Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fresh Ink: Spotlight on Debut Books of All Kinds

A captivating, absorbing, and suspenseful evocation of the spells of childhood.

In a timeless coming-of-age tale as charming and haunting as the movie "Stand By Me", Andrew Lovett’s Everlasting Lane tells the story of what happens when nine-year-old Peter’s father dies and his mother moves them from the city to a house in the countryside, for what seem to Peter to be mysterious reasons.

He’s soon distracted, though, by the difficulties of being the new, shy kid at school, and he befriends the other two kids who seem to be outcasts: overweight Tommie and too-smart-for-her-own-good Anna-Marie. Together they try to weather the storm of bullying teachers and fellow students, by escaping into explorations of the seemingly bucolic countryside.

There, though, they find other outcasts from society such as cranky Mr. Merridew, who won’t leave his cottage in the woods, and Scarecrow Man, who stands in the fields searching the skies. And meanwhile, Peter is disturbed by the growing awareness that his own mother may be some sort of outcast, too—and that she’s hiding something from him in a locked room in the attic, a room she’s expressly forbidden him from entering.

Written in beautiful prose, Everlasting Lane is a captivating, absorbing, and suspenseful evocation of the spells of childhood: sun-soaked, nostalgic, with the soft focus and warm glow of a Polaroid—but it’s darker than it seems. Will Peter and his mother find the light in that darkness?

FAQs from the author:
Up until now I’ve rarely been asked any question frequently – about my writing at any rate – but, in anticipation, here’s a few which I imagine people might ask in future (if anyone’s interested):

Where is Amberley? Is it based on anywhere in particular?
Amberley is an amalgam of various places I knew growing up. In my mind, the layout of the village is that of Aldenham in Hertfordshire where I went to college. Kirrins’ shop is inspired by a shop I used to visit during family holidays in Cornwall – the original may have been in St Blazey but I’m not sure. The name of The Copper Kettle comes from a cafĂ© I knew in Camberley (Camberley obviously, was the source of the name Amberley). Dovecot School is a combination of Charlestown Junior which I attended at the age of ten and How Wood JMI where I taught for five years during the 1990s.

Where did the name Everlasting Lane come from?
Everlasting Lane is a real street in St Albans, Hertfordshire which I used to drive past when visiting one of the local secondary schools – I was a Year 6 teacher at the time.  I always thought it sounded like the title of a children’s book which is how I originally wrote it. I assume the name is ironic as the street itself is alarmingly short.

Are the characters in Everlasting Lane based on real people?
Peter’s parents are based on my own. Other than that, for legal reasons, the answer is, obviously, no, I just made them up.

Everlasting Lane is the first part of a trilogy. What are the next two volumes about?
Part 2 is called As if We Were Still and is set in a college in the mid-1980s. Part 3 is set in a primary school in the mid-1990s but I haven’t yet settled on a title. As to what they’re about, you’ll have to wait and see.

How long did it take to write Everlasting Lane?
The events which inspired it occurred around 1992 and I have been working on it pretty much since then (although I’ve done a lot of other things too). There have been a few finished drafts and several unfinished ones over the years.

Why did it take so long and how did you finally finish it?
I was never sure it was quite good enough or that I was quite good enough. I did try to get earlier drafts published but without success and I was too easily discouraged by failure. In the end, around 2005, having failed to find the time I started to make the time – early mornings, late nights – until it was done. The penultimate draft was finished around 2008/09.

That’s still a lengthy gap before publication!
Again, I couldn’t interest anyone in publishing the bloody thing so, in despair, sent it to the Writers’ Workshop for review, where it was read by Eloise Millar. Eloise’s comments were sufficiently positive to give me the courage and confidence to plough on; her criticisms helped me understand what I needed to do to make it more reader-friendly. I redrafted and Eloise read it again. This time she offered to publish the result through the company – Galley Beggar Press –that she was founding with her husband Sam Jordison and friend Henry Layte.

Which writers or books influenced you? Which writers do you like now?
My biggest literary hero is J D Salinger, both Catcher in the Rye and his short stories. My brother introduced me to him when I was fourteen and that’s when the bug bit. I also like Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories; James Joyce’s Dubliners; Jane Austen, William Trevor, Evelyn Waugh, Harper Lee, Graham Green, Arundhati Roy. Of contemporary writers, a big favourite is Aimee Bender.

The book is by ‘Andrew’ Lovett but you prefer to be called Andy. What’s that about?
Sheer masochism. I am at heart an Andrew who aspires to be an Andy – and I am grateful for everyone who goes along with the pretence – but, for the purposes of this book, Andrew is more honest. Painful but honest.

The Three Rs: Andrew Lovett

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