Saturday, 7 June 2014

Author Interview: Chrissie Manby

I first discovered Chrissie Manby as an author after being given a copy of Running away from Richard and over the years I've now read most of her books, including those written as Olivia Darling, apart from her Stella Knightley trilogy.  

So it was a huge delight to meet Chrissie in person a couple of weeks ago at an author/reviewer event for the Sunlounger 2 anthology which is published later this month and chat to her briefly. Afterwards Chrissie kindly agreed to do a Q& A to talk about her latest book, A Proper Family Holiday, which I'm hoping to finish reading this afternoon so hope to upload my review soon.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book A Proper Family Holiday?
A Proper Family Holiday is the story of the Benson family, who go to Lanzarote en masse to celebrate the matriarch Jacqui’s sixtieth birthday. The family party ranges from Granddad Bill, who is in his eighties, to Jack, who is only six. Though all the family members have a role to play, the novel really centres on adult siblings Ronnie (Veronica) and Chelsea. As children, the sisters were close, but as adults they lead very different lives. Ronnie became pregnant as a teenager. As a result, she dropped out of school and is now a full-time mum in Coventry. Chelsea went on to university and has a high-flying job at a glossy magazine in London. 

When the novel begins, Ronnie and Chelsea are estranged after an argument at a previous family barbecue. They promise their mother that they will try to get along for just seven days. But the sisters find still find it difficult to see eye-to-eye, until Jacqui reveals a secret that will either bring the family together properly at last or blow it apart forever. 

Where did the inspiration come from to write about an extended family going on holiday together? 
I’ve been writing about twenty-somethings falling in and out of love for almost two decades. I wanted to try something new and write from the perspective of the kind of characters you don’t often get in a rom-com, like pensioners, young children and teenagers. Creating a family is the perfect way to do it all at once! And who doesn’t love a holiday setting? Sunshine, swimming pools and sangria. Though when I went to Lanzarote, it rained non-stop for a week. The locals told us they had never seen weather like it. Normally, they said, it’s beautiful here. Great…

Which character did you have the most fun creating? 
I loved writing Jack, who is loosely based on both my nephews. They’re such great fun to be around and come out with such wonderful one-liners. I may have nicked a few.

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, are you able to tell us anything 
about it? 
At the moment I’m finishing off ‘A Proper Family Christmas’ which explores the aftermath of the secrets revealed in ‘A Proper Family Holiday’. Again, it follows the Bensons, but it also introduces some new characters who have a big impact on the Bensons’ happy family life.

How has your writing style evolved over the years?
Ha! I don’t think it has. I still think that the first short story I ever published, when I was studying for my GCSEs, is the best thing I’ve ever written. It was called ‘Whatever Happened to the Wonderful Boy I Fell In Love With’ and it was about a girl trying to break up with her boyfriend, only to discover that he hasn’t heard a word because he’s got his earphones in. He’s listening to his Walkman. Walkman? Remember those? It was that long ago. 

What does a typical writing day look like for you? 
There’s nothing typical about a writing day in my house, alas. I’m always thinking I should try to establish a better routine. Sometimes I start scribbling at eight. On other days, I fanny around on Pinterest until late afternoon. However, I do always try to hit a certain word count. At the moment that’s 2500 words a day, which sounds like a lot but can actually be done in a couple of hours if I’ve planned my novel well enough.

What’s the best thing about being an author? And on the flip side what is the 
The best thing is being paid to do something I love. The worst thing is Amazon reviews. Wow! People can be vile. 

Do you treat yourself to something special upon publication of each book? 
Unfortunately, I have a tendency to treat myself all the way through the process – good writing day, bad writing day, good review day, bad review day etc - which is why in 2012 I embarked upon a year without buying new clothes. To the astonishment of everyone who knows me, I managed to get through it (though I did sublimate my desire to spend ridiculous amounts of money on new dresses into spending a fortune on fancy cheese and wine).

If you could go away to a writing retreat abroad, where would you like to go to? 
Somewhere sunny, with a beautiful beach where I could walk and think. Brittany or Cornwall would do if you could only guarantee the weather. Having said that, rain is perfect writing weather. It’s chucking it down as I write this. 

If you were going to write a famous person into one of your stories, who would it be and why? 
I’d write in Jon Hamm (Don Draper from Mad Men) so that he would just have to be in the movie! He’s so good looking and, when he’s not playing Draper, he seems slightly goofy too. Lots of fun. In fact, I already write him into all my novels. Whenever I’m thinking of a hero, it’s Jon. Sigh.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author just starting out? 
Just keep writing. Write every day. Even if it’s just a couple of hundred words. And don’t edit until you’ve finished the whole book! Lots of people get bogged down in rewriting the beginning over and over and over… Once you’ve finished your book,the world is your oyster. There are so many routes to publication these days. But if you’re going to put your book on Kindle, please make sure you spell-check it first.

Thank you, Sharon, for including me in your lovely blog. It’s been an absolute pleasure to answer your questions. Anything rather than finish this new bl**dy novel!

Lots of love,



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