Saturday, 1 February 2020

Debut Spotlight: Audla English

Today it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on author Audla English and her award-winning debut novel The Last Village which was published last October.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
Lovely to meet you Sharon and thank you again for the interview. I am Audla English- which is quite apt as I am English and live in the glorious North East of the country; a beautiful part which is steeped in history, greenery, sea, sand but perhaps not sun!

I have always wanted to be a writer and used to make picture books of stories when I was a child, some of which I still have. It took me 15 years of being a ‘grown up’ until I reminisced about those happy days and I was brave enough to write again.

If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Last Village, what would it be? 
I would simply say that ‘The Last Village’ is a love story to bind the generations. If you love or miss your Gran- you should read this book!

The majestic Souter Lighthouse stands proudly at the edge of the cliff top surrounded by open grassy empty fields and overlooking a vast blue wilderness. Anna Charles knows nothing of the life that her grandmother once had here. It wasn’t until an unexpected engagement, that Anna discovered the past of her Gran and the truth behind an enduring love.

Seventy years earlier, Lillian Smith, had been part of the close-knit community that once thrived in the village that existed next to the lighthouse. A chance meeting with a sailor one day, would change the course of her life forever.

What inspired you to write a timeslip novel?  
I was hugely inspired by my late Gran as well as the coastal setting of South Tyneside in the North East of England. The novel is a dual-time line historical fiction which details the life of Lily, a young woman growing up with her friends in 1945 whereas the other side of the story, in 2017, is about Anna and her own discovery of her grandmother’s past life- it is a novel which spans and binds the generations through family and friendship. 

The novel is also written as a dedication to the now sadly demolished Old Marsden Village which was built by the Whitburn Coal Company in the 1870’s. The unrecognisable former site of the village is now an open and sparse area of grassy land which lies next to the iconic Souter Lighthouse (the lighthouse featured on the book cover) and the land is protected by the National Trust.  It has always fascinated me that an entire community once existed on this little piece of land.

Which came first, the characters or the plot?
I would say the plot came first and characters developed out of the plot. Once I had introduced the characters, they then developed the plot! Very much a chicken and egg situation!

How much research did you need to do before you could start writing your novel? 
Although a work of fiction, this area and its history are in my blood, I was born and raised here. I carried out a lot of research with relatives and people who also grew up in the area but a lot of the research for the area has been passed down through the generations. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors who are thinking about writing a novel?
I would tell them to go for it! After all you only live once- what have you got to lose! 

For practical advice- make sure you get a good proof-reader.

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
I am currently working on a new novel which will also be a dual-time line historical fiction set in the North East of England around the milling and ship merchants’ industries. The genre will also be romance, focussing around the life of the best friend of the Gran of the modern-day character. The modern-day character will unearth a decades long secret…

For more information about Audla and her writing, follow her via the links below:
Twitter: @AudlaE 

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