A Chorlton-based author credits her local library with playing a big part in her growing success.
Annette Sills’ debut novel, The Relative Harmony of Julie O’Hagan, was written in Chorlton Library.
“I needed somewhere to go to focus on my writing, as I got distracted in the house”, explained Annette, who has used the library as a writing base for around seven years.
“After I’d dropped my two children off at school, I started going to the library to put in a number of hours on my novel. I’d treat it as my working day.”
Annette’s short stories, one of which is based in Chorlton Library, have been short-listed in a number of competitions - and she won a publishing deal for her novel in 2014.
It was published this January, with the MEN praising her “exceptional craftsmanship” in a glowing review.
The novel starts with Julie and husband Billy searching for a school place for their daughter Bridget in a Manchester suburb populated by a growing 'bohemian brigade’ of ‘media and education types’. The hunt for a school triggers memories for Julie and Billy of their own schooldays in Manchester and Ireland, forcing them to confront troubling issues which had long been buried.
“Chorlton provides the backdrop for some of the book, but it's really about Billy and Julie trying to make sense of what happened to them in the past”, explains Annette, who has lived in Chorlton for 13 years - and admits that she herself is probably a member of the ’houmous brigade’ she affectionately satirises in the novel.
“There’s a Chorlton in every city, an arty area with organic eateries and wine bars. When I moved here, some of the things people did and said made me laugh and that made its way into my book."
The novel is currently one of the bestselling titles at Chorlton Bookshop and staff at Chorlton Library say that their three copies are always out on loan.
“Rather than pelting me with organic vegetables, the people of Chorlton have given the book a very warm reception,” smiles Annette.
Libraries have played an important part in Annette’s life, so it’s no surprise that she feels at home in Chorlton Library.
“My father was a big reader and we always had a big stack of library books in the house”, she explained. “I wouldn’t have had the chance to read so many books without the library, as we couldn’t afford to buy them.
“Libraries have changed. They are community hubs now, with lots of events taking place. They are important for society as a whole.
“And when there are lovely staff, as there are at Chorlton Library, people will often just come in for a chat.”
Annette is currently writing her second novel – again set in Chorlton - and while she still sometimes writes at Chorlton Library, she confesses: “It’s harder for me to work here now. I end up chatting with too many people!”
Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Rosa Battle, said: “Manchester’s libraries continue to act as an important space for residents to go to whether they want to read, write, take a course, access computers, or engage with a community group.
"I’m sure that many talented people like Annette are currently using our libraries as they develop their own unique creative projects.”
For more information about Annette’s writing, visit annettesills.com.