I have a real Friday treat for fellow bookaholics today as I’ve been chatting to the extremely lovely Lily Graham. Lily released her first full length novel, An Invincible Summer, in May this year and it sounds like my PERFECT kind of read. (Click here to get hold of your copy.) Here Lily chats about her debut novella, The Postcard, escaping to Cornwall and shares her advice to aspiring novelists everywhere…
Hi Lily, welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! I’m thrilled to have you on the site, thank you so much for participating in this interview. Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?
Thanks so much Holly! I’m so excited to be here, thanks for having me! My name is Lily Rose Graham and I’m an author, chocoholic, and dog lover …who spends far too much time dreaming about escaping city life for Cornwall. My latest book is called An Invincible Summer.
Can you tell us a bit about your new novel, An Invincible Summer (released 30th May 2015)?
Definitely! It’s a story about running away . Ria Laburinthos is stuck in a job she hates while trying to cope with the loss of the two people she loved the most. So she decides to run away to Crete, the home of her grandmother. Land of sea, sun, and memory. While trying to find herself again in the warmth of her Yaya’s people she discovers a burnt down vineyard, a 10 year mystery and the enigmatic son who is trying to resurrect his family’s legacy. What she never expects to find again, is love. Or the courage to fight for what she believes in.
An Invincible Summer sounds absolutely magical and I can’t wait to start reading! What inspired you to come up with the storyline?
Thank you so much! I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of running away to rediscover the joy of living, after a tragedy or at a turning point in your life. Like Rina Huber and her husband who decided to quit their jobs and sail the Mediterranean after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 60 as a way to make their last years together more precious. In my book Ria decides to run away to find herself again – after being stuck in her grief for three years.
Is your lead character Ria Laburinthos completely fictional or is she based on anyone in real life?
She’s mostly fictional – but there are a few autobiographical elements. Like Ria I was also stuck in a job with a horrid boss a few years ago when I made the decision to quit on the spot and pursue my love of writing. I didn’t run away to Crete though, alas!
Have you ever visited Crete yourself? How did you go about doing the relevant research for An Invincible Summer?
Yes – it’s so beautiful! I spent a few days in Crete and Mykonos three years ago. When I started re-writing An Invincible Summer – I’d had the initial idea and half a book eight years ago but it wasn’t working so I abandoned it. Then last year I decided to revisit the idea realising that the original setting just didn’t work and that Greece would probably be a better fit to bring in the family element to the story. As soon as I decided on Crete though it opened a world of possibilities – like a vineyard, and the legend of Ariadne and Dionysus which became the symbolic references for my lead characters – the woman who’d suffered so much and the god of wine and madness! I tend to research as I go – but can very easily get lost in the rabbit hole. So while writing this novel I’d often type an ‘x’ for certain things and highlight it, so I could go back and fill in the blanks. This is a trick I learnt after losing three weeks researching how a vineyard operated … using an x let me get on with the story.
As well as publishing An Invincible Summer, you have also published a hugely successful novella, The Postcard (which is also on my to-be-read and another I’m really excited about reading!) Did you find writing a novella more difficult than a full length novel? How do the two compare?
Thank you so much! That’s so lovely to hear! What is funny is that I wrote An Invincible Summer first, then followed up with The Postcard – and decided to publish that first. There was something magical about writing The Postcard. It was just this little idea of a postcard from beyond the grave that popped in my head one day on the way to work and a month later I had the story complete and up on Amazon. I wrote it in a fever and to date it was the easiest and most fun thing I ever wrote. I found writing a novella easier than a novel because it’s shorter so you get to the crux much faster, but I think it really does depend on the story. An Invincible Summer was much harder to write because it was the first novel I finished and I was learning as I went. I also had so many fears and doubts for company while writing it, whereas with The Postcard, I was able to just let them go and write – it was a wonderful experience.
How long did An Invincible Summer take you to write?
Around seven months. Though I first started writing it around eight years ago. Last year I decided to change the focus and relook the story. I completely rewrote it – I kept say 50 words from the original.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there?
Definitely. I think the biggest lesson I have learnt is to change the focus – I’m a recovering perfectionist with close to a dozen unfinished manuscripts lining my drawers. Last year a friend set me a challenge to self-publish a book on Amazon. It was such an exiting challenge but to do it I had to completely relook at my approach. My goal changed then from a perfect book to a finished book. That changed everything. I allowed the first draft to be first draft, blogging my way through it. I realised you can edit a bad line but there’s nothing you can do with a blank line. It took a year and a half for it to be ready for Amazon but now I have two complete works out in the world.
Who are your favourite authors and which type of books do you enjoy reading?
I have such an varied list of favourite authors, it usually depends on what mood I’m in. My all time favourites are Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaimen, Jojo Moyes, Kate Morton, Audrey Niffenegger , Marian Keyes and Alice Hoffman. I love fantasy and women’s fiction – especially when it has a bit of magical realism, I also love children’s fiction and travel memoirs as well!
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment?
At the moment I’m finishing up a children/YA story that will be published under a pen name. I‘m hoping to finish that in the next two months so that I can finish my third Lily Graham book, which is called Dreaming of Elephants – a story of a man who is given the literal heart of a woman during his heart transplant surgery and how this affects him as he begins to look at the world with the heart of a woman. I’m very excited about it!
A huge thank you to Lily for taking part in this interview. ♥