“Moving and beautiful written, this enchanting story of love and loss touched my heart.” — Dinah Jefferies, Author of The Tea Planter’s Wife.
In Meet Me in Bombay we find ourselves immersed in the world of Maddy Bright, who has just returned to her parents home in Bombay. In the very first chapter Maddy and her friend Della go to a ball where she sees an interesting and mysterious man who she later learns is Luke Devereaux. When WWI parts them, Luke promises that he will meet her again in Bombay, the only problem is he has to remember who she is.
One of the many things that I enjoyed about Meet Me in Bombay was the lush descriptions throughout the book, which really give the reader a feeling that they are seeing each and every scene through the characters eyes. If you enjoy reading love stories that you won’t be able to put down until you’ve read the final line, this is definitely a book that you want to add to your reading list.
In this interview Jenny shares about when she first came up with the idea for Meet Me in Bombay, the research she did to capture both the time period, her favorite scene from the novel and a sneak peek at her next book.
When did you first come up with the storyline for Meet Me in Bombay?
I’m honestly not sure. This has been a book I’ve long hoped to write, and I think the story has probably been evolving in my sub-conscious for years. But there was definitely a moment, right when I was at the very start of getting it down on the page, that it really came to life. An image struck me, of a woman in the middle of a party, staring in silence at a man staring at her; the next thing, I was scribbling down a scene, then another, and the rest of the book span out from there.
What drew you to the particular time period that the novel is set in?
I think there are many stories to be told from this time – so many have of course already been beautifully written. Birdsong was one of the first novels to make me cry, I’ve loved countless others set during the First World War, and felt such a pull to write one of my own. I studied the war through my final year at university, poring over maps, diaries, letters, and news reels, visiting the battlefields, even, back then, speaking to veterans. I can still see their faces, hear their voices. It’s all remained with me so vividly, which, I’m certain, is part of why this book has been taking shape in my mind for as long as it has.
I love how vivid the descriptions are of the locations in the novel, that make the reader feel like they are right there with the characters as each scene plays out. What type of research did you do to get the feel of Bombay?
Thank you so much, that’s really lovely to hear! I did lots of research, firstly reading, as much as I could, both in terms of fiction and non-fiction, then letters and diaries from the time. Photographs, old videos and newspaper articles were also invaluable, but for me, what really made writing this possible, was the trip I took to Mumbai. I’ve actually been to the city a lot – I was there often for work, for years – but I wanted to return to make sure I brought it to life as best I could on the page. I met some wonderful people, who were so welcoming, and from whom I learnt such a lot. They spent hours walking with me, talking with me, giving me an insight into the city that I’m not sure I could have gained any other way. It was all incredible, from strolling around the Fort district, to standing in the Terminus and imagining Luke crouched there, writing his first letter to Maddy, to a morning spent wandering up Malabar Hill, visiting the Hanging Gardens, drinking in the spectacular view that Maddy spends so much time staring down at.
How much do you plan/plot out each novel before you begin writing each novel?
Not much at all. I try to. I’m always super conscious that I’d save myself a lot of time if I could just get down a chapter-by-chapter plan and stick to it rather than spending hours polishing scenes I end up deleting, but I just don’t seem to work that way. As I write, the characters take charge, taking the story on their own path. I’m learning to accept it’s the way it is!
Out of all of the characters throughout the story, which character’s storyline did you enjoy writing the most?
Oh, that’s a hard question. I did enjoy Maddy’s journey, her trying to form her own path despite the very real constraints of the time. And I absolutely loved writing the love story that grew between her and Luke. But it was wonderful to write characters like Peter and Della as well. Sorry, I don’t think I can pick one!
What is your favorite scene/chapter from the novel?
It’s difficult to say without giving anything away, but there’s a small scene with Luke’s mother, who’s actually a very minor character in the novel, but nonetheless has a moment that I absolutely love. Whenever I read it back, I imagine myself in her place, what she must have been feeling, and yes… it’s a favourite. The epilogue is also very close to my heart, but I really can’t go into detail there!
The novel was originally published in 2019 in the UK and then in January of this year here in the US. What did you look forward to the most about releasing the book to readers in the US?
I’ve looked forward to so much! I love visiting the US, and it’s a total dream come true to be having a book published there. It’s been incredible to think of Meet Me in Bombay on the shelves of bookstores across the Atlantic, reaching brand new readers, hopefully making a connection with them. It really has been the thought of that connection that has had me the most excited.
Are you currently working on your next novel, and if so can we get a sneak peek?
I’ve actually finished my next novel. It’s called Under the Golden Sun and is set between England and Australia in the early 1940s. It follows Rose Hamilton, a young woman who answers a London newspaper advertisement to escort a five-year-old orphan, Walter, home to the family of his parents, on a cattle station in rural Queensland. Together, Rose and Walter cross the world, only to discover that nothing in Queensland is as either of them have been led to expect.
About the Author
JENNY ASHCROFT is a British author of historical fiction books including Beneath a Burning Sky and Island in the East. Having spent many years living, working and exploring in Australia and Asia, she is now based in Brighton where she lives with her family by the sea. She has a degree from Oxford University in history, and has always been fascinated by the past―in particular the way that extraordinary events can transform the lives of normal people.
Looking forward to reading this one. Another wonderful interview!