Today I am delighted to welcome another new guest to the blog! Karen Louise Hollis had dropped by to tell us all about the first title in her Whitlock Close series, which is set in the the 1980's.
I love books and especially ones like Heidi’s which have such a strong sense of community and place. My perfect book series are the ones where you look forward to the latest release and finding out what the characters have been up to since you last read about them. All of this was really the inspiration for my debut novel Welcome to Whitlock Close, which came out in May.
It is set in the 1980s, with each book (There will hopefully be five in the series!) following a year of the residents of Whitlock Close. There are eight houses in the cul-de-sac and the books follow the lives of all those that live there. The initial main focus is on the Thorpe family – Robert, Sandra and their daughter Louise. They move from Lincoln to New Barnham - a village seven miles away, just in time for Louise to start at secondary school there. So it’s a big move for her and her mother, who both know no-one in the village and need to find friends. Robert still works in Lincoln as a journalist on the local newspaper, so less has changed for him. Each book follows a year at secondary school for Louise.
But the book doesn’t just focus on the Thorpe family. There’s a whole street full of characters to fall in love with and each one has their own problems to face and their own joys to celebrate. From feedback I have received, one of the characters that readers love is Nora. She starts off as an annoying neighbour, the sort who peers out from behind her curtains to see what’s going on. But things happen to soften her and soon she’s back friends with Mabel. The two of them live next door, and being both widowed women of a similar age, they should be best pals. But they fell out over something neither can recall and the feud continued much longer than it should have. Not that it’ll be plain sailing from now on…
We have a local book club, a Twinning Committee for the village’s annual trip to France and Louise joins the local gymnastics club. There’s a former actor struggling with addiction and depression who moves to the village for anonymity and the first black family to move in! Oh yes, it’s all happening in Whitlock Close!
My aim was to write a novel that reflected real life, but I wanted to set it before all the worries of global warming and the war in Ukraine. It had to be before mobile phones and the internet. I loved the 1980s and had a lovely childhood, growing up in a beautiful village and going to a great school. So I wanted my novel to be realistic and believable, but with a fair sprinkling of nostalgia and escapism.
Being a big lover of animals too, there are plenty of those in the story, including my own pets from childhood – my dog Lady Olga (a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) and our cats Mitty and Tabina. There is admittedly quite a lot of me in the novel, but hopefully that adds to the story.
I was also very keen to include characters of all ages, because as I’m now 52, I find I am more interested in novels featuring older people. A romcom about a slim, rich, beautiful twenty-something is fine, but I’m much more likely to relate to an overweight, ageing, often skint single mother whose stretchmarks prevent any stomach showing, no matter how hot the weather gets.
I also truly believe that everyone has a story to tell. I find this with my non-fiction books, where I’m interviewing gymnasts who have competed for their country over the years. But it’s true in fiction too – all my characters start at one place and end up somewhere else. Because we all go on a journey and that’s the interesting bit…
Welcome to Whitlock Close is available from Amazon in paperback and e-book
My non-fiction books on gymnastics, Doctor Who and motherhood, plus my poetry collections are available from karenlouisehollis.co.uk
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