Today we travel to the North East of England to chat with Audla English. She and I chat about how picture books, Tom and Jerry, England’s smallest train station, Roald Dahl, Marsden Bay, and the special bond with her wonderful grandmother come together as part of Audla’s writings and her life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Lovely to meet you Camilla and thank you again for the interview. I am Audla English- which is quite apt as I am English and live in the glorious North East of the country; a beautiful part which is steeped in history, greenery, sea, sand but perhaps not sun!
In which genre do you write?
I write love stories but with a historic angle so the genre which I fit into most easily is historic fiction: romance.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I have always wanted to be a writer and used to make picture books of stories when I was a child, some of which I still have. It took me 15 years of being a ‘grown up’ until I reminisced about those happy days and I was brave enough to write again.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
The idea for ‘The Last Village’ came from two sources; my truly wonderful late gran and the North East coastline.
To start off I will talk about the coastline. The following things are all included in my novel and incredibly, at one time all actually existed in less than a one-mile long stretch of coastline in South Tyneside, North East England:
· the world’s first electric lighthouse
· the natural phenomenon of a proud coastal arch
· a hidden cave bar
· England’s smallest train station
· the site of a thriving mining village
To understand the area further, I will give a little bit of a history to it. Marsden was the name of this village which was placed precariously on an open clifftop and basked in the glow of Souter Lighthouse whilst looking out onto an uninterrupted blue sea. The village was built by the Whitburn Coal Company in the 1870’s and was a thriving mining community. However, by the 1960’s it had been completely demolished. This in turn also led to the demolition of ‘The Rattler’ which was the small hardworking train which carried the fresh coal linking the town of South Shields to the mine and was also host to England’s smallest train station.
The iconic Marsden Rock, with its arch in full display, was also only a stone’s throw away from the village. This was a naturally formed arch which succumbed to marine erosion in 1996 causing the arch to collapse and splitting the rock into two stacks. By 1997, the second stack was declared unsafe for the public and it was sadly demolished. The cave bar that hides in Marsden Bay and the shadow of the great rock still remains there to this day and is now also a boutique hotel. The remaining Marsden Rock and its surrounding area now holds the status of being the largest mainland breeding colony of seabirds between the Tweed and the Tees rivers.
Today, there is sadly no trace that a village and its thriving community existed in this open grassy space except for the odd piece of brick which may be found lurking in the long marram grasses and which hide a well of memories.
I was always fascinated that this open and sparse piece of land used to house a full community and it was this intrigue which led me to writing ‘The Last Village’. I would often imagine what it must have been like to live there. Despite the harsh Northern winters with no central heating and the hardship of those who lived there, it must have been such a wonderful place to wake up to and witness the impressive view of Souter Lighthouse and the powerful North Sea.
Secondly, I must mention my wonderful gran. I think most people would agree that there is a special bond between grandparent and grandchild and if they have sadly passed on, a grandparent will always hold a special place in their hearts. My gran was North East England born and bred, coming from a coal mining family, to others she will have just been another old lady but to me, she was exceptional. I wanted to convey the love between a grandmother and granddaughter and also love between families and how this love can span generations.
This is reflected in the novel which is a moving love story and is dual timeline between the 1940’s and present day, telling the story of Lily, the Gran, who lived in the village and Anna, the Granddaughter, who discovers her Grandmother’s past. The change in the area and the attitudes towards love can clearly be seen between the two different timelines, as well as some really nostalgic references. Nevertheless, the novel also highlights how some aspects of love have not changed at all, even across three generations.
If you could have a fantasy tea with an author from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would without hesitation, have a cup of tea (English Breakfast Tea) with my absolutely favourite author Roald Dahl. I know that Roald Dahl would often draw on real life experiences in his writing and I would ask him which character he most enjoyed creating.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
The most enjoyable thing is the escapism that writing brings. I love that writing can take you to places that you can only dream of and that you can fully unleash your mind and your feelings.
What do you miss about being a kid?
I miss the freedom of imagination and innocence of being a child. How brilliant was it when you could spend an entire day making tents (masquerading also as caves, royal ships or lion’s dens) out of old blankets, only emerging ravenous for lunch or for an often-desperate toilet break, to then fully submerge yourself back into that world.
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
I would tell myself to stop worrying about some of the small stuff; it really doesn’t matter!
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
I would choose Tom and Jerry. I would want to be a mouse and be friends with Jerry, he is hilarious and so clever how he outwits Tom. I also could sit and eat cheese all day (Brie please)!
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
I watched X Men: First Class. I know this might be quite surprising as a writer of romance but I absolutely love all things Marvel. I also think this film has an outstanding cast.
A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?
Mr Pomphrey, the gentleman giraffe, has of course arrived wearing his bowler hat, pinstripe suit and monocle, to take me out for afternoon tea. As I open the door, he says “Jolly good to see you, it has been too long, I am quite simply ravenous, shall we?” He then leads me to his open top vintage British racing green jaguar car and off we go!
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
My favorite place to visit is South Tyneside. As I mentioned previously, it is an area of natural beauty with its golden sandy beaches and coastal formations, it has a cave bar serving fresh seafood overlooking a bay which houses the incomparable Marsden Rock, Souter Lighthouse (the world’s first electric lighthouse) is always welcoming, as well as a rich history and it is not far from my home. I am very very lucky.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a new novel which will also be a dual-time line historical fiction set in the North East of England around the milling and ship merchants’ industries. The genre will also be romance, focussing around the life of the best friend of the Gran of the modern-day character. The modern-day character will unearth a decades long secret…
Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.
‘The Last Village’, A Chill with a Book Premier Readers’ Award winner and 2019 American Fiction Awards Finalist, is available to purchase on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format. The cover photo depicts Souter Lighthouse today alongside the Leas, the former site of Marsden Village.
South Tyneside sounds like a wonderful place! Thank you for sharing about your writing and this amazing place! It was great to have you on MTA, Audla. All the best to you! – Camilla
The majestic Souter Lighthouse stands proudly at the edge of the cliff top surrounded by open grassy empty fields and overlooking a vast blue wilderness. Anna Charles knows nothing of the life that her grandmother once had here. It wasn’t until an unexpected engagement, that Anna discovered the past of her Gran and the truth behind an enduring love.
Seventy years earlier, Lillian Smith, had been part of the close-knit community that once thrived in the village that existed next to the lighthouse. A chance meeting with a sailor one day, would change the course of her life forever.
A moving novel set in the North East of England. The Last Village is an enduring love story which spans the 1940’s and modern day, binding the generations.
Where to buy the book:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Village-Audla-English-ebook/dp/B07JDS2SYC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1EB3CBN6EICIX&keywords=the+last+village+by+audla+english&qid=1568055985&s=gateway&sprefix=the+last+village%2Caps%2C161&sr=8-1
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Village-Audla-English-ebook/dp/B07JDS2SYC/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1XB2EVA92O3Q2&keywords=the+last+village&qid=1568056041&s=gateway&sprefix=the+last+village%2Caps%2C217&sr=8-2
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