Catherine Winchester met Mr John Thornton for this interview soon after his marriage to Miss Margaret Hale.

Catherine Winchester: Mr Thornton, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I know you're a busy man.

John Thornton: It's my pleasure, Miss Winchester. What can I do for you?

CW: Straight down to business I see.

JT: [Abashed smile] Generally speaking, I don't have much time for small talk.

CW: No, of course not. So, [Looks at notebook] you and Margaret Hale are married. I have to say you surprised a few people with that one.

JT: Not least myself. From the first time I met Margaret, I knew she was special, too special for the likes of me but by some miracle she grew to care for me.

CW: That's putting it mildly.

JT: [Polite smile]

CW: Sorry, moving on. You and Margaret seem to be doing wonders here for your workers. Can you tell me what, exactly, brought about this change in you?

JT: It was a hard change to make, I admit. I've been in the cotton industry for quite some time now and I learned to view the business as masters verses hands. To be honest, until Margaret came into my life, I hadn't even thought to look at things a different way.

CW: What did she do to change your mind, exactly?

JT: [He smiles. When he answers his voice is warmer than usual] Margaret is a strange creature, I've never encountered anyone quite like her before. Her manner is that of  lady and yet, probably thanks to her father being a minister, she's just as happy mixing with the poorest of the poor as dining at the Ritz. Her morality also gives her a strength that is uncommon among her sex. Those things combined means that she was able to challenge me and put to me a point of view that was previously unknown to me.

CW: So Margaret is the reason for this change in your priorities?

JT: Margaret was the catalyst, yes. [He pauses looking slightly uncomfortable] I confess that there were times when her views seemed idealistic and even simplistic but between us we have been able to find a way to improve our hands lot and keep a sustainable business.

CW: So you're not a bleeding heart liberal then?

JT: Definitely not! [He smiles slightly] No, Margaret was able to appeal to my sense of justice and fairness. Higgins carried on where she left off and the workers were no longer a group of hands, they were real people, just trying to do their best for their families.

CW: I have to say, you're doing very good work here.

JT: Thank you.

CW: I'm curious about your relationship with Margaret though. Would you mind answering some questions about her?

JT: Of course not.

CW: Your opposing points of view, especially when you first met, meant that sparks frequently flew between the two of you. Is your marriage smoother now or do the sparks still fly on occasion?

JT: [He smiles] I confess, there are sparks on occasion but on the whole we're a team now. If we disagree with each other, we both talk things out and find a compromise. And of course, since we married, Margaret has also come to see the masters point of view a little better, so she is not so innocent as she once was.

CW: I hope you don't mind me asking, but how does Margaret get along with your mother?

JT: It was difficult at first, I won't deny it, but Mother is a sensible woman, she knows a good thing when she sees it. I knew she'd come to like Margaret in the end. Truth be told, it was really only her desire to protect me that caused any friction with Margaret.

CW: Come now, Mr Thornton, we both know that your mother disliked her 'southern airs and graces'.

JT: Aye, perhaps. But I can hardly go saying that to another southern lady, can I?

CW: [Blushes at his charming manner] Um... Right... where was I?”

JT: My mother.

CW: Right, yes. Sorry. So, what does she think of your ventures?

JT: She's proud of me. Of both of us. She wants the best for me, she thinks the whole world should know how great I am and of course, this project had brought people like yourself here to interview me, which means that I am becoming known as a humanitarian as well as a business man. She's thrilled.

CW: Well, I don't exactly work for The Times.

JT: You want to tell my story though, don't you? Something about you tells me you'll be fair and impartial and I'm usually a pretty good judge of character.

CW: Right... [Blushes] Is it hot in here?

JT: Not unduly, I believe. Did you have any more questions for me?

CW: Do you have a brother?

JT: Excuse me?”

CW: Nothing, sorry. That was for another interview. [Coughs] Right, just one more question, if I may.

