Lilly Mirren - A Heartwarming Family Story About Three Sisters
Lilly Mirren is a USA Today and internationally bestselling author. Before publishing her debut novel The Waratah Inn in August 2019, Mirren founded her own imprint, Black Lab Press. Mirren lives in Brisbane with her husband and three kids. With a background in Information Management, she loves every part of the publishing journey. As our Author of the Day, Mirren tells us all about her book, The Waratah Inn.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Waratah Inn is about.
I’m so excited to share The Waratah Inn series with you. It was such a fun series to write, so it’s been exciting to see readers respond to it in the positive way they have. The Waratah Inn is set in Cabarita Beach, and it’s about three sisters who inherit their Nan’s inn when she dies. They’ve been pulled apart by the various tragedies and trials of their lives but now they have no option but to work together, since the will stipulates that to sell the inn all three of them must agree. There’s also a mystery that begins to surface surrounding Nan’s younger years that has all three sisters intrigued and a little confused. What follows is a heart-warming tale of family, redemption and love across the generations.
Was there anything in particular that inspired the story, that made you want to tackle this?
The story was inspired by so many different things coming together. Much of the character of Charlie, his early life anyway, is based on stories told to me by my Dad about his own childhood. I’m also fascinated by WW2, and I love stories that jump between different generations. The setting, Cabarita, is a small beach hamlet near where I grew up. It’s a beautiful part of the country and seemed the perfect setting for a series. Also, I have a sister, so I feel as though I understand those sisterly dynamics and found myself really diving into those relationships and the sometimes dramatic and heated conversations the three sisters have with each other. There are a lot of other little things as well that inspired parts of the story, like a childhood friend whose name I gave to one of the characters, Bindi. But overall, my books tend to deal with family, love, connection, and the journey from brokenness to wholeness. Those are the themes that appeal to me, and seem to inevitably find their way into my books. The tale that evolves throughout the trilogy sometimes surprised me, the way it came together wasn’t entirely planned on my part, and I had so much fun with it, as in a way I was watching the story unfold as much as writing it.
Tell us more about Kate. What makes her tick?
Kate has a little bit of me in her, I think. I’m definitely no chef, but the way she’s so focused on her career was certainly something that I think a lot of us do in our twenties, then we hit our thirties and begin to wonder what we’re doing with our lives. That’s where my motivation for her character came from – exploring a theme that is so familiar to so many of us women. We can often feel compelled or ambitious for a corporate career where we climb the ladder and put our everything into work when we’re young, but at some point, many of us experience a dawning realization that it’s a fairly hollow pursuit and there are a lot of other things we want from life. For Kate, this realization only comes once she takes the time to go home and mourn the loss of her grandmother.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Animal rescue. I don’t do it all the time, but if I see an animal in need of rescuing I can’t help stepping in. It’s the way I’ve been my whole life and this theme also shows up in the series when Kate rescues Cocoa the possum. It’s funny because American readers often balk at that, due to their own experiences with opossums, but Australian possums are absolutely adorable, fluffy, and sweet. They’re nothing like opossums. When I was a girl I rescued a baby possum and raised him, and he was a wonderful pet. He used to climb up my leg and onto my shoulder and sit there to eat slices of apple – the claws were a little uncomfortable on the way up but to me, it was worth the pain.
This is the first book in a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
The first book in the series, The Waratah Inn, can be read as a standalone, but there are a total of four books in the series. There’s the trilogy plus an attached standalone Christmas book. The trilogy can be ready one after the other, almost like a single, long story. When you get to the end of the first book, most likely you’ll want to keep going, since each book delves into the life of one of the sisters and they all follow the historical mystery through to its conclusion as well, so I don’t recommend jumping into the middle of the series.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
When I was writing this series, the thing I had the most fun with was the historical storyline. Since several chapters from each book are set in World War II, I had to do a lot of research to get the details correct, and so spent many an hour listening to radio broadcasts, watching old videos, and reading interviews. I laughed, cried, and generally immersed myself in history – which I love to do. I also called my Dad to chat with him about his childhood in Bathurst, which is the main setting for the historical storyline – I loved hearing his childhood stories and sharing that special time with him.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m traveling around Australia in a campervan/caravan with my family. We’re spending six months on the road, so I’m not being particularly disciplined with my writing the way I usually would. Nevertheless, we’re having a wonderful time seeing this amazing country and spending time together as a family. So when I work, I usually sit up late at night (as I am now) and write while they’re all snoring in their bunks nearby. I’ve recently started a new book, called ‘Home Sweet Home’ which is the story of one woman’s return to the country town of her childhood after a tragedy tears her family apart, and how she is able to rebuild her life and overcome the pain of the past. It’s set in my own hometown, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, so I’m having fun with it.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
If you’d like to stay up to date on new releases, you can follow me on Facebook or join my newsletter. I’d love to stay in touch. You can find my books on Amazon, Nook, iTunes and Kobo, or ask your local library or bookstore to order them.