Author Interview: Mary Lay author of The Catching Up Series


Welcome Readers, to The Book’s Delight. We continue our author interview series with Mary Lay, author of the Catching Up series about an intrepid young woman finding herself in the 1920s. Looks like lots of fun!

JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Mary. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

ML- Hello Jeanie, and thanks for having me! I live in Cheltenham in the south of England, by myself. For fun, gosh sometimes I wonder how I fit it all in – I love to travel, particularly on city breaks. I love steam trains, looking at and riding on them. The smell and the sounds remind me of my father. There are very few crafts that I haven’t tried at least once; I always have three or four knitting and crochet projects on the go at once. My other love is gardening; I am a Royal Horticultural Society trained garden designer and have a passion for designing small spaces.

 My perfect day would start with breakfast: bacon, eggs and strong tea. Then a trip to a small town somewhere in the Cotswolds to have a wander and look at the architecture. Lunch in a pub, then perhaps calling in to a garden centre on the way home. That leaves plenty of time to work on one or more of my projects before an early bedtime. I am easily pleased!

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

ML- I have always been fascinated by the 1920s. Everything was new and fast-moving, so many advances in technology, and although poverty was still widespread, those who had a small income could still afford housing, food, clothes and trips to the cinema or dancing. My grandmother was in service during the 20s, at Wantage Hall which is part of the University of Reading, and she often spoke fondly of the girls she worked with there. It was her mother who was the inspiration for my novella ‘A Woman Like That’.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

ML- I have always been far more interested in social and cultural history than individuals who became famous. I would like to know more about the lives of the people who made the country function; the bricklayers, the railway men, the laundry workers, bakers, school teachers. If I could have half an hour with anyone who lived through the Great War, I would ask them to tell me about a typical day for them.

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

ML- I have always written, but largely for my own enjoyment. Then during the pandemic, on my 30-minute exercise walks, I began to think about the people who might have lived in the houses I passed, and the first novel in the Catching Up series came from those imaginings. I researched how one might publish work, queried a few agents and publishers, but ultimately decided to self-publish.

JMR- You describe yourself as a ‘magpie of learning’. How does this influence your writing?

ML- I really am! I love to learn new things, formally and informally, when something catches my attention. If I need to do something, for example tiling the bathroom, I will learn how to do it and then do it myself. I like to think I am observant, and that helps to clothe the characters and places in my novels; understanding how something actually works, or how it was assembled gives a measure of authenticity to writing – this is important even in historical fiction.

JMR- Did you visit anyone of the places in your book? Where did you feel closest to your characters?

ML- I do find it easier to write about places that I already know reasonably well and know some of the history of. Caroline’s story starts in Cheltenham where I currently live, but she goes on to visit and live in various places that I also know well. I had thought it would be difficult to write about somewhere that didn’t actually exist, but I’m giving it a go in my current project.

JMR-Mary, tell us about your new series, Catching Up.

ML- Catching Up begins in the final days of the Great War, with the death of Caroline’s older brother. The impact of his death causes Caroline to miss out on many of the activities that a young woman in a middle-class family could expect to enjoy in the post-war years. A church sermon brings Caroline to realise she is not honouring her brother’s memory by staying tied to the home, so she comes to an arrangement with her father for some funds and sets out to ‘catch up’ with her old school friends. She makes new friends along the way, some of whom show Caroline some aspects of life that she would never have otherwise known about or experienced. The series progresses through the 1920s and 30s as Caroline grows in confidence and her life takes some subtle twists and turns as she works hard to maintain her independence. 

Though there is some romantic content, there are also some difficult situations for Caroline to deal with. The other characters are representative of the various types of people who lived and worked in England at the time. An off-shoot of the Catching Up series is a collection of short stories featuring some of the minor characters in the series, called ‘The Previous Adventures of…’

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

ML- I have recently started to write a novel which could become another series, also set in the 1920s but this time in a fictional county between Dorset and Devon in the south of England. This first novel is centred around an inn and the characters involved with it and the production of pear perry (similar to cider). As I’m writing it, I am having to be strict with the secondary characters that they may have to wait to see their own tales in print!

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

ML- The easiest way is through my website particularly if you are looking to purchase a book in person or would like a signed paperback copy. Alternatively, a search on Amazon will find me, and my novels are also available on Kindle Unlimited. Plus all of the major social media channels as @marylaystories although Twitter is my preference.

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

ML- I was hoping you would mention the covers for the Catching Up series, so that I could say how wonderful my designer has been to produce them from my extremely basic Power Point slides! I work with John at Chandler Design Associates in Norfolk. I wanted a style similar to the old railway posters of the era, but with a modern feel, and of course, each one must have a train included. 

For the new project, I will be looking for a new designer, as these need a very different style. If any of your readers can recommend an artist, please do get in touch! 

JMR- Thank you, Mary, for stopping by for a great chat. Your series looks like so much fun! Readers, I have included a link to Mary’s books below. Be sure to check it out.



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