JT: Of course.

CW: If you could teach the other mill masters one lesson, what would it be?

JT: To listen to their workers. This confrontational attitude we have to relations with our workers doesn't do either side any good. There will always be one or two bad apples, of course, but on the whole the workers are just trying to look out for their own. Only by understanding one another can we ever hope to put an end to strikes and move this industry forward.

CW: Thank you for your time, Mr Thornton.

JT: [Smiles] It was my pleasure, Miss Winchester. I think I have time for a quick tour if you would like to see around the mill?

CW: [Giggles like a school girl] Yes, I think I'd like that. 

About the Author - Catherine Winchester (from Cat's official site

As a young child, Cat loved reading; spending hours devouring her Storyteller series, but as she grew up her love of books faded. Faced with choices like the Famous Five or the Railway Children, and combined with dyslexia which wasn't recognised, Cat's love of reading dwindled. 

In her early teens however, she discovered science fiction, staying up to 2am to finish her first sci-fi novel. This reignited the love affair and Cat soon realised that she no longer needed to be stuck in the childrens' section  and graduated to adult literature. 

When she finally got an English teacher who cared just as much about content as grammar and spelling, her love expanded to include writing. She penned many stories in notebooks but thanks to rather illegible handwriting, most of these stayed confined to notebooks. When she was 15 she discovered computers and Cat has never looked back. She penned her first novel on the school computers and it amuses her no end when she thinks of her teachers stumbling across that first, amateurish work.

When asked why she loves reading and writing so much, Cat's answer is simple. "There have been some very dark and lonely times in my life and during those times reading was my lifeline. It allowed me to step out of my own head and into someone else's world; somewhere I could forget my own problems, if only for a little while. When I discovered writing it was the same thing, except I could control the world I was in and manipulate it to my own desires."


Which question that Catherine didn't , would you have asked John Thornton if you could have met him? 
Propose your question in your comment and don't forget to add your e-mail address, please. You'll get  a chance to win NORTHERN LIGHT, the sequel to Mrs Gaskell's North and South by Catherine Winchester. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends on October 17th.  Good luck!

About the book 

Sometimes described as the female Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell's classic novel, North and South, dealt with issues of class, feminism, social reform and the plight of the working classes, entwining those themes seamlessly with a timeless romance between Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Northern Light is a continuation of that novel which sees John and Margaret embarking on their lives together whils
t working to improve the lives of their work force.

With the threat of another strike, a series of bad mill accidents, a lethal fire and failed speculation, life in Milton is not easy for anyone and it won't be long before the mill masters and their workers clash once more, with devastating consequences.
Getting married and starting a family is difficult enough at the best of times but for John and Margaret, married life will present unique challenges and despite the reforms they are making, even they will not escape Milton's troubles unscathed.

Available for Kindle on Amazon UK - http://amzn.to/okb0Vh Amazon US -http://amzn.to/o4AApp and other ebook formats - http://bit.ly/mOJRKV


Anonymous said...

This is hilarious! I loved the interview. My question:
Mr. Thornton, Margaret and you are planning having children in a short time?


Mr. J. Thornton said...

Thank you, Miss Maichi-Three.

Margaret and I have discussed it and while we would both dearly like a family, we would also like some time to become acclimatised to married life first.

Although as you are no doubt aware, such questions are often decided for us by the Almighty and whatever happens, we will accept his will and thank him for the blessing.

Phylly3 said...

Wonderful interview Cat. I don't know how you remained so calm!
What are some of the aspects of the relationship change between master and worker at your mill that seem to have had improved productivity?

bccmee said...

Brilliant interview! My question would be: Where did you and Margaret go on your honeymoon?

Thanks for a lovely blogpost. :)

Maria Grazia said...

