Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she teaches publishing and creative writing at UEA. She is married to writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. ‘Last Letter Home’ is her latest book.
- To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
I write time-slip novels with a mystery at their heart and ‘Last Letter Home’ is my ninth. They are all standalone so can be read in any order. ‘A Place of Secrets’ had an eighteenth century historical aspect and ‘The Glass Painter’s Daughter’, a Victorian one, but otherwise I’ve concentrated on the twentieth century, especially wartime. I was originally an editor in a publishing house (HarperCollins), but when we relocated to Norfolk in 2001 I began to write and quickly became immersed. The first novel, ‘The Dream House’, was published in 2006. I’ve been published all the way through by Simon & Schuster, UK, and they’ve been great, so I’ve never even thought about changing publisher.
- Can you tell us about your new book ‘Last Letter Home’
It begins in the present day, when Briony Wood, a young historian, goes on holiday with friends to Italy and is given a cache of old letters. When she tries to find what happened to the woman who wrote them, Sarah Bailey, she is drawn back into the Second World War past. We learn that Sarah lived in India, but returned to England with her mother and sister in 1938 and took a house in Norfolk. It’s there that she meets a German refugee named Paul and helps him when things turn out badly for him. The novel is about true love in the face of suffering and separation, but it’s also about the importance of family and of trying to do the right thing at a time when the world and its values has been turned upsidedown.
- If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
Oh, that’s a good question! I would worry that an author whose work I had enjoyed might not necessarily be a comfortable fit, so I’m going to cheat a little and name some writers whose work I love, but whom I’ve also met or heard speak. Hilary Mantel (‘Wolf Hall’) would be great – she is amusing and honest and offers insight. Jojo Moyes would be wonderful. Yvvette Edwards, whose novel (‘The Mother’) is brilliant, but who’s good company, too. Liz Fenwick (‘The Returning Tide’), Natalie Meg Evans (‘The Dress Thief’), Sarah Hall (‘Madame Zero’), who’s incredibly interesting about the short story form – I love reading and writing short stories.
- What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”. This is from Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’. It makes you feel that Cassandra Mortmain, who lives a bohemian life in a crumbling castle, is a girl you want to know.
- What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
Not their first line! A good first line is often written last. Erasing cliché from your prose is important. Try to say things in a fresh way. Read other writers’ work and observe how they do things. Acquire a book such as ‘Self-editing for Fiction Writers’ by Renni Brown and Dave King, which will help you improve your style.
- And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
I’m very pleased to be teaching on a Creative Writing holiday in the Gers area of South-West France in July. It’s called ‘A Chapter Away’ and takes place in a beautiful old house with great food. I visited as a guest speaker last summer and have been invited back as a tutor for the week.