My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister #PublicationDay #IARTG

Happy Tuesday!

Today is publication day for my new novel, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Here’s what you need to know.

1 My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available to buy from Amazon HERE (E-Book, paperback and hardcover).

2 The audiobook is in production with the multi-talented actor Lindsay McKinnon (seen below).

3 This is the best book I have ever written.

4. It is a first-person account from an unreliable narrator.

5. The title could refer to two people or the same person.

Photo credit https://www.facebook.com/jdmoses.uk Lindsay McKinnon and Samantha Henthorn

It started with a memory.

When I was a child (about four or five), I remember visiting two ‘aunties’ who lived in a marvellous house with a big bay window on a road that my dad had called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. These two women were extremely glamourous, with mauve and grey-toned clothes and knee-high boots. I don’t remember their names. ANYWAY, years later I asked my mum who these two women were; she had no idea. Maybe I dreamt them, or maybe they were Jacquetta and Heather – two of the main characters in My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

     ‘Epiphany! Epiphany!’ Mummy shouts from downstairs. I hear her key turn halfway, and she’s muttering to herself, inviting all kinds to unlock the door to my flat. 

     ‘Epiphany, what’s wrong with your front door?’ Mummy shouts.

     Yes. Epiphany is my name – Pippa for short, strictly Pippa for short. I don’t mind Pip but definitely not Epiphany. When Mummy was pregnant with my older sister, she intended to name her Hazel. Right up to the last minute, Hazel. Then a midwife told her that Hazel is a witch’s name, and this put her off. So, Mummy chose the name Heather. It suits her because my sister’s eyes shine hazel when she’s excited.

In the above words, you have met Epiphany (Pippa for short) and her mother, Jacquetta. I hope you have picked up that Jacquetta is a demonstrative busy body, letting herself in at her daughter’s front door. ‘Inviting all kinds to unlock the door’ and changing her mind about the name ‘Hazel’ because of something the midwife said.

Read Jacquetta, and think Geraldine McEwan in Mapp and Lucia circa 1985 – but include paranormal persecutions.

Au Reservoir, Lucia | Christopher Fowler

Has Jacquetta changed her mind about witchcraft? – I do love a conflicted character.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Pippa’s sister Heather is a confident and content green goddess. Think Courtney Love in the biographical drama Beat (insert an English accent).

BeatPoster.png

No doubt Heather would have been filled in about my holiday at home. And if John can stop watching the news for once, the cat will be out of the bag about Ben and me separating.

     Today was meant to be a good day, but now I can see Heather walking across my imagined moat.

     I miss Sadie.

     ‘Sweetie, are you alright?’ Heather has let herself in via the door (the same one that Mummy has trouble opening).

     ‘In here,’ I answer Heather without answering her.

     ‘I’d love a cup of tea if you’re making one.’

     I wasn’t, but I am in the kitchen, mainly to look out of the window onto the road below. I usually have to stay here a while until I have spotted a second magpie.

     ‘So, how are you?’ I ask Heather. I never quite know what to talk about with my sister.

     ‘No! How are you? I never did like that freeloader, and I’m glad he’s dumped you.’

     ‘Thanks?’ I answer Heather with a question.

     ‘I’m not glad for you, obviously. Breaking up is hard to do, Pippa. It happens to the best of us, even me.’ Heather helps herself to two mugs from my cupboard and gazes longingly at the kettle. It seems Mummy’s bitter coffee has not quenched her thirst.

I hope that the above exchange illustrates Pippa’s strained relationship with her sister Heather.

Pippa has not seen Sadie since school swim class. Sadie visits unexpectedly and turns Pippa’s life upside-down.

You must be tempted to meet Sadie. I spent a year waiting to write her story, and when I did, she took over my life as much as she did my protagonist, Pippa’s.

We learn very little about Sadie’s existence. She doesn’t seem to have a job, relationship or home. What she does have is Pippa’s attention and she takes her round the mulberry bush many times, on many mornings throughout the novel. Sadie takes no prisoners, yet she is fun and supportive.

Sadie is everything Pippa wants to be.

Pippa’s boyfriend telephones her at work, letting her know that her sister has called round. Pippa finds this strange because Heather is always visiting – why would Ben contact her at work to tell her something that happens regularly? When Pippa arrives home, Ben is on his way out and Pippa sees someone sitting in her front room that is not her sister.

‘Were you expecting the Pocahontas of Pendle?’ Sadie grins.

     ‘What! You can’t say that!’ she meant Heather, who lives in Pendle and does look a bit like she’s descended from America’s past.

     ‘Why not? Look.’ Sadie performs a centre parting in her lengthy black hair and two plaits appear (in record time). ‘Heather and I have our dad’s genes. You know as well as I do that Oswald’s great-great, however-many-grandads was one of the Salford Sioux, so if I was teased at school about it, then it’s fine for me to say it about Heather.’

I had to make Sadie the opposite of Pippa, this is why her father (not the same person as Pippa’s father) is descended from the Salford Sioux (I’ve added a handy link for you to check out). I worked in Salford for twenty years as a nurse. I learnt that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show visited Britain at the request of Queen Victoria and they arrived via The Manchester Ship Canal. This was in the winter of 1888 and some of the Salford Sioux stayed in the area (making their home on the banks of the River Irwell). Imagine yourself a Salford woman in Victorian times – descendants of this fabulous story live in the area today, and as my community boss once said to me ‘they say that if you think you’re descended from the Salford Sioux – you probably are.’ I think it was then that I decided I would weave this thread into something I wrote.

Pippa’s family tree.

Sadie is not all good…

I’m not telling you any more than that. You’ll have to read it.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, Samantha.

