Hello, friends. Today, I’m doing a one-on-one interview with fellow Springtime in Surrey author Bailey Gaines. In this format, we are interviewing one another, so one question and answer will lead into the next. I hope you enjoy it!
Our stories in Springtime in Surrey are:
The Cottage on the Hill by Andrea Renee Cox
If I Knew You Were Coming by Bailey Gaines
Please stay tuned after the interview to learn more about each of these stories.
Couple of announcements before we get started.
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Fellow Springtime in Surrey author Rachel Leitch and I are doing a Social (media) Swap this week. You’ll find a few of my book quotes on her Instagram account, and I’ll be posting a few of hers on my Twitter account.
Here’s the schedule:
The Cottage on the Hill quotes on Rachel Leitch’s Instagram:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
The Odd Duck Society quotes on Andrea Renee Cox’s Twitter:
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Please visit and/or comment on our Social Swap posts if you’re able this week. We love hearing from you.
Andrea Renee Cox: World War II is one of my favorite genres to read. How did you decide on that genre for your story in Springtime in Surrey?
Bailey Gaines: I wasn’t sure at first what time period I wanted to set my story in, so I did a little bit of general reading on Surrey’s history. I found out that about 2000 children were evacuated from London to Guildford (the city I set my story in) during WWII, and that pretty much determined that my story would be a WWII story. Learning more about the Women’s Land Army made me want to write this story during WWII even more!
One thing I loved in your story was that you used the phrase “she wanted an entire array of blooms that represented springtime in Surrey” near the end of the story. What made you decide to use that particular phrase to tie in the title of the story?
Andrea: I can see why you chose WWII! The evacuee children and the Women’s Land Army were such fascinating aspects of your story.
The reason I included the phrase “she wanted an entire array of blooms that represented springtime in Surrey” was twofold. It was to tie in the title but also to ground the reader in the season one final time, to let them know we were near the end of spring but not yet in summer. Actually, it might have been triple-fold, as I just realized it also calls back to the flowers that played roles earlier in the story. Sometimes I don’t even realize all the ways certain lines tie into the story until I’ve read it a dozen or so times. God is so good to weave the tapestry of the story together despite my not catching on to the intricacies very quickly sometimes.
The “stiff upper lip” thread was one of my favorites in If I Knew You Were Coming. It created a fun connection between the leading lady and the evacuee children she took into her home. When in the process did you land on that particular bit of levity (which also doubled as solemnity in a moment or two)? Was there something else you played with prior to choosing that one?
Bailey: I definitely didn’t pick up on the tie-back to the flowers (although now that you mention it, flowers did play a very big part in the story, and I loved that Adrian used them in his courtship of Moira)!
I think I just started using “stiff upper lip” because I knew it was a British stereotype. It started out as a way to show a cute moment with Joan and the kids, and I didn’t even realize it taking on more significance until you pointed it out during line edits! But like you said, there’s so many things that we don’t realize God is doing in our stories.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a story about a dancer, but I loved the memories your story brought back about taking ballet classes as a young girl and dreaming of being a skilled ballerina. I didn’t take ballet after eighth grade, so I was happy to see someone (even a fictional character) in a career as a dancer and very sad for Moira when I thought about everything she’d lost. Was Moira’s occupation as a dancer something you chose just because (I chose for Joan to be involved in the WLA really because I thought it was cool and convenient) or do you have an experience with/attachment to dancing that led you to choose that for her?
Andrea: How fun that you took ballet for a while!
Moira was a former ballerina from the moment I “met” her, and who was I to argue? There is a connection to dance for me, by proxy. I have long enjoyed the musical films of Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Vera-Ellen, and Gene Kelly, among many others, and I used to wish I could tap dance as well as they, though I was much too shy and didn’t even know one could take lessons for such a thing when I was a child. It was fun getting to pay homage to that community of dancing performers in a small way with The Cottage on the Hill.
What was one of the most challenging things about the process of writing If I Knew You Were Coming for you?
Bailey: I absolutely love old Hollywood dance films too! Singing in the Rain and Holiday Inn are some of my favorites. 🙂
I think the most difficult thing about writing If I Knew was writing my proposal for Kellyn (Roth), which involved planning out what I wanted to happen in the story and how it was going to end before I’d written it! I’ve been practicing this for a couple of years, but it’s still hard to decide how a story will end ahead of time.
As you were writing Cottage on the Hill, did your theme/message you wanted to convey change, and did you feel like you conveyed your theme clearly? Your dedication set up the theme very clearly but I know with my story I didn’t feel like my original theme shone through the first time.
Andrea: Ooh, that’s a great point! Choosing an ending before you get to explore the story is challenging.
I usually come to my themes at the end, actually, as I’m much more story driven than theme driven, which might be why I hold off on writing my dedications until I reach The End most of the time. God gets the themes in my stories that He wants, and readers tend to see ones I didn’t even know had sneaked in there.
