Stepping into the author spotlight today is Lea Taylor. Welcome Lea and thanks for joining me. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
An inveterate tea drinker, pet to two boisterous rescue dogs and one rescue chicken, Mum to a teenager and a messy housewife. I’m a teller and performer of tales and have done so nationally and internationally as a professional storyteller. My next play Pedigree Tales (to be filmed) involves performing with a couple of wicker dogs at Duns Play Fest. I will be donating my earnings to dog charities.
I happened into writing as an extension to storytelling only to realise that while the two may seem similar they are entirely different crafts. Ever since then, I have incorporated writing into my practice and dare I admit, this is my new happy place.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’d been working as a storyteller for approximately ten years; people had often remarked on my own stories, suggesting I put them in print. I was fortunate to have my first two books ‘Midlothian Folk Tales’ and Animals Beasties and Monsters of Scotland published by The History Press
Tell me about your journey to publication.
My previous publications are a huge departure from the current book The House Beside the Cherry Tree. All short stories and focussing on traditional but contemporised folk tales. This is my debut novel and couldn’t be further away from folktale if it tried. Naturally the material was not of interest to my previous publisher. My current publisher is a small indie publisher – the logo is stories that challenge, stories that intrigue and stories that linger. I felt that my book fit their criteria and pitched. Fortunately they loved my work and the rest is, as they say, history.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
The House Beside the Cherry Tree explores the issues relating to mental health, how it affects not only the individual but family members. It’s set in 1960’s when societal values and mores were different and attitudes to mental health were ill-informed and stigmatising. A young teenage couple are forced into marriage because of an unplanned pregnancy. They are totally unsuited and ultimately the young mother has a breakdown. The events leading up to this and the ensuing fall out affects all the members of the family and it is this dynamic that the story is built upon.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I wanted to use something symbolic that reflected particular aspects of the story. I remembered that as a child we had a cherry tree in our garden and slowly the idea floated into being in the book. It is salient that a cherry tree represents birth and death, beauty and violence.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
Due to lockdown it will be a Zoom event, advertised via Eventbrite. Tickets are FREE and the launch will take place on 21st March 2021. I plan to do a couple of readings, a Q&A and a lucky dip give-away of the book to three people attending the event (names to be pulled out of a hat). The good thing about the event being on-line is that people won’t have to travel and can enjoy it from the comfort of their own homes. I will also be able to share the event with followers from Canada, USA, England and Ireland.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I’m plotting the sequel ‘Blossoms on the wind’ and just in the throes of finishing off a children’s picture story book which is due out in the autumn
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell a rich and haunting tale that I just couldn’t put down. Beautifully written.
What are you reading just now?
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
An anthology of Mary Oliver’s poems
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Hamnet the writing was so evocative I think it would make an excellent film if put in the right hands.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
On Twitter: Lea Taylor – Author (@leataylor5783)
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Sylvia Pankhurst. I’ve a penchant for rebels and having recently read her autobiography was left in utter awe of her.
The House Beside the Cherry Tree will be published on 21st March 2021.
You can order a copy here: The House Beside the Cherry Tree
From the back of the book
1959 was a different time, when gender roles were fixed and one naïve mistake can change everything. Diane found this out the hard way and not only loses her future but also herself and eventually her mind. Diane’s husband Richard, barely a man when he put the ring on Diane’s finger, struggles to understand and keep the family together. Ultimately it is their daughter, Frankie, who pays the price and learns that not all mothers are as loving as they should be. The House Beside the Cherry Tree tells the story from each family member’s perspective – that of Diane, her husband Richard, and their daughter Frankie – in a very personal and intimate way.