Thursday, 8 May 2014

Sitting Round My Pool - The Amazing Madalyn Morgan

After our week in Leiden, Holland it is wonderful to feel the hot sunshine on our faces again and even more so because today, I have the wonderfully talented Madalyn Morgan sitting round my pool. Madalyn is famous as an actress, DJ, Radio presenter and top selling author. So please help yourself to a glass of bubbly, settle down on one of the recliners and enjoy chatting with my fabulous guest.

Thank you for inviting me to sit by your pool and chat about Applause, Pauline.  After working for such long hours to get it finished, I can’t think of anything I would rather do than relax with a friend.  
I began working on Applause, my second novel, six months before I published my first, Foxden Acres.  A literary agent kept me dangling for that amount of time before I decided enough was enough, and self-published.  I wanted to launch Applause on the first anniversary of Foxden Acres.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, because of the research I needed to do, but I was determined.  I pushed myself too hard and ended up stressed.  Now it’s out there, and being well received, I’ve convinced myself it was worth it.  However, I have learned my lesson.  Most of the action in the next book, China Blue, takes place in France with the SOE, French Resistance, and Gestapo.  You can imagine how much research I need to do.  I have already started, and I’m loving it, but I won’t be announcing a date for publication until I have the finished manuscript in my hand.   

Is this part of the Dudley Sister’s books?

Applause is the second book in a quartet, but it doesn’t follow the first, Foxden Acres, Bess Dudley's story.  Applause is the story of the second Dudley sister, Margaret (Margot).  Margaret moves to London to be with her husband who works for the MoD.  In the early years of World War 2, she works her way up from usherette to leading lady in a West End show.  She is driven by blind ambition and becomes immersed in the heady world of nightclubs, drink, drugs and fascist thugs – all set against a background of the London Blitz.  To achieve her dream, Margot risks losing everything she holds dear.  Although the novels are linked by family occasions, and the dates and facts of WWII, both stories stand on their own and can be read in any order. 

On the eve of 1939, twenty-year-old Bess Dudley, trainee teacher and daughter of a groom, bumps into James, heir to the Foxden Estate.  Bess and James played together as equals when they were children, but now James is engaged to the more socially acceptable Annabel Hadleigh.  Bess takes up a teaching post in London but when war breaks out and London schoolchildren are evacuated she returns to Foxden to organise a troop of Land Girls.  Traditional barriers come crashing down when Flying Officer James Foxden falls in love with Bess.  But by this time Bess has come to know and respect Annabel.  Can she be with James if it means breaking her best friend’s heart?  Besides, Bess has a shameful secret that she has vowed to keep from James at any cost… 

It is set in WW2 is this a time in history that excites you?

The time in history as far as women are concerned excites me tremendously.  The First World War to the Second World War – and the years in between – were some of the most important in history for women.  The role of women in society changed dramatically during WWI.  When tens of thousands of men went overseas to fight, women stepped into their jobs.  It was after WW1 that men’s attitudes towards women began to change.  However, it was not until women were given the vote (The right of women to vote and work) that the law recognised women as equals.  The 1918 Qualification of Women Act, granted partial suffrage to women, but the 1928 Equal Franchise Act extended women’s rights to vote, putting them on equal terms with men.  After WW2, the school-leaving age was raised to 15 and free education was provided.  The barriers to social mobility lessened giving access to education for all.  During this period, increasing numbers of students enrolled in higher education – and the number of women students grew.

Sorry to get on my soapbox, but at last women had a right to education.  In addition, they were being educated in previously prohibited professions, like medicine and the law.  The class system and ‘old money’ still played a part, but women were finally moving in the right direction. 

Do you call on your own acting years to help bring together the scenes in Applause?

Yes, and it helps to make my characters believable.  I put myself in their place, walk in their shoes as much as I can.  I’m a method actress.  When I was working, I believed whole-heartedly in the characters I played, often becoming them.  I believe in the characters I write about in the same way.  If I don’t believe in them, how can I expect the reader to?
I also used the theatres that I have worked in in the West End to set Applause.  Descriptions of the backstage area, dressing rooms, stage, auditorium and rabbit warren, are a combination of The Vaudeville on the Strand and The Theatre Royal, Haymarket.  Having worked and lived in London for so long, I’m familiar with the areas I write about in Applause.  It helps to create atmosphere.  And it gives the reader a sense of reality, of being there, and of the time it takes to get from place to place. 

