The story behind Summer at Seafall Cottage #behindthescenes

My favourite book that I’ve written is usually the one I wrote before. I am always convinced that the one I’m currently busy with is The Worst Book Ever To Be Written.  The only book that I genuinely loved writing from start to finish and never felt like throwing myself off of a cliff at some point while I was writing it (yes, I mean that literally), was A Cornish Christmas, I don’t really know why that was, I don’t think it’s my best work, though I did for a while, but I think sometimes there’s a touch of magic to the process that helps, most books are usually a mix, my latest was the hardest, so who knows, perhaps I’m due an easier one soon – let’s hope! Though I doubt it as I’ve set myself a real whopper with the next one.

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Sort of how I imagine what Seafall cottage would look like (once she’d fixed it up)

Still, Summer at Seafall  Cottage was special to me. It’s the most I’ve stretched myself as a writer, with a present and a past timeline, and I took the most amount of risks with the story – writing something that dangled between historical and contemporary fiction. It wasn’t an easy novel to write either, personally, as I completed it during a very tough period when my husband and I moved countries, after leaving my full-time job as a lifestyle journalist which was surprisingly challenging. I’d spent so long wanting to write from home, only to get the dream and find I missed my colleagues, the camaraderie and my country! Also, this book was the first book I’d ever written under contract with my publishers, Bookouture, (my first two novels were self-published first, then edited and expanded upon and republished by them) so that came with it’s own challenges.

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This window in the living room,  I wanted to give it a romantic, enchanted feel

Still, I was immensely lucky, I had a lot of freedom with the book, more than most, that’s for sure, I had pitched a very basic idea of a woman going to Cornwall to recover her broken heart, finding a job and possibly getting involved in an allotment garden project, what I delivered instead was a woman  discovering a secret diary, finding an abandoned cottage, and a love story that went back to the Great War!  Thankfully my incredible editor much preferred that (phew!). She is beyond lovely, her name is Lydia and she is the nicest person. I had a real moment when I was biting my nails, wondering if she would be reading my pitch and going, ‘Wtf?’ But she didn’t, she wrote me back to tell me she loved it. Did I mention, I’m lucky, grin!

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A rather enchanting looking gate in St Mawes inspired the gate in Seafall Cottage

But it needed a bit (Ahem : A LOT) of work, because I’d lost a bit of confidence thinking that she wouldn’t go for the new direction, and I’d let the past story take over, so I needed to really work on the present storyline about the biographer whose marriage had imploded. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to work with the editors we have at Bookouture – they really help bring stories to life, hold our hands, and give what is needed – a reality check sometimes, a dose of encouragement, you name it –  and eventually, Victoria’s story became far more real to me. It was like a weight had fallen off my shoulders, once I knew the book had potential, I just let myself enjoy the process, and the second draft was rather satisfying to write as I fell for Victoria’s story more.

Part of this was the introduction of a houseboat community, which happened by  accident – because I went to a little pub on the water near me, (have I mentioned how lovely Suffolk is?!) and I was a little stuck with the story at the time, when I saw these gorgeous houseboats in the River Orwell, and suddenly came home inspired to feature them in the story in some way. I found this Youtuber called ‘So I bought a Narrow Boat’ and I became so enchanted with her life on the water, and her stunning little houseboat which had these little portholes and little round cushions that you used instead of curtains. (Incidentally, this is an excellent way to procrastinate, which I am a champion at). This led me to the incredible ‘alternative’ world of houseboats in general, and that’s how I came up with a side character named Angie, who becomes Victoria’s new best pal, – an ageing hippie who has a fondness for ‘suspicious brownies’ and runs The Floating Bookshop. She was a joy to write, I’d quite like to meet her myself!

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Beautiful floating bookshops

I love writing characters, they are what brings the magic alive for me, and make writing that much more fun. Victoria was the sort of character who takes over, I really don’t know where she came from, all feisty and wearing rather funky t-shirts and old-fashioned men’s cloaks, and having the ability to do all sorts of complicated maths (this from an author who was hopeless at it at school, but hey ho) yet rather vulnerable too – I enjoyed spending time with her though. I hope I don’t sound mad now, lol.

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Boats that inspired “Tremenara” and Somersby

Alice Hoffman said that when she writes a book she just strings along things that are currently holding her interest till something new emerges, and I couldn’t agree more – especially when it came to this book, a lot of it happened that way, and other ideas came from who knows where, really. Like Fen or Tilly, my characters from the past. I’m sure he was inspired a little by the character of Dickon from The Secret Garden, which in some ways I’m sure influenced the idea for this story as a whole – it was one of my favourite books growing up, and I love the idea of abandoned, forgotten places,  the stories they could tell us if we could only find a way to listen…

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at Summer at Seafall Cottage! With some of the images that inspired it. I always enjoy it when authors share theirs so I thought I would too – also I think it’s really important to share the challenges, along with the joy that comes with writing – so while now, after a few months post publication I am fond of this book – there were real moments of hardship, doubt, worry and intense procrastination. Each book is different, some are harder than others, some stretch you, and that’s always a bit uncomfortable – it’ show we learn and grow, It’s funny but that is the lesson I keep learning – just keep going. The only way out is through. Sorry for talking in bumper stickers 🙂

And now apologies, time for a shameless plug, but if you haven’t read it yet, it’s on sale at 99p in the UK and about $1.30 in the US if you’d like to get it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The books I’ve loved this month

I look forward to having a holiday for three reasons – one it means I actually get out of the house, two, I’m usually somewhere near the sea, and three, because now I have an excellent excuse to buy more books.

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This would be my ultimate holiday away …

I don’t really need an excuse, of course. Usually, I have to hide what I’ve bought away from the hubby who bangs his head and says, ‘Do you need more?’ Like really, do we need more Marvel remakes, do we need more jumbo-sized packets of M&Ms … no, but we do need books. Yes, like breathing.

It’s the thing I’ve always spent my money on. Some months back in my early junior journalist days I’d have the equivalent to my last ten pounds or so along with some dust in the bottom of my bank account (I lived in South Africa so this was in Rands…) and I’d figure, sure, I have enough for a book, and some baked beans. For some women it’s shoes or handbags, for me, it’s always been books.

Anyway,  on a recent holiday to Cyprus I managed to read a few, and since I was back and meant to be editing my book, I mean, in between editing my book, ahem, I read some more. There weren’t that many, which was probably because I spent a lot of time working, but these were my top three for the month (in no order).

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown.

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This hooked me from the first page, it’s so beautifully written, gripping, and at times harrowing, it made a five hour flight whizz by and I felt like I was transported to 1645, where I could smell the horses, feel the fear, and the creeping cold and doubt during the time of the first witch trials in Essex. The story follows Alice Hopkins, who comes home to Manningtree to live with her brother after her husband is tragically killed, there she learns of a terrible rumour – her brother Mathew is keeping a list of names, women who are accused of witchcraft. It was such an interesting take, scary, and so poignant.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

51HlxqB-deLThis was one of those books that just kept popping up, shared on social media, also one of the Sunday Times bestsellers, and I eventually became intrigued enough to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed. In some ways it is a little baffling that it has had the hype it has, in the best way, if you know what I mean – it’s a strange, funny, sweet, rather sad, yet uplifting story, and in this age of ‘shocking twists, and fast-paced thrillers’ you almost wonder how this little book managed to capture people’s attentions, but I’m so glad it did.  It’s a story about the kindness of strangers, the importance of friendship, and the dark, sometimes shocking secrets we keep hidden from others, a reminder that your friends or colleagues may be going through things you could never imagine, and that kindness really is the best policy.  Eleanor Oliphant is a one-of-a-kind character, she’s disagreeable, odd, a bit old fashioned, whip smart, pedantic, rude, outspoken, hilarious, and eventually, completely and utterly endearing. I found myself thinking about her often – and I will never be able to look at a ‘shopper’ (one of those wheely trolly things which I actually own – thanks Mum, lol) or Tesco  (the greatest most magical place alive according to Eleanor) without thinking fondly of her.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah 