Congratulations, Cat! You succeeded in a "mission impossible" and we are proud of you.
May I also ask Mr Thornton something? Ehm, I've got many questions actually, but I don't want to waste his precious time. So, Mr Thornton, is Mr Higgins still working for you in Milton? Because I had the impression I saw him somewhere in Yorkshire working in a different position ...But I may be wrong, of course.

Mr. J. Thornton said...

Miss Phylly-Three, now very nice to meet you. Are you perhaps related to Miss Maichi-Three?

"What are some of the aspects of the relationship change between master and worker at your mill that seem to have had improved productivity?"

The difference is the lack of antagonism between us these days. It took time to build the trust between us but we have a number of programs in place now that we hope are improving lives not just for our current workers but also their children, as with the nursery and the small school.

The workers have come to realise that I am not the devil and if they a genuine problem, they know they can approach me or my overlooker and receive a fair hearing.

In return they've been known to stay past their time on many occasions to make sure an order has been filled on time.

I think the change can be pretty much summed up in one word. Respect.

"Where did you and Margaret go on your honeymoon?"

Miss Bccmee, I'm sorry to have to inform you that, with the mill having only just re-opened, Margaret and I were unable to have a honeymoon. Margaret has been very understanding, more so that I deserve and it is my sincerest wish that I can make it up to her within the year by taking her to see her brother.

I would appreciate it if you would keep that last piece of information to yourself though. I should hate to get Margaret's hopes up prematurely.

"Is Mr Higgins still working for you in Milton? Because I had the impression I saw him somewhere in Yorkshire working in a different position ...But I may be wrong, of course."

Dear Miss Grazia, I am your guest, so of course you can ask me a question. On the subject of Mr Higgins working elsewhere, I have to say I was unaware of any such arrangement and, should it prove to be true, I will have no choice but to dismiss Higgins at once.

Mill work is dangerous enough at the best of times but to the sleep deprived it can be lethal. I do hope this proves to be untrue, for I now hold Higgins in rather high regard and I find it hard to believe that he would be so foolish.

Thank you for your questions, ladies.

Unknown said...

Oh! I love this!!!! This had me grinning, although I couldn't exactly laugh because there are others around and they would never understand my laughter. I have a few questions for Mr. Thornton:

We know about the dining hall for the workers. Are there any other things you and Margaret have done to help the workers? If so, what? And do you have any plans for things to do for them in the future?

I do have other things I'd like to ask him (I'd like to know if he has a brother, too! lol ;) ), but, as he is so busy, I will stop with those ones that I am most anxious to have the answers to.

Mr. J. Thornton said...

Miss Clockwood, obviously you have heard about our dining room; I hope that you are a little more receptive to the idea that some of the local masters.

As well as that, now that we no longer have to pay rent on the mill, we have finally been able to increase the workers wages back up to what they were five years ago.

We have also started a nursery and school in one of the disused sheds so that the women can return to work earlier and know that their children are cared for. We are currently still searching for a teacher for the older children. At the moment, Margaret is teaching them for two afternoons a week but we hope to have a full time teacher before much longer.

Margaret has started a savings book. It is difficult, or perhaps I should say almost impossible for the working classes to open a bank account and many of the women and children who work for me don't get to hold onto their wages. I'm sorry to say that many a husband or father has drunk away their families meagre savings.

The savings book allows workers to put a little in every week and take the money back out when they need it, such as for medical bills or to cover sickness, and of course happier events as well, like Christmas and new babies.

Higgins suggested that we run fire practices, which we have come to call fire drills. We have installed a bell in the courtyard and once a year the workers practice getting out of the building as quickly as possible. Our hope is that in the event of a real fire, the bell alerts everyone quickly, the hands know exactly what to do and they stand a better chance of getting out unhurt.

Margaret has spoken of getting the workers affordable medical care but at the moment that isn't feasible. We are also unhappy with their living conditions but once again, as yet we can see no way to change that.

I hope that answers your question.

