Talulah Two Heads

The second in the Naomi Blake, Touching the Dark, series is now out as an ebook – Endeavour Press- and coincides with the publication of the latest HB in the Naomi Blake series, Paying the Ferryman. (Severn House).
It’s been interesting, looking back at the earlier books and what really struck me about this one is how much I’d used of my own childhood incidents and places in this book. It’s funny how these things seep into writing; I suppose it’s a variation on that odd bit of advice often given to writers that they should ‘write what they know’. Bits and pieces of ‘what we know’ impinge even when we’re not aware of them

The focus of the book is a woman called Tally Palmer. She’s a photographer who took the strange career leap from war zones to fashion. Tally is flawed and difficult – as are many interesting characters – and oddly uncomfortable to write. She was stubborn and demanding and I can’t help but think that she’s a fusion of several of the very powerful and ..um….difficult women I knew growing up. Several scenes in the book take place in her aunt’s garden – a thinly disguised version of my Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Jack’s garden. Tally’s memories of the adults gossiping in the sunshine and the sound of bees and scent of rabbits and lilies are very much the way I remember it. A magical place in a very lovely little village in Lincolnshire. The disused railway line and fields behind Tally’s house are based on those behind the house where I grew up. The old line that led through Glenfield Tunnel and on which, when I was very small, steam trains ran twice a day. Later, the fields were grubbed out and houses built and I still have the scars on my knees from coming of my bike on the unfinished road down the steep hill.

And then there’s Talulah Two Heads….

Even as a child, I hated dolls. I went though a brief period of pretending to like them because that’s what little girls were expected to enjoy, but seriously…how could anyone really like playing with something that stared at you all the time. That passed judgement from the top of the toy shelf. I liked my dolls pram, but my mother was continuously embarrassed by the fact that I’d much rather wrap my blue tractor in a blanket and put that in my pram – or the cat; we had a very obliging cat that was quite happy to go to sleep anywhere warm and soft.
I must have been about seven or eight when my aunt gave me Talulah. She was a ‘Fashion Doll’ – or at least that’s what is said on the box. And my aunt said she’d probably fit Cindy or Barbie clothes, but that she thought this doll was just a bit more unusual.
The ‘unusual’ element was that she had two, interchangeable heads. One with long blond hair and one with a brunette bob.
Two heads to stare in judgement.
The child, Tally’s, decision to bury Talulah in the garden and her dilemma when the aunt came to visit was certainly an example of writing what I knew and I never did find the second head….
I still don’t like dolls. I wonder if there’s a dolls/ teddy bear divide in the same way people claim to be cat or dog people, but being a writer experiences like this are just grist to the mill and I don’t imagine Talula will be the last fragment of childhood memory to find its way into a book. And I’m grateful for the memories of the gardens, my Uncle Jacks and my father’s and all the wild spaces and Victorian seaside towns that have become part of my writing landscape.
So, here’s to you, Uncle Jack and Aunt Kathleen and Binbrook and the wolds and fenlands and, of course, Talulah Two Heads. Even if she did come to an unfortunate end buried under my mother’s roses.

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