‘I’ve been a bookseller for the last 26 years and have surrounded myself with stories for a lot longer than that. I know how lucky I am to get so much pleasure from my work – I spend each day reading books, discovering books, buying and selling books and talking about books with a vast number of people I greatly admire. But no amount of immersion in the bookselling industry could possibly have prepared me for the experience of seeing my first novel published and, however comfortable I am in the bookselling world, I know with nerve-tingling certainty, in this context, I’m a rookie once more.
I have kept the fact that I’ve been writing this book to myself and I expect I only found the courage to finish it buried deeply in the certain knowledge that I would never have the courage to submit it. In the end, I wasn’t terribly courageous, I submitted it anonymously. And I could not have been more overjoyed (or relieved) to find it landing well. Finding a home at 4th Estate, an imprint I have always loved and respected, was beyond my wildest dreams.
When I began writing this novel my children became aware that I was writing a book, as opposed to just writing. When they asked me what it was about, I told them ‘tea’ and they shared nervous looks between them. It is, of course, about much more than tea.
The Museum of Things Left Behind is a story set in the fictional country of Vallerosa. Vallerosa is a country that bothers little with money, but greatly with values. Community has a more profound impact on society than government. It is a story about politics, bureaucracy, the frustrations of hierarchy and the nonsense of economics. But much more than that it is a comic tale about purpose, women, the passage of time and, yes, tea. Vallerosa is a utopia of sorts, but an imperfect one. (I now realise that my personal utopia could never be perfect, it would need to present a challenge of some sort because how else could you find a sense of purpose if you don’t have something useful to contribute?)
I have really enjoyed watching people react to the book. I love the fact it makes people laugh, I am so glad when readers respond well to the characters in the novel but I think I’m at my happiest when I hear people say they want to move to Vallerosa.’
The Museum of Things Left Behind is out on the 21st May.
You can read our 4thcoming interview with Seni here.
To find out more about our books, events and competitions, click here to sign up to our newsletter.