Miss Grazia has asked me to remind you that if you would like to win a copy of Northern Light (which might be better called the Thornton Biography!) to please leave your email address in your messages so that she might contact you.

Spinningjenny said...

Hi Mr Thornton or can I call you John?
Would you think that lovely, humble, practical yet sensitive, hardworking, far-seeing, intelligent, moral men like you are easy to come by or is one more likely to come across people like you in the pages of , say, a novel?

IngeD3 said...

Mr. Thornton, this is my question: Has the relationship with your sister improved since you have returned to Milton? I know you did not agree with Mrs. Watson about her husbands speculation and she did not appreciate you calling it a dangerous venture. I hope, now that your financial difficulties are behind you, you have also found it in your heart to make amends with your sister.

Thank you!


Mr. J. Thornton said...

"Hi Mr Thornton or can I call you John?"

I would be more comfortable with Mr Thornton, if you don't mind terribly, Miss Spinningjenny.

"Would you think that lovely, humble, practical yet sensitive, hardworking, far-seeing, intelligent, moral men like you are easy to come by or is one more likely to come across people like you in the pages of, say, a novel?"

Thats very kind of you to say, though I feel that you give me too much credit.

It is true that in fiction one frequently finds some excellent examples of humanity, often alongside some much less pleasant ones, it must be said. As for whether men such as you describe exist in the real world, I would say that they do. There are men in their world who stand up for what they believe in and have affected real change, such as the recent abolition of slavery.

I have also read many good things about the enlightenment movement, which believes in the ability of rational men to improve society for the betterment of everyone and I dare say many of those men have the qualities which you describe.

"Has the relationship with your sister improved since you have returned to Milton? I know you did not agree with Mrs. Watson about her husbands speculation and she did not appreciate you calling it a dangerous venture. I hope, now that your financial difficulties are behind you, you have also found it in your heart to make amends with your sister."

Miss Inged-three, I'm afraid at present our relationship is at an all time low point. I realise that many people consider Margaret's role in the workings of the mill to be unladylike, but I would have expected my sister to show a little loyalty and not to be among them.

In this is have been sadly disappointed. I love my sister dearly and sincerely hope that one day we might be close again, however at present I cannot see that happening.

BeckyC said...

Great interview! Love it. My question? Not sure I can say it out loud (blush). I am very excited about this book. I have not come across many books about North and South.


A Scattering said...

My question for Mr. Thornton would be:
You enjoyed reading the classics with Margaret's father, have you continued with this interest since his death?

Please enter my name in the draw!

Mr. J. Thornton said...

Miss Scattering, please leave your email address so that Miss Grazia can contact you should you be lucky enough to win.

As for your question, I do still enjoy the classics. At present things are rather busy as we get the mill back up to full capacity but whenever I have a free hour in the evenings, you will often find me reading one of the classics. At the moment I am reading The Socratic Dialogues.

Although Margaret tends to prefer the works of Austin and the Bronte sisters, she is not above listening to me read and discussing the topics raised therein.

A Scattering said...

Mr. Thornton, I believe I may have been distracted by your heavenly blue eyes......... But I digress, please inform Miss Grazia that my email address
is: elaine489@ gmail.com

Thank you for answering my question about your literary interests.

Anonymous said...

Very nice and fun interview Cat, was it too difficult to make an appointement with Mr. Thornton for the interview?

Mr Thornton, how is your relationship with Margaret's family in London?

OML :)

Anonymous said...

Lovely interview, well done Ms. Winchester!
At last, a N&S sequel: it's quite refreshing after all this Austenness!

Cat Winchester said...

Onemorelurker1 - I have to say that Mr Thornton was very pleased to do my interview. I wrote to him explaining what I had heard, what I wanted to do and allowing him to schedule the time and date of our meeting. He replied within two weeks (well, two weeks and 156 years) and even invited me to stay overnight with them before travelling back home (which really was a blessing. Time travel in that rickety old TARDIS can be rough; it really takes it out of me).

