Thursday, 18 June 2015

Author Interview: Erica James

Today it's the paperback publication day for bestselling author Erica James' latest novel The Dandelion Years and I'm pleased that Erica took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about the book, writing and her plans for celebrating today.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book The Dandelion Years?
It’s a dual narrative story which combines contemporary Suffolk with Bletchley Park during the Second World War.  In her work as a book restorer Saskia comes across an old notebook carefully hidden inside a very large Bible.  When she starts to read the notebook she find herself drawn into the lives of two very different people brought together during their time spent working at Bletchley Park.  
How much research did you have to do about book restoring before you were able to start writing the story?
I did the research for that as I went along.  Rather conveniently a friend, at my suggestion, decided to get two old family Bibles restored and I went with her to meet the restorer who was going to do the work.

Where did the inspiration come from to include the hidden notebook? 
It was just one of those ideas that landed in my lap, as so many do.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked myself, ‘Well, where did that idea come from?’ 

Did you know where the story was going to go before you started writing or did the characters/storyline take over?
I always make my stories up as I go along.  Usually I have a vague notion as to where the journey will end, but often I’m taken by surprise.  I shan’t comment specifically here about the ending for The Dandelion Years as that might spoil things for anyone who hasn’t yet read it.

Which character was your favourite to create? 
Jacob’s character was by far the most interesting character for me to get my teeth into.  I had no intention of writing him in the first person, but he just suddenly dictated the terms of his part in the story and that was that.  

What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently writing another dual narrative which is set in Suffolk, where I now live, and also features WWII.  The title is The Amazing Mrs Dallimore.

Did you always want to be a writer? 
Not at all, it never once crossed my mind as I was growing up.  On paper I’m the least qualified person to be a writer and even though The Dandelion Years is my nineteenth novel, I still feel a fraud.  I started writing in my early thirties as a hobby, it was solely for my own pleasure, not something I thought I would ever share with anybody else.  Look where that thinking got me!

Do you set yourself a daily writing target?
I don’t think in terms of daily targets, but aim to do about three chapters a week when working on the first draft.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
Just do it!  Which is what I always tell people.  Stop talking about it and get on and write!

Have you anything exciting planned for publication day? 
I’m going to be in Kent for publication day doing an even for Tonbridge Library.  While in the area I’m taking the opportunity to visit Sissinghurt Gardens and then onto Rye in Sussex – ever since reading E.F. Benson’s comic novel Mapp & Lucia earlier this year I’ve wanted to visit the town.

'Someone had made a perfect job of creating a place in which to hide a notebook . . . there was no address, only a date: September 1943 . . .'

Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling cottage on the edge of a Suffolk village, it provided a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to broken and battered books, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a hidden notebook - and realises someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own - Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love.

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