Thursday, 26 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: Interview with Cora Harrison, Author of Debutantes!

Hi everyone! Today I have the lovely Cora Harrison on the blog, who will be answering some questions about her new book, Debutantes. I hope you enjoy it - and don't you just love the cover of Debutantes? So pretty!
Debutantes by Cora Harrison
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: August 2nd 2012
Find it on Goodreads

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.

Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country.

But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.
(from Goodreads)


Hi Cora, thanks for joining us!

It’s lovely to get the opportunity to talk about ‘Debutantes’ – it sounds a funny thing for an author to say, but I just love that book. It gives me a warm feeling every time that I look at the advance copy with its beautiful cover.

Can you tell us a bit about Debutantes?

Debutantes is the story of four sisters, aged between eighteen and fourteen who are the daughters of an earl, a man who has lost most of his money and is now quite poor. Beautiful Violet, the eldest, is desperate to make her debut, and Daisy, the practical one of the sisters, knows that for Violet to marry a rich man is the only way out of poverty for them all. But first Violet has to have some fashionable clothes and that seems an impossibility until the sisters discover the trunk in the attic…

Why did you decide to write for a young adult audience?

I’m somebody who always likes to try something new. I had written about twenty-eight books for children and eight books for adults when I wrote two books for young adults: ‘I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend’ & ‘Jane Austen Stole My Boy Friend’. I enjoyed writing the romance and the details of the lovely sprig muslin dresses so much that I wanted to try another couple of books for that age group.

What inspired you to write about the 1920s?

Well, of course, the 1920s are the supremely romantic time. Who could resist those gorgeous dresses and the evocative tunes? Also, personally, my time for romance was the late nineteen-fifties and to a certain extent this time mirrored the 1920s. Up to about 1957 girls dressed very much like their mothers in boring calf-length unbecoming suits and wore their hair crimped into ‘waves’ by ghastly perms and when they went to dances the music was gentle and low and the dances themselves were very staid. And then came rock & roll and dances turned into fun and noise and parents thought that it was appalling. I spent the summer of 1958 in France which was in the forefront of the fashion then and I turned up the hem on every single garment I possessed and I bought a pair of jeans! When I came back to the university in Cork, in Ireland, that autumn everyone was looking at me, because my skirts were so short! I can empathise easily with the four Derrington girls as they cut out and stitched their short dresses and yearned for bobbed hair and played jazz. 

How much research went into Debutantes and how did you go about doing it? 

A huge amount of research goes into all novels based in a different time and place. I was lucky enough to know, when I was young, a family who inhabited a large and half-empty house which had been once magnificent and I used that as a model for Beech Grove Manor. I have a big collection of books written in the 1920’s and they provided ideas for the clothes – and I re-watched the 1980s ‘House of Elliot’ tv series and the dvd of ‘The Great Gatsby’. The most difficult piece of research was trying to understand how the ciné camera worked. The internet was wonderful for researching into this, but I am not very technically minded and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that eagle-eyed reviewers won’t find things to pour scorn on.

What's the most interesting thing you learnt about the period during research?

I think that the most interesting thing was the figures about the number of people who went to the cinema and the number of new films (silent films, of course) that were coming out all the time. Many people visited the cinema three or four times a week and films were changed at least that number of times. Also how much money you could get for a successful film. One film in 1923, called ‘The Covered Wagon’ grossed eight million dollars and that would be worth about $110,000,000 today. And, of course, these silent films cost very little to make with, often, only a team of three or four people working on them. So there was a great opportunity for Daisy and her ciné camera to make money.

If you could do any job in the world (besides writing), what would it be?

I would love to be an archaeologist. I have an insatiable curiosity about the past. (I have to agree with this, archaeology fascinates me too.)

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Steak, fried mushrooms and a bottle of red Burgundy wine.

Can you tell us about any other projects you have coming up?

Yes, I am continuing the adventures of Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose. It’s now the turn of the twins, Daisy and Poppy, to make their debut and I intend to see that they have a lovely time, despite any problems that may arise from hidden secrets. 

Thanks for answering questions today, it’s been great to have you on the blog!

And thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy a re-visit to the fun and heart-break of the four sisters.


Cora Harrison worked as a head teacher before she decided to write her first novel, and she has since published twenty-six children’s historical novels and many books for adults. Cora lives on a farm near the Burren in the west of Ireland.

Thanks so much to Cora and Macmillan for making this interview possible! 

Don't forget to visit Cait's blog for an interview with Ally Carter.


  1. Fantastic interview! I am SO excited for Debutantes, already have my copy preordered! I love books set in the 20s---especially when they pay special attention to the fashion! :) And it's a sister story---love those as well. With four sisters in recent poverty, it makes me think of Little Women, one of my favorite books of all time!

  2. I've heard of Debutantes and I ABSOLUTELY CAN'T WAIT TO READ IT! The cover is SO GORGEOUS and after reading the summary, I am definitely convinced to read it when it's out!

    LOVE the interview and Cora's answers too! Makes me even more dying to read Debutantes.

    Thank you for sharing this awesome interview with us, Liz! ♥

  3. I adore the 20s so much, definitely think the time is right for these books now with Downton Abbey and all ;) Great answers to the questions too...looking forward to your review today!

  4. Wow... twenty eight books for children, eight for adults and two other YA books? She's on FIRE! Love this interview, ladies!! Especially Cora when she returned back to Ireland after her time in France, that rebel :D Very much looking forward to reading Debutantes!


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