historical novel. You may not be aware that before writing this mystery, each of my previous novels has been inspired by oral history. I have always been passionate about understanding the past. The post-war period is long enough ago that for me it satisfies my urge to write about history, and yet it is modern enough that when I want to know more, I can simply ask someone to share their memories.

It makes writing and researching the period endlessly fascinating.

Do you enjoy writing stories that cross the genre boundaries? Why is this?

The way my writing seems to cross genre boundaries must come from my own reading. I don’t think I’m ever constrained by genre. I read anything from classics to modern romance and literary masterpieces and memoir.

How do you research your stories? 

Everything is researched, even down to the details of the weather. Luckily, the internet is an extraordinary resource. And then I ask people to share their memories too.

When you aren’t writing, what other interests do you have?

I keep far too many animals! Some years ago, I had the idea that I might breed goats, but when it came to finding good homes for the kids (young goats), it turned out to be very hard indeed. People weren’t terribly honest about what they intended to do with them. So now my husband and I have a large and ageing herd of pets, and they give me endless hours of happiness.

When reading to relax, what kind of books do you choose? Why do they appeal to you?

I treasure any book that has many layers. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who finds it impossible to judge a book by its cover. So I always read based on recommendations by a few trusted people. I also love to return to favourite books, discovering new details each time.

An obvious example is that I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times. I first read it when I was a teenager and I vividly remember that initially, I could only see the characters through Elizabeth’s eyes. But then I read the book again some years later, and it turned out that the evidence had been there all along that characters such as Mr Darcy really weren’t as Elizabeth believed them to be. I love that depth of detail.

 Can you give us a brief insight into Mrs P’s Book of Secrets /The Book Ghost?

Look out for the accidental misspellings of Ashbrook. There are a few deliberate typos for the purpose of the plot, but the more I explored the concept of ‘an influence’, on Lucy’s search for the secret of a little girl’s abandonment, the more these errors crept in. For all my wise words about there being no tangible apparition in this book, the ghost certainly wanted to have his or her say. I asked the proofreader to leave them untouched.

There are no white shrouded spectres here, no wailing ghouls. Just the echoes of those who have passed, whispering that history is set to repeat itself.

The Cotswolds, Christmastime 1946: A young widow leaves behind the tragedy of her wartime life, and returns home to her ageing aunt and uncle. For Lucy – known as Mrs P – and the people who raised her, the books that line the walls of the family publishing business bring comfort and the promise of new beginnings.

But the kind and reserved new editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press is a former prisoner of war, and he has his own shadows to bear. And when the old secrets of a little girl’s abandonment are uncovered within the pages of Robert Underhills’s latest project, Lucy must work quickly if she is to understand the truth behind his frequent trips away.

For a ghost dwells in the record of an orphan girl’s last days. And even as Lucy dares to risk her heart, the grief of her own past seems to be whispering a warning of fresh loss…

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance

Mrs Ps Book of Secrets Lorna Gray 5* #Review @MsLornaGray @0neMoreChapter_ #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #postwar #1946 #TheCotswolds #loss #Mystery #FamilyDrama #Romance #FriendShip #BlogTour #30DaysofBlogs #LornaGray #TheBookGhost #MrsPsBookofSecrets

Mrs Ps Book of Secrets

There are no white shrouded spectres here, no wailing ghouls. Just the echoes of those who have passed, whispering that history is set to repeat itself.

The Cotswolds, Christmastime 1946: A young widow leaves behind the tragedy of her wartime life, and returns home to her ageing aunt and uncle. For Lucy – known as Mrs P – and the people who raised her, the books that line the walls of the family publishing business bring comfort and the promise of new beginnings.

But the kind and reserved new editor at the Kershaw and Kathay Book Press is a former prisoner of war, and he has his own shadows to bear. And when the old secrets of a little girl’s abandonment are uncovered within the pages of Robert Underhills’s latest project, Lucy must work quickly if she is to understand the truth behind his frequent trips away.

For a ghost dwells in the record of an orphan girl’s last days. And even as Lucy dares to risk her heart, the grief of her own past seems to be whispering a warning of fresh loss…

Mrs P’s Book of Secrets will be published in the US as The Book Ghost.

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I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

1946 is such an interesting time in British history. The immediate post-war years were very hard on the people. Rationing of food and other essential goods, men returning from the war changed both physically and mentally. Women, who had kept the country’s farms and industry running in the WW2, forced back to their former lives. This led to inevitable adjustment and unrest, after the relative freedom of wartime, for women, in terms of employment. Then, there were the men who didn’t return from the war and the widows who had to carry on.

Lucy, known as Mrs P, is one such widow, who finds herself unemployed in 1946 and bereft of the husband who was hers for such a short time. Returning home to her aunt and uncle and their Cotswold printing business is the only viable alternative, but even here things are not the same. They have a lodger and new employee, and Lucy struggles to fit in. The historical setting of this book proves to be the perfect backdrop for this story, and the details of life at the time and the intricacies of the printing and publishing world are absorbing.

This is Lucy’s story of coming to terms with her loss, accepting her world as it is now, and learning to live again. As the story progresses, events from Lucy’s past illuminate her present unsettled feeling, and her search to belong. The mystery of the missing girl, she discovers in a book, entangles itself with her childhood and loss, making her question everything, doubt those she should trust, and obsessively search for what happened to the young girl.

There is also a lovely friendship, which flowers into romance for Lucy. Slow-burning, because even though she feels physical attraction, feelings of guilt and fear of loss, push any thoughts of life beyond her single state, away for Lucy initially.

The echoes of her childhood, recent bereavement and the strange events that occur serve to haunt Lucy’s already emotionally unstable mind. The reader experiences this first hand, as the story is told in the first person. Sometimes, this is an uncomfortable place for the reader to be, the emotions are raw, and realisation slow to arrive, but the ending makes the angst worth suffering.

The conclusion of the mystery is not what you might expect, but it is believable, poignant, and shows how much Lucy has healed. There are still unexplained events, which you may interpret as you please. I am sure that we do not understand everything in this world, and choose to accept Lucy’s explanation.

A gently paced, historically detailed, romantic literary adventure. A young woman’s struggle with widowhood, as she explores an unusual mystery and experiences a few occurrences that defy explanation. Something original to enjoy that demands your ability to concentrate and become part of the story.

#LornaGray

Lorna Gray was born in 1980 in Bedfordshire. Her relationship with the glorious countryside of the Cotswolds began many years ago when she first moved to Cirencester. She has been exploring the area through her love of history, adventure and romance ever since.

This is Lorna’s fourth post-WWII mystery. Her three previous novels are In the Shadow of Winter (2015), The War Widow (2018) and The Antique Dealer’s Daughter (2018). She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband.

5* #Review

Read my author interview with Lorna Gray