One of our recent book club titles is Precious Things by the talented Kelly Doust, who we are lucky enough to have over today to talk to us a little about her writing and her love of books.
Hi Kelly, Welcome to Beauty and Lace. Thanks for talking to us.
Thank you for interviewing me on your online magazine – I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the book!
You have published 5 non-fiction books, what inspired the shift to fiction?
I’ve always dreamed of writing fiction but hadn’t really found my subject before Precious Things. When I came up with the idea I was smack bang in the middle of writing about craft and fashion and hosting workshops, but the idea caught me by the scruff of the neck and wouldn’t let go.
When did you catch the writing bug?
As a kid I was always writing bits and pieces… mostly terrible poems about my dog or tortured love letters, but when I got older I started writing freelance articles for magazines and always took on writing gigs in my spare time. I studied English Lit at Uni because I couldn’t think what else I wanted to do with my life apart from read, and when I graduated I started working in the publishing industry just so I could be close to my first and best love: books.
Where did the story inspiration for Precious Things come from?
One day I held a stall at a flea market with a friend to get rid of some of our old clothes and accessories, and we were having so much fun watching our things walk off with new owners, wondering what adventures they might have. It got me thinking about the lives all my own vintage pieces might have led before they came into my possession. That afternoon I posted a throwaway line on my blog saying ‘One day I’ll write a book about a cheeky little frock who gets about and lives in more cities than I ever will, won’t that be fun?’ Not long after, a publisher friend got in touch and asked me if I was really serious, because she thought it would be a good theme for a novel.
Debut novel Precious Things has just released, what can you tell us about it?
Precious Things is about love, desire and fashion. It’s about working out what the precious things in life are and making sure you realise just how lucky you are. But firstly it’s about Maggie, an auctioneer living in modern-day London who finds a beautiful antique collar in a dusty job lot and decides to take it home to resuscitate it. Maggie wonders about the other women who might have owned it before her, and the reader’s then taken on a journey to find out about those who created it, loved it, wore it and lost it along the way.
Did you plot or let the story guide you?
A bit of both, but mostly I just let the story guide me and tended to write about things that were influencing or fascinating me at the time, such as the life of Henrietta Moraes, Francis Bacon’s muse, who became the inspiration for one of my characters set in 1950s Italy. Another favourite story is that of Lexi, a 1920s trapeze artist who’s a bit of an homage to the love interest in Wim Wenders’ beautiful film, Wings of Desire.
You have quite a love of vintage clothing, did any of your favourite pieces make it into the story?
Yes, lots! I have a real fondness for old Japanese silk kimonos and I think these make a few appearances throughout the book. There’s also the jewellery Maggie wears, which is based on mine, and I have a number of collars that are similar to the one described in Precious Things.
Have you ever tried to track the history of a piece you have owned?
It’s quite difficult, but that’s one of the reasons I like asking questions about the provenance of a vintage or antique piece before I buy it. I once owned a 60s fringed leather miniskirt that had belonged to a famous actress, and it always sparked my imagination to think about the parties it might have attended or secrets it had witnessed.
Are there any writers you think have influenced/inspired your writing?
Oh so many! Joanne Harris is a favourite author, as are Barbara Trapido, Kate Morton and Liz Gilbert. If you visit the link here, there’s a list of my favourite titles and authors, which is also printed at the back of Precious Things with some helpful Reading Group notes.
Are you working on a new novel you can tell us about?
Yes I am. It’s due with my publisher shortly but I still have a way to go. It’s about a crumbling old manor in the English countryside and the poverty-stricken family who owns it. Similar to Precious Things, there are chapters set in the past where the mystery of what happened to the family’s fortunes is revealed, and a modern-day heroine who sets out to explore the legacy of the family’s decline.
What is your most anticipated read of 2016?
The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch, which should be out in a few months. I’m absolutely addicted to his Rivers of London series. I binge-read the first five books in a month, they’re that much fun! I’m also really looking forward to reading Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things.
Tell us please about your favourite part of being a writer.
The thrill of being lost in a story and feeling pulled along almost without any effort… Those are the best days!
Thanks for your time Kelly.