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Alison Rattle grew up in Liverpool, and now lives in a medieval house in Somerset with her three teenage children, her partner - a carpenter - an extremely naughty Jack Russell and a ghost cat. She has co-authored a number of non-fiction titles on subjects as diverse as growing old, mad monarchs, how to boil a flamingo, the history of America and the biography of a nineteenth-century baby killer. She has worked as a fashion designer, a production controller, a painter and decorator, a barmaid, and now owns and runs a vintage tea room.
A Q&A with Alison
What inspires your writing?
The weather, my moods, a photograph, a sentence in a book, memories, emotions.
What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?
Having Sylvester McCoy (the seventh Dr. Who!) read out a poem of mine in front of an audience at the Nottingham Playhouse when I was about 10, was pretty exciting. But receiving a phone call from my agent Jo, telling me she had landed me a two-book deal with Hot Key Books, has definitely now eclipsed that experience!
How did you first become an author?
By pure luck. A writer friend asked for my help in writing a book he had been commissioned to write but didn’t have the time for. It was a book about ghosts.
What are you reading right now?
Julie Myerson Then, Sally Gardner Maggot Moon, Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture
What was your earliest career aspiration?
To be a writer or fashion designer. I did the designer bit first. It seemed a more obtainable goal somehow.
What advice would you give to budding writers?
As always - read, read, read ‘til your eyes pop out. Write about what interests you and moves you, not what you think people want to read. Be happy in your own company and don’t ever become a writer for the financial rewards!
What was your favourite childhood book?
As a very young child it was Enid Blyton’s Hollow Tree House. I read it over and over again and would have given anything to live in a secret tree house. As a teenager I loved Deborah Moggach’s Porky and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I wish my favourite place to write was at home. I would have peace and quiet and an endless supply of free tea. I just can’t do it at home though. I get too distracted by dirty floors and piles of ironing. So I take myself off to a well known high street café where I spend a fortune on crappy frappes and muffins and where the hum of voices around me create the perfect writing environment - for me anyway.
How do you read- print, digitally or both?
I totally read print. Can’t beat the sound and feel of real pages.
Who do you most admire?
My partner’s 90 year old grandmother. She is intellectually vibrant, has very strong opinions, can crack a joke, operate a computer and buys her clothes from TopShop!
Are there any books you wish you had written?
Maria McCann As Meat Loves Salt, John Irving Cider House Rules, James Bradley The Resurrectionist, Markus Zusak The Book Thief. I could go on and on.
March 2014 New Gen Book of the Month. A heartbreaking love story set at the Victorian seaside. Crippled Marnie, daughter to a ‘dipper’, a woman who helps Victorian ladies enjoy the seawater, loves the sea. It is here that she feels truly at home. Here she is free from her rough life with her Ma and her Ma’s companion and free from being jeered at for her deformity. It is down on the seashore that Marnie first meets Noah de Clevedon, son of the local landowner. Soon the two of them have a very special relationship but, as their twin stories unfold, it is clear that they want completely different things out of it. A Piece of Passion from Sarah Odedina, Managing Director, Hot Key Books The Madness is a deliciously dark tale about the unravelling of a young woman's grasp on reality. She falls for the wrong young man. Convinced all he needs is a bit of encouragement from her to understand that she is the right woman for him our heroine doesn't realise that her encouragement has become something altogether more threatening. Until it is just too late to go back. In The Madness Alison has created a really memorable story, one that unfolds at a rollicking pace and a pace that is only picked up further as the reader races towards the terrifying end. This is Alison's second book and it is a tour-de-force.
One of our Books of the Year 2013 Two girls from different social classes meet by chance and discover that their lives are unusually intertwined. Queenie grows up in squalor and poverty; her beautiful mother sells her body to feed her children. Ellen is an only child living unloved but in comfort; Ellen’s father is a successful and wealthy doctor but cold-hearted. There seems to be nothing that these two girls could have in common. But unbeknownst to them their lives are already linked and, when Queenie sets out to find herself a better way of life, she and Ellen meet again. Alison Rattle vividly brings to life both the girls and the dark practices around the removal of unwanted babies in nineteenth century London. A Piece of Passion from the Editor, Sarah Odedina The Quietness is a novel set in one of the darkest of social times - Victorian London. In the book Alison Rattle explores what it means to be a young woman with little real control over one's fate. Through the lives of two young women, one wealthy and the other poor, we realise that wealth does not offer any greater freedom of choice than poverty. Like Sarah Waters, Alison has a fine-tuned sense of the historical period and the nuances of the time, while bringing the characters to life in a way that will appeal perfectly to today's generation of teen readers. This touching, beautifully researched and vivid story will grip readers who like a gritty and compelling read with a female-centric cast of characters. It is a hugely exciting debut novel. ........................................................... In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for The Quietness a small number of teenagers were lucky enough to be invited to review this title. Here's a taster....'This book is perfect for those who like a thought-provoking, thrilling and exciting book'.... Scroll down to read more reviews...
Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing - but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe - an auspicious start, but now she's just stuck in her family's fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn't look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau's a Rocker - a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet's grey little life, and she can't believe her luck. But things don't go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet's best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can't believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He's weird, and she feels sure he's hiding something. He's got a secret, and Violet's got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all . . .
Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place. Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. A constant disappointment to all but her doting father, she longs for the day that she might break free from the stifling atmosphere of her mother's rule. After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run and grasps it with both hands. She escapes to join the Agapemonites in their Abode of Love, where ex-Reverend Henry Prince rules his isolated colony of women as their Beloved. Prince ignites a passion in Alice that she never knew existed, and she dares to think she might be free at last. But as Alice becomes more deeply drawn into the life of Prince's strange religious sect, secrets are revealed that seem to hint at a darker nature lurking behind the man's charm. Instead of freedom, is Alice in fact more trapped, alone and in danger than ever before?