It is my great pleasure to welcome historical novelist Sally Zigmond to my blog this week. I featured Sally in my Ideas Store column in the December 2020 Issue of Writers’ Forum magazine in which I asked her where she got the idea for her novel, The Lark Ascending, which I had recently read and enjoyed.
She explained how a shopping trip on a snowy January day was the inspiration behind the book which is set in Leeds just after WW1.
“When we lived in Harrogate I often shopped in the city centre and loved its celebrated Victorian shopping arcades.
“One day in a freezing-cold January day I took shelter under the beautiful glass roof of the Queen’s Arcade and shopped until I dropped (well almost). When I emerged into busy Briggate, I realised it had been snowing for a long time but I hadn’t noticed!
“So there and then, I had the first scene of my next novel, The Lark Ascending, about a shop assistant who worked in the arcade and a strange day on a cold January morning. Only I wanted a change from the Victorian age and settled on the period just after World War One.”
The Lark Ascending is a beautifully told story and deals with some quite difficult subjects that faced people in that post-war era with great sensitivity and empathy. I can really recommend it.
So I invited Sally to come along to my blog and answer yet more questions from me. And, happily, she said yes!
Welcome, Sally. And thank you for agreeing to appear on my blog. Thank you, too, for giving me several hours of reading pleasure from The Lark Ascending. I don’t often read historical novels but I loved it so much that I’m really looking forward to reading more of your work.
Do you write series of standalones?
I write historical novels and my published short stories are mainly historical. So far all my novels are stand-alones but the novel I am currently writing could well be the first novel in a three or four-book series. I shall wait and see!
I’ll look forward to that. I love getting into a series. So, what inspires you most (apart from snowy shopping arcades, that is!)? Is it characters? Or settings? Maybe even books you have read?
For everything I write, whether it be a novel or short story, I have to first choose a setting and a historical period. Then the main character(s). Plot comes much later. I think of my character at the beginning and where I hope to finish. Then I start fleshing out how that character (or characters) gets from on to the other. That’s the novel.
And how did your writing journey start? Have you always written?
I’ve always loved reading and writing. English was my favourite subject at school and I studied English Literature at Uni. When my children were settled in school, I took various adult education classes. I then spotted one called “Writing For Pleasure and Profit.” So began a long learning curve.
Ah, I remember taking a course with a similar title! Now tell me a little of your future writing plans.
As I mentioned earlier I am currently writing a novel which may be the first part of a three or even four part serial beginning in the 14th century and concluding in the 16th.
That sounds exciting. And finally, tell us three things that we may not know about you.
1 I used to work at New Scotland in Interpol.
2 When I was on a train from Paris to Lyon full of French soldiers we were halted for 3 hours by a bomb scare.
3 Diana Dors once bumped into me on Euston Street in London and almost knocked me flying!
Wow! Plenty of material for a writer there then! There’s your challenge for 2021 then – to try and work all three of those things into one story!
Thank you so much Sally for answering my questions so patiently.
The Blurbs and buy links for Sally’s books
HOPE AGAINST HOPE
Stoical and industrious Carrie and carefree and vivacious May lose both home and livelihood when their Leeds pub is sold out from under them to make way for the coming of the railway. They head for Harrogate to find work and lodging in the spa town’s hotel trade. But the sisters fall prey to fraudsters and predators and are also driven apart by misunderstanding, pride and a mutual sense of betrayal and resentment.
Alex Sinclair, a bold and warm-spirited Scot, has eschewed the wishes of his father to become a railway engineer. His companion, Charles Hammond is the dissolute heir to a vast fortune, withheld from him by an overbearing mother and grasping stepfather. Charles bides his time as a physician, a profession for which he lacks both aptitude and enthusiasm.
The futures of both men will become bound up with those of the two sisters.As time passes the sisters overcome their adversities: May becomes the most sought after dressmaker in Paris; Carrie, the proprietor of the most successful hotel in Harrogate. Alex pours himself into new railway projects. Meanwhile, having been almost destroyed through gambling, drunkenness and self-loathing, Charles starts on the long and difficult road to redemption and fulfilment.Carrie and May have now been estranged for several years. But in 1848, the Year of Revolutions the streets of Paris erupt in bloody insurrection while Alex Sinclair is commissioned to bring the railway to Harrogate.
CHASING ANGELS ( novella)
In 1794, Henriette d’Angeville was born into a French aristocratic family in crisis.Her grandfather was guillotined and her father imprisoned but later released causing the family to live on their memories in an impoverished château. In 836, she was the first woman to reach the summit of Mont Blanc – in a bonnet and petticoats!This novella is a fictional account of her life in which her love of the outdoors and her determination to excel in her climbing endeavours, which made her an object of derision and pity, is examined in a witty and sympathetic portrayal. We see her father, her mother and her younger brother. We see her at school and the circumstances in which she ‘rescued’ her companion, Jeannette, from destitution. We meet the Protestant ladies of Genevan society and the men of Chamonix who accompany her on her expedition.Starting close to her death, Henriette looks back on her life and her great achievement. Full of humour and love, Chasing Angelstell the story of a truly remarkable woman
THE LARK ASCENDING
Leeds 1919. The war is over but young Alice Fields, who hates her job in an old-fashioned shop, isn’t celebrating. However, her life is about to change when a rich customer leaves behind an expensive fur stole and Alice makes great efforts to return it. Dark secrets bring not only money but misery, too. During the contrasting worlds of the roaring twenties and the General Strike, love and deep friendships bloom like poppies on the devastated battlefields over which the lark rises again.
Social Media Links, blog, website etc.
My blog needs attention and more time! Sallyzigmond.blogspot.com
The Lark Ascending
Hope Against Hope
I was born in Leicester, moved to Lincoln then back to Market Harborough. Leics where In attended senior school. I studied at what is now Queen Mary |University, London where I met my husband. We moved to Yorkshire where my two sons were born. Now retired, we live in Middlesbrough with stunning views over the Cleveland Hills.