Freya Sampson discusses how her local library inspired her to write her debut novel, The Last Chance Library.

Freya Sampson works in television as a Creator and Executive Producer. Her credits include two documentary series for the BBC about the British Royal Family, and a number of factual and entertainment series. She studied History at Cambridge University, and in 2018 was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize. She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat. The Last Chance Library is her debut novel.

Photo Courtesy of John Sanders Photography

In this post, Freya discusses how her local library inspired her to write The Last Chance Library, the process of going from idea to draft to publication, and more!

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You’re not sure how to describe women’s fiction, but when you read it, you know that’s the kind of novel you want to write. They’re the stories you relate to, that grab your heart and your imagination. They make you feel as if you know the characters, as if you’re sharing the journey. This course will help you identify the essential elements that make up women’s fiction, gain the insight to see inside your main character, and hone the skills needed to bring women’s fiction to life on the page.

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Name: Freya Sampson
Literary agent: Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency
Book title: The Last Chance Library
Publisher: PRH/Berkley
Release date: August 31, 2021
Genre/category: Women’s Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

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What prompted you to write this book? 

I was writing in my local library one day when I watched an exchange between a librarian and an older man, who I often saw there reading the newspaper on his own. It occurred to me that that might be the only conversation the man had all day, and so I had the idea to write a book about an unlikely friendship between a lonely pensioner and a shy librarian, coming together to fight to save their library from closure.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

It’s taken three and a half years from the first idea to the book being published. The plot of the novel has remained pretty much the same since my first draft, but what’s changed the most is my main character and her motivations. It took me quite a long time to get that working.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

The main surprise for me has been how much goes on behind the scenes in publishing. I came into this really naive and couldn’t understand why it took 18 months from getting a book deal to the book being published. I now realize just how much has to happen in that period—not just in terms of all the editing processes, but also the marketing and publicity side, too.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I was surprised by how quickly the story came to me. Once I had the idea of writing a book set in a library, I found the characters and plot were there in my head, pretty much fully formed. That’s not to say it was an easy book to write though; as any author will know, having the ideas and getting them down on paper are two very different things!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope the book will appeal to book lovers: it’s a celebration of the power of stories in our lives. It’s also a book about community and kindness, and I hope readers enjoy the colorful characters who populate the story. But most of all, I hope it will inspire people to visit their local library.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Just keep going. It was a piece of advice I was given by my teacher at the Faber Academy, and it’s something I have to remind myself of almost every day when I’m writing my messy first draft. Just push on through, however terrible you feel the words are, because it’s not until you have that first draft finished that the writing magic can really start to happen.

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