Hello People of Earth (and other planets, if you somehow have internet).
Today, we have the lovely Alisha Nurse who has just written her debut novel, The Return of the Key. I am in the middle of it, now and I am loving it. It has that amazing combination of fantasy and fairy tales. It has that Lord of the Rings, Peter Pan feel. I don’t know if that makes sense but all you need to know is that it’s great. Review will be coming up soon.
ABOUT THE BOOK
16 year old Eliza Aurelio grapples with her mixed race identity amid rising racial tensions on her little island. For their safety, Eliza’s grandfather sends her and her grandmother to a quiet town in Southwest England to stay with a relative. But this otherwise quiet town has been turned upside down by people mysteriously disappearing. Eliza eventually encounters a magical but dangerous realm accessible through a doorway in the town, and sees its connection to the abductions. She intends to put things right, only wanting to protect her family. To do this, she must return a stolen key to lock the open doorway. But Eliza has to overcome her own inner conflicts if she is to stand any chance of being successful and leaving the other realm alive.
Suspenseful and enchanting, The Return of the Key explores the power of love, sacrifice and the journey to self acceptance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alisha Nurse grew up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. She holds an MA in International Journalism from the University of Westminster, London. Alisha loves exploring culture and ethnic identities having come from a mixed race family.
She loves curry, sharing stories and talking to random people on public transportation.
Alisha lives with fibromyalgia and clinical depression is keen to raise awareness. She blogs about her experiences at www.theinvisiblef.com
- Hi Alisha! Before we dive into the bits and bots about your book, tell us about yourself! Give us all the gory details. Or if you don’t want to, that’s fine.
Heyyyy Faith, thanks for featuring me. I’m 29, originally from Trinidad and Tobago. I live with fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety, PTSD and borderline personality disorder. I love curry! I mean really really love curry. I grew up eating a lot of it as my Grandmum who raised me is of East Indian descent and she’d cook a lot of my favourites. I’m a really intense and complex character. My circle of friends are very small and diverse. I feel like these are all really random things about me, is there anything in particular you’d like to know?
- Depression awareness is a big passion of yours, what do you say to those who are struggling with it?
Take it one day at a time and go where you feel most supported. I volunteer with a charity that supports people living with depression, and people always say things like ‘my partner isn’t supportive, he or she says it’s all in my head, or my mum says snap out of it, or my in-laws make fun of me.’ That adds significant stress to people who are already suffering. No one living with mental illness should have to prove to their loved ones that it’s not all in their heads. And until they’ve walked in your skin (as the character Atticus Finch rightly said) down the same path they don’t understand what you’re going through, so don’t worry about what they say. Find a support group online or in your local community. Support from people who understand will make a huge difference.
- Tell us a bit about your book and its characters. Are there any bad-ass heroines we should expect? A hot love-interest?
The Return of the Key explores issues around love, sacrifice and race and identity and some of my own experiences have shaped the story. There are some very strong female characters taking lead roles. As a kid I always got tired of story lines with damsels in distress, waiting to be rescued by their Prince Charmings. So you won’t find any of that in this story. And yes, there’s a love thing going on. I have to say though it’s not too ‘in your face’ because I wanted to write a story that everyone can read.
- What inspired you to write a novel in the fantasy genre?
It’s a long story but the short version is that fantasy has always been an escape from depression, for me. I never thought I would write a fantasy story as I prefer to watch a fantasy movie (think Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth). But my mental health had been on the decline and I had a really bad depressive episode. I tried to end it all and when I woke in hospital it dawned on me that if I’d been successful I would have departed this world not saying all the things I wanted to say. To the people I love, to my detractors, to the people suffering like me, to the world. To my grandparents who I had lived for my entire life. I thought that until I achieved this I needed something to keep me going. I was trying to think of the things I love and would be committed to and then I have this weird quirk where I have to finish anything I start. So a fantasy novel it was. Sorry this short version of the story ended up kinda long.
- What are your writing habits? Do you need silence, isolation or can you write in a busy environment?
My writing habits are weird like me. I mostly need quiet but sometimes smack in the middle of chaos inspiration comes and I need to write. Sometimes it’s on a noisy train or in the middle of a conversation with someone. I end up with snippets of writing in different bags, trouser pockets and on my phone. Oh well.
- What was it like writing this book?
Writing this book was a rollercoaster. It was enjoyable, like watching a fantasy movie playing out as I thought each scene through. I’m impatient so that was a hard lesson. It was the escape I needed. But it unearthed deep emotions and of course it was closely connected to my chosen brush with death so it wasn’t easy. I sometimes forgot why I was doing it. I had two more breakdowns, each more serious than the last, then a close friend of mine moved on to another life unexpectedly when we had plans. I know it’s ironic but I’m still trying to recover from it. It all affected my writing, how I saw the story and the writing process but in the end I finished.
- Your cover is beautiful! What was the process of designing it?
Thanks! Everyone’s been complimenting me on the cover! I’m lucky to have met the most awesome designer who listened to what I was looking for and feeling from the cover I had imagined. He was spot on. It didn’t take long at all. A few changes were made but they were minor. He’s incredible.
- Were you always a reader/writer as a child and teenager?
I was always a reader. I had endless books! My dad was always buying me fairytale storybooks, then in school I got hooked on Fear Street and Sweet Valley Kids. I found reading a bit difficult and it’s gotten more so because of the cognitive impairments associated with fibromyalgia. I forget alot and have trouble concentrating. I enjoyed creative writing too, and I’d won a few essay writing competitions. But more than all of that drawing was my thing. I was always drawing female super heroes and mythical creatures (even at 5 years old! Dad still has my drawing books)
- What are your top 5 must-reads?
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
The Hunger Games trilogy– Suzanne Collins
The Bible! – Not as a faith device but genuinely, it is an incredible literary example in all things. It has amazing stories, believable heroes, seriously spooky villains and spine chilling language. Plus the happy endings which we all love.
Would it be cheating to put my novel here? Hahah, just kidding
- In 25 words or less, why should your book be on everyone’s TBR list?
The Return of the Key celebrates all the things that make us human. Our weaknesses and our strengths; And our ability to triumph when we move away from all the fluff in society and come back to the basics. Like Love. It’s a powerful story and if you love magic and mythical creatures and places, and you have a great imagination, then it’s a book for your shelf.
That’s it! Thank you, Alisha!
She’s super nice, everyone! Be sure to pick up her book!