51Wb2CwPfTLThis was one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time. It was gorgeously written, Hannah’s use of language is beguiling, and this was a book to savour, like honey dribbled on a spoon. It would be hard to decide what the best part of the novel was for me, the incredible story or the characterisation. The two sisters, Viann and Isabelle, in this epic world war two saga – told like we’ve seldom seen done before – from the perspective of women as heroes, are as different as night from day. Feisty, rule-breaking Isabelle, who is the sort of person I’d love to be, captured my heart from the start, she’s funny, noble and yet rather vulnerable, and I simply adored her and wanted to be like her when I grow up, whereas, Viann is perhaps the woman most of us could identify with, afraid, and anxious for her family, yet in many ways ultimately more brave as the risks she takes affect not only her but her family and friends as well. The story is based on real events – that of the incredibly courageous women who helped Jewish children to escape death and concentration camps, by helping them to assume false identities, and those who helped downed allied air pilots escape Nazi occupied France through the mountains. Magnificent.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let me know if you’d like me to share any more recommendations.

 

 

It’s lovely weather for a cover reveal from me …

Hello, hello! Yes, me again. I’m like a bus, right? You wait for ages and then two bloody blog posts come at once.

Sorry! Last one today, promise! But I have some exciting news. I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my latest book, Christmas at Hope Cottage, which is out on Oct 18, but available for pre-order now 🙂

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Lily Graham 16 aug

Here’s the blurb

In the little village of Whistling, with its butterscotch cottages and rolling green hills, snow is beginning to fall. Christmas is coming, and Emma Halloway is on her way home.

When thirty-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.

Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them.

As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place… and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.

The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

An utterly gorgeous Christmas romance about the importance of family, freshly baked biscuits, and learning to trust your heart. Perfect for fans of Phillipa Ashley, Debbie Johnson and Debbie Macomber.

If you’d like to preorder it you can get it here:

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I’d love to hear what you think of the cover. Personally I’d move into the little cottage today 🙂 hope you like it! xxx

My top 10 pet peeves

Hello, hello! My but you do look fabulous in that shirt. The screen really brings out your eyes.

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A completely irrelevant picture just because it was pretty and I wish I was there.

So I thought, because, you know, I have lots of work to do, like cleaning out my closet, taking the dog for another walk, oh and editing my Christmas book, which has just come back for round three or four of edits (have literally lost count which number I’m on) that I’d  write a blog post. Procrastinating is alive and well. It’s a sport I am rather great at, if I may be allowed to brag. I’ve always been an over achiever.

A while ago, I did a post about my love list, I am a person who likes to categorise things into lists for no other reason than that it is an excellent form of procrastination, again.

So, I thought I’d do a little list of the random, often silly things that drive me bonkers, just because it’s Thursday and well why not. Apologies if it’s Wednesday, I’ve had to take a wild stab in the dark because I’m too lazy to look at the calendar.

