Welcome to Willow Cottage – throw open the shutters, let in the sea breeze and make yourself completely at home. Oh, and please do leave a comment in the Guestbook.
As landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider - whatever her colourful array of guests require. A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes through her doors.
This includes Annie herself - especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.
Through the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy, happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling!
Forget sending postcards saying ‘wish you were here’ - one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.
There is a review today on http://leeleeloves.co.uk so why not head over there after this interview to have a read.
Today lovely Sharon is interviewing me about me, my books and other stuff.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Guestbook?
The Guestbook is a love story told exclusively through the messages in a guestbook of a holiday cottage. A colourful array of guests stay at Willow Cottage and we get a little snapshot of their lives at that time they are staying in the cottage. But it is Annie’s story, the landlady of Willow Cottage, that slowly unfolds through her interactions with her guests.
Where did the inspiration come from to write the story in the form of comments in a guestbook?
I used to work in a hotel and every day was different with the colourful array of guests that came to stay. About 18 months ago I started thinking about writing something new something different, a unique way to tell a story and as I was driving down to stay in a hotel, I started thinking about utilizing my hotel experience in a story, the different guests, the sagas, the highs and the lows, the unforgettable guests and the ones that you’d like to forget. I wanted to make it more personal though than a faceless hotel that sees guests come and go on a daily basis and that’s when I started thinking about a holiday cottage. When I checked into the hotel, there was a Guestbook for me to sign and some of the guests had written quite lengthy comments about where was good to eat and what they had done or seen and I knew then that would be a perfect way to tell a story. By the time I had found my way to my room, the idea was fully formed in my head. I wrote for several hours that night, not even venturing from my room for dinner. Hopefully I’ve painted the guests with enough information in The Guestbook so you get a sense of who they are and what makes them tick.
The Guestbook was the winner of Carina UK’s Valentine’s competition, how did you feel when you heard that you had won a publishing contract with them?
I didn’t actually believe it at first. I thought it was a joke. I read the email ten times to try to look for the cracks in the joke, but no one knew I had entered the Carina competition so no one would email to tell me I had won unless it was really Carina. To win a publishing deal from Carina was an amazing feeling, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I’d tried for so long to get a publishing deal, I’d almost given up all hope. I just hope people fall in love with The Guestbook as much as I do.
Are you going to treat yourself to something special to celebrate the publication of The Guestbook?
I think there will be some bubbly shared on my publication day. I don’t know about treating myself, I think I’ll see how well it does first. If it does well I’ll be jetting off to New Zealand or Canada, if not it might be a weekend in Skegness.
You’ve also written a Young Adult novel, The Sentinel, is it hard adapting to writing different genres?
No, not really. The Guestbook was unlike anything I've ever written before because it's just the messages and that was hard to tell the story with the minimal of information. I’ve written other romance stories too but they are told through a traditional narrative. The Sentinel was fun because of all the powers Eve had. Nothing was impossible, if I wanted her to fly, she could fly, if I wanted her to shoot fire from her hands then she did that too. But there was also a love story in The Sentinel too and that had to be dealt with in the same way as all my love stories.
Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything about it?
My next story will be One Hundred Proposals which was my winning short story in the Sunlounger anthology last year, but this is the full length version of that story. The story is finished but it needs a lot of tweaking and editing. I hope it will be ready for the summer to coincide with the release of Sunlounger 2. I’m also working on a new story which is tentatively titled Kidnap My Wife, which I know it sounds weird but it’s a very funny, lovely story.
Have you always known that you wanted to write?
I’ve written stories all my life, I love it. That complete escapism into a world of your own making. Also when you write you get the stories that you want to read, with the perrfect ending.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
Ah no, I wish I did. I wish I had a writing room overlooking a beach or beautiful countryside, I wish I could say I write between 9-5 every day, but sadly I work full time and very long hours, I’m up at five every morning and don’t get home till seven every night. I then try to cram in a few hours of writing every night before I inevitably fall asleep over my keyboard.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Just don’t give up, keep trying. If you get advice try to act on it. Publishers or agents very rarely give advice unless they can see some potential in your work so try to take it on board. Speaking to other authors it took them all a very long time to finally get that publishing deal. It took me over four years. So try and try and try again. Plus a lot of authors are going down the self publishing route so if you can’t get that coveted deal you can always try that. Just as long as you get it properly edited first.
If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
William Shakespeare, just to ask him if it was really him that wrote all those books/plays and where he got his inspiration from. Jill Mansell is one of my favourite authors so I'd definitely invite her and maybe E.L James just to add a bit of controversy to the mix.
Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
Hmmm that’s a hard one, a year ago I would have said physical every time, there’s something wonderful about curling up with a real book and feeling the pages between your fingers and I long for the day when I see my own books released as a paperback. Plus there’s the problem of keeping your Kindle safe. If I’m on a beach and I decide to go for a swim, I wouldn’t think twice about leaving my book on my towel or sunlounger. No one is going to steal my book and if they did it wouldn’t be a great loss. I couldn’t do that with a Kindle. But I love the instant access of Kindle. Wherever I am I can download a copy of the latest release to my phone or tablet and start reading straight away. That’s a wonderful thing. Plus there are many authors that only publish in ebooks or many indie authors that simply can’t afford to put their books out in print and if I only read print books there would be a lot of fantastic books that I would miss out on.
What was the last book you’ve read that has made you cry?
I don’t tend to cry at books and generally I’ll avoid those books that will make me cry. I love the feel good books, those that wear those rose tinted glasses where everything is lovely and perfect. I know the real world isn’t like that but that’s why I like to read to escape into a perfect world. Belinda Jones, Jill Mansell, Miranda Dickinson write these perfect, gorgeous stories and I could read them all day and never get bored. There aren’t many books that have made me cry. P.S I Love You by Cecelia Aherne. The Host by Stephanie Meyer, The Memory Game by Sharon Sant and Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans have all made me shed a little tear.
Where would your idyllic location be for a writing retreat?
Somewhere beachy definitely, somewhere I could look up from my laptop and see the sea. I imagine I’d go for long walks along the sea front every day, let the wind rush through my hair and feel the salt spray on my skin and be inspired to write beautiful things.
If you were going to be stuck on a desert island and could only take 3 books with you, which ones would you choose?
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because nothing will ever top that feeling I had when I read that book for the first time. I’ve read that book many times since then and it still gives me a buzz.
Bridget Jones Diary for the belly laughs.
And I think my third book should be some kind of desert island survival book, which would include information on which plants to eat and how to build a raft out of coconuts.
The blog tour continues tomorrow with http://tishylou.wordpress.com and they’ll be a review on http://booksforbirdsblog.blogspot.co.uk so make sure you check them out.