When Jen goes to her grandmother’s house for the last time, she’s determined not to dwell on the past. As a child, Jen adored Lily and suspected she might be a witch; but the spell was broken long ago, and now her death means there won’t be any reconciliation.
Lily’s gone, but the enchantments she wove and the secrets she kept still remain. In Lily’s house, Jen and her daughter Marianne reluctantly confront the secrets of the past and present – and discover how dangerous we become when we’re trying to protect the ones we love.
My Q&A with Cassandra Parkin
Describe yourself using three words?
Busy working mother 🙂
What inspired you to write your first novel?
I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen. It was dystopian science fiction because I was fifteen, so of course, it was, and it was inspired by a very creepy and coherent dream that haunted me for days afterwards. I wrote it in my bedroom, using a Courier typewriter and sheets of paper from dismantled exercise books, and the whole enterprise was so incredibly loud that my brother said afterwards it sounded like I was building a ship in there.
My most recent novel, “Lily’s House”, was also inspired by a dream – a train journey that I’ve never actually taken, but would love to one day. The branch line to Falmouth, where my grandparents lived, stops right at the bottom of their road. In my dream, I get off the train and walk up the hill towards their house. I’m not expected, but I know they’ll welcome me when I arrive. Sometimes I have my children with me, sometimes I’m alone, but the light is always low and golden, and the road is very quiet.
What time of day do you like to write?
I prefer to write in the mornings, preferably at the dining table, and ideally in my pyjamas. Saying that, I don’t like to get too precious about these things – I’ve written on trains, at service stations, in meetings, in hospital waiting rooms, while hiding in the toilets at boring parties. Time is the scarcest resource for most writers, so I like to make the most of what I have.
What is your favourite book and why?
I can’t possibly pick just one that’s my favourite, but I can manage a shortlist of eight Desert Island authors: Jane Austen, Tove Jansson, Lewis Carroll, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Charlotte Bronte, William Thackeray and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The book that has influenced me the most, though, is and Through the Looking-Glass”. I was lucky enough to speak at TEDx Hull a couple of years ago, and I chose Alice as my subject. If you’d like to find out why, here’s a link to my talk… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrwgMOpBG-4
How did you pick the title of your book?
Book titles usually come to me quite early on in the process. “Lily’s House” was my working title before I had more than the opening few lines written. I think I had it in my head that at some point I’d need to think of a “real” title, chosen after hours of tortuous brainstorming and mad staring into space. But in the end, “Lily’s House” felt like the right choice.
Are the characters in your book based on real people?
Lily is heavily inspired by four women who were a huge part of my childhood – my grandmothers Audrey and Millie, and my great-aunts Dolly and Anne. My starting-point for Lily was my memories of these four incredible women, who loved me so fiercely and gave me so much.
However, real-life people and memories are only ever a starting point for me. Lily very quickly became her own person, with her own story.
What’s your favourite word?
Well, I was once trying to find a particular scene in my MS for “Lily’s House” where Jen was brushing her daughter’s hair, so I typed “hair” into the search box. Up popped a perky little note from Word: “That word appears a lot!” So I started looking through, and within about five seconds all I could hair when I haired at my manuscript was hair many hairs I’d haired the word hair.
So “hair” is probably a good contender.
If you were a colour what would it be?
Purple, because it’s my favourite.
Do you plan your story beforehand or go with the flow?
I always have a detailed chapter-by-chapter plan before I start to write. I like to have something to completely ignore as I get into the project.
Who is your favourite Author?
Definitely Jane Austen. I don’t think I’m ever not reading one of her books. I could probably reproduce some of them from memory, Fahrenheit 451-style.
If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?
That would have to be Lucifer, from Paradise Lost. I’ve always thought the Garden of Eden sounded pretty boring. We’re better off out of it.
Are you working on a new project?
My next novel, “The Winter’s Child”, is due out on 15th September 2017 from Legend Press, so I’m working on the final edits at the moment. It starts on the last night of Hull Fair, when my heroine Susannah Harper is given an eerily specific prophecy by a fortune-teller: by Christmas Eve, her son Joel, who has been missing for five years, will come back to her.
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I’m also working on a new novel, provisionally titled “Underwater Breathing”. It’s set in a village on the East Coast that’s gradually crumbling into the sea, and it’s about a teenage boy who wakes up one morning to find his mother and sister have vanished in the night and he’s alone with is father. The first draft is just hitting the awkward teenage stage where nothing quite fits together yet, but I have faith…
Thank you so much, Cassandra, for being on my blog today, I cannot wait to dive into Lily’s House and your upcoming Winter’s Child. Please come back soon.
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