Today I’m thrilled to welcome Vivien Brown author of Lily Alone to the book review café as part of the blog tour for this very intriguing book. You can buy the kindle edition today or it’s out in paperback on the 5th October 2017. Lily Alone is described as a gripping and emotional drama and is published by HarperImpulse. So without further ado here is my interview with Vivien Brown
Hi Vivien and welcome to the book review café for those readers who haven’t yet heard of you or your book Lily Alone, can you provide us with an introduction?
Lily Alone is published by Harper Impulse in paperback on 5 October. ebook also available.
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.
Where did the idea for Lily Alone come from?
I worked with very young children for many years and loved spending time with them, especially seeing them develop and grow in independence and confidence. But how would a child manage to cope without an adult to love them, protect them, and keep them safe? And what if neighbours just turned a blind eye, not wanting to get involved? We so often hear stories about children being neglected, abused, or having to be taken into care. Lily Alone came out of a combination of all those things.
What was the hardest part of writing of Lily Alone?
Getting the research right! Writing about relationships and emotions comes easily as I have been writing romance and family stories for women’s magazines for a very long time. But with this novel I had to go into much more detail – about what a three year old can and can’t do, and about medical and social services procedures. Having daughters working in those two professions was a great help.
Do you have any strange writing habits or rituals?
I do like to have exactly the right pen. Even though I write straight to a laptop these days, there are still notes to be made, and I just can’t do it well unless the pen looks and feels right. No fountain pens with messy ink cartridges, and definitely no cheap scratchy see-through biros!
Have you always wanted to be an author, and when did you first realise you wanted to write?
English was my favourite subject at school, and I had the encouragement of a very inspirational teacher called Mr Shearn. I started writing poetry when I was about fifteen, then slowly progressed into fiction, but it was always just a hobby, and I never considered it as a potential paying job. If universities had been offering creative writing degrees back then things might have been different, but I went to work in a bank, and writing stayed in the background for a long time – although it never went away!
Do you write an outline before you start writing?
I struggle to plan. Editors tend to require a synopsis so I force myself to write one but the finished book looks nothing like that original concept. I know what kind of story I am trying to tell and have a vague notion of the ending I want to reach, but characters develop as I write about them, and things happen on the page that I did not see coming!
How long did it take to get your first book published?
My first novel, Losing Lucy, written under my former name of Vivien Hampshire, took a couple of years to write, and was the subject of my then monthly column in Writers Forum magazine called Book Deal or Bust. Readers followed my progress as I wrote and edited it and tried to get an agent or publisher. In the end, I self-published, and it did get some very good reviews, but I am so happy to have a traditional publishing deal this time around.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Lily Alone passed through the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers Scheme, meaning I got a full critique from an anonymous published romance author. That was not a good experience for me as the reader clearly hated the book and everything about it. Her negativity could well have put me off completely and consigned the book to the bin, but I asked for a second opinion and the next critique could not have been more encouraging! The best compliment was having the book accepted by first an agent and then by Harper Impulse who wanted to publish it. It just shows that everyone has different opinions and tastes, and it has taught me to take the occasional poor review with a pinch of salt!
What’s the best bit about being an author? and what’s the worse bit?
Being my own boss is great! Working from home, not having to battle the traffic or beg for days off, and being able to write anywhere – by the fire in winter, in the garden on a sunny day, by the pool on holiday, in bed… There really are no worse bits.
And to finish off a couple of quick ones
I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh. Tense and surprising!
Jane Austen, although I do cheat and watch the TV and film adaptations too!
Favourite holiday destination?
The Caribbean, or a nice English country cottage near the sea for shorter trips closer to home
And finally can you describe yourself in five words?
Creative. Solitary. Determined. Home-loving. Granny.
Thank you Vivien for answering my questions and lots of luck with Lily Alone
Thanks so much for having me on the blog today. I hope your readers will take a look at Lily Alone and let me know what they think!
About the author
Vivien Brown lives in Uxbridge, Middlesex, with her husband and two cats. For most of her life she has immersed herself in words – as an avid reader, writer, poet, library outreach worker, storyteller, gifter of Bookstart packs to babies and toddlers, creative writing tutor and crossword fanatic.
She enjoys dipping into dictionaries and exploring the meaning of words, and watching and/or taking part in TV quiz shows. In the evenings she loves nothing more than losing herself in a good book, a compelling TV drama or her regular supply of women’s magazine short stories – which all help to provide inspiration and ideas for her own fiction. ‘Lily Alone’ is her debut novel.