Leeds. 1870. Lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.
The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.
Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life. All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m Australian born to English parents who emigrated to Australia in the 1960s from Yorkshire. I’m married with three children and live in a wonderful part of New South Wales, called the Southern Highlands, nearly two hours drive south of Sydney.
I did live in England for three years in the eighties and lived in a very old farmhouse (built in late 1700s) with no modern conveniences like central heating! The pipes used to freeze in winter and we’d have to get water in buckets from town, or melt snow. It was all very strange for an Aussie girl! However, living in England gave me the love of history.
What inspired you to write this book?
I loved the idea of a large family all pulling different ways. With a selfish mother, a tyrannical father and seven daughters, the family was complex, but add to that a lost love, a heroic butler and a handsome stranger, well, the real fun began then!
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be an author as such, though my mother says I was always scribbling at something. In high school was the first time I felt the need to create a story. It came about through an essay I had to write for English. (At the time I was living in England) We watched the movie, Kes, and then had to write an alternative ending. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the essay, which actually became a story in itself. I got AA+ and the highest result in class.
From there, I co-wrote with my best friend a story for Harlequin Mills & Boon. I was terribly homesick for Australia and I used to read a lot of books set in Australia. So, naturally, our romance was set in the Australian outback. We never finished writing the story, I think boys got in the way. A few years ago my friend found our story and sent it to me. It wasn’t that bad either!
After moving back to Australia in 1987, I didn’t think about writing at all. My I always had characters in my head and when doing mundane jobs I would create stories in my head to amuse myself.
Ten years later, 1997, while writing up family history information, I suddenly started typing the characters that spoke to me and my first historical novel began.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I try to write between 9am and 3pm. After that it’s dinner and family time. I work weekends, which leaves me free to write during the week. I prefer writing in the morning, and can count on one hand how many times I’ve written at night. But I do need coffee to keep me going and if possible chocolate!
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I love names, and the old names of history can be so elegant. In The House of Women I had fun naming the seven daughters. Grace has always been a favourite, and my daughter is called Eleanor Grace. I do spend time on choosing the names, making sure they fit the character. I don’t like modern names being used in historical. I use my family tree information as an excellent source of period names.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would do a lot of things differently. I would search for agents earlier than I did, and more widely than I did. I would try and have more patience!
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I read a wide selection of books. I used to read a lot of historical women’s fiction by great authors such as Audrey Howard and Catherine Cookson, but now I read much more widely. I love historical fiction, especially medieval bio-fiction written by Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Penman. I also enjoy chick lit and biographies. Much of my reading is non-fiction research for my books, which I enjoy.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Yes, I’ve just started writing my next historical. As yet it doesn’t have a title, but the main characters, Charlotte and Harry, are there, demanding to be heard. It’s set in Yorkshire England again, about 1874. Aside of this new story, I have plenty of finished books waiting to be published. Stay tuned!
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Advice can be tricky, because so much depends on the writer and what they write, but first I would say, never give up! This is a hard and at times very frustrating business, be prepared to wait for results. Learn everything you can about it.
Talk to other writers, join writing groups and especially try and find a good critique group, who will help you polish your manuscript before you send it out. Research agents. Research publishers.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
The perfect reader for The House of Women, is anyone who enjoys historical novels, for a start, but more importantly, readers who like going on a journey with the characters will enjoy this book. Readers who like something a little more to their stories, who don’t mind a little more depth. I hope my stories make the readers care for the characters.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Readers can find my books in either paperback or ebook at all retail outlets like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc, or they can be ordered by any bookstores.
To learn more about me, readers can visit my website http://www.annewhitfield.com.