Way back in 2015 when I’d first begun blogging and my posts were pretty poorly designed (sorry Alison), I had the privilege of interviewing Alison Layland all about her novel Someone Else’s Conflict. You can read that interview and my review of Someone Else’s Conflict here.
Today, in what I hope will be a much more visually appealing post, I’m delighted to be staying in with Alison to hear about another of her books.
Staying in with Alison Layland
Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Alison. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me after the awful looking post I gave you before!
My pleasure; it’s lovely to be back here – you’ve supported me since the beginning of my journey as a published author. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than a cosy evening in, talking about books and stories in such lovely company!
You’re most welcome Alison. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along my second novel, Riverflow – because it’s my latest and because it plays out against a background of environmental issues, which are incredibly important to me.
And to me Alison. I’m delighted to have a copy of Riverflow on my TBR awaiting reading. What can we expect from an evening in with Riverflow?
I was thrilled when Waterstones picked Riverflow as their Welsh book of the month in August 2019, with the description: “The devastating effects of climate change are brought terrifyingly close to home in a gripping psychological novel exploring family, community and loss.”
Gosh. Congratulations and tell me more.
Those family secrets, and the mystery revealed as the plot progresses, mean I won’t want to give away too much about the content. However, it unfolds against a background of rural life, including my central characters’ off-grid smallholding, and environmental protest, so there will still be plenty to talk about, from the flood-prone local riverside pub that inspired the location, through to my own growing involvement in environmental activism. This began with a visit to the Preston New Road anti-fracking protests, both to lend my support and as a bit of hands-on research for the novel.
Now I am intrigued. I can’t wait to read Riverflow and see what happens!
What else have you brought along and why?
As well as a nice bottle of wine, I’ve brought a couple of my home-made cordials – rosehip and elderberry – for you to try.
I’m not so good with wine, but I love the sound of those cordials. Rosehip takes me back to my childhood!
Over the last couple of years I’ve really got into foraging and getting food and drink from plants many of us know as weeds, thanks to our lovely local forest school, Woodland Classroom, who have expanded to run bushcraft, wild food and foraging days for adults. Who knows, if it’s a mild night, maybe we can buck the “staying in” trend and go outside for a while to enjoy a campfire (I’ll bring our portable firepit if necessary!) – just the kind of evening my central characters, Bede and Elin, would enjoy.
That would suit me perfectly. I’d much rather be outside than in if I can!
And if you fancy it, we could round off the evening with a wee dram of Riverflow whisky – not made especially for the book, I’m afraid, but I was delighted to discover it, nevertheless!
That’s brilliant. What a happy coincidence!
You’ll notice I’m wearing an Extinction Rebellion badge.
I wondered about that. Why Extinction Rebellion?
Despite my central character Bede’s growing disillusionment with the effectiveness of protest, as I wrote about past and present environmental campaigns in Riverflow, which are fictional but loosely based on real events, it increasingly made me want to get more directly involved myself.
As Extinction Rebellion emerged in late 2018, I joined my lovely local group and have never looked back. Like the activist community portrayed in the novel, XR groups are warm, friendly communities – far from the antisocial extremists they are sometimes portrayed to be. Here in Oswestry & Borders, as well as protest we do a lot of practical work for the community, such as repair cafes and tree planting.
I do have some entertaining stories from the spring and autumn actions in London as well, though!
I bet! That takes me back to my university days when I was in environmental groups.
I’ve also brought some photos of various places I stayed while writing the novel. My writing process includes occasionally going away for a few days at a time to immerse myself in the world of my book. I was very lucky to be awarded a fellowship at the beautiful Hawthornden Castle in Scotland, which involved a whole month’s writing retreat together with five other authors and poets in the wonderful setting of the castle and its surrounding woodland; I wrote a substantial part of the first draft of Riverflow there. However, that was an exception; my writing retreats are usually a bit more down-to-earth. As well as house-sitting for friends, a couple of my AirBnB stays have included a permaculture farm, and a gypsy caravan on an offgrid smallholding, which my daughter and I later revisited when looking for settings for the book trailer video she made for Riverflow. I think she captured the atmosphere brilliantly, and I’m very proud of her and her film-making skills!
I loved that trailer video. It’s hugely atmospheric and made me want to read Riverflow even more. What a talented daughter you have.
Alison, it’s been lovely hearing all about Riverflow and I am very much looking forward to reading it. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about it. You pour us a glass of something and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag Readers the information they need about Riverflow.
Deep water. Dark secrets. Dangerous neighbours.
After a beloved family member is drowned in a devastating flood, Bede and Elin Sherwell want nothing more than to be left in peace to pursue their off-grid life. But when the very real prospect of fracking hits their village, they are drawn in to the frontline protests. During a spring of relentless rain, a series of mysterious threats and suspicious accidents put friendships on the line and the Sherwells’ marriage under unbearable tension. Is there a connection with their uncle’s death? As the river rises under torrential rain, pressure mounts, Bede’s sense of self begins to crumble and Elin is no longer sure who to believe or what to believe in.
Published by Honno, Riverflow is available for purchase in all the usual places, including directly from the publisher here.
About Alison Layland
Alison Layland is a writer and translator who has told herself stories for as long as she can remember. She first started writing them down for others to share when she moved to Wales in 1997 and a Welsh language course led the way to creative writing classes. She won the short story competition at the National Eisteddfod in 2002.
She studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge University, and after a brief spell as a taxi driver worked for several years as a chartered surveyor before returning to her first love – language. She translates from German, French and Welsh into English, and her published translations include a number of award-winning and best-selling novels. She also writes fiction, published by Honno Press.
Someone Else’s Conflict, her debut novel, was a Debut of the Month for January 2015 on the Lovereading website. Her second novel, eco-themed psychological thriller Riverflow, was chosen as Welsh book of the month for August 2019 by Waterstones.