This month on Yesterday Uncovered we slip back to the 1960s
Sitting, in the shade, on a recliner at the side of my pool is Dizzy Greenfield, the author of, Strays and Relations so please help yourself to a glass of chilled bubbly, a plate of tapas, then make yourself comfortable and enjoy slipping back to the 1960s.
Thanks Pauline, this is wonderful.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My real name isn’t Dizzy, that’s my author name as Strays and Relations is about real people. I began writing six years ago and right now I’m working on a novel for young adults – a new genre for me.
My work background was originally in animal care, but later I left the primates behind to pursue youth worker training. Then, eighteen years ago I said goodbye to working with young people too, when my partner, Will, and I set up a blacksmith’s forge. Since then nothing has ever gone exactly to plan but we do laugh a lot! We live in an isolated location in the West Country, with a couple of whippets. It’s usually a tranquil place, with few interruptions from humans, but it’s amazing how demanding the dogs and bats can be! In summer, the bats have a nursery up our chimney and in the morning I often find one that’s fallen into the hearth. Then it’s a call to the bat rescue team – but that’s another story! I’m sure there’ll be more stories featuring Will and Dizzy in the future, as readers seem to be enjoying hearing about our chaotic lifestyle!
What inspired you to write about the 1960s?
I was born to an Irish Catholic mother, Marie. She was very young when she found herself alone and pregnant in 1968. It wasn’t until I was born that the midwife informed her that she’d been expecting twins all along. There weren’t so many scans back then! Sadly, my twin died. For various reasons, Marie was unable to keep me and I was fostered, then adopted in Somerset, where I was born. Again, support for single parents was often lacking in the sixties and the circumstances in which Marie found herself were unfortunately all too common.
When I finally found my birth file it was shocking to read what had happened. I longed to find out if Marie had survived and, if so, what had happened to her?
Tell us little about the story and its plot without giving too much away.
The book tells how, almost thirty years later, I embark on a trip to find my roots. The first stop is a trip to Ireland, made with my best friend, Sugar. There, we find what we think is Marie’s grave and I give up the search for my birth mother.
The story then jumps to six years later. Even though I have built a life with Will at the blacksmith’s forge, surrounded by rather odd animals and with a lovely daughter of my own, something is still missing.
What starts like one of those ordinary summer days, ends with an extraordinary letter in the post from social services. It changes everything. My birth father, Tommy, wants to make contact with me. Not only that, but my mother is also alive and well, and wants to hear from me too!
Next is the account of what happens with the arrival of a huge and boisterous group of new relations, who are very different from my adoptive family and how we all try to make sense of the situation we’ve been thrown into.
Originally the book was written for friends and family, but I got completely carried away! Four drafts and five years later I started to listen to my writing mates, they kept saying that it would be of interest to people and I should think about publishing.
I didn’t try to find a traditional publisher, but my bestie writing mate, Gill, encouraged me to try for a one-to-one session with an agent. It was a positive encounter and gave me some extremely useful advice about where to start the book. Afterwards I shoved the manuscript in the drawer and tried to forget about the whole darn thing – but I couldn’t!
Is any part of the story based on facts / real events?
It’s a true story - only the names, and one or two of the locations have been changed.
Are any of the characters based on someone real or are they pure fiction?
All are based on real people. My birth family are such characters they didn’t need much embellishment. But of course, it’s only told from my point of view.
If research was necessary what did this involve?
That involved piecing together information in my birth file, pulling out documents and letters, then making sense of what happened to who and when. Mainly though, it was from many conversations with my birth mother as we got to know each other and I learned what had happened to her. After the phone chats ended I would immediately write down the conversations.
I’d previously travelled to meet members of my birth family, but during the writing I revisited them and some of the locations.
When I’d finished the first draft, I got back on the train and went to see Marie, to show her what I’d done. It was very important that she was comfortable with the book.
After this, I reworked the start of the book as suggested by the agent.
Then Gill stepped in again, along with Brenda from Silver Crow Books and they enabled me to finish the final draft. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Matador accepted my manuscript, and it’s all been terribly exciting since then!
Thank you for inviting me, Pauline. Cheers!
Thank you for stopping by and meeting Dizzy