Friday Reads- The Blue Hour by M.J Greenwood

For today’s Friday Read I’m featuring the debut women’s fiction novel, The Blue Hour, by M J Greenwood. It sounds a fascinating read.


The Blue Hour – two love affairs and two summers, 75 years apart

Damaged by a toxic relationship, Ava Westmorland flees the ruins of her life in London for a carer’s job in a Cornish village. She hopes a combination of countryside and coast will heal her shattered heart. But she has yet to face tyrannical Tilly Barwise; the 89-year-old she will be looking after. Sharp, cantankerous and with an acid tongue, Tilly is the polar opposite of a sweet old lady. She has lived a thrillingly full life of romance and intrigue – and is determined shy Ava will follow in her doddering footsteps.

Through Tilly’s outrageous antics and bittersweet reminiscences, she shows Ava what it is to embrace life. As the pair form an unlikely bond, Tilly reveals the details of a wartime love affair with an American that ended in tragedy – but not quite in the way Tilly always believed.

…the literary equivalent of a strong gin and tonic on a warm summer’s evening: refreshing, invigorating and inspiring…a stunningly good debut. Beautifully written, this honest, emotional and moving novel had me hooked from the opening pages. I could not stop reading until I had finished, and

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Welcome to my blog, M.J. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I was always an avid reader. I have phases where I can read three books-a-week, usually when news is bad on TV, so a lot at present. I’ve been a journalist and features writer, with regional and national press. I had to stop this in order to write the novel and was taken on by an amazing garden designer, who was desperate for a pair of hands, even my inept ones! Gardening has enabled me to write, and just as importantly, to edit.

Have any authors inspired you?

So many and they change. The ones I love automatically inspire me. At the moment, I’m reading Elizabeth Strout’s ‘Oh William’Amy and Isabelle’ and Hilma Wolitzer’s ‘Today a Woman went Mad in the Supermarket’. I tend to avoid (like the plague) violent novels, thrillers and romances that set my teeth on edge. I love American authors, writing with a quirky humour mixed with a strand of longing and honesty.  I love the biting beauty of Julie Oringer’s short stories ‘How to Breathe Underwater’ the vibrant poetry of Liz Berry’s ‘Black Country’, the quirky tale of Miriam Toew’s ‘A Complicated Kindness’, the tender humour of Claire Chamber’s ‘Small Pleasures’, and wonderful coming of age novel, Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden….and the break-up in ‘Heartburn’ by Nora Ephron I could go on and on and on.

What do you like writing most?

About the complex intricacies of relationships; how they can change lives for the good or bad. Nothing fascinates me more than finding out what makes someone tick. It’s what I loved as a journalist and the same as a novelist.

Do you have a special place for writing?

My kitchen table at 5am. It’s in a 16th Century cottage in a small village near the Mendips. I can hear the cocks crow, the owl hooting and the cows wanting to be milked.

Are you a pantster or a plotter?

Oh, I so, so, so want to be a plotter but like the rest of my life I am a pantster. I have tried to organise myself but it all goes out of the window. I vaguely know where a story starts, that often may change and where it ends. Ditto. So editing is hell.

Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real-life incidents?

Yes, my novel, The Blue Hour, was inspired by a story I came across as a journalist. It shook me to the core and wouldn’t let me go. I’d often be out and about and ideas would steal up on me, dialogue, incidents but it wasn’t until I’d written the first draft that I saw the work which was needed.

What are you writing at the moment?

Poetry. I love it. I’ve also written a half-hour comedy script about being a gardener and I have a novel mulling over.

What inspired you to write this book?

The true-life story I came upon but I needed an amazing, almost terrifying, character to be the vehicle and that was my mother. Once met never forgotten. She was married but had numerous lovers, including one that lasted 26 years, without she stated, ‘the shopping, cooking and cleaning’. Romance was her passion only not with my father. People who’ve read the book love her. She was very different to live with. While it was mum’s character, it was not her story.

What time of the day do you write best?

Early mornings. When the world is quiet, or at least demands on me are and no emails are sent or phone pinging.

What are your hobbies?

I was mad about salsa for about a decade and taught it for a while. I only have to hear the music and want to get up, it’s so sunny and happy. I love walking with the whippet, gardening, a bit of yoga. The pub and reading.

What advice would you give to other writers?

Do a vague plan if you aren’t organised like me. Then choose your time and write. Glue your seat to the seat of the chair and write at least 100 words daily. Do not break the chain of writing. And find your own voice, read all you want but set other voices aside and let your own individual qualities shine. My editor told me ‘The Blue Hour’ was ‘uplift literary women’s fiction’. I didn’t know what uplift was. Apparently, it’s writing about serious subjects in a humorous way. That’s fine by me.

Meet M.J


MJ Greenwood is a freelance journalist and editor and gardener.   ‘The Blue Hour’ is her debut novel begun while studying an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Born in Liverpool, the mother-of-four lives in North Somerset.

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Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
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