My next guest on the blog to chat about her recent nomination in the 2022 Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards in the Shorter Romantic Novel category for her book, A Ration Book Christmas Broadcast, is Jean Fullerton.
Jean, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
Hi, Julie, it’s my pleasure and I’ll have a rum and coke please. Captain Morgan’s if the have it but Lambs if not. I’ve been drinking that since I was fifteen – yes, I know it was illegal even back in the 70s but nobody bothered about such details back then.
If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
To the theatre in London. Les Misérables is my all-time favorite musical although I am a massive Gilbert & Sullivan fan so I might drag you along to that. Drama-wise it would have to be something meaty, possibly Shakespeare, and I do like to see good actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen or Helen Mirren. One of the most memorable plays I’ve seen in recent years was the Lieutenant of Inishmore with Aiden Turner in the title role. Two hours of bliss for the obvious reason. I don’t suppose you’d mind if I got us two tickets in the stalls.
I would love that. I saw Patrick Stewart play Claudius to David Tennant’s Hamlet at the RSC several years ago, which may be my favourite ever theatre outing. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
Sandy Toksvig as she is brilliant and would be great company and Eleanor of Aquitaine as I’m sure she’d have some insights into how to succeed in a man’s world.
So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I’m just 40,000 words into the first book in my next WW2 East London series. I can’t tell you too much at the moment as we’re still sorting out titles and themes, but it features the Carmichael family who move into the area in May 1940. The Carmichaels are very different from the Brogans but face the same wartime challenges.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
My proudest moment is always, after a year of writing editing and worrying, holding a new book in my hands. The most challenging, especially in the Ration Book Series, is doing justice to the hardship and sacrifices of the wartime generation.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!
I think I share my ambition with many writers which is firstly to be a Sunday Times bestseller and secondly to have my Ration Book books made into a TV series.
What have you planned that you are really excited about?
One thing I’m really excited about this year is the publication of my autobiography, A Child of the East End which is about my experiences growing up in East London in the 50s,60s and early 70s. I’m totally thrilled to have been able to pull it together as writing non-fiction is a totally different ball game from writing fiction.
Sorrow and joy in London’s oldest suburb. . .
Welcome to the East End.
Life in Cockney London was tough in the post-war years. The government’s broken promises had led to a chronic housing shortage, rampant crime and families living in squalor. But one thing prevailed: the unbeatable spirit of the East End, a tight-knit community who pulled through the dark times with humour and heart.
Drawing on both family history and her own memories of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, as well as her working life as a district nurse and local police officer, Jean Fullerton vividly depicts this fascinating part of London – from tin baths, to jellied eels, to tigers in a Wapping warehouse.
A Child of the East End is an eye-opening, heartfelt and atmospheric portrait of life in the East End after the war, and is perfect for fans of My East End by Gilda O’Neill, Four Meals for Fourpence by Grace Foakes and Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
I love travel too and am lucky enough to be an enrichment speaker on cruise liners for the past twelve years so have been to fabulous places, like Greenland, Tahiti, India, the Labrador coast, Devil’s Island – think heat and Papillon – and through the Suez Canal but on my bucket list is Australia. However, of all those exotic places my favorite place on Earth is my hometown London, with all its historical and cultural treasure.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
Wow, I think that is the best secret I’ve heard on this feature! I was once accepted as a Bunny girl but declined to take up the offer as I only went to the interview as moral support for a friend.
Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
I can think of dozens of books that I could mention but the one I always recommend is Katherine by Anya Seton. It was the first historical romance I read at about the same time I discovered rum and coke and it started me on this wonderful journey of discovery firstly as a reader and then as a writer.
Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.
Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son, John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.
A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress, and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure and passion.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Well, I’m going to put my nurse’s hat on here and say that a hangover is the brain becoming dehydrated by alcohol. My sovereign remedy to rehydrate your grey matter is a couple of bottles of an isotonic sports drink taken over a couple of hours, which will not only restore your fluids balance but replace the electrolytes- trace elements in the body.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
I know it’s corny but a perfect day for me when I’m not writing is spending time with my Hero@Home, three daughters and grandchildren.
Not corny at all, it’s just as it should be. Thank you so much for chatting with me this evening, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. Good luck in the coming awards, I look forward to hearing the results on the night.
Jean’s shortlisted novel, A Ration Book Christmas Broadcast, is out now in ebook format and you can buy it here.
Tune in to love…
December, 1944: Grace Meredith, the BBC Outside Broadcasting unit’s assistant, is in trouble. She needs to find a family to interview for what could be the last ‘Just Ordinary Folk’ Christmas programme before the end of the war, pronto. So when she remembers her old friend Francesca Brogan has married into a large and unconventional East End family, her sense of relief is palpable.
Thrust into the warm and bustling world of the Brogans – from Ida and Jeremiah, still sweethearts after 30 years of marriage, to their seven children, some married, one still in nappies, and to Queenie, Jeremiah’s tealeaf-reading, black-market afficionado mother – Grace feels she’s finally going to make her mark at work.
Then things take an unexpected twist when she meets Francesca’s brother, Giovanni Fabrino of the Royal Engineers. With the Christmas Eve deadline rapidly approaching, now would not be the best time to fall in love. But Gio keeps appearing, and their mutual attraction keeps growing. Can Grace and Gio’s Christmas wishes come true – both of them?
Born and bred in East London Jean was a District Nurse by trade, serving for five years as NHS manager with responsibility for six community clinics and 200+ staff and finished her twenty-five-year nursing career as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies in a London University.
She joined the NWS 2003 and became a full member in 2006 after winning the Harry Bowling Prize. She had published seventeen sagas over three series, all set in East London and has books with both Orion and Atlantic.
An experiences public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, Jean has been an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships for the past fifteen years.
Connect with Jean:
Facebook: Jean Fullerton