Hey guys. Today is my stop on the blog tour for The White Phoenix by Catherine Randall and I am bringing you a guest post from Catherine about why she wrote the book and why it is important to her. Enjoy!
The White Phoenix by Catherine Randall
Genre: Historical MG
Published by: Book Guild Publishing
Release date: 28/08/2020
Where to find: Goodreads | Amazon
Summary: London, 1666. After the sudden death of her father, thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hopper and her mother must take over THE WHITE PHOENIX – the family bookshop in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. But England is at war with France and dire prophecies abound. As rumours of invasion and plague spread, Lizzie battles prejudice, blackmail and mob violence to protect the bookshop she loves. When the Great Fire of London breaks out, Lizzie must rescue more than just the bookshop. Can she now save the friend she wasn’t supposed to have? CAN THE WHITE PHOENIX RISE FROM THE ASHES?
Why did you write this book and why is it important to you?
I have wanted to be a writer since I was six, but somehow never got round to doing anything about it until my children were all at school. I’ve always felt passionately about the books I read as a child, and I love history – I studied it at university – so it was natural that when I did finally get round to writing a book it would be a children’s historical novel.
I ended up setting the book in 1666 around the time of the Great Fire of London because, like many children, I’ve always been fascinated by the Great Fire. My mother was a history teacher and had a copy of Samuel Pepys’s diary, and when I was little I used to read the entries about the Great Fire over and over again. I grew up in Shropshire but when I came down to visit London, the first thing I wanted to see was the Monument to the Fire. When I moved to London in my early twenties, I loved walking round the City, with the ancient churches and old street names dotted around among the modern plate glass and steel. Then just at a time when I was looking for a subject for a story, I caught part of a radio programme about the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, and it reawakened my interest in the subject. I didn’t do anything about it straightaway, but a few years later, in the build up to the 350th anniversary of the Fire, a friend of mine encouraged me to start writing.
At the time, I had no idea how long it can take to draft and redraft a book and then get it accepted for publication, so unfortunately I missed the anniversary, but by then I was completely committed to it as a story. I was sure about the setting and I enjoy developing characters, but it always takes me time to work out the plot. Luckily, in choosing London in 1666, I had found a setting with lots of wonderful opportunities for drama, conflict and excitement, so the basic plot developed quite quickly, with the help of my wonderful writing group. Everyone knows about the Fire, but not many people know that England was at war at the time, and that there was a real fear of invasion by the French. London had also suffered dreadfully because of the plague the year before, and everyone was very nervous that it would return in the unusually hot summer of 1666. I wrote the book well before the current pandemic, but I think that what we have experienced this year makes the situation in 1666 much easier for us to relate to.
The White Phoenix is very important to me because it is my debut novel. I have wanted to have a book published for more years than I am willing to admit to, and I do feel proud that my persistence has paid off because it has been a long haul. I’m also delighted because I’ve been living with these characters for a long time and now they are out in the world for other people to meet! I really hope that young people will engage with the story which is about friendship and the battle against prejudice as much as it is about the Great Fire of London.
I can’t wait to get stuck into my next novel which is set 150 years after The White Phoenix.
Catherine Randall was brought up in Shropshire but has lived in London since graduating from St Catherine’s College, Oxford with a degree in Modern History. Catherine worked as an editor in book publishing before taking a break to bring up her family. She took a Master’s in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton, writing a novella for teens as part of her dissertation. Now living in southwest London, she is known in her local area as the writer of two history plays (The Teddington Review and Letters from the Front) performed in 2017 and 2018.
As a result of her research for The White Phoenix, Catherine takes workshops about the Great Fire of London into primary schools. She is passionate about encouraging reading and volunteers with the charity Prisoners’ Reading Groups. She is currently working on her second novel.