I’m delighted to welcome Scottish-based author Gilly Stewart to the Reading and Writing blog today. Gilly lives down in beautiful Dumfriesshire and her lovely début novel, Sunshine Through the Rain is now published by Accent Press. Gilly kindly agreed to share the inspiration behind the story. But first a little about the book.
When your family need a favour, you can't refuse, can you?
Ellen is settled in Edinburgh when one day her sister begs a favour: can she come and look after her farm and three children while she has a much-deserved holiday. Ellen loves her nieces and nephews, but the animals are a bit of a worry…
After a manic yet fun weekend, her world is shattered when a freak accident kills her sister and leaves her as the children’s legal guardian. Ellen never asked for children, nor to run a farm, but now she's in charge of both. Desperately juggling her responsibilities, Ellen is driven to find a compromise between her old life and her new: one the children will accept, and that will allow her to keep something of herself as well.
Into the mix is thrown their neighbour, handsome, brooding Kit. He’s more than willing to help out on the farm, but not so willing to open up to Ellen …
Inspiration Behind the Story
What happens when you are stuck on a farm, alone with two young-ish children, trying to cope with both them and the animals, and feeling like you haven’t got a clue about either?
This was the position I was in a few years ago and it was what sparked the writing of Sunshine Through The Rain. Of course, my situation wasn’t as drastic as Ellen’s. I only felt like I was a single parent – my husband was home occasionally! And they were my own darling children. I hadn’t been landed with them due to a family tragedy, as happens to Ellen. But my own position presented me with that question writers so love: what would it feel like if …? If you were in this position, but it was worse? If it interrupted your own carefully planned life? If you had no choice but to cope with something so outwith your comfort zone?
One thing I definitely shared with Ellen was the not-knowing-much-about -animals. Believe it or not, despite owning 4 dogs and 3 cats I’m not really an animal person. And farm animals were definitely not my thing. They were big, and unpredictable, and there were lots of them and only one of me. The incident with Ellen and the horse actually happened to me more or less as I described it. It was scary and I was so worried about the horse, but I was also thinking ‘why I am being left to cope with this?’ I was watching the action in my head, making a scene in a book even as I lived through it.
My oldest son is much better with the animals than I am, and although he isn’t like Angus in any other way I did use this unexpected competence in a teenager as part of Angus’s character. I think it makes a nice contrast with the much less useful adult.
And the inspiration for Kit? Well, I’d had him in mind for a while. He is based on a footballer I’ve always had a soft spot for, one with shaggy hair and dreamy eyes but also a real warmth (I won’t name him!). He was perfect for Ellen’s new neighbour. It wouldn’t work if he was a farmer, but he needed to know a lot about animals. Bingo! Kit was a vet.
I hope people enjoy reading Sunshine Through The Rain as much as I enjoyed writing it. As with so many things we write, it’s a version of what could have been my reality. And they say write what you know – (mis)managing a farm was something I certainly knew about!
Gilly Stewart was born in Lancashire and lived in Yorkshire and Cheshire until the age of 15, when her family moved to South Africa. At 21 she moved to France, and then tried Zimbabwe before finding the perfect country: Scotland. She has had many jobs including au pair, cleaner, teacher and accountant, but her first love has always been writing. She has had four romantic novellas published under the pen-name Gillian Villiers and in March 2015 she published her first Young Adult novel Music and Lies under the pen-name Gill-Marie Stewart
Sunshine Through The Rain is her first women’s contemporary novel and is published by Accent Press. They will be bringing out her second novel, The Lost Woman, in July 2015.