Bestselling Author


Where the Sky Begins by Rhys Bowen

Bestselling author Rhys Bowen discusses her new novel, Where the Sky Begins.  A woman’s future is determined by fate and choice in a gripping WWII novel about danger, triumph, and second chances by the New York Times bestselling author of The Venice Sketchbook and The Tuscan Child. London, 1940.

Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty novels, including The Venice Sketchbook, The Victory Garden, The Tuscan Child, and the World War II-based In Farleigh Field, the winner of the Left Coast Crime Award for Best Historical Mystery Novel and the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Bowen’s work has won over twenty honors to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans around the world, including over 60,000 Facebook followers. A transplanted Brit, Bowen divides her time between California and Arizona.

In this episode of “Historical Happy Hour,” Jane welcomes Rhys Bowen, the New York Times bestselling author with over 40 novels to her name. They discuss Bowen’s inspiration for her latest World War II story, “Where the Sky Begins,” centered on Josie Banks, a London woman who loses everything in the Blitz and is evacuated to the countryside. Bowen shares insights into her research process, including visits to World War II bomber bases, and the importance of portraying the resilience and hope of characters during dark times. The conversation also touches on Bowen’s writing process, the challenges of co-writing with her daughter, and advice for aspiring authors, highlighting the value of reading widely and writing consistently to hone one’s craft.

Here’s what we covered:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction of Rhys Bowen and her achievements.
  • [00:01:26] Inspiration behind “Where the Sky Begins.”
  • [00:06:02] Research process for the novel.
  • [00:11:23] The dynamic between characters Josie, Miss Harcourt, and Kathleen.
  • [00:14:00] Discussion on writing process and character attachment.
  • [00:18:19] Audience Q&A begins.
  • [00:24:18] Advice for aspiring authors.
  • [00:27:01] Staying in touch with Rhys Bowen and her upcoming projects.
  • [00:35:35] Consideration of writing about modern day events.


[00:00:00] Jane: Welcome everyone to the latest Historical Happy Hour. Cheers. Good to see you. I’m here with Rhys Bowen. Welcome Rhys. I’m so excited to have you here. It’s an honor. Oh, it’s lovely to be with you. Yeah, so fun. I’m not only a fellow author. I’m also a huge fan. I’m going to jump in with a quick intro, Rhys, and then I have some questions for you, and then we will take questions from our lovely audience.

Yeah. So Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 novels, mind blowing, including The Victory Garden, The Tuscan Child, and the World War II based In Fairly Field, the winner of the Left Coast Crime Award for Best Historical Mystery Novel, and the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

2021’s The Venice Sketchbook was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year. Bowen’s work has Over 20 honors to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. A transplanted Brit, Bone divides her time between California and Arizona. Her latest novel is Where the Sky Begins, which is right here.

New York Journal of Books says the writing is so smooth and consistent, and the narrative unfolds so steadily, it’s hard to look up from. And I agree. I loved this story so much. So welcome, Rhys.

[00:01:23] Rhys: Good to see you. Thank you, Jane. Thanks so much. It’s fun.

[00:01:26] Jane: So fun. So this is a World War II story. The protagonist is Josie Banks, a London woman whose husband goes off to war, and she pretty much loses everything during the Blitz.

Her home, her job, her belongings and is evacuated to the countryside because she has nowhere to go and nowhere to live. What inspired you to write this story?

[00:01:48] Rhys: A couple of things. I, I was, I’ve written a few. World War II stories now, and they’ve been educated women who have, who can survive on their own fairly well in life and educated men too, and I thought what if you weren’t equipped well to survive on your, what if, this is almost like a rebirth, her house is bombed around her, she’s pulled from the rubble.

With literally nothing. Not even a change of clothes and I thought in the war was so many people were bombed if you didn’t have family who took you in what would you do. So I started thinking about that. And the other thing is, I have my closest friend from college lives in that part of England.

And very near those old World War II bomber bases. And it’s so evocative, it’s incredibly flat. It was one of these areas that was drained from the ocean long ago to make fields. Oh wow. It’s actually below sea level, and you have the dikes between the fields, and you just see this incredible Huge sky.

And that was really the metaphor for me that she’s grown up in the east end of London with these little narrow streets, and it’s nearly always smoggy there. And I thought this is the first time she sees the sky. And so that was You know, what does she do? This is like the opening of everything for her.

