The enchanting Vanessa McCausland holding a copy of her
new release, The Valley of Lost Stories.
From the very first moment I laid eyes upon the cover of Vanessa's breathtaking 2019 debut novel, The Lost Summers of Driftwood, and read the back cover blurb, I knew that this heavenly book would be coming home with me https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460757680/the-lost-summers-of-driftwood/
Set in a family's abandoned riverside cottage, a beautiful old home called Driftwood, Vanessa takes the reader on a mesmerising journey through love, tragedy, loss and rekindled passions. The setting is inspired by many childhood holidays spent at her maternal grandparent's holiday home, on the picturesque south coast of NSW. Her exquisite prose seeps from the pages, evoking the style of one of my favourite authors, the sublime Hannah Richell https://hannahrichell.wordpress.com/
So as you can imagine, I was counting the days until the early December release of Vanessa's second novel, The Valley of Lost Stories and trust me, I wasn't disappointed. Lost Stories is another captivating novel, this time set in Capertee Valley, a township one hundred and thirty-five kilometres north-west of Sydney https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460759561/the-valley-of-lost-stories/
It follows the story of four mothers who, with their children in tow, attempt to escape their everyday lives for a weekend of wine and relaxation. But of course, every well laid plan must come undone. The novel has been described as Big Little Lies meets Picnic at Hanging Rock, an analogy that is well suited to this riveting read.
Vanessa's stories and characters stay with you long after you have reluctantly turned the very last page, and reading her eloquent narrative is pure pleasure. She was quoted in one interview as saying ‘I’ve always been an Introverted dreamer who loves words,’ and I, for one, am most grateful that she is. And so it came as no surprise when I read that Vanessa studied English and Australian literature at Sydney University.
So without further ado, I will hand you over to the wonderful Vanessa.xx
Q1: What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: I wish someone had told me that writing the actual book was only a small part of this entire process. I had no idea about the mechanics of publishing. That if I pursued this thing and actually got published, I’d have to find strengths that I didn’t know I had. I’d have to swallow rejection and find a reason to carry on. I’d have to learn to wait…and wait…and wait…and just keep writing the next thing.
I’d have to believe in myself when I felt like no one else did. And when I got published I’d have to do a lot of public speaking, which is so challenging for me. I think there’s a certain temperament to being an author and it goes above and beyond the writing. It takes a lot of mental fortitude, stubbornness and/or insanity. But I’d also like to have been given the advice that it’s all worth it. Because it is. (Love your answer to this question Vanessa. Shelley.xx)
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: I’m going to go with Selected Poems by T.S. Eliot. He is a genius. Studying The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and all of Eliot’s beautiful words at school made me fall in love with the English language once and for all.
'I've included a pic of where I do a lot of my work - my dining room table.
It rarely looks this neat!!'
(What a serene and pretty space to write. Shelley.xx)
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: I’m pretty sure there were some moving moments in The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton! I used to cry reading my daughter picture books. I cry writing my own books. I’m hopeless.
Q4: What is your favourite drink? Coffee, tea, wine or…
Oh, I love them all. Coffee in the morning, tea while writing and wine at night. Don’t make me choose!!! (I would NEVER make you choose between tea and wine Vanessa! It is an impossible choice. Shelley.xx)
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams https://affirmpress.com.au/publishing/the-dictionary-of-lost-words/#:~:text=Set%20when%20the%20women's%20suffrage,a%20history%20written%20by%20men. Once two friends tell me about a book I must read, that’s it, it goes to the top of the pile.
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: I have a very beautiful character in The Valley of Lost Stories, Nathalie. She would be played by a young Emmanuelle Beart, the French actress. And there’s another character Macie, who would be played by a young Patricia Clarkson.
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Books, naturally.
'This is a place that's special to me - the harbour near my home where I walk and think and come up with story ideas.'
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: Paris. Always.
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: Psychologist. I studied psychology at university and always regretted not majoring in it. I feel like I’m an intuitive psychologist. I think writers have to be. If I wasn’t psychoanalysing people through writing I’d love to actually be helping them. I just find people endlessly fascinating.
Q10: What's the hardest scene you have ever written and why was it so hard?
A: The hardest scene I’ve ever written has been discarded. I feel like if a scene is ever a major struggle to write, then that will mean it’s not working, and I’ll change tact. I’ve written scenes where I’ve been weeping into my laptop, or gnashing my teeth, but I wouldn’t consider that hard…that would mean it’s all coming together. I find the hardest thing about writing is writing into the unknown. It’s very hard at the beginning of a story waiting for the characters and story to reveal themselves. To me these early scenes are where the difficulty lies, because I have no idea what I’m doing until it’s done. (So true. Shelley.xx)
'Beautiful, beguiling and treacherous ... Big Little Lies meets Picnic at Hanging Rock in a secluded valley over the Blue Mountains. Four women and their children are invited to the beautiful but remote Capertee Valley, west of the Blue Mountains.
Once home to a burgeoning mining industry, now all that remains are ruins slowly being swallowed by the bush and the jewel of the valley, a stunning, renovated Art Deco hotel. This is a place haunted by secrets. In 1948 Clara Black walked into the night, never to be seen again.
As the valley beguiles these four friends, and haunts them in equal measure, each has to confront secrets of her own: Nathalie, with a damaged marriage; Emmie, yearning for another child; Pen, struggling as a single parent; and Alexandra, hiding in the shadow of her famous husband.
But as the mystery of what happened seventy years earlier unravels, one of the women also vanishes into this bewitching but wild place, forcing devastating truths to the surface.'
Praise for The Lost Summers of Driftwood:
'McCausland is a natural storyteller who weaves love, loss, mystery and secrets into a satisfying tale.' Herald Sun
'Full of mystery and romance, this is the perfect atmospheric summer read.' Who Weekly
Thank you Vanessa for being my January 15th 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
The Valley of Lost Stories is available through all leading bookstores and online.
If you would like to find out more about Vanessa, you can find her here: