Saturday, September 3, 2022

Freya Sampson Interview - The Lost Ticket

Photo Content from Freya Sampson

Freya Sampson is the author of two novels, The Last Chance Library and The Lost Ticket/The Girl on the 88 Bus. She worked in TV as an executive producer and 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.


Tell us about THE LOST TICKET! What inspired you to write the novel?
When I was writing my debut novel, THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY, I heard a remarkable story about a 102-year-old woman who was trying to track down a book which she remembered her father reading to her as a child. She mentioned her search in passing to a librarian who was spurred to action. Not only did the librarian source the original book, but then members of library staff took turns to record themselves reading all 800 pages so that the elderly woman could listen to the story one last time. It was this little nugget that sparked the idea for THE LOST TICKET – a story about a life-long search, but also how a simple act of kindness from a stranger can have a powerful impact on the lives of everyone involved.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I’ve always told stories. As a kid I used to spend hours walking around my parents’ back garden making up stories in my head, and I always dreamt of being an author. But for a long time I didn’t believe I could turn that dream into a reality. Imposter syndrome held me back, and every time I tried to write a novel I’d lose confidence 10,000 words in. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I finally took the plunge and signed up to a writing course run by the brilliant Faber Academy, and that changed everything.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen. I think that book is perfect: the characters, the dialogue, the drama! Plus Austen pretty much invented the romantic comedy genre, which would be quite a claim to fame.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
One of the unexpected rewards of publishing my debut novel has been having so many strangers from around the world contact me with their own wonderful stories about libraries. I’ve been moved to tears many times by the messages people have shared: about how libraries helped them in dark times or their own experiences of fighting to save a library from closure. It is such a privilege and a joy to have written a book that resonates with library lovers.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing THE LOST TICKET?
I started writing the first draft of THE LOST TICKET in March 2020, just as we went into the first lockdown here in the UK. Needless to say, suddenly having two young kids at home full-time was something of a distraction from writing! But equally, in the midst of all that chaos it was wonderful to be able to mentally escape into a non-pandemic London each day and to ride the bus in my head, eavesdropping on imaginary conversations and enjoying the sights and sounds of this beautiful city.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I believe that we’re hard-wired to love stories. Our earliest ancestors used storytelling as a way to understand the world around them and explore the risks and opportunities outside their own experiences, and millions of years later I think we still carry that within us. Storytelling is a way for us to imagine the full range of human possibilities and to live a myriad lives in far-flung worlds, all from the safety of our couches!

  • 1. I was interested in setting a book on a bus because, like libraries, buses are spaces where people from all different walks of life congregate, their worlds briefly colliding for the duration of their journey.
  • 2. I wanted to write a story that celebrated London, the city where I’ve lived for more than twenty years.
  • 3. Many of my favorite places in London feature in the book, including Hampstead Heath, the National Gallery art museum and Hamleys toy store.
  • 4. My favorite character to write was Hector, a four year old boy. Many of the things he says in the book are inspired by my own young kids.
  • 5. The character of Peggy was a late edition to the book, but the second I had the idea for her, her story emerged fully-formed in my head. Now I can’t imagine THE LOST TICKET without her.
  • 6. I often find the names of my characters from dedications inscribed on park benches.
  • 7. I wrote the first draft of this book in 2020, then I scrapped it and started the whole thing again. The only chapter that has survived from that first draft is the prologue, which is pretty much unchanged in the final version.
  • 8. The UK edition of the book is called The Girl on the 88 Bus.
  • 9. Toward the end of the book there’s a dramatic bus ride which is inspired by a true story that happened to a friend of mine.
  • 10. The bus that the book is set on is the number 88. If you ever come on vacation to London I highly recommend riding this bus route as it passes some of the best tourist attractions in the city!
Meet the Characters
is 82 years old and a retired actor. He’s lived in London his entire life and is an eccentric dresser, with a penchant for velvet jackets and suede shoes. In his youth he met a beautiful red-haired woman on the 88 bus, and the conversation during their short journey together changed Frank’s life. He’s spent the past sixty years riding the same bus trying to find her.

LIBBY is a 29-year-old woman who, at the start of the book, has just been dumped by her long-term boyfriend. She arrives in London with her life packed into two rucksacks, broken-hearted and adrift. She meets Frank on the 88 bus and he starts up a conversation about her red hair. Libby is inspired by Frank’s story and offers to help him search for his woman. In the process, she must open herself up to the friendship and help of strangers on the bus.

DYLAN is a tall, leather-jacket wearing punk rocker, with a mohawk haircut and multiple tattoos. He was inspired by a man I sometimes see when I go for walks around Camden Town. The first time Libby meets Dylan on the bus, he shouts at her and she writes him off as angry, rude and aggressive. Yet as the story progresses, Libby comes to realize that first impressions can be deceptive, and behind his tough exterior, Dylan is a kind and gentle soul.

Strangers aboard a London bus unite to help an elderly man find his missed love connection in the heartwarming new novel from the author of The Last Chance Library.

When Libby Nicholls arrives in London, brokenhearted and with her life in tatters, the first person she meets on the bus is elderly Frank. He tells her about the time in 1962 that he met a girl on the number 88 bus with beautiful red hair just like hers. They made plans for a date at the National Gallery art museum, but Frank lost the bus ticket with her number on it. For the past sixty years, he’s ridden the same bus trying to find her, but with no luck.

Libby is inspired to action and, with the help of an unlikely companion, she papers the bus route with posters advertising their search. Libby begins to open her guarded heart to new friendships and a budding romance, as her tightly controlled world expands. But with Frank’s dementia progressing quickly, their chance of finding the girl on the 88 bus is slipping away.

More than anything, Libby wants Frank to see his lost love one more time. But their quest also shows Libby just how important it is to embrace her own chances for happiness—before it’s too late—in a beautifully uplifting novel about how a shared common experience among strangers can transform lives in the most marvelous ways.

You can purchase The Lost Ticket at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.