To celebrate the release of her new book The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane, we asked author Liz Trenow what she thought readers might like to know about her. Here's what she had to reveal...
1. I became a writer because I wanted to drive a sports car: The Lotus factory was just down the road from my university. I joined the university newspaper team so that I could ask for an interview – and they said yes! I got my drive, and my articles helped me to get my first job on a local newspaper, and a long career in news journalism including working at the BBC.
2. Writing journalism is a very different craft to writing fiction: It wasn’t until I was reaching the end of my journalism career (and my daughters had grown up) that I found time to try my hand at fiction. It was much harder than I imagined. Even after six novels I find myself falling into old habits. My most usual instruction to myself is ‘slow down’ – by which I mean ‘allow the story to unfold by itself, don’t force it’.
3. I was born into a silk-weaving family: My family has been weaving silk since 1720 and is one of only three companies in Britain still weaving today. They produce high end men’s and women’s wear for top designers all over the world and have regular royal commissions. It was only when I grew older and began to write the company’s history did I realise what a rich fund of stories it held.
4. The Dressmaker of Draper's Lane, like The Silk Weaver, were inspired when I discovered the first-known address of the company in Spitalfields, East London: After walking up and down the street for a while I plucked up the courage to knock on the door. Remarkably, the woman who lived there invited me into her beautiful Grade 1 listed 18th century home. It was a magical moment – walking in the footsteps of my forbears.
5. My first novel was rejected by 12 publishers: The Last Telegram was inspired by family stories told by my father and was very personal to me. Each time it was turned down I felt as though a little part of me was being torn away. One wonderful, amazing day, it was accepted. I felt like dancing in the street. My usual advice to aspiring authors is ‘never give up’. Rejection really hurts but almost no-one gets there first time round.
6. I don't believe in writer's block: I write every day for four or five hours regardless of how I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s like wading through treacle, other times it just seems to flow.
7. I am never happier than when surrounded by old books and manuscripts: I spend hours in The British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum library and other museums, as well as reading numerous books and websites about 18th century silk design, fashion and seamstresses.
8. Facts stifle creativity: The best piece of advice about writing historical novels anyone has ever given me is ‘Do all your research, take notes, and then close your notebook before you start to write.’
9. I'm not especially religious but I spend a lot of time in churches: I love singing, particularly Baroque and Renaissance music, which was usually written for churches. I sing with two choirs and our concerts are usually in churches or cathedrals. They are beautiful places and music is so good for the soul.
10. My first proper job was teaching skiing in Canada: I fell in love with a skiing instructor and, dear reader, I married him.
Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent 15 years working for regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane is her sixth novel. Her work – frequently inspired by her own silk weaving heritage – has been published all over the world and translated into many languages. The Forgotten Seamstress reached the top twenty in the New York Times best seller list and her debut, The Last Telegram was nominated for a national award. She was born and brought up in Suffolk but now lives in Colchester with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters and three grandchildren. Find out more at www.liztrenow.com and join her on Twitter @LizTrenow.
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