Firstly, thank you very much for agreeing to an author interview with me, Madalyn. I know what a busy person you are and am grateful to you for making the time available.
Please tell my readers a little about yourself?
My real name is Madalyn Smith. When I joined Equity, the actors union, there was already an actress with that name. I was asked to give my second choice of stage name. I hadn't got one. I looked up at the bottles of spirits on the shelf in my parent's pub. I didn't think Madalyn Smirnoff sounded right and said, Morgan from Captain Morgan rum.
I was brought up 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 great for an aspiring actress to live, as there were always different characters to study and accents to learn. I was offered Crossroads when I was fifteen. However, my mother thought I should have a proper job, so I did a hairdressing apprenticeship. Eight years later, aged twenty-four, I gave up a successful salon and a wig-hire business in the theatres for a place at Drama College and a career as an actress, working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television. In 1995, with fewer parts for older actresses, I gave up acting. I taught myself to touch-type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writers Bureau in Manchester, and began writing.
In 2010, having lived in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth. I swapped two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write. Since then, I have written nine novels. The first four, The Dudley Sisters Saga, tell the stories of four sisters in World War 2. Stand-alone sequels followed, except for Applause. Christmas Applause will be set in 1962 and go back in time to 1942.
What inspired you to become an author?
Several things happened at once. I have always been fascinated by the achievements of women, especially the work they did in WW1 and WW2.
My mother used to tell me about her life in WW2, 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 had a fascinating life, so when it came to writing a biography, I wrote hers. My tutor liked what I'd written but said, as Mum and I were both unknown, I should turn it into a fictional story.
At that time, Mum wanted to give back a brass aeroplane, a Wellington Bomber, 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 had too many ideas for one book and plotted four. Four sisters, four wartime careers, and four loves. I still have Mum’s biography. One day I will turn it into fiction.
What is the best thing about being an author?
For me, there are two best things about being an author. One is the research. Setting my novels in a well-documented time like WW2 was fascinating, but it meant that I had to do a lot of research. I've learned about the servicemen and women who lived, worked, and fought in WW2 - and about the Commonwealth countries that many of them came from. In my novels have characters from Poland, France and Canada. I have gone back in time with the French Resistance to Paris and my spy thrillers to Belin and Vienna. I am currently in London, Liverpool, Glasgow and the Shetland Isles.
The second best thing is the freedom to imagine. To invent places, describe them and create characters. Feel how your characters feel, however extreme, and get to know them, make them real, and then share them with your readers who you hope will enjoy getting to know them too
What is your writing routine like?
I no longer have a writing routine. I have an editing and proofreading routine, but the creative part of writing has to happen when I feel it. It may sound precious, but it’s the only way I can write. It comes to me, I see it, feel it, then I write it.
How much time do you spend on research?
That is a good question. When I began writing, I spent half my time researching. In a year, I would research for five or six months. It was reading books then. When I wrote Foxden Acres, my first novel from 2010 - 2012, I spent a fortune on books. I bought history books about every aspect of WW2 - men and women - British and Commonwealth - in the RAF and WAAF, the Army and the WRAC, the Navy the WRNS. I was amazed at the work women did in factories, on the land, as cryptologists at Bletchley Park, and with the SOE risking their lives working with the French Resistance and other resistance groups in occupied Europe.
How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?
My first four novels were set in WW2, which meant I had to plot. I think novels set in any well documented period in history need to be planned carefully to make sure dates and timelines are correct. When I wrote the first novel in the saga Foxden Acres, I introduced all four Dudley sisters. I 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.
My timeline day diary. One war, four characters, five pages..
What do you think is most important when writing a book?
That’s a difficult question, Val. Again, no one thing is more important than the other. I swap genre’s so, for the first book of The Dudley Sisters Saga, where we meet the four Dudley sisters at home and on the land during the war, it is characters and then setting. Each of the sisters then has their own stories, Applause, China Blue and The 9:45 To Bletchley. We already know the Dudley sisters, and we meet other characters that help to drive each story. However, the plots drive these stories the most.
The first stand-alone book is a murder mystery. In Foxden Hotel, it is the setting and then the plot. In There Is No Going Home, the characters are the most important. In She Casts a Long Shadow, it is definitely the plot. And in Old Cases New Colours - a detective story - it is the three investigations, three plots, and then the characters. The book I’m currently writing, Shadow Sleeper, is character strong, but the plot is a close second with the setting nudging up to it.
What is your latest book about?
Shadow Sleeper is the second book in the Ena Dudley Detective Series. After heading the Cold Case department at the Home Office, proving her husband innocent of murder and exposing the mole at MI5 and her boss at the Home Office of being spies, Ena sets up her own detective agency, Dudley Green Associates and employs her colleague Artie Mallory from the cold case department.
Receiving anonymous letters and photographs insinuating sexual misconduct with a minor, taken in Berlin after Hitler’s Olympics in 1936, Rupert Highsmith, Artie’s lover, asks Ena to investigate. An MI5 agent who Highsmith had requested to go to Berlin as an observer was drowned in suspicious circumstances. This turn of events takes Ena to MI5 Glasgow to meet an agent named Fraser, who takes her to Mainland Shetland.
While Ena is away, Highsmith gets close to exposing two American cryptologists about to defect to Russia and is mowed down in a hit and run. Coincidence? While in hospital, a second attempt is made on his life. This time Ena knows who the murderer is.
Other investigations in Shadow Sleeper: Not wanting his wife to be hurt again, the husband of a friend of Ena’s asks her to investigate a girl in Liverpool who claims to be his wife’s illegitimate daughter. And, the nephews of Italian protection racketeers try to extort money from the owner of a local restaurant.
What inspired it?
A couple of possible threads were not tied up tightly in Old Cases New Colours. At the end of the story, Ena and Henry have a housewarming party and, a couple of ideas came to me while I was writing it. The Highsmith case in Shadow Sleeper was one of the ideas and a possible Christmas book for Margot Dudley in Applause the other. Margot is the only Dudley sister who doesn’t have a stand-alone sequel.
Any new books or plans for the future?
Yes, Christmas Applause, a stand-alone sequel to Applause, book two in the Dudley Sisters Saga, and my memoir.
What genres do you read most often?
Spy thrillers, cop and detective thrillers. To be honest I read all sorts of books. The only criteria, they have to be well written.
Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?
Yes, I’m excited that my last novel Old Cases New Colours a thriller/detective story set in 1960, is being auctioned by Children In Read for Children In Need. Also, the highest bidder will have a character named after them in the book I'm currently writing, Shadow Sleeper, (book 4 in the Ena Dudley Series).
I would also like your readers to know how we writers appreciate them. If it wasn’t for readers there would be no point in you and me writing.
Thank you for interviewing me on your fabulous blog. And thank you for asking me questions that made me think.
It is always a pleasure to have your company Madalyn.
Member of the Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists Association, and Equity
Madalyn’s Blog: https://madalynmorgan.wordpress.com/
Novels: Foxden Acres: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00BCX59LE Applause: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00J7Y5LCW China Blue: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00XD85NQW The 9:45 To Bletchley: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GEVW3Z8 Foxden Hotel: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LDYD2D/ Chasing Ghosts: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1718701225
There Is No Going Home: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1073705897
She Casts A Long Shadow
Old Cases New Colours
Radio Links: http://www.raidersbroadcast.com/