Today I’m delighted to introduce Janet MacLeod Trotter to present her Five on Friday. I first ‘met’ Janet online after I’d reviewed several of her India Tea Series. With a shared love of India and Scotland; a dislike of injustice, and of course, tea, it would be lovely to meet in real life one day. We could put the world to rights over several cups of Darjeeling.
British author Janet MacLeod Trotter has had 24 books published, 19 of them historical family dramas. Her first, THE HUNGRY HILLS, was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, while THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER (the first in the INDIA TEA SERIES set in Britain and India) was long-listed for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year and was an Amazon top ten best seller. It has gone on to be a best-seller in Russian, French and Italian too.
Janet’s second novel in THE INDIA TEA SERIES, THE TEA PLANTER’S BRIDE (sequel to THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER) is set in 1920’s Scotland, North East England and India. It was inspired by diaries and letters that recently came to light, belonging to Janet’s grandparents who married in Lahore and lived and worked in the Punjab for nearly 30 years.
The third novel in the series, GIRL FROM THE TEA GARDEN, follows the family into the Second World War – some of it was inspired by Janet’s trip to the foothills of the Himalayas to discover where her mother had lived as a child. The fourth and final novel, SECRETS OF THE TEA GARDEN, is set in the dying days of the British Raj and Indian Independence.
She has written for teenagers and numerous short stories for women’s magazines, some of which are published in an ebook anthology ICE CREAM SUMMER. She has been a columnist and reviewer for The Newcastle Journal and editor of The Clan MacLeod Magazine. Her childhood memoirs of Durham and Skye in the 1960’s, BEATLES & CHIEFS, was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
So over to Janet:-
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles – it conjures up childhood memories of playing pretend guitars with my brother Rory (me being Paul and he being John) and wearing our plastic Beatles wigs!
Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones – my ultimate dance tune.
My Home played on the bagpipes by my son Charlie. It reduced me to tears at a recent clan gathering – and was my dad’s favourite pipe tune.
Hide in Your Shell by Supertramp – reminds me of being on a bus trip to India in 1976 where it was played so often that the tape nearly wore out. Yes, it was tapes in those days! As I had just left school, the journey opened my eyes to a wider world of amazing diversity. It inspired my mystery novel, The Vanishing of Ruth.
The Gael by the Vatersay Boys (or any of their uptempo ceilidh music). It reminds me of so many good memories of family Hogmanays and impromptu ceilidhs.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Photos of my one year-old granddaughter Connie.
Coffee beans – continental ones from Cuttea Sark in Edinburgh mixed with Café Direct’s coffee club selection.
My Kindle – it’s a Mary Poppins-like bottomless bag, except for books!
The sea – a beach walk and a sea swim are good for body and soul.
Tea – Darjeeling First Flush for breakfast and Rooibos throughout the day. My tea consumption has definitely increased since writing the India Tea Series!
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
It doesn’t matter that you can’t spell – word processing spell checking will come along one day!
Ask your grandparents all those questions about their life in India before it’s too late.
Procrastination isn’t always bad – it can give you thinking time.
When you took that writer’s correspondence course and were offered your money back because you hadn’t earned a penny by the end of it, don’t worry! One day, writing will be your living.
Never stop challenging perceived wisdom – one day women will become sailors! (See below)
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I became a feminist at the age of three or four when I was told I couldn’t become a sailor when I grew up; I could only be a wren. (I used to like dressing up in my Dad’s naval hat). I was baffled and indignant to learn that wrens didn’t go to sea – it was my first conscious experience of girls not being treated as equal to boys.
Aged 8, I starred in a BBC docudrama about the 1926 Miners’ Strike as the coal owner’s daughter. My speaking part was left on the cutting-room floor but I still got paid six guineas and was on telly for about ten seconds!
Aged 18, I climbed on an old Bristol bus in London and got off four months later in Katmandu.
I’m named after my great-granny Janet. She and her three daughters were members of the suffragette WSPU in Edinburgh and my grand-aunt Belle was their champion newspaper seller in all of Scotland.
My four brothers and I have a family tradition of smacking Tunnocks tea cakes on our foreheads before eating them. I have no idea why! Does anyone else do this?
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Visit all the cities that appear on the list of independent Europa cinemas (even if I start now I think this is a lifetime’s work!)
Return to Rawalpindi and Lahore in Pakistan to find where my grandparents lived on and off from 1922 till 1950.
Walk a pilgrim route.
Drink a cocktail at Raffles in Singapore.
Live long enough to dance to Brown Sugar at Connie’s 21st!
