Michelle Vernal - Gripping Historical Timeslip Romance
Michelle Vernal writes stories that will take you onto the page with her characters and make you feel part of their lives. She writes with humour and warmth, and her readers describe her books as unputdownable, feel good and funny. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with her husband, two teenage sons and attention-seeking tabby cats, Humphrey and Savannah. Michelle has written for various parenting magazines, a lifestyle magazine and penned numerous novels. In 2015 The Traveller's Daughter was shortlisted for the Love Stories Award and, in 2020, The Letter won the Reader's Favorite Gold Medal Award for Chick lit. The Autumn Posy is a finalist in the 2021 Page Turner Book awards. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about this book.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Autumn Posy is about.
The Autumn Posy is Sabrina's story. Her mother abandoned her on the streets of Liverpool as a three-year-old in 1963. She's taken in by a woman she calls Aunt Evie, the proprietor of a bridal shop on Bold Street. The story opens in 1981 with Sabrina, now a young woman deciding to find out what happened to her mother. But when she searches a mysterious pocket of Bold Street where Aunt Evie found her, she's shocked to be flung back to 1928.
Why a time travel story? What inspired you to write this book?
I initially didn't intend to write a time travel story. I wanted to write a series set in Liverpool, where my parents come from, revolving around a bridal shop. It was Mum that suggested Bold Street. She remembered it as being a posh shopping street in central Liverpool. When I began researching it, I came across a well-documented time-slip phenomenon. Many reports of people going about their business on the city's famous shopping street becoming suddenly aware that their surroundings have changed. The cars will be of a different era, or the shop they were in is now a shop that hasn't been on that site for many years. Unlike Sabrina's adventure, the strange phenomenon only lasts a minute or two before they find themselves back in their own time. I had to include time travel after finding this out.
Why did you send Sabrina back to 1928? What drew you to this time period?
A conversation inspired Sabrina's journey back to 1928 with my mum about my nana, who at fourteen was in service in the nineteen twenties, much like Jane in The Autumn Posy. Although all similarities end there, I couldn't stop thinking about what it would be like to leave your family and begin working in a strange, big house as a live-in maid at a young age.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this story?
Fashion! I loved describing the drop waist dresses of the twenties and the Calvin Klein jeans of the eighties.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I make a delicious cheese scone.
This is Book 1 of a series. How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
The series is a quartet that is now complete and follows the seasons. The Autumn Posy, Book 1, The Winter Posy, Book 2, The Spring Posy, Book 3, and The Summer Posy Book 4. The first three stories follow Sabrina's quest to find her mother by traveling into the past and her and Adam's love story. However, the final installment reveals her Aunt Evie's backstory and gives, I hope, a satisfactory conclusion to all the characters' stories.
Readers found the characters very relatable. How did you pull this off?
I write with a lot of dialogue, and I think this is what gives my characters relatability. This series was close to my heart too. There's a little of Sabrina in me. I also drew on my mum's stories about growing up in Bootle, Liverpool. She was a wonderful verbal storyteller, and I loved listening to her. Last year, she passed away, and I found it comforting to bring the people she'd talked about to life in varying character quirks and traits. Mum's maiden name was Flooks which I gave to Aunt Evie.
The plot takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster - from love and laughter to tears and mystery. Why did you write it this way?
I wanted the Liverpool Brides series to be different from my other books. I wanted it to have a saga feel where each chapter made the reader want to turn the page in a hurry to find out what happens next.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
I never have a complete outline for a story when I begin to write, so my characters lead me on their journey.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
I use a fantastic cover designer named Patrick Knowles, based in the UK. Before he begins working on a cover, we have a Zoom meeting where he'll ask me for a snapshot of the storyline, the era and tone. He'll then develop an initial concept for the whole series and a sketch for the particular book he is working on. I've fallen in love with every cover he's worked on for me. The background of the Liverpool Brides books is Bold Street.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I work on new ideas when I walk, so I'll have a vague idea for a story I want to write which is usually followed by lots of procrastinating while trying to find a starting point. If it has a historic element like the Liverpool brides, I will look at many images from the era I plan to write about and read other books set around that time.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I curl up on the sofa with my laptop and a cat or two aiming for two thousand words a day. I tend to revisit the chapter I was working on the previous day and rework it before what I call free writing the next chapter. This process involves letting my mind run loose, and my fingers go on the keyboard. It also consists of editing and tweaking afterwards, but it moves the story forward each day. By the time the book is finished, I have a clean first draft.
What are you working on right now?
I'm working on a project for Bookouture publishers set in a fictional Irish village called Emerald Bay about the lives and loves of the Kelly family, who run a pub there. I'm having so much fun getting to know all the characters. This book, will be out in October 2022.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I am very active on Facebook and love engaging with my readers there. All my books are on Amazon. They're available in paperback or Kindle. Alternatively, they can be ordered in by your local bookstore. I also have a website: https://www.michellevernalbooks.com/ https://www.facebook.com/michellevernalnovelist