  1. When you ‘unsubscribe’ only to be sent an email from the person/company that you just unsubscribed from that same day. Yes Yummly I’m talking to you, pffft. I don’t care that that recipe actually looks fab, I’m on a diet now, okay? So bugger off, please, while I enjoy my broccoli lettuce sandwich, thanks.
  2. When someone says female instead of woman, its not common in the UK (thank God) but in South Africa some people (you know who you are) say it sometimes, not often, but enough to drive me insane. So they’ll say something like, ‘That female writes so beautifully.’ A little piece of me dies when I hear or read this. Even typing that hurt.
  3. When people say ‘Baby,’ instead of ‘the baby.’  So for instance, they’ll say ‘I gave baby his bottle.’ I don’t know why it drives me nuts but it just does. Like: toes curling in agony, nuts.
  4. When you are writing and you hit caps lock by mistake. SO YouR wOrds GO ALL WeIrD, THEN CAPS, thEN no caps, thEN YOU FINALLY nOTice aND YELL argghghghg F%$%$^%^!! and then you delete it ONLY TO DO IT AGAIN! This hApPens to me EvERY. SiNGLE. DaY
  5. Authors who make other authors feel ashamed of what they write or what people like to read. It’s almost always the whole genre fiction vs. literary fiction debate.  Let’s cut the crap. It’s fiction. What you’re really saying is ‘this made up thing is better than that made up thing,’ and when you look it like that, well, it’s bloody silly to have airs and graces about a bit of make believe, right? Also, seriously now, it’s a mad cruel world, and some people get real relief from their books, and just aren’t in the head space for anything dark or gritty, real world / or the opposite and can’t take light and fluffy, so why make them feel bad?
  6. When a network cancels one of the best TV shows. Especially when you just get into it. Gah! Yes, Amazon I’m talking about you and Good Girls Revolt!
  7. The lack of warm and witty female centric shows. Growing up there were some real corkers, like Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, Felicity etc. I’ve found it really hard to find anything like that nowadays.
  8. Book hangovers. I kind of love/ hate these. I just finished The Nightingale by the brilliant Kristin Hannah and couldn’t read anything else for most of the week. I also had a Harry Potter marathon and literally felt lost afterwards.
  9. Those super short shorts that don’t cover butt cheeks but reach the armpits. Why is this a trend?!
  10. How sugar is in everything. Even  spices – gah!

Are any of these your silly pet peeves too? I’d love to hear!  xx

 

 

Summer at Seafall Cottage

I have a bit of booksy news!

My publishers have decided to change the title of The Cornish Escape to Summer at Seafall Cottage which they feel suits the story a little more, and also opens it up to more international readers.

Here’s what it looks like with the new title – hope you like it!

Also very exciting – it’s on special for a limited time

UK: 99p
US: $1.30

Here’s the blurb:

Get swept away along the beautiful Cornish coast with two love stories, centuries apart in time but entwined at their hearts.

Victoria Langley’s world crumbles when her husband leaves, but she knows exactly where to go to mend her broken heart. The rugged shores of Cornwall will be her perfect sanctuary.

In the quaint, little village of Tregollan, nestled in the sea cliffs, Victoria is drawn to Seafall Cottage, covered in vines and gracefully falling apart. Inside she finds a diary full of secrets, from 1905.

Victoria is determined to unravel the diary’s mystery, but the residents of Tregollan are tight-lipped about Tilly Asprey, the cottage’s last owner. Just as she reaches a dead end, Victoria meets Adam Waters, the lawyer handling the cottage’s sale. He’s handsome, charming, and has a missing piece of the puzzle.

Tilly’s diary tells a devastating love story that mirrors Victoria’s own. Can Victoria learn from Tilly’s mistakes, and give herself a second chance at love? Or is history doomed to repeat itself?

An unputdownable and gorgeously romantic read about lost love and new beginnings set in the green hills and rocky cliffs of the breathtaking Cornish coast. Perfect for fans of Phillipa Ashley, Emma Burstall and Liz Fenwick.

Join my newsletter and get a free book!

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I’m thrilled to let you know about my new readers’ newsletter – something different to the one in the back of my books which notifies readers only of new releases, this monthly newsletter will offer exclusive giveaways, bonuses, more personal updates, as well as notifications on special promotions and new releases.

As a special welcome for joining my newsletter- which you can do by following this link here, you can download a free copy of my book, A Cornish Christmas – the prequel to my latest novel, The Cornish Escape. Just follow the prompts and you’ll receive the ebook in the final welcome mail.

P.S. Please note the newsletter is not the same as the blog – so while following the blog is great and ideally I’d love it if you did both, if you want to get your free book and get more info about my releases and competitions etc you must join the newsletter here

Hope to see you there!

All the best,

Lily xxx