Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I write upmarket/book club women’s fiction – stories that modern women can relate to, that move you, sweep you off into a world that feels so much like your own, and make you ponder long after the last page is turned. My novel After You Left became an Amazon Charts bestseller and hit the #1 spot on Amazon, as did my second, The Secrets of Married Women. I live in Canada, though I’m a Brit who happened to marry a Canadian. Because I’ve been here most of my adult life but retain strong emotional ties to the UK, my books try to embrace both.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My novel The Shadow Between Us was released this March. Of all my books, this one was the most emotional for me to write because it’s a story that centres on one of my worst fears and a question I’ve had for years – what would happen to my life if my worst fear came true? I wanted to write it from the very first moment I began writing novels – some 18 years ago, but I didn’t really feel I was mature enough for the subject matter back then. Besides that was an era when chick lit was popular and this story felt too dark to sell at that time. But it always sat there in my head, and finally, in my late forties, I decided it needed to be told.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Interestingly, I do! I am lucky enough to be able to write full time. I take this seriously. I write Monday to Friday, pretty much keeping office hours. (no TV. no naps. Well, er, perhaps on long winter days when the cat and dog are both asleep beside me). What I find fascinating about my process is that I can sit there all day at my computer and be very unproductive at times. But as soon as 4pm hits, something very strange happens. I write. I write fast and fluidly. The words pour out of me – they all make sense. Between 4 and 6pm I can make up for an entire wasted day. Even if I am seriously stuck and panicking, I will find myself waiting for 4pm to roll around because somehow I know something will kick into gear and I will write myself out of my slump. It’s very weird. But I hope it never changes or there may be no more novels!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Many. I try to read women’s fiction as widely as I can. I prefer books where great writing truly shines through, rather than intricate plots. I need to feel swept away by language. If an author can do that and give me a story I won’t easily forget (which is what I aim to do with every novel), then I am hooked – she will be a favourite for me. Over the years I’ve loved Louise Candlish, Rosie Thomas, Anita Shreve, to name only three…
What are you working on now?
My new one that will be out March 2020 is in edits so technically I am adding the finishing touches to that. I had a title for it that I thought was rather wonderful but now the publisher might want me to change it. So I can’t really tell you what it is, but I will say please friend me over on Facebook or follow my author page – that’s where I’m most interactive. Then you’ll know more as I get to know it!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Awesome Gang is fantastic, as well as several other paid websites. I am lucky enough to be published by Amazon’s Lake Union so I tend to do very little promoting myself. This is good because I HATE selling myself. Most writers are introverts and don’t have big heads, so it’s very hard for me to get out there and shout about my own work.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Understand which genre you are writing in. Read widely in that genre. Write the best story you can write – because YOU want to write it, not for any other reason. If it’s not exciting you, it won’t excite readers. Then put your business hat on. Publishing is a business. Your book will only be bought by a publisher if they see potential for big sales – that’s the reality of the industry today. You need to approach agents/editors with some understanding of the business. Be professional. To succeed, you need a smart head on your shoulders, a powerful novel – and of course a little bit of luck. It took me years. YEARS of setbacks, sadness, and self-doubt. But I kept at it. I improved my craft. I tried not to take rejection personally. I believed I could do it. I got there eventually. So might you!
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Write your draft the set it aside. Ideally for 2-3 weeks. Longer if you can. When you read it again you will see it with new eyes. It’s the truest thing anyone ever told me.
What are you reading now?
I am re-reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. How many times have I read it no? It never fails to delight me.
What’s next for you as a writer?
One more book to write in my contract with Lake Union. Then…. hopefully a brand new contract and more books!
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending
The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller
Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty
The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy