Today I’m delighted to feature author Lottie Cardew. Lottie was born during the Great Lockdown of early 2021, and writes uplifting, heartstring-tugging romcoms. Her first novel A Christmas Wish on a Carousel will be available in eBook format from 4th October and is available to pre-order.
Lottie lives in North Wales, subdues the other members of Novelistas Ink if they misbehave, and is an advocate for diversity in fiction. Her home is currently overrun by husband, not-very-small children, and a ball of fluff masquerading as a Pomeranian, so Lottie frequently takes refuge at her pop-up desk in her bedroom.
Over to Lottie:
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Ooh, tricky. Just five…? (Everyone says that, don’t they?)
Well, to start with, The Sound of Music, because I once ran around a Scottish hillside singing it at the top of my lungs. I was eight years old and utterly obsessed. It was also the first song I performed in an actual theatre with an actual audience. As a child I wanted to be an actress as well as a writer. No prizes for guessing the dream that carried through into adulthood.
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith. This would have been the first dance played at my wedding, but the big day turned into a tiny one when I panicked about the preparations getting out of hand. I wanted to elope, but that would have broken too many hearts, so it turned into a small wedding in a large church with only eight people including my husband and me. We still consider this ‘our song’ though, even if we didn’t get to dance to it at a lavish reception.
Charlie Boy – The Wastecoats. Not a song that anyone reading this will probably know. The Wastecoats was my husband’s band with some mates of his years ago, and he wrote this song for the christening of our first son. There were some tongue in cheek lines, something about a kebab. It was very personal. Not intended for general consumption.
Shake it Off – Taylor Swift. Apart from being the first song my daughter danced a short solo to on stage, the lyrics hold interesting life advice. I do need to shake things off more often, not listen to the naysayers or even to the sniping voice in my head. Out in the big wide world the haters are going to hate regardless of what I do, listening to them can only hold me back.
I Have a Dream – Abba. The song I’d like played at my funeral. I’ll be perched on the coffin, clicking my ethereal fingers and tapping my ghostly feet. But the thing is, I do believe in angels and I try very hard to see the good in life, wherever I can; or at least, to write about the light as well as the dark. I want my fiction to transport my readers to somewhere lovely even if bad things might realistically happen there. Happy endings are guaranteed for my main characters, but they won’t come easily. Oh, and I do see the wonder in fairy tales – I’m always alluding to them in my books. So a perfect last song for me really.
What 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
In no particular order, because it would be hard to rank them and they would vary in importance anyway from hour to hour, and also not counting my dog (I’m classifying her as family)…
My phone. Or another way of putting it: my second brain. Aside from the calendar and various reminders pinging merrily throughout the day, the Notes app is invaluable. I have a ‘Writing’ folder where I file individual thoughts for each of my books. I can add web pages for research along with the odd photo, and when I want to view it all on a larger screen I can look at it on my iPad. Ah, the bliss of technology – when it’s not malfunctioning.
A laptop. Something small and light. My thoughts are so fast, I can’t keep up with a pen and paper. I taught myself to touch-type years ago and it was one of the most valuable things I did as a writer. Everything that’s in my head seems to magically appear on the screen, and I feel connected to it in a way I’ve never felt with pen and paper. It’s strange, because I know for some writers it’s the total opposite, which just highlights there’s no right or wrong way, just your way.
Lip balm. Preferably a tin of it, so it has more than one use. It’s a sensory thing for me, not a luxury! I can’t concentrate on anything if my lips are dry and tingling. It sounds petty, but there’s an excuse for my sensitivity, and if you read on you’ll find out.
Tea/coffee. In my pretty thermal mug/teapot. I don’t like my hot beverages to end up lukewarm – surely they’re called hot for a reason – but I do like a steady stream of either tea or coffee when I’m working; they help keep me focused. Also, I usually skip breakfast without a second thought, but that first cuppa of the morning (preferably while still in my PJs, catching up with emails or social media) anchors me to the day ahead.
