Blog Tour | The Wit and Wisdom of Hilda Ffinch by Juliet Warrington
September 29, 2020
The Wit and Wisdom of Hilda Ffinch by Juliet Warrington
Today I am on the Blog Tour for The Wit and Wisdom of Hilda Ffinch and I am here with an interview with the author.
Before I share that though, here’s some information on the book.
Title: The Wit and Wisdom of Hilda Ffinch Author: Juliet Warrington Publisher: Clink Street Publishing Published: 22nd September 2020 Format: Paperback Source: N/A Summary:
England, 1940. With Adolf Hitler and his henchmen goose-stepping about the place and ranting for the Fatherland on the far side of the English Channel, the villagers of Little Hope in deepest, darkest Yorkshire, are doing their very best to Keep Calm and Carry On. It isn’t always easy though, even with the best of intentions. There are evacuees to deal with as well as nightly air raid warnings and suspected fifth columnists. Worse still, there’s a dire shortage of spotted dick and knicker elastic.
But help is at hand! Enter Mrs Hilda Ffinch, horrendously rich and terribly bored lady of the manor who takes it upon herself to step into the role of Agony Aunt at the local newspaper.
Unshockable, unshakable and completely devoid of any hint of tact whatsoever, Hilda soon has the villagers flocking to her banner as she dishes out her own unique brand of gin-fuelled advice.
What could possibly go wrong?
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What is your favourite thing about writing books? I think probably the knowledge that although I have an idea in my head about the content of the book and the direction I’d like it to take when I start writing, I’m aware that ultimately it’s the decisions which my characters make during the course of the narrative which will determine the ending. When you create a character and give it free will (rather than imprint your own character and personality upon it) it does develop the ability to self-determine and skew your original plot, and that in itself makes writing interesting. I think also that being able to visualise your characters, to actually see them in your minds eye, and sometimes to push away the keyboard and just sit and watch them for a while is fascinating.
For example, I know that even in the foulest of moods I would never drop a full bottle of gin into the village well (sacrilege!), but put it into the hands of one of my characters, mentally ‘wind them up a bit’ and see who goes for it. The vicar? The pub landlord? The book’s hero? When they do as they please, then you know you’ve created a plausible character!
Who is your favourite character in your book and why? I’m not sure that I have an absolute favourite character, possibly on account of each of the letters which Hilda Ffinch replies to having been written by a different villager, but there are certain people who I’d definitely like to hug!
Hugging Hilda would be out of the question, I love her dearly but I suspect that if I were to approach her with my arms outstretched she’d either have at me with a handy poker or would instruct me to “Wait there whilst I pop into the Colonel’s study and telephone Doctor Procter!” on the grounds that I was clearly disturbed. I’d be better off raising a cocktail glass and nodding politely to her across a crowded room. Safer, certainly.
I would like to hug the Reverend Aubrey Fishwick, although he’d probably be highly embarrassed and would let the verger know to close the doors of St Candida’s before I arrived for Sunday service in future. Similarly I’d quite like to embrace Constable Clink. Hilda Ffinch’s cook is another favourite, she’s little and round and cuddly and probably wouldn’t brain me with her rolling pin or slip a Mickey Finn into my tea to stop me doing it again.
What is your favourite drink to consume while writing? Tea! Definitely tea. Not just any tea, but Yorkshire Tea’s ‘Malty Biscuit Brew’. It really does taste like Malted Milk biscuits (or “Bisquits” as Hilda Ffinch would say!). I have coeliac disease and so real Malted Milk biscuits are a thing of the past, but blimey, a nice cup of that char really does hit the spot.
Occasionally, if I’m working on my laptop of an evening, I’ll have a small(ish) gin and tonic to hand. Usually a glass of Bombay Dry, Tanqueray or Hendricks. Evening writing sessions do tend to be a little shorter than daytime ones, and they also need a bit more editing the following day – can’t think why…
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing? Like many writers I procrastinate, I’m known for it and could probably teach a masterclass in it – assuming I ever got round to it. When I am writing then very little disturbs or distracts me but I probably spend more time than I ought to beforehand pondering what sort of lavender to plant in the garden this year or whether or not I ought to start decorating the bathroom. It’s pretty much a given that I won’t get round to doing either of those things this side of Christmas and so several cups of tea later my writing always wins the day.
Oh, I have learned to leave my mobile and iPad in another room and out of earshot when I am writing though, what is it with those things which suddenly makes you so keen to spend an hour and a half looking at recipes for chilli con carne or reasonably-priced trips to Peru?
