Jeanette Taylor Ford
Jeanette kindly sent Rosa through the post for me after I’d said I’d give it a review. The synopsis she gave me appealed as did the cover. It seemed everything I’d look for in a piece of fiction. So, I picked this book up to read for an hour on a Sunday afternoon and three hours later, I put it down finished, pausing briefly to dunk my ginger biscuits in my black tea. Everything about Rosa was deliciously addictive, the story drew me in from the very first page and I couldn’t put it down. Those of you know me well know that my attention span can be poor and often putting a book down for a day or two sometimes means it never gets finished, but this one I just needed and wanted to finished. I had to know how it ended.
After a traumatic break-up Elizabeth (Rosa) finds herself travelling to Norfolk to stay at her grandfather’s stately home to try and heal her wounds and find herself. Once there, she is encouraged to take over the management of the estate where she meets her childhood friend Daniel. After no contact since they were children, Daniel gives her the cold shoulder, but running the estate soon draws her attention.
All seems well, but when her grandfather opens a locked room of Elizabeth’s great grandmother also called Rosa, the ghosts of the past start to haunt her and the answers lie in Rosa’s diaries. Now Elizabeth fights not only those ghosts, but her own sanity.
Though this is set in the modern day, Taylor Ford’ narrative read very much like a Victorian Gothic ghost story, reminding me very much of Susan Hill. I would read more of this author again. I enjoyed her style of writing and how she manages to catch the reader’s attention and keeps them hooked by weaving excellent story telling and the reason for my author spotlight because this author needs to be shown off for the talent she is.
Jeanette Taylor Ford Interview
Jeanette Taylor-Ford is a retired Teaching Assistant. She grew up in Cromer, Norfolk and moved to Hereford with her parents when she was seventeen. An undiagnosed Coeliac, Jeanette was a delicate child and missed great deal of schooling, but she had a natural ability to write good stories, even at the tender age of nine or ten. When young her ambition was to be a journalist but life took her in another direction and her life’s work has been with children – firstly as a nursery assistant in a children’s home, and later in education. In between she raised her own six children and she now has seven grandchildren and a beautiful great-granddaughter.
Jeanette took up writing again in 2010; she reasoned that she would need something to do with retirement looming, although as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints she is kept busy. She lives with her husband Tony, a retired teacher and headmaster, in Nottinghamshire, England.
Rosa was set in a stately home, Longdene, were there any homes or estates that inspired you?
My parents were into visiting stately homes. When we lived in Norfolk we went to Blickling Hall often, then there was Holkham Hall and Felbrigg Hall. Cromer Hall was just up the road from where we lived, although it wasn’t open to the public. This love of such places followed me into adulthood and I have visited many more stately homes over the years. Some of them definitely had a ‘chill factor’ for me, especially Eastnor Castle’s Lake, which I almost ran from. (I walked away very quickly!)
You write in my opinion very much like a Gothic writer with the subtle chill factor that can get lost in some text with the horror side of things. Who or what is your inspiration when writing?
Buildings are very much my inspiration especially ruined or abandoned places; they just seem to get into my head somehow. Although in the case of ‘Bell of Warning’, I hadn’t actually seen the ruins there but all the stories about the sunken village and the church spire being near the end of the pier in the sea off Cromer fired my imagination for that one. For my ‘Castell Glas Trilogy’, I was ‘haunted’ by Gwyrch Castle until I came up with the story, which actually took several years. When we visited there I had no notion of taking up writing.
Your description of how an estate is run is very detailed. Did you do any research or volunteer when writing Rosa?
No. I think I just gathered up all the information I had gleaned while visiting all these places and used them. I took different aspects from various houses. Of course, Chatsworth has to be the ultimate in Stately Home management and survival but I didn’t go quite as far as that – I never had a farm area with animals that children could hold at Longdene but who knows what would have happened if we had lingered there longer? I certainly loved Izzy’s idea of having banquets cooked in the original kitchens…
What is the scariest book you’ve ever read?
I hate to disappoint you after the conversation we had the other day but Barbara Erskine’s book ‘Hiding From the Light’ scared the heck outa me and I’ve never wanted to read it again. I realise, having spoken to you that it isn’t entirely accurate, but I think my own imagination and deep sympathy for the women subjected to the Witch Finder General’s torture made me feel so bad and I felt it was frightening because they just had no way out. I couldn’t face reading about it again. Strangely, I don’t go in for reading scary books and I don’t particularly like watching horror films either. At least if write them I know how much terror I can take! Although most of my books contain paranormal, they are not all scary.
Tell me about your writing routine? What makes you get up and knuckle down for writing?
I don’t really have a routine; I’m an unorganised writer. The year I wrote ‘Rosa’, I wrote that and two other books too because I had retired and my husband was still at work, so I could please myself. Since he retired, it’s often a case of waiting until he’s gone out – or out working in the garden! Other things get in the way too; one can’t retire from life. But the driving force is the story – it buzzes around in my head and gives me no peace until I’ve written it. These days I tend to be a little more leisurely; I usually write about a chapter at a sitting, which would only be somewhere between a thousand and two thousand words because my chapters are fairly short. I can go quite a while, three or four months between writing books; I don’t want to become a machine. I also don’t write every day, I just write when I can.
And finally, Rosa wrote a diary, if you could read anyone’s diary from the past whose would it be an why?
I feel that you want me to say someone from history but actually, I would like to read my grandmother’s diary. I knew her very well because we lived with her for the first ten years of my life but at the same time, I wish I’d known her better. I know quite a bit about her but I’d like to know more. I know that she worked as a nanny for a family in London but I have no idea how she came to do that, having grown up in Norfolk. I also know she was in love with a man she couldn’t have because he was married; I wish I could know who it was and how he had felt about her, if he did. Her marriage was doomed from the start because she really didn’t love her husband and after he left her she never married again but instead looked after her father and younger sister when her mother died, bringing my mother up at the same time. We hear and read so much about the aristocracy and I know that Elizabeth in ‘Rosa’ was a ‘Lady’, but generally I write about ordinary people who sometimes find themselves in extraordinary situations and I think that often life can be stranger than fiction