Striking Historical Romance Novel By Marilyn Chapman
‘Baggy Pants and Bootees’ is Marilyn Chapman’s debut historical romance novel, though she is not at all new to writing. The Guernsey-born journalist found her first triumph at age fourteen, where she was published in a football magazine. At nineteen she became women’s page editor of her local weekly newspaper and later freelanced for national newspapers and magazines. Whilst bringing up two daughters, Marilyn worked in estate agency and recruitment, but still finding time for her writing. Her final dream remained: to publish a novel. Marilyn achieved this is February 2014 when ‘Baggy Pants and Bootees’ was released. It is the story of one girl’s desperate search for her long lost father. Marilyn is currently working on her second historical romance.
The story, set in the 1960s, follows war baby Sophie who joins the journalism industry with determination to prove that she is ‘one of the boys’. A phone call from her estranged mother threatens her career; she sets Sophie on a quest to uncover the secret of her birth. Was her father the all-American soldier she dreamt of when she was a child, or someone far more sinister? Sophie uncovers the story of a heartbroken wartime orphan, a GI romance and a terrifying rape that leads to an innocent man’s court martial – and finds clues to her own unhappy childhood. Only when faced with the startling truth can she begin a very different kind of future.
Marilyn let us in on some secrets from her life experiences that helped her create Sophie’s journey. Whilst the novel remains entirely fictitious, Marilyn told us that her experiences as a trainee reporter in the 1960s definitely shaped who she is. She says “To this day I think as a reporter and see stories wherever I look. This has obviously helped my career as a novelist”.
A topical issue raised in Baggy Pants and Bootees is the sexism of the 1960s. Discussion of the Jimmy Savile debacle has raised questions about ‘harmless banter’ of the time, and how it was far more serious than most people realised. Marilyn wanted to acknowledge this in her novel and took a few approaches to do so. She told us… “My protagonist’s mother was abused in a care home as a child during World War Two. Sophie faced a different kind of ‘abuse’. But was it so very different? If a male colleague ‘accidentally’ undid your bra in the middle of the office nowadays, would that be tolerated? Of course not. No wonder women wanted to be ‘equal'”. There is no doubt that Marilyn raises a valid debate; reading the novel would further enrich your understanding of her experiences of this.
Even today there are still ‘war babies’ searching for their fathers. This is proven by the current Facebook group ‘GI and International Family Search’. Marilyn is passionate about this issue and how to resolve it, she suggests we have an ‘amnesty’ before it’s too late! Marilyn’s words on the matter are “If you think you have a child out there in the world stand up and say so, NOW! Time really is running out”. A difficult aspect of the writing process for Marilyn has been crafting such a unique story; fiction with a ring of truth that readers could identify with. Marilyn wanted to be commercial and yet original, which is extremely hard in today’s culture. After completing the challenge of publishing Baggy Pants and Bootees, Marilyn has been rewarded not only by being submitted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award, but also from the support of successful authors on social media. International best-selling novelist Rachel Hore, a particular inspiration for Marilyn, follows her author page.
Reader responses for Baggy Pants and Bootees have been consistently optimistic. Most have told to like the time-slip element which allows you to follow the ‘mother and daughter’ stories at the same time. Another enjoyable aspect for many readers is the story’s twists and turns, as well as the surprise at the end. Some of Marilyn’s favourite Amazon reviews include: “I got right inside Sophie’s head. Marilyn is a very fine storyteller indeed” and “Fabulous twists = liked the parallel stories”. One review even compared Marilyn to the writer Kate Morton, whom Marilyn hugely admires.
The novel aims to send a message to readers, in Marilyn’s words this is: “Women can do whatever they want in life as long as they believe in themselves. If you have a dream, never give up“.