The author of The Little Tea Shop of Lost and Found discusses the inspiration for her heroines in 'Trishaworld,' and reveals a surprising talent.
What inspires you?
I’m often asked where I get my inspiration. And the answer is, I don’t really know. A few ideas will be nebulously floating round in my mind and then, one day, they will suddenly fuse together and I’m off and running with the next book.
With The Little Teashop of Lost and Found, I’d recently read a harrowing account of how Victorian women would leave their babies at a foundling hospital, along with some small token, so that if by some miraculous chance they should ever be in a position to reclaim their child, they could identify it. These women were so poor that sometimes the token could be a button or an acorn. Then the word ‘foundling’ sparked off a recollection of Heathcliffe and the wild moorland around Haworth, home of the Brontë's – and I was off!
You’re the type of author that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life, even in your rom coms. Why is that?
I have that typically dark northern sense of humour in adversity – I think it comes through in my books pretty clearly.
If I wasn’t writing about the darker issues that affect real life, then my books would be mindless froth… something I’ve never been interested in writing.
I write because I have something to say, to share. I want everyone to come into Trishaworld and go on a journey with my heroine, as life throws all kinds of things at her. And cheer her on when the various issues in her life are resolved and she grows stronger, without losing her generosity of spirit and capacity for forgiveness and love. Not everything can have a fairytale ending, but love, in all its forms, is a great healer.
Not everything can have a fairytale ending, but love in all its forms is a great healer.
The heroines in your books are admirably strong and resilient women – what draws you to these characters?
I prefer to write about women in their mid to late thirties, which is a very interesting age, because they have already been shaped by the events of their pasts into the characters they are today. Once I understand what has formed their characters, I know how they will behave in the situations they find themselves in in my novels (although they do very often surprise me). Your thirties are also a good time to take stock and reinvent yourself, too…
Most of my closest friends are traditionally published novelists and so have shared a similar life experience of rejection, reinvention and self motivation, while simultaneously juggling family life, and often jobs, with their writing. That makes you strong and resilient. It also makes you very supportive of each other, a whole Midwich Cuckoo group of women who understand the difficulties one of us is facing, without having to be told.
What characters from your books would you most like to have dinner with and why?
Oh, there are so many! I’d love to have dinner with the Rhymer family from Every Woman for Herself – and I’d really love to visit Alice’s teashop (from my new book) and be served delicious cakes by the rudest waitresses in Yorkshire!
Are any of your characters based on people from your real life?
No, I never base my characters on people I know or have met! The people inside my head are much more interesting…
Your descriptions of Alice Rose’s baking in The Little Teashop of Lost and Found left us feeling hungry! Are you a keen baker yourself?
Yes, I love to bake and like to find new twists on old favourites. I am not in favour of adding huge amounts of sugar to my baking…except when it comes to the fondant on celebration cakes! Here’s one I made for the launch of an earlier book, Wedding Tiers, in the shape of an Elizabethan pomander. I baked the rich fruit cake base in an enormous Christmas pudding mould, covered it in marzipan and icing, then stuck on millions of icing rosebuds, which I’d spent several days making in batches.
More about the author
The Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller!
Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.
So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.
Luckily she soon makes friends, including a Grecian god-like neighbour, who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?
Wonderfully wry, heart-warming and life-affirming, Trisha Ashley's novel is perfect for fans of romantic comedies. And it contains recipes!