In today’s blog post, Phaedra Patrick reveals all about writing her uplifting and feel-good new novel, The Book Share.
Each time I’m about to start writing a new book I worry if I’ll be able to conjure up a good idea. From my initial feelings of sheer panic, not knowing if and when inspiration will strike, I was relieved and pleased when I thought of the premise for my fifth novel, The Book Share.
The idea started with a walk around Manchester city centre one day. The city is currently undergoing a surge of regeneration and high-rise buildings are popping up everywhere. Kickstarting the skyscraper trend back in 2006 was Beetham Tower, a forty-seven storied building full of apartments, bars and hotel rooms. As I stood on the pavement looking up and shielding my eyes against the sun, I wondered what it would be like to live in the luxury of the penthouse suite and if you’d feel cut off from other people. I’d also recently read an article about a famous author who’d bought and then sold Johnny Depp’s yacht, and it seemed very far removed from everyday life. From these seedlings of inspiration my idea for The Book Share grew.
I’m like a magpie who collects ideas and meshes them together to create something familiar yet different, and my other inspirations included The Devil Wears Prada, Nancy Drew, Jack Reacher, the films I Feel Pretty and Romancing the Stone, my own experiences of writing, the city of Dubrovnik, and my teenage son.
I wrote a few lines summarising the story for my literary agent to share with my US and UK editors. They both loved the idea and, after I’d produced a longer synopsis, I got their approval to write the novel.
The Book Share introduces us to Essie Starling, a mega-bestselling author of nineteen novels, who hasn’t been seen in public for ten years. She lives on the thirty-second floor of a glamorous apartment block and has a well-earned reputation for being difficult. Her only day-to-day connection with the outside world is via her book-loving cleaner, Liv Green.
Liv is Essie’s biggest fan and knows her books and characters inside out. She’s a married mum of two teenage boys and is struggling to make ends meet. Although Liv takes huge pride in her cleaning work, her skill and dedication to the job aren’t always appreciated by her clients. However, Essie treats her with respect whilst keeping her at arm’s length.
When Essie dies suddenly she leaves Liv an astonishing last wish, to complete her final novel. Liv has to step away from the fictitious worlds in her head and into Essie’s shoes. As she begins to write, she uncovers a surprising connection between the two women that will change Liv’s life forever.
Essie’s and Liv’s characters were both inspired by my own experiences. Just like Liv, I grew up in a small terraced house and once worked as a waitress (rather than a cleaner) whilst wishing I could be a writer one day. Unlike Liv, I didn’t have a mysterious bestselling author encouraging me to go for my goal! Essie finds writing to be a lonely profession and I certainly understand how she feels. I’ve now been a full-time author for six years and still miss the office gossip around the water cooler.
Many of us daydream about having a different career or even being a celebrity, so it was interesting to explore what happens when dreams come true and if they live up to reality. In delivering Essie’s last wish, Liv gradually discovers more about herself as a person and what she really wants from life.
A key message from the book is to embrace what you have and what’s important to you. Ultimately, The Book Share celebrates reading and the power of books to transform our lives. Having said that, I still think I’m happier living in my terraced house than I would be in a luxurious penthouse suite. And if I ever did reach the same heady bestseller heights as Essie Starling, I definitely wouldn’t buy anyone’s yacht.
Phaedra Patrick’s new novel, The Book Share, is out now – get your copy here.