 A view of Shaftesbury Avenue in 1939.
Applause and Foxden Acres - billboards by Gary Walker

Is Applause in Kindle only?

No, it is in paperback as well.  Formatting to Kindle is quicker because you can proof read on your PC, or on Kindle.  To proof read a paperback takes longer.  The print on demand companies have to print the book, and then post it, but it is worth it.  I think Kindle is a brilliant invention.  To access books while travelling, or on holiday, is fantastic.  However, I love the feel of a real book in my hand.  And I love my packed bookcases; they are very important pieces of furniture. 

Will there be another book that follows the Dudley Sisters?

Yes.  I am pleased you asked me about other books.  There are two in the genre.  One will be a novella about George Derby Bloom and Natalie Goldman – how they met and how they help Jewish students to escape Nazi Germany.  George Derby Bloom (a dancer in Applause) is at finishing school in Switzerland when she meets Natalie Goldman, the Jewish wife of the owner of the Prince Albert Theatre.  The story begins in a cafĂ© on the Swiss-German border when Natalie Goldman is getting her German Nanny out of Nazi Germany.  It will be a short tense thriller with a happy ending.
The second book that invades my dreams and excites me most will be called, The Foxden Hotel.  Like Foxden Acres, it begins with a New Year’s Eve party.  Instead of New Year 1938, it is New Year 1948.  Most of the estate, which was turned into arable land at the beginning of WW2, has been sold off to local farmers.  What is left, the beautiful lake and parkland has been restored.  The Foxden Hotel brings the Dudley sisters and the characters in the quartet of books together for the hotel’s grand opening.  During the celebrations ex-BUF fascists gate crash.  Bess recognises the thug who raped her in 1939.  Could he also be the Nazi who stalked and threatened Margot a couple of years later?  Enough said.  The Foxden Hotel is a crime thriller.

The third book in the Dudley Sisters quartet, China Blue, is Claire Dudley’s story – and it is a love story.  The fourth is, The Bletchley Secret, and is the youngest sister, Ena Dudley's story.  I also have two contemporary novels outlined.  One is about a young guy who seduces, and then tries to get the better of an older woman who is an actress.  He breaks her heart and almost gets away with her money, but she is stronger and much cleverer than he is, and turns the tables on the hapless devil. 
The other is more of a Memoir about my time in America when I lived on a Native American Reservation in Minnesota with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and my uncle who was full-blooded Dakota Sioux.  His mother, the Elder of the Dakota Sioux, and the great granddaughter of the last Great Sioux Chief, adopted me into the tribe.  I was eleven and the Native American children taught me to swim, after I had almost drowned in the Minnesota River.  I slept in a tree house, tracked wild animals in the woods, came dangerously close to a skunk, and swapped my pretty dresses with matching shoes and hats for sneakers, pumps and bobby socks.  What fun!

Some years later, Grandma told me about her grandmother who was on the trail of tears.  She told me about the last Sioux uprising and other fascinating stuff, which one day I shall write about. 

I have been an actress for more than thirty years working in repertory theatre, the West End, film and television.  I’m a radio presenter and journalist.  And I write articles for magazines.
I was brought up in a busy working class pub in the market town of Lutterworth in Leicestershire.  The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live.  There were so many wonderful characters to study and accents to learn.  At twenty-four, I gave up a successful hairdressing salon and wig-hire business for a place at E15 Drama College, and a career as an actress.
In 2000, with fewer parts available for older actresses, I taught myself to touch type, completed a course with The Writer’s Bureau, and began writing.  After living in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth, swapping two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write.

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Now you see what an amazing lady Madalyn is, thanks for sitting round my pool and I hope you will read Madalyn's best selling books.


Rosemary Ann Smith said...

Fascinating interview Madalyn.
Loved the facts about the two world wars, and how times changed for women. Also delighted to know that you love bookcases! Good luck with the new novel. Rosy

Madalyn Morgan said...

Thank you Rosemary Ann. The more I research the war, the more I learn about the strength, bravery, resistance and persistence of women.

Makes me proud to be one. x