I’m very pleased to welcome Louise Beech as my Author in the Spotlight today. Louise’s debut novel, How to Be Brave, was published by Orenda in September 2015 and has been very well received. You can order a copy here: How to Be Brave
Thanks for joining me on the blog Louise. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
Yes, of course. I’m proud to say that I’m a writer, a mum of two wonderful kids, a Front of House Theatre Usher, and a volunteer at my local BBC radio station. I adore travelling and write regular pieces about my trips for my local newspaper, though I can’t afford to go away as much as I’d love to – which would be monthly if I had my way! I’m also a huge Marilyn Monroe fan and have devoured books about her since I was twelve. I visited LA in 2012 (the fiftieth anniversary of her death) just to see her grave and the house where she died. It was a profound moment.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have always written. Truly. Ever since I knew the alphabet, and before that I made stories up in my head. I’ve always been inspired by everything around me – gorgeous scenery, conversations, music, experiences I’ve gone through. I think even when I was small, I wrote to make sense of everything, to escape, to cope, to feel alive. For me, there’s nothing like it.
Tell me about your journey to publication?
Oh, it has been a long one. Very long. I was forty-four when How to be Brave was published in September 2015, so considering I’ve always been writing that gives you an idea how long. I wrote a column for my local newspaper for ten years. During that time I attempted my first ‘proper’ novel in 2007, after the floods in Hull made us homeless. That book got me an agent, but she simply couldn’t sell it. I wrote two more books in 2010 and 2012, and those didn’t sell. Then my agent retired and I was alone again. It was just before I’d begun How to be Brave. I knew this book had something special about it and FINALLY in February 2015 Karen Sullivan offered me a book deal. I will never forget how amazing that felt.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
In 2007, just after the UK floods, my seven-year-old daughter Katy was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. We lost our home, car and belongings, then our daughter’s health. Life was a roundabout of blood tests and injections and hospital visits and distressed child. Three years later Katy went through a delayed reaction to the diabetes and refused her life-saving insulin injections. The only thing that persuaded her was storytelling – in exchange for fiction she accepted the needle. When fiction wasn’t enough we went for the truth and I told her the incredible story of my grandad, Colin Armitage, a merchant seaman who survived fifty days lost at sea during the war. His heroism inspired my daughter’s. And both of them inspired How to be Brave. It began as a short story and eventually became the current novel.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Yes, I’m working on the novel I wrote before How to be Brave, so really that is my WIP. It’s called The Mountain in my Shoe and here is the blurb: On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband of ten years that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does the little boy, Conor, who she has befriended for the last five. Missing also is his Lifebook, the one thing that contains all the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum Anne, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets, and the future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
I got an advance copy of Shtum by Jem Lester, which isn’t actually out until April 2016. It’s about a father’s struggle with his autistic son, but is so much more than that. I don’t want to say too much as I never like to ruin a book by giving too much away. But it blew me away. Just beautiful.
What are you reading just now? (December 2015)
The Poet’s Wife by Rebecca Stonehill. Utterly gorgeous historical novel. I also just ordered some books I devoured as a teenager for a trip down memory lane – a couple by Lois Duncan and the trashy but utterly addictive Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews.
Tell me about your reading habits: book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?
I’m completely a physical books person. I don’t have a Kindle or read eBooks. I like to hold an actual book. Old-fashioned, I know. I read everywhere, mostly on the bus to work, but also on the sofa and in bed. Any time, anywhere.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I’m on Facebook under my name, Louise Beech, and am on Twitter as @LouiseWriter
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Oh well, it would have to be Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. She’s so vivacious, passionate, stubborn and a fighter!