It’s always such a pleasure to feature the lovely Louise Beech here on Being Anne. Apart from being rather fond of the lady herself, she writes rather wonderful books. How To Be Brave was just stunning (you can read my review again here), and The Mountain In My Shoe was another page-turner of a story distinguished by the finest of writing and her ability to make you care about and feel deeply for all her characters (review here… together with Louise’s lovely guest post). And as if that all wasn’t enough, there’s another book on its way: Maria in the Moon is available for pre-order and will be published by Orenda Books, firstly for Kindle on 15th August, then in paperback on 30th September (and I’m absolutely dying to read it!).
Doesn’t this look just wonderful?
Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.
With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything.
Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…
I’m delighted to welcome Louise to Being Anne today to tell us about a very significant anniversary…
Today is ten years since some of the worst floods in the UK. My city, Hull, was hit badly. The unusually high rainfall – I still imagine I hear it like hailstones on my roof at times – caused incredible destruction in my region, with one in five homes damaged. Hull was one of the worst affected, but received the least government help, attention or funding. It didn’t matter. We came together here. We helped one another, shared bricks to raise our furniture out of the water, and assisted in carrying furniture upstairs.
In eight weeks, my third novel Maria in the Moon, which is set during the floods, will be released on Kindle, and a month after that in paperback. But it wasn’t the third book I wrote. It was the first. Or at least the first as an adult, that I knew was publish-worthy. Unfortunately, though I knew it was ‘good enough,’ it would take ten long years to see it released.
It came from a dark place. A dark but stubborn and hopeful place. When our home was destroyed that day, we moved into a temporary house, having lost our car and many of our things. Husband Joe made this crappy metal desk so I could write. And that’s what I did. All around me everything was being rebuilt. I just put words together. It kept me sane when my daughter then got ill and I gave up my job, and when delay after delay happened with our home. Writing has always been the place I go when there’s nowhere else, and never more than now had it helped me.
But don’t worry that Maria in the Moon is all doom and gloom! Not at all. It’s about survival. About how we fight. It’s hopeful. Darkly comical at times. Those who know me, know I’m an optimist, and love life with a passion. My main character, Catherine, is similar; she’s a feisty fighter with a sharp tongue, my favourite female I’ve created so far. She volunteers at Flood Crisis after the deluge, and while she’s there a horrifying memory she has buried since she was nine slowly resurfaces. I used my experience as a Samaritans volunteer to create this environment, and how it felt to lose so many of my belongings, and in many ways – for a time – who I was.
The book was rejected by every publisher and agent. I was determined though, and wrote three more over the next few years, each of them as soundly turned down by everyone. Until 2015, and the wonder that is Karen Sullivan, the queen of Orenda Books, the magician who started my career as an author. She took a chance on my novel, How to be Brave, and because of her I finally get to share Maria in the Moon with the world too.
And how profound that it’s ten years after I wrote it, and ten years after we were flooded.
Louise, thank you so much for that – so looking forward to the book. And I hope you won’t mind me mentioning something personal, and a strange touch of synchronicity – it’s almost exactly thirty years since my own house was flooded to second floor level (when I lived at Appley Bridge, near Wigan) and I similarly lost so many personal possessions (and rather more, for a while). For the four months while the house was restored, the thing I remember most was the way the community came together, and the kindness of friends I hadn’t realised I had. I’ve even found some pictures…
About the author
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.