Phaedra Patrick is the author of the new novel The Library of Lost and Found. She also has written the novels Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. She lives in Saddleworth, UK.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Library of Lost and Found, and for your character Martha?
A: Libraries have always been a big inspiration for me, when I was growing up and now, still. As a child, I remember going to the library each Saturday and sitting down on the carpet to look at all the gorgeous books. I think I knew from an early age that I wanted to write books too, and to see my own work sitting on the shelves.
When I started to write The Library of Lost and Found, I had an image in my head of a small library perched on top of a hill, overlooking the crashing waves of the sea. I was also influenced by my childhood love of fairy stories, and the two came together nicely.
The inspiration for Martha’s character came from a number of places. My mum is always helping out her neighbours with their chores, and a friend’s house is full of bags of stuff she’s doing for other people. I used to have an aversion to saying “no” to anyone, and these elements merged and Martha Storm was born.
But, wherever the inspiration for my characters comes from, they feel like real people to me as I tell their stories.
Q: The book focuses on a female character this time, as opposed to the male protagonists in your two previous novels. Was it any different writing about Martha than about Arthur or Benedict?
A: After writing two books with men as the main characters, it was a refreshing change to write for a heroine. It’s always a challenge to place yourself in the character of someone else, I suppose it’s like acting in a way.
So, whether I’m writing about a man or a woman, the process is similar. I think about my character’s life at the moment, what outside and internal forces are impacting on them and how they might need to change. Then I help them along on their journey.
Q: A library and a bookshop or two are key to this novel. Why did you decide to focus on those settings this time?
A: Well, it’s simply that I love books, and I think people all over the world love books. To me, The Library of Lost and Found isn’t just a story, it’s a celebration of the power of words and books, and the importance of libraries in peoples’ lives.
No matter what age you are, where you come from, or where you live now, libraries provide free reading, learning, enjoyment, and bring people together. Libraries and bookshops are often the beating hearts of communities.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: Firstly, I hope that readers enjoy spending time with my characters and going on a journey with them. I hope they might like the story enough to tell their friends, family or reading group members about it. On a deeper level, the book is about finding your own voice, feeling empowered to embrace life, and to take control of your own destiny.
It’s always an honour when readers identify with, or are affected by, one of my characters or storylines. When they write a review or drop me a line to tell me so, it makes the ten months or so I spend in my garden shed writing all worthwhile.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m about to start editing my fourth book. It does feel strange when number three is just coming out and I’m sitting here completing number four. This one is about a single dad whose impromptu act of bravery inspires strangers to write to him, and how the letters help him to come to terms with a loss in his life.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Just that I’m super-grateful for readers’ continued support, for making room for my books in their busy lives. Much publicity for authors comes from word-of-mouth recommendations and every bit helps and means a great deal to me. Thank you everyone!
Also, if anyone reading this is interested in writing a novel, I’ve posted some useful friendly tips on my website.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Phaedra Patrick.