Zoom. That thing we’ve had to get used to over the past year-and-a-bit. And I know some people are completely Zoomed-out, but it’s been a lifeline for many of us and I can’t see myself giving it up. It’s opened the world in ways that were closed to disabled people previously, and although I’m not housebound I can imagine how it might be a gamechanger for those who are. As a society, we hadn’t fully utilized video-calling before, but we’ve realised its potential now. I’ve kept in touch with friends I rarely got to see prior to the pandemic. And that’s just the social aspect; it’s been indispensable for work too.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Easily. I can think of somuch I’d like to say to the girl I used to be…
You’re autistic, for a start. Not weird or broken. There’s a reason the world looks, sounds, feels “otherwise” from the way people generally seem to experience it. And it’s increasingly likely you have ADHD, too, although there’s a theory that neurodivergency is one big spectrum. This is why your phone works on some level as another brain. Oh, yes, that’s another thing – one day we’ll all own phones that won’t resemble bricks.
You’re impatient to connect with someone on a romantic level. You believe in soul mates and The One. Mr Right and true love. Because you write about that stuff every day. Be patient, though. You’ll start to think it may never happen, but one day you’ll be sitting across from a virtual-ish stranger (he’s your cousin’s friend) and he’ll offer to share the bottle of wine you know you won’t finish alone, which will work out cheaper than by the glass, and he’ll tell a lame joke, and give you a look you can’t decipher because, hey, you’re autistic and don’t know it yet, and in those moments your life will pivot. A new chapter, which you’re both still having fun writing to this day.
Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. You’ve wanted to be a mum since forever, but when it happens, you’ll fall apart. It’s called post-natal depression. You’re a perfectionist and too hard on yourself. Let go of the stigma and the shame. Don’t let anyone make you feel lesser; your brain will never work like theirs. You’ll never be able to do the school run daily, or juggle life like other mums – you’ll be traumatised from the times you attempt it – but luckily for you, you’ll have help.
Your writing dream will come true in your late twenties. But (big, big “but”) being published isn’t the end goal, although you’ll only realise that once you achieve it. When you’re starting out you won’t understand. However you choose to share your stories is fine, you’ll find your readers. And eventually you’ll want more flexibility, freedom and creative control. Like a lot of neurodivergent people there’s a spark of entrepreneurship in you, so you’ll have to wear more hats, but you’ll manage and your family will back you all the way.
In your mid-forties, you’ll finally get the canine fur baby you’ve always wanted, so be patient about that too. You’ll adopt her from a rescue centre, and she won’t be a puppy, she’s loved other humans before, but she’ll attach herself to you from the first day as if she senses you’ve always been waiting for her. You’ll also be astonished at how grown men will flee from a barky, narky creature that weighs less than four kilos.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you
As my alter ego, Valerie-Anne Baglietto, I won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Award (now known as the Joan Hessayon Award.) Back then, it was handed out at the Savoy. Whenever I’m suffering from imposter syndrome, I look back on that glitzy, dazzling day and lift my chin a little higher.
I’m a defiant bagaholic. I hunt them down, obsess, covet, or impulse buy. They’re a special interest, a weakness, a flaw. I have too many bags to know what to do with them considering I don’t leave the house much. One day I’ll write a story about it, but in the meantime I’m too busy trying to work out how to store them all.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I ditched the hair dye. I’m dark-haired, so roots were always an issue, but I hated the faff and the chemical stench. There’s a big movement of ‘silver sisters’ empowering one another on social media. When the pandemic first hit, my hair was half and half, but suddenly there were even more people around with grey roots. It’s all grown out now, the awkward transition has passed, and I love the mix of silver and black. Not to mention the money I’ve saved!
When I was in my twenties and late for a train, I could have killed or maimed Derek Jacobi when I nearly sent him flying down the steps of Liverpool Street Station. The look he gave me as he adjusted his bow tie… Classic. But just think – In the Night Garden (my daughter’s favourite as a toddler) or Last Tango in Halifax might never have graced our TV screens. Or at least, they wouldn’t have been the same without him.
