Lauren Westwood talks about her inspiration for Finding Home.
1. Can you tell us a bit about Finding Home?
Finding Home is the story of Amy Wood, a former English Literature teacher who lost her job and boyfriend, and is now making a new start as a (reluctant) estate agent in Bath. She is inspired by a search for ‘a happy ending’ like in the classic novels she loves, but is thwarted at every turn by her quirky new officemates. She falls in love with a crumbling Georgian mansion, Rosemont Hall that she’s supposed to be selling – to an insensitive developer called Hexagon. Amy vows to save Rosemont Hall, uncovering hidden secrets and a 50 year old mystery along the way. And of course, falling in love with a seemingly-unattainable hero!
2. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?
I love old houses and classic books – mystery, humour, romance. I wanted to create a novel that combined all these things. A few years ago my family had a long and painful search for a house, and in the process fell in love with a fair few houses that we couldn’t afford. This helped inspire the character of Amy Wood.
3. What message do you want readers to take from the novel?
I hope that readers enjoy the ‘journey’ of the novel, and are entertained. I hope that they come away feeling full of hope that no matter how bad things are, you can always turn them around. This is the ‘message’ I think that women’s fiction has to offer.
4. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
The hardest part was the endless rewrites! I originally wanted to combine humour, romance and mystery, but this made it hard to put the novel in a particular ‘box’ for publishing. I took on board a lot of feedback from different readers, and sometimes this was hard to reconcile. In the end, I went with my vision for the novel, and tried to write something that I would like to read.
5. Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Unfortunately no – not at the moment. I work as a lawyer and am also a mum of three, so things are pretty full on. I have learned to write in every spare moment (and I’m good at multi-tasking). I can write with all manner of distractions – Disney videos, nappy changes, I even sometimes dictate in the car while commuting. I also get up early whenever I can, as it’s one of the few quiet times I have. Luckily, over the years I’ve gotten a lot more confident and efficient in my writing, so I’m just about coping!
6. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
As Toni Morrison says, write a book you would want to read.
7. Was there a person or a book series that helped start your love of reading?
Books have always been an important part of my life. Both my parents read to me from an early age. Growing up, we didn’t have amazon or ebooks, so I read anything I could get hold of from the library and also read a lot of my mum’s books. She loved romantic mysteries – Victoria Holt, Elizabeth Peters, Mary Stewart, etc. I also read a lot of the classics as a teenager – I loved Jane Austen, the Brontes, and Daphne du Maurier.
8. What’s next for Lauren Westwood?
I am writing a new book for Aria called Finding Secrets which will hopefully be published in spring 2017. It’s not a sequel to Finding Home, but it is in the same style. It’s my goal to someday become a full-time writer, and I hope that Finding Home will be the first of many books to come.
A happy ending… is it so wrong to want one?
Amy Wood knows what it’s like to find her perfect home, along with the perfect boyfriend and perfect job – only to lose them in one poorly-aimed throw of a mobile phone. Her life in ruins, she returns to her parents’ tiny bungalow in Somerset, and reluctantly takes the first job on offer – at an estate agents. But one phone call changes everything. She gets the instruction to sell Rosemont Hall, a crumbling mansion that’s riddled with woodworm, dry rot – and secrets. As Amy searches for the perfect owner who will save the house from developers, she begins to uncover long-buried pieces of the past that some people would rather remain hidden. In her battle to save Rosemont Hall, Amy finds that it’s her heart out on the front lines.
Lauren Westwood is a writer of women’s fiction and a solicitor for a renewable energy company. Her debut women’s fiction book Finding Home was inspired by her family’s three-year long search for a house that made them the bane of home county estate agents. Lauren lives in a pernickety 400-year-old house in Surrey, with her partner Ian and their three young daughters. Her next novel, Finding Secrets, will be published by Aria (Head of Zeus) in April 2017.