What does she do? Where does she go from there? So I wanted to show her growing as a person, taking little baby steps towards independence, towards her own vision of life. And by the end of the book, she’s really developed and blossomed into that person she could have been.

[00:03:24] Jane: Yes, absolutely.

I loved her as a character. And so is she inspired by anyone? Because I loved her because she was, even at her worst, she was always hopeful. In the darkest times, she always had a positive, hopeful attitude, which I think is what helps. Get you through those times. And so how did you decide on who she was going to be as how did you decide on her as a main character?

[00:03:49] Rhys: The companies are that the people of the East End of London are so resilient and funny and you know they all they have a very tough life. And they. in spite of everything, you find them smiling in spite of everything. And my, my father came from London. He wasn’t a Cockney, but he came from London and he had that sort of wicked sense of humor.

He’d give you a little sideways smile and a nudge in the side, and I have a great warm feeling towards that. And so I wanted her to be this a Cockney woman who, in spite of. Everything that life has flown at her is not going to, I’ve got pictures from, obviously I’ve written several books about World War II.

I’ve amassed a huge library of press cuttings and pictures. And I think one that sums it up is a woman sitting on this huge pile of rubble and everything around her has been destroyed and she’s got a cup of tea. That just sums it up. I’m sitting here having my cup of tea. I can get going. So that’s what I wanted.

And also I wanted her to be someone who, there are people like this who sometimes feel they’ve been born in the wrong place, their her family was the, normal working class, let’s go out to work, let’s have a pint at the pub and that’s life. And she’s always had this desire for something wonderful.

Her father used to bring home, he worked on the railways for bring home magazines that people left. And she’d look over the fashion pages and the beauty pages and things. And she’d dream of all these lovely things. And of course, when she gets a chance to have them bit by bit, she just cherishes it.

So I think she’s an interesting character. And of course she’s stuck with an awful husband, she marries him because he’s a way out. She, there she is at home with younger brothers and sisters and a stepmother who doesn’t want her, but wants her money. And so to find a way out with a guy who’s got quite a bit of money, as far as she’s concerned, that’s, she’s going to take it.

[00:05:44] Jane: Absolutely. Yeah, the husband was a very terrible man.

[00:05:50] Rhys: I kept thinking as I wrote it you know as you do sometimes it’s part of a story you know ahead of time, and other parts I kept thinking, can I kill him? When can I kill him? Could I kill him? That would be good.

[00:06:02] Jane: Great. So you mentioned that you have this like collection of research and I was curious about that did you have to Did you have a lot of research already amassed from your other books that you could draw on?

Or did you have to do additional research for this one?

[00:06:15] Rhys: Yeah, I did do mainly on the part of England that I set this in, went over and stayed, I did the research before COVID struck. So I went over to my friends and they took me to a former bomber base that’s now a World War II museum.

So I got to sit in one of those big old bombers and look at the flight helmets and look at the parachutes and look at all that stuff and they’ve got a collection of like letters home from young men who didn’t make it, whose planes crashed and things. And it really, it brings it home to you.

It touches you. The cockpits in those things are just so tiny and you think you’re in this for 10 hours at a time, and so you get a good feel for what it was like for those men and the fact that when they took off for Germany at night, half of them didn’t come back. The life expectancy of a bomber pilot was about 50%.

So when you signed up, you knew your chances were not too good.

[00:07:10] Jane: We’re not great. Yeah, that was unbelievable. You forget that. And they were so young, just unbelievable.

[00:07:17] Rhys: And of course I, I have a connection in the I grew up after World War II, and in England then we were still on rationing when I was a small child.

And if you went to London, you would see these big piles of rubble everywhere that had been someone’s home. I was very aware of what the war felt like in many ways. It’s, and of course your family talks about it all the time. I don’t, and I had my father was in the services and so were my uncles.

So I have a, I think that’s one of the reasons I want to write about it is. We’re getting close to the end of the generations that actually knew it. And if we don’t write about it now, it will be gone and people won’t know. And I think it’s so important because it was really the last time when we had this great feel of good versus evil.

And the feeling that if we didn’t stop evil, it would swallow up the world. So I think everybody In World War Two had this great desire to do their bit to try and stop it.

[00:08:13] Jane: I totally agree. I think about that a lot. And I feel the same. Like my grandfather was a firefighter on the Navy ships off the coast of Europe in World War Two.

