So a big hello to Jan Birley, author of the brilliant ‘The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett,’ (see here for review). First off, can you tell me a little bit about it in your own words?
Rosy’s story could have been told in many ways. The tale of a woman finding herself in a troubled world, she neither asked for or deserved, and how she fights her way back to a new life, can come in countless different shapes and sizes. Rather like women. Rosy is strong and feisty and has no idea of what she is capable of until challenged. That doesn’t mean she always gets it right, far from it. She is weak when it comes to dealing with one of her sons and overcompensates, but she feels guilty – quite unjustifiably – for her boy being so unhappy. She loves him and excuses him when she shouldn’t. I’ve certainly been there! Inheriting the alpacas is certainly one of her challenges but they are dear creatures with heavenly faces and I think she finds them an emollient. I like Rosy, I like the fact she isn’t afraid to speak her mind and sometimes doesn’t behave in the way she should. Like me – like us all I suspect. Her story is largely based in the pretend village of Kirmington Abbas in Dorset and although my books will be very different, they will all have a thread of the village running through them, however small. One day, I shall write a book about the village and all the main protagonists will re-appear. Then we can find out how Rosy really got on!
Sitting down to write this, did you have the whole story planned out or did your characters take the reins and surprise you? And added to this, did you know at the start which characters you warmed to and which you didn’t?
I always have my story planned out at the outset. I spend considerable time trying to think through the plot. I try hard not to have the main character do something that is annoying. Making mistakes is fine but I know when I read a book, and halfway through, the main character decides she won’t tell the father she is pregnant or something, when it is obvious she must, puts me off reading the rest. However, this perfectly planned plot then goes pear shaped when I start to write. As you say – the characters take the reins and canter off into the distance with me ineffectually and feebly trying to pull back. To start off with I liked all of the characters, except for one obviously dodgy one (no spoilers) but as the book developed I became increasingly irritated by one of the men who wanted to figure more in Rosy’s life. Luckily, she thought so too.
Was the move based on personal experience and what did you think of Rosy’s sons, Archie and James’ reactions to the move??
The move was based on personal experience, yes. We moved from London to Dorset three years ago; although my circumstances didn’t involve alpacas or errant husbands! James was always going to find the move hard and the one person he could lash out at was his mother – which he certainly did. Archie behaved how Rosy knew he would, mature beyond his years, he was a rock although Rosy knew only too well she shouldn’t be thinking of a young teenage boy as such.
In general, the premise of the book, and how Rosy picked herself up, was brilliant! Can I ask how you had the idea for Rosy’s way of obtaining an income and did it take a lot of research?
I’m never too sure where the idea of alpacas came from – but I’m happy it did from somewhere! I spent time on an alpaca farm not too far from London learning about them and their ways. If I could, I would love to have a couple of these lovely creatures of my own but our garden in Dorset is too small and although it would be perfectly possible at our home in Italy, we are not there for long enough for it to be feasible. As far as Rosy coming up with the idea of making money I know that many make alpaca socks, scarves and hats but I wanted something different and when I found out that material could be made from alpaca wool, it seemed the answer to her problems.
I love that it came from personal experience, actually, I was really hoping you’d say that it was and I hope someday I’ll get to see one, they sound like beautiful animals in looks and personality. Now finally, did you know the ending of the story to start with or did it surprise you? The ending didn’t surprise me but the strength of Rosy’s feelings did. I think they even surprised her. Up to this point she hadn’t been entirely honest with herself and the final events made her wake up and confront her emotions.
Thanks so much for being here with me today, Jan, and again, loved the book, congratulations:) And thanks again to Aimee from Hello Chick Lit for introducing me to Rosy and Jan!
Thank you for the interview and your help. I am so happy you enjoyed reading about Rosy.
About the author