Can you describe Winter Wonderland in 20 words or less?
Imagine stepping into an enchanted snow globe world and meeting a man so gorgeous all your former heartaches vanish!
Which comes first, the plot for your book or the destination where its going to be set?
The destination!! Which I realise sounds totally backwards but really, the destination is my inspiration. It is what triggers all the ideas for the plot and even the careers of the leading characters - it's not every setting that could have a dog-sledding champion as a leading man! And then the emotional themes typically come from whatever is gnawing at me at the time.
Your books have taken us all over the world, which was your favourite destination?
Let's face it, none of them have been too shabby - Tahiti, Costa Rica, Cuba! But I truly fell head-over-heels in love with Quebec. I remember when I first saw the snow-spangled city from up high in an observation lounge, I felt this childlike wonder and literally got tingles. It was just so magical and beautiful, I wanted everyone to see it for themselves. That sense of amazement stayed with me the whole week I was there. So many new experiences, half of them up to your armpits in snow! And don't get me started on the maple syrup pie!
Are you able to give us a hint about what your next novel is about? And when is it likely to be published?
THE TRAVELLING TEA SHOP is a cake-themed caper around New England in a red London bus! Lots of yummy recipes for American favourites like Red Velvet Cake and Boston Creme Pie! It will be published Autumn 2013. (Or should I say Fall since it's set in the US!)
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
My initial childhood ambition was to work on a magazine. I liked art and english equally so I thought I'd either be a designer or a writer. Then I did work experience on Just 17 and I saw that the writer was always out of the office on interesting assignments, interviewing celebrities etc whereas those lovely designers had to stay put with their computers so that sealed the deal for me! I didn't expect the journalism to lead to writing novels but I'm very happy that it did!
Have you ever had writer's block? And how did you overcome it?
Well. It certainly helps having worked as a journalist for ten years before writing books - you get in the habit of writing every day no matter what, deadlines are always looming, day in day out. No time for writers block! That said, I had a struggle with this new cake-themed book because I I overdid it with the destinations (seven states) and couldn't see how to get it to gel together. Plus the characters just were not revealing themselves to me, it was very frustrating. But I just kept ruminating and experimenting and, most of all, writing until it took on a flow and I could start to hear their voices now I'm really into it. Thank goodness. (Sometimes you have to be prepared to let go of a lot of dud pages, even if it amounts to thousands of words. It's all part of the process. And it's not always pretty!)
If you weren't a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
Either a travel agent or a make-up artist. And seeing as everyone does their own travel arrangements online now, I'd say make-up artist. I'd still like to do that actually. (Hence the plot of CALIFORNIA DREAMERS - in fact, that was the one book where the heroine's job dictated the story above the destination!)
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I don't think it will come as a great surprise if I say travel writing! That was my original intention - just to write travel books. But now maybe I'd miss the fun of inventing characters and being able to let my imagination run wild!
Have you got a favourite out of all the books you've written, if so, which one and why?
WINTER WONDERLAND! Not just because it's the newest, it just seems so cosy because of the snow and fluffy hats and husky dogs and it feels especially romantic to me.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
You'd better be in love with your subject matter because you are going to writing and re-writing, editing and proof-reading, tweaking and reviewing for the best part of a year so choose wisely!! Also, don't expect the process to be a chai latte-sipping joy! Some of it is pure slog but oh! When the moments come when it's pouring out of your fingertips faster than you can think and you surprise even yourself (where did that line come from?) then it's all worthwhile!
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Three women: Dorothy Parker for her New York wit, Marlena de Blasi for her passion for Italy and good food and Iyanla Vanzant for her spiritual insight and cackling laugh.
Three men: Bill Bryson, Eric Weiner and Andrew Macarthy, all for their travel yarns. (And yes that's the former Brat Packer turned travel writer!)
Last book read:
You Had Me At Woof - How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam. It's a hilarious memoir from a New Yorker who rescues Boston terriers with one of the most heart-wrenching moments that makes me pang just thinking about it.
If you could have any of your books made into a film, which one would you chose and why? Who would you cast in the leading roles?
My first book DIVAS LAS VEGAS was picked up for a film option by Sir Elton John's Rocket Pictures but sadly it came to nothing. I always thought the leading girls (Jamie and Izzy) could be English unknowns just as long as they were FUNNY and then you could have lots of big name celebrity men as the eye candy. I would love to see LIVING LA VIDA LOCA made into a film or a musical because of all the steamy Latin dance scenes. I did talk about potential cast with my LA film agent and my vote for the lead went to Melissa McCarthy! And then Gilles Marini for the matador. Basically I think you can't go wrong with Sandra Bullock or Emily Blunt, no matter what!
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I've only ever read physical copies, I don't actually own a Kindle but I'm secretly hoping my husband might get me one for Christmas! Speaking of which, Merry Christmas to you Shaz and all your blog readers!
Thanks to Lyndsey at Hodder Books I have a copy of Winter Wonderland to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, simply fill in the Google form below, entries will close at 8pm on publication day, 8th November :