Feeling nostalgic for the days when daylight reigned until after 10pm and the excitement that comes from the anticipation of trips with family and friends? Cathy Bussey’s debut, Summer at Hollyhock House, might just be what you need to bring back the sparkle.
On tour today Cathy Bussey is chatting to us about her inspiration, scenes she enjoyed writing the most and found the hardest and much more. I also have three digital copies to giveaway thanks to publishers Sapere Books. Don’t miss this one!
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1666 KB
- Print Length: 334 pages
- Publisher: Sapere Books (2 Aug. 2018)
- ASIN: B07D16HKL5
Available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
One long summer changed Faith forever…
Faith Coombes should have been over the moon when her long-term boyfriend proposed to her. But instead, she broke up with him. Rob was safe, reliable, nice and … boring. Nothing like the only person who had ever broken her heart…
Unable to afford the rent on another flat and desperate for a new start, Faith takes the plunge and moves back to the village she grew up in, returning to the house that holds so many memories for her.
Hollyhock House, the family home of her best-friend Minel, also belongs to the boy who meant so much to her all those years ago…
As Faith falls back in love with the sprawling surroundings at Hollyhock she also finds herself falling all over again for the only person who has truly hurt her.
Can Faith come to terms with her past? Did she make the wrong decision in breaking up with Rob?
Or does her heart really lie at Hollyhock House?
An uplifting romantic comedy from a new voice in women’s fiction! Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Debbie Johnson, Jenny Colgan and Holly Martin.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Summer At Hollyhock House in 20 words or less.
A funny, whimsical and romantic coming-of-age meets happily-ever-after, set in the gorgeous English countryside, with added bikes and dogs.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I wanted to write a modern, charming and uplifting love story that had all the things I love the very most in it. And those things are, in no particular order, animals, nature, the countryside, when past and future collide, intense soul-searching stomach-flipping heart-pounding knee-weakening first kisses, secret trysts, firm friendships, poignant and bittersweet nostalgia, what ifs, happily ever after, and that particular kind of magic that lingers on a hot summer’s day.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Cathy?
There’s a scene about two-thirds of the way through the book where Faith, my main character, has had a terrible shock. She and my other main character Rik are together in a place that means a lot to both of them and she has a huge revelation about their relationship.
I wrote it in one take and despite repeated rounds of editing, that scene was barely touched. It flows exactly as it should, in my opinion, and everything about it just felt completely right.
It was the scene I felt best reflected my characters’ mutual conflict, and it saw clarity come from extreme confusion.
It gave me a chance to flex several writing muscles – nature writing, character development, reflecting emotional turmoil, and arriving at a resolution. My heart still skips a beat when I read it now.
… and the hardest?
I rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote, the first scene of the final chapter. This is basically the resolution of the entire book and everything has been building up to this particular scene, so it had to be fireworks.
It took me so long to get it quite right. It had to be romantic but not too saccharine, sexy but not cringeworthy, funny but not slapstick – there were a lot of requirements! Both characters needed to be on top of their game.
I had the basic premise from the get-go, I knew what would happen and where, but how it happened was the crucial point and that scene was still being heavily edited and restructured right up to publication.
Does Summer at Hollyhock House tackle a social barrier?
Two of my characters are mixed-race. Horrifyingly, this in itself counts as tackling a social barrier.
The race of the characters is not a plot device. I don’t make a big deal of their racial heritage, and I don’t expose them to ridicule and racial hatred because that is not a Point Of View I could in any way confidently reflect.
This is just my tiny, minute attempt at reflecting diversity.
I am a white woman who has grown up in a white supremacist world and been gifted infinite volumes of white privilege by pure accident of birth. I therefore do not know what I am talking about, when I talk about race. I want to amplify the voices of others who do know, not attempt to wade in and lead those conversations myself. I want to learn. I start by recognising my unconscious bias and my white privilege and working to raise the voices of those my privilege has oppressed and quashed. I am not trying to start a conversation or tackle racism with my book. I simply put on the page the characters that entered my consciousness, faithfully, and I hope they exist on the page as they should, as a reflection of our diverse world, not as a personal statement from Cathy the woke author who is now going to tell you all about racism. Please do follow @nerdabouttown on Twitter and @rachel.cargle on Instagram to learn more.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I’m at my most creative in the evenings. I can hit a flow and go all night – and I frequently have to force myself to stop and go to bed.
Sometimes I wish I could be the much more virtuous and lauded morning person, rising at 5am and hammering out 2,000 words before breakfast, but that is not and never will be the way I am made.
I do wonder however if I’m at my best in the evenings out of necessity. I suppose in an ideal world I’d write from about 8-9am until such a time as my brain has decided that’s enough, but children, work and general life usually get in the way. I stayed at home with my children for more than six years, without childcare or any family round the corner. So for many years the only time I had the freedom to think, let alone write, was after I’d put them to bed.
Any tips you could share with new writers?
For a start I’d advise taking writing tips with a pinch of salt! I think it’s more helpful to share what I’ve found works for me, than to issue dictats like Thou Shalt Write 1,000 Words Per Day – But Don’t Forget To Rest And Relax. Writing tips generally just lead to confusion and truly great writers, in my opinion, can rarely sum up their craft in a succinct listicle.
So we will go with the basics, which is to be a writer you need to write.
For me that meant writing the words that felt uncomfortable, and the scenes that made me feel exposed.
I have happily and easily written scenes and characters before to which I feel no affinity, and just as happily and easily stopped writing their stories.
For Summer At Hollyhock House I was so emotionally invested in the characters and the story I wanted to tell I literally forced myself, sometimes spending hours staring at a blank scene only to type one word and then delete it, but I still forced myself to write what I thought was the unwriteable. This was mainly sex scenes, that mainly got edited and deleted! Nonetheless it was vital I got comfortable with that level of exposure, in order to truly give the book everything I had. I put so much into it that a lot got cut, edited and pared back. I prefer that infinitely to having to dial up the investment.
Finally Cathy, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Everything. The good and the bad, the five-star reviews and the two-star trashing. The fear and anxiety, the joy and pride. The horrendous self-doubt, the moments of true belief. I have loved every single second of the journey, even the bits I hated.
I’m an actual real live published novelist. What could be more amazing than that?
Thank you for being my guest today.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Cathy Bussey is an author, journalist and hopeless romantic who wrote her first book at the tender age of six. Entitled Tarka the Otter, it was a shameless rip-off of the Henry Williamson classic of the same name, and the manuscript was lost after she sent it to her pen-pal and never heard a jot from her since.
Fortunately reception to her writing became more favourable and she spent ten years working for a range of newspapers and magazines covering everything from general elections and celebrity scandals to cats stuck up trees and village fetes. She has been freelance since 2011 and written for The Telegraph, Red Online, Total Women’s Cycling and other lifestyle and cycling publications and websites.
She is the author of three non-fiction books and her debut and thankfully non-plagiarised novel Summer at Hollyhock House has been published by Sapere Books.
Cathy lives on the leafy London/Surrey border with her husband, two children and a dog with only two facial expressions, hungry and guilty. Her hobbies include mountain biking, photography, wandering around outside getting lost, fantasising about getting her garden under control, reading, looking at pretty things on Instagram and drinking tea.
Connect with Cathy Bussey
Don’t forget to check out the other hosts on tour.
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