As a fellow animal lover and devoted Sophie Allport fan, we asked author Lucy Dillon some quick fire questions about her inspiration, why dogs play such a big part in her stories and why she picked a dachshund as a key character in her new book. 'Where The Light Gets In' is Lucy’s inspiring and life-enhancing new novel about taking chances and not being afraid to step into the unknown.
1. Here at Sophie Allport, you’re a popular author in our staff library. Could you tell us a little about your background, for those that aren’t as familiar?
Thank you! Sophie Allport is a popular designer in my kitchen! I grew up just outside the Lake District, and worked for several years as a junior editor before I left to write full-time. I’ve published eight romantic novels now, all set in the fictional town of Longhampton; the stories are about people struggling with love, regrets, secrets, tough choices, family nightmares… life, really! Most of their stories involve a dog in some way, from Buzz the abandoned greyhound who learns to love running again in A Hundred Pieces of Me, to Fido, the loyal little terrier who brings her mistress’s memory back in One Small Act of Kindness.
2. On average, how long does it take you to write a book?
About six months to write it, and then a few more months for the second and third drafts, after my editor Francesca and agent Lizzy have read through and suggested changes. I enjoy the editing process – there are always ways to make a manuscript better, and we have great brainstorming sessions, flipping the characters’ lives up and down and back again.
3. How do you select the names for your characters?
That’s a good question - it’s something that I’m obsessive about! I can’t start writing until I’ve got the characters’ names and professions pinned down. I trawl through the Births, Marriages and Deaths columns of my local newspapers, which also gives you a great sense of ‘eras’ for names; I also read the credits of films and television programmes, and like wandering through graveyards in churches. Now and again the most incredible names jump out at you, and a whole life story flashes before your eyes.
4. What was your favourite childhood book?
This will make me sound a bit of a geek but... a compendium of Greek and Roman myths. I loved the idea of a specific god in charge of everything, directing human fate intentionally and sometimes accidentally, while dealing with the domestic trivia that dogged their divine lives as much as the humans below. Cheating, family feuds, disappointing children, awful fathers - relationships are just as trying for the gods as for men, it turns out. It’s probably where my interest in creating (imaginary) humans and then meddling with their lives started.
5. Dogs are a re-occurring theme throughout your novels. Do you have any four-legged companions?
My husband and I live with a very handsome Border terrier called Barney. When we first met, he had Barney and I had two basset hounds called Bonham and Violet, who sadly both died in 2016. I still miss the bassets’ velvety, snuffly, imperious company – Violet used to make me stop for tea at exactly 5pm each day by leaning her full body weight on my arm. We’re hoping to find Barney a new pal later this year, and I hope it’ll be another hound.
6. Do you have a favourite word?
Loads! Luminescence, or pearlescent. You can almost see the light in there.
I also love dialect for brilliantly specific terms – I’m a big fan of the word ‘flarch’, a Cumberland dialect word meaning someone who’s charming and knows it. Or ‘ratch’, meaning to scrabble through something. Or ‘skelp’, meaning to hit. There are so many words for ‘to hit’ in Cumberland dialect, a bit like all the Inuit words for ‘snow’. (Hmm.)
7. In your new book, Where The Light Gets In, the main character Lorna inherits a Dachshund named Rudy. Why did you choose this breed to write about?
I love Dachshunds. They’re such bright, brave dogs: a big hound personality in a tiny body! The ones I’ve met have been completely charming, bustling around with real presence. When I was dreaming up Betty, the elderly hospice resident Lorna’s visiting as the start of the story, I saw a glamorous dame with an old school dog to match – and Rudy just popped into my head. It struck me how sad it would be to see a crushed Daschie who’d lost his fizz, and how satisfying it would be to watch him find his courage again. (I didn’t need to imagine his new Border terrier friend, Bernard – I had the inspiration under my desk.)
8. With the opportunity to invite anybody to dinner, past or present, who would it be and why?
My grandparents. There are so many things I wish I’d talked to them about while they were around – I’d love to chat to them now I’m an adult and know the questions to ask. Or, if they wouldn’t give me the family gossip, maybe my great-grandparents – I know one of my great-grandfathers married twice, the second time to his brother’s sister-in-law: I reckon there’s a cracking story there.
9. If you were a dog, which breed would you be?
Physically, what with the red hair and the ‘easily distracted’ nature: an Irish Setter. But if I could choose… I’d be a basset hound. Everyone loves a basset hound.
10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Read every book you can and write lots of reviews, but don’t read your own. And don’t get broadband internet. Or if you do, start practising some self-control.
11. What is top of your bucket list?
I would love to see the Northern Lights. I’d also like to go on a proper cruise, one where you dress up in black tie and drink cocktails at the captain’s table. And drive across America, drinking coffee in diners along the way.
12. Do you have any ideas for your next novel?
Yes, I’m writing it right now! It’s got a very OMG ‘what would you do?!’ moral dilemma at the heart of it – and wedding dresses. And ukuleles. I’m really enjoying it.
Author's bio: Lucy Dillon grew up in Cumbria and read English at Cambridge, then read a lot of magazines as a press assistant in London, then read other people's manuscripts as a junior fiction editor. She now lives in a village outside Hereford with an old red Range Rover and too many books. 'Where The Light Gets In' is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook, available to buy online and in bookshops.
COMPETITION! - We've teamed up with author Lucy Dillon and her new book launch 'Where The Light Gets In' to give one lucky winner £250 to spend at Sophie Allport. Simply enter HERE. One winner will be drawn at midday on May 21st.