The woman behind this highly recommendable debut novel 'THE RAPTURE'.
How would you describe your novel?
The Rapture is inspired by a true story - a book about the lies we believe about the world and secrets we keep from ourselves. Set in 1925, the main character, Dilys, is a devoted member of a terribly English cult: The Panacea Society, populated almost entirely by virtuous single ladies. When she strikes up a friendship with Grace, a new recruit, God finally seems to be smiling upon her. The friends become closer as they wait for the Lord to return to their very own Garden of Eden. But Dilys is wary of their leader's zealotry and suspicious of those who would seem to influence her for their own ends. As Dilys's feelings for Grace bud and bloom, the Society around her begins to crumble. Faith is supplanted by doubt as both women come to question what is true and fear what is real.
What was your motivation?
The story. I felt I had to tell it. Filming a feature for ITV News at Bedford's Panacea Museum I discovered that this fascinating group of women had been living very close to where I had grown-up. Their houses had been sealed up when they died, their possessions just as they left them in readiness for the day they believed they would be resurrected. I was lucky enough to be given access to what had been left behind, including the huge archive of letters, diaries and the confessions they were required to write about their own sins, and those they suspected in others. There was so much that interested me - feminism, spirituality, repression and mental health - and I wanted to do their story justice. These women had been ridiculed throughout their lives and dismissed as lunatics and fanatics but had 130,000 followers worldwide. I wanted to understand the fears that had led them to devote their lives to their leader, Octavia.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Finishing the first draft of the novel. Until you've done that you've got nothing to shape and edit into a book you'd be prepared to send out into the world. In many respects I had to unlearn much of what I had honed as a journalist. Writing fiction was both liberating and terrifying. I was no longer limited to the facts. It was up to me to explore the gaps between them and use my imagination to try to find a wider truth.
What are you most proud of?
Proving to myself that I could do it. Commiting when there were no guarantees that it would ever be picked up or published. Making the time to do it for myself. Before you get that first deal, writing is essentially a hobby and it takes motivation to find the time to write.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I've just finished the first draft of my second novel - inspired by another true story that is stranger than fiction. And later this year I'm excited to be starting a new role teaching creative writing at the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge. I'm still on the road two days a week reporting for ITV News - where I can enjoy the variety of reporting on a different story every day. The Rapture has been optioned for a TV series so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the story makes it to a new audience on the screen.
Could you pick one small change for everyone to make to live more sustainably?
Cutting down on single-use plastics. During lockdown I started getting a milk delivery and there is something so comforting about picking up the glass bottles from the doorstep and pushing in the foil lid on the top.
What book is top of your “must-read” list?
I've got my eye on The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi next.
What is your LITTLE FIND? (Favourite product on A LITTLE FIND)
I often light a scented candle before I sit down to work, to make it feel like a treat rather than a chore. It reminds me why I started writing in the first place. The Malin and Goetz Leather candle
sounds perfect for inspiration.
Perfect Living: tent, castle or cottage?
Next on your bucket list?
Exploring the Scottish Islands.
Where do you save money?
Wherever possible. I love a bargain and would much rather shop around for affordable quality than spend impulsively and regret it later.
Where do you splurge?
Also wherever possible! But I do have a weakness for beautiful stationery.
Your favourite object in your house?
The leather-bound Roberts radio that used to sit on my great-great-aunt's mantlepiece. As a child, I was fascinated by her Victorian house and all the furnishings in it. As an adult I can appreciate how incredible and independent she was for a woman born at the turn of the century. She'd be delighted to know her 'wireless' is sitting on my desk beside me.
Vintage, recycled or brand new?
Tech addict or technophobe?
A room with a view. A scented candle. A freshly brewed pot of coffee. A fountain pen. A blank notepad. And plenty of inspiration. (That's quite a few treats isn't it?)