The Orphans of St Halibut’s – Sophie Wills

Stars: ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Orphans of St Halibut’s is an interesting, exciting story of a group of children who have to bury the matron of their orphanage after an accident leaves her dead. Now, they need to make sure no-one finds them on their own, resulting in some mishaps and hijinks that are hilarious and entertaining.

To celebrate this brilliant book being published, Sophie was kind enough to answer some questions about both the book, and her writing! Have a read, and see what inspired her to create the story of some misfortunate orphans, and a very grumpy goat…

What gave you the inspiration for the book?

A picture popped into my head of a girl standing at the top of a hill, trying to prevent the town below from finding out she and her friends were home alone. I just started writing from there, and quite honestly I surprised myself with some of the shenanigans. There are lots of little bits inspired by random things.

The con-man, Arfur, talks like my dad, who had passed away just as I started writing. I wasn’t feeling very funny at all, and was struggling with the story, but when Arfur arrived in my brain I could hear Dad’s south Essex accent and his turns of phrase, and it was really comforting. I knew my scrupulously honest dad would have been hugely tickled to inspire what he would have called a ‘wide boy’. 

Which character do you think you are most like?

I have elements of Tig’s need to be in control of things. I’d love to say I have Herc’s brimming self-confidence and positivity, but that would be a lie. I do have his love of cake, though. Undoubtedly, I’m most similar to Stef. As a child, like him, I would occasionally get so anxious I’d be sick. I definitely don’t pick my nose as much as Stef does. He’s my absolute favourite character, because I feel protective of him. I want him to know he’s valued and that he has many admirable qualities. When I’m encouraging him in my head, I try to borrow some of my own good advice, too.

What are your true feelings about goats?

This is a tricky one. The real Pamela, who lived at the boarding kennels where I worked, is the only goat I’ve ever got to know well, and I don’t want to outrage Goat Twitter. So I will say at this point, #NotAllGoats. 

On one hand, if you’d asked me when I was 14 how I felt about Pamela, I’d have said she’d make a great curry. Honestly? I was very scared of her. She was aggressive and her body was composed entirely of lots of rock-hard bits, and I had to deal with her every day.

But now? Well, she got me my book deal, so it feels petty to hold a grudge. Also, I reckon I understand her a bit more, these days. As I wrote her, it forced me to think about why she was like that. Neither of us were treated well in that place, but at least I got a lift out each evening (once my mum had put newspaper over the car seats and opened all the windows – it was not a clean job). If we met today, I think I’d feel a lot less offended by Pamela’s behaviour; maybe I’d even feel warmly towards her. Although given that 30 years have passed, that would make her a zombie, so on second thoughts the only warmth I’d feel would be from running very fast in the opposite direction.

The Orphans of St Halibut’s by Sophie Wills is published on 1st October 2020, RRP £7.99

Like the sound of this book? Buy it here:

Emily x

📚 Book gifted by publisher.

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