My thanks to Rhoda Hardie for putting me in touch with Chick Yuill so that we could stay in together to chat about Chick’s latest book.
Staying in with Chick Yuill
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Chick. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thank you for inviting me. It’s never a hardship to stay in and share the company of a book lover.
I agree wholeheartedly with that Chick! Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought my sixth and latest novel Talking to Calippa Cumberland. And I’ve chosen it for several reasons. The most obvious is that it’s a Christmas tale and the season of goodwill will soon be upon us. So it seems an appropriate choice for an evening by the fireside towards the end of November.
It does. Tell me more.
But I’ve also chosen it because it represents a new challenge for me. It was the first time I’d written in the first person as a woman which involved me familiarising myself with aspects of life of which, as a mere man, I have no direct personal experience. Part of my ‘research’ was asking one of my daughters a series of questions to which she responded with a shake of her head, ‘Dad, I will answer this, but only once. And don’t ever ask me again! ’So it’s particularly interesting for me to be talking about the book in the company of a woman reader.
That must have been quite a challenge. What made you choose to write from the female perspective?
It wasn’t just the technical writing challenge that drew me to the central character and the topic. It was also that I wanted to try to enter into the experience of what it’s like to be a woman in what is still often ‘a man’s world’. And I think it’s my little protest against the misogyny that is still all too prevalent in our culture.
That’s fabulous. It’s such a shame we have to confront issues like misogyny and racism still.
What can we expect from an evening in with Talking to Calippa Cumberland?
Well, I hope that the first thing we’ll find is a compelling and convincing story.
The plot takes us through a series of Christmas Eves from 1976 to 2019 as Lori Bloom negotiates the ups and downs of life. Calippa Cumberland is her imaginary childhood friend who remains a presence into adulthood and becomes the imagined recipient of Lori’s reflections in the journal in which she jots her reflections and records her hopes and fears. It’s very much a story about the need for companionship.
That sounds very interesting.
But I also wanted to explore the power of imagination for both good and ill, not just as a creative force in art and literature but as being at the very heart of whatever faith we hold to, whatever values we seek to live by, and whatever future we want for ourselves and the world around us. And the whole thing is a recognition that life is about losing and finding, about being lost and being found.
Oh yes. I think we need to refocus on our individual ability to create good in the world. How has Talking to Calippa Cumberland been received so far?
Here are a couple of comments from early readers that have really encouraged me:
‘A beautifully crafted story, I got completely lost in it and found myself forgetting that the words of a female in all her growing up highs and lows were written by a man…’
‘Wow. What a book! I’ve loved all of your books but this one…… I say it again. Wow! Thank you for writing it.
Guys, can I very heartily recommend Talking to Calippa Cumberland as something that just should be among the books you have to read!’
Those are such wonderful comments Chick. You must be delighted.
Anyhow, here’s an excerpt from the book – one of Lori’s journal entries after major surgery:
Well, I’ve lost a lot in these last few months. Half of my insides, for a start – with a long scar to remind me of it every day of my life from now on. And, of course, I’ve lost any prospect of giving birth, being a mother, watching a child to whom I have given life grow up – though even without the cancer diagnosis, the combination of the (until now) ever-present endometriosis, the all-too-swiftly passing years, and my bad fortune and ill judgement in matters of love have meant that I’ve known the chances of that were diminishing rapidly. Those are real and painful losses. But, for all that, as someone whose name I can’t remember once said, much still remains. I’m still alive. I’m still a woman. I’m still Lori Bloom. There are still people who love me. And I’m still writing these letters to you!
And I think I’m learning more and more that living and losing go hand-in-hand. To live is to lose. Some of the people who’ve been important in my life have died, many of my memories have faded, half of my life is over. But, for good or ill, I am who I am because of all that’s happened and all I have lost.
I guess I’ve really known that ever since that Christmas Eve in Kendrew’s Department Store all those years ago. You’ve been a constant reminder that losing and – for want of a better word – lostness is always there. But now I’m daring to hope that alongside the sadness of losing there might be the joy of finding something of what’s been lost and even the hope of discovering things that I never knew were there.
Thanks for giving me some space to puzzle and muddle my way through all this.
Your friend, Lori
I love that piece. It has really made me want to read Talking to Calippa Cumberland.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I’ve taken the liberty of bringing a bag with four things in it without which I fear writing would be impossible for me – a bag of coffee beans, my grinder, my temperature control kettle and my wonderful aeropress coffee-maker – the simplest but most effective coffee-maker ever invented and the best £30 that anyone can ever spend.
Ah, now, I’m a tea drinker. How does coffee help you write?
Here’s my coffee-making ritual before I settle down to write.
First I grind the beans. Only fresh coffee will do.
Then I put a heaped scoop of coffee into the aeropress
Next I heat the kettle to exactly 80 degrees – the optimum temperature for making coffee, pour the water into the aeropress exactly up to the mark
After all that, it’s time to press down the plunger, allowing the coffee to run gently into my mug
And finally and blissfully and slowly I sip the coffee and savour the life-enhancing, mind-sharpening surge of caffeine
Now I can face the hard but addictive work of writing.
Let me make some for you right now!
Actually, Chick, you make yourself a coffee and as soon as I’ve given Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details about Talking to Calippa Cumberland, I’ll make myself a pot of tea and we can chat a bit more. Thanks so much for staying in with me this evening. I think I’m going to love reading Talking to Calippa Cumberland.
Talking to Calippa Cumberland
It’s half past four on Christmas Eve, 1976. Lori Bloom, aged three and three-quarters, is leaving a busy department store with her mother when the tannoy announces that a child in reception is lost and crying for her parents.
The impact on Lori is immediate. ‘Calippa Cumberland’, the mysterious girl with blonde hair and a curious name, becomes her imaginary friend and a constant presence into adulthood. For as one Christmas follows another, Lori ﬁnds herself confronting painful questions and in need of a companion in whom she can conﬁde.
But will there ever be someone Lori can completely trust?
And will Christmas Eve ever be about finding and being found, rather than losing and being lost?
Published by Instant Apostle on 22nd October 2021, Talking to Calippa Cumberland is available for purchase through the links here.
About Chick Yuill
Chick Yuill is a passionate communicator and works as a freelance broadcaster, speaker and writer. He is the author of six novels. Currently he presents Faith, Hope & Love every Friday on Premier Christian Radio. In addition, he has the dubious distinction of being the only Christian speaker to have been featured on the tenth anniversary highlights of the Jeremy Kyle Show. But that’s a story in itself!
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