Plucky and headstrong Mildred Holland revelled in the eight years she and her husband, the vicar William Holland, spent travelling 1840s Europe, finding inspiration in recording beautiful artistic treasures and collecting exotic artifacts. But William’s new posting in a tiny Suffolk village is a world apart and Mildred finds a life of tea and sympathy dull and stifling in comparison. When a longed-for baby does not arrive, she sinks into despondency and despair.
What options exist for a clever, creative woman in such a cossetted environment? A sudden chance encounter fires Mildred’s creative imagination and she embarks on a herculean task that demands courage and passion. Defying her loving but exasperated husband, and mistrustful locals who suspect her of supernatural powers, Mildred rediscovers her passion and lives again through her dreams of beauty. Inspired by the true story of the real Mildred Holland and the parish church of Huntingfield in Suffolk, the novel is unique, emotive and beautifully crafted, just like the history that inspired it.
When and where do you prefer to write?
I like to wake up early and, before my brain has switched into gear or I say a word to anyone, to creep up to my writing room. It was my son’s bedroom. There are still blue tack marks where the football posters used to be.
Do you have a certain ritual?
I take a tray of black tea up to my writing room, and a particular cup from which I sip as I gradually try to capture my thoughts. I find a hot water bottle helps inspiration.
What is your favourite book?
I have just finished a second reading of Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley. It is my favourite book at the moment, perceptive and subtle. Before that, it was West by Carys Davies, quiet and wild and, for a time it was Rock Stars Stole My Life by Mark Ellen, loud and wild.
Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I am writing a screen script at present so that is enjoyably straining every creative writing sinew.
Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
None of my characters are based on people I know but all my characters draw on elements of souls I have met.
Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I do. I write down things I see, such as the way someone walks or the shape of a nose. Things I find captivating. Or arresting. I used to think that I’d remember without making these notes but I’ve learned that I don’t. I also have a book by my bedside. I can’t always decipher my scribbles in the morning.
Which genre do you not like at all?
I read all genres from time to time, except for Westerns, don’t know why. It’s fascinating to see the different perspectives writers manage to take within the restrictions of a genre. Restrictions seem to create space.
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
The cartoonist Kipper Williams. He’s my husband.
If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Iceland because of the landscape, its clever musical people and its extraordinary culture. The language would be a barrier.
Thank you, Pamela Holmes and Love Books Tours Group.
About the author
Pamela Homes – Pamela Holmes was born in Charleston, South Carolina. At the age of eight, she moved with her family to England. She studied nursing at London University as a mature student having spent three years living on a commune in Somerset where she developed a love of gardening, milking cows and laying hedges. She became a health journalist and on-screen reporter. She now works and volunteers to improve the lives of older people including those with dementia, and she sings in a rock band. The Huntingfield Paintress is her first novel. She won the Jane Austen Short Story Award in 2014 and her latest work was awarded Highly Recommended in the HISSAC competition 2015. Pamela is the mother of two boys and lives in London with her husband.