And I was very close with him and I, and a lot of those guys were, didn’t share that much when they came back, but it’s always fascinating. I think we’re losing a lot of that generation now. So most of Yeah. I found the village and the characters, the cast of characters in the village in the English countryside so charming and were the people based on people, or was the village based on a particular village?

[00:08:48] Rhys: I grew up in a village. Oh yeah. Yeah, I grew up in a village in Kent actually. And a small place like that, you’re always going to have the idiosyncratic characters that, the local characters, and you’re going to have, the vicar’s wife and all the people like that.

And the thing is, most people, what everybody does, you say, you’re going to the grocery shop and someone say, do you know what so and so was doing it? Oh, are they really, and it’s, yeah, it’s lovely. I, we go every year. My, my sister in law I married into a very aristocratic family.

So my sister in law has this enormous house. that we go and stay at every year. We were there last month. And her local village, you go into that and everybody talks to you and every, it’s just, it’s a really nice warm feeling that, this is a place I could live and I’d like

[00:09:34] Jane: it. Yeah. It’s so funny.

After I read the book, I was like searching like English big village, like countryside vacations.

[00:09:42] Rhys: It sounds so lovely. I do frequent searches on. cottages for sale in Cologne.

[00:09:49] Jane: Very delightful. So Josie, when she is evacuated, she’s billeted at this grand home of an upper class woman, Miss Harcourt.

She’s a recluse. She’s an unmarried and she only lives with her housekeeper Kathleen. And so these three women live together and They’re not only changed by the war but they’re changed by their relationships with each other over the course of the novel and I love the dynamics. I love the humor and so why did you decide these three characters at the center of the story.

[00:10:23] Rhys: I wanted Josie to be put completely. Out of her element, she’s been also to be in a place that suddenly offered her things she could never have dreamt of, she, she sees the library there and when the when Miss Harcourt sees her immediately think she’s trying to steal one of the books.

Yes, Josie has always been dying to read more books and when Miss Harcourt sees this. I think that’s the first chink in the armor because Miss Harcourt doesn’t want her there. And of course, at the beginning of the book, she says to Josie, because Josie’s quite badly injured when she goes there, as soon as you’re healed, we’ll have to decide what your duties are.

And that’s when we see for the first time with Josie, she, we see her spunk. She says, I don’t mind helping out but I ain’t no servant. What to do. So I think, Miss Harcourt then takes a step back what is this thing? We’ve got no course about it. Josie is going to change her entire life.

Josie is going to see what can be done and open up things for her and really, make her life better.

[00:11:23] Jane: I love that. And to that note, this story has a little bit of everything. It has, it’s friendship, it’s romance, it has a little bit of a mystery, and some definite unexpected twists, which I will not reveal.

But I kept thinking as a writer, I thought it was so well plotted, and I was curious. I always ask writers who come on, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot your books out or do you write by the seat of your pants? And I know our mutual friend, Hank Philippi Ryan, is a pantser, which I always find unbelievable.

And so what is your process like?

[00:11:56] Rhys: Yeah, I’m pretty much a pantser too. I am in a big book like this, it’s you, it’s in a way it’s linear, what’s got to happen by the end of the book, or at least you hope will happen by the end of the book. And I knew the overall arc, I knew Josie and where she was going to go.

And the whole thing that drove it for me when I was writing it, my working title was The Tea Shop at the Edge of Eternity. Oh, nice. I love that title and they shot it down. They went no. Lots of stupid reasons. One was that on Amazon, the thumbnail too many words. You can’t read them.

[00:12:31] Jane: Oh, I didn’t think of that.

[00:12:32] Rhys: One thing. Another was the word tea shop will not attract male readers. Oh, interesting, strange for me but so I fought for it for a while and they kept going no, but anyway that the whole thing was the tea shop, a tea shop changes Joseph’s life at the beginning because that’s the job she gets in London with an expat Russian.

a woman who who has used to a life of finery and Josie sees you can have a life of finery. And then the fact that when she’s with Miss Harcourt, she finds this airman standing by the fence and it’s pouring with rain and he’s got a flat tire on his bike and she invites him into the kitchen for a cup of tea and he looks around and he says to her, this is like Yeah.

And she thinks, they don’t want, they don’t want to get drunk at the pub. They want this tiny taste of home. Some of these boys are 18. Yes. And so she thinks, perhaps I could give them this taste of home. And that’s how really her life changes by doing that.

[00:13:35] Jane: So this is one of those stories and I get this question a lot.