PS I also wrote The Curmudgeon Avenue Series;

On How I Wrote My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

Inspiration attacked Samantha Henthorn from several different angles when she wrote her new novel, ‘My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Inspiration attacked me from several different angles when I wrote my new novel, ‘My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister’.

A while ago, everywhere I looked there was a book title that included the word ‘sister’. The Stepsister by Jenny O’Brien, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Dead Sis by Jane Holland, and The Herb Sisters by Marina Johnson to name just four; sisters were everywhere in literature (I blame the Brontes).

Even though I knew that by the time I had written my ‘sister book’ publishing trends would have progressed, but I couldn’t get ‘sister’ out of my head.

Siblings never go out of fashion.

One of my favourite books (and my own sister’s teasing stick) was My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards (illustrated by Shirley Hughes).

(Image from Amazon)

‘Sisters’ are not the only trope that has been swirling around my writing for years. I’ve been obsessed with witches since I was little. If you’ve read my blog before you will have seen how I was named after the protagonist from 1960s sitcom Bewitched, you will have seen how I read books such as Witchdust by Mary Welfare and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and met and was baptised a witch at age 6 on a family day out to Pendle.

(Or was I?)

Photo by A Koolshooter on Pexels.com

Pippa, the protagonist of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is not a witch, she is a forty-year-old woman trying to make sense of her life. When Sadie visits (her sister’s half-sister), Pippa starts to think that her mother and sister Heather are witches. All the evidence is there; Heather is a green goddess and Jacquetta (Pippa’s mother) is obsessed with the patron saint of keys. You would have to read on to find out the details – I want readers to either believe in Pippa’s breakdown or that her family are actually a nest of vipers.

If you’ve ever read or seen Fight Club or read Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih you’ll be well versed with books that leave you not knowing what to believe. Plus, we have all lived through some uncertain times recently, so I think mind-bending is on its way in literature.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

There is a debate going on (I’ve heard it in pubs, I’ve read it in reviews and I’ve tormented my own thoughts) about lockdown in literature. If you saw the Channel 4 drama Help earlier this year then you’ll know that this kind of pandemic narrative must be highlighted in any genre it can be. I am of the opinion that literature has a job; if stories are about people then people should be about stories. We are all wondering if the pandemic has taught us anything, and we should be reading books to help process the volume of information, emotions, bereavement, culture shocks and psychic storm-trooping we’ve all been through.

I’m not saying My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is the answer to any and all pandemic woes; what I am saying is it HAD to be set at the end of the lockdown… it just had to be. Pippa needed to have an epiphany.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

When writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, I had to come up with an occupation for Pippa. I had also been reading and rereading Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys (for my creative writing degree). I really wanted to include an intertextual reference, and before I knew it, Rhys’s Mr Blank became Pippa’s Mr Bland; and Pippa became an accountant ‘doing sums’ (Sadie’s words).

Actually, my darling daughter is an accountant. We text each other every day and have our own little ‘text speak’ language. A while ago, I started asking her if she had ‘done any really hard sums’ at work… obviously I was teasing (that’s just our sense of humour) but it stuck. I asked my daughter, and she didn’t mind if that Pippa also ‘does sums’ at work (creative licence applied – I know that accountancy is a complicated occupation).

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I used to be a psychiatric nurse until it was made impossible for me to continue working (my RMN career ended after I was diagnosed with MS). Reading and writing saved my mental health when faced with the vast culture shock of retiring at 39. That was almost eight years ago, and I’ve come a long way since. The older I get, the easier it becomes to face up to the serious side of life (especially when you write). It all fitted into place, and the protagonist of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister started to shape into a character who could inspire hope (or at least seek help).

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Because Pippa loves reading, I had to make literature part of the narrative. I achieved this with plenty of intertextual references, starting with the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’ (said to be written by female inmates of HMP Wakefield in the 19th century), and fitting because Pippa is stuck going round in circles with her female relatives.

Pippa compares herself to two of Hardy’s protagonists, the forsaken Tess Durbeyfield and the confident heroine Bathsheba Everdene. In the story, this reflected Pippa’s journey.

During writing, I was concerned about overdoing the references to other texts, then I remembered reading and loving the modern classic ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson. There is almost an intertextual reference on every page, and Jeanette Winterson is a genius.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (Paperback)

By this stage of writing My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, Pippa had taken over and told me what to write (see my other posts about my writing being powered by witchcraft).

If I really dig deep, this book started with a memory. When I was a child (about four or five), I remember going to visit two ‘aunties’ who lived in a marvellous house with a big bay window on a road that my dad had called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. These two women were extremely glamourous, with mauve and grey-toned clothes and knee-high boots. I don’t remember their names. ANYWAY, years later I asked my mum who these two women were; she had no idea. Maybe I dreamt them, or maybe they were Jacquetta and Heather – two of the main characters in My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister.

Pippa has a secret, will you believe what she has to say?

I do have an older sister, and no the book is DEFINATELY NOT about her. However, this is why I chose the hyphenated way of writing half-sister for the title – there are actually five ways to write the title My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister:

My half-sister’s half-sister My Half Sister’s Half Sister
My Half-sister’s Half-sister My half sister’s half sister
My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister

(thank you https://www.alisonproofreader.com/)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law about enjoying books with a quirky and different plot (like mine) so I dedicated the book to her.

Deeper inspirations flow through My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister that I can’t reveal because that would be a spoiler!

Thank you for reading my blog today, My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister is available to pre-order from Amazon now (release date 30/11/21). See my Facebook Author page for #BlackFridayDeals. Audiobook in production.

Happy reading, Samantha 🙂

PS I also wrote these: