Guest post and review – Letting In Light by Emma Davies

By | June 13, 2015

It’s a real pleasure today to welcome author Emma Davies as a guest on Being Anne (I think Emma will be rather pleased with that – being called “author Emma Davies”…). I finally read her debut novel, Letting In Light, this week – as it celebrated its first book birthday – and absolutely loved it. I’ve reviewed it below, but first let’s meet the author.

Emma’s got to be one of the very nicest authors/people I’ve come across – we’ve been Twitter friends for over a year, she’s a great supporter of the blog and regularly retweets for me, but she’s never ever said “come on then – how about reading and reviewing my book?”. If she had, I might not have left it a year! Emma, welcome to Being Anne…

So my book baby is one year old, and like all babies there have been moments to ooh and aah over, moments to make you cry and milestones reached too. She was born, she’s crawled, found her voice, stood on her own two feet and now is taking bold steps forward; it’s been quite a year.

It all started one quiet evening when I pressed submit and uploaded my book to Amazon, without a fanfare, without publicity, without reviews and in fact without even telling anyone for a few days. It was in the months after this that I began to learn how to be an author, and that writing a book was just the start of a most wonderful journey.

Like a lot of people I’ve been writing for years, since I was in my teens in fact, and Letting in Light has been there in my mind for a long time. I knew the plot, and the characters so well they were like old friends. I often joked that they would get fed up of waiting for me to tell their story that they’d run off to a proper writer who had got their act together, but they turned out to be patient bunch and wait they did. So now I’d published a book and sent it out there, but I really had no idea whether people would like it, and really I thought I had realised my dream just in getting the book published. I had no real expectations for it, and was quite unprepared for what happened next.

Because what happened was that I realised that I was no longer content to have just got this book off my chest, I wanted more, and more, and more; I hadn’t realised what a passion I had for writing until I started to let it out! 
Since then I’ve been on the biggest learning curve of my life, met some truly lovely people, and discovered how wonderfully supportive the bookish community are, from readers and writers, to bloggers and complete strangers, all united by our love of the written word. In January I was lucky enough to get a place on the Romantic Novelist’s Association New Writers’ Scheme and for some reason this seemed to be catalyst for positive change, and coupled with some amazing reviews I began to feel that I had really turned a corner in getting Letting in Light visible and getting people to buy it. Now I’m thrilled at the successively higher rankings in the charts it’s achieving and the continued positivity surrounding it. 
Someone once said to me, what’s it all about then, this book of yours, windows or something? and I replied, in a way yes, because it’s not just windows that let in light. One of the main characters is a stained glass artist and for him, his work, his art, is a life transforming passion. Of course I can’t say too much more for fear of spoilers but this passage has always been one of my favourites because it’s about being in profound awe of something so beautiful it takes your breath away:
A waft of air gushes against the back of my legs, and dust motes rise up in front of me in the brilliant light as the shrouds fall away from the window. I can feel the sun on the back of my head as a flow of colour washes over me. It races out across the room, across the people standing before me, over the whitewashed walls, instantly decorating them, magical in their transformation. I look up, and even to the rafters I can see its colours, rose and copper and gold.
And that’s when it hits me, the stillness in the room, not just a lack of sound, but a space where just for a second there is nothing else but a profound awe. For just as I am gazing out into the room, everyone else is gazing back, looking not as I am at the light flowing outward, but at the point at which it flows inward. I hardly dare to turn around.
A voice beside me sounds out across the space. ‘Oh my word!’ Three simple words of honest astonishment.
Thoughts are finding voices now and a swirl of noise is born. A single clap rings out, followed by another, then another, until the whole building is thundering with their sound. 

You see essentially this is what Letting in Light is all about. It’s about finding yourself, about finding that one thing that makes you glad to feel alive, finding a passion that burns within you and realising your dreams. It’s about following that dream because life’s too short not too, and it’s about learning how to let a little light into your life.

If I have learnt anything this year it’s that I no longer have to look for my passion, my dream, my light. I have found it. I am a writer.

Indeed you are Emma… thank you for such a lovely post.

The book

Rowan Hill. Come first out of curiosity, explore as a guest, return as a friend.

When Ellie arrives at Rowan Hill all she wants is peace and quiet and a place to lick her wounds, but fate it would seem has other things in mind for her.

Firstly there’s Will, who has a reputation for being a humourless grumpy loner; things would be perfect if everyone would just leave him and his estate alone. Is he just plain grumpy, or is it the big fat secret he’s keeping that makes him act the way he does?

Then there’s Finn, who’s drop dead gorgeous, but who ran away from his past. He’s now planning a return home to Rowan Hill, and although he knows Will’s secret, he’s not about to tell Ellie. Is it loyalty to his brother that keeps him quiet, or perhaps it’s just that he has a few secrets of his own?

The perfect solution for all of them is staring Ellie in the face, trouble is she’s been accused of meddling before. Her vision for Rowan Hill could be just what everyone needs, so should she follow her heart or her head?

As Ellie puts her plans to save Rowan Hill into action, romance and friendships blossom, however the complications of the past are never far away, and a shocking revelation soon threatens their hopes for the future. Suddenly the beliefs they once held true become the biggest obstacle they have to overcome. Will Ellie find the courage to learn from the truth and finally let a little light into all their lives.

After all, life, like art, is all about perception, and sometimes it just depends on your point of view…. 

My thoughts

Believe it or not, I’ve been struggling a little with my reading recently – too much time on Twitter and Facebook, not enough time with a book in my hands. But when I picked up Letting In Light, I could tell I’d found something a little special. 

I’ll be really honest and say that you can tell it’s a first novel – the opening section on the first aid course was a tad overlong I thought, although it’s a necessary introduction to the key characters and their lives. But when Ellie moves to Rowan Hill the story really starts, the characters and setting come alive, and the writing gets into its stride too. Rowan Hill is wonderfully described – the lodge, the house, the outbuildings ripe for conversion, the woods and the rough bench on top of the hill with the magnificent view. 

The author has an easy to read style, really enjoyable, with excellent powers of description – I love the passage she quotes above, but some of my equal favourites are some of the more mundane where she engages the characters in activities and brings them so vividly to life. I want to spend New Year’s Eve flying paper planes from the hilltop, walk through the woods, be part of the wonderful community at Rowan Hill – in fact, having read the book, I really do feel I have been part of it all. 

The characters are really well drawn – Ellie had me at her side (and on her side) throughout, I loved both Will and Finn, and some of the lesser characters like Alice and Prudence are quite wonderful. The secrets and revelations are so well handled, and help to make the book something a little different – and I totally loved the whole theme of following a dream and making it happen. 

I’m so sorry I left the book so long Emma – it really deserves its ongoing success, I wish it a very happy book birthday, and I hope it won’t be too long until we’re able to read your next. I loved it. 

The author

After a varied career Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a forty something mother of three, and is working on the rest.

Today she’s a finance manager and looks at numbers a lot of the time, so at night she likes to throw them away and play with words, practicing putting them together into sentences. Pop over to her website where, amongst other things, you can read about her passion for Pringles and singing loudly in the car. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook (a little more often than is good for her).

Letting in Light is her debut novel, and she is currently working on her second.