I was sad to finish it. I was reading it and listening to it on audio book at the same time. By the way, the narrator was amazing on the audio book. She did a great job. And so I, I always, I often get the question like when you’re done, when you hit the end and the book’s off to print do you have a trouble letting go of the characters?

Are you sad that you’re done? Are you happy and just ready to move on?

[00:14:00] Rhys: It depends on the book, I think, and some of these ones I’ve been happy to let go. I’m glad to let her go because she’s in a better place and she could ever have hoped for. And, I think that Mike who she ends up with perhaps we shouldn’t say that but if you don’t want to spoil it, then shut your ears for that.

And, she’s in a good place at the end of the book and she’s got. a vision for the future. And where I can’t, I don’t know about you. Do you get letters afterwards saying you are going to write a sequel to this?

There’ve been some in Farley field, I left bits of the ending open because the, it was a multi Point of view book, and we could have followed one of the characters into sort of espionage type things. So that’s still open but most of the books. I like to put my people, either in a good place, or in a place that’s Satisfying at least for them.

Bad things have happened. You can never go back and reconnect the past but a place where there is a future. And then I like to walk away. I don’t want to do the sequel, mostly.

[00:15:06] Jane: Yes, same, same. I hear you. Now you, you’ve written many novels. Is there any movie interest for this novel or any of your other novels?

[00:15:16] Rhys: Not this one. There is, there’s an option on the Venice sketchbook. There’s an option on in Farley field. There is a TV. We’re talking TV with some people in England for my first Constable Evans series set in Wales. As you get lots of these lovely nibbles and you think, Oh yes, and then it never happens so my, my, my whole, I’ve had several.

TV options and my theory is if I turn on the set and it’s there, I believe it. Otherwise I don’t, but this is too soon. I think, enough people need to have read a book before you get the option on it, usually. Unless it comes out with that great buzz, like all these new books coming out, but no, the Venice sketchbook would be lovely, I think, because I’d have to go and supervised in Venice when they were shooting it.

[00:16:10] Jane: Excellent. I love the cover. I’m going to hold it up again. Is this what you envisioned as the cover? Or did you have a lot of say in it? Tell me about that.

[00:16:20] Rhys: This was actually my cover. It was, I said exactly what I want. I the first one they did, cause we talked about what the cover should be.

And of course we tried some with the beautiful house in the flat countryside and things. And I said, it’s too much like the cover of In Farley Field, which was the first book, which was, as you can see, which was a lovely big house. In the countryside. Oh, yeah. And so I said no, the whole story is about someone being bombed and then having to make a new life.

So they came up with a bombing one, but it looked very dystopian, I searched through all the old photographs and found that one with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. Oh, yes. Yeah. And I thought, that’s so iconically. You know where London suddenly, yes. Yeah. And so I said, can we use this?

And then they chose the woman in red at the front, which is absolutely brilliant. It really popped, brings it all, and the fact that if you look at it, the sky is slightly blue. Yes. Yeah. Which is another brilliant thing that I, that I liked. Yeah. Yeah, I was really happy. It covers lovely.

[00:17:23] Jane: Yeah, I really like it. I and I, one of my questions was about the title so we know that was this was not your original title but it works really well.

[00:17:32] Rhys: We went through an awful lot of title, either you get the title that’s perfect to start with, and, or else you. The Venice sketchbook.

Nobody debated that at all. They just said yes. Okay. But we went through so many titles about the woman from London woman from the east end of London. The woman who was bombed the woman. And, the soldier’s wife the nasty man’s wife. We tossed out hundreds of them and then, I thought, let’s think what’s the whole.

concept is. And the concept is that she suddenly has gone from this narrow world to this very wide world. And so I thought sky is an important metaphor in this whole book. So yeah, we came up with that and everybody liked it. So yeah. Excellent.

[00:18:19] Jane: I have a couple more questions and then I’m going to take questions from the audience.

So just a reminder, if you have questions, you can put them in the Q& A or in the chat and I will ask them for you. Oh, that’s going to come back. Sorry. One minute. Okay. So what is your favorite part of the whole writing process and what is the part that you dread?

[00:18:42] Rhys: Favorite part is probably writing the end.

Does that sound good? Yes. I love doing for these historicals. I love doing the research because the more you look into the more you find and you go, Oh, I didn’t know that. And, I usually do it in person. I normally go to the place. And as I said, in this time I was at this world war two museum.

