I’m delighted to be hosting Angela Petch in my hot seat as part of her tour for Mavis and Dot organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Angela is chatting to us about her inspiration, the scene she found the hardest to write and more.
I think it’s important to share with you now that all profits from the sale of the books will go towards research into the cure for cancer. You will see why this is important to Angela in her answers.
A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant.
Introducing two eccentric ladies who form an unlikely friendship. Meet Mavis and Dot – two colourful, retired ladies who live in Worthington-on-Sea, where there are charity shops galore. Apart from bargain hunting, they manage to tangle themselves in escapades involving illegal immigrants, night clubs, nude modelling, errant toupees and more. And then there’s Mal, the lovable dog who nobody else wants.
A gently humorous, often side-splitting, heart-warming snapshot of two memorable characters with past secrets and passions. Escape for a couple of hours into this snapshot of a faded, British seaside town. You’ll laugh and cry but probably laugh more.
“This book is quirky and individual, and has great pathos…[it] will resonate with a lot of readers.” Gill Kaye – Editor of Ingenu(e).
Written with a light touch in memory of a dear friend who passed away from ovarian cancer, Angela Petch’s seaside tale is a departure from her successful Tuscan novels.
All profits from the sale of the books will go towards research into the cure for cancer.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise your book in 20 words or less.
“Mavis and Dot” is a gently humorous and poignant story about a couple of ladies newly retired to the British seaside.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I was inspired to write this novella for my dear friend who died from ovarian cancer. Olga and I loved auctions and charity shops. When we went out together, we used to call each other Mavis and Dot. Our children were still at school and we let our hair down on those days when we could escape. When she grew very ill, I wrote her a story featuring our personae, which she enjoyed. She added a sketch; she was a talented artist and I framed it and it hangs on the back of my loo door. Many years later, I retrieved the story from my files and read it out, very tentatively, at one of my writers’ groups and they enjoyed it too. Over time I added more episodes and decided to publish the story to try and raise money for cancer research.
I now live in a seaside town on the Sussex coast, where many people retire. I’m a writer, I’m curious and I often wonder what all these people living around me did before, why they end up where they do, what their stories are. It’s easy to dismiss the elderly and lump the “grey” people together. But there are many shades of grey – and I’m not referring to the recently popular book and film…
I read Gail Honeyman’s wonderful “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” recently and I found the following quote very relevant:
“Eleanor, I said to myself, sometimes you’re too quick to judge people. There are all kinds of reasons why they might not look like the kind of person you’d want to sit next to on a bus, but you can’t sum someone up in a ten-second glance. That’s simply not enough time.”
I would love readers to laugh at the escapades Mavis and Dot, but I also want to show that you never really know what has happened in other people’s lives. So, there is a pinch of seriousness in the novella as well.
If you could choose to be one of your characters Angela, who would you be?
I am quite shy, so it would be fun to be Lance. He sings in a night club that Mavis stumbles into one evening and wears the most glamorous outfits. He lives in a tastefully appointed bungalow near the sea and is outrageous at times. But he’s kind too.
Please tell us about the characters in Mavis and Dot.
Mavis has a constant battle with the inches, she is outgoing and has a weakness for Italian men. She is persuaded to dye her hair pink, whereas Dot is more straight-laced and wears outfits that have seen better days. Dot hankers after her early years spent in Tanzania, East Africa and couldn’t care less about what her house looks like. They both have interesting pasts, but I won’t give away the story. Then there is Humphrey, who also used to live in Africa and is divorced from his bossy wife. Lance, a cross-dresser who sings in nightclubs and Sidney, a wizard at ballroom dancing. I mustn’t forget Mal, the dog adopted by Dot.
What scene was the hardest to write?
The chapter describing Dot’s teenage years was hardest to write. These are such vulnerable times and so much can go wrong. Dot’s parents weren’t good parents and in over-protecting her, she ends up making a mistake that shapes the rest of her life. She comes over as brash but she’s basically a softie inside. Without giving anything away, I cried when I imagined what she went through. I want readers to like her, although she can be unlikeable at times.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
Lance would definitely be Eddie Izzard, Mavis would be Dawn French, and Dot would be Maggie Smith. Your question is very interesting – readers of “Mavis and Dot” have suggested it would make a fun sit-com. Maybe I should try but writing for films is a method I haven’t tried as yet.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be …
Listen to your heart.
Did you do any research Angela? What resources did you use?
Travelling along the 700 Coastliners bus and eavesdropping was very useful in writing “Mavis and Dot”, but I had to pretend to be writing shopping lists, rather than jotting down other people’s conversations in my trusty notebook. ( 🙂 )
Do you have a favourite book?
My favourite book at the moment (but this could change, as I am such a book worm and you never know what you might discover next), is “All the Light we Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, which took ten years to write and, not surprisingly, won the Pulitzer prize. It is an absolutely beautiful, lyrical story set in the Second World War. Each page is a jewel. It is one of those books you want to keep forever on your bookshelf. Doerr looks at the subject of war and survival through the minds of two children – a little French girl who is blind and an orphaned German boy – who is assumed into the Hitlerjugend because of his talent at constructing radios. I love the detail in the descriptions and it is writing to aspire to. If I could write such a beautiful novel, I would die happy.
Are there any tips you could share with new writers?
First of all, just write and read and read and write. When you write, forget about the annoying monkey sitting on your shoulder, telling you you’re writing rubbish. It’s hard to be a judge of yourself. I would recommend joining a good writing group that offers constructive criticism. Read your work out aloud – you will hear what is wrong. Don’t be too possessive about your writing. If you are aiming to be published, then you need to understand that not everybody is going to be your reader. And, finally, write from the heart.
Finally Angela, can you share with us what you are working on now?
My WIP is a story set in Tuscany. I recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture, who would like me to re-write a novel I self-published in 2012. Set during World War Two and loosely based on my own Italian mother-in-law’s experiences as a war bride, “Tuscan Roots” (available on Amazon) will be edited and reissued next year with a new title. I have another Tuscan story in the pipe line. I am really lucky to live in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines for half the year and this is where I mostly write. So, “Mavis and Dot” is a side step from my usual genre. I write short stories too and am published in The People’s Friend.
Thank you for being my guest today.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
A prize-winning author, Angela Petch lives half the year in West Sussex and the summer months in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture for her Tuscan novels and “Mavis and Dot” is a temporary departure from her usual genre. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and note-book to capture more ideas.
In May 2017, Angela Petch won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a dozen stories published by The People’s Friend magazine.
“Mavis and Dot” was written in memory of a dear friend who lost her battle with ovarian cancer. All profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer.
Connect with Angela Petch
“Tuscan Roots” (to be reissued by Bookouture in 2019) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tuscan-Roots-tangle-Italian-Apennines-ebook/dp/B01DDQDMDE/
“Now and Then in Tuscany” – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Now-Then-Tuscany-Italian-journeys-ebook/dp/B06Y8Y17MG
Don’t forget to check out the other hosts on tour.
Read all posts in the romantic comedy genre on Jera’s Jamboree.