But anyway, Mr Thornton was a true gentleman.

Anon - Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Mr. J. Thornton said...

Miss Onemorelurker-one, sorry for the delay in replying to you but I have been needed at the mill all day.

It's strange to think that Margaret's immediate family meant so much to be and yet her aunt's family leave a lot to be desired.

Margarets cousin Edith and her husband, Captain Maxwell are both very cordial company, though rather naive in terms of manufacturing and business.

Mrs Shaw on the other hand, seems to have done her damnedest to offend everyone she met while she was up here. I wish her no ill will but I hope that Edith's next visit with be without her mother.

Anonymous said...

Delightful, Miss Winchester! I wonder whether the relationship between Mrs. Thornton Sr. and Mrs. Thornton the younger has progressed? (Perhaps that is too sensitive a question to put to Mr. Thornton?)


Chana said...

This is a wonderful interview.

My question for Mr. Thornton is: How have the workers reacted to your improvements and how have the other masters reacted?


Fanny/iz4blue said...

Miss Winchester thank you kindly for approaching successful and busy Mr. Thornton with informative questions. Likewise Mr. Thornton; how gracious of you to shedule time in your busy day for this interview.

I'm saddened to hear about your relations with Fanny .. I would think it in Watson's best interest to encourage it too.
But beyond a shallow motivation her children surely would want to know their uncle. Besides it would make your mother happy to.
I also hope you don't put off the honeymoon much longer. As trivial it might appear now to take time off, leisure feeds the soul in memories when times become hard.

I have a few questions if I may .. for a man as driven as you, adjusting to marriage can not be easy and I've been wondering if your temper has proven to be challenging.

And have you attempted to plant a yellow hedge rose up north.

Mr. J. Thornton said...

Miss Fitzg, I'm pleased to say that Mother and Margaret have come to an understanding. Mother was suspicious of Margaret's motives for a time but I believe it was Margaret asking Mother not to leave out home after we were married that finally secured Mothers good opinion.

Both ladies are more alike that perhaps one might think at first glance and while I would not say Margaret was like a daughter to my mother, they have become friends.

Miss Chana, The workers have reacted very well to the changes we have implemented. I wont lie, there were some initial suspicions but the men trust Higgins and his good opinion of me had gone a long way in earning their trust.

It is also worth noting that (aside from the fire practice drills) all of the schemes we have implemented so far are voluntary.

No one is required to eat in the lunch room (though I do believe that all the staff now make use of it) nor are they required to enrol their children in the nursery or school.

I would say that approximately half of those with children are using the school at the moment. As this is a very new development, I'm hopeful that over time, more will make use of it.

Just under a third of the staff make use of the savings book, oddly enough the majority of them women and girls. Again, this is a very new scheme and I hope that with time, many more will make use of the facility.

Thank you for your questions, ladies, they have all been very interesting and I look forward to answering any other questions you may have.

Mr. J. Thornton said...

Miss Chana, do forgive me; I forgot to answer your question about the other masters. To be frank, they have not taken well to the changes we are implementing. On the whole I believe they find them amusing but occasionally when trouble brews among the hands, they find themselves being compared unfavourably to me. Needless to say they do not enjoy that.

The relationship between us masters is complicated; we are in direct competition with each other and yet in many ways we rely on each other for information, understanding and to present a united front to our workers.

Presently I am something of a dissenter in their ranks and frequently find myself the butt of their jokes or the object of their ridicule.

Miss Fanny, the relationship with my sister does pain me but I am still hopeful that one day we can be reconciled.

You also offer some very good advice on leisure time and now that I have something of equal or more import than work in my life, I am doing my best to rein in my drive and enjoy my home life. I must also say that I find working with Margaret a wonderful compromise which increases my enjoyment of business immensely.

As you say, I do have a temper but marriage has actually helped to calm me. Margaret is a God send and whenever I am feeling pressured, she does her best to relax me.

