How did you feel when you found out you were going to be published?
You could have knocked me down with a feather (as my gran used to say) when a London literary agent emailed me to say she loved the stories I’d sent her and would like to represent me. After a few weeks of agonising waiting, she phoned to say a huge publisher, Headline, wanted to buy Decent Exposure and the partial manuscript of Wish You Were Here. I was absolutely ecstatic and broke open the champagne – but also a bit daunted by the new career I’d suddenly been launched into. But I wouldn’t change it for the world…well, maybe for the whole world, if it included The Seychelles and Gerard Butler.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Everywhere. Listening to people in cafes, on trains, watching TV, reading newspapers. Authors are serially nosy and being a journalist, I don’t mind asking weird questions of total strangers.
Once you start looking for inspiration, you soon find it. When I have a germ of an idea, I find the main characters also begin to form in my mind along with a setting. The setting is very important to me as it helps to define the characters and their development. Decent Exposure came about from my visits to the Lake District and also from a short story I’d written about a very uptight guy who’s asked to strip off for a charity calendar!
My books always have a whole bunch of conflicts going on between the characters – purely because of who they are and how they respond to a situation. Then I think about the characters and conflict for a few months and eventually come up with an outline. But I rarely stick to it; the characters seem to take on a life and story of their own once I get writing. I write very quickly to start with, not worrying about the niceties. Then I go back and edit the story which takes ages.
Are your characters based on real people?
I’d like to but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way. You can’t just slot a real life person into a book though you can use odd characteristics, hobbies etc here and there which is fun but sneaky…
What books do you like reading?
I enjoy a huge range of er…reading material… I like romantic comedies and women’s fiction by authors such as Catherine Alliott, Jill Mansell, Veronica Henry, Katie Fforde and Jilly Cooper. If I’m feeling wicked I pick up a vampire romance by Mary Janice Davidson. For the classics, I re-read Jane Austen and the Brontes over and over again. My dark side indulges in crime especially Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and Ellis Peters. We have far too many magazines in the house. Cosmo is my all-time favourite but I also subscribe to Empire, Total Film and Runners World!
I’d better stop now, the shelves are groaning…
What do you do to chill out?
Well, I used to love running but I’ve had a few injuries lately so have started to go swimming and to the gym instead – a good session on the punch bag usually does the trick if I’m feeling stressed. I like going out to eat, to the cinema and to the Lake District where some of my books are set. Oh and I absolutely LOVE shopping for clothes and books and drinking Starbucks or Costa – depending on my mood and whether I’m in Borders or Waterstones.