Meet the Author Monday: Francesca Burgess

Francesca Burgess

It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Francesca Burgess, author of All Change at the Beach Hotel.

About Francesca Burgess:

Francesca has enjoyed making up stories since she was a child, largely influenced by a Welsh mother who was good at improvised story telling.Writing both under her maiden name, Francesca Capaldi, and her married name, FrancescaBurgess, she is the author of short stories published in the UK and abroad, and several pocket novels. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of WomenWriters and Journalists.The first novel in the Wartime in the Valleys series, Heartbreak in the Valleys, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ AssociationHistorical Award 2021. Both the Valleys series and her newBeach Hotel series are published by Hera Books.Francesca was born and brought up on the Sussex coast, but currently lives in Kent with her family and a cat called Lando Calrission.

About All Change at the Beach Hotel:

Can she choose between her duty and her heart?

While World War One changes the country beyond measure, with food becoming scarce and Britain’s young men being called up to foreign battlefields, it is harder than ever to keep the grand Beach Hotel in Littlehampton running smoothly.

Waitress Lili Probert, a young woman who escaped her demanding family in Wales in search of a new life in Sussex, has seen her hard work rewarded at the Beach Hotel, but hides heartbreak behind her sunny personality. Her sweetheart, Norman, is missing in action and has been presumed dead, but she cannot give up hope that he may be found.

But when she meets injured soldier Rhodri, a fellow Welshman now living near Littlehampton, she fights hard to ignore her growing attraction for him, torn between her feelings for him and her loyalty to the man she thought she’d spend her life with.

But her emotions run ever higher when she suddenly receives a call from home; her mother is gravely ill and Lili is needed for her care. Returning to Wales, Lili must make a difficult choice. Follow her dreams and make her own life, or return to the place she tried so hard to escape?

Torn between her duty and her heart, Lili faces her own battle far from the conflicts in Europe…

An emotional, gripping and heart-tugging romantic World War One saga that fans of Annemarie Brear, Pam Weaver and Rosie James will adore.

Author Interview with Francesca Burgess:

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  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

My research involves both books and firsthand records. How long I spend on it before beginning depends on which book in the seriesI’m on. If it’s the first book of say, the Beach Hotel series, or the Valleys series, then there will be a longer process of research than if I’m on a later book in the series, as I’ll have already discovered some of the basics.

For the Beach Hotel series, I started off with the advantage of having been brought up in Littlehampton, in Sussex, where it’s set, and knew many of the places first hand. There were many buildings in the town in World War 1that were still there in my childhood, in the 1960s and70s.A lot of them have now sadly disappeared. Many of the buildings which have gone are featured in the numerous photos that exist of old Littlehampton, in several books and online.

There are also a few books written about Littlehampton and West Sussex in that period. The1911 census, along with Kelly’s Directory for 1915, are wonderful resources for finding out about shops, institutes, clubs, important buildings, important people and so forth.And the Library of Scotland has a wonderful OS map resource online, which has maps from that time.

The hotel itself, really existed, but I never stepped into it. It was pulled down around 1990.Although there were many photos of the outside, I found only a couple of inside, taken in the bar and from a much later period.The only records I’ve found are from a conversation with the owner in the 1950s, a couple of adverts from the same time and the 1911 census. The census gave me an idea of live-in staff. Other than that, I’ve had to look at other hotels of the time, and use my imagination!

  1. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

With the Beach Hotel series, the world was basically built as far as the town of Littlehampton was concerned. But there were places within it that I had to build, mainly the hotel itself.

I looked in great detail at the photos of the outside of the hotel, and tried to work out what the space inside would have looked like. I did this for all four floors. I then drew a plan of each floor, particularly the ground floor, with its guest areas and staff areas. I found photos of rooms, like the ballroom, that I thought might look like those in the hotel, and made a file of them.

Three books on (as I’m now editing the third in the series), I’m still using these plans and photos, though I am very good at picturing the rooms in my head, which is where much of my world building happens. I’ve looked at the old photos of Littlehampton so often now, that I can even picture myself walking around it a hundred years ago!

