A couple of months ago I read a fantastically interesting novel called Annie, the Doll, its Thief, And Her Lover by Jackie Trippier Holt. The book follows the return of Kate to the industrial north of England after the death of her father. She’s there to clean out the old house and quickly return to her own new life, but things keep getting in the way. Her old friends. A hint of the paranormal. A doll she stole as a child, and above all, her first love Simon, who still lives much the same life he did twenty years before.
When I read the book I was absolutely swept up. So I contacted Jackie to see if she’d be willing to do a quick interview here on the blog to talk about it.
Tell us about the genesis of Annie. Where did you get the idea?
The first inspiration for Annie came one day as I watched the fog roll over the moors and pour down a cleft in the hillside: the weather worked with the landscape to produce a mysterious, powerful, sentient effect that sparked my imagination.
Another influence was my maternal grandmother. I felt, from her tales, she was a woman out of her time and that the expectations of her social class had held her back from the adventurer she really was. From this, Annie was born.
I was also approaching 40 – the notorious age of self-assessment! And while I had my granny’s stillborn ambitions to ponder, these were neatly juxtaposed against my teenage son’s plans for world domination. This led me to explore the theme of touching base with oneself and the other main characters – Kate and Simon – were conceived. Well, Simon exploded onto the page, actually, as if he’d always existed and was just itching to perform.
I’m curious about the the doll and its symbolism. What does it all mean?
The doll started life as a McGuffin – a term used by Hitchcock to describe an object used as a plot device, but which has no particular symbolic significance. As I gradually fleshed out ideas for the novel, I still had no idea what my McGuffin was, I just knew that Kate had stolen something.
So, I considered the idea of a doll quite randomly at first; however, I strongly believe in the wisdom of creative head space and I think my muse knew what it was doing! Upon examination, I began to realise ways in which a doll could be used to highlight some of the themes – childhood, the journey to adulthood, parenthood and the notion of the inner child.
Your settings in Annie were incredibly vivid. Tell us more about the setting.
Thank you! I wrote the setting very much as a character in its own right rather than a simple backdrop. The industrial north of England – in this case, the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire – holds a palpable tension between the tough terrain, natural beauty, isolated settlements and empirical legacies of the Victorian entrepreneurs. The moors have a stark, wild, timeless beauty – both creatively inspiring and awe-inspiring.
There are a lot of indie books out there, some of them fantastically good, some not so much. Why should people pick up Annie?
Annie is appealing because it’s an entertaining story with believable characters, witty dialogue, frank profanity, dark humour, universal themes, realistic sex scenes and a hint of the weird.
Most importantly, are there more novels in the works?
I’m busy plotting and researching two possible ideas, both of which I’m very excited about. Like most writers, I have a stash of unpublished works – I’ve been writing novels since I was 12. Entering the creative space, playing with characters, working with language, crafting a story – it’s compulsive, addictive, heart-warming, heart-breaking, exhausting, uplifting, self-indulgent and completely necessary. I couldn’t stop if I tried.