As Valerie-Anne, I ought to be in contention for most bizarre romcom cover ever. It was a Scandinavian translation of my first book, the UK version had a pink cover and a girl trying to grab a balloon, but I’ve long since stopped trying to work out the imagery in this version:
Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve.
Increase disability representation in fiction. Not “inspiration porn”, where the disabled characters are only there to motivate the able-bodied or neurotypicals, and lack a personality or story arc in their own right. I’m a member of the Society of Authors’ ADCI group (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) and, thanks to this group and guest editor Claire Wade, I recently contributed to the Disability issue of The Bookseller, interviewing Holly Smale about her experience as an autistic writer. My books going forward, as Lottie, will feature neurodivergent characters who might hopefully challenge mainstream pre-conceptions.
I’d like to overhaul the education system, although I live in Wales and their curriculum is already changing. I just think the way it’s set up spells failure for too many. I’ve seen it from vastly differing angles with my three children, and to me these formative years should be about boosting self-esteem and instilling a love of learning that carries on through adulthood. If you fit the present system, you might emerge unscathed. But if you don’t…
Okay, so that last wish is rather dramatic, and definitely not something I could achieve singlehandedly, but I do want to be more involved with organisations that might effect change and try to address the mental health epidemic, particularly when it comes to neurodivergency. There are too many square pegs in this world being squashed into round holes.
Those first three points are heavy, aren’t they? And there’s a lot of overlap. So maybe I should end this post on a lighter note. I’d like to see my children happily following their own winding paths in life, wherever those paths may lead. But ultimately, I want to keep on making fun memories with them along the way, because there’s a lot of laughter when we sit around reminiscing, and long may that continue.
Last but not least, I’d like Henry Cavill to star in a movie adaptation of one of my books. Which is a perfectly achievable dream, IMO. Although, naming no names, there seem to be loads of other authors out there vying for his attention…
Many thanks for joining me today Lottie especially when you brought with you The Sound of Music and Abba – two of my favourites. Also guilty of spinning round and belting out the former as a child! I’m delighted to know you finally got your fur baby (and yes, she definitely counts as family), dogs are a joy, even barky narky ones. I really appreciate your honesty regarding your autism (and post natal depression). Growing up and learning to reading signals is hard enough without additional hurdles to conquer – Mr Right clearly knew a good thing when he saw it though, so I’m pleased you ‘deciphered’ him in the end. I’m with you on that first cuppa of the day, tea would be my preferred option and definitely hot! Your silver and black, looks great in your profile pick, so I’m glad you embraced it. I really hope that going forward you’re able to achieve your goals of improving the education system and authentically presenting neurodivergent characters to a wider audience. The more we understand and appreciate, the better we will all be as a society. Good luck with securing Henry Cavill for a movie, I can see why there might be a demand, always happy to give a hand on set as and when!
A Christmas Wish on a Carousel
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
Snuggle up under your favourite blanket and escape to the beautiful village of Pebblestow this winter, for one of the most heartwarming stories of the season…
When Cara Mia Shaw makes a desperate wish one night, while riding on a carousel at a Christmas market, little does she know her small, but safe world is about to spin off its axis.
Befriending a fascinating returnee to the village, an elderly woman called Perdita with a jaunty pink beret and the wisdom of a life well lived, might set Cara on a different, albeit harder, course, if she’s brave enough to listen. Art was always her passion, after all, even if fate seemed to have other ideas.
And then there’s the new man in her life, who her friends think is perfect for her because they set her up with decent, reliable Greg in the first place. Cara’s been hurt enough times to know the difference between a good man and a feckless one. Until Wilfred comes along – moody, sarcastic, and scattered – just to complicate matters and meddle with Cara’s resolve, to the horror of almost everyone around her. But is either man ultimately meant for her, anyway? And will she self-sabotage as usual, or gamble everything this time, including her heart?
It might take the highs and lows of friendship, the risk of a forbidden romance, and a Pomeranian called Loki – not to mention some much-needed Christmas magic – before Cara finally realises the wish she made that night on the carousel might just be about to come true.