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We caught up with top-selling novelist Lesley Pearse to chat about her new novel Dead to Me, which is out now.
Dead to Me is your 24th novel, which is an impressive feat. Do you still have any unresolved writing ambitions?
Only to see a film made of one of my books. That would be the icing on the cake.
This novel features two very distinctive places; South East London and Torquay in Devon. Do these places have special significance to you?
Both places have special significance. South London because I lived there age 11 to 16, a formative period in a child/teenager’s life. Like my heroine Verity, I felt I’d been forced to live there and it was an unhappy time for me. My only escape was Manor House Library. On Saturday and school holidays I often stayed there all day. However, while I was writing the book I found myself strangely nostalgic for Blackheath and Greenwich, so I guess there were some good times there. As for Torquay, that is all happy stuff; we often went there for the day when my children were small and I loved it. I had always had the ambition to live by the sea, so I bought a holiday home first. I loved walking the dog along the prom later at night, or on the beach in winter, and I soon found I was spending more time here than in my real home near Bath. So I sold that cottage and found a permanent home on a cliff top at Babbacombe Bay. The view is outstanding; I never get bored of it. Another reason that I used both Torquay and South East London in the new book is because total contrasts are good. One of the girls in the story is sent to stay with a foster mother in Babbacombe when she gets into trouble with the law. I put myself in her shoes to look at the differences between Devon and London, slum life and middle-class comforts. It would have seemed like heaven to a girl from a poor home.
Dead to Me is set in the run-up to, and during, World War Two. Why did you decide to set the book then and did you do lots of research?
I like writing about wartime, it makes wonderful drama. Over the years I’ve done endless research on the war, so for this book I didn’t have to do as much as I usually do. However, there were a couple of very serious bombings here in Torquay that I discovered and I’ve used them, if only to show people that even sleepy seaside towns didn’t get off scot-free during the war.
Friendship is always an important theme in your books, and Verity and Ruby’s friendship is a potent one. What inspired you to write about two girls from very different social circumstances?
Again its drama. There is something very potent about the differences between rich and poor. Also how a friendship between two such people can forge far greater understanding of each other.
What next? Is the 25th novel underway and are there any sneaky previews you can give us?
It’s going to be called The Woman in the Wood, and the central character is this strange woman who lives alone in a shack in the New Forest. Why is she there? Who is she? At present even I can’t answer those questions, but watch this space.
Dead to Me by Lesley Pearse is published by Michael Joseph on 14 July price £18.99 hardback.