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Author Interview : Louise Beech | How To Be Brave

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JJ is delighted to be welcoming Louise on paperback publication day!

How To Be Brave is her debut novel.

All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

Amazon UK Kindle

Amazon UK Paperback

Amazon US

Orenda Books

Hi Louise,

Welcome to JJ!

Please summarise How to be Brave in 20 words or less. 

To help daughter Rose cope with sudden illness, Natalie shares the story of a ghostly ancestor lost at sea.

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?

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. Some time after 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.

What scene did you most enjoy writing Louise? 

I thoroughly enjoyed all the scenes on the lifeboat. Writing about the grandfather I never met helped me get to know him. Often I felt he was at my side as I recreated his struggle on the sea. I hope he’s proud of it, and I hope I did him justice.

… and what scene was the hardest to write?

At times it was very hard going back and exploring the night our daughter got ill. I hadn’t closely analysed this in years. I cried often when writing about it. But it was therapy for me. I got a lot of emotion out that needed to be released.

What inspired you to write? 

I’ve always been writing. Even before I could physically write, I can remember inventing stories. As soon as I could write them down, I did. I filled notepads with them. I wrote my first full novel at fourteen, though I can’t imagine it would hold up now – perhaps it might be quite heartfelt! For me, writing is adventure, escape, therapy, and pure joy. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Do you have a most creative time of day?

I wake up full of thoughts, ready to go. So I tend to my best work then. After teatime, I’m on the wind down, so very rarely write after five o’clock. I work evenings, so it’s a good job I write early!

Panster or a plotter?

Oh, a panster! I don’t plot. I may loosely know where I’m going, but I never outline or plan. I just set off. Leave the map behind. The endings to my novels so far are never quite what I imagined. But that’s the beauty of writing for me.

What are you currently working on? 

I’m editing 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 years. 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.

Hot topic question Louise, do you think movie adaptations do books justice?

I don’t think a movie can ever quite do a book justice, no matter how closely it follows the story, or how lovingly it tries to recreate those characters. And this is because nothing can beat our own imaginations.

Do you have a favourite?

If I did have to pick a movie I love almost as much as the book it would be Gone With the Wind.

Finally Louise, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?

The absolute best part of this journey has been the readers. Being read. By real actual people. That’s what it’s all about.

Thank you for your honesty Louise.

Wishing you success with all your writing projects!

Happy Paperback Publication Day!

Louise Beech has always been haunted by the sea, and regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull
Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years.

Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Connect with Louise

Twitter @LouiseWriter

Family comes first! I'm married with two son's in their 20's and have a little more time now to follow my passions. I love my role as an Inclusion Lead in KS2 and I'm passionate about early help. I'm a member of Bournemouth's Early Help Operational Board working alongside others to instigate change and growth. I'm also passionate about my love of reading, being out in nature and creating with crochet. I've been blogging for eight years at Jera's Jamboree.

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