How did you research your book? My book is set on the British home front during World War Two and so I’ve been fortunate in that there’s a wealth of research materials out there. The British Newspaper Archive has been particularly helpful in that it’s obviously supplied me with a vivid insight into daily life in wartime Britain, made all the more poignant by the fact that when those issues first appeared there was no guarantee that the axis powers wouldn’t actually win the war. It’s really helped me to reach out across the years and draw closer to the ordinary people of Britain, to understand and better appreciate their fears, hopes and grit. It’s also provided me with information on such things as nerve pills, hair dye and fish cooked in custard (yes, really!) – all of which my fictional villagers expect me to know about and supply them with if they’re to keep calm and carry on.
Oral history has also played a huge part in my research too. Although most of my own relatives who lived through the war are now sadly deceased, I remember well the tales which they told me as I was growing up. They were full of humour and courage, things which are not easily forgotten. Conversations with friends have been invaluable too and many of the letters to Hilda Ffinch in my book have their genesis in real events – Mrs Agnes Piggott’s concerns about her husband putting an Anderson shelter up in the living room instead of the garden and Ethel Entwhistle’s frustration about her son-in-law’s inability to dig a hole for one in the garden before tea-time are based on real events.
Writing the book was fun and the research was fascinating!
Are you a plotter or a pantser? I think I’m a bit of both, really. In the past I’ve winged-it whilst writing – I’ve just sat down and cracked on with whatever comes to mind – but I’ve found that that often leads to holes in my plot and some poor unfortunate character is left sitting where I left him or her, tapping their fingers and waiting for me to come back. Nowadays I’m more inclined to start a story, get the first chapter down on paper and then have a really good think about the implications of everything that’s gone on. I’ll then grab a notepad and start thinking forwards, mapping out a route for my main characters to take. Many crossings-out and chocolate-covered fingerprints later, I’ll have my plot there in black and white in front of me and I’ll go back to the main body of text and start writing proper. That said, during the progression of the work my characters will often seem to ‘make their own decisions’ and the direction of the plot might shift significantly and change the ending entirely. So yes, a bit of both – a ‘plantser’, I suppose!
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why? I’d love to be able to say the world of Jane Austen, but I know only to well that there would be incidents involving Regency frocks on staircases and accidents clambering into barouches. I’m reasonably confident that I could raise a sparkling wineglass across a fully loaded dinner table (I’ve had lots of practice at that) and could avoid mistaking the table decorations for salad or igniting my neighbour’s wig on a candelabra, but the ensuing cotillion on the dance floor would put paid to any ambitions of social advancement which I might be harbouring.
How fabulous would it be to be able to drift seamlessly through that world? To faint at Mr Darcey’s feet without being blinded by your own bonnet or to catch one’s foot on a kerb and fall into Edward Ferrars’ arms (rather than directly into the path of the oncoming Exeter mail coach)?
There’s a reason I was born when I was: Accident prone and liable to say entirely the wrong thing at a most inappropriate time.
*Sighs and puts ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’ back into steamer trunk in study. Drops the lid and traps three fingers. Air turns blue. *
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why? I’ve been reading books for as long as I can remember and there are so many to choose from! If you asked me which real-life character – from a diary, for example – who I’d have loved to befriend then it would definitely have been Samuel Pepys, principally because he was always putting his foot in it and, like myself, was very fond of cheese.
Stepping back into the realms of fiction though, and I think I’d have made a good companion for C J Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake. I absolutely love those books, all that skulduggery and treason played out beneath sixteenth century skies! The character of Shardlake is soooo real that you can almost number him amongst your contemporary friends. I do love a good mystery, and when it’s coupled with creaking Tudor houses and villains in doublets and hose, it’s hard to top. I love the way that Shardlake, despite his physical aches and pains and vile enemies keeps doggedly on until finally he seizes the truth by the scruff of the neck, gives it a good shake and then holds it up for all to see.
Obviously I’d probably have had to trot along behind my hero wearing a scold’s bridle. My inability to keep schtum when required would undoubtedly bring us to the foot of the scaffold at least twice daily and we’d have to rely on his cunning and knowledge of English law to put a stop to the executioner’s gallop, but yes, he’d be the one for me!
About the Author
JULIET WARRINGTON was born on a small (and now totally defunct) RAF station in the Libyan part of the Sahara Desert, some 30 odd miles from the Egyptian border. Constantly on the move as a child due to her dad’s job, she grew up in Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Cyprus and London. Long-term friendships were hard to form without internet and mobile phones and so books became her constant companions. She lived in Limassol with Lorna Doon, Aylesbury with Tom Sawyer and hid The Scarlet Pimpernel in the garden shed in Uxbridge on more than one occasion. She currently resides just outside Wrexham, in North Wales.