1. What got you into writing? I have always been a storyteller, since I was little, although my mum used to call it fibbing – but I love a tall tale. I’ve written most of my life, but it was winning Company Magazine’s Young Writer of the Year more than ten years ago (now I am an old writer) that opened doors for me in terms of being published.
2. What is a usual writing day like for you? I get the children who go to school off to school, settle the others with their day care, and I’m usually at my desk at nine, and I most often stay there until six. If I’m stuck I go out and sit in a cafe, a change of scene often helps. I don’t have a daily word count, sometimes I write five thousand words, sometimes I write five. Mostly it’s something in between.
3. Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I don’t really believe in writer’s block, although I know it affects some writers quite badly, but for me I know there will be some days when everything I write is horrible, or when I just can’t find the right words at all, or when no ideas come, but I write anyway, even if it feels like walking uphill through treacle, even if every word makes me cringe, becauase you have to get through the crap words to get the good ones. And eventually the good words always come back.
4. Are you a plotter/planner when it comes to writing a story? I’m a bit of a plotter, yes. I think its important to have a road map so that you have a direction to go in, and you don’t end up writing yourself into a corner. Having said that its important to allow for spontaneity. The best bits of all my books are always the bits I didn’t see coming.
5. What was the publishing process like for you, and any advice to aspiring authors? Over the last decade there have been ups and downs, great praise, and lots of rejections. Becoming traditionally published is not easy, its more competetive now than its ever been and more difficult to find a deal as a first time author. Also if your book doesn’t perform publishers are less likely to want to stick with you and grow you. But the good news is that a writers fate is also much more in their own hands now. Its perfectly respectable to test the waters with self publishing, see if you have a readership and a market, and often it can be the route to traditional publication. But which ever way you go, you have to work really hard. Being a writer is not a job for a part timer, even if you are a part time writer. You have to put the hours in, you have to hone your craft, know your book, and have a thick skin or nerves of steel, and yet we all do it anyway because we love it. So maybe you just have to love it, love it so much you will keep trying.
6. What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? Oh, gosh – there have been a lot. Holding my first ever printed book in my hands, appearing in the New York Times bestsellers list, winning two awards for ‘Dearest Rose,’ having such incredible support for my project to raise money for Refuge – which has raised £3500 so far. But I think the high list always is hearing from readers who have enjoyed a book I’ve written, there is actually nothing better than that.
7. Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. ‘The Memory Book’ is the story of Claire Armstrong and her family, and what happened to them after they discover that Claire as Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Claire is a bright, beautiful, funny clever woman, finally married to the man of her dreams, with two daughters. Twenty year old Caitlin and three year old Esther. Her husband buys her a memory book, for her and all of her family to write their favourite memories of her in it, and it also follows the relationship between mothers, and daughters, husband and wife, as the disease takes hold. Ultimately its a book about love, living in the moment, and hope.
8. Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? Sleep! I’ve just got myself a hobby, actually – I am going to build a dollhouse and decorate it and furnish it with tiny things! I’m very excited about it!
9. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, who would it be & why? Oh, wow… I think I’d like to be a Bronte for a week, Charlotte because she is my favourite. I’d love to have a week in that rectory in Haworth, perhaps when the girls were young and making those tiny little books. Yes, I’d like to do that, to feel first hand all the creative genius in one place.
10. Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers? Thank you, is what I want to say to my readers. Thanks for reading my books, and talking about them and getting in touch and telling me you’ve read them. Its what its all about really.