Meet Alice May, the author of Accidental Damage – Tales from the house that sat down! Her book is a winner of the Chill with a Book Readers’ Award and the PB Special Award and she’s got some fab reviews on Amazon. Alice is a working mother who lives with her husband in what used to be a ramshackle old cottage in the UK. She loves listening to the radio in the mornings and her kitchen is always full of cake – sounds like a nice combination to me!
The one thing that no-one would usually know about me is that I am an atrocious singer. I can’t hold a tune to save my life. No one knows that because I make sure I never sing in public.
What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
I have been fortunate enough to receive some fantastic reviews for ‘Accidental Damage – Tales from the house that sat down’ as well as two awards. The Chill with a Book Readers Award and the PB Special Award stated among other things that Accidental Damage was a brilliant read, well written, humorous and highly recommended.
Other than those comments, one review stands out in particular because of the thought that has gone into it. This is what Susan Corcoran had to say on her blog:
‘Let me start by saying that Accidental Damage is an emotional, joyful and funny read. Inspired by a true story, it’s about one women’s battle to succeed against what appear to be insurmountable odds. To not only rebuild her home, keep her family together, but also heal herself.
We all face daily challenges to get through the day, but few of us have to do so from a tent in our garden. Ordinary daily tasks take on a new level of challenging for our heroine, forced to sacrifice an integral part of herself just to survive the emotional stress she is under. Alice May gives us a tale of the ordinary life of one family, breaks it apart and then challenges us to see if it can be healed. She looks at how the individual draws strength from deep within themselves and from those around them. For some it is not possible to move forward, not everyone has the capacity for self-forgiveness. Life experiences leave them so badly damaged that there’s no off switch for the self-destructive path they have taken. So we read to see if our heroine can heal herself, forgive and find peace.
It is a deeply rewarding read and one I will remember. I have always loved books that focus on character and emotion. Alice May gives me all of these. There is not always a need for what I think of as wham, bang, wallop in a book! Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these, but sometimes you want a story based in the extraordinary events of an ordinary life. It’s one of the reasons I love books like Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life and Tessa Hadley’s The Past. Courage and strength, pain and suffering come in many forms. This is my favourite form. It’s the art of being quiet and listening to a story based around human endurance.’
While I am grateful for all honest reviews, as an author it is an especial privilege to hear from people who truly appreciate the message in my book.
How did you choose a title for your book?
The title of my book ‘Accidental Damage – Tales from the house that sat down’ was simply there in my head as I was writing. It speaks on so many levels within the book that I couldn’t have called it anything else.
The book is about an ordinary family exposed to the threat of massive, unintentional damage. Their house falls down out of the blue one day and they are forced to move into a tent in the garden. The story is poignant and tragic but at the same time it is packed with humorous anecdotes about family life as they lived it in the garden whilst they try to work out firstly why their home collapsed and secondly what they are going to do about it. It is a tale of family love and loyalty under extremely pressing circumstances.
Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
Occupational hazards of being an author include drinking far too much caffeine and spending far too much time on social media. It is important to have a presence on social media for marketing and interaction with readers and bloggers but if you aren’t careful you can find yourself spending so much time on Facebook and Twitter that you don’t actually get around to writing the next book.
Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?
Ever since I was a very little girl I have wanted to be an artist as well as an author. I was inspired when I saw my grandmother’s paintings on display. I have been lucky enough to be an amateur artist for over a decade now and have had a number of fun opportunities to exhibit my work. Painting has enabled me to use my own artwork on the cover for my books which means a great deal to me.
Do you think there is any elitism attached to the different genres of books, both in the fiction and non-fiction worlds?
I think that there is a certain a degree of elitism within fiction which looks down on romance novels in particular. Personally, I love a good romance just as I adore science fiction, contemporary and general fiction. I think each genre fills a need and we are lucky to have access to so many talented authors who are keen to share their stories.
Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
Victoria Wood. She was such a talented lady. I have thoroughly enjoyed all her work, especially her sensitive portrayal of Ella Last in ‘Housewife 49’.
What is the single biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?
The single biggest challenge I faced when writing my first novel was remembering to take a break for more practical issues such as doing the school run or feeding my beloved husband and the children.
Whilst I had always wanted to write a book, I assumed that it would be one of those things that I would never get around to doing. However the urge to write ‘Accidental Damage – Tales from the house that sat down’ came on me entirely unexpectedly one day and was impossible to resist. I simply sat down at the laptop and started typing. Once I had started I found it very difficult to stop. Three weeks later I ground to a halt to find over 60,000 words in front of me and the initial draft of my first novel.
Fortunately my daughters were both in their mid-teens at the time and able to either remind me to take a break or happy to cook supper for their younger brothers and themselves. They got very good at doing internet food shopping for me too.
I am taking a more leisurely approach to writing my second and third books so there is plenty of time to look after and enjoy being with the family.
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Join writers groups and attend workshops. Communicating with other writers is very helpful. If you receive a rejection then understand that it happens to all writers. Don’t let it stop you, if necessary give yourself a bit of time to get over it and then get back on doing what you love. A rejection doesn’t mean your work is no good, it just means it isn’t right for that particular setting. Above all keep writing.
How do you remain sane while working?
I spend the first half hour of every day down at the beach, regardless of the weather. Walking along listening to the waves crashing on the shoreline helps me to relax. It’s a great way to start the day.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from everyday life, I am not sure what exactly triggers these ideas but you can bet they always come at the most inconvenient time, which is usually when I genuinely cannot indulge in writing. Hence I am always scribbling in tatty notebooks in bizarre places as I try to note down the latest plot twist before I carry on with what I ought to be doing at that time.
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
The most important thing I learned at school was that I am appalling at foreign languages. Taking French at A-level was a very bad decision, so I have focused on English ever since.
Tea, Coffee, Water, Juice, Wine or Beer … which do you prefer when writing?
I usually prefer to have a latte or three while I write, but at the moment I am having a herbal tea because I rather overdid the caffeine whilst finishing the first draft of my latest book.
If you could commit the perfect murder where would you hide the body?
If I committed the perfect murder, there would be no body! 🙂
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT alice AND HER BOOK?
WHY ‘THE THURSDAY THRONG’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.