I’m delighted to be welcoming author Vivien Brown to my hot seat today as part of the paperback publication tour for Lily Alone.
Lily Alone has been described by reviewers as having plenty of tension, being a heart-stopping story with fabulous characters. Find out more about those characters, the scene Vivien Brown enjoyed writing the most and the best part of her writing journey so far as she chats to us today. And that’s not all … Vivien is kindly offering a paperback copy of Lily Alone in a giveaway to one of my UK blog readers. Don’t miss it!
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Lily Alone in 20 words or less.
Leave a child alone at home, and anything could happen while you’re gone – to her, or to you.
Please tell us about the characters in your story.
Ruby is only 22, and already a mother. She grew up in care and desperately (perhaps too desperately!) wants to be loved, with a home and family of her own. But that all falls apart when her boyfriend Michael calls off their wedding and leaves her with no support network, in a city where she has no friends, to bring up their child alone. Michael is ambitious, has moved abroad for work and is in love with another woman. He is trying to do his best for his daughter, but Ruby is bitter and vengeful and is refusing him access, meaning that his mum (and little Lily’s Gran) Geraldine is being kept at arm’s length too. With nobody knowing who Ruby is as she is hit by a car and lies unconscious in the road, and nobody having any idea that Lily has been left at home alone, the scene is set for disaster.
I have created what I hope is a good mix of characters – from little Lily who is not quite three, loves rabbits and hates balloons, right through to lonely neighbour Agnes who is in her eighties, has reluctantly given up her old country home for London life, and who ignores what she hears going on in the flat above because she doesn’t want to be seen as interfering.
We also meet Agnes’s son William, divorced, jobless and letting himself sink into boredom; Laura, the nurse whose caring nature and curiosity bring her to Ruby’s bedside; Paul, the hospital chaplain, drawn to Ruby by the cross she wears around her neck; and Barbara, the social worker whose involvement will inevitably decide Lily’s long-term future – if and when Ruby ever wakes up. As the story unfolds and my characters meet and intertwine, friendships will be formed, romances will blossom, and many lives will ultimately be changed in some way by what has happened to Ruby and to Lily.
But one of my favourite characters is Smudge, Agnes’s old grey cat, who slinks around his new territory, sometimes disappearing who knows where, and who inadvertently becomes a bit of a hero!
What scene did you enjoy writing the most Vivien?
There is just one scene in the book that I wrote out of sequence. I knew I wanted a tentative friendship to develop between granny Geraldine and lonely divorcee William, but I needed to give them somewhere on neutral ground, where they are both killing time and can start to slowly open up to each other about their more private memories and worries. So, I put them in the hospital café, watching patients and staff come and go, toying with cups of coffee as they wait for news about Ruby. I loved writing this scene. It gave me the chance to explore their back stories in their own words as they chat – the moment Geraldine’s husband died, how and why William was made redundant from his accountancy job, and a little about his divorce. I found out a lot about these two characters as I wrote this scene, and was able to include snippets that I knew would help resolve some of my plot ideas later on. I also added a little humour to lighten the mood, as a persistent pigeon keeps appearing on the windowsill looking for crumbs. It was many weeks later, when the novel had reached the right point, that I was able to slot this scene into its rightful place in the story.
… and the hardest?
The hardest scene, and one that I knew would be one of the novel’s most emotional moments, is when Michael is waiting with Lily to find out if Ruby is going to come out of her coma, and if so whether she will be permanently (mentally or physically) damaged in some way. He knows he doesn’t love her, but he was close to her once, and he is feeling both helpless and fearful of what will happen to Lily if she loses the mum she loves.
Does Lily Alone tackle a social barrier?
I suppose the most important social problem I tackle in the book is isolation, how someone can live in the middle of a community, or even just in a single block of just four flats, yet have no connection with others living there. People can be surrounded by others, yet remain solitary and lonely. Agnes is elderly and alone, missing her old home and her possessions, and rarely even seeing her own son, who has been instrumental in persuading her to move to London but now stays away. Ruby does not know her neighbours, seems to have nothing in common with them, is tied to the home by her young child and her lack of money, and when things start to go seriously wrong for her nobody even notices, let alone gets involved.
How do you feel about writing groups Vivien?
I strongly believe in writerly support! Friends and family who don’t write will make all the right noises, saying how much they love our books, but will have no real idea of what goes on in our heads, the insecurities, our feelings when we meet rejection or get bad reviews, etc. I joined a local group called Phrase Writers, a mix of published and non-published writers working in all genres, around twenty years ago. We meet fortnightly, share news, read our work in progress, give constructive criticism and advice, and generally support each other. On a national level, I have found help and friendship through the Romantic Novelists Association, its local ‘chapter’ meetings, London parties and awards ceremonies, and annual conference. Lily Alone went through their New Writers Scheme, meaning that I received very useful (anonymous) feedback on it from a published author so I could make a few changes before I sent it off to a publisher. I am also very involved with the Society of Woman Writers and Journalists (SWWJ), where I meet lots of lovely writers – poets, playwrights, journalists, as well as novelists like myself, and membership gives me my own press card, which often gains me free access to museums and exhibitions, so useful for research as well as leisure purposes. I now administer the SWWJ competitions programme, and oversee their social media presence.
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
After more than twenty years as a magazine short story and article writer, and with a couple of ebook novels and a non-fiction book behind me, all written under my former name of Vivien Hampshire, it is wonderful to finally have a paperback novel I feel proud of, and with my ‘real’ name on the cover. I can’t wait to see copies lined up on the bookshop shelves. All I want now is to see someone reading and enjoying it on the train or beach! But will I go up to them and tell them I am the author? Probably not!
Thank you for being my guest today Vivien.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Lily Alone by Vivien Brown is published in paperback by Harper Impulse 5 October 2017. Available to purchase from Amazon and all good book retailers.
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: HarperImpulse (5 Oct. 2017)
Would you leave a very young child at home on their own – knowing that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye? Lily, who is not yet three years old, wakes up alone with only her cuddly toy for company. She is hungry, afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers…
In the flat downstairs, a lonely and elderly woman keeps herself to herself but wonders at the cries coming from upstairs. Lily’s grandmother frets that she can no longer see her granddaughter since the child’s parents separated. Lily’s father hasn’t seen her for a while. He’s been abroad, absorbed in his new job and his new girlfriend…
A young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy… And for Lily, time is running out.
Vivien Brown lives in Uxbridge with her husband and two cats. She worked for many years in banking and accountancy, and then, after the birth of twin daughters, made a career switch and started working with young children, originally as a childminder but later in libraries and children’s centres, promoting the joys of reading and sharing books through storytimes and book-based activities and training sessions. She has written many short stories for the women’s magazine market and a range of professional articles and book reviews for the nursery and childcare press, in addition to a ‘how to’ book based on her love of solving cryptic crosswords. Now a full time writer, working from home, Vivien is combining novel-writing and her continuing career in magazine short stories with her latest and most rewarding role as doting grandmother to two-year old Penny.
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