INTERVIEW BY DEBS CARR
Christina, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for Novelicious. I’ve read and enjoyed all your previous books and can’t wait to read The Way To A Woman’s Heart, published
in hardcover on 4th November and paperback on 3rd February 2011. Actually, I’ve already taken a sneaky peak and am already on page 35 and loving it.
1. I thoroughly enjoy revisiting the previous familiar characters and villages in your books and noticed that your heroine Ella Maloney, having left her corporate lifestyle behind, takes up a job on a farm situated somewhere between Lovers Knot and Fiddlesticks. If it’s like visiting old friends for me, as a reader, it must feel like that too for you. Do you find it difficult it come up with a fresh idea for each new book?
Thank you so much for saying that you like the continuity in the books – it’s a huge relief, because sometimes I think I’m just being self-indulgent. And yes, all my characters are my friends. To me, the villages and the characters in my books are real – I know they’re all living out there in some parallel universe – which is why I can’t let them go. And no, I don’t (or I haven’t yet – am now touching wood) have problems with ideas for new books, because all these people are living inside my head and I find new things for them to do, and new people for them to fall in love with, really quite easy. I know why they’re all in one place (in The Way To A Woman’s Heart, all the characters, except Poll and Ella, have lost their homes for various reasons) then I just think of a new theme (as in cookery in The Way To A Woman’s Heart – er – real cookery this time, not the magical recipes that were in Hubble Bubble) and let them run riot… At the moment I’ve got ideas for the next twelve books – is that showing off? Yes, sorry, I thought it might be,,,
2. Do you do much plotting for a book before you start writing, and if not, how do you go about writing your books?
Er – no, sorry - I’ve never plotted in my life! Each time I start a new novel, the characters are already fully-formed, and once I’ve got the book’s theme established then I just make it all up as I go along. If I had to plan or plot it would kill the magic of writing for me and make it seem like work – and I’m very lazy! So, I just let it all unfold in my head as I’m writing so it’s like reading a new story, or seeing a film, and I get caught up in the tale. Does that make sense? Sorry, I thought not! I’m not sure how I write really, but it’s always the same method – okay, with The Way To A Woman’s Heart I knew I wanted all my characters to be living in the same house for similar reasons and to be linked by their love of cooking and one television cookery programme in particular, but they’re all poles apart in age and lifestyle which leads to the various conflicts. And that’s about as much as I knew when I started – I knew who the characters were, that it would end happily, and that there would be all sorts of problems along the way, but what would happen in the middle and how it would be resolved was a mystery to me. It’s always a mystery to me, actually…
3. I always know that when I open one of your books I’m going to be transported to a place filled with larger than life characters, a heroine I can empathize with and a hero to die for. How do you manage to come up with new characters, as yours all seem so fully thought out and rounded?
Thank you again – you’re lovely! I suppose it’s because my characters are as real to me as my friends, family and neighbours – people I see every day. They all live with me all the time, and their character traits, voices, behaviour are just them… I mean, I never have to think about how they’re going to behave or look – they just do and are. They just seem to step out of my head and on to the page as if they have a life of their own, which they do – well, to me anyway. Hopefully they come to life in the books because they seem like real people – with all the flaws and insecurities and problems that real life throws at them. Oh, and they’re usually funny – because people are funny, aren’t they? Especially the ones who think they aren’t….
4. Ash Lawrence is a chef and although I haven’t met him yet, I can’t wait to do so, as I know he’ll be fabulous. Can you tell us if his character is inspired by anyone in particular, and if so, who it is?
Well, Ash certainly isn’t based on any of the current celeb chefs! I can’t cook/won’t cook and also hate blokes with oversized egos – so a shouty, big-headed chef who thinks drizzling an artistic stack of coddled samphire with a pomegranate pomade and a gnat’s entrails jus makes him God’s gift would NOT make a good hero in my opinion. Ash (like all my heroes) is creative and gentle, totally unaware of his deliciousness, and not particularly confident. He’s a great chef who has no idea just how great he really is. Ash, like all my characters, is a person in his own right – I never base the appearance of any of my characters on real people. Physically I suppose he just slots nicely into the rom-com mould – being tall, dark and drop-dead-gorgeously handsome (I have had short red-haired heroes and medium height ash-blond ones – but most of them seem to toe the rom-com party line) – but even this physical gorgeousness is tested to the limit in The Way To A Woman’s Heart because he has to – er – no – you’ll have to read the book to find out.
5. You’re kindly doing a piece on your writing room for us here at Novelicious, which I very much look forward to seeing. Have you always had your own writing space, or are you happy to write anywhere at all, if necessary?
Oh, I’ve always been a sort of write-anywhere girl. I spent the early years scribbling short stories and embryo novels on any bit of paper that came to hand while cooking (sort of!), working (which is why I was sacked from most of my jobs) or on trains/buses. I’ve never needed silence or solitude to write and always have the radio or stereo on. Now it’s lovely having my own room for writing – a room which I call my study NOT an office because office sounds like work and I really, really don’t like work… It’s the spare bedroom (I’ve recently realised that if I was posh this would be referred to as the guest room) and looks out over the trees in the back garden in the hope that just trees wouldn’t distract me. I’m easily distracted. Sadly, I quickly discovered I can spend hours just staring at the trees… The study used to be a cluttered, disgusting glory-hole because I’m a messy and disorganised person, but I’ve recently revamped it into a girly Cath Kidston space in the hope that it might make me work harder. It’s now full of pretty things and flowers – I still spend a lot of time staring at the trees though…
6. I can see by your website that you and the Toy Boy Trucker share your home with quite a few rescued cats. How good are they at leaving you in peace to work, or do they constantly vie for your attention when you’re trying to write?
Because the cats (all 9 of them) like to think they’re helping, and that I want their company all the time, they head for the study as soon as they’ve had their breakfast in the fond belief that that’s where I want them to be. And if I shut the study door when I’m writing they all see it as a challenge and try to burrow their way in – so I’ve given in and let them drape themselves over the desk and the radiator and my chair/lap/keyboard. Dexter is on the chair as I’m typing this (I’m perched on the edge), Dylan is asleep on the windowsill, Jonah and Luca are under the desk on my feet, and Alexia, Maddy and Flo are on my bookshelves. Emily and Lennox are invisible – so possibly in a cupboard…
7. And finally, if there’s one piece of advice you could give to an aspiring writer, what would that be?
Oh, that’s easy – be yourself and enjoy it. Love what you’re writing. Write for yourself and from the heart. Write the way you want to write – if it’s a few hundred words a day or tens of thousands; if it’s a sentence or two each day or one day flat out writing day a week – work in the way that suits you best. There are no rules. Don’t worry about strictures, or trends, or what other people/writers are doing/saying. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in what everyone says you should be doing, remember that fashions in writing are as fleeting as fashions in everything else, and given that it will probably take at least 18 months for your novel to become a published reality then anything on-trend today will be old-hat by then. Find your own voice and stick to it. If you love what you’re writing it’ll shine through and your readers will love it too. Just have a really good time lost in your imaginary world.
Many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck with The Way To A Woman’s Heart. I love the cover by the way. Thank you!!!
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