  1. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

For me it’s getting it right. Although I mention quite a few real people around at the time, LloydGeorge, Kitchener, and Churchill in politics and Lilian Gish on screen, for example, they never appear as characters on the page. But what my characters say about them, or read from the newspapers, is a matter of record. One of the characters in All Change at the Beach Hotel, mentions the Duchess of Norfolk, who lives nearby in Arundel Castle, and the fact that she was involved with a home for disabled soldiers and sailors on South Terrace. This was true.

I did originally feature a real person, called Harry Joseph, as a character. He ran several entertainments in Littlehampton at that time. But I wasn’t happy with having him involved in things he wasn’t, so I made him into a fictional character called Nathaniel Janus.

I guess that if you’re writing a novel about real people, it’s a different matter, as you can’t know everything they did or said (unless they’ve written an autobiography, I suppose!), and you have to use some supposition to make it into a story. Personally, I’m not fond of novels or biopics that stray too far from the truth, but I guess they have to make it entertaining.

  1. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

The idea for my first published full-length book, Heartbreak in the Valleys, came from a real person–my maternal great grandfather.

Until about seven years ago, I was only aware of his name, that he was my mother’s father’s father and that he’d been a miner who’d lived originally in Merionethshire and had moved to the Rhymney Valley. It wasn’t until a ‘hint’ popped up on my page on the Ancestry website, that I discovered that he’d had a World War 1 army record. He’d enlisted in the Rhondda Palsbattalion in March 1915, before mining became a reserved occupation. He was given a medical discharge eight months later, due to tachycardia, with a rubber stamp at the bottom of the record declaring him to be ‘Unlikely to become an efficient soldier’.

It was a damning conclusion that got me thinking about him as a character. How would he have felt? What would happen to him next? He became Idris Hughes in Heartbreak in the Valleys. Never having known him, I have no idea how alike, or unalike, the real man and the character were. But he was the means by which I had my first War in the Valleys book published, so I am eternally grateful to him.

  1. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I do tend to read them, yes. The good ones are reassuring. It’s nice to know when people have enjoyed your books. Some of the most encouraging reviews are those where reviewers say that they’ve related to your book in some way. For instance, I’ve had some readers say that they recognise the mining community in the War in the Valleys series, even though they’ve grown up in the area several decades later. It’s good to hear that I’ve got the feel of the place right, even though I’ve never lived there.

Bad reviews can be helpful too and might even help you improve something. And even if you think that the comments are unfair, we have to accept that different people have different tastes.I know a writer who, in their early career, took umbrage at bad book reviews and sometimes replied negatively, posing as another reader. My advice? Don’t! Move on and don’t worry about it.

  1. What is your favorite childhood book?

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Dear Pooh, such a lovable character. I used to (and still do),love the gentle humour of it. I think there’s something for both children and adults. And Pooh’s words, though seeming quite simple at times, often have deep philosophies behind them. I can still recite The Anxious Pooh Song from beginning to end!

  1. What book is currently on your bedside table?

It’s not a novel at all, but comedian James Acaster’s book ‘Classic Scrapes’. I can see, from reading it, how he ended up as a comedian. I think he’s hilarious.

  1. Have you ever been on any sports teams? If so, what sport?

I am generally quite useless at sports. However, at secondary school, I was on the class hockey team as a left back, on defence.

My favourite ‘sport’, if you can call it that, was roller skating. I’d do it all day long as a child, if allowed, but sadly there were no teams for that! I still enjoy ice skating at Christmas.

  1. If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Lucy Worsley, Alice Roberts and Michael Wood. We could talk about history all evening.

To learn more about Francesca Burgess, here’s where you can find her:

Author website & blog:
Facebook: Francesca Capaldi Author
Twitter: @FcapaldiBurgess
Instagram: francesca.capaldi.burgess

Meet the Author Book Promotion

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

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