Can you tell us briefly about your latest release Pleasure Island?
I’d be delighted to! Pleasure Island is a pacey, racy read ostensibly about three (minor and fading) celebrity couples who are invited to a holiday destination of a lifetime by a very powerful, rich and influential media mogul – only they don’t know exactly why, or indeed what is exactly in store for them!
It’s an idyllic setting, paradise on earth and their every whim catered for – literally, only not all is as it seems in paradise…as you will discover. The guests have history between them which makes for some explosive moments and strange things start happening to make them question McKenzie’s motives for inviting them. Only they can’t even imagine the diabolical truth….there’s plenty of twists and shocks, some you might see coming and others not (I hope!), scandal, secrets, sins, sex, betrayal, subterfuge, cat-fights, adultery, intrigue, glamour and an explosive ending with a big twist!
When Pleasure Island was revealed by Bookouture over on Twitter it was the cover that made me want to read the book not even having read the blurb. How important do you feel the cover of a book is in enticing readers to buy it ? Did you have much input into its design?
I loved the cover; it’s my favourite one to date and conjured up just the sort of feeling I had hoped; summery, idyllic setting, and with a hint of intrigue. Covers are, of course, important in getting readers to pick up your book and entice you in and personally I like a cover that gives you an instant reaction, the ‘oooh’ factor if you like. But like with any form of art it can be subjective. I prefer a cover that reflects what’s inside so you have a generally good idea of what you’re getting but I am also mindful of the adage, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ I’ve read some wonderful books with unremarkable covers and vice versa. I suppose a book cover is a little like a person, in the end it’s what‘s on the inside that truly counts! But they are important. My lovely editor, Claire, had a strong concept in mind for the cover – I can’t take much credit for it - but we discussed the fact that while we wanted it to look beautiful and convey the stunning setting, it had to hint at the mystery and a darker side too, which I think it does beautifully and am very happy with it.
Pleasure Island was brilliant and I found it really reminiscent of Victoria Fox and early Tasmina Perry. Both authors I love. What authors do you you enjoy reading that may not write in your genre?
I’m a huge Martina Cole fan and have been since the beginning, although I wouldn’t say our genres are so very different. I also love many of James Patterson’s novels too – both writers are gritty, produce strong characters and exciting plots. I like to think I’m glamour meets grime! There’s always a darker side to my novels and they seem to be getting darker each time! I love Daphne Du Maurier and Sidney Sheldon too. I also love David Nicholls, everything he has written has been so compelling.
In my review I summed Pleasure Island up as THE book of summer 2015. I'd class it as a summer block/bonkbuster. What do you think are the essential elements in a book of this nature to make it a successful summer read?
I am beyond thrilled with that quote and can’t thank you enough – it means so much! I honestly don’t write with a season in mind, although Pleasure Island lends itself as a summer read largely because of the beautiful setting and that it just seems right to read it on a beach somewhere with a cocktail in hand! In my humble opinion summer reads work best when they contain escapism, take you off somewhere else in your mind (a head holiday!) and I suppose if they contain glamour, scandal, sensationalism and sex then that adds to it. It’s all about aspiration I suppose, transporting the reader to somewhere else inside their mind – that for me makes a good summer read. But I do believe that this is not exclusively seasonal and could be enjoyed any time of year I hope.
This book is huge in terms of length and plot and all that happens. How long did it take you to write and had you much research to do beforehand?
It took a little over a year to write start to finish but it would’ve been quicker if I hadn’t had to move house – twice! I plan to write my next one quicker if possible. Once I’ve got the plot outline I just like to get down to it and write. I research as I go along and where I need to. As a journalist I’m always researching everything but in all honesty it’s largely all there in my head. I’m not one of those writers who has post it notes everywhere, or who writes a detailed plot outline first, in fact I make very minimal notes, usually on old bills and scraps of paper and notebooks that I look back on and that make no sense whatsoever! But there’s a method to the madness and it seems to work for me that way. It really is all in my head! Though I do fact check and if I’m writing about something I know little about (i.e computer hacking) then I will research so it sounds authentic, even if I have no real idea of what I’m writing about!
