I always find it fascinating to find out where fellow authors get their inspiration. Julie Houston’s story of where the seed for The Village Vicar came from is superb and after reading the extract, I’m heading straight over to Amazon to buy the book. Over to Julie Houston now to talk about inspiration and to share an extract …
As a writer, one of the big questions I’m often asked is “Where do you get your inspiration for the next book? How do you know what to write?” To be honest, at times, when I’m gazing blankly at an equally blank computer screen, and am off to make yet another coffee and find inspiration in the custard creams in the hope that something will stir in my brain and get me going once again, I’d be fully justified in answering: “I really don’t have a clue.” But then someone, quite out of the blue will say something, someone might tell me a funny story, something that’s happened to a distant cousin of theirs perhaps and the rusty cogs that is imagination begin to stir. A light bulb has gone on and I reach for that notebook.
This happened two years ago and, from one throw away comment, the first two books in my village vicar trilogy were written, and the third now well underway. So, I was chatting to someone in my own village and she started talking about the trips. The conversation went something like this:
‘Oh,’ I asked, ‘what trips are those? Where are you going?’
‘No,’ she said, ‘the trips!’
‘Well sort of mine.’
‘What do you mean, sort of mine?’
‘So, my sister had a – you know- a sort of one night stand and she ended up pregnant.’
‘And she had triplets – three baby girls. And she knew she was unable to care for them, so I took them.’
‘Took them where?’
‘Home with me.’
And she did. And brought up these three little girls who are now in their thirties. And on the strength of that one conversation, the idea for the Quinn triplets – Rosa, Eva and Hannah – began to stir. The following extract is from The Village Vicar (published January 19th 2023 by Head of Zeus) when Susan, Alice’s sister, and Susan’s husband, Richard find a very pregnant Alice in Paris, determined to give up the triplet babies she is expecting, for adoption at their birth.
An Extract From The Village Vicar
‘I’ll ask if they can stay together.’ Alice said almost crossly.
‘Like starting at high school?’ Richard murmured. ‘You know, can the best friends from junior school be put in the same class?’
‘I’m sorry.’ Alice was resolute. ‘I can’t just demand they be kept together. Who would want to take on three brand-new babies?’
‘Me,’ Susan shouted. There were pinpricks of red in her otherwise white face. ‘Me. I’ll take them. I’ll adopt them. I’llhave them. Richard and I will have them.’
‘Hang on a minute, Susan…’ Richard’s head had shot up and he was shaking it in confusion. ‘How are we going to cope with four children all of a sudden? You’d have to give up work. We’ve only got three bedrooms.’
‘I’m happy to give up work,’ Susan shouted. ‘I want these babies. They’re my family. And, Richard, we’re thinking of moving. You know we are.’
‘Only if you were carrying on working. A bigger mortgage and three extra kids to bring up? Jesus, think of the nappy bill, the shoe bill, the university bill…’
Richard rubbed a hand over his eyes before reaching for the pack of Gauloises, shaking a cigarette from its depths and lighting it, drawing smoke long and hard into his lungs.
‘I didn’t know you smoked, Richard.’ Alice eyed her brother-in-law through the plume of smoke ascending towards the nicotine-painted low ceiling where it joined the by-product of a thousand other cigarettes smoked at the table.
‘I don’t,’ Richard said, glaring at Alice, before reaching for Susan’s cold hand and squeezing it tightly.
I absolutely loved writing The Village Vicar and knew, once my girls had gone off to Rachel, my editor at Head of Zeus, that I just couldn’t let them go. There were unanswered questions, unfinished affairs and, as this first book had concentrated on Rosa, the vicar’s, story, I wanted both Eva and Hannah to have a book of their own as well. The Girls of Heatherly Hall – out July 6th 2023 – continues Rosa’s story but also concentrates on Eva as well.
The third novel in the trilogy, The Jet Set of Heatherly Hall – out early 2024 – was again inspired by a totally random one liner that I happened to come across at the exhibition of Stonehenge at The British Library last year: The Jet Set. The Jet Set at Stonehenge?? Was there an upmarket group of neolithic ravers wearing gold bling and crossing the channel to holiday in St Tropez? I was mesmerised. Turns out the Jet set was a set of jewellery made from the famous Whitby jet (right up my street writing about Yorkshire) and the idea for book three of the trilogy was born.
About Julie Houston
Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris.
After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years, she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country.
She now just teaches when the phone rings to cover an absent colleague, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past twenty-two years. Julie is married, has a twenty-eight-year-old son and twenty-five-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book.
She hates skiing, gets sick on boats and wouldn’t go pot-holing or paddy diving if her life depended on it.
She is published by HeadOfZeus/Aria and represented by Anne Williams at KHLA Literary agency.
Julie Houston’s first three novels GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME, THE ONE SAVING GRACE and LOOKING FOR LUCY were all Amazon Humour #1 best sellers both here in the UK and Australia. LOOKING FOR LUCY hit the #1 best seller overall in Australia. A VILLAGE AFFAIR was the seventh most downloaded book of 2019 and has sold over 300 000 copies in ebook and paperback. She is published by Aria/Head of Zeus and her eleventh novel THE VILLAGE VICAR published in January 2023. The follow up to The Village Vicar – The Girls of Heatherly Hall is out July 2023. Her seventh novel, SING ME A SECRET won the Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award in 2021.
You can contact Julie on Twitter @juliehouston2 and on Facebook Julie Houston author.
About The Village Vicar
Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.
When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.
But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.
Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?
THE VILLAGE VICAR, out just two weeks ago, has already reached over 100 reviews on Amazon. It can be bought in ebook, paperback and eventually audio on Amazon, Kobo, Apple and through Waterstones.
Thank you for your story and the extract, Julie. You certainly have me hooked and I’m off to buy the book. Mx
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