It is a pleasure to welcome Jessie Cahalin to my blog today! Many in the book community know her as the creator of the fabulous Books in my Handbag blog. She is also the proud author of You Can’t Go It Alone, a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society. Based on the early reviews, it sounds like a funny and inspirational read!
I hope you enjoy learning more about Jessie’s passion for cooking and walking, her new book, and its Welsh setting.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself, your books and writing career.
I’m the proud author of You Can’t Go It Alone and creator of Books in my Handbag Blog. Life is great, and my only regret is not connecting with the bookish world earlier.
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.’
I hail from Yorkshire, North England, but as a book blogger. I love to travel the world and collect cultural gems, like a magpie. I search for happy endings, where possible, and need great coffee, food and music to give me inspiration.
When I am not writing, I adore walking, cooking and procrastinating. Walking helps me to sort out tangles in my narratives or blog posts. We live in an area where there are some impressive mountain treks and costal walks, and we also have beautiful castles on the doorstep.
I always end the day with some great food. My husband and I love to cook!
If you were packing for a long trip, which book would you take and why?
If I packed for a long trip, then I would buy a new book to accompany my adventures: preferably something to make me reflect about my cultural experiences. I assume it must be one book, and I can’t cheat by taking the Kindle with me.
A World of Difference: An Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents, by Lynda Prescott seems like a great companion. I could dip in and out of the short stories then re-read them when I had visited the places.
Engaging with people on my travels, would also enable me to have an endless supply of narratives. The stories would live in my notebook, at the bottom of my handbag. I would re-read my notes and let the characters come to life in my writing.
Where do you do your best writing?
My best writing happens in various places; ideas follow me around. I must be ready to capture ideas, in a notebook, or the sparks of creativity dissolve like snow. At times, I may have to park my car and write down ideas. I have been known to write a paragraph on the back of my shopping list while doing the shopping.
Tell me something about yourself that has nothing to do with writing?
Inspired by our travels in Portugal, we have a vine terrace in our garden. When the crop allows, we make our own wine from the grapes and drink it at Christmas and New Year. Our first bottle of wine was ready the year my father passed away, so we have named the label after him. Opening the glass of wine enables the family to celebrate his life.
What is the inspiration behind your latest novel?
The characters for my novel You Can’t Go It Alone have been knocking on my door for quite a long time. Having reached my forties, I reflected on the various stages of my life and wanted to represent this through different generations of women. I have been blessed with choices and opportunities but there have been some obstacles along the way. Appreciating the simple things in life and the support of others have guided me.
What inspired you to be a writer?
My mother inspired me to write. 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. On one occasion, we were visiting the fairground and we spent the entire time discussing the five senses while my brother and father enjoyed the dodgems. Another time on the East coast of Yorkshire, and we all described the setting on a rainy day from the caravan. I loved the describing game and rushed to write down the words. My mother has always bought me beautiful notebooks to record my ideas.
What are you passionate about, aside from writing?
I am passionate about appreciating the simple things in life and showing small acts of kindness to others. It a wonderful feeling if a small gesture makes another person feel happy. My blogging brings me so much joy. Authors and bloggers have formed a unique and supportive community where kindness is appreciated.
How important is setting to your novel?
My novel is set in Delfryn, a fictional village in South Wales, and the setting is crucial. Delfryn is Welsh for pretty hill, and I based the village on the local places I visit.
Delfryn is a hybrid of the villages of Tintern, Crickhowell and other villages in South Wales. In, You Can’t Go It Alone, I placed my characters in my ideal setting and hoped they would find joy in supporting each other. I enjoyed following my characters to the abbey, vineyard and Olive Tree café. The characters also explore real destinations such as Penarth, a Victorian seaside town, in Cardiff and the Brecon Beacons.
The sense of place inspires the characters, but it also makes Pearl feel claustrophobic. The novel also explores the secrets hidden behind the idyllic setting.
Do you recognize yourself in any of your characters?
I recognize myself in all the women. Sophie and I share the same dedication to a career and emotional struggles. Olivia reminds me of the young Jessie who lacked self- confidence but enjoyed a silent rebellion. Rosa is the loving, protective mother I would have been. I empathise with Pearl’s need to express herself and follow her dream. In my imagination, I can sing like Pearl, Rosa and Olivia. I always longed to have a haunting voice like Elkie Brooks so I have channelled the my melodies through the characters.
Do you read books by other authors when working on a first draft, or do you prefer not to?
Reading a book between my own words is a great reward. A novel will help me to escape for a little while and refresh my ideas. If I am having trouble with my writing it can be helpful to see how an author approaches it.
More about Jessie:
Jessie is a word warrior, bookish and intrepid virtual explorer. She loves to entertain with stories, and is never seen without: her camera, phone, notebook and handbag.
Connecting with authors via her Books in my Handbag Blog is a blast. She showcase authors’ books in the popular Handbag Gallery and has fun meeting authors in the virtual world. The challenge is to get out there and meet the authors face to face. She has already set up a few interviews for June and has travel adventures planned.
Her debut novel showcased on the virtual red carpet and was supported by the wonderful bookish community. One day, she would dearly love to roll out the red carpet and host a huge book launch for indie authors.
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…
Pick up your copy now on Amazon!