Author Interview: Caroline Beecham

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This month a selection of our members are reading Esther’s Children by Caroline Beecham.

We were lucky enough to borrow Caroline for a quick chat. You can read more about the author and her book in the following interview.

Tell us a little about Esther’s Children…

Esther’s Children is inspired by an unknown heroine, Esther Simpson, who worked for a British organization that helped rescue over two thousand Jewish academics and scientists from the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. She worked tirelessly behind the scenes, befriended many of the refugees and was practical and emotional support to those who had lost their homes and livelihoods, and I was immediately intrigued by what a hidden hero she was.

They essentially rescued Jewish academics and scientists in the same way the Kindertransport rescued the Jewish children. Many of the refugees she helped also had an incredible legacy, and sixteen went on to become Nobel prize winners.

She called them her children so I thought the best way to tell her story was to give her the love life she truly deserved but never had time for, and also ask the question: what if she was able to save these two thousand refugees but couldn’t save the man she loved?

You will have to read the novel if you want to find out if she did…

What does your schedule look like when you’re writing?

I do gym and Pilates three mornings a week and try to walk on the other days but then I’m quickly at my desk (with a coffee) and getting on with research and writing, or any social media or admin that I need to do.

I’ll work most of the morning but there will be lots of breaks for all the household stuff; with two messy teenage boys, there’s always heaps to do! I used Scrivener on my last book and found it a good way to keep on top of the daily word count.

I try to do a thousand words a day when I’m working on a first draft but some days there’s a lot less and other days it’s more. I don’t write every day because there’s a lot of historical research that goes into my books because they are all based on real events or people.

Lunch is at home or I might meet a friend and then I work through to the end of the day, with quite a few tea breaks!

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

After the disruption of Covid and working at the dining room table in a rented apartment, I am now over the moon to be back in our renovated house and in my office again. Peace, space and minimal distraction, which I didn’t think I needed before, are key to having room to think.

It’s better if the desk is tidy and I can find things but it inevitably never is because there are always lots of books and reference material and vintage paraphernalia that I collect. Sometimes I’ll have some flowers or a candle but the view from my window is over a park so that’s what helps me refocus.

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

I don’t feel like a book is ever really finished because there is always a next stage in the publishing and marketing process but I have been known to open a bottle of bubbles and drink it with my husband. The boys are a bit older now so they might get a glass on the next book!

What does being an author mean to you?

Being an author means getting to do something I love; it’s like being a detective as well as a writer, finding out about different areas of life, of history, studying people and human nature and delving into our hopes, dreams and wants. Being able to find an untold story is what really fires me up and then the detective work to find material to construct a compelling story that I hope will resonate with readers is the next big challenge.

There are a couple of downsides like any work; long periods alone are hard as I’m quite a sociable person and need a certain amount of interaction to find emotional energy. And some of the deadlines can be tough but I love what I do so find ways to manage them. plus you get to work with some really interesting and talented people. 

If you could invite any three people for dinner, whom would you invite?

I would invite Esther Simpson (we would have a lot to talk about and I’m sure she would set me straight on a few things!), and I would also invite AV Hill and Walter Adams, her colleagues from the Society.

They had such a close working relationship and there was a singular determination in what they did but there was also a camaraderie that made me picture them as old-school Hollywood leading men; gallant, witty and charming, and it would be great to reunite them all! The food might be a bit better now too…

Who is your favourite author?

I always want to read the new Kate Quinn and Kirsten Hannah novels because they are wonderful historical fiction writers but if I had to choose one author (which is very hard!) it would have to be Sarah Winman.

I love her characters and listened to the audiobook of Still Life, which she narrated so it really brought the story and characters to life. I just saw her at the Sydney Writers Festival; a real treat!

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, which I loved because I’m a big fan of Broome. The fictional setting of the book is Bannin, which is based on Broome, and the author Lizzie Pook, is a travel writer so her descriptions of the life and landscape are sumptuous.

We used to go to Broome every year but this year we couldn’t so I read Lizzie’s book instead.

Where can our readers follow you?

I’m on Facebook and Instagram mostly but I have been known to tweet occasionally. And I have a new web site that should be live by the end of May, which is exciting, and the existing one is still full of background about my books and writing…

What is next for Caroline Beecham?

I’ve got two projects I’m working on simultaneously and I’m waiting to see which one captures me the most; there’s some research I need to do for one and I’m waiting to find that nugget of gold that will unlock the characters and the story for me…

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