Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Carole McEntee-Taylor and I’m as old as my hair and younger than my teeth😊Ok I give in. I’m 61
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m English and I live in North Lincolnshire now, but I was born in Essex.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have a Hons Degree in Social Science and a Masters in Philosophy, both gained with the Open University when I was over 40. I have three children, all grown up now. I live with my husband, David, who is retired and I write full time.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Part five of my latest fiction series, Secret Lives has just been released, the last book comes out on 18 April. Secret Lives is set before and through WW1 and follows the lives of several women and their families in England, Italy, Austria and Germany. My latest non fiction, A History of Women’s Lives in Scunthorpe, is due out at the end of March and I am in the process of arranging some book signings in the town. I have just started writing a new series, Deadly Secrets. This is a continuation of Secret Lives and follows the same families through WW2 and I am also writing a new non fiction called The Sun Never Set about a Scottish family who can trace their military service back to the 18th Century.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
The BBC were doing a memories project back in 2005 and my husband suggested I write up his father’s war story. Ted Taylor was conscripted into the Rifle Brigade in September 1939 and fought in the Defence of Calais in May 1940 after which he spent five years as a POW. He never spoke about it, but we managed to persuade him to talk on tape and received a very sanitised version of the fighting and his subsequent years in a POW camp. There was a word limit, so I wrote it up as a short story, Ted was delighted with it and showed it to all his friends, we sent it off to the BBC and that was it until 2009. In 2008 Ted suffered a crippling stroke and ended up in a nursing home. To cheer him up I suggested writing up his war experiences in book form.
This was quite daunting as I had no background in military history. I began the long process of reading everything I could about the Defence of Calais, which wasn’t much. I found the battle was totally eclipsed by the evacuation from Dunkirk and was rarely mentioned, even on the most recent documentaries. This made me more, not less determined, and I contacted the Regimental museum at Winchester who were really helpful. Dave and I went down and spent a day trawling through the small amount of archive material they had, first-hand accounts that weren’t public, that kind of thing. I made notes and slowly began to understand how the battle unfolded. From these records and the little Ted had told us I was able to identify where his company was and the fighting he took part in. Most of his company had been wiped out which was why details were so sketchy. He was one of very few survivors. I wrote up the information as I found it and it began to take shape.
I knew even less about the treatment of the ordinary POW at the hands of their captors or their lives, having grown up on a diet of sanitised POW camp films and even one comedy set in a Stalag, (Stalag 13 I think), none of which bore any reality to the truth. My library began to grow and I spent most of my time when I wasn’t working, head buried in a book, pen and notepad on my lap either deciphering dry regimental war diaries or reading the few personal accounts of POWs who had been captured at Calais or in the surrounding areas. Like most authors I struggled to find a publisher but eventually, after writing a book about Herbert Columbine VC, Ted’s story, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, was published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
I was now hooked on writing military history and have written several other books, but I also wanted to write fiction because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. I have always been a voracious reader. I’d save up my pocket money as a six and seven year old and buy Enid Blyton books amongst others, disappear up into my bedroom and not come down again until they were finished. My Dad always used to say they were a waste of money because I could get through two or three books in a weekend but they weren’t. They were my escape from reality and the more I read the more it fuelled my imagination. As I grew older I read anything I could get my hands on, crime, thrillers, historical fiction, occasionally romance and science fiction and of course chic lit! I liked big books I could lose myself in, probably to escape my disastrous relationships. Having finally extradited myself from the last one two years later I met David. I no longer needed to escape my reality and I found books by authors I’d always loved no longer held my attention, so I decided to write something I wanted to read and I had the perfect idea.
Whist writing Ted’s story I learnt that Brenda, my mother in law, had been a nurse throughout the London Blitz, and she and Ted were engaged when he went to war. Five long years later he came home, and they were married. Their story fascinated me. They did not have the benefit of hindsight. Brenda waited for him, even though she had no idea how long it would be, or even if Ted would ever come home. Ted had somehow held onto the belief that he would survive to come home, even though he had no idea how long that might be. I decided to write up Ted and Brenda’s story as a docu drama, including an element of fiction to cover something Ted did in France. Can’t tell you what or it will spoil the story!
