Yapton author Roberta Grieve is in print with Madeleine’s Enterprise (BWL Publishing Inc), the tale of a heroine who came to her fully-fledged.
As Roberta says, sometimes she will decide what she wants to write about and then works out the plot and the characters. But with this latest book, it was definitely Madeleine who came first – the story of Roberta’s kind of girl.
“It is set in 1901-02, and it started off with a scene that popped into my head of somebody banging on the door demanding money and threatening Madeleine with the bailiffs. It just all went on from there, the idea of Madeleine setting up a business because her father left them destitute. She decides to set up a laundry. What sparked that idea was my dear sister who died in February, who used to work in a laundry on the Isle of Sheppey where the book is set. We were talking about Jean working there. My mum always used to say, whenever anyone said she was working in the laundry, ‘She works in the office! She works in the office!’ She wanted us to have good jobs - and Jean did work in the office. But that was what gave me the idea for Madeleine setting up the laundry.
“In fact a lot of laundries sprang up in the Folkestone area around about that time because there were a lot of soldiers stationed there and they used to send out their laundry. A lot of the laundries in the Folkestone area started around about that time.
“This is my 11th full-length novel, but it is the first one that I have set in my home town. I left there in 1965 when we moved up to Suffolk. We moved to the Chichester area in 1969.
“But I remember growing up in the Isle of Sheppey that it was a naval dockyard and army garrison. The town was always full of soldiers and sailors. There was always something going on. And I remember all the men who used to work at the dockyard on their bikes. When the 12 o’clock hooter used to go, there used to be hundreds of them on their bikes coming out of the dockyard going home for their dinner. If we were out playing my mum always used to say that when we heard the 12 o’clock hooter, we had to come home to dinner. Dinner. It was never lunch. Just recently I have started to get very nostalgic about the place! But I would never move. I love it where I am now.”
As for Madeleine: “She is a strong woman. She is setting up her own business and she is desperately trying to make ends meet and trying to keep the direness of their situation away from her mother. The mother is quite poorly. She can’t get her head around the fact that they have not got any money and that they have not got lots of servants any more.”
In her desperation, Madeleine resolves to pawn the precious locket left to her by her beloved grandmother. Her father has died suddenly leaving enormous debts and his former business partner, Ralph Newman, is demanding payment.
If she marries him the debt will be wiped out – a perfect solution, thinks her ailing mother. But Madeleine will not marry for money. Besides, she has fallen in love with naval lieutenant Stephen Harker, a friend of her late brother.
However, Stephen will be off to sea again soon and Madeleine determines to put him out of her mind and concentrate on solving her family’s financial problems.
“She is my kind of girl. She doesn’t sit down and cry when things go wrong. She just thinks ‘What can I do about this?’ She is a strong personality.”
Available from Amazon.