If you found ‘the one’ would you know it straight away, or would you need a little push in the right direction?
What if there was someone like Lily Rose Whyte in your life, whose sole aim was to help you? Someone who could jiggle fate and fortune in your favour, without you even realising.
And what if you live in a sleepy Cheshire village where nothing much seems to happen, except suddenly one summer, everything does. Your life is turned upside down and inside out. As we all know, love has a habit of doing that.
But hold on. Slow down. Because what if – for once – Lily’s got it wrong? About as wrong as she can get. What would you do then?
Don’t worry, though. Life isn’t a fairy tale, and magic doesn’t exist. So, as long as you don’t read this book, and you never meet Lily Rose Whyte, you’re perfectly safe.
Can you believe it was almost a year ago when I reviewed the absolutely gorgeous Four Sides To Every Story by Valerie-Anne Baglietto? I found it absolutely enchanting – and I’m sharing my original review again below. But first I’m really delighted to welcome Valerie-Anne to Being Anne today to celebrate the book’s first birthday, and to share some of her news.
‘Every so often it’s lovely to be surprised by a book…’
So began Anne’s charming review of Four Sides to Every Story, around this time last year. What she hadn’t realised when she wrote that introduction was the fact Four Sides had surprised me, too. And I was the writer.
The book had started slowly, in terms of the actual writing process, and I’d put it aside for several months to concentrate on other projects. But I was determined to return to it. The plot still called to me. It wanted a life, not just a conception and then nothing beyond. So, to help me get to know some of the characters better, I started work on a Christmas novella set in the same village, which became the standalone story The Little Book of Lost Hearts. Writing it helped – much more than I’d expected. I was now utterly besotted, both with the fictional Cheshire village of Fools Castle and the troubled members of the Ellis family, who’d known far too much heartbreak and needed something good to happen to them, especially widowed Sawyer, floundering as he brought up his stepchildren alone.
When I took up writing the actual novel again, it began to spill out of me. Along the way, I jokingly referred to it as Gone Girl meets Cinderella. Psychological thriller meets fairy tale. The unreliable narrator meets Disney. It was all and yet none of those things by the time I finished. Yes, there was a big twist, and you couldn’t trust everyone; and yes, there was homage going on to more Disneyfied fairy tales, without being too in-your-face. There was betrayal and sacrifice and true love and a curse – and a lot of ‘real life’ stuff going on in between, like school sports days and pouty, obstreperous teenagers and people hitting the booze because their hearts had been broken. That sort of thing. But in essence, when it came down to it, it was my Happy Book.
As I wrote ‘The End’ on my first draft, knowing I had all that delicious editing to come – delicious because it was another chance to revisit the story – I felt as if my whole body had been steeped in a giant mug full of pure joy. I was infected with happiness, as if the book had spread it to me, virally. My husband, at least, will vouch for my elevated mood. (I doubt my kids spotted it. They’re all at an age where they don’t notice much beyond TV/Xbox/mobile phone.)
I’d written enough novels before to know this wasn’t normal for me. That this book was somehow different. I had written about magic here, in a subtle way, and somehow a little of that magic had escaped it’s constraints and ended up inside me. When I wrote my dedication, it came from the heart. There was love and gratitude and a genuine sense of wanting to share the same elation I felt.
I hadn’t intended to write a sequel, but people who read Four Sides were keen for more, and it was shortlisted in the 2015 Love Stories Awards, which gave me a sense of validation I hadn’t felt in a while. (A writer’s ego is a fragile, winged, little monster!) So I’ve been plotting a follow-up, discovering that there’s so much story still left to tell. And this time there’s even more unreliability, more twisty bits, more real life, more unreal life, more sacrifice, more heartbreak, more joy. This one will go deeper, darker, further than Four Sides. But… it isn’t ready to be written yet. It hovers quietly and patiently between glittery notebook and my head. It waits.
You see, I’ve been surprised once again – I’ve become someone else. Maybe I’ve been possessed. It’s a strange feeling, but I can’t deny it. My writing has shot off in a new direction, and it wasn’t the one I’d programmed into my creative sat-nav. I’m doing the whole pseudonym bit, so I don’t confuse anyone. I think that’s why 2016 has been slow so far; I’ve been navigating unknown territory, more sweeping, daunting and epic than anything I’ve tackled before, and it hasn’t been easy. But I hope, when the journey’s over – eventually – I can look back with appreciation, and accept that it was worthwhile.
In the meantime, to give myself a much-needed boost, I’m celebrating Four Sides to Every Story turning one this summer. The cover’s had a makeover, and there’s a brand new blurb (the one above) which I hope will intrigue potential readers. And just as exciting, Anne very kindly allowed me here on her blog to blow out the first candle! Thank you, Anne. My wish is predictable, and as I’m not overly superstitious, I’ll share it with everyone.
I hope that Four Sides might lure a few new readers this year, spread a little joy, sprinkle a dusting of its magic, surprise more people with its twist… and then come back home to inspire me, all over again.
Happy first birthday to Four Sides to Every Story (currently available for 99p for kindle) – and thank you Val for such an excellent post. May many more readers discover the magic of Four Sides – I wish you every success both with being someone else for a while, and when you finally reopen your glittery notebook… let’s share that review again, just in case anyone missed it…
My review from June 2015
Every so often, it’s lovely to be surprised by a book – to like it so very much that you really want to tell people about it. Especially those people who might think they wouldn’t like it. Because, I’ll be honest, I had my doubts – I’m not a massive fan of magic and fairy tales, and don’t read many stories featuring fairy godmothers. But – having escaped into it for the last couple of days – I have to tell you that this book was a little gem, beautifully cut and polished, and sparkling in every way.
I’m not going to tell the story beyond the description above, because I’d like you to discover it the way I did. But this really is a book with a bit of everything. There’s magic of course, and some of the loveliest little details – floating above gravel so as not to hurt your feet, the ability to restore clothing damaged in the tumble drier, and how lovely it would be to glow from within like lovely Lily. There’s a rugged hero in Sawyer – not the curmudgeon I originally thought he was, but a man who’s experienced real tragedy in his life, and has a damaged soul. He also has just the right amount of designer stubble and dishevelment to make him thoroughly fanciable, and he writes books… and he’s doing his utmost to be a good father. Then there are the children – especially wonderfully drawn Lexie – who somehow know Lily is a little different. Then there’s the terrifying mother-in-law, there’s Sophie who’s definitely up to something, and the homely housekeeper with a heart of gold. There’s romance galore, and misunderstandings, and heartbreak – and a quite brilliant ending that had my heart in my mouth and a tear in my eye.
I was right in what I said when I read this author before – she writes quite beautifully, with wonderful descriptions and a gentle humour. Don’t be put off by the hint of magic and fairytale – it’s really perfectly judged, and quite enchanting. A lovely, lovely read, do give it a try – and prepare to be as captivated by it as I was.
About the Author
By day, Valerie-Anne Baglietto writes contemporary, grown-up fiction. By night, she clears up after her husband and three children. Occasionally she sleeps. During her career so far she has written rom-coms for Hodder & Stoughton, won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Award and been shortlisted in the 2015 Love Stories Awards. Valerie-Anne tweets @VABaglietto.