I originally self published Ted and Brenda’s story, but then found GWL Publishing who were interesting in publishing it, providing I rewrote it as fiction. As my writing style had now changed considerably, I was happy to do that. Because their story was originally written as a docu-drama there was a lot of fact in the original which I had to fictionalise. This turned out to be much harder work than I anticipated! I finally decided that it was impossible to fictionalise my in-laws because they were real people. I couldn’t have them doing things that weren’t in character and I didn’t really want to alienate the family and have my husband not talking to me because I had made his mum do something she wouldn’t have! So, eventually I changed their names, and although the story is inspired by them and based on something that did happen, all the characters are now 100% fiction. Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle is in 5 books and is available on kindle (5 books for under £5) or in paperback.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I had my first book, Herbert Columbine VC, published by Pen and Sword Ltd.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s quite hard to come up with titles, and I’m usually a long way into the book before I decide what it will be called. For Secret Lives, it was really a case of thinking about what all the characters had in common.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
My novels have multiple story lines and I write in short scenes, rather than long chapters. As the stories run alongside each other I have to be very careful of time lines or some people would be in April while someone else was stuck in February!!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I put my characters in real events, so I do a lot of research. I also try to use events that are less well known. Like most authors the inspiration for the story lines do come from real events and real people. But so farI haven’t basedany characters completely on someone I know… although there’s always time 😉
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Most of the time I use books and the internet, but I also like to use local places if I can, hence the reason I set some of Obsession in North Lincolnshire, and some of Secret Lives is set in Yorkshire.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The covers are designed by the publishers.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really. My novels are escapism, time out from today’s busy lives. I hope my readers can lose themselves in someone else’s problems for a short time, while they identify with the characters and become involved in a different time and place.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
My favourite authors at the moment are Barbara Erskine, Kate Mosse, Frederick Forsythe, Ken Follett and Dan Brown. Their books give me an opportunity to escape for a while.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I worked at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester, the UK’s only remaining military ‘prison’ for nine years and they were very supportive, especially when I decided to write a history of the establishment. Military Detention Colchester. Voices from the Glasshouse
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, although it’s virtually impossible to make enough to live on. I think most authors write because they love telling stories, not because they expect to be millionaires. Obviously, that would be nice, but it’s not the reason I write.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think authors would always rewrite their books, that’s probably why I don’t re read them once they are published. If I did, I would never leave them alone. There’s always something you can improve.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I am much more at home in WW2 than WW1, so the whole series of novels was quite a steep learning curve. Fortunately, my publisher is an expert on WW1so we were able to rectify any mistakes quite easily.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The main characters in Secret Lives are the women, so probably someone like Emily Blunt for Frances or Letitia and maybe use an Italian for Lucrecia and an Austrian or German for Rosa. As the main characters are all in their late teens and early twenties it would be a good vehicle for up and coming actors. That way they could bring their own individual talents to the roles and people wouldn’t associate them with characters in other films.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep going. Just remember thatnot everyone will like your book. We are all different and have varying tastes. There are lots of ‘great’ books that I couldn’t get on with, and I’ve read books that didn’t have wonderful reviews and really enjoyed them. Take a look at reviews for the most famous books and there’s always someone who didn’t like it!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you’ve enjoyed a novel, please put a good review. It doesn’t have to be loads, just a few words saying how much you enjoyed the book.It encourages authors to keep writing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Goodness, absolutely no idea. I would imagine it was Enid Blyton, (I grew up in the 1960s!) bought with my pocket money.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh: Good comedy, clever use of words, nothing cruel or things that can be hurtful to people. Some of the old comedy series on TV still make me laugh, even if I have seen them several times. Faulty Towers is a classic, as is Only Fools and Horses, My Family was also quite good, although the last few episodes were rather cruel, so they lost their edge.
Cry: Weepy films, emotional scenes in books, their effect gets worse as you get older. I even cry at some of the stories in my own books which is slightly odd as I wrote them. The kindness of strangers also makes my eyes leak.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
My husband’s mother, Brenda Taylor. I know a lot about her, but we never met as she died before I met David.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy going to WW2 events, vintage and book fairs and wargaming events, not because I like wargaming particularly, but because I’m fascinated by the dioramas. Nerd alert: I’m also a model railway enthusiast!Because I spend a lot of time sitting down writing I also enjoy yoga and walking in the countryside.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Where do I start? I find watching TV very relaxing. I love crime series, especially those set in the 20th Century. Murdoch Mysteries, Agatha Christie films, Endeavour as well as Midsomer Murders, Vera, Lewis, Silent Witness, NCIS, The Mentalist, various US and Canadian crime series and some Australian ones. I also quite like the soaps, although I find some of the story lines irritating at times. I watch a lot of documentaries, mainly history but also science. I also enjoy science fiction. I’m really enjoying The Orville at the moment, probably because it’s such a clever take on Star Trek, which I love.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Chocolate and cheesecake! Unfortunately, I can’t live on that so have to eat fish, salad, vegetables. I’m not a great meat eater, I like chicken and turkey, but not red meat other than sausages and bacon!
I like a lot of 40s music, but I grew up with bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, LynardSkynard, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Queen, Santana, David Bowie etc I like lots of modern music too, but can’t think of anyone in particular. I also like classical music. It’s probably easier to think of music I can’t stand like garage and rap music😊
My favourite colours are purple, orange and green. Not sure I’d wear them all together though…
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t really imagine that to be honest, so as long as I’m able I will probably continue to write. It helps keep me sane, most of the time anyway.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Eating chocolate, drinking whisky and making love. (Am I allowed to say that?)
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I thought about this question for ages and the only answer I could come up with was ‘None the wiser.’ At least it’s short and to the point. Seriously though,I have absolutely no idea. Fortunately, I’m sure I’ll be cremated, so I don’t need to worry😊
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website is https://carolemctbooks.info
and my Facebook page is https://facebook.com/carolemctbooks.info
I’m also on Twitter @CaroleMcT and Instagram – carolemcenteetaylor