The Writing Life of: Madalyn Morgan
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Madalyn Morgan. Madalyn Morgan will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘There Is No Going Home‘, which was released on 29th June 2019 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
I was brought up in a pub in a small market town called, Lutterworth. For as long as I can remember my dream was to be an actress and a writer. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live. There were so many characters to study and accents to learn.
I was offered Crossroads the first time around, but my mother wanted me to have a ‘proper’ job that I could fall back on if I had to, so I did a three-year hairdressing apprenticeship. Eight years later, aged twenty-four, I gave up a successful salon and wig-hire business in the theatre for a place at East 15 Drama College and a career as an actress, working in Repertory, the West End, film, radio and television.
In 1990 I gave up acting for love and ten years later love gave me up. I didn’t want to go back into the profession. By then I had found writing. I learned to touch-type, completed a two-year creative writing course with The Writers’ Bureau and in 2010, after living in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth, swapping two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actress.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
My favourite authors were Mary Webb, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austin and in my teens, Daphne Du Maurier.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
Yes. Several things happened at the same time. I have always been fascinated by the achievements of women in the first half of the Twentieth Century – especially the work they did in WW1 and WW2. My mother used to tell me about her life in the war; the work she did, the dances she went to, and the many letters she wrote to servicemen overseas. (She had a Polish penfriend called Vanda, which is my middle name.) I enjoyed writing articles and decided to do a creative writing course. My mum had a fascinating life, so when it came to the biography module, I wrote about her. My tutor liked the work but said, as Mum and I were both unknown, I should turn it into a fiction.
At that time, Mum wanted to give back a brass aeroplane; a Wellington Bomber that was made for her by a Polish airman in 1940. He had died, but I found his son who was delighted with the plane. It was then that I decided to set my novels in WW2. I took many ideas for one book, so I plotted four. Four sisters, four wartime careers, and four loves. I still have my mum’s biography. One day I will turn it into fiction.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
I don’t have a special writing routine. I begin a new book when ideas start coming. When they do, they come in thick and fast. They come in the middle of the night, or as I’m waking up in the morning. At night I make notes, in the morning I get up and hit the keyboard. I also have an elderly aunt who needs me, so I need to be flexible.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
I have written seven novels. The first four, The Dudley Sisters’ Saga, tells the stories of four sisters in World War 2. I am currently writing the eighth book. It’s a spy thriller with the working title, Framed. I’m also writing a memoir. It’s a collection of short stories, articles, poems, photographs and character breakdowns written when I was an actress.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plotter. Because my novels are set in WW2 I need to plot. I think novels set in any well documented period in history need to be plotted carefully to make sure dates and timelines are correct. When I wrote the first novel in the saga, Foxden Acres, I introduced the other Dudley sisters and plotted their stories at the same time. I kept a Day Diary for every event in the war that affected Foxden Acres leaving four pages blank for each of the other books. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. I couldn’t have Claire Dudley in France fighting with the French Resistance in her own story, China Blue, if she was at home with her sisters in Foxden Acres.
Concerning your latest book:
Pages – 333
Release Date – 29th June 2019
ISBN 13 – 978-1073705894
Format – ebook, paperback
London, 1958, Ena recognises a woman who she exposed as a spy in WW2. Ena’s husband, Henry, an agent with MI5, argues that it cannot be the woman because they went to her funeral twelve years before.
Ena, now head of the Home Office cold case department, starts an investigation. There are no files. It is as if the woman never existed. Suddenly colleagues who are helping Ena with the case mysteriously die… and Ena herself is almost killed in a hit-and-run.
The case breaks when Ena finds important documents from 1936 Berlin that prove not only did the spy exist, but someone above suspicion who worked with her then, still works with her now.
Fearing for her life, there is only one person Ena can trust… or can she?
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
There Is No Going Home is a stand-alone sequel to the third book in the saga The 9:45 To Bletchley. I had already researched Bletchley Park and spy networks in England during WW2. However, There Is No Going Home is a spy thriller set in the cold war thirteen years later.