And I talked to this one man who was a docent there, who was passionate about World War Two planes, and so you get a really good feel for things. The, in Farley Field, I went to Bletchley Park and spent several days there. I spent quite a long time in Venice for the Venice sketchbook, doing, I, Venice is somewhere I know well anyway, but then for this I knew what I wanted, so I would just, seek out all the little things I needed.

I love doing that part. The part I hate most is about the first 50 pages of every book. I’m really in flat panic mode, I think, because I, I don’t quite, as I say, I’m not a complete outliner. I can’t look and go, Oh, this is what’s happening in chapter three. I usually toy in my head for a long time before I start with the opening, probably the opening paragraph, the opening page.

Do you do that? So you get, exactly the opening you want. Yes. And then I start, and then I always have this panic that, oh, it’s going to be way too short. I’m going to say everything I want to say in 50 pages, or else, or it’s just not going to work out. Sometimes when I’m writing, a lot of my books are mysteries oh good, we’re going to find a body on page 30.

And then we’re going to solve it by page 50. And we can all, so The first 50 pages, I’m always in this real stress mode and I snap at my husband and I stomp around and things. And then by page 50, I think, Oh, maybe this is okay. And then by page 100, I think, Oh, this is going along. And then after that, it’s just, It has its own momentum and it goes, it, it’s quite long, but it goes quite easily.

The things with these books are they’re, they’re 400 pages. And it’s quite a lot of work, isn’t it? The mysteries are maybe 300, which is much, much easier. Yes,

[00:20:44] Jane: it is. It’s a lot. I, I, my, for me, it’s the that first draft is sometimes a slog and then the rest of the process I really enjoy and I love the research process.

I think Secret Stealers before the pandemic, my husband and I were able to go to Paris and that was just amazing. Great.

[00:21:00] Rhys: And it’s lovely when you’re actually knowing what you’re looking for there, you can like, sit in a cafe somewhere. And just watch people go past and think, what am I smelling now?

What can I see? What’s that cat doing up on that rooftop? All those little things really bring the book to life. Don’t they? You can always tell when you read a book, when someone’s actually been there. I think that’s very true. Someone has either read about it or has done a two day tour through it, because You can bring it to life when you’ve been there.

I just love that’s my favorite part, I think.

[00:21:30] Jane: Yeah. Yes. And I think sometimes when you can feel, really feel the setting, it becomes like with the village, it was almost like another character in and of itself. I felt like in this story. Yeah.

[00:21:39] Rhys: Yeah. I think, yeah, I think I think in any of these historicals, because it’s a place people can’t visit now, you have to make it so vivid that they think, oh yeah, I’m here.

I’m in that little village.

[00:21:49] Jane: I know what that’s yes, absolutely. Definitely.

So did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

[00:21:55] Rhys: My mother tells me that I wrote my first poem when I was four. So I think probably the answer is probably yes. I never thought of being a writer. I thought I’m somebody who writes.

I think when I was very I spent most of my time in a world of pretend. And then, as I got older and found you couldn’t flit around being a princess half the time. I think the nice thing about being a writer is that you can live in this other world in your head all the time.

And nobody locks you up for doing it. So that’s the good thing. Yeah, I did want to be a writer. I was planning to be a journalist. And and then suddenly I saw on television once I saw someone interviewing a woman who’d come home and found that her husband had murdered their kids. And I thought, I couldn’t do this.

There’s no way I could. I know, I’m a mutual friend Hank, she was the first journalist on the scene at the Boston massacre really affected her afterwards I thought I could not do that. Now. I went into the BBC. I was lucky enough to be accepted into the BBC and in BBC drama.

And I was, I’d worked on these fantastic plays. And while I was working on the plays, I found myself thinking, Oh, if I’d done this play, I wouldn’t have finished it this way. So I went home and I wrote my own play and with the bravado of a 22 year old, I walked down the hall to the head of drama. And I said, I’ve written this play.

And he called me in a few days later. He said, we really like this. We’re going to, we’re going to produce it. That’s amazing. So I’ve really been a professional writer ever since. So it’s been what I’ve done. I went back to a college reunion a few years ago and this woman I hadn’t seen since college, she said, so have you ever actually had a proper job?

And I said not really, but my improper job has bought me two very nice houses and summers in Europe and put four kids through college. So that’s all right. Pretty good.

