Another week, another debut author!
This week I’m thrilled to welcome debut author, Lucy Ashe to The Reading Closet with her novel, Clara & Olivia, that is due to be published 2nd February 2023 by Oneworld Publications! Available to pre-order here, the cover and blurb are below CHECK IT OUT!
Hello Lucy, and thankyou for taking the time to visit The Reading Closet! Please could you briefly introduce your debut novel.
Clara & Olivia is a historical thriller set in London in 1933. It is about identical twin sisters who rehearse for the ballet Coppélia at the recently opened Sadler’s Wells theatre. But as they rehearse, danger lurks. Two men, a pianist and a pointe shoe maker, intrude on their lives with their obsessions and desires.
My debut novel, Clara & Olivia, draws on my love of dance history and my experiences as a ballet dancer. I trained at the Royal Ballet School for eight years, first as a Junior Associate and then at White Lodge, and I have a diploma in dance teaching with the British Ballet Organisation. Following a change in career plans, I decided to go to university to read English Literature at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, while continuing to dance and perform, and I am currently teaching English at a school in North London.
I was sold at ‘twins’ and ‘obsession’! Definitely a must add to my 2023 TBR. What is, or would be Clara & Olivia’s tagline?
Black Swan meets The Red Shoes in this perfectly-poised psychological thriller.
An exquisite goose-bumping debut from a former ballerina.
Love it!! I’m really interested in what drew you to write a novel within the historical fiction genre. Did you plan out to write HisFic or did it just, happen?
It was when I was a teenager in A Level Dance Studies classes at the Royal Ballet School, taught by the archivist Anna Meadmore, that I developed a fascination for not only the stories of ballets, but also the history of their creations. Clara & Olivia is a novel emerging out of years of research and personal experience and I sometimes feel as though I have pulled together the threads of what I love most in my life to create my debut novel.
My novel re-imagines the early years of the Vic-Wells Ballet company at Sadler’s Wells theatre, and the story is immersed in ballet history featuring characters such as Ninette de Valois, Lydia Lopokova, Constant Lambert, Alicia Markova and Nicholas Sergeyev. Frederick and Dora Freed and their pointe shoe workshop play a key role, as does the history of Sadler’s Wells theatre itself. I have worn hundreds of pairs of Freed of London pointe shoes, and I spoke with Sophie Simpson, the senior manager at the pointe shoe manufacturer, when I was researching for my novel. It was lovely to hear that she remembered fitting me for first pair of pointe shoes when I was eleven years old at the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park.
One major inspiration for me was my twin sister. We spent the first part of our lives doing everything together: first day of school, first ballet class, first piano lesson. We were a unit, referred to simply as the twins, and we had a very special connection. That connection remains even though our lives are different now. And so, in my novel, I have been inspired by the connectedness and the bond of twins, Olivia and Clara staying so close despite their lives starting to take them in different directions.
That is fascinating. I have always thought, if I were to write a novel it would either be super gorey or spicy! Do you have a favourite quote from Clara & Olivia? If so, what is it?
‘He imagines dancing with her, the two of them arm in arm under the stars. Silent, of course, but that is no matter. It is better that way. She is a dancing doll, his Coppélia, created at last.’
Oooh, im super intrigued! So, next question, if anything, what would you like readers to take away from your novel?
I hope readers will enjoy becoming immersed in the world of ballet, both its glitter and its pain. Clara & Olivia is a novel about obsession and love, about the lengths people will go to be seen.
I love that, and I love that readers xould become immersed in a world that they may previously, not have known much about. What has been the highlight, so far, of being a debut author?
Two things. Firstly, every time early readers (such supportive authors and book bloggers) send me wonderfully kind and enthusiastic messages about Clara & Olivia, I can’t stop smiling. Secondly, making connections with other debut writers and sharing together our stories, our excitement, all these exciting steps to becoming published authors.
I bet you can’t stop smiling! That is so lovely! What are you most looking forward to in terms of your debut journey?
I am excited about meeting readers, talking about my novel, my characters, the historical research that went into the book. Writing the Historical Note at the end of the novel was so much fun, and I hope Clara & Olivia will spark new conversations about dance history, perhaps even encourage new audiences to seek out dance for themselves.
That sounds like there is so much to be excited about, I can’t wait to follow your debut journey! Are there any authors who inspire you?
So many! I can narrow it down a little if I think about the novels that probably inspired Clara & Olivia, all for different reasons: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters; The Foundling by Stacey Halls; Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier; The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry; The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Such great authors, some are on my TBR list!! Okay, let’s have a little extra fun, in the form of our *FLASH FIVE* questions, ready?
Tea or coffee? Coffee (Same!)
Sweet or savoury? Sweet (Are we twins?!)
Morning worm or night owl? Morning bird (Take that as a nope!)
Standalone or book series? Standalone
Are you a plotter or a panster? Plotter
Love those, Lucy! Thanks again for taking the time out to be a part of this debut author series, you’re a star, and we wish you the best of luck on your debut novel journey!