Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Cassandra Parkin 🙂
Cassandra’s latest novel, Lily’s House, was published by Legend Press on 15th October 2016.
I will be sharing all of the book information later on in the post, but first I have a lovely Q&A with the lady herself. Enjoy!
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m a Yorkshire-based writer with Cornish roots and a passion for fairy-tales. I write contemporary fiction with a strong magical flavour, and I love exploring the darker truths about what it means to be a human being.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
Most of my books start with a single image – a particular journey I’ve taken, a view from a high place that I’ve loved, or a dream I’ve had. For my most recent novel “Lily’s House”, it was the walk up the road from the branch-line station in Falmouth to Grove Hill House at the top. Writing the novel that goes with the image in my head often feels like gradually discovering something buried or drowned, as if it always existed and my job is just to discover it. Rather comfortingly, I found out a few years ago that Stephen King has the same experience.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Now that’s a terrifying question – I’ll have to tread carefully! I don’t “borrow” people’s lives or personalities wholesale (apart from anything else, I don’t think it would work – they would be themselves, not the person in my book, and I wouldn’t be able to get under their skin). However, like most writers, I’m a bit of a magpie, and I tend to collect snippets of dialogue, small details of how people look or speak, stories people have told me…and these all inevitably find their way into my work. So while Marianne in “Lily’s House” is absolutely not meant to be my daughter, she does have my daughter’s hair, wardrobe and odd food preferences; and all of Finn’s best stories from “The Beach Hut” originally belonged to my brother. Oh, and there is one irredeemably horrible character who is basically someone I used to work with, but I’m not going to say who.
Locations are always really important to my books, and although I never name the towns, landscapes or houses I’m describing, these are always based in reality. Finally, I use small details from my parents’ and grandparents’ houses all the time – patterns on plates, pictures on walls, ornaments on shelves – because so many of these things are gone now, and I love to give them a second life in my fiction.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
I start with the year they were born, and then look at the lists of names that were given to babies born in that year. Depending on what sort of background they come from and what sort of parents they have, I might be looking for something quite unusual, something that’s “of the moment”, or a very middle-of-the-road and conventional choice. Obviously we don’t choose our own names, so I always think about what the character’s parents were like and what they might have wanted for their child.
Then I have to do a reality check and make sure I haven’t got obsessed with one particular sound or name-root. I once had to have it pointed out to me by my lovely, lovely editor that I had not two, not three, but four minor characters whose names were all near-homophones of each other. I have no idea how I managed to do this, but somehow I did.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
My novels always start with an outline, which I build using post-it notes on sheets of A4 paper (each sheet is one chapter). I never stick to my original plan, but I always need to have one – it gives me a roadmap to follow, so when I wander off into the forest I have some idea of where I thought I was going in the first place. When I’m working on a first draft, I write 2,000 words a day, mostly in the mornings at the dining-table, and quite often in my pyjamas.
My favourite writing mantra is from Ernest Hemingway, who pithily told the world that “the first draft of everything is shit”. And it is! I don’t edit as I go, so my first draft will always be an unholy mess; but that’s okay, because that’s what editing’s for. Editing is the bit when you actually make your project into something that’s fit to be seen.
Do you have a favourite author?
I have so many favourite authors that the best I can manage is a Top Five! Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Tove Jansson, W M Thackeray and Jacqueline Susann are the authors I’d smuggle under my jumper to a desert island. But then I’d be leaving behind so many other who I love – Stephen King, Charlotte Bronte, Terry Pratchett, Stevie Smith, Ursula le Guin, Daphne du Maurier, Laura Ingalls Wilder…nope, I can’t do it. It’s just not in me. I’ll have to be locked away in a library instead.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would meet Tove Jansson and ask her to teach me to draw. It’s one talent I really envy.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Oh yes. I read constantly and obsessively. I was lucky enough to grow up just opposite our local library, and it was my second home. If they didn’t close, I’d never have left. I was lucky enough to go back to visit them to talk about “The Beach Hut” last year, and it was absolutely magical to go back to a place I’d loved so much as a child.
When did you start to write?
I’ve written pretty much all my life, but it took me a long time to try and get any of it published. The first thing I can remember finishing was a Doctor Who fan-fiction when I was about nine. Then when I was fifteen I finished my first full-length project – a dystopian sci-fi novel, because I was fifteen, so of course it was. After that, I had some vague idea that I was going to be a writer, but after university I ended up going into marketing instead, because it paid well and student loans are terrifying.
I then spent about fifteen years trying to turn my marketing job into a writing job, by volunteering for every single writing assignment I could find. I wrote website copy, and text for leaflets, and spurious replies to customer complaints, and mendacious personal statements for other people’s CVs. I kept writing fiction too, in my lunch-breaks, and in boring meetings, and in the evenings and at weekends. Sometimes I’d give what I wrote to friends and family as Christmas presents, and they would tell me, “Look, you do know what you really want to be is a writer, yes? I mean, you are aware of this about yourself?”
After a decade and a half of sustained nagging by absolutely everyone who knew me, I finally womaned up and submitted a short story collection to a writing competition. I was truly astounded when it won, and was published later that year. That gave me the confidence to write and submit my first published novel, “The Summer We All Ran Away” to Legend Press.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I would re-write the ending to “Fifty Shades of Grey”. In my version, after Ana quite rightly leaves Christian, she would go home, have a good cry, eat several pints of ice-cream and then have a moment of clarity and realise what an utter control-freak wanker he really was and vow never to see him again.
She would then get a sensible job at a place where normal people work (rather than taking some strange and poorly-defined “editoral” role at a publisher with a predatory boss and the vaguest list in the whole world) and build a future for herself where she had enough self-confidence to assert her personal and sexual boundaries. Then, the next time some creepy stalker started turning up uninvited at her place of work, cutting her off from her friends, coercing her into sex she wasn’t comfortable with and getting angry with her every time she wore the wrong outfit or gave some bloke the glad-eye, she would sack him off and ride off into the sunset with Kate, who was clearly the best romantic prospect for Ana in the whole novel. Christian Grey would die when he crashed Charlie Tango into a mountain while trying to have sex mid-flight.
It’s just possible I’ve put a little too much thought into this.
*I just have to say that this is THE best answer I’ve had to this question, so far!*
What are you working on right now?
I’m at the very early stages of writing my next novel, which is set on the East coast of Yorkshire in a village that’s falling into the sea. The cliffs along the coast are basically mud and chalk, so the erosion is terrifying and extraordinary – it’s a beautiful, ghostly, haunting part of the world.
Do you have a new release due?
My novel “The Winter’s Child” will be published by Legend Press in September 2017. It’s set in my home city of Hull, and begins on the last night of Hull Fair in a fortune-teller’s caravan. My heroine Susannah receives an eerily specific prediction – that her son Joel, who has been missing for five years, will come back to her by Christmas Eve.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I’m on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk, and I blog at www.cassandraparkin.wordpress.com.
Thank you so much to Cassandra for answering my questions and to Lucy, at Legend Press, for arranging the interview. It has been a pleasure!
Publisher: Legend Press (15th October 2016)
Buy your copy HERE
When Jen goes to her grandmother’s house for the last time, she’s determined not to dwell on the past. As a child, Jen adored Lily and suspected she might be a witch; but the spell was broken long ago, and now her death means there won’t be any reconciliation.
Lily’s gone, but the enchantments she wove and the secrets she kept still remain. In Lily’s house, Jen and her daughter Marianne reluctantly confront the secrets of the past and present – and discover how dangerous we become when we’re trying to protect the ones we love.
You will find all of Cassandra’s books on her Amazon Author Page