Where did the idea come from for Perfect Girl?
I like to explore familiar situations, and the pressure to have it all while living a perfect life is something that most women can identify with. The fun thing about writing romcoms is that you get to take a situation and push it to the extreme. That’s where a lot of the humour comes from. So in Carol’s case, it wasn’t enough to have demanding parents and work commitments (something a lot of us experience). I piled on a nightmare sister, rogue boyfriend, hopeless best friend and the risk of prison… and Carol came out swinging!
Have you ever experienced writer's block? If so what do you do to overcome it?
I don’t get Writer’s Block as much as Writer’s Procrastination. It’s often worse! There’ve been times (sometimes weeks) when I’m supposed to be writing but find myself doing anything but that. I’ll spend hours on Facebook and twitter, or looking for new recipes or cleaning my flat (a classic procrastination technique from university days). When it happens I have to break the cycle, so I start writing first thing in the morning, with the Internet turned off, and don’t stop until I reach my word count. After a week or so of such discipline my writing routine returns and I’m productive again (until next time!)
Which do you find easier to write novellas or a full book?
Novellas are definitely easier. With a novel, most authors I know (myself included) get to around 30,000 words and suffer a crisis of confidence. We’re bored with the book and don’t think it’s any good. That’s usually not true, of course, which we realise when we’ve finished it. Novellas are short enough to avoid that and are fun the whole way through :- ))
Have you much input into your cover designs?
I have no input at all when the books are published traditionally (e.g. Single in the City was published by Penguin in the UK and The Curvy Girls Club is being published by Avon/HarperCollins) but when I independently publish, I design my own covers. I love thinking about covers and in fact I usually design them before I write the book (along with writing the synopsis/back cover blurb). That way I know I’ll have an appealing proposition for readers when I deliver the book.
Do you dive straight in when writing or have you a clear plan before you start?
I always have a clear plan! First I come up with a one line synopsis. In the case of Perfect Girl, it was: Cinderella meets Falling Down in this wickedly funny tale about having it all. Then I write the back cover blurb and then I write a 2-3 page synopsis that goes to my agent, who gives me feedback about whether it’s good enough/appealing enough for my readers. It’s at the synopsis stage that I develop all the characters. Then I write a chapter-by-chapter outline, which I follow loosely when writing.
What have you got planned for us next?
My Christmas novella, The Reluctant Elf, comes out on November 13th (http://amzn.to/1vwotNM) and I’m really excited about that! It’s about Britain’s worst innkeeper and here’s the book trailer:
Do you think it is possible to achieve the perfect work/home/life balance that Carol struggles with?
The short answer is no. I know lots of women who are doing it all, but none who feel they’re doing it all as well as they “should” be. That’s the difficulty. We beat ourselves up with “shoulds”. We feel like we should give 100% to each sphere of our lives, but of course we can’t do that, so we feel stressed/guilty/resentful (take your pick). There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Each of us has to decide where we want to expend our energy, and be comfortable with the decisions we make. And try to give ourselves a break because we’re doing the best we can.
Who is the first person you let read the finished draft of your latest book?
My agent, Caroline Hardman, is always my first and only reader and I completely trust her advice. If it’s a traditionally published book then it goes to my commissioning editor next (and on to content and copy edits from there). If it’s independently published then after I’ve made the changes that Caroline suggests, it goes to my fantastic copy editor, Lucy York. It takes a village to publish a book!