Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Let's Tour Medina Hill: Blog Tour Stop Number One

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Let's Tour Medina Hill: Blog Tour Stop Number One

by Nathaniel G. Moore

Medina Hill is the debut YA novel from Toronto writer and London, England resident Trilby Kent.

The novel tells the story of two siblings, Dominic and Marlo Walker. Marlo's a quirky sister side-kick, obsessed with a cookbook, perhaps a tool to distract her from her mother's ill health. Dominic has extremely bad nerves around strangers and clams up. He keeps himself occupied in fantasy with adventure books. The story gets going when Uncle Roo invites the siblings to spend the summer on the Cornish Coast with a bunch of artists and a priest in his house. The house happens to be near a Gypsy camp, and Dominic's sense of adventure gets the better of him. Marlo does all the talking in group dynamics, so a lot of Dominic's storytelling (he narrates the book) comes through in introverted neurosis. It makes the interactions with the adult characters all the more real, simply because Dominic's anxiety is clearly established.

I asked Kent about the promotional medium that she has chosen: an extensive blog tour that begins today and will continue until November 6th with over a dozen "tour stops." This interview is the first stop.

"A blog tour is a great opportunity for a writer to connect directly with readers, increasing numbers of whom are most likely to turn to Google to find out about a new book or author." Kent continues, "Ultimately, the aim is to start a conversation; publicists call this 'generating buzz.'"

According to the author, at a typical book launch the people attending already know the author, for the most part, and it's not necessarily the best way to reach new readers. "And sitting in a bookstore with a pile of books to sign can be a risky business for the debut author: it’s hard to banish visions of rolling tumbleweed and passers-by who stop by the signing desk, only to ask for directions to the washrooms!" Kent says the Internet has given her the opportunity to connect with readers from North America from her current home in London, England.

Medina Hill is set in England in the 1930s. To prepare for writing the novel, Kent researched the period, "reading up on selective mutism, visiting an exhibition of work by the medium-artist Madge Gill, and visiting Cornwall, where I stayed in a house that had once been part of an artists’ commune similar to the one I imagined for Medina Hill."

And it's at the commune where the book's eccentrics come to life. I asked the author about the strange and odd characters who stay with the children at the commune.

"Quite a few are composites of people I’ve encountered in real life. I know, you’re not supposed to admit that – but I’m pretty sure any writer who claims otherwise is lying! Someone might pass a completely innocent remark that gets me thinking about the type of character who might say something similar under different circumstances, when the comment might take on a different meaning. Or I’ll catch sight of a person on a bus, and start imagining their life story – it may be something as simple as the way a woman ties her scarf that gets me thinking."

Kent says she had to brush up on the history of the Arab Revolt considerably and "refresh a few details of [T.E.] Lawrence’s life before I could decide which bits would be most relevant to Dominic’s story."

Kent wrote the first draft in approximately three weeks while working a 9-to-5 job. "I then spent several weeks polishing and tweaking."

So back to the book. The story itself hinges around the two siblings, so I asked the author about their habits in particular. What would Marlo's fantasy dinner party be? What would she cook? "Although Marlo’s signature style is definitely more home cooking than haute cuisine, my guess would be quail’s eggs in a watercress sauce to start, followed by an authentic stargazy pie. Completing the Cornish theme, dessert would have to be “burnt cream” – better known as crème brulée!"

And what about Dominic, who's always brain-deep in Lawrence of Arabia tales? What if he could talk to the man himself? "I think he’d grill Lawrence on Petra – what it was like to have been one of the relatively few foreigners to have entered the 'lost city' before the days of mass tourism."

As for one of my favourite characters - the gypsy who catches Dominic spying on her camp - I asked the author what went into creating this one-legged antagonist. "The idea for Sancha’s character was inspired by a photo I saw in a magazine. The picture showed a girl of about eleven or twelve standing outside a trailer; she was slouching in a way that said 'What are you looking at?' She was wearing a t-shirt, long shorts and Wellington boots. The boots got me thinking about what she might be hiding, as the ground didn’t look particularly muddy. That was enough. In that context, a wooden leg made perfect sense."


For more on the book, visit http://www.mcclelland.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=94628

Read Open Book's October Q&A with Trilby Kent here.

Trilby Kent is touring Medina Hill (Tundra Books) on blogs across North America and England. For a list of all the tour stops, please go to the Tundra Books blog.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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