Thursday, 31 October 2019

New Release Spotlight with Author Q&A: The House That Alice Built by Chris Penhall

The House That Alice Built by Chris Penhall

Home is where the heart is …
Alice Dorothy Matthews is sensible. Whilst her best friend Kathy is living it up in Portugal and her insufferable ex Adam is travelling the world, Alice is working hard to pay for the beloved London house she has put her heart and soul into renovating.
But then a postcard from Buenos Aires turns Alice’s life upside down. One very unsensible decision later and she is in Cascais, Portugal, and so begins her lesson in ‘going with the flow’; a lesson that sees her cat-sitting, paddle boarding, dancing on top of bars and rediscovering her artistic talents.
But perhaps the most important part of the lesson for Alice is that you don’t always need a house to be at home.

Thank you for inviting me on your blog to talk about my debut novel, The House That Alice Built.
Why did you choose Portugal as the setting for The House That Alice Built?
I lived in Cascais near Lisbon in the mid-1990’s when my daughters were very small, and it made a huge impression on me. I loved the lifestyle, its beauty, the vibrancy, the food (of course) and the whole experience of living somewhere different to what I was used to. When I was there I knew it would only be for three years, so it made it all very intense – I remember imprinting a lot of it in my memory so I could call it up in my minds eye whenever I wanted, not knowing then I would use all of that to write a novel set there one day.
If there is a song that sums up Alice and the book, what would it be?
I listen to music all of the time, and there are references to quite a few songs in the book itself. However, if there is one song that would sum up how Alice feels right at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the novel, its Breakout by Swing out Sister. Released in 1986, it’s a really upbeat, positive song and somewhere in the lyrics it says its time to make a break. It is, indeed, Alice.
What is your writing routine?
I wrote The House That Alice Built over about 8 years, so I was able to pick it up and put it down whenever I wanted. I didn’t have a deadline, but I’m now working on book 2, and I am much more disciplined, as I have to be! I freelance, so if I’m working, I will make sure I do a certain number of words every day before or after work. If I have writing day, then I power on – some days are better than others!
If you get stuck with a particular part of the book when you are writing, how do you get going again?
Actually, I’ve just got a bit stuck with something, so I’m taking my mind off it for a while and doing this. Sometimes I’ll go out for a walk, nip out for a coffee, or resort to the old favourite – hoovering. I find once I’ve stopped thinking I’ve got stuck, I relax and start again.
When did you start to write fiction?
I wrote stories when I was a child but didn’t really start to write fiction until I lived in Portugal. My daughters were at school and nursery, and I finally had a bit of time and space in my imagination to do it. I wrote sporadically after that, and started The House That Alice Built about 8 years ago. I have worked on it off and on over that time, until I finally finished the second version of it in the middle of 2018.
How does writing make you feel?
I find I escape and relax when I’m writing – I go into my own little world for a while and nothing else matters. That could be for a few hours, or 15 minutes, depending on the day. Sometimes I get a bit stressed when I’m stuck with something, and I occasionally get frustrated. But I love creating worlds and finding characters so even when I find it’s difficult, I still get a lot out of it.
What’s in store for you next?
I wrote The House That Alice Built as a stand-alone novel, but I’m still interested in what Alice does next, so I’m working on the sequel. It’s still set in Portugal, and there’ll be some familiar characters, a few new ones, challenges, fun, and some ups and downs along the way to happiness.

Chris Penhall is a freelance writer and radio producer.
Her book, The House That Alice Built, won the Choc-Lit Search for a Star Competition 2019.
Born in South Wales, she has also lived near London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! She is now working on her second.
A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.
Chris has two grown up daughters and lives in the Essex countryside.
Chris is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.

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