Today I’m delighted to have Rosie Howard in my hot seat. Rosie Howard is the author of Never Marry a Politician which won joint second place in the 2014 Good Housekeeping/Orion Novel Writing Competition and was subsequently published by Choc Lit.
Rosie is chatting to us about The Homecoming, the first in a series based in Sussex published by Allison & Busby. Enjoy! x
Available to purchase in digital, paperback, hardcover and audio formats.
Maddy fled the idyllic market town of Havenbury Magna three years ago, the scene of a traumatic incident she revisits most clearly in her dreams. Even so, when she is called back to help at the Havenbury Arms when her godfather Patrick suffers a heart attack, she is unprepared for the welter of emotions her return provokes.
Psychologist and ex-army officer Ben is sure he can help Maddy to resolve her fears, until he finds himself falling for her, and struggling with a recently uncovered family secret of which Maddy is blissfully unaware.
Then Maddy’s mother, Helen, arrives and Patrick himself must confront a few uncomfortable truths about his history and the pub’s future.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Hi Shaz, thanks so much for letting me contribute to your brilliant blog. I do love a good blog about books and it’s good to have a distraction from writing my daily wordcount that doesn’t involve biscuits.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel Rosie?
‘The Homecoming’ is the first of a series based in a world called Havenbury – a rural idyll bearing a remarkable resemblance to my own home in West Sussex. In my view it is about time readers had an alternative to all those books set in Cornwall, Devon and the Cotswolds, although I adore them and read them avidly. Havenbury – set at the foot of the Sussex Downs, on the river Haven and just a few miles from the sea – is my response to all that.
Did you do any research? What resources did you use?
Does Google count? I am a shocking Googler (can it be a verb? I think it can…) because there is almost nothing you can’t find out with it. The newspapers always seem to report that criminals have Googled their crime first. Searches like, “How do I strangle someone and bury them under the patio without getting caught…” or “how much weedkiller is a lethal dose” help to convict them because criminals are usually not very bright and seem not to know about incognito browsing and deleting search histories. My Google search history would say things like: “how many puppies does a Labrador have?” and, “what does hypnotism actually do to your brain?”, so I might not get arrested or imprisoned but anyone looking at it would probably think I was a bit odd.
Do you have a theme for your book covers?
I love my book cover for The Homecoming, with its beautiful duck egg blue design. To me it evokes the quintessentially English countryside community feel but manages to feel fresh and modern too. (Look forward to seeing how this evolves through the series Rosie.)
Is there a time of day where you’re at your most creative?
I am hopeless at getting down to writing, but deadlines are a fantastic inspiration; if I absolutely have to get a book in and things are starting to look quite grim, then any time of day can be creative (!) but, in my perfect world, I would waft downstairs and sit at my desk in my pyjamas with a cup of tea for an hour before dawn during which time I would effortlessly whack out a couple of thousand words of deathless prose and have the rest of my day to myself. In my dreams.
Is there a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity Rosie?
I am lucky because my fictional Havenbury world is all around me. It isn’t quite that I take my life and shovel it into my books, (there is a little bit of creativity involved) but I enjoy living in my little Sussex village which is a heaving mass of intrigue and conflict. Also, I am much more of a nature girl than I was when I was living in the city. I love walking the dog in the countryside near my home – we have woods, beaches, fields, riversides, all on our doorstep – and I enjoy being out there in all weathers, watching the seasons change.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
I read very widely as I think all writers do but – within my genre – I especially admire people like Veronica Henry, Carole Mathews, Jilly Cooper, Sue Moorcroft, Katie Fforde. Basically, it is all those writers who take their readers into a warm, comforting environment, but also manage to write page-turning stories that people can’t put down.
Do you have a favourite book? What is it about that book?
The best books are those rare stories that seem to change as we change; as we read and re-read them they have the quality of echoing our own lives as we take different things from them at different times. Mine would have to be Jane Eyre. I admire Charlotte Bronte, and this is a timely choice as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of her birth. What the Bronte sisters achieved in their short lives was extraordinary. Their own story, as well as their writing, has stood the test of time.
Can you share what you’re reading now?
I have just devoured Marion Keyes’ latest book, ‘The Break’ in two days flat. Like all of her work it is a fantastic story, with this vivid voice, and vibrant characters, exploring issues that resonate with all modern women as her protagonist copes with a major fracture in the marriage she thought was so secure. The woman’s “a fecking genius” – to use her own voice and vocabulary.
Finally Rosie, can you share what’s next?
‘The Homecoming’ is first in the Havenbury series, with the second – ‘A Vintage Year’ out next year. I enjoyed writing ‘A Vintage Year’ even more than the first, as my story is based around a Sussex vineyard which required lots of detailed research. Winemaking can be so precarious; the thrills and spills of growing grapes and producing wine make an exciting back story. It is also topical as winemakers in Sussex are increasingly making a name for themselves internationally.
Thank you for being my guest today.
I wrote my first book when I was five. Of course it was abysmal. I vaguely remember something about a squirrel and a big red apple. If anybody’s interested I’m pretty sure my mum still has it in the attic somewhere.
There was a long gap in my writing career while I grew up, which took a long time and is arguably a work in progress. After studying classical music, for reasons that now escape me, I took up public relations, campaigning and political lobbying, with a bit of freelance journalism thrown in. This is brilliant because it all involves writing, although my favourite form of writing – making stuff up – is sadly frowned upon in public relations.
I take an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in our West Sussex village (think, The Archers crossed with Twin Peaks). This provides lots of entertaining material although any resemblance between my fictional characters and real life never ceases to amaze me – life imitating art, and all that… so, please don’t sue.
My first novel ‘Never Marry a Politician’ was shortlisted from 3,500 entries in the 2014 Good Housekeeping/Orion Novel Writing Competition and was awarded joint second place before being published by award winning independent publishers Choc Lit.
I am currently working on a series of books based in Sussex and am thrilled to be represented by Julia Silk at MBA Literary Agency.
Connect with Rosie Howard