Thursday 17 March 2016

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Caroline Wallace

My Life In Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've invited authors to share with us a list of the books that are special to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.

I am thrilled to introduce you to, and to welcome Caroline Wallace to Random Things today.

Caroline's novel The Finding of Martha Lost was published by Doubleday on 10 March, it's an
exquisite story, with a wonderful lead character. I reviewed The Finding of Martha Lost on Random Things a while ago, do go and read my review, and buy the book.
Here's a taster from my review;

"It's like a Scouse Shadow of the Wind. The absolute love of the written word shines through.  ..... Love, being loved and how to love is the theme of this wonderful story." 

Books have been with me on countless adventures. Select a book from my bookshelves, open it and you'll find a note, a ticket or even a letter. There might be sand, suntan lotion or evidence of being dropped in the bath. My books tell their own stories, beyond the one that the author intended. I could have selected many more, but here are some that have been part of my journey, so far.

I wasn't a child who grew up with books. For a couple of years I'd visit my tiny local library and take out the same books each week. Lotta by Astrid Lindgren and Roald Dahl's Danny Champion of the World. I connected with Lotta and with Danny, loving the feel good flavour with that refreshing sense of life not needing to be perfect. I hated returning the books. Eventually I branched out and discovered Dahl's The Twits and Matilda and I rotated the four library books each week, for several years. That was also during the time when I longed to own a collection of Enid Blyton hardbacks. Mr Galliano's Circus, Amelia Jane, The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor, there were so many of them and all of the titles sounded wondrous. The girl who lived opposite me owned them all, but refused to share.

I'd like to say I devoured books in my teens, but I didn't. Judy Blume's Forever and all of the Sweet Valley High books were passed around school. I joined in with the hushed conversations about Ralph the penis and wondered what it'd be like to have Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield as friends. But mainly my head was dark and full, and I was desperately trying to survive high school.

Then came college, and my getaway from an abusive high school environment. That's when books screamed and danced their way into my life. An amazing English Literature teacher and suddenly I was reading novels, plays, poetry, everything. I couldn't read fast enough. Tess of the D'Urbervilles was one of the first novels that I sobbed whilst reading. John Fowles' The Collector pushed my boundaries and surprised with its perfectly realised dual perspectives. Then came Translations by Brian Friel and my love of language and linguistics was born.

A gap year for travel and recovery from serious illness found me reading Philippe Djian's Betty Blue in French, in France, and I also discovered the stunning craft of Barbara Pym. Quartet In Autumn is exquisite. I encountered Roald Dahl's short stories around this time too. Lamb to the Slaughter remains one of my all time favourite shorts. It was also around then that I was introduced to Margaret Atwood's novels. Reading Cat's Eye helped me to face up to my own issues. Brave, bold, with superb control of language, Atwood made me want to be a writer.

Somehow I made it to university. I was going to read French, but ended up in the English department and focusing on linguistics. As well as reading all of Shakespeare for one module (I remain adamant that The Winter's Tale is the best of his plays), it was during this time that David Crystal became a daily feature in my reading. It started with The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language as a reference point (which is surprisingly more interesting than it sounds), but I still read everything that he publishes.

I'd been at university three months when a new friend gave me a Jeanette Winterson novel, with a Post-It note saying 'READ THIS!' I read Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and was left with the same sense of satisfaction and joy that I have after speaking to my best friend. The novel was bold, penetrating, funny; it was seamless and lyrical. This then led to my discovering Angela Carter, Greek mythology and connected with the darker aspects of fairy tales. All four have influenced my writing.

I met my future husband when I was still a student. He stated that he knew he loved me when he saw my complete collection of Mr Men books. I'd collected them monthly during my time at university. We moved in together a month later, bringing with us hundreds of books and videos. The only overlap of videos we had was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the only novel was Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.  This was evidence enough that I was making the correct decision.

Being a mum has meant that I've read countless books I'd never have discovered if it wasn't for my babies. Cathy Cassidy, Steve Cole and Daisy Meadows have been firm favourites over the years. Yet when thinking about my children's childhoods Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are is the book that I've read to each of them several times (although one did hide under blankets, every time, until I finished). It's also a book I gift to friends when they have babies. Yet it is J K Rowling's magnificent Harry Potter books that have been the biggest part of my children's literary childhoods. Through the books and the films, my children and I have grown together.

And finally, because I will go on and on if I don't. 

I finished writing my first novel in August 2006, in a farmhouse in rural France. No television, having typed THE END and too excited to sleep, I read Dorothy Koomson's My Best Friend's Girl in one sitting as a reward for completing my first novel. 

It marked the start of a new adventure with books. 

Caroline Wallace worked as a lecturer for several years before turning her hand to fiction.

She lives in Liverpool with her husband and their many children.

The Finding of Martha Lost was published by Doubleday, in hardback on March 10th 2016, and is available to buy from all bookshops and online, including Amazon.

For more information about Caroline and her books visit
Follow her on Twitter @Caroline_S


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