I’m delighted to welcome author Jules Hayes over to the blog today. Jules is interviewing Florence from her debut historical novel, The Walls We Build. Let’s take a look at the cover.
One Hidden Life
Growing up around Winston Churchill’s estate in Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable, but as WW2 casts its menacing shadow their friendships become more complex and strained.
Following Frank’s death in 2002, Florence writes to his grandson, Richard, hinting at a dark past. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light that have not only haunted his grandfather’s life but will now impact on his too. When a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill is revealed and a mystery relative in a psychiatric hospital discovered, just how much more does Florence dare disclose, and is Richard ready to hear?
Reverberating through three generations and set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption.
Now let’s move onto Jules interview with Florence
When did you fall in love with Frank?
I fell in love with Frank a while before when Hilda and I met him in the woods properly – the day we found him sitting underneath the tree crying because his dad had hit him. But that was the day Frank fell in love with Hilda. We were about seven, I think, then. I’d fallen for him months before when I’d spotted him and his little sister, Jem, playing by the old track, near where they lived.
Although you and Hilda were friends, were you envious of Hilda when you were growing up?
I suppose I was, but not because of Frank; I always just accepted that Frank and Hilda were ‘together.’ But I did envy Hilda her cleverness. She and Frank were both so good at arithmetic, but at English too, both of them always had a book on the go, and from being really young. They were much cleverer than me – that’s what I always thought. Hilda was very beautiful too. Striking.
How did you feel when Hilda became pregnant so young with Anna, and did you think that Frank was her father?
I wasn’t shocked, not then. It happened and I accepted it, but at first I did believe that Frank was Anna’s dad. All the village thought the same thing. I think I was shocked more when I realised Frank wasn’t Anna’s dad.
Why didn’t you ask Hilda who Anna’s father was, and why did you wait until Frank and Hilda moved up to Nottinghamshire to do so?
When it was obvious that Hilda was pregnant, she refused to talk about it, she closed up, with me anyway. Frank knew though, knew what had happened to Hilda. They were so close… I thought Hilda would jump at the chance of his offer of marriage then – I mean, everyone assumed anyway that she and Frank would end up together. But she didn’t, not for four years, and only then… when she thought that Frank and I had feeling for each other. Yes, that’s when she agreed to marry Frank.
Did you enjoy working at Chartwell for Winston and Clementine Churchill?
I did, although they could both be difficult, in their own way. Sir Winston, as he’s now known, because he could be so cantankerous and… well, too direct. He never worried about upsetting people, either important people in Parliament, or his own valet, or his own family. But… deep down, he’s a kind man, a man who thought a lot before making a decision, and he never, I don’t think, made a decision for selfish ends, not the big decisions anyway.
Clementine Churchill, on the surface, was quite a ‘cold’ woman, but I think that was the persona she liked to portray to the outside world. She loves her husband, that’s for certain. He comes first, before her children, and before herself. There’s no way Sir Winston could have done what he did during WW2 without her by his side. We owe Clementine Churchill for that, that’s my opinion.
But, I like Sir Winston, and always did, but I didn’t put him on the same pedestal as Frank did. I saw his flaws, Frank didn’t. Not until after the war, anyway.
Tell us about Edward, and your first meeting.
Ah, my first meeting with Edward. I’d been so anxious about the posh bash at the Savoy Hotel in London that autumn of 1942, which is where I met him. You know, I still have the dress I wore that night, tucked away in a suitcase, together with all my photos and letters.
But Edward. What can I say? I met him soon after meeting up with Frank in London… and just before Frank went off to North Africa, to fight in the desert campaign.
Edward was American, a doctor, and knew Mary Churchill quite well. I couldn’t believe it when he took a shine to me, but he did, and immediately, he told me afterwards. Ours was a whirlwind war romance, but it was true love. It really was. Edward was everything that Frank was not; uncomplicated, happy within himself, and didn’t keep everything within himself.
Can you love two men, Florence?
I truly believe you can. I did. I loved Frank and Edward. I was lucky that I found Edward. It was Frank who was unlucky in many ways, because he could never leave Hilda, and didn’t want to really, I knew that. Because of their boys. Frank adored his sons, and later his grandson, Richard. Everything worked out for the best in the end. Life doesn’t always turn out like you think it will. Both Edward and Frank knew that. They both only ever wanted the best for me, and for Anna.
Do you have regrets?
I have a few: I wish that Edward and I could have done more for Anna sooner. But my greatest regret is that I have out-lived two of my children – that is my greatest regret, and sadness.
What readers are saying about The Walls We Build…
“This epic story is beautifully written and I look forward to reading more from Jules Hayes.” Amazon Reviewer.
“A tour de force.” Author, Sally Spedding.
“If you like shows such as Home Fires, or Foyle’s War, you will love this book.” US Amazon reader, Ellen Green Andrews.
‘Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page-turner. I loved it.’ #1 bestselling author, Nicola May.
‘A compelling story of friendship and the secrets we keep for generations. The poignant and moving narrative had me enthralled.’ Critically acclaimed author, Sarah Ward.
‘The finest of story telling, a real page-turner, an enthralling read – I unreservedly loved it.’
Anne Williams, Being Anne Book Blog and RNA Media Star 2019.
‘Jules Hayes has written an exceptional cross-genre novel that will appeal to all readers. Simply outstanding.’ The Book Magnet.
It sounds an intriguing read, doesn’t it? You can purchase the book here:
Jules lives in Berkshire, UK with her husband, daughter and dog. Before writing novels, Jules was a physiotherapist. The Walls We Build is her debut historical novel, which she began working on whilst attending the Novel Writing course at the Faber Academy in London in 2017
Jules has a degree in modern history and is fascinated with events from the first half of the 20th century, which is the time period her historical fiction is set.
She is currently working on her 2nd novel, set in civil war and 1970s Spain, and England.
Her work has been longlisted in the Mslexia Novel Competition, and shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport Short Story Competition.
Contact Jules via her website, and sign-up to her newsletter for exclusive short stories and news!
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Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Jules!
Sassy, heartwarming romances set in glorious locations: Amazon Author Page