[00:23:56] Jane: You’re doing all right.

So I know we have some aspiring authors in the audience and you have had a long and very successful career as a writer. What’s the best advice you can give to writers who are just starting out trying to get that manuscript done trying to get published?

[00:24:18] Rhys: I think the first thing that I would say is if you’re a writer, you need to read.

I’m really surprised when, I’m most of my stuff is in the mystery genre and someone will say I plan to write a mystery one day. And I say, Who are your favorite mystery authors and they go, Oh, I don’t actually read mystery. How, every book you read you learn from you learn how someone.

puts words together, paints pictures with the words. And so obviously I think reading is number one. The other is writing. I don’t know if you’ve found this, that people come up to you and they say I plan to write a book one day. And I said what are you writing now? And they go, I don’t really have time at the moment.

And I once said to someone, if you came up to me and said, I plan to play a concerto at Carnegie Hall one day, and I’d say, how many hours a day do you practice? They go I don’t have time to practice. I wouldn’t believe you. And every time you write, you learn a little bit more how to put words together and you learn how to create tension and how you learn to paint a scene with setting.

So if you want to write, you just write, you, you don’t even have to show it to anybody. You practice. Practice in the first person, practice in the third person, all these things, every time you do it, you get a little bit better. And then the other thing, if you are writing and you want to succeed as a writer, you have to be passionate about it.

Don’t ever write something, think, Oh my God, vampires are really in right now. I’m going to write a vampire story. Oh, yes. If you are not I love historicals. I love reading historicals. I love to be taken back to that past. And it’s, I think for me, every book I have written is a book I want to read, but it’s not on a shelf.

So I’ve had to put it on a shelf. It’s something that, where I really want to spend my time. You’re going to be Maybe you’re going to be a year with this place and these people so you have to love them. You have to want to get back to them every second if you don’t like your characters or your setting.

It’s going to show people can tell that you love your characters when they read the book.

[00:26:17] Jane: Yeah, it’s all excellent advice and it’s absolutely true and I say that. As well, and I talked to writers who are trying to get started and I said, you, whatever project you pick, you better be passionate about it because people can tell and also you’re going to be with this project for a long time.

So I have one more question for you and actually dump two part question. And then if anyone, I see one key question in the Q and a, if anyone else has questions please put them in the Q and a or the chat. So how can, how best can people stay in touch with you on social media? And then also if you ready to discuss what you’re working on now, that would be great.

[00:27:01] Rhys: Yeah. I’m on social media. pretty much all over. I’m mainly active on Facebook which I’m my author page is is Respoin Author. So it’s facebook. com slash Respoin Author, all in one word. And yeah, I have 67, 000 followers on there, so it’s amazing. And And then I’m also on Instagram and and Twitter, but it’s usually just a rehash of what I’ve said on Facebook.

Also I’m a member of a wonderful blog called Jungle Red Writers that you know about, I’m sure. . And there are several of us. Sure. We’ve got some mutual friends on there. Several. There are seven usri of US writers, really. Deborah Crombie, Hank Philippe, Ryan Halle Efron, Julia, Spencer Fleming, Jen McKinley.

Roberta Isleb and me. And we, there’s a blog every day and we take it in turns to host a week and we have fabulous guests. So that really keeps me connected with my world very well. And you really enjoy the posts are not, just by my book, the posts are really interesting about. Why I hate ironing, that’s one of the most comments of anything I put 217 comments on why I hate ironing, sometimes it really strikes a chord with other people.

But that’s a fun thing. And you asked what I’m working on now, I’ve just finished, I’ve just turned in the next big standalone. And it’s again, partly in World War Two, partly in Paris, it’s but it was a very harrowing one to write because it’s about a young woman who is dropped behind enemy lines in Paris to spy.

And and about what happens to her. She, it takes place in Paris before the war, and it takes place in Australia after the war. So it’s a very big scope of a novel, and it’s at the moment, which is the working title. I haven’t been told that it’s not so it’s called Island of Lost Boys.

[00:28:51] Jane: Oh, wow.

Okay. And so when is that pub date for that?

[00:28:55] Rhys: I don’t know if we have a pub. I’ve my, my editor has been has had various crises happen this year. Things have been going more slowly than, I, I think it was probably due out next August, but whether it will be later than that, I don’t know. So that’s, we’ve got, we’ll probably fight over the title too, and it will probably come out, be, the, the butcher’s wife who lived in Paris and went to, who knows.