Where did you get the idea for the book? The whole island concept and the power of 'observation and control' was so well done a bit like Big Brother watching you.
In truth I don’t know! It just came to me, like all of my ideas have. I suppose in a way I am interested in the whole concept of voyeurism and the world’s obsession with being viewed 24/7 and the whole explosion of social media and our self-obsessed culture. I was thinking about how much things have changed and progressed in ten years and it made me think, where will this all lead? We have access to people’s most intimate moments now and nothing seems sacred anymore, we’re all on show and being watched and observed and putting ourselves out there to be, so I suppose this was a thought basis behind the general concept.
Who was your favourite character to write? I felt Billie Jo appeared ditzy at first but boy did she have some fantastic one liners. Although my favourite was Angelika.
It’s a tricky one because I genuinely find myself loving and becoming fond of all my characters, even the most flawed, in fact sometimes especially the most flawed. It’s a little like asking which of your children you prefer – I love them all equally in different ways, although I will admit that Billie-Jo was at times fun to write, and Mia too. Strong, feisty women are always fun to write. But I enjoyed the sexual tension between Angelika and Nate too.
Had you the entire plot planned out before you began to write or did the characters and their exploits take over once
As I said above, I start with a rough plot in my mind, the basic outline of beginning, middle and end, a synopsis I suppose and then I allow myself to write and see where it takes me. The Story is usually strong in my mind and I know where it’s going but often the characters take on a life of their own and have a slightly different agenda to the one I had first thought, like perhaps when developing a back-story or a character I think, ‘oh no, they wouldn’t do/act/behave this way’ and so tweak it to ensure it’s more authentic and in keeping with their character. I had the plot for Pleasure Island clear in my head, although a couple of things surprised me, like Martin McKenzie’s action on board his yacht (I won’t spoil it). Initially I didn’t think he would do what he did but as I was writing that scene he took over and did his own thing!
If you were only allowed take five things to Martin's pleasure island what would you bring?
Five is quite a lot! If I was to take anything to Martin’s Pleasure Island (although the guests have everything there already) then I would say a boat! (is that cheating?), a spare mobile phone (with my lawyer on speed dial), a camera (for evidence), a Dictaphone and my wits! But on a normal island if I was stranded then I would take a wind up radio, a knife, some cigarettes (bad I know) a book that I could read over and over again and never get bored of and someone I loved!
I was talking about the book on Twitter with a friend and I mentioned wouldn't it be great if there was a Christmas book written in this genre and she agreed. I think it would be fantastic as there are heaps of Christmas books released and I think you would have a unique place in this genre. Have you ever been tempted to write a book like this?
A book set around Christmas time you mean? Yes of course, if it was indicative to the plot, although I don’t really try and write around a season, more around a story and characters. But I would definitely consider it if it was right.
Finally can you give us any hints as to what you are currently working on?
My next offering is also venturing into a slightly darker realm and is ostensibly about a terrible deception…so expect more scandal, intrigue, secrets, lies, strong characters and of course a little glamour too. I’m developing a very strong female character who appears in this next book, and who has an intriguing back story, and I hope you will love her as I intend to write her full, sensational story in the one after! Watch this space….x
Anna-Lou began her career as a dancer but a moped accident in Ibiza put paid to those aspirations and so she went back to her first and one true love – writing! She re-trained as a journalist, specialising mainly in women’s interest and celebrity, becoming the Editor of J-17 and Smash Hits as well as writing for a host of women’s magazines.
Anna-Lou has written two Adult Fiction titles – Chelsea Wives (Vengeful Wives in the US) and Wicked Wives, both published by Avon in the UK and Bookouture in the US and Canada.