Get to know Philippa writing as Eva Harlsband…

I signed up for Kiare Ladner’s Novella Fever course at Writing Room with an idea inspired by a real life artist’s story from Vienna. As Kiare led us through writing exercises the voice for the novel emerged. I began inhabiting my protagonist, a Jewish woman working in Vienna in the 1940s who was deported by the Nazis.

I am now editing that novel and Jenny Parrott’s publishing industry insights in her Editing and Submissions course has been a huge encouragement. I’ve learned about the way ‘readers read’ which every author needs to know, what an A.I. is in publishing and why that tormenting elevator pitch is so important and how to write it.

Writing Room has enabled me to develop my confidence. I flexed my creative muscles on Paul Lyalls poetry course and found my childhood and adolescence rising up beneath the cracks of memory forging their way into my writing. I found support and encouragement on a masterclass.

My journey to writing began through writing and performing one woman plays. Today writing historical fiction brings me joy and a creative outlet. It is almost a meditative experience combining historical research with breathing life into characters and their stories.

You can find me on Twitter @harlsband

Here’s an extract from my writing. The setting for this work in progress is the East End of London, 1936

Extract from a novel

Josie pulls her belt tighter, she’s proud of her tiny waist which compliments her full bust. It’s a miserable night. She’d be frozen if it wasn’t for this coat. Gorgeous, camel, Jaeger. She’s chosen well on the dress front too. Her rust coloured woollen one. Lovely scoop neckline. The hem falling just below the knee.

     Standing on Bloom’s Corner she watches a religious family on their way home. She counts six children. That’s not unusual for round here. The neon sign behind her could be a spotlight were she on the stage: Josie Belovsky stars in –

     This must be him, the lamb to the slaughter.

     He raises his trilby. He is handsome, those eyes. An unusual milky green colour. Looks like he’s never shaved, never had a spot in his life.


     ‘That’s me, ducks.’

     He extends his hand, ‘Lovely, to meet you. I’m Reggie.’

     ‘I thought you might be.’

     He smiles and opens the door for her ‘Shall we go in?’

     They stand surveying the restaurant the smell of latkes is making her starving.

     ‘Where would you prefer to sit? I’d say let’s take the one by the window –’

     ‘But every time that door opens, we’ll get a draught. I like those booths.’

     Inside this temple of fat and salt, the waiters sport grubby suit jackets and contribute to the grease served up with their copious hair oils. It’s not The Ritz but it’s a treat. Girls who sell hats on Commercial Street don’t eat out in restaurants.

     There’s plenty on the menu to tempt her. Fried gefilte fish, chopped liver, lokshen kugel. Should she order the whole lot to test him?

     ‘What do you fancy?’ he asks.

     ‘Let’s see.’ She gets down to business, ‘salt beef and latkes with pickled cucumbers.’

     ‘I’ll have the same. Good choice.’

     Then regret seeps in, she’ll be so full after all this. Her stomach pushing against her corset. No going back.

     ‘Is this where you take all the ladies, Reggie?’

     The food arrives, colourful, stacked high. The salt beef is tender and full of flavour and with the accompanying pickles, slips down easily.

     Reggie’s table manners don’t match his suave looks. He battles to keep his sandwich together and a slice of beef slips out and lands on the table. What will he do? Ignore it or pick it up and try again? He’s an East End boy, he’s not going to waste it. Josie helps him by sliding the evidence of his clumsy dining towards him with her knife. Reggie gobbles up the remaining sandwich, more Charlie Chaplin than Clark Gable.

Author photo by Konrad Witak