[00:29:17] Jane: So a question from the audience. Mary Worthington asks, You’re a very prolific writer. How long does it typically take to for you to write a book from the beginning to the

[00:29:28] Rhys: end? It takes me about five months. I’m not only a writer, I’m also a crazy woman. I was doing I’ve written three mystery series.

The first one was called Constable Evans was set in contemporary Wales. And I did 10 books and then I stopped it. And then I was doing a series with Molly Murphy, who is. She’s an immigrant, an Irish immigrant in New York in the early 1900s. And then I’d been doing the Royal Spinous about a minor royal in the 30s.

That’s my sort of funny series. So I got to the stage where I couldn’t do any more Molly Murphy books and write the big standalones. So I put that series on hold. So I was doing one Royal Spinous and one of these standalones each year. And then my daughter came to me and said, I think I’d like to resurrect the Molly Murphy series with you.

Oh, wow. And of course the publishers went, Yeah, yes, please. We start she and I started writing the work we just finished book three together. But that means it’s an extra half a book per year for me. So I’m doing two and a half books a year, which really is. pushing it a lot. So what I’m hoping is to do a couple more books with my daughter and each book gradually step back some more so she can take the series then and run with it, and I can just be the guiding light behind it.

But it’s pretty much I have to get through a first draft in about three to four months so that I have time to go through and edit it, which really means that I write every day. That’s what I do.

[00:31:01] Jane: Amazing. That is, that’s an amazing schedule. You are very prolific. I know.

Very impressive.

[00:31:07] Rhys: I keep trying to slow down saying maybe I won’t do a book next year. And then the publisher goes no.

[00:31:12] Jane: So what’s it like? A reminder, you can put questions in the chat or you can put questions in the Q& A. What was it like writing with your daughter? My daughter, my younger daughter is an excellent writer and loves to write.

And how is that as a process? Was that delightful? Was it hard?

[00:31:29] Rhys: When she came to me, I was a little ambivalent because, she’s my daughter and I love her. And I thought what if this doesn’t work out? What if I have to say to her, I’m really sorry, but this is. Just isn’t going to work.

It would put this sort of wedge between us, but I knew she was a good writer. I was amazed. She just came in, she hit the ground running. She had the idea for the first book we did together. And she’d say I really, I can really picture the party scene so I’ll take that. And then we would do like alternate scenes and then each go and edit each other scene so it flowed smoothly.

And I can’t tell you now which. bits she wrote and which bits I wrote, which is really a compliment to her. It really is. And this latest one we were getting near the end and I said, we need to finish this because I need to start on my next, the Royal Spinous book I need to start on.

And she said, Oh, don’t worry. I’ve got the ending now. I know where we’re going. And it’s great. She will, and she has already come up with a great idea for her own series, which I hope. They’ll accept. And so it’s great that she’s, I’ve been able to get her start. I said to her, I have to tell you, most new writers don’t come in at this level so you know you’re not normally going to get a review in X, Y, and Z, so yeah.

[00:32:43] Jane: Sounds like she’s earned it. That’s wonderful though. What a treat that, it worked out so well with your daughter.

[00:32:48] Rhys: No, I’m really thrilled for her because I know she’s a good writer and often if you’re, as when you want to start off and you’re floundering in the darkness, sometimes you have a lucky break, but often you don’t know really where to start.

She’s, she started in a really good place.

[00:33:04] Jane: Excellent. I love that. So let’s see. Christine Mott, who is, I don’t think she’s ever missed a Historical Happy Hour, says, sorry I was late. I love this author. Thank you, Jane. And she, and Patricia Sands, who’s lovely and amazing. Oh,

[00:33:18] Rhys: I know her.

Yes. Yeah. Patricia.

[00:33:20] Jane: Hi, Patricia. You’ve answered all my questions. Thanks. I’m looking forward to reading Where the Spy Begins and just wanted to say hello to you both. I’m such a fan. Thank you for this lovely chat. Christine asked, Is there another author that you would consider co writing with or have you ever done that before?

That’s a good question. Oh, yeah.

[00:33:38] Rhys: I have lots of authors who are close friends. I don’t think I could, when I think about them, my closest friends. Louise Penny, Debra Crombie, Jacqueline Winspear, Cara Black, they’re all so different from me in their styles. I think. Yeah. We would have a real clash of styles.

