I live a happy life full of wonderful friends, in love with a man who buys me books instead of flowers. To mix things up a little, I write books where friends and lovers hit obstacles and (usually) overcome them. When I’m not doing that I read absolutely everything I can get my hands on, spend an inordinate amount of time in pyjamas and run a fun-but-informative blog on British history.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I have always written. When I was a teen, it was fanfiction, and when I was a little older I got into writing short stories and flash fiction. My life seemed already too full to even contemplate writing a full length novel, even though it was a not-so-secret dream of mine. What finally gave me the proverbial kick up the arse to start was simply that the story for The Best Thing I Never Had came into my head and wouldn’t let me go until I wrote it, simple as that!
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? Unfortunately I don’t have a usual writing day. Bills have to be paid and therefore I have a full time office job. Writing is therefore usually squeezed into lunchtimes and rare free evenings or weekends. When I was finishing off the first draft of what would become The Best Thing I Never Had I started coming into my office an hour early or staying an hour late and making myself write for the whole hour. It was surprisingly effective!
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I think everybody gets writers block. I’m quite lucky in that I run a history blog, so if I hit a wall with my fiction I just go and write a post for my website. I could never possibly run dry of non-fiction subjects to write about and so it takes my mind off my book whilst keeping my creative juices flowing!
4.Are you a plotter/planner when it comes to writing a story? I’m a definite plotter. I won’t start typing until I have a clear plotline and – most importantly – a very clear handle on who my characters and what their motivations are. Things do tend to veer off the designated course whilst I’m writing though, and I think that’s a good thing – my characters get minds of their own and start reshaping the story from within!
5.What was the publishing process like for you,& any advise to aspiring authors? I don’t think I had a typical “publishing process”. I submitted my finished manuscript to a few agents, and those who replied to me all said the same thing: they loved the story, but they weren’t sure what genre it was, and they couldn’t see it selling. I shrugged it off and self-published but not long after was picked up by Harper Impulse, a fresh, new and innovative digital-first imprint of Harper Collins. I got “the call” at the end of August (and my two book deal!) and The Best Thing I Never Had released on December 5th. That’s light-speed in the publishing industry!
Any advice I could give to aspiring authors would be just to reiterate what I’m sure they already know. Write the book you’d want to read. And make sure you always write because you love writing first and foremost, not because you necessarily aspire to be read. And of course, an oldie but goodie: never, ever give up.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? It’s been such a rollercoaster that it almost feels like each week brings its own new highlight. Each new review, each time someone takes the time to tweet at me to tell me they enjoyed reading my book, it makes me dance for joy. I’ve been bestselling on Amazon.co.uk, iTunes and Google Play in just three months, which obviously is a definite high! Hearing my father-in-law recount how he proudly went into his local independent bookstore to order my paperback in was a personal highpoint [Symbol]
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. The Best Thing I Never Had opens with the proposal of Nicky and Miles. They decide to ask their old friends from university to be their bridesmaids and groomsmen – much to said friends’ collective horror, as most of them are no longer talking. The book then jumps back five years to chart the gang’s final year at university – tracing how they all came together, and how it all fell apart – before returning to the dreaded wedding, where ‘five years ago’ rapidly changes to feeling like no time at all…
8.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? At the moment spare time seems like a complete myth! I somehow manage to fit in my day job, writing my second novel, marketing my first, running my blog, reading, doing an online course AND wedding planning! I think any time left spare after all of that should be filled by sleeping!
9. What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) There’s a real temptation to just bang on and on about your books – there’s a fine balance that needs to be struck between self-promotion and being wildly annoying. I think the most important thing about social media and interacting with current and potential fans is to ensure they get to know you as the person you are rather than someone who’s trying to flog paperbacks to them all the time. Although I do obviously send promotional tweets and retweet reviews for my books, etc, I mainly use my Twitter for chatting rubbish about good books I’ve read recently, or asking people for help as I write my second book (I’m RUBBISH at picking names) or sharing links to things I find interesting.
10.How much of your books are realistic / based on true experiences/ people? It would be a lie if I said that parts of my writing weren’t inspired by real life experiences. I don’t think that any writer can help that. Years ago I fell out with my friends, and that experience helped me to write The Best Thing I Never Had with a degree of empathy and depth that someone who had never known that pain might not have been able to manage. My new book coming later this year, Indefinite Leave to Remain, is inspired wholly by the fact that my best friend is at this very moment legally fighting for her Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. I think it’s very important to write about issues that you feel comfortable with and strongly about. Having said that I do insist that none of my characters are ever directly inspired by real people – the worst I may do is pinch a surname here or there! – I wouldn’t be able to write my characters as the fully understandable, three-dimensional people I hope they come across as if I was simply writing a pastiche of someone I actually knew…