…Who Spills the Moonbeams about her recently published Novel, “Moonshine”.
– Welcome, Deirdre! Please tell us a little about your latest book.
Moonshine was published on 7th April by Crooked Cat. It’s set in 1969 and is the sequel to Dirty Weekend, although it also works as a stand-alone. In Dirty Weekend, the young South Londoners head to Brighton for the weekend, and in Moonshine they go to Torbay for a caravan holiday. Chaos breaks out when one of them creates a drama of her own during the night of the Apollo 11 space mission – which made a very useful backdrop to the story! There’s a lot of humour in the book, but it also shows the characters facing some heavy issues for the first time in their lives. The mood of the sixties is reflected in my characters’ dreams for the future, and their determination to make them come true.
– What inspired you to write it?
When I wrote Dirty Weekend I had no plans to write a sequel, but after I’d written another book and was thinking what to write next, I looked back at those characters and knew there were more stories there, and that I had more to say about the sixties.
– We’re often told not to “date” our books (unless we are penning a historical novel) but many of your stories are set in the evocative time of the sixties… how important is it that we chart and preserve social history?
I’ve written two books set in the sixties, plus a little book of short stories. My other two novels are set in the present day. I think it’s important to preserve social history, and it’s something I’m interested in myself, but when I write, my main aim is to entertain. If readers learn something of the period along the way, that’s a bonus.
– You live in the fabulously lively seaside resort of Brighton, how does the soothing sound and shifting landscape of the sea influence your writing? (I also live by the beach and don’t think I could picture myself getting inspired anywhere else!)
Yes, Brighton is well-known as a seaside resort but it’s also quite a big city and I live some distance from the sea, so it’s not part of my daily landscape. I like to go down to the sea, especially on a rough day when the waves are high, but from the writer’s point of view I’m more likely to be influenced by the little coves and rocky coastlines of places like Devon and Cornwall. I probably shouldn’t say this, but our stretch of coast is rather flat and featureless.
– Can you give us any clues as to what you are working on next?
At the moment I’m having a break from full-length novels and I’m adding to my stocks of short stories to submit to The People’s Friend magazine. They’ve bought seven from me since I started writing them last year, which is lovely. I’m also trying my hand at a pocket novel to submit via the same route. Those are 42,000 words. I’ve got a few ideas for another full-length novel, which looks as if it will be different from anything I’ve written before, though it’s too soon to tell if it will work out!
– Favourite cake?
Coffee and walnut.
– Favourite place you have ever visited anywhere in the world?
I haven’t travelled a great deal but I was very taken with the Ring of Kerry when we went to Ireland. The waterfalls tumbling over moss-covered rocks are quite magical. I also loved the Alhambra in Granada with all the little courtyards and amazing mosaics.
– I know you are a National Trust aficionado. Which is your favourite National Trust attraction and why?
It’s such a privilege to see inside all the wonderful houses, and get a taste of what it was like to live in them in their heyday. That would never happen if it wasn’t for organisations like the Trust. Petworth House, in West Sussex, has to be my favourite. The house is very grand and actually I prefer the smaller, homelier houses like Standen, which is in Arts and Crafts style, but I have family connections with Petworth – below stairs, that is! My great-grandfather was a groom, my great-grandmother a housemaid. My grandmother and her eight brothers and sisters were born in one of the estate cottages, so Petworth means a lot to me.
– Your one piece of advice for anybody writing in your genre?
I think it’s important to push yourself, experiment with your writing, and keep learning and developing. One way to do that is through reading widely and not always going for the same type of book. That’s true of any genre, of course.