To celebrate the release of Secrets in Burracombe - published in August by Orion Books - author Lilian Harry kindly agreed to answer a few questions on Book After Book.
Hello Lilian! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your latest release. Secrets in Burracombe is the latest novel in your Burracombe Village series. Can you tell us what it is about?
A: Secrets in Burracombe follows the story of the villagers of Burracombe from the end of the previous book, An Heir for Burracombe. It continues the story of the French boy, Robert, who appeared as the possible heir to the estate, disrupting the life of his aunt, Hilary Napier, who had expected to inherit. Hilary’s life takes a further surprising twist later, which will have repercussions for some time to come. Meanwhile, there are American visitors at the Tozers’ farm, who cause their own disturbance in the settled lives of the village. But everything else is set aside when an accident befalls some of the most popular people in the village, and everyone draws together to help those they had taken to their hearts.
I know that you have recently been busy promoting it in England, meeting readers and signing books. What kind of reception have you received from the public?
A: I’ve had a very enthusiastic response from readers. The Burracombe series seems now to be as popular as the ‘April Grove’ series, set in wartime Portsmouth, and the other books, such as the ‘Corner House’ and ‘Thursday’ series, which also had a wartime setting. There does seem to be a desire for more April Grove stories in particular, however, and I hope to return to this one day – after at least two more Burracombe books!
Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?
A: I use Twitter, which I like very much, but not Facebook, which depends on ‘mutuality’. It certainly eats into the writing time, but the advantages of being able to communicate so readily, and the information one receives through social media, make it very worthwhile.
Despite having just released a new novel, I expect that your fans are already looking forward to the next instalment in the series. Are you already jotting down new ideas or will this be the end of the Burracombe adventures?
A: My goodness, no! I am already two thirds of the way through the next book, which will be called Christmas In Burracombe, and will be available in November 2012, and I hope this will be followed by the eighth in the series, probably entitled Weddings in Burracombe. After that, anything might happen…
Which of the Burracombe characters are you fonder of? Are there any characters in the series that you don’t particularly like but that you think the fictional Dorset village wouldn’t be the same without?
A: I have a very soft spot for Felix, the young curate who becomes a vicar, and of course for his sweetheart Stella who first appeared in the April Grove series. I try not to dislike any of the characters – they are all human beings, flawed one way or another, and I try to understand them even if they aren’t particularly likeable. Jennifer’s father wasn’t a nice man, but when you knew about his past you could see reasons for his bitterness, and Joyce Warren, who is the village busybody, will be showing a different side in the next book.
You wrote two non-fiction books aimed at aspiring writers: How To Write Stories For Magazines and Teach Yourself Writing Romantic Fiction. What is your one fundamental piece of advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
A: Start small. I began with articles for local newspapers and magazines and worked up from there. It’s easier to get published that way and build a track record, and you’ll learn a lot in the process, as well as gain confidence. If you start with a novel, it takes a long time to write, and a long time to get published – if you ever do.
And lastly, is there anything that we should absolutely know about Donna, Nicola or Lilian?
A: I think I have now written one book for every year of my life!
Thank you for your time!
And now, the icing on the cake: Lilian is offering one copy of Secrets in Burracombe! For a chance to win, all you have to do is click here and complete the form. The competition is open to UK readers only and will close on 17th September at 1pm.