The Girl From the Corner Shop by Arlene Hughes
WW2 Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.
Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.
But there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and happiness and find the courage to change her life?
Interview with Alrene Hughes
Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time.
Where did the inspiration come from for your new release?
I wanted to write about something beyond the usual home-front stories of women in WW2. So, I created the character of a young and vulnerable widow who, through a series of events, finds herself in the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps. Through her naïve eyes, the readers see the hardships of vulnerable women and children, and how her courage to support them leads her into danger.
How does it feel to know your characters are out and about in readers’ imaginations?
As a writer I still marvel that readers are spending time in the company of characters I’ve created, both good and bad. I hope they find Helen an interesting character as she goes from the corner shop to the underbelly of war-torn Manchester.
Do you miss writing about them?
Strangely, I don’t. I’ve done my very best to tell their story and then it’s time to let them go. It’s like they don’t belong to me anymore and soon after that I’m creating a whole new cast of characters for my next book.
What was your publishing journey highlight?
My first novel ‘Martha’s Girls’ was very personal because it was loosely based on my grandmother, mother and aunts during WW2. In particular, I wanted to tell the story of their war. The girls were singers in the style of the Andrews Sisters and they became popular in Belfast entertaining British and American service men and the local population to raise morale.
It became a labour of love and every time I sat down to write it was as though they were there with me. They’re all gone now, but sometimes when the words or ideas wouldn’t come, I found myself asking them, ‘What happens next?’ I had to finish it for them no matter what. Then of course, if you can write one novel you can write another. Their story went on to be a trilogy showing the entire war through the eyes of my family.
What was the last book made you laugh out loud?
No idea. Maybe I’m reading the wrong books! But the strange thing is that in my first book there was a scene involving a Christmas turkey which made me laugh when I wrote it and so many readers have commented on it since.
What was the last book that made you cry?
I don’t normally cry when I read a book, but over the years anything by Anita Shreve made me shed tears.
If you were on an island for a year what two books would you bring?
I would bring ‘Jane Eyre’ and a wonderful poetry book ‘Staying Alive’, five hundred pages with poems for every emotion.
Lastly what is your favourite book quote?
Writing historical fiction, it’s very important to be aware that the language, morals, attitudes, manners of the period are often so different from today. It makes me think of the opening of L P Hartley’s ‘The Go Between’: “The past is another country: they do things differently there.”
Thank you so much for stopping by today Alrene, come back soon.
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