BOOK REVIEW: When We Danced at the End of the Pier
In an exclusive interview, author Sandy Taylor talks about her Brighton Girls Trilogy
By Gabrielle Pantera
“I grew up in a close loving Irish family where there was a mental health problem,” says When We Danced at the End of the Pier author Sandy Taylor. “I think that I have always wanted to tell this story because those problems shaped my life, they gave me an understanding way beyond my years. To love someone so much and not truly understand why they were sometimes so unhappy and other times so normal was difficult for me as a child. When I was writing, it took me straight back to those times and I was able to recount it but with the wisdom of an adult.”
When We Danced is set in 1930 Brighton. Maureen O’Connell is young carefree girl. The world is on the brink of war that will change her family forever. Maureen’s friends are Jack and Nelson. Maureen and Jack fall in love, but war tears them apart. Nelson is off fighting too. Will Jack and Nelson come back? Will she find her happily ever after?
This book is the third book in the Brighton Girls Trilogy. “Having written the first two, The Girls from See Saw Lane and Counting Chimneys, my publishers asked me to do a prequel,” says Taylor. ‘It made sense to take the book back in time to the 1930s and through the war years, telling the story of Dottie’s parents.”
“My books are very character driven,’ says Taylor. ‘I could deal with my characters emotions, fear and loss because that is the way I write. I wanted my readers to feel as if they are there with them, in time and place. I wanted them to cry with them and to laugh with them but within a framework of authenticity. This background is reflected in my novels as they are full of dialogue.”
Taylor had to do a lot more research for this book than for the previous two. “To start with, I was worried about writing about a period I knew nothing about. But, I found that the more I got into it, the more I learned. I am now an expert on the WW2 in Brighton. I knew that I had to get the facts right as far as the war went. I grew up in Brighton but didn’t live through this time…unlike the world of the sixties that I had experienced.”
“Thank heavens for the Internet because this was where I got a lot of my background information,” says Taylor. “I was also loaned some amazing old books on the war in Brighton, which were invaluable, especially the photos of actual streets that were bombed. This made the whole thing very real. I also read personal accounts of people who had lived through these times. I read books about the evacuees, which helped with Gertie’s story.”
Taylor, who started as a playwright, has won seven awards for her plays and three for television. She’s been a singer and a stand-up comedian. When We Danced has yet to be optioned for film or television. She’s written musicals, pantomimes and has two published books of sketches and monologues.
“There is a wonderfully emotional quality to Sandy’s writing which is so distinctive,” says Claire Bord, Taylor’s editor at Bookcouture. “I guess that’s what struck me first. I felt like I really knew the characters, that they were my friends or family.”
“I think that to write this story without having lived through it would have been difficult,” says Taylor. “But, for me it was very cathartic. This was a story that I needed to write.”
Taylor is currently writing two more books for a two book deal. She lives in the West country but born in Brighton.
When We Danced at the End of the Pier: (Brighton Girls Trilogy book 1) By Sandy Taylor. Paperback: 362 pages, Publisher: Bookouture (March 31, 2017). Language: English. ISBN: 9781786811554 $12.99