I am really happy today to be chatting with Jessie Cahalin. Blogger, friend to authors and now an author herself with her debut novel You Can’t Go It Alone.
Could you tell us about yourself?
I’m the proud author of ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ and creator of Books in my Handbag Blog. Thanks for inviting me to chat with you. My parents were almost Ten Pound Poms, and I have always wanted to visit Australia to imagine how my life could have been. I’m thrilled to be visiting a blog made in Australia.
I hail from Yorkshire in the north of England but now live in Wales. I love to travel the world and collect cultural gems. I search for happy endings, where possible; great coffee, food and music give me inspiration. I adore books, bags, writing and photography.
Having overcome my fear of self-publishing, I am now living the dream of introducing the characters who have been hassling me for decades. My debut novel, ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’, is a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society. The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope. As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’
When did you first decide to write and what got you started?
My mother inspired me to write from a very young age. When I was a child she engaged me in writing descriptions of places. We would discuss the sights and sounds when shopping, visiting the park, sitting on the bus etc. This game inspired me to observe people and places and make up stories for my younger brother. My mother was clever at encouraging me to use my daydreaming and nosy nature in a positive manner. Apparently, as a small child I would stare and stare at people for hours. I am still nosy but a little more discrete now. But, I do enjoy listening in to conversations when sitting in my favourite coffee shop.
That’s my MO as well, watching and listening to people. A bit weird if some inspirational writings didn’t come from it. 👁👁
Do you plot your stories, or do you write and see where it takes you?
I plot my story and timeline on a huge art pad. The mind map reflects the chaos of my mind. I add post-it notes of additional ideas, newspaper cuttings and any relevant images I find. When writing the story, characters make me go in different directions and develop a life of their own. For instance, a character gate crashed my novel and had to be banished completely. My banished Rochester character had escaped from my young imagination. He had a terrible impact on Olivia who was in danger of becoming a victim. One day, Olivia frowned at me and absolutely refused to appear in the scene.
‘I may be shy, but I’m feisty and know my own mind,’ explained Olivia.
Once I listened to Olivia, I had to adjust her story. Surrounding this character with music inspired her to follow her dream. I knew I would be able to contrast Olivia’s experience with Pearl’s music ambition.
Tell me about the music in your novel.
Elkie’s Brook’s haunting, ethereal voice inspired the character of Pearl in ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’. Music is also a big part of the experience in the Olive Tree Café where Olivia lives. Olivia’s parents Rosa and Matteo perform music to the guests, and she takes part in the performances. Music is in the hearts of the Rossi family and they want to share it. When sitting in a café, with a huge olive tree in the centre, I visualised the Rossis and their music.
Do you have any inspirations for you writing? Other authors / people / events?
I take inspiration from everything around me and never know when an idea will emerge. My debut novel: You Can’t Go It Alone was inspired by a photo of me, my mother and grandmother. Looking at the photo, I considered the different opportunities we had experienced in our lives and wanted to explore women’s opportunities in the novel. Listening to Pearl’s A Singer, my late father’s favourite track, jolted some ideas for a strand of the narrative. During the planning process, I placed the characters in my very own Welsh village influenced by places such as Tintern, Crickhowell and Brecon. I wanted to explore loneliness, secrets and the hidden sense of community. The setting is idyllic, but people have to work together. I love the whole concept of community and opportunities for people to get together but know community can only exist if people work to maintain it.
I haven’t yet started my second novel. Readers’ responses to my characters have inspired me to write a prequel to my novel. I will need to complete research.
What is the best part about writing, and the worst?
I adore the creative process of weaving the plots and spinning characters. Characters’ off beat behaviour make me laugh! However, I can be guilty of having too many ideas removed in the editing process. The professional editor’s initial response almost broke my heart, but I am delighted with the outcome. Constantly re-reading my work makes me weary but getting the novel noticed is exhausting. Millions of novels are released, and authors must work together to support each other’s promotions. Quite right, fully agree! 👍
Tell us about your debut novel “You Can’t Go It Alone”
Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.
Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.
The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn.
Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone. Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts…
‘Debut author Jessie Cahalin has created a lovely book world that will blends good story telling with positivity and love. This book is what is called “character-driven”. These intriguing and captivating characters are ready to share their stories with you. The characters range from birth to the end of life. You will be drawn to their problems and secrets, hopes and dreams.’
Happy Reader, USA
I see you research your family history, is there a chance of you writing a book on the subject?
I researched my family history but reached a bit of a dead end. I am impatient and wish Who Do You Think You Are? would take over the research. I investigated names from a couple of generations, but it was difficult. Being creative, I imagined their lives and made up the stories. Maybe, I will research into some of the eras and occupations for future books.
You originally hail from Yorkshire and you say that you still miss real fish and chips, have you been to the Magpie Cafe in Whitby to sample the best fish and chips I have ever had? Or do you have somewhere else in mind?
Wow. I adore Whitby and the Magpie Café. Fish and chips are so fresh that in the Magpie Café that the fish flakes away and the batter is melt in the mouth. My stomach is rumbling at the thought of this wonderful café. Whitby is fish and chip heaven, as there are many great places to eat. Although I don’t eat fish and chips often, I fancy myself as a bit of a connoisseur.
Fish and chips must be cooked in beef dripping before I will even consider eating them. In Wales, fish and chips and mainly cooked in palm oil and this is terrible for me because it impacts the taste and the quality of the batter. My absolute favourite fish and chips, of all time, were at the Fish and Chips at the 149 in Bridlington.
You can shut up any time you like now Jessie. I’m now fanging for some decent fish and chips!! 🐟
You have had a fantastic response to “Books In My Handbag Blog” for readers who don’t know can you tell us about it.
Spotting my kindle, in my latest bag, inspired the name of my blog: Books in my Handbag Blog. Initially, the purpose of my blog was to review all the books stored, on the Kindle, in my bag. Authors tweeted comments about my handbag and discussed their purchases – I become infected with handbag fever. As I am nosy, I realised it would be great to see authors’ books in their handbags. There are now over 300 handbags, but I do suffer from handbag envy. Everyone has been so positive and kind about the concept, but it is my pleasure to celebrate authors’ work. The authors are quite particular about their compositions and some do accessorise the photographs with scarves, food and even champagne.
You are very active on Twitter and Facebook, how important do you think social media is for an author?
I have made lots of brilliant author contacts via Twitter and Facebook. Interactions with people online keep me sane and feed my creativity. Supporting others has generated great opportunities for me to learn more. I organised a book cruise to celebrate the release of my debut novel. I had many offers to hop on to blogs and chat because of contacts I had made via social media. Besides gaining author support, social media helps to build the brand to promote myself as an author. I find it useful to test exactly which posts get the most engagement. I still need to find more ways of connecting with readers.
When you do, let me know.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading One Hundred Tiny Threads by Judith Barrow. This is a gritty family saga set in Lancashire during the turn of the twentieth century. I love the narrative, real characters and realism. I will be releasing a review of this book very soon.
Who are your favourite authors?
There is a very long list of authors who have inspired me, but this seems to change as I move through my life. The Brontes, Austen, George Elliot, Virginia Woolf, A.S.Byatt, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood and Carol Drinkwater all hold a special place in my creative journey.
Any fun facts about you that you would like to share?
I interviewed one of my favourite authors, Carol Drinkwater, on my blog.
Virginia Woolf’s great niece will be featuring on my blog.
Despite the name of my blog, I only possess three handbags. I need to buy another bag!
You can find Jessie’s book buy clicking on the cover image.
Find out more about Jessie on her WEBSITE and through and
Roger, I am delighted and excited to appear on your blog. I wished we’d chatted in Australia rather than the virtual world. I was so impressed with your knowledge of the Magpie Cafe. Whitby is my favourite seaside destination, as we visited regularly when I was a child. Can you get any decent fish and chips in Australia?
Hope to see you again soon on my blog!
Wonderful interview with this fantastic lady. She is so supportive and inventive.