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A lost sister, a hidden cult

A lost sister, a hidden cult

In IN YOUR LIGHT, Lil is devastated when her sister goes missing. Then a girl appears from a hidden cult that worships light. Could she hold the key to Lil's missing sister. Author ANNALIE GRAINGER tells us more!

IN YOUR LIGHT explores love, loss and finding oneself, as well as important questions around mental health, through the story of two sisters.

It is told by two young women; Lil, whose sister Mella has disappeared, and Brilliance, a member of a community of women who worship light.

Gradually, the past is revealed and we come to learn more about Lil and Mella's relationship as well as what lies behind the mysterious cult of women. Could their worship of the light be hiding a much darker secret?

Author ANNALIE GRAINGER tells us more about IN YOUR LIGHT.

Q: You have mentioned that volunteering at Missing People helped develop your ideas for In Your Light, can you tell us a bit more about your experiences?

A: I had an idea for a book about a runaway teenager so I got in touch with Missing People. What began as a half-hour research session turned into eight months' volunteering on their 24-hour helpline. I was just so inspired by the work they were doing to help both those missing and their families. It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've ever done, and the experience shaped the book.

After that, Mella's story just took over, and Lil's absolute commitment to finding her sister was what began to drive the book. None of the events are real or are related to anything that I experienced. But it was a determination to try to represent the issue of "missing" fairly and with compassion that I took from my time on the helpline.

Q: Why did you decide to tell this story in dual narrative, from both Lil and Brilliance's perspective?

A: The idea for the book came to me as "missing sister" and "cult", so it just made sense to set one half with Lil and one half in the Sisterhood.

Q: Mella, the sister who disappears, has mental health health problems that gradually come to light through the novel. Was this an area you needed to research in order to really understand Mella's character?

A: Many aspects of Mella's mental health issues are drawn from personal experience, so, while I did lots of research into many aspects of the novel, this part came more from me. Among other things, I was keen to show how varied people's experiences are and how very, very hard it can be to ask for help. You can become very good at hiding how you really feel from all those around you.

The new focus on mental health, and how we all have to take care of our own mental health, is so positive. I hope it eliminates some of the stigma attached to mental-health issues and allows more people to get the help they need and deserve.

Q: Was it also important for you to show that the family Mella ran away from was caring and supportive, not negligent or abusive as might be assumed in the case of runaways?

A: There are myriad reasons that people run away. I was keen to avoid perpetuating stereotypes. Also, for me, love and hope are the backbones of this book, and I wanted those two things to shine out more than anything else.

Q: You also explore the idea of cults in your novel and how they can manipulate and distort how people think. Why did you decide to make this a part of Mella's experiences, and why is the cult in your novel run by women?

A: All cult books seem to centre around a charismatic man! I wanted to show that women can be equally powerful, alluring and dangerous. I was also keen to avoid the suggestion of abuse that sometimes runs through those books. Again, I wanted love and hope to be at the heart of this book, and to run through the Sisterhood, despite everything that happens there.

Q: There are many ideas explored in the novel, as each of the sisters learns more about themselves and life. What would you like your readers to take away from In Your Light?

A: Towards the end of the novel, there's a line from Lil's viewpoint: "Sadness pinged in her chest, and she wondered how sadness could come so quickly on the back of all that happiness, but then, as clearly as anything, she realised that was just how life was." For me, that's what the book is about - the crazy happy-sad-joyful-painful mix up that life is, and how we're all just doing our best to negotiate it.

Q: What are you writing now?

A: I'm working on a detective mystery aimed at adults. It's very early days and I've never written a book for adults before, but I'm enjoying the experience so far!

Q: How does your writing day go?

A: I don't really have a writing day! I work three days a week as a commissioning editor at Walker Books and then I'm at home for the other four with my two-year-old. My writing happens in the spaces in between - usually very late at night or very early in the morning. Most of the final draft for In Your Light was written at 4am.

Writing is something I love, though, and I'm a great believer that if you want to achieve something then you find the time to do it.

Q: What was your first job in publishing and what surprised you most about the publishing world?

A: My first publishing job was as a junior publicist. I loved publishing, but I knew very quickly that PR wasn't for me. I'm an introvert at heart and, although I love meeting authors, I found the touring and socialising bit much. I'm much happier in editorial!

Q: You now work as an editor - what are your top tips for young writers?

1. Write everyday, even if only for ten minutes.
2. Start up a writing network, so you can share your work and get feedback.
3. Read as many books as you can and as widely as you can, so that you can hone what kind of writer you want to be.

Q: Who are your favourite contemporary authors?

A: Rainbow Rowell, Celeste Ng, Donna Tartt, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Margaret Atwood

Q: Can you share three things our readers won't know about you?

1. I love sewing, and I used to make a lot of my own clothes. (It's harder to find time at the moment with a toddler in the house!)
2. I am very clumsy.
3. I get grumpy if I'm hungry!

In Your Light by Annalie Grainger is out now (£7.99, Simon & Schuster)


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