Tonight on Friday Night Drinks, I am delighted to welcome the author of one of the most original and fascinating books I read last year, Bone Lines. Thank you for joining me… Stephanie Bretherton.
First things first, what are you drinking?
There’s nothing like a beer to end the week, really, is there? It somehow says, ‘job done, take a break.’ (Mind you, this particular Pavlovian response may come from having lived in hot climates.) But my excuse (to my waistline) is that beer is actually medicine – in moderation. No, honestly. An old doctor friend of my mum’s told her so, so it must be true. And hops, I mean, they’re a traditional herbal remedy right, aren’t they? For something.
Sounds a plausible reason for a beer, so why not? If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
I am always rather partial to a venue with a view. So if we were coastal it would be a beach bar, but if London, then somewhere atop one of the tall buildings. The Shard, maybe, if I was feeling flush. Otherwise, a cosy and characterful local boozer. But wherever it was, there would have to be comfy chairs. Seriously. At a certain point in life, the most mundane things become priorities.
If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
Well, I would have said Charles Darwin (my doctor character writes to him in Bone Lines) but I’m not sure he was much of a drinker? I mean, if you’re on a night out then you want to be having a let-your-hair-down-all-out laugh, no? Another great (sadly, also dead) hero is David Bowie, but here I think some alcohol-fuelled resurrection might actually be in order. The universe hasn’t been quite right without him, has it? I know I ought to be naming literary heroines, but I’m still on the ‘having a laugh thing’ and I have no idea what Margaret Atwood’s sense of humour (or drinking stamina) is like, so can I choose a double act to count as the other guest? How about French and Saunders?
I think we might have ourselves a party here! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I launched Bone Lines in September last year, so I am still on the debut-author thrill ride. But this particular journey began over eight years ago – yup, that’s eight years of writing at weekends while running my own communications business. I’m still in the midst of the post-publication whirlwind, though I did give myself an extended brain rest over the Christmas period, so I hope to get back to writing soon. I’ve already had a few questions from readers about when book 2 will be out, so I need to get cracking. I have always worked with words one way or another, and while writing commercially feeds the body, it’s writing fiction that feeds the soul.
In terms of where I’d like it all to go, I’d love to be able to survive on writing fiction, and to spend more time writing in Cornwall, but that’s something of a fantasy in today’s market. Unless some Hollywood bigwig wants to make a movie or mini-series out of Bone Lines, or one of my short stories? If anyone knows George Clooney or Brad Pitt or Leo di Caprio do me a favour and chuck them a copy would you? There’s no juicy part for any of them in the book, but they can make things happen, you know. (That’s my excuse.) There is a part for Cate Blanchett, however. Or Emily Blunt. And a killer part for a young up-and-coming actress of colour, playing the 74,000 year-old, kick-ass ancestor to humanity.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
Probably the launch party for Bone Lines. I had it in a bar and they’d double-booked a noisy quiz night in an adjoining area, which is funny now but wasn’t so much at the time. Nevertheless, being surrounded by good friends, colleagues and family to celebrate a major life goal – and to hear your publisher and commissioning editor say such lovely things about you, and your work – it was pretty damn special. Getting an amazing blurb for the book from a literary hero such as Lindsay Clarke, was also mind-blowing. I jumped up and down like a six year old when that came in.
My biggest challenge has been finding the time and headspace to write and keep pursuing a dream while also running a demanding business – and maintaining enough faith, determination and energy to get the book published. In some ways, the writing is the easy part as you are doing what you love. Everything else is graft.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!
To have enough readers who enjoy my work to encourage me to keep writing and to have enough people get something of worth from it. You don’t write a book for the people who will hate it (and there will always be someone who hates a piece of creative work, no matter what) you write it for the people who will love it, and get it – especially some of the deeper stuff that you have woven through like a trail of crumbs for the like-minded. There’s nothing better than when you know your work has really meant something to someone.
Of course, we’d all love to have a Sunday Times bestseller and win prizes and see movies made etc, but that’s the holy grail, and it’s the quest itself that really matters, not the final prize. Though actually there’s one mad idea that would send my gratitude into hyperdrive – to have my book included in some kind of library of works that ‘say something’ about humanity, that then gets sent out into space, on something like Voyager. Or buried in a time capsule on the Moon. Pure fantasy of course, but, hey, I am not a fiction writer for nothing.
No one else has said they would like to have their work buried in a time capsule on the Moon so bonus points for imagination and ambition there. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?
I learned so much from the process of editing Bone Lines, so I am currently having a major re-think about the first draft of book 2 in The Children of Sarah series, which I started well before I knew that book 1 would be published – so I am mostly note-taking and brainstorming at the moment, but some fun ideas are forming, and that’s always exciting. However, I also heard an amazing true story over Christmas dinner, which I have been given permission to develop as a fictionalised account. That will take some time to research, but it’s a really exciting prospect.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
My favourite place would be any tropical island! (But I’d recommend either the BVI, where I spent a few formative years, especially if you like diving or sailing – or Koh Phangan in Thailand, for the chill.) My favourite city is Sydney. Top of my own bucket list these days is Iceland for the northern lights and its majestic landscapes – I’m all about stunning nature at this stage in my life! I want my jaw dropped.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.
Not a secret, but I used to read the weather report on Hong Kong television. Many, many moons ago. Except for that one time that I didn’t read it, because I had swapped a shift as a favour to the other reader, but then forgot about it. Worst professional moment of my life, sitting watching as the newsreader apologised for having no weather presenter, and then she had to do it herself. This was in the days before mobiles and I’d been out and about with a new boyfriend. Mortifying. Of course, I am only telling you this because we’ve had a few drinks.
Oh no! That is quite embarrassing. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
Ah, so tricky unless I know you well! I’d need a clue as to your tastes/mood/interests. The only fair choice then is to go with the book which, when I read it at fourteen, awakened me to the notion that novel writing was an art to aspire to – and that would be Wuthering Heights. If you want a polar opposite contemporary option, however, I’d have to say The Road.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
If I have more than four drinks in my ripening middle age, then a hangover is inevitable. But it can be watered down. So I hydrate plenty in between – and I never mix drinks, or drink on an empty stomach. The (usually) failsafe morning after cure consists of scrambled eggs and a Bloody Mary. If that doesn’t work, then I succumb to Nurofen and a nap.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Feet up with a book! Punctuated by a pub lunch and a lovely walk with my partner (and all the other fun things one can do with one’s partner.) Maybe a movie in the evening. But the reality is, I will have to work at some point during most weekends. (For example, I am composing this on a Sunday afternoon.)
Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me this evening, I have had a great time and really enjoyed finding out more about you. I look forward to reading the next instalment in The Children of Sarah series.
Stephanie’s debut novel, Bone Lines, is out now and you can buy a copy here. If you would like to read my review of the book, you can find it here.
A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.
In the present day, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.
Bone Lines is the story of two women separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. This intriguing tale of love and survival, of courage and the quest for wisdom also explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.
Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast.
Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.
Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)
To find out more about Stephanie, check out her social media links:
Facebook: Stephanie Bretherton
Next week on the blog, I will be having Friday Night Drinks with blogger Jo Park from Over The Rainbow Book Blog.