Since moving to the US from the UK 7 years ago, I’ve tried to keep up with new releases from some of the UK authors I grew to love. It’s a little difficult because the books are often published months later in the US and well I’m a little impatient. That’s where my family comes in! I either ask for the books I want for birthday/Christmas gifts and they order and send to me, or I will order them from Amazon UK and have delivered to my sister’s house.
Lisa Jewell is one of the authors I just can’t wait for, so although Lisa’s novel The House We Grew Up In is only available in the US next week (Atria Books August 12, 2014) I actually read it last year. But I loved the book so much (and Lisa too) that I just had to be involved in spreading the word to US readers.
Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.
Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.
Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.
I prepared some questions (including some fun “getting to know” prompts) and was thrilled that Ariele at Atria Books was able to make this interview happen!
What books have influenced your life the most?
LJ: Every book I read as a child shaped me in some small way or another. But the book that changed my life completely was High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. It came out just after I’d finished a part time creative writing course and just before I was made redundant from my job as a secretary. I was feeling a bit untethered and uncertain about the future. But by the time I reached the end of the book I was so inspired and excited that I knew exactly what I needed to do next. I needed to write a book. That’s how my first novel was written, and the rest is history.
Which character from a book would you invite to dinner? Why?
LJ: I would love to invite Pippi Longstocking to dinner. She has no time for societal expectations and would ensure that all my plans went amusingly awry.
If you were asked to write a book about a real life event, what would it be?
LJ: I would find that a very difficult thing to do. I did use some details from the real life story of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra who drowned off the coast of Scotland in 1921 in a previous novel, Before I Met You, and I would love to devote a whole novel to their story; so underreported, romantic and tragic.
Which book do you wish you could’ve written?
LJ: Any book that made its author a squillionaire! But in all seriousness, I would not want to have written any of my favourite books because then they wouldn’t be the books I’ve loved, and I wouldn’t have had the exquisite experience of reading them. So the answer is none.
What do you consider your best accomplishment?
LJ: My greatest accomplishment is without a doubt each and every book I finish writing. Every unwritten book is an unthinkable enterprise, one that most people cannot imagine, let alone carry through. To find 100,000 interesting words to tell a made up story about made up people and to do it over the course of many months and entirely alone is quite extraordinary, and I never feel blasé about the fact that I get to do that for a living.
What inspired you to write THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN?
LJ: Quite simply it was peering through the window of a hoarded apartment. I’d been wandering around for two long weeks trying to find the inspiration for my next book and the moment I saw this grimy window with its dusty curtains and piles of junk crushed up against the glass I knew what my next book would be. I saw all the characters in three dimensions, and I knew exactly where they lived and how their mother’s hoarding would impact all their lives. That kind of clarity doesn’t happen to me very often so it was a like a gift from the writing gods!
In THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN, which character did you enjoy writing the most?
LJ: Without any doubt it was Lorelei. I didn’t write the emails to her on line lover until I was over halfway through when it suddenly hit me that she was the most pivotal and also the most interesting character in the book yet we weren’t party to her voice or her thought processes. I loved writing her emails; she was such a free spirit and so childlike – yet also so sexual – I could let her say, think, feel anything I liked. And all in the first person too, when I’m used to writing only in the third person.
If THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN was adapted into a movie, who would you want to be cast?
LJ: Oh, you know, I’m asked this question so often about my novels and I would say; one thing at a time! I cannot begin to imagine or even to dream about a movie. If someone wanted to make the book into a movie I would take a long while to absorb that amazingness before I could start fantasizing about dream actors.
Your next novel THE THIRD WIFE was recently published in the U.K. When can we expect to be able to read this across the pond?
LJ: We’re schedule for June 2015. Stay tuned!
Are you currently working on any new ideas?
LJ: I am halfway through my thirteenth novel right now. It’s a about an inner London community living around a large communal garden. One hot summer’s night there’s a sleep out for all the kids and something bad happens to a twelve year old girl. It’s about the ripples and aftershocks when the trust of the community has been violated like that.