Hello, I’m Lisa, author of Meet Me at Number Five which was released in June and has already received a Bestseller badge on Amazon UK in the Sports Fiction category (very happy about that!)
So, Choc Lit kindly asked me to write a blog to celebrate the release of Meet Me at Number Five and I thought it might be fun to give you a visual tour of the novel. I am a Cotswolds girl born and bred. When I was three I defied my mother and insisted on walking along a drystone wall where I predictably fell off, cut my nose wide open and have been left with a scar for life; the mark of true Cotswoldian, I reckon. I was born in Cheltenham but grew up in the Cotswold village of Bussage, returning to Cheltenham as a teenager. Our neighbouring village was Bisley, where Jilly Cooper lives. As a child my father and I used to take our neighbour’s dog for shady summer walks along the valley between Bussage and Bisley and we would stop to talk over the garden wall to Mrs Cooper, if she was out gardening. It wasn’t until I was about 15 and began reading Jilly’s books that I made the connection of who Mrs Cooper actually was! The settings of the novel very much reflect the locations of my upbringing so let me introduce you to a few landmarks and the inspiration they gave me…
Both Clara’s house and Number Five are set in Great Norwood Street in Cheltenham, a little side road full of Regency houses on the edge of Tivoli, Montpellier and Leckhampton. This is the setting for Number Five:
As you can see there is a similar looking coffee shop/ restaurant with tables outside like Sam’s restaurant has. At the time I first came up with the idea, about four years, ago, there was a shop with art deco font and patterns around the frontage which I used to walk past everyday on my way to work and I instantly identified it as being the perfect location for Number Five. The actual concept for Sam’s restaurant which is a coffee-shop-cum-restaurant was inspired by one of my favourite Cheltenham haunts, Morans, which is actually around the corner from Great Norwood Street, in the Bath Road. I have been visiting Morans ever since I went out to work when I was 19 and it was local to where I was working as a PA. They have a coffee shop cum bar area which is packed all day and then in the evening you go through the archway to the restaurant area which is equally as popular.
A lot of action happens at Farriers too which is the Cavendish family farmhouse and land housing Grace and Charlie’s horserace training business. It’s not based on any firm establishment or area so is completely fictional but is situated somewhere between Cowley and Brimpsfield which is east of Cheltenham and west of Cirencester. In my imagination it looks something like this:
Equus – Clara’s House
Now, Clara’s house is very real and was the inspiration for the whole novel, truth be told. In my previous career, I used to be an estate agent. In fact, I still write about the property industry and have been known, once or twice, to market myself as the Kirstie Allsopp of the Cotswolds! Anyway, one hot and particularly boring Saturday afternoon I was tasked to do some back-to-back viewings at the house in the picture. I have to say, I fell in love with it myself; it stands defiantly on the end of a row of perfectly manicured Regency townhouses with its bare brick Cotswold stone wall and the inside (at the time anyway) had so much character, it really felt like someone’s home and not a house which had been done up to sell. Anyway, between viewings and whilst viewers wanted time alone to peruse the house without the flamboyant estate agent trying to sell the better aspects of the property to them, I was sitting in the living room on the first floor, looking out onto the street and the idea for the novel came to me. I could vividly see a glamourous, older lady, the matriarch of the family, in her townhouse and her family of waifs and strays in numerous bedrooms the property had. I originally thought to call the novel The Home for Unmarried Mothers for I could see Grace having to live here, barren, unable to have a baby of her own but that soon changed as I considered Clara to be a racehorse owner. And that was how Meet Me at Number Five was born.
Also known locally as Prestbury Park (or ‘PP’ as a loveable old boss of mine used to call it) the racecourse is where Hennie works and where a lot of the horseracing action takes place. As a Cheltonian, racing is part of me, I think it is for all of us. I have always been horse mad; if I wasn’t riding one, I was playing with my Sindy ponies or reading a horse book but when I was 20 I was lucky enough to work for a man called Alan Wright. I had gone to work for him to learn the craft of Human Resources but I came away with a much greater knowledge of horseracing. Our daily routine at the publishing company we worked for was to sit together while he poured over the racing post and I took notes of what bets he wanted to place. Then I would be despatched to the local bookies to place the bets and collect yesterday’s winnings and then, and only then, could we get down to the day’s business in the office. I have had some great days out at Prestbury Park and while I was on my journey to becoming published, some wise soul told me to set my next book where I was from. So if you’re from the Cotswolds (and Cheltenham in particular) what else would you write about?
I hope you have enjoyed my whistle stop tour of Meet Me at Number Five! If you have any questions you can contact me via Choc Lit or via my website: www.lisahillwriter.wordpress.com.
Meet Me at Number Five is available as an eBook on all platforms. For buying options click HERE.