Can you tell our readers what to expect from your novel ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’
I’d describe it as witty and sexy, with some really heart-wrenching bits! And I very much wanted to offer the reader characters that they could believe in and root for… so it’s a book that has all the traditional elements of a romance – dark, brooding man; slightly scruffy underachieving woman; gay best friend, etc. but I’ve given them a bit of a twist. Oh, and added a great aunt who plays a demon game of filthy scrabble.
Where did the inspiration come from for the novel?
A couple of places. I really like the actor Richard Armitage, particularly his portrayal of John Thornton in the BBC adaptation of Mrs Gaskell’s North and South. He’s a character who looks made of granite but underneath he isn’t and it started me thinking about what would happen if a man like that met someone who got under his skin. I set it all in the world of advertising because it’s one I’ve worked in and, while I’ve been careful not to base any of the characters on people I know, it’s a world where bizarre things can happen.
Your character of Mr Wolfe is likened to Heathcliff, where did your inspiration for the other characters come from?
it’s a book that has all the traditional elements of a romance – dark, brooding man; slightly scruffy underachieving woman; gay best friend, but I’ve given them a bit of a twist.
Well Ellie is a copywriter and so am I, although the only real similarity between her and me is that we like to play with words. A lady I know who is in her eighties is the inspiration for Great Aunt Edith – but only in the sense that she has a real zest for life, not that she plays filthy scrabble. Lesley, Ellie’s best friend at work is made up of little bits and pieces of the supportive and funny female friends I’m lucky to have.
Do you have any future projects lined up?
Quite a few. My next book ‘The First Time I Saw Your Face’ comes out in June. Again I’m exploring the theme that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get with people, but it’s set in Northumberland this time, not London. You can expect the same humour but perhaps even more reasons to have a good cry. And right now, I’m putting the finishing touches to my third book ‘Grace Under Pressure’.
I also write short stories too, so life is pretty busy.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers wanting to write in this genre?
Read as many good romantic books as you can so that you learn about plotting, pace, point of view, etc – all the important stuff. And when you do write, really get to know and love your characters... if they are believable and well rounded you’ll write believable emotions and that is what really engages readers of romance. If you’re not making yourself laugh, cry or ‘ahem’ get turned on by any sex scenes, then the reader won’t either.
There are lots of novels out there that tackle relationship troubles, problems with bosses, transformational attitudes… why should readers pick yours from the rest?
With my books you get a lot of humour but it comes with a real emotional punch. So although ‘Mr Wolfe’ is set in a London advertising agency, you can feel it’s about any woman trying to love someone when they don’t want to be loved. I write my stories to stay with people after they’ve finished reading them.
Can you tell us about your average day as a writer?
On a good writing day I take my teenage daughters to school, come home, make a cup of coffee and sit and write until I go out and pick them up again. I’ll have a quick break for lunch and I try and do a walk around the block to stop everything I put in my mouth settling on my stomach and backside.
On a bad writing day I do the same but there’s more chocolate involved.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Two things really – the first is getting lost in a world of my own creating. I still find it amazing that I can make up a character who I really hate saying goodbye to when I finish writing them. The second is connecting with my readers – I love hearing from people who have enjoyed my writing and really immersed themselves in the story… after all, that’s why I’m doing it.
What do you enjoy the least?
I can’t honestly think of one thing I don’t like. I’ve worked in offices, restaurants, a pub, job centres, all kinds of places and without sounding smug, sitting in this chair writing about people falling in love is absolutely the best job I’ve ever done.
Interview by Lucy Walton