I read articles and biographies about spies, read up on the politics of the time, the fashion and the music – and Berlin. The father of one of my characters was in the diplomatic corps in Berlin. My character was at school there, which is why in 1936, as a young newspaper reporter, he was sent to Berlin to cover Hitler’s Olympics Games. That took a lot of research, but it was fascinating.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I always use a word or a line from the story for the title. For this book, There Is No Going Home, when the spy’s MI5 handler says he’ll arrange for the spy to go home (to Berlin), she is freezing, soaked to the skin, utterly exhausted, and screams, ‘For me there is no going home.’
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
The Dudley sisters are all strong women. The first book in the saga is Bess Dudley’s story. Bess is the eldest daughter of the Foxden Estate’s head groom. She is strong and intelligent. She won a scholarship to go to Grammar School, goes to teachers training college and becomes a teacher in London. When war breaks out and London schoolchildren are evacuated, she returns to Foxden to organise a troop of Land Girls. Traditional barriers come crashing down when Flying Officer James Foxden, heir to the Foxden Estate, and Bess fall in love. Bess’s story is of love and loss and learning to love again.
Margot, the second Dudley sister marries her childhood sweetheart and leaves rural Leicestershire for London. Margot is fiercely ambitious and works her way from being an usherette in a West End theatre to the Leading Lady of the show. However, she soon finds herself caught up in a web of deceit, black-market racketeers, Nazis, drugs and alcohol.
Book three, China Blue, is Claire Dudley’s story. At the beginning of WW2 Claire joins the WAAF. She excels in languages, is recruited by the SOE and is sent to work in occupied France with RCAF Captain, Alain Mitchel. While working with the French Resistance Claire falls in love. The affair has to be kept secret. Even after her lover is captured by the Gestapo, Claire cannot tell anyone. Fearing she will never again see the man she loves Claire sets out to find him. Claire shows the same grit and determination in the sequel Chasing Ghosts when she sets out to find her missing husband and prove he is innocent of treason.
Ena Dudley, the youngest sister, works in an engineering factory making small dials and disks bound for a secret location. When Coventry is bombed, Ena has to take this vital equipment to Bletchley Park. Travelling on the 9:45 To Bletchley train she is robbed. When she is accused of being involved, she investigates. While trying to clear her name Ena discovers the thief is a spy. With the help of military intelligence, Ena traps the spy, and while doing so, falls in love.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
I am an Indie author. Once I feel I can’t improve my novels by more editing – cutting or developing – I pay to have them professionally critiqued, proofreader and formatted to Kindle and paperback. I design my own covers, and then send them to a graphics company.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I am twenty thousand words into my next novel, FRAMED. A spy is murdered and someone we care about is cleverly framed. As with the first and fifth books in the saga, the four Dudley sisters are in this story.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
Total photographic recall. I’d probably need it for the time it takes me to write my next novel would be good.
2) Do you have any pets?
I have always had cats, but I go to London quite often to do my radio show and it isn’t fair to leave pets all day on their own. Also, since I moved to the country, I have encouraged wild birds by hanging fat balls and seed feeders in the trees. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure watching them. I also have a hedgehog who ignores me when he scurries along the path and a pond with goldfish, black velvety Tench and silver and red Shubunkin. Once the fish had names. There are too many now.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
A Multitude of Characters or Facets of Madalyn Morgan
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
Having been an actress for 30 years, I’d rather direct the film. I was a method actor and I work the same way when I’m writing. If it isn’t real; if I don’t believe in the characters, see them, feel what they are feeling, it doesn’t work for me. If it doesn’t work for me, it won’t work for the reader. I would want to be in on the casting too.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I spent six weeks of my summer holiday on an Indian Reservation when I was eleven. I was adopted into the Dakota Sioux Tribe and given the name, Waccantkiya Win. That was my favourite holiday.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
“Hey, Lady? If you would rather sit at a computer all day than play baseball, you must be quackers.”
I bought these bookends of Sir Winston Churchill at Bletchley Park on Sunday September 1st. It was the 80th anniversary of the beginning of WW2 – and the first time 80 veterans who had worked at Bletchley Park were recognised for the huge contribution they made to ending the war.
I would like to say a big thank you to Madalyn Morgan for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.