Jean was born in East London and in 2006 she won the
Harry Bowling prize, giving her an agent and a contract with Orion. After four
award-winning Victorian novels Jean jumped forward to post-war East London with
her fifth, Call Nurse Millie, released
last year. The second in the series, All
Change for Nurse Millie, is now out and she as just finished the third.
Nurse Millie Sullivan is
now Nurse Millie Smith, married to aspiring MP Jim Smith. NHS has just started,
so nurses are busier than ever as the community realise that they no longer
have to pay. Minor ailments need attention, babies need to be helped into the
world and larger-than-life characters need keeping in line so Millie has enough
drama to deal with without more at home…and Alex Nolan, her ex-fiancé, is
back in town.
Change for Nurse Millie has just been published. Was it hard to find
another storyline to carry Millie into book three?
not. I’d plotted the storyline for the second book and the first book of
Connie’s alongside Call Nurse Millie
to too ensure continuity. Of course, things changed as I wrote it but it’s
about getting the timelines to stay true.
had student nurse, Annie, in Call Nurse
Millie and the O’Toole family in All
Change for Nurse Millie so I just bought both thread together for the
first books are set in the 1800s and your later ones
post WW2. Which time period do you prefer?
not really sure. I’ve loved all things historical since Roger Moore galloped
across our 9” TV screen in Ivanhoe. Each book I write is like a history project.
In the post-war books is I am able to bring much more family history into them
as it’s the period my parents lived though. For them things were always before or
after the war. My father fought in Africa in the 8th Army while my mother
endured the blitz and was even trapped in the Bethnal Green Tube disaster.
do you carry out your research?
go back to primary sources as much as possible. I must have every 20th
century nursing biography good, bad and dire. I also have a sizable selection
of 1940/50s nursing, midwifery and medical text books which I base the nursing elements
of the story on plus my own 25 years of nursing knowledge.
you like to have worked with Nurse Millie?
think Nurse Millie worked much harder than I ever worked and for less pay. Nursing
was a vocation not a job. In Millie’s fictional timeline she started training
in 1937. At that time a nursing career meant foregoing marriage and children,
Thankfully for Millie – and my story – WW2 changed that as post-war there was a
shortage of nurses. To read more fully the differences between Millie’s working
life in East London and mine visit My
time as a District Nurse
do you fit your writing around your busy home life?
only knows. I still work full-time and I write in the evenings and Saturday, aiming
for 1500 or a scene a day. That way I don’t forget what I’ve written the last
time. It’s the only way. Sadly, 124,000 words don’t write themselves.
is next in your writing life?
just finished the first book of Nurse Connie Byrne’s story and will be starting
her second in a month or two. Then who knows but I’m certain whatever I write
after that it will be set in East London.
Many thanks for chatting with us today, Jean.
you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.
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