The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe #ThePeopleWeWereBefore @annabellet

Published in Paperback 23rd of February 2017 by Quercus Books.

I am delighted to be able to invite Annabelle Thorpe back to the blog to discuss life since publication. It is no secret that this book made my Top Ten Books of 2016. I also have my review again, in case you missed it last time....

If war is madness, how can love survive?
Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.
The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.
War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.
There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

This is a superb book, it is stunning in the way that it is described, envisaged and written. It contains some beautiful storytelling. I can't really fault it!

This book covers a span of more than 20 years and covers the period of the wars that were happening in the 1990's. It follows the main character Miro through his story, growing up, and getting married and described when war begins how conflict changes people and those around them. 

This book is a brutal and realistic portrayal of the savages of war on lives and also those that are left to continue afterwards. War changes everybody. I felt incredibly emotional reading this book, the author did such a fantastic job of describing Croatia, and then also did am accurate job of describing how whole villages were destroyed when the fighting starting.

The author has managed to create a host of flawed but likeable characters, characters for whom I felt a warmth and an empathy. Characters that I was rooting for at all costs. The author writes with beauty and style and clearly shows a passion for the region. There is emotional depth within the characters and their individual stories, whilst still keeping a reality over the things that happen to people. 

Overall I would say that this is a story about the brutalities of war, of friendships and families, of overcoming obstacles. Right within the heart of it though is a story of love in all its many guises. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book and eagerly await what this author comes up with next. She is one to watch!

Interview with Annabelle Thorpe.

Thanks so much for returning to the blog for a second interview.

Hi Leah - thanks for having me back on the blog, can't believe it was nearly a year ago that I was first on Reflections of a Reader.  It's been quite a year.

1)      How has your life changed since publication?

On a day to day level, not hugely - although I probably work harder and earn less than I used to!  But on a deeper level is really is life-changing; just in terms of knowing that I've achieved the one thing I spent my whole life wanting to do.  It took a long time to get to this point, and there's been plenty of times I'd worry that I'd never actually get published.  Having that fear of failure taken away is wonderful, it's really liberating.  Being able to say that I'm an author, that I have a novel published and another on the way, makes me happier than anything.

2)      What is a typical day like for you now as opposed to before?

I'm a journalist in my other life, so my days have always been about writing, but fiction is a very different thing.  I usually wake up, make a cup of tea and start writing straight away.  My mind is always clearest in the morning; sometimes I'll start at eight and won't move till about 11am.  I genuinely don't notice the time go.

3)      In terms of promoting your book, how have you gone about it?

In every way I can think of!  Publishing companies do promote books, but they have a lot of titles to push, and so you have to do a lot yourself.   I've done radio interviews, book events, written for travel companies and websites (my book is set in Croatia) and - of course - done lots of posts for lovely book bloggers!  As a new writer, it's been amazing to come across that community; a really supportive collection of people with an incredible passion for books.

4)      You are in the process of writing your second book, what can you tell us about it?

It's called The City of Untold Stories, and it's set in Marrakech, one of my favourite cities in the world.  It's the story of three friends who meet at university; Paul and Freya, who go on to get married, and Hamad, a wealthy Qatari.  We meet them first as students, and then twenty years later, when Paul and Freya move to Marrakech.  It's about how we change over time, whether we really know the people we love and how secrets we believe are buried can come back to haunt us decades later.

5)      On the subject of book two is it a struggle to write whilst still trying to promote book one. 

Yes - particularly if you're trying to do a job, or paying work as well.  I quite often end up doing twelve hours days at the moment.  But it's a quality problem to have!

6)      How have you found doing literary events? Were you nervous?

Yes and no.  I've done a fair bit of public speaking for work but I did struggle a bit with the concept that people were paying money to come and hear me talk.  My first ever literary event, I shared the stage with Louis de Bernieres, which was absolutely terrifying!  But it was good in one way, as I could relax a bit - I knew 90% of the audience had only come to hear him (the other 10% were my friends and family).

7)      Have social media/bloggers impacted on the experience of being a debut novelist?

Hugely.  And I think it's a really positive thing; it's incredibly difficult to get reviewed in print, there are so many titles jostling for coverage.  If you spend some time working out who to follow on social media, and joining the right networks, you can really get some good word-of-mouth promotion going on.  I've found there to be a huge amount of warmth in the blogging community, it's been lovely to feel that.

8)      Is there anything you would change about your approach to book one?

I don't think so.  Hindsight is a great thing, but I didn't really know anything about the publishing industry with my first book and so I felt I was learning really fast.  It's a very tough business.  I don't think I was prepared for that, but I'm more aware now.

9)      What advice would you give to new writers starting out?

Never give up.  Writing a novel is a long, hard road but if it's also one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do.  Involve your friends and family, bounce ideas off them, tell them how it's going.  Then, where there are moments where you think - 'I just can't do this' - they'll be there to help you keep going.  My friends and family have been invaluable to me - I'd never have got this far without them.

10)  What does the future hold for you?

More books, hopefully!  I've already got a framework for book three, and I've also got some ideas for non-fiction books bubbling away.  It's taken me so long to get to this point, I can't imagine ever wanting to do anything else.

About the Author:

Annabelle Thorpe has been a travel and features journalist for fifteen years, writing for national print and online media. She currently works as a freelance for the Times, Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Express, and works as a consultant for the National Trust. Annabelle completed an MA in Contemporary History in September 2012 and is an alumni of Curtis Brown Creative. She lives in London and Sussex.

You can find her on Twitter: @annabellet


  1. I am off to Dubrovnik for a holiday in June and have been told by several people how beautiful it is and how amazingly it's been restored since the war.
    I'll be interested in book two as I've been to Marrakech too so it will be a good book for me to read.

  2. Good luck with the writing of book 3 and for the success of book two


    P.s a new author for me Leah, will go check her stuff out xxx