Welcome back to Inheritance Books! I’m hoping to run this ‘season’ for a year.
Kicking off the 2020 season, here’s Celia Anderson, writer of women’s fiction with all the feels. Hi Celia, welcome to the Inheritance Books sofa. While I go put the kettle on, why don’t you plump up a cushion and tell us a bit about yourself?
I live in the heart of the Midlands, a long way from the sea in every direction. Like many Midlanders, I love wandering along a beach, and I often write about idyllic coastal places to kid myself I can paddle at the drop of a hat. Although writing stories and plays has always been in my blood, it’s taken me many years to reach the point where I can honestly call myself an author. It wasn’t until early retirement from teaching happened that there was time and energy to have a proper stab at the book I’d always wanted to write and concentrate on finding the right home for it.
When my agent Laura Macdougall (United Agents) and I first met over a cup of tea in the peaceful surroundings of Fortnum & Mason’s café on St Pancras station, it was clear she was the one. I did my very best not to slurp my tea or knock anything over, and it seemed to work. Laura understood exactly what sort of readership 59 Memory Lane was right for, but even better, she knew how to make it really shine. We worked on the book together for some months until she decided it was ready to send out into the world. When Charlotte Ledger offered a publishing contract with Harper Fiction we were both delighted! The sequel to 59 Memory Lane, The Cottage of Curiosities will be published this summer. Both are set in Pengelly, a fictitious Cornish village where all is not as it seems.
I’ve only been to Cornwall once. I thought it was beautiful. I can see why you’d want to set a book there!
Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?
The book that I’m going to tell you about is one of a very precious and tatty collection left to me by my mum. She loved the author D.E Stevenson (a relative of Robert Louis Stevenson) and I’ve read every one of her treasured set over and over again. They’re all beautifully-rounded stories of relationships, romances and small-town life, often set in the rolling Scottish borders or cosy English villages. My all-time favourite is Miss Buncle’s Book. It tells the tale of single lady Barbara Buncle, who has fallen on hard times and has to make money somehow. Her two options are keeping hens (messy and time-consuming) or writing a book – dead easy. Or so she thinks.
I first read this when I was so young that I thought Barbara must have been in her dotage but it turned out, as I re-read it through the years, she was only thirty something and still had all her own teeth. As an impatient mum-to-be, the next in the series, Miss Buncle Married, got me through a very long night in the labour ward (well, that and quite a few Cadbury’s Cream eggs). You can see from the yellowing sticky tape and brown pages in the photograph how well-loved this paperback is.
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
The one I’d like to pass on is a trilogy – it was published in three parts but also as one volume, as you can see by my tattered copy which is now missing its spine. These novels are by Elizabeth Gouge, a wonderfully skilled writer whose talent is still celebrated through an award given at the RNA conference every year for the best short story. I’ve never won it yet. I haven’t given up …
The Eliots of Dameroshey compilation contains three books of such stunning quality that it’s hard to describe their incredible craftsmanship. The Bird In The Tree, The Herb Of Grace and The Heart Of The Family have everything. They follow the Eliot family and their friends through years of ups and downs. Set in Hampshire, you can almost smell the sea breeze from the salt marshes, experience the drama and history of Bucklers Hard and slip into the deep, loamy peace of the woods. Perfection.
It took me a while to decide whether a trilogy is allowable … but since it’s a complication edition, I think it’s fine.
Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us, Celia. All the best with your books!