About The Author:
Since 2009, Kelly Doust has published five non-fiction books about craft and fashion: The Crafty Minx, The Crafty Kid, A Life In Frocks: A Memoir, Minxy Vintage (all Murdoch Books) The Crafty Minx At Home (HarperCollins). She has a background in book publishing and publicity, and has worked in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia and freelanced for magazines such as Vogue, Australian Women’s Weekly and Sunday Life Magazine. She currently lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and daughter.
Dressing The Dearloves shifts between the past and present to look at the impact of family secrets throughout generations and the importance and burden of building and protecting your legacy. What inspired the idea for this book?
The idea came from watching a BBC TV series several years ago about modern-day English aristocrats and how some of them live in poverty in crumbling old manor houses because the upkeep is so expensive. I wondered how a young millennial might come up with new and inventive ways to manage a property like that. So many are switched-on and think laterally – it is the slashie generation, after all – so it was fun to tease out how one young person might respond to this massive challenge. That’s where the idea for Sylvie, my protagonist came from.
Sylvie is a fashion designer who has been bred on fabulous stories of her relatives’ achievements and great fame, but the novel starts with her own fall from grace after a spectacular career failure. Uncovering the Dearlove family secrets ultimately helps her come to a better understanding of what motivates her, and what really makes her happy beyond those superficial accomplishments.
Dressing The Dearloves is a piece of fiction, but you have also written non-fiction in the past. Which genre do you prefer to write, and why?
Neither, although fiction is certainly harder to write in my experience! It’s actually nice switching between the two. I get bored writing in the same style over and over again, so it’s fun for me more than anything else to try new things and set myself the challenge of creating something different.
Despite this being a work of fiction, it is clearly inspired by history, as the book details the lives of five generations of women. How much research went into the book to accurately capture the atmosphere of each era?
I feel like all the weird and wonderful books I’ve read over the years have provided me with the perfect training for writing this story, but also the experience I had of writing Minxy Vintage, my book on vintage fashion. I researched the clothing from all the different eras meticulously, but in the end it’s only really there to provide rich detail for the story to unfold.
Apart from that, I’m fascinated about anything to do with WWII. My grandmother was in a concentration camp during the war, and I often gravitate towards anything about that time and the turmoil the world was in.
Who will enjoy Dressing The Dearloves and what do you hope they will take from your writing?
I expect it will mostly resonate with women, but hope anyone who reads it feels instantly absorbed by the characters and their stories, and the grand setting of Bledesford.
All people have interesting stories to tell, but I find those who have dealt with crushing failure or loss are the most fascinating. There is such grace in carrying on with strength in the face of setback – I admire that a lot.
What are you currently reading?
Belinda Alexandra’s 1899-set The Invitation, and Hannah Richell’s English country house drama, The Peacock Summer. Both are absolutely delicious and compulsive reading.