A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes
Review To Follow
Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?
In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.
As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…
Twelve years later Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.
And atone for the part she played in it.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) My father was in the RAF so my family moved around a lot. I live in London now and really enjoy the fact that my neighbours might be from anywhere in the world; it’s liberating and exciting. I studied both Classics and Linguistics at university and have a lifelong love of things ancient, the way language evolves and how meaning is preserved in translation.
A Little Bird Told Me is really about the struggle of the narrator, Robyn, to make sense of the family secrets that resulted in tragedy when she was a child. The novel switches between 1976 and 1988 to tell both parts of the story.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) The emotionally damaged Robyn and her brother Kit initially stepped off that train into a town that felt full of menace and secrets in a slightly spooky short story that I read out at my writing group. The story prompted questions that I didn’t know the answer to myself, so I set about working out exactly what Robyn was up to, how she had got her mysterious scar and why Kit was against their return. I wrote pretty much as the fancy took me and for the sheer joy of it.
I ended up with a huge tangle of plot and characters and had to edit heavily. When I was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award in 2016, I started submitting to agents. With every piece of feedback I received, I edited again.
Just when I was about to put it in the bottom drawer, Agora Books got in touch. Curiously, there’s a little mystery around how Agora Books came to know about Robyn and Kit – it seems it literally was a case of a little bird told me.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) This is such a difficult one and changes every day. I love The Secret History by Donna Tartt, All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and anything by Iain Banks, Umberto Eco, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood… I could go on for pages!
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) My mother found The Flambards trilogy, mentioned in A Little Bird Told Me, at the library for me and I thought it was fantastic along with the Nancy Drew stories and a great deal of pony and fantasy stories.
I lived in the library as a teenager and read pretty much whatever they had indiscriminately, from Mills & Boon to Iris Murdoch. I particularly enjoyed the mysteries of Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, Norah Lofts and all things Roman or Greek.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) It’s a dead heat between watching my daughter take a copy into school because she wanted to show her friends and hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed the book. Making people happy is wonderful!
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) My husband and family, particularly my children who’ve had to get used to mummy ‘just finishing one more thing’ and who’ve remained accepting and good humoured throughout!
I also have a small group of writing friends with whom I share drafts and the ups and downs of writing life. It’s their encouragement that kept me going whenever it felt too hard.
Anne Bonny: Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.
MH: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a real pleasure to answer your questions.
Marianne Holmes was born in Cyprus to RAF parents and bounced between the UK, Germany, Kuwait and Belgium until firmly basing herself in London – well, apart from those years in the Peak District.
A love of language led to degrees in Classics and Linguistics from the University of London but her desire to pay the mortgage steered her to a career in Marketing. After distracting herself in all sorts of ways over the years – sailing, flying, volunteering and running away to India – she is now definitely, absolutely concentrating on her writing. Well, that and making sure her children get fed, clothed and entertained. Obviously.
A Little Bird Told Me is Marianne’s first novel.
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