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Exotic creatures

Dominic Smith talks to Caraline Brown about her novel and “the best feeling in the world”

I took myself to Ibiza for a month with a copy of “How To Write A Novel In 30 Days”. I thought I could just go there, set up my desk, look out the window and I’d be able to write a book.”

It might have taken more than 30 days, but it’s paid off because last month Caraline Brown’s debut novel The Candlelit Menagerie hit the shelves last month. 

With a background in journalism and particularly PR – Caraline set up Midnight Communications, one of the biggest, most successful PR companies in the country – writing has always been a way of life. Fiction though came with its own challenges.

“Writing fiction is so much more difficult than I ever expected. You think as a businessperson you can just approach it like a business task. But writing complex, realistic, character development is not that simple. You forget that you’re telling the story, so all along the way the decisions from one character will impact the others.”

Set in 18th century London, the story follows Lillian; a young maid struggling to find her place in society, who yearns for something else. When she wakes to hears lions roaring in the distance, her intrigue leads her to discover a candlelit animal emporium – the Menagerie. She quickly begins to find her calling and befriends the exotic animals.

While it’s up to the reader to make their own meanings, Caraline said there was one theme her writing kept coming back to. “The idea of being an outsider and being out of your own environment.” 

The relationship between human and animal is an important aspect of the novel, as Lillian finds her feet in the Menagerie. Trying to give the animals voices and personalities, without them being able to speak, was a challenge: “I was trying to show this without over-anthropomorphising, but our relationship with animals is two ways.” 

Caroline came across the subject matter for book when “By chance I came across a non-fiction book called ‘The Georgian Menagerie’ which coincided with an exhibition in the Brighton Pavilion. I wondered what it might have been like to work in such a place.  I also thought it was quite an unusual setting for a novel.”

The Candlelit Menagerie was first released in the USA, receiving positive feedback online. “I’m delighted, it’s the best feeling in the world when someone reads your book, likes it, and leaves a really positive review.”

The Candlelit Menagerie is published by Arcade Publishing.

Caraline welcomes any questions regarding her novel and would be delighted if you chose it for your book club. She can be contacted via her web site http://www.karibrown.uk

Pic: Kenny McCracken

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