I’ve posted interviews with most of the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair: http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.
There are forty authors, so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults workshops & talks and fun workshops for children, activities for the children Children’s Page and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire. Location.
And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.
And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year was a poetry competition (now closed) which is being judged at the moment.
Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.
Although, five years ago, I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2 and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ .
Our latecomer to the interviews is an author whose book I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed; Helen Lewis.
Welcome, Helen, could we start by you telling us who is your favourite author?
Do I have to have one? I’m greedy I’d like a few, obviously Joanne Harris, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, Roald Dahl
So what do you think makes a good story?
Just a little bit of magic. Unorthodox and quirky use of language. Strong characters that you are interested in; worried about their fate
What book that you have read has most influenced your life
Surely it has to be the bible, forget religion (if you want to), that book is packed with intrigue, murder, fantasy, jeopardy, shall I go on? I think the route of all stories ever told or to be told are planted within those covers.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Just the one so far, The House With Old Furniture. It is, by far my favourite!
Here’s my review of Helen’s novel: http://bit.ly/2wf4El2
Could you tell us a bit about your book and why it is a must-read
The House With Old Furniture is a story of love, loss and betrayal – where no-one can be trusted to tell the full story, and nothing is as it seems. One son dead and the other grieving, Evie is banished to Wales, her world falling apart. She survives in part due to the presence of the mysterious Alys and her son Nye, who reminds Evie of her own lost boy.
OK so I copied the blurb, but the hardest thing, I have found about this writing malarkey, is having to define and summarise the tens of thousands of words you have just spent years scribbling. I think it’s a must read, because even though I have read it now about seven times, at least, maybe eight or nine, I still get lost in the tale, it still grips me even though I know the ending!
What was the inspiration behind The House With Old Furniture
I literally stumbled upon the inspiration for this story shortly after my family moved to Pembrokeshire twelve years ago. Whilst on a walk with our two boys in the woods that surround our home, we discovered the remains of a cottage. If we’d been in a hurry, and I hadn’t got my boot stuck in the stream, we would have completely missed it. Only parts of three walls remained, ferns, moss and ivy rendered most of it invisible and at some point a huge tree had fallen straight through the middle of it finishing off most of what was left. It took a bit of imagination to picture a cottage amongst the undergrowth, almost like staring at one of those coloured dot pictures trying to find the hidden image. Whilst the boys waited for me to free my boot, they scrambled over the ruins of the little house unearthing all kinds of everyday treasures: the rusty end of a bedstead, a rotten milk churn, and old bottles to name but a few.
You couldn’t help but feel that you were trespassing in someone’s home, although the building was barely recognisable as such the sense of what it must have been like to live there was so strong in my mind. I felt I could hear the last inhabitants crunching through the dead leaves towards us. It was as if some fragment of their being had evaporated into the air around us and become a part of the place, ingrained, like the scent of wild garlic, in the very trees around us.
As we all walked back home through the woods I knew there was a story to be told about that little cottage. So in some down time – broadband down time – telephone wire down time, you know what it can be like living in rural Welsh Wales! I began stitching together this tale, creating the characters that live in it, Jesse, Finn, Andrew and Evie. I wanted my characters to unpick the mystery within The House With Old Furniture for the reader, and decided to introduce an old journal that would slowly unlock the secrets. Bizarrely the idea for the journal came from a very old and decrepit cookery book that once belonged to my Nan – ‘The Diary Book of Home Cookery’. When Nan died, Grandpa, determined to remain independent and ‘carry on’, treated it a bit like a bible. And somehow I have now inherited it. It’s full of his notes, scribbled all over the printed recipes, on how things should really be cooked and it’s packed with his own concoctions jotted down on the backs of old yellowing receipts and envelopes. I love it. It’s a real treasure of mine even though the spine has fallen and most of the photos have turned blue and green. And I’m thrilled that some of Grandpa has made it into the novel, I used his actual hand-written recipes for bread and dumplings as backgrounds on the chapter divider pages. I can hear him chuckling about that!
How long did it take you to write it?
Forever! Five, very long years.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I have heard from some of them, and it’s been lovely. I love the questions I’ve been asked, it’s made me look at the book in different ways. I still find it surprising that people are actually reading something that I have written.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
Absolutely none. Sorry. I fully intended to be a ballerina until the age of 16, I had about six lessons a week and taught as well, unfortunately it wasn’t to be. But that is hardly an uncommon talent.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I couldn’t come up with an answer to this question so I (stupidly) asked my husband and teenage sons who just happened to be sat around the kitchen table where I am doing this. So unhelpfully they came up with “You can’t spell.” Thank you husband. “You’re not very good, ha ha.” Thank you teenager two. And “I don’t know what a quirk is.” Brilliant teenager one (who’s not actually a teenager now, but still behaves like one). I haven’t really answered that have I?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Run, as far and as much as I can, I’m addicted. Also started open water swimming which is the most awesome, relaxing, stress busting thing invented for humans to do.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing
Again I deferred to the same male audience mentioned above, and according to the teenagers the funniest thing I ever did was whilst eating chips at the New Inn Amroth, I tried to put sauce on them and, you’ve guessed it already, the lid flew off covering everything in sauce. If I remember rightly, I found that more annoying than hilarious, which I mentioned to the teenagers. “That’s the point,” they said, “No sense of humour.”
Note to self: never ask your family about the most amusing thing that’s happened to you…it’ll normally the most amusing thing they think happened to you!
Give us a random fact about yourself.
I am utterly, totally, completely terrified of heights. 3m off the ground and I’m jelly on the floor.
Helen is published by Honno, where her book is also available: http://www.honno.co.uk
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