Author Pauline Wiles recently published her second novel, ‘Secrets in the Sky’, a prequel to ‘Saving Saffron Sweeting’. It takes place a couple of years before the events in Pauline’s first book.
The protagonist of ‘Secrets in the Sky’, Sophie, has a secret or two. When Sophie’s Great Aunt Wol dies it seems like there are so many changes in her life that these secrets are bound to be exposed. Sophie has to make peace with her past, confront her fears, juggle the attentions of an old flame and a potential new suitor, all whilst trying to keep her secrets under wraps. The fast-paced story keeps you totally engaged and I found myself rooting for the well meaning Sophie from the very beginning.
Both the story and the characters are developed beautifully, making this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Pauline Wiles is a Brit based in the US and her deep understanding of both the British and American ways of life really inform her writing. When I was in California recently, I met up with Pauline in Palo Alto for lunch. Of course, we talked about her new book. (My questions are in bold italics, Pauline’s answers are in regular text.)
What made you decide to write a prequel to Saving Saffron Sweeting as opposed to a sequel? Did you already have the characters of Sophie and Kit in mind when you wrote Saving Saffron Sweeting?
I wanted to do a prequel because the village was already undergoing change when Grace arrived and I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the back story there. It turned out I couldn’t fit quite as much in as I originally thought, but I still had fun with a few bits and pieces, like Mungo being born and the bank struggling. No, I didn’t have Sophie and Kit in mind when I wrote Saving Saffron Sweeting. In fact, some readers asked for a direct sequel featuring Grace, but I didn’t want to do an immediate follow-on: that would have involved throwing more drama at her and I thought she deserved to be left in peace for a little while. But she will appear in future books.
My favourite character in Secrets in the Sky is the protagonist, Sophie, closely followed by her friend Bella. I love the fact that Sophie is so incredibly loyal and has such strength of character. Is there a character in the book that you most enjoyed developing?
I had fun with Sophie because she hasn’t got her life all figured out, and she’s a bit of a rebel – arriving late for her aunt’s funeral and zipping around Cambridge on her bike, for example. Kit, on the other hand, seems to have life totally under control… except of course she hasn’t. But I confess Amelia is one of my favourite characters and I predict we’ll be seeing more of her. Any time I can get Amelia and Violet together in a scene for a verbal power-struggle, I enjoy that.
I like that the majority of the female characters in your books are very strong, independent and give a good example to other women about the things we can achieve. I’m thinking particularly of Amelia Hargraves in Saving Saffron Sweeting as well as the development of Sophie’s character in Secrets in the Sky. This is something that doesn’t always happen in books by other authors in the genre and I’m wondering if this is something you set out to do or if you just found that the characters evolved in that way?
In general, they just evolved that way and of course it’s more fun to write about a strong character than someone who doesn’t take charge. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of Sophie’s behaviour was baffling to readers, but she finds her own kind of courage in the end. But Sophie’s direction at the very end of the book was inspired by some real-life experience; I decided pretty early on she would reach for the stars, so to speak!
What’s your favourite thing about living in the US and what do you miss most from living in England?
In this corner of California there’s an incredible can-do attitude and I’m lucky that my day job (at Stanford University) is permeated by the mindset of changing the world for the better. Since moving here, I’ve run a marathon and written and published two novels. I’m just not sure I would have considered those goals while living in England. What I miss, of course, begins with my family, but includes quirky things like a trip to a National Trust house on a Sunday, the BBC, bonfire night and John Lewis.
As you know, I grew up in Canada but have lived in England for over twenty years now. However there are still foods I miss from Canada and I’m always on the lookout for importers where I can source them. What is the food item you miss most from England?
The list of foods is long! For most things, I’ve either found substitutes, a local specialty supplier, or have even embraced the necessity of baking myself – custard tarts fall into that last category. The notable exception is bacon. There’s nothing like a bacon sarnie and sadly, nothing here quite measures up.
I love your books and am always looking forward to the next one. Do you have your next book planned and if so, will it take place in Saffron Sweeting?
It will absolutely take place in Saffron Sweeting and I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing Bella in the starring role. I’ve a bit more work to do to nail down the precise challenges she’ll face, but there will be plenty of baking, possibly a minor scandal and definitely the return of some familiar Sweeting faces.
It was wonderful to catch up with Pauline and I was excited to hear that her next book may involve one of my favourite characters, Bella. Pauline’s fabulous writing voice, sense of humour and ability to develop characters her readers really engage with makes both ‘Saving Saffron Sweeting’ and ‘Secrets in the Sky’ books you will thoroughly enjoy.
‘Secrets in the Sky’ is available from
British by birth, Pauline Wiles is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to occasional yearnings for afternoon tea and historic homes. Pauline’s writing has been published by House of Fifty, Open Exchange and Alfie Dog Fiction. Her debut novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, reached the quarter final of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and was a number one Kindle best seller. When not writing, she can be found getting the steps wrong in a Zumba class or calculating how many miles she has to run to justify an extra piece of cake. You can find her at PaulineWiles.com.
You may also enjoy Pauline Wiles’ Blog Tour – Saving Saffron Sweeting