She is not always completely successful (I can be as stubborn as a mule on occasion) but on the whole my disposition is much improved.

As yet I have not planted any roses. I do dream of one day having a home similar to those that I saw in Helstone village but at the moment I fear that any greenery I planted would soon be smothered by Milton's smog.

Still, the dream remains alive and time will tell if I can make it a reality.

Cat Winchester said...

Hi Fanny.

Thanks for your comments.

Without wanting to spoil the book for you, let me just say that Fanny has quite a journey of her own in Northern Light and if you are a fan of her character, I hope you will enjoy her story line.


Margay Leah Justice said...

What a wonderful interview! I really enjoyed getting more insight into Mr. Thornton and his life. My question is this: One of the things I adore about Margaret is her spirited nature, the fact that she didn't allow anyone to browbeat her, and her loyalty to friends and family. Is she still as spirited and giving of nature or have you tamed her? (I hope not. I hate to think of her being meek after marriage.)



Mr. J. Thornton said...

Dear Miss Margay, Margaret's spirit and her loyalty are two of her best qualities and I would never wish to see her tamed. I would liken it to caging a lion; making a sad mockery of a proud and majestic creature.

I think it is safe to say that we are both a little happier these days but Margaret is every inch as brave and loyal to those that she loves as she ever was and, might I add, I love her for it.

buy research paper said...

good interview! I hope the book also does not fail)))

Laura Ferrari said...

Loved this interview!
My question is, since the money comes from Margaret and she's quite independent, will you involve her in the managing aspect or will you do what you deem best and take control?


Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview. Please thank Mr. Thornton for being so generous with his time. My question for him is "If you hadn't met Margaret, do you think you would have remained a bachelor for life? Had any women ever interested you before meeting her?"

Anonymous said...

Loved this interview. What a *novel* idea!
My question, Mr Thornton, is how do you feel about the burgeoning feminist movement that is sprouting in your era? Do you like the idea of independent women demanding rights that generally accrued to men only? What would you think if Margaret and your mother were to become part of this movement? Perhaps even Fanny?

(And my name on my birth certificate is Maria Grazia. No kidding! But somewhere along the way, it became Mary Grace. :)

Thank you for your time. My best regards to you, and to Margaret, Fanny and your mum.:)


Mr. J. Thornton said...

Thank you for your questions, ladies, and I must apologise for the delay in replying. Business has kept me busy of late and I have not had as much free time as I might like.

Miss Ferrari, it was never my intention to involve Margaret in the business, I assumed that she would not be interested in manufacturing, other than perhaps looking after the workers interests. She surprised me by asking to learn more about the mill since it was something that was important to me. I am happy to say that not only does she retain that interest and take an active role, she is also rather good at at it.

While I would put my foot down if it were ever necessary (though believe me, I do not look forward to that argument!) I am pleased to report that Margaret is a level headed young woman and to date we have been able to talk out and resolve any problems that have come our way.

Miss Anonymous, before I met Margaret I has thought about having a family and an heir in an abstract sense but no one had ever caught my eye enough to take my mind away from my family and my business interests. To be perfectly honest, even after I met Margaret, I still was very far from certain that we would get a happy ending.

I cannot say what might have happened had she not come into my life; I can only say that I am grateful every day that she did.

Miss Grazia, I do not believe as most men do, that women are inherently inferior. Indeed were it not for my mother and her fierce intelligence and shred decisions, I would not be the man I am today.

Should Margaret or Mother wish to join the movement, they would have my full support. I do not believe Fanny would ever question the status quo but if she did, I would support her also.

However I must confess that the women's movement does worry me and I would be most fearful should any woman I cared about become involved with it. If there is one thing that to have come to realise, it is that people do not like change and it is my belief that the louder women's voices become, the greater the backlash from most men will be.

Thank you all for your questions and I hope you my answers have satisfied you.