The thing with Claire is that she was a good writer, but a blank canvas as far as me saying, this is what, this is the overall picture. I, so I’ve got really a willing apprentice rather than someone who comes in with their own style and their own everything. No, I can’t imagine writing with another author at the moment.

I’m not taking on any more projects. I think you have enough on your plate. I do need enough time just to breathe in between these books. Exactly.

[00:34:23] Jane: Exactly. I did want to say too to everyone, I Jungle Red Writers is a great community, and the authors on that group are so amazing and when my first debut baby novel, the Saturday Girls Killer came out you were kind enough to let me be a guest host one time, and I was like so thrilled because everyone was so welcoming in the community.

So lovely. And so thank you for that. That was really,

[00:34:48] Rhys: That’s the fun thing about Jungle Reds is we get to meet so many new authors that we wouldn’t have read otherwise. And and just such a broad spectrum, ranging from historical to dark thriller to cozy, we really it’s great.

[00:35:01] Jane: Yeah, so great.

[00:35:02] Rhys: It’s actually kept my sanity throughout the COVID. When we were locked down, we Jungle Reds talk to each other each day. There are people out there I can talk to. It’s a very nice thing.

[00:35:13] Jane: It is very nice. Oh, Mindy, who is always also visits on the webinars on the happy hours, says, Hi, Jane.

Nice to meet you, Rhys. Thank you for the lovely discussion. And so I have one final question and then I think we can wrap it up. But oh wait, there’s a couple more. Debbie McBride, do either of you ever think about writing a book on modern day events? Why don’t you take that one first, Rhys?

[00:35:35] Rhys: Yes, yes, I do.

Really modern events. I don’t think I’d want to touch at the moment because the world’s in such a dark place. I think that’s one of the reasons I write about World War Two because I see the similarities. And, I want to say you know this is not we’re not going in a good direction here look what happened in World War Two.

We’ve got Ukraine and things I think so I don’t think I’d want to dwell in that modern darkness. I have written. The Venice sketchbook has dual timelines, which I really like doing. And one of those takes place at the time of 9 11. So I did tackle that. That’s as close to modern as I’ve got recently.

So I think I’ll probably stay happily in the po I like writing about the 1930s because you Especially Britain, you’ve got you’ve got all those stories with the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson and Noel Coward and Oh, yes. And also you’ve got that foreshadowing that I mean they don’t know, but I know what’s going to happen I know World War Two is coming so when I write about them saying these silly things I think you’ve no idea what you’re talking about, it’s.

So it’s interesting in a way to say to people look. They didn’t, they pooh poohed the idea that Hitler could be dangerous at this time. Just, okay, pay attention now.

[00:36:47] Jane: Yeah yeah, and it’s funny when I was reading Where the Sky Begins, too, I was thinking, and she lost everything, I was thinking of these Ukrainian refugees.

[00:36:55] Rhys: Ukrainian, yeah. Yeah. It hadn’t happened when I wrote the book, and then when the book first came out and I was doing all these interviews, you can’t help but draw these parallels. So this is what we’re doing. And you showed the same thing, the utter resilience of these people in Ukraine, when you talk to them they’re defiant, they’re hopeful, they’re brave.

That’s what they were in World War Two. So it’s been a wonderful. Wonderful parallel.

[00:37:20] Jane: Yeah, the parallels. Yeah, that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw her like when she had lost everything and was at the convent and yeah didn’t know where to go. Amazing. I want to thank Marsha Dusing and Mandy Eisenbaum they’re also here almost every month.

My Mandy says, Thanks for another great chat. Rhys. You are delightful. I can’t wait to read more of your books. And Marcia says I, she has just done a big research trip to Israel and told my husband I could never be an author. I admire you both for your willingness to work so hard. Thank you, Marcia.

That’s lovely. Thank you. So thank you for this lovely chat. I won’t keep any more of your time. I know you’re very busy with everything you have going on. I, it’s been an honor because I’m such a fan to chat. Thank you for

[00:38:01] Rhys: inviting me. And you must come back and be on jungle red again. We look forward to seeing you.

[00:38:06] Jane: Yeah. Yeah. And please tell, say hello to all those lovely ladies. They’re so great.

[00:38:10] Rhys: Oh yes. All right. for having me and I look forward to seeing you again.

[00:38:15] Jane: Yes. Take care. Rhys. Thank you so much. Bye. Bye bye. Bye. Bye everyone. Thank you for coming.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

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