25 November 2009

Author Interview: Lucy Dillon

Author Lucy Dillon first came to my attention when I read her brilliant debut novel The Ballroom Class and loved it. Since then, I've been waiting for a new release from her, and it's finally (almost!) here. Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is due out on 26th November, and looks like a fabulous read! Lucy was kind enough to grant us an interview, so have a read to get an insight into Lucy and her life!

1. Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, is set in Longhampton's dilapidated dog rescue, and is the story of broken-hearted Rachel's mission to pair up her late aunt's collection of waifs and strays with new owners. Rachel starts off her rehoming drive just to get the rescue emptied, so she can sell Dot's house and move on, but by the end of the novel she's discovered that there was much more mystery in Dot's life than her family ever realised, and that her real future - and a real love - might lie in a very unexpected place. You don't have to like dogs to enjoy the story - there's a big cast of friends juggling romances, dramas and laughs - but it's the sweet, silent unconditional love between Rachel and her aunt's faithful collie, Gem, that made me cry (and smile!) most when I was writing it.

2. Your brilliant debut novel The Ballroom Class was based around dancing. Is this something you enjoy doing yourself? How did you come up with a plot around a dance class?

I absolutely love dancing - it's the best escape you can have from everyday stresses and worries. You feel glamorous, energised, uplifted - a bit like a night on the champagne but without the hangover next morning. And I'd really encourage anyone who loves Strictly to book some proper ballroom lessons: knowing the steps takes some of the 'fear' out of getting up onto the floor, especially for men. The lessons I took with my husband inspired the story - we had a fantastic teacher called Diana, who told us all sorts of great dancer gossip, and we met lots of different couples and professionals while we were stumbling about, getting our feet in a muddle. My husband was a bit like Ross to begin with - not that keen, but willing to give it a go - but after a month or two, he was the most majestic waltzer I've ever seen. It sounds a bit corny, because it's exactly what happens in the novel, but we honestly did see a whole new romantic side to each other, and now you only have to show us a dancefloor for us to get our foxtrot on.

3. Where do you get your plot ideas? Dancing and dogs are great ideas but how do you come up with them? 

My plot ideas usually come from situations or things that mean a lot to me - I hope that they'll strike a familiar chord with readers too. The bigger emotional themes spin out of the practical setting: Lost Dogs is 'about' dogs, and Rachel's messy love life, but it's also about loyalty and love and second chances, and family and trust, for dogs and humans. The Ballroom Class was about the thrills and challenges of learning to dance, and it was also about where power lies in relationships, and how couples change and accommodate each other, and how old-fashioned romance is never far away, if you know where to look. We adopted a dog a few months before I started writing Lost Dogs, and Violet's doleful basset behaviour inspired a lot of the scenes - I adore her, and they're written from the heart. Although, having said that, shortly after I finished, Violet was joined by a puppy, Bonham, and if I known then what I know about from-scratch house-training, I'd have made the scenes with Toffee the wayward Lab puppy a lot more deranging.

4. All your characters are very realistic - do you base them on anyone you know?.

lucy dillon lost dogs and lonely heartsI try not to base whole characters on real people, not only because friends then get very cagey about telling you anything, but because then the borrowed character doesn't 'develop' as the story unfolds in my head, and will only do what the original person would do. But for characters to 'feel real' they have to share the same hopes and dreams as all of us, and I find it helpful to take little quirks and traits from people I know as starting points. For instance, Angelica in the Ballroom Class sprang into my head from the amazing fluid dancer's strut one of the teachers had at our classes, and Dot in Lost Dogs was inspired by a lady I met who runs a dog rescue I visited for research - the adoring way the dogs gazed up at her told me more about what she did than her explanation of the routines and history of the kennels.

5. Which authors do you enjoy reading yourself?

My favourite author is Kate Atkinson (When Will There Be Good News?, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, One Good Turn, etc) - she writes fabulous complicated, funny, dark, crime-tinged stories that twist and turn in on themselves. I also love Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes (who doesn't?!), and a great thriller writer called Phil Rickman, whose spooky novels about a exorcist vicar are set in Herefordshire, where I live. It certainly adds something to a ghost story when it's happening a mile or two down the road from you, especially on these wintery nights.

6. Finally, will you be writing a third book?!

Yes, I will be writing a third book, and I'm mulling over various ideas and settings right now!

Thanks so much, Lucy!

Lucy's new book, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, is due out tomorrow!