Thanks so much for joining us Janet, and I’m sure Connie’s 21st will be do-able, I’d be more worried about the knees (from personal experience). I can recommend The Camino Ingles as a great pilgrim route, which is a full (but thankfully shorter) route that finishes in the amazing city of Santiago de Compostela. Hope you get to drink that Singapore Sling in Raffles and as for the Tunnock’s ‘thing’ – we’ll await comments to see if it’s just your family!!
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From shipwreck and heartbreak to treachery and war: can their love survive?
Abandoned as a baby and raised in a remote lighthouse off the wild Northumberland coast, Alice Fairchild has always dreamed of adventure. When a fierce storm wrecks a ship nearby, she risks everything in an act of bravery that alters the course of her life.
Aboard the doomed vessel is the handsome John Sinclair, a Scottish soldier on his way to India. The connection between them is instant, but soon fate intervenes and leaves Alice heartbroken and alone. Determined to take charge of her destiny but secretly hoping her path will cross again with John’s, she too makes a new start in colonial India.
Life there is colourful and exotic, but beneath the bright facade is an undercurrent of violence, and when the British invade Afghanistan, Alice is caught up in the dangerous campaign. When at last she hears news of John, she is torn between two very different lives. But will she follow her head or her heart?
The India Tea Series
Lush, green, fragrant: the Indian hills of Assam are full of promise. But eighteen-year-old Clarissa Belhaven is full of worry. The family tea plantation is suffering, and so is her father, still grieving over the untimely death of his wife, while Clarissa’s fragile sister, Olive, needs love and resourceful care.
Beautiful and headstrong, Clarissa soon attracts the attention of young, brash Wesley Robson, a rival tea planter. Yet before his intentions become fully clear, tragedy befalls the Belhavens and the sisters are wrenched from their beloved tea garden to the industrial streets of Tyneside.
A world away from the only home she has ever known, Clarissa must start again. Using all her means, she must endure not only poverty but jealousy and betrayal too. Will the reappearance of Wesley give her the link to her old life that she so desperately craves? Or will a fast-changing world and the advent of war extinguish hope forever?
The Tea Planter’s Bride (my review here)
When Sophie is suddenly orphaned at the age of six, she is taken from her parents’ tea plantation, the only home she has ever known, to be raised halfway across the world in Scotland.
As the years pass and her exotic childhood becomes a distant memory, adventurous Sophie finds refuge in her friendship with her kind, shy cousin, Tilly. It is no surprise when the girls follow each other to India to embark on new adventures, new lives and new loves.
But the reality of 1920s India is far removed from their dream: the jungles are too humid and the breathtaking tea gardens too remote. And amongst the stifling beauty, intrigue abounds; while Sophie struggles with affairs of the heart, Tilly, alone in a difficult world, delves into the mystery of Sophie’s parents’ deaths. As the past begins to darken their friendship, will long-held secrets shatter everything they’ve ever striven for?
The Girl from the Tea Garden (my review here)
In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits—but it is not the one she imagined.
In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful debutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.
The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England—a country she cannot remember—without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.
She’s gone in search of happy memories. But was her idyllic childhood in India an illusion?
After the Second World War, Libby Robson leaves chilly England for India, and the childhood home where she left her heart—and her beloved father, James—fourteen years ago.
At first Libby is intoxicated by India’s vibrant beauty: the bustle of Calcutta, the lush tea gardens of Assam. But beneath the surface a rebellion is simmering: India is on the brink of Independence, and the days of British rule are numbered. As the owner of a tea plantation, James embodies the hated colonial regime, and Libby finds herself questioning her idealised memories—particularly when she meets the dashing freedom fighter Ghulam Khan.
As Independence looms, life in India becomes precarious for Libby, James and even Ghulam. And when James reveals a shameful family secret, Libby is forced to question her past—and her future.
The Jarrow Trilogy
The Durham Trilogy
The Tyneside Saga’s
The Highland Romances
Featured on BBC Home Truths, this is the delightful memoir of a Beatle-mad, ex-pat Scot growing up in the north-east of England in the 1960s. The only girl in a family of boys, Janet was brought up in the ‘Land of Boy’ – a boarding school in Durham where her father Norman was housemaster. Every year, these seven MacLeods would cram into a Ford Zephyr for the two day journey back to the ancestral home on the Isle of Skye.
Beatlemania, the Girls from U.N.C.L.E, suffragette great-aunts, real chiefs, Donovan-spotting, a pastry scandal and a dash of blood-thirsty clan history – Janet’s tales are amusing and touching, and vividly re-create the lost world of ’60s Durham and the Scottish Highlands before mass tourism.