Today I'm delighted to be doing a debut spotlight feature for fellow blogger Jennifer Joyce who has just published her debut book A Beginners Guide to Salad. It's also Jennifer's birthday today so I hope you'll join me in wishing her a happy birthday.
Jennifer Joyce is a writer of romantic comedies who lives in Manchester with her husband and their two daughters. When she isn’t disappearing into her own fictional worlds, she can be found waffling on her blog and reviewing books for Novelicious’ Alternative Thursday.
You can find out more about Jennifer and her books at jenniferjoycewrites.co.uk or follow her on twitter @Writer_Jenn
Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.
Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a millin pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.
With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?
Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book A Beginner’s Guide to Salad?
A Beginner’s Guide To Salad is about a woman’s weight-loss bid. Ruth has always been overweight and was bullied at school because of it, so she’s horrified when she receives an invitation to her high school reunion. To begin with, she’s reluctant to go until she devises a plan to lose weight and shock her old classmates with her transformation.
Where did the inspiration come from to write this story?
I wanted to write a book about acceptance. There are loads of films out there where the heroine has a makeover and suddenly the hero falls madly in love with her. But why can’t he love her for who she is? Taking inspiration from Mark Darcy, I wanted Ruth to be liked just the way she is.
Why did you decide to bite the bullet and self-publish this book?
It was a hard decision to make! I submitted A Beginner’s Guide To Salad to agents and although I did receive some positive rejections, they were still rejections. Usually, I’d move onto my next book and submit that once it was finished, but I couldn’t stand the idea of shelving A Beginner’s Guide. I believed in the book and I adored Ruth too much to simply forget about her. I then saw a tweet about self-publishing and how it wasn’t looked upon with disdain as it once was and it really got me thinking. It took a good while from that moment to deciding to go ahead – was I ready to self-publish? Was I brave enough? Did I know what was involved? – but in the end, Ruth was under my skin and I had to put her ‘out there’ one way or another.
Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
I have the first draft of my next book, which is another romantic comedy but with a touch of magic. Ally has been with her husband, Gavin since they were teenagers and although she loves him, she wonders if there is more to life than sitting in front of the telly and the occasional trip to the pub. Her colleague Kelly is young, free and single and Ally craves the excitement of her life, especially when Gavin admits he’s keen to start a family. Ally feels trapped and wishes she had a fun, uncomplicated life like Kelly’s – and her wish comes true! But is Kelly’s life really as fulfilling as it appears?
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I always scribbled down stories, from as far back as I can remember, and when I was around ten, I attended a children’s author talk at our local library and knew from that moment that I wanted to be a writer.
Where would be you idyllic location for a writing retreat?
The Lake District would be perfect for me. I’m not a fan of heat so the UK is ideal! I’d love to be cosy in a little cottage with amazing views outside for when my brain and fingers need a rest from writing. A roaring fire, hot chocolate and pile of chick lit would make it perfect.
Extract: Cabbage Soup Diet
In a bid to lose weight quickly, Ruth tries the Cabbage Soup Diet, which has some rather unpleasant aftereffects.
After saying goodbye, Billy raced up the stairs and showered before dousing himself in Theo's aftershave. He raced back down the stairs and almost vomited on the bottom step. It was the second day of Ruth’s Cabbage Soup Diet and the house was filled with a thick green smog, the aftereffects of the diet. He found Ruth in the kitchen, forcing down another bowl of the repulsive soup.
‘I’ve had enough of this diet, Ruth. I can’t take it any more.’
‘I’m not asking you to eat the soup, am I?’ Ruth spooned more into her mouth and pretended it was delicious. ‘I’m not even asking you to make it any more. I nailed the last batch.’
‘No, but you’re making me smell it. Clare’s going to be here in fifteen minutes. What if she thinks it’s me who’s farting?’
‘Will you relax?’
‘Relax? My girlfriend is coming round and the place reeks. I know you don’t want her to come round tonight, but –’
‘I never said I didn’t want her to come round.’
Billy tried not to gag as another wave of cabbage hit his nostrils. ‘You may as well have.’
It was true that Ruth hadn’t been too pleased when Billy mentioned that Clare would be joining them for that evening’s telly entertainment.
‘But we always watch it together,’ she’d pointed out, pout in place. ‘Just us. Even Erin knows that Thursday evenings are our night.’ But what could she do? Billy had already invited Clare along and he was right, Ruth did want to get to know her better, so she decided to get a grip and stop sulking.
Ruth’s spoon clattered into the bowl as she rose out of her seat. ‘You’re overreacting. I don’t mind Clare joining us. It was just a surprise, that’s all. And we’ll open the windows so it’ll be fine.’ Billy and Ruth tore around the house, opening every window and, to be on the safe side, Billy wafted the front door, trying to dispel the stench further.
‘What are you doing?’ Clare stood by the gate, catching Billy mid-swing.
‘Just checking the hinges. They’ve been sticking but they seem fine now. Come in.’ Billy took a quick sniff of the hallway as Clare made her way across the short path to the house.
He could hear Ruth spraying the sitting room liberally with citrus fruit air freshener.
‘I’ve never actually watched A Beginner’s Guide To You before. Is it any good?’
Billy took Clare’s jacket and hung it over the banister with the rest of the coats. ‘Any good? It’s brilliant. You’ll really enjoy it. We’ve got the first two seasons on DVD if you want to borrow them.’ He froze as Clare sniffed the air.
‘What’s that smell?’
Billy decided to play dumb. It wasn’t a great stretch of his acting abilities. ‘What smell?’
Clare gave another long sniff. ‘Have you been chopping lemons or something?’
Billy’s breath, which he hadn’t realised he’d been holding until now, rushed out. ‘Oh, that smell.’
‘Yes, it’s lovely.’ Clare sniffed the air again. ‘Mmm. Lemony and… something else. Limes?’
Billy didn’t care what the smell was as long as it wasn’t cabbage or farts. He led Clare into the sitting room, where Ruth whipped the can of air freshener behind her back.
‘Hi, Ruth. It’s nice to see you again.’
‘You too.’ Ruth stepped forward, extending her hand to shake Clare’s. As their hands met, a fog erupted from behind Ruth’s back and it wasn’t citrus fruit scented.