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26 July 2016

Blog Tour: 'The Dress' by Sophie Nicholls!

Meet Ella and her mother Fabbia Moreno who arrive in York, one cold January day, to set up their vintage dress shop.

The flamboyant Fabbia wants to sell beautiful dresses to nice people and move on from her difficult past. Ella just wants to fit in. But not everyone is on their side.

Will Fabbia overcome the prejudices she encounters? What's the dark secret she's hiding? And do the silk linings and concealed seams of her dresses contain real spells or is this all just 'everyday magic'?

Among the leopard-print shoes, tea-gowns and costume jewellery in Fabbia's shop are many different stories - and the story of one particular dress.

Today I'm really quite excited to be part of the blog tour for a novel I've been looking forward to reading for several weeks now, namely Sophie Nicholl's 'The Dress'! The book was released by Bonnier Zaffre on July 28th and is my first experience with Sophie Nicholl's writing. I'm really a girly-girl when it comes to pretty dresses, so I straight away really liked the sound of this novel and fell in love with the gorgeous book cover. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to check out this novel! I've got some exclusive content from Sophie Nicholl's herself as well, so be sure to scroll down to take a look and visit some of the other blogs on the tour as well, you can find the names on the blog tour poster!

Fifteen-year-old Ella and her mother Fabbia Moreno have left their life in Eastbourne behind to start over in York, where Fabbia has plans to start her own vintage clothing store. Fabbia has always had a love for glamour and beautiful clothes and loves nothing more than to share her passion with others and help them pick out the right outfit. Ella can’t help but struggle with her mother’s personality every now and again, because all she wants is to fit in and be accepted. Luckily, Ella finds a friend in Billy and Katrina, who is the daughter of rich housewife Jean Cusworth. While Ella tries her best to lead a normal life, Fabbia is focused on moving on from her past; a past that always manages to catch up with her eventually, no matter what or where she goes…

I was really curious to check out Sophie Nicholl’s ‘The Dress’ and I’m happy to say that after just a few chapters I was already hooked by the story and that stayed that way until the very last chapter. I personally love novels that have a touch of magic to them and that’s definitely the case with this book. I was intrigued by both Ella and Fabbia, who each had their own story to share, and just really enjoyed reading about them. I could understand Ella on the one hand, because I still remember what it is like to be a teenage girl, looking for a way to fit in and wanting others to understand you, but I also felt for Fabbia and really admired her passion for clothing and wanting to give her daughter a good life. It really felt like these characters have a lot of stories to tell, which is also why I was really happy when I discovered this is the start of a series and I’m already looking forward to reading more.

The novel reminded me a bit of Menna van Praag’s ‘The Dress Shop of Dreams’, which I read last year and can highly recommend. There are some similarities between the two novels, but Sophie Nicholls definitely managed to give this story her own twist. I really enjoyed her writing style which includes some great descriptions of all the amazing clothes and was just really comfortable to read. I also loved how each chapter starts with a reference to a specific piece of clothing or accessory, and how the novel was occasionally interrupted by a story that played an important role in Fabbia and Ella’s lives. Overall, I think ‘The Dress’ is an enchanting, well-written and captivating read which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish; author Sophie Nicholls has that touch of magic and I already can’t wait to see what she will come up with next!

For more information about this book: / Goodreads

The Dress by Sophie Nicholls is published on 28th July by Tweny7; paperback, £7.99

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Post by Sophie Nicholls!

How to make time for writing in a very busy life
Before my daughter was born, I would get up at 5am every morning to write before I began work. This was my time, time to indulge my passion. It was precious time, when the house was still dark and quiet, just me and the glow of my computer screen, my hands moving over the keyboard in perfect rhythm. 

But then my little girl was born and things changed. Suddenly, those hours of silence, my hard-won prize for dragging myself out of bed before sunrise, were no longer possible. Nights and days blurred together, punctuated only by the cries of a colicky baby. 

I remember tearfully wondering out loud to a friend, during that first year of motherhood, whether I would ever manage to write another word again. (In fact, I also seriously wondered if I would ever again manage to sleep for more than four hours straight. Or drink a cup of coffee whilst it was still hot.)

My friend, also a writer, shrugged and said, ‘You’re just going to have to think differently about writing. You’re not going to get that chunk of time – that early morning, that Saturday – for writing anymore. You’re going to have to learn to pop in and out of the ‘zone,’ write whenever you can, in snatched moments. Get used to it. That’s just the way things are now.’  

This turned out to be very good advice. Galvanised by my friend’s words, I stopped yearning for those uninterrupted stretches and started grabbing any moment I could. At first, I could write only when my daughter was napping or late at night, when I knew that I had at least a couple of hours before she’d wake for a feed again. The laundry and the clearing-up would have to wait, I told myself. I’m not a writer anymore unless I write. 

And so I did. I wrote with a new sense of urgency. I wrote as if my life depended upon it. And perhaps it did.

I’m not saying that everything I wrote during those times was my best work. Often, it would be sleep-deprived drivel. But at least I was writing again – and that felt good. 

In between these short bursts, I’d fill my notebooks with ideas, or scribble notes on the backs of receipts, cardboard packaging, paper napkins, whatever I could grab. Feeding times proved to be excellent opportunities to write in my head. I’d cradle my daughter and dream up plot lines, working through bits of dialogue. This way, as soon as I did manage to grab an hour here to perfect, a story beat to hit. I maximised every bit of time that fell randomly into my lap. 
I stopped waiting for the perfect writing time to arrive. My writing desk, previously my sacred space, gradually heaped up with household bills, old magazines, the ironing. My laptop, my notebook, post-it notes, those paper napkins, became my best friends.

These days, my daughter is four and I do have a desk again and even a room of my own, of sorts, in our spare bedroom. But right now, for example, I’m writing this article with my laptop balanced on my knees in the changing room outside my daughter’s ballet lesson. 

I’m not the writer who needs perfect quiet anymore, uninterrupted stretches to create and dream and get the first draft down. I’ve trained myself to tune out all the noise. I can write in a crowded cafĂ© or in the twenty minute gap between a tutorial with a student and the school pick-up. I can even write with Peppa Pig blaring out in the background. Well, sometimes. 

I won’t say that it’s easy. I’m sure that I often appear absent-minded, even obsessive. (I think all writers are, by nature, at least a little obsessive.) My long-suffering partner has got used to me banging on, over dinner, about a plot line, sounding out an idea. He’s endlessly patient with my explanations of character or background. Just the act of talking a storyline through out loud often helps me to get it straight – ready for when the next writing opportunity comes along.  

And I think that, for me, that really is the key to the art of writing in the gaps. It’s about knowing what comes next. 

Write in the gaps. Use the in-between times. Most importantly of all, just write.

Thanks so much, Sophie!

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