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Summer at Seafall Cottage was previously published as The Cornish Escape
Review by Suze
Victoria travels to Cornwall to get over her broken heart. She and her husband have grown apart and he's hurt her badly, so it's time for her to make a fresh start. When Victoria sees the dilapidated Seafall Cottage she feels drawn to it straight away. In the cottage Victoria finds a diary and the story inside makes her curious. The writer, Tilly, went through something devastating and Victoria wants to find out more about the history of the cottage and the life of the woman whose diary she's so engrossed in.
Meeting Adam, a handsome lawyer, might give Victoria the chance to get some details about Seafall Cottage. He's the person who's selling it and Victoria knows one thing, she wants to buy the place. While Victoria is getting to know Adam she's making progress with the cottage she will soon call home and its complicated history. Will Victoria find a happy future in a place where the past has been so unlucky?
Summer at Seafall Cottage is a beautiful story about the power of true love. I immediately loved both Victoria and Tilly. They're strong determined woman who fight for what they want and what they believe in. They're smart and capable and it was interesting to read about their lives and what's inside their hearts. I was equally interested in both the past and the present and flew through the pages. I love it when I can get so close to the main characters of a story and liked Summer at Seafall Cottage a lot because of it.
Lily Graham has a wonderful heartwarming writing style. She makes her settings come to life incredibly well and I really enjoyed reading about Seafall Cottage and the beautiful Cornish landscape. It's a perfect place for a romantic story, which for me was pure magic. I was enchanted and entertained by Lily Graham's charming story and absolutely loved Summer at Seafall Cottage, it's another amazing book by a great storyteller.
If you like love stories that alternate between the past and the present Summer at Seafall Cottage would be an excellent choice.
About Lily Graham
I grew up in dry, dusty, sun-filled Johannesburg, which gave me a longing for the sea that has never quite gone away; so much so that sometimes I’ll find sand grouting the teaspoons, and an ocean in a teacup. I live now in the Suffolk countryside, happily just minutes from the sea, with my husband and my sweet, slobbering bulldog, Fudge, and bring my love for the sea and country-living to my fiction.
And now for some things that don’t go in the press sheet …
Here’s a few frequently, and not-so-frequently asked questions …
Do you have a South African accent?
Yes, I do, though apparently not in Norfolk – not sure why they don’t detect it there – maybe they are just really polite … but yes, otherwise.
What do you miss about South Africa?
The many independent coffee shops, the abundance of blue skies and family.
What are your favourite things about the UK?
Cottages, the sense of humour, and lemon drizzle cake.
Your books seem to be a blend of genres, is that accurate?
They are sort of tragi-comedies, blending light-hearted fiction with darker women’s fiction. I love exploring darker themes in a hopeful way – it’s what inspires me most about the human race, how people overcome adversity and go after their dreams.
Is your real name Lily Graham?
Confession time! My real name is actually Dominique Valente, which yes sounds more like the made up name. I chose Lily Graham as my mother originally wanted to call me Lily and because I was far too frightened in the beginning to publish under my real name. Personally, that made it much easier as I could step away a little and it helped as no one I knew had any idea what I was doing … of course, they all figured it out.
You first self-published but are now traditionally published is that right? Can you tell us a little more?
Yes. I’d been writing for years and years, yet never finishing a book as I switched to the next one that ‘I’d get right’. I really suffer from ‘Shiny New Project Syndrome.’ Yes, that’s totally (not at all) a legit term. My best friend heard about Amazon KDP and challenged me to finish one of my half-finished books for once and to try it – which I did. It was such a rewarding, positive experience. Prior to this, I’d tried to get a children’s book published under my own name but that got a positive rejection – which just means they were rather polite when saying no. Self-publishing, in the beginning, was me proving that I could actually finish writing a book, from there things just grew, no one is more surprised than me at how it all turned out! Now almost four books later, signed to Bookouture – one of the best publishers in the UK, a division of Hachete (which feels like a dream come true) it’s been pretty phenomenal, and I owe it all to just deciding one day in 2014 that enough is enough – I will finish a book at last.
Even though you are now traditionally published, would you recommend self-publishing?
Yes, definitely! However, I would add – do what works for you. Some genres don’t always work in the self pub market – though there are always exceptions. It’s about what would make you happy. In today’s age there’s no reason not to go for both. I’m happy I did. If I had the time, and in the future, I may explore hybrid publishing
What’s your number one writing tip?
Just write, and finish the thing already – there comes a time when we all shut up the voice/s that said we aren’t yet ready/ need more life experience/ schooling/ add an excuse of your own, and sat down and just saw what happened. It’s a tip that alas is just as important on the first book as it is on the fifteenth. There’s no big secret, apart from just going for it. I wish there was as trust me, I’ve looked for them all. Then set yourself a deadline so that you actually finish the thing.
What has writing four books taught you?
The only failure is quitting. My most recent book almost broke me. It needed so many redrafts it’s scary, at one point I even asked my editor if we could scrap it. Luckily she said no, and now it’s on it’s way to being released in the world. This isn’t an easy job, we can’t pretend that. Some books are harder than others, sometime your biggest challenge comes on your third or fourth book – just keep swimming.
Are you a natural blonde?
Yes – well, once upon a time.
I heard that you have a disability, is that true? And does this make things difficult?
Yes, I do – I was born without a left forearm – like Cerrie Burnell. Yes, we are part of a special club … kidding, though I do think she’s wonderful.
Disability is always difficult, but not always for the reasons most people believe them to be, there’s honestly not a single thing that I find impossible to do, except say no to chocolate. I’m lucky in that I experience no physical pain or any real physical challenges – I drive, tie my shoelaces, plait my hair … It’s difficult for me mostly because it’s different and that is always a challenge for most people. Our challenge as people with disabilities is to help ensure that in time that difference is normalised. I’d be lying if I didn’t explain that the hardest part really is other people’s reactions to me, though there are times, every now and again when the best part is other people too.
Is it true that you don’t like it when people refer to you as a ‘disabled writer’?
Yes. Partly it has to do with the phrasing. But even if it is phrased better – such as ‘a writer with a disability’ is it really necessary unless the article is specifically about disability? I don’t think we will make headway until we stop highlighting it as a difference. Shonda Rhymes once crossed out a speech that recognized her as a ‘successful, black woman’ screenwriter. She crossed out black and woman because it was all still true without those adjectives. I think we need to start doing the same when it comes to disability. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it, we definitely should – and I am always keen to chat about it, but I would prefer not to be defined by it.
How Anthony Trollope has inspired me to change my writing habits
By Lily Graham
In the literary world, Anthony Trollope, has in many ways become a bit of a joke when regards to his writing habits – he was said to have written 250 words every quarter of an hour for three hours straight and that if he finished one novel in his allotted time, he’d simply start on the next.
I suppose the joke lies in the sense that he makes it sound so easy, and novel writing as my long-suffering, walk-starved bulldog knows, is often plain hard work that can get in the way of pretty much all else. I’ve always been a bit of a binge writer – getting out loads of text in shorts bursts, and then spending the rest of the time, banging my fist against my head to get the rest to come and howling at the moon for its sheer imperfection. Fear, procrastination and self-doubt are often a long for the ride. I have spent days having only written a paragraph and then being sure that paragraph was terrible anyway.
But after reading Trollope’s autobiography recently, I realised his critics missed the point entirely – his approach is a method that a lot of writers – beginning or established – could benefit from, particularly if like me, they are sometimes prone to periods of self-doubt and fear and would like to also lead a more balanced life.
Writing a novel can be easier than we allow and he had a lot of great advice on how to do it in a way that gives you enough time to get the work done long before deadline, while making room for other things in your life, like sleep. I joke, but really one of the things that really stood out for me was that he said that in the mid 1800s he was the most prolific author of the time, with three times as many volumes to his name than most other authors, and yet he held a full-time job at the post-office, hunted at least twice a week, went off on long summer holidays abroad, was a frequent whist player and spent a lot of time with friends in clubs in London. “Few men, I think, ever lived a fuller life.”
The secret of his prolific, yet balanced life, he said, came down to early mornings. “And I attribute the power of doing this [writing prolifically and enjoying a balanced life] to the virtue of early hours. It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 a.m. and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy.”
He hired an old groom – this was the age before alarm clocks! – to wake him up with a cup of coffee. “I do not know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to anyone else for the success I have had.” By around 8.30 a.m. he said that he would be finished his literary work for the day and then would be off to the post office.
What struck me most about his methods are the fact that he only wrote for three hours a day – having a time limitation is something that I feel works rather well. Before I became a full-time author, I used to write in the hours before work as well as on the weekend – those hours were sacred and if I missed them I’d lose a whole day’s work. My second novel was written almost entirely with only morning hours on hand – and it was the easiest novel I wrote. Yes, there were many factors that helped, beyond the steady drip of those hours – like having a deadline, a story I was excited to write, and a fixed goal – but it’s only recently that I realised how much easier it was to do because I was consistent with writing a certain
amount of words every day. Having the words written – even if I need to spend the rest of the day re-writing them, which may well be the case, is perhaps the best cure for my particular Achilles heel, which is a tendency towards perfectionism. The old saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page and it’s often in rewriting that stories come alive. What they don’t say is that consistency can save you a whole lot of drama and pain. So tomorrow, I’m setting my alarm for 5.30 a.m. and right now, I’m pinning this quote from Anthony Trollope onto my wall: “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.” Here’s to embracing my inner tortoise.
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