That being said, a couple of themes for this story came to me nearly at the beginning of the exploration process: compassion and finding joy in new dreams. The tagline of “She cried into her tea every afternoon. He wondered why,” which was the first piece of the puzzle of this story that I received, hinted at the compassion Adrian would have at the sight of Moira’s distress. Since my first mental image of Moira was her crying into her tea at a table outside a small cottage on a hill, I knew I had to find a way to give her new joy to overcome the sorrow she clearly felt. With those themes in mind, I plotted out my story. Much to my surprise, it all came together rather quickly, including the sweeping finale, and everything felt very right for this vintage-feel contemporary tale.
The themes of compassion and joy in new dreams came through clearly for me, but I hope they also will for the readers. It is my hope that people will be inspired by Adrian’s attempts to cheer up Moira, that they will choose to watch for opportunities to help people around them, infusing more compassion into our increasingly apathetic world.
That leads me to my final question. What do you hope readers take away from If I Knew You Were Coming?
Bailey: I’m the same way! I often have to go back after my first draft to pull out the threads of my theme, and then it’s even more difficult to feel like it’s woven in well with the story. The theme of your story is so beautiful, and I can see how your quest to give Moira joy influenced Adrian’s character.
One takeaway I hope shines through from my story is the importance of family, but also the importance of prioritizing what God wants you to. And complicit in that is that Christians should be seeking guidance from God on what they should be prioritizing, because often we have so much going on that it’s hard to do things with excellence, or to do everything we’re expected to.
On to one last question!
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you (either in general or specifically for Springtime in Surrey)? For me it’s editing once the story is complete. I always know there’s things I can improve on, but need a little outside help to spot them. So I’m curious about how you as an editor view the creative process.
Andrea: Such a great point! Focusing on the priorities God intends for us to have can be a challenge sometimes. I think that theme came through very well in your story.
The most difficult part of the writing process for me is conquering my ADD (attention deficit disorder) on the roughest, most-lack-of-focus days. Whether that’s in the first draft or the fiftieth, that’s the main challenge. Other than that, I would say the developmental-edits phase is one that doesn’t come naturally to me, and I find it challenging–something to still figure out how to master. Like you, it helps if I have an outsider point out the flaws of my work so that I may improve them. And loads of prayer goes in so that I keep to the priorities God set for me for the given project. Writing a book truly is a collaborative process, even if only one name goes on its front cover.
Bailey, thank you for joining me here on Writing to Inspire for this one-on-one interview. It’s been a blast, and I know I’ve learned more about your story, writing process, and you along the way. I hope my readers have enjoyed our chat.
Bailey: I can definitely see how ADD would make writing hard! I sometimes struggle to sit down and focus on things, and I don’t even have ADD. It’s also encouraging to know that even as an editor there’s still parts of the editing process that are harder than others.
Thank you so much for interviewing me! I loved going back and forth and thinking up questions for you.
How do you deal with focus issues?
How has grief impacted your life?
Have you ever tried dance classes or visited Surrey, England?
About the Stories
The Cottage on the Hill by Andrea Renee Cox
Moira Wood lost her ballerina dreams when she suffered an unfortunate accident. During every teatime at her cottage hideaway, it hits her afresh what she won’t again be able to obtain.
Helping out on his uncle’s farm, Adrian Davis worries he’ll never earn a place of his own. While sent on a bevy of errands, he observes a woman crying into her tea and wonders why … and what he could do to cheer her up.
When forced to confront their own regrets, will Moira and Adrian trust that God has a good plan even through crushed dreams and far-off hopes?
If I Knew You Were Coming by Bailey Gaines
Joan Masterson feels like she can never contribute enough to the war effort. Even though she is part of the Women’s Land Army and has taken in two evacuee children from London, it never seems like enough. Her exhaustion turns to excitement when her soldier husband Leo phones her to say he’s coming home. Joan knows Leo’s leave will probably be short, so she makes plans to travel by train to meet him so they can spend time together.
But when the effects of the London Blitz hit close to home and ruin her plans, Joan realizes that motherly love transcends blood and that her calling as a mother is the most important thing in her life. But is it important enough to pass up the chance to meet Leo?
You may find these and other stories in Springtime in Surrey.
About the Authors
Born and raised in north Texas, Andrea Renee Cox is a born-again child of God who enjoys writing stories that inspire, copyediting fiction manuscripts, tutoring middle school students, and going on road trips with her family. Whether she’s working on historical or contemporary, women’s fiction or romance, she uses her skills in research and writing techniques—as well as a large dose of prayer and guidance from God—at every turn in the journey to produce the best story of her ability every single time. Her books may be found on her website, and readers are welcome to follow her blog for the latest updates in her journey.
Bailey Gaines is a Georgia girl who loves history. Through her writing, she hopes to show how God works in all periods of history, bringing healing and helping people know they have value because of their identity as a human created in God’s image. Her stories range from King Richard the Lionheart’s England to 1930s Appalachia to 18th century England to 19th century America.
Bailey is a student of the Author Conservatory, and has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, she’s helping homeschoolers with their writing or working at an escape room. Her hobbies include playing the piano, sewing, and exploring the world of vintage fashion.
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