I am delighted to welcome Liz Trenow to the blog today, as part of the blog tour for The Forgotten Seamstress. Liz has answered a few questions for us here...
Please tell us a little about yourself
family has been weaving silk for three hundred years, and I was
brought up in the house next to the mill which is still weaving
today. Although I didn’t go into the silk business myself, this
upbringing has left me with a great love of all things to do with
came to fiction writing quite late in my career having spent fifteen
years as a news journalist on regional and national newspapers, and
on BBC radio and television news. I always wanted to write fiction
(some would say journalism is
fiction!) and had no idea how different it would be. I knew that I
would need someone to ‘hold my hand’ so enrolled on a part time
two year MA in Creative Writing at City University in London. For
this degree you have to write a full length novel as the
‘dissertation’, so I emerged with the draft of what would
eventually, after many rewritings, become my first novel, The
Last Telegram. The Forgotten Seamstress
is my second novel.
live in Essex with my artist husband, and we have two grown up
daughters. There’s more about me at www.liztrenow.com
and I’d love to hear from you on
Please tell us about The Forgotten Seamstress and your inspiration for the book
stories are told in parallel: In 1910 a young seamstress, Maria, is
noticed by Queen Mary, patron of the London Needlework Guild, and
employed in the royal household. In 2010 Caroline discovers that a
patchwork quilt inherited from her grandmother contains unique royal
silks. Through the fading memories of her mother, some family letters
and photographs, some old cassette tapes and the help of a local
journalist Caroline uncovers an extraordinary story involving a royal
affair, a life of incarceration and two women whose lives collided
with devastating consequences. Finally, she comes to understand what
her Granny wanted her to know – the truth about herself and how she
wants to live her own life.
inspired to write this book when I went to the Warner Textile Archive
in Braintree, Essex, doing research into my own family history, and
chanced upon a case of the ‘May Silks’: beautiful damasks and
brocades, some with interwoven gold and silver threads, hand for the
trousseau of Princess May for her wedding to the heir to the British
throne in 1893. The silks themselves were entrancing but it was the
story behind them which most intrigued me.
to set it in a mental asylum because, as a teenager, I was an
inpatient in a ward set aside for minor clinical operations at an
enormous Victorian mental hospital close to my home town. The sights
and sounds of the place left a deep impression on me. It was like a
country mansion set in its own grounds but surrounded by high fences
– outwardly grand and yet with such an oppressive and ominous
Can you tell us about your typical writing day?
write in the mornings when my mind is freshest – usually starting
around 8.30ish and continuing till my stomach rumbles for lunch. I
start by reviewing and editing the section I wrote yesterday, to get
me back into the ‘zone’ and then I usually try to write between
1,000 – 1,500 words each day. I always write in my study, a small
room at the front of the house where there are not too many
distractions. My imagination seems to close down after lunch so then
I do research, admin, replying to emails, blogging and, when I’ve
got to that stage, proof reading.
What are you working on now?
already written the first draft of my next book, The
Poppy Factory. It will be published in August
2014, marking the 100th
anniversary of the start of the First World War. As the title
suggests, the story revolves around the work of the real-life Poppy
Factory which still employs disabled veterans making Remembrance Day
poppies in Richmond, Surrey. Besides a poignant First World War
strand it also has a powerful contemporary storyline based on
interviews with two extraordinary young women who served as army
medics on the front line in Afghanistan.
book will go back in time to the 18th
century – set among the silk weavers of Spitalfields in London,
where my family’s silk weaving history began.
What do you like to do outside of writing?
spending time with family and friends, walking on the coast in
Suffolk, and singing – especially early music!
Look out for my review of The Forgotten Seamstress, which is coming soon.