I’m delighted to welcome the wonderful Lucy Strange to my blog for a Q&A and a very special sisters themed giveaway. I’ve read most of Lucy’s books and enjoyed them all, however when I read her latest novel, Sisters of the Lost Marsh, it leapt straight on to my list of favourite children’s books ever written. If you’re not already familiar with it, check it out at once – or better still, enter the giveaway. Fans of the Widdershins won’t want to miss this: sisters, curses, a magical fayre and wonderful characters – I highly recommend it.
Life is hard for Willa, Grace and Freya, and their three younger sisters. Six motherless girls working a farm, living in fear of their cruel father and the superstition that obsesses him – The Curse of Six Daughters.
With the arrival of the mysterious Full Moon Fayre, there’s a chance for the eldest girls to steal a moment’s fun, but the day the fayre moves on, Grace vanishes.
Willa goes after her, following a trail that leads into the dangerous Lost Marsh, where it is said a will-o’-the-wisp lures lost souls into the dark waters of the mire. If Willa is to survive and reunite her family, she will need to unravel the secrets her father has kept hidden, and face her own deepest fears …
There are two prizes in this giveaway, the first is a signed copy of Lucy’s Sisters of the Lost Marsh plus a signed copy of A Storm of Sisters, my latest Pinch of Magic Adventure.
Lucy is also very kindly offering an audiobook copy of Sisters of the Lost Marsh on CD.
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment below and please state whether you’re interested in the books or the audio CD.
ONE entry per person, UK only, closes midnight GMT 28th May 2022.
Winners will be selected and notified by email.
Sisters of the Lost Marsh is published by Chicken House and available now. Click here to buy from Waterstones.
1. What was your journey to being a published author like? I’d always been a bookworm, ever since I was tiny, but I didn’t really start writing until I was in my mid-thirties. I was living abroad and feeling rather homesick and I think I started writing as a way of coping with that. Although my first novel, The Secret of Nightingale Wood isn’t about homesickness, there is certainly a feeling of loss and longing there, and a nostalgia for the British countryside too. I entered the first few chapters of Nightingale Wood in a writing competition, and that was how I met my agent. He helped me to develop the full first draft of the book which was then sold to Chicken House. And it’s been a bit of a whirlwind ever since!
2. Is the curse of the six daughters something you made up, or inspired by folklore?
The curse itself is made up for this story (I love reciting it in a scary way when I do school visits!), but it is inspired by folklore and by old stories about siblings and curses such as The Six Swans or The Seven Ravens. I loved the idea of a curse that foretells the fates of the main characters in the story; a curse that they have to find the courage to confront in order to be free and to shape their own identities and destinies!
3. Where and when do you write?
Whenever and wherever I can! For the past two years I’ve been writing full time, but juggling it all alongside being a mum to a small boy. I usually write at home on my laptop on the sofa or at the kitchen table – but I’m getting my very own writing shed in the garden this summer, and I am SO excited about it. A room of one’s own!! I usually need absolute quiet to write, and a good chunk of time to get myself into the right mindset. I find I do my best work first thing in the morning, before the real world has a chance to fill up my head with other stuff.
4. Are you superstitious?
Not really . . . Having said that, I always salute magpies! I think superstitions can be infectious. If someone close to you has a superstition about something, it can be easy to “catch” it – like a cold! I think the superstitions of a society can tell us a lot about commonly held fears. And of course, most superstitions would suggest that we are never truly in charge of our own fate, which is an interesting thing to think about.
5. In the story, the eldest sister Grace is told by a fortune teller to run away. Have you ever had your fortune told?
Yes, once. I think – like Grace – I was hoping for something exciting and positive and reassuring, and – unlike Grace – that’s what I got! I think the idea of a true ability to see into the future is such a magical ingredient in a story – just like the crystal ball in your wonderful Storm of Sisters, Michelle!
6. The characters in your latest book were all wonderful. I particularly loved Grammy, and Darcy, and Dadder was an excellent villain. Who was your favourite to write?
Oh, I love Willa – her guts and temper and determination, but Darcy was probably my favourite. She’s such an enigmatic little thing, and so unpredictable. Sometimes she’s just like her sisters, like any other child, and sometimes she has a wisdom and strength beyond her years.
7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Advice to do with living in each moment and being content, and not dwelling too much in the past or worrying too much about the future . . . That being kind is more important than being clever. That it is so important to know yourself, and know what makes you feel comfortable and happy, instead of allowing yourself to be swept along with other people.
8. What books would you recommend for fans of Sisters of the Lost Marsh?
If you like books about siblings, you will love Natasha Farrant’s books, Hilary McKay’s books and of course Michelle Harrison’s amazing Pinch of Magic series! If you like strange magical or fantasy stories, try Frances Hardinge’s books. If you like stories which include legends and folklore, try Kiran Millwood Hargrave.
9. ‘Strange’ is a lovely name for an author, especially as your books are slightly spooky. Is it real, or a pen name? I get asked this all the time when I do school visits! It’s my real name! 😀 I have to say, growing up and then working as a teacher, I always found Strange a slightly embarrassing name, but now – AT LAST! – I feel as if I own it!
10. What’s your top tip for aspiring writers? Be a noticer! Notice little details about the world that other people might miss, and challenge yourself to find the perfect words to pin those details down on the page.
Quick fire questions:
* Favourite book you’ve read this year?
A Storm of Sisters by Michelle Harrison and Song of the Far Isles by Nicholas Bowling.
* Have you ever run away from home?
Nope. I pretended to once, and I hid in a wardrobe for an hour or so, but no one noticed.
* Favourite story about sisters?
Oh I love Hilary McKay’s Exiles series.
* Would you rather sleep in a scratchy blanket for a week or smell like a stagnant marsh for a month?
Hahahahaha – um. I’ll go with the scratchy blanket please!!
* If you had a stall at the Full Moon Fayre what would you sell, or do?
I think I’d sell something delicious like baked apples or spiced buns. And then I’d eat more than I sold.