22nd September 2018

This month’s guest blog is exploring the mind of a woman of mystery! The phenomenon that is Jessie Cahalin rarely appears in photographs. We got quite close but not so close you’ll recognise Jessie in the local supermarket. However, the author of the extremely successful blog, Books in my Handbag, has also published her debut novel this year and we are delighted to peep into the mind of You Can’t Go It Alone‘s author!

Jessie with Sunglasses at Narberth

So down to business! Welcome, Jessie! This has been an exciting year for you with the publication of You Can’t Go It Alone. Can you tell us a little of the story – with no spoilers?

Jessie: It’s a pleasure to be here, Lizzie. I’m really looking forward to this.

You Can’t Go It Alone is a weaving-together of love, music and secrets. Set in a Welsh village, Delfryn, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.

Lizzie: Who is your favourite character and why? 

Jessie: My favourite character is Jim Evans. His wife, Pearl, died, years ago and he has been very lonely.  Originally, I intended Jim to be a minor character, but his presence evolved gradually.  Jim came to life in the various scenes, and his love for Pearl is moving. His sadness made my heart ache for him. I discovered his past and the way he concealed emotions. Born into a working-class family during the forties, he was expected to be tough.  Jim wrestled with expressing his emotions.  His wife understood Jim’s issues, but they never managed to discuss everything. Jim and Pearl want me to explore elements of their childhood and how they met.

Lizzie: Who is/are the hero(es)? Who are the villains? And why?

Jessie: All my characters have good points and flaws. Readers have described my characters as ‘real’.  Sophie is the linchpin developing the sense of community but neglects her own life.  Matteo seems like an obvious villain, but he is more complex than he appears. Gio’s behaviour is all bravado.   Pearl seems to have been held back yet she also failed to communicate effectively with her husband.  I could go on and on but want readers to discover the characters for themselves.  I will confess the obvious villain was removed from the book, as he had a negative influence on Olivia. I had to banish the character for Olivia to be independent and shine.   

Lizzie: Which character would you most like to invite to dinner this evening and why? Who would you invite too? What would you hope to learn?

Jessie: I would invite Rosa to dinner and give her a break from cooking in the Olive Tree café.  She is a lively, entertaining characters with lots of stories to tell, but I know she needs to talk. Hopefully, she would tell me more about Pearl.  I know Pearl and Rosa met weekly but am not sure what they talked about.  Although, Rosa is an exquisite cook, I am sure she wouldn’t judge my cooking.  I’d ask her to bring her violin and favourite songs. I’d also like to chat to Rosa about her plans for the next community event in the café.  I would also invite Angela Petch, author of Tuscan Roots, to speak Italian.  I know Angela would manage encourage Rosa to be herself.

Lizzie: Do your characters change?

Jessie: All the characters change and discover something about themselves and each other.  They all learn to be more open about how they feel and to work together.  Changes in Olivia and Jim are at the heart of the novel.  Jim learns to reach out to other members of the community.  I wonder if Pearl ever knew the extent of Jim’s love for her.  Olivia is young and grows in confidence as she finds her identity.  However, I am not sure how Olivia will develop in the future – sometimes I see her rebellious streak.

Lizzie:  What moments in the novel do you like best?

Jessie: I enjoy reading the scenes between Luke and Rosa.  The tenderness between the couple feels real, and I wish they had had more time together.  Luke and Rosa have very different backgrounds and opportunities but the connection between them is very strong.

Lizzie: What moments do you like least?

Jessie: At times, I have worried about Sophie. She is so absorbed in her wish to have a child that she has neglected to talk to her husband.  Her anger and pain have consumed her; thus, she displaces herself with other people’s worries rather than giving more time to Jack.  A cloud hovers over Sophie’s life.  I do hope she learns to appreciate the simple things in her life rather than trying to help everyone else. The scenes where Jack and Sophie visit the hospital are difficult and uncomfortable.

Lizzie: Could you lose yourself in the novel’s world?

Jessie: I have lost myself in the novel’s world.  Delfryn is very real to me. I have walked through the village and seen the characters. Sitting in the café, I observed Rosa and listened to the music. The food was so delicious that I kept a menu as a souvenir of the experience.  Delfryn Vineyard made me feel as if I had found a secret retreat from the world – it is no wonder the monks chose this spot for their vineyard.  The owners of the vineyard asked me to write a description of their wine.  I struggled and ended up thinking of Marcus’s wine tasting.  Thus far I have written, ‘a cheeky wine with a hint of sarcasm.’ I will visit the vineyard again to write an appropriate description for the Delfryn wine!

Lizzie: Is there an important theme (or themes) that this story illustrates?

Jessie: The book illustrates the importance of sharing worries and working together.  Characters learn to enjoy the simple things in life.  Communities can exist in the twenty-first century if we open our hearts and make the effort. 

Lizzie: What do you learn about change and social classes in this book?

Jessie: The novel demonstrates different generations of women have different opportunities.  Pearl and Olivia are two generations apart and had a different approach to pursuing their music ambition.  Rosa is an independent business woman who asserts herself but places her daughter at the centre of her world.  Rosa knew she had to adapt her expectations to provide security for her daughter. Sophie worked hard to have the freedom to make choices but expected to become a mother whenever she made the choice – life isn’t that simple. All these women are from working class backgrounds with other cultures integrated into their experiences. 

Lizzie: How would you describe the genre of your book, if any?

Jessie: You Can’t Go It Alone is contemporary fiction.  It is a book about love and romance without a predictable ending.  A male reader has indicated the book ‘appeals to men and women alike’.  Another reader has labeled the book a family saga, as she wanted to find out more about the families in the novel. Set in Wales, You Can’t Go It Alone is ‘a novel with a warm heart’ and is the first book in a family saga. 

Lizzie: Thank you, Jessie, for an intriguing interview!

Jessie’s story

Jessie is a Yorkshire author living in Cardiff.  Wales, words and Yorkshire folk have a special place in her heart. She loves to entertain and challenge readers with her contemporary fiction and wants everyone to meet the characters who’ve been hassling her for years. If readers want to know more, you can connect with Jessie through her Website or Facebook or Twitter . For You Can’t Go It Alone, the buy link is Amazon.

You Can’t Go It Alone

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