Jennifer Gilby Roberts

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit Author

My Greatest Holiday

This was written as a guest post for Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams.

AucklandCBDfromRangitotoMy greatest holiday will always be the four months I spent in New Zealand after finishing school. I was old enough to do everything (except hire a car, oddly enough), but young enough not to have to do anything. There was money in the bank to pay for the trip and a hostel bed wherever I showed up that day. Bliss.

I lost a lot of weight that trip, because I walked everywhere. The best travel advice I’ve had is to get a good map in case you get lost and then put it away and get lost. I saw so much more just wandering around the places I visited. Though the treks between bus stops and hostels with my life on my back were a challenge. I remember almost crying when I discovered the hostel in Dunedin was three-quarters of the way up a very steep hill. I did climb Mount Eden, but that was because the hostel I was staying at was most of the way up it. I often walked to the top in the morning to enjoy the view, before heading down into Auckland. One day, I was joined by a coach load of Japanese tourists. Several of them indicated to me that they wanted to take a picture with me, presumably as a genuine New Zealander. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was English, especially since there was no one else up there. Or perhaps I have a famous doppelganger out there?

Visitors to NZ have to partake in adrenaline sports. It’s practically a condition of the visa. And I did everything on offer. Hand-gliding, para-gliding, para-sailing, bungee jumping, sky swinging, zorbing. I started with skydiving, so everything else seemed no big deal. True, I spent most of the way down slowly losing consciousness and I don’t remember the last few hundred feet at all, but I still did it. Somewhere, there is a video of the dive, but I’ve never dared watch it.320px-Skydiving_over_Cushing

They say you should take half as much stuff as you think you need and twice as much money (good advice, in my experience). This was long before ereaders, so books didn’t often form part of my luggage. Fortunately, every hostel had a ‘take one, leave one’ bookshelf. You read a lot of odd books that way. Somewhere, I’m sure I have a list of everything I read. I do recall picking up a biography of Princess Grace of Monaco, Harry Potter and Victoria Beckham’s autobiography. I also read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, because the second film came out while I was there and, of course, it was filmed on the south island. My biggest regret for the trip is that I didn’t go on the location tours offered. Because I had such an open schedule, when I was tired or ill or the weather was bad, I just stayed at the hostel and read. That trip really reactivated my imagination after it had been ground down by A-levels and no doubt contributed to the writing of The Dr Pepper Prophecies, which I wrote later that year.

It’s a wonderful time of your life. The future stretches out in front of you, packed full of possibilities, and you haven’t started work and had your first reality check yet. After I finished my degree I went away again, this time to Australia, where I wrote After Wimbledon (are you noticing a theme here?), but even that wasn’t quite the same. Sometimes, I long for those days again. But back then it was just me and now I have a husband and little daughter who I wouldn’t want to spend that much time away from. Maybe I should get out all my photos and write a book about it instead…

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I Was Tempted by a “Miracle” Diet

9093639a809ca70b25a4e5c72b9eef3bYou’ll remember that I talked about working on having a positive body image.  I’ve even started up a Pinterest board with some inspiration on it.  I had been feeling that I was doing quite well.  While on holiday I was okay about wandering around in a swimsuit.  It was a family resort, so there were plenty of other wobbly mums around!  We went to the beach in town one day and I walked all the way back in just swimsuit and sandals.  I was tempted to buy a cover up, but instead I held my head high and showed the world my legs.  I haven’t been doing too much mirror time, but I’d managed to halt the negative self talk about the way I looked.

However, I noticed an article on Facebook about a military wife’s huge weight loss and found myself reading about another miracle diet supplement.  It was in a “health” magazine and had been tested by one of their staff, so it seemed trustworthy.  And I was actually tempted to buy some.  Then I googled it and found that it’s now illegal in the UK, due to lack of evidence that it works and lack of information about the potential risks.

I should know better.  First, because losing a lot of weight in short time is not healthy, no matter how you do it.  Second, because weight lost quickly usually goes back on even more quickly.  Third, because the trouble with all these “new” things is that we don’t know what effect they might have in the long term.  There may be a few people who would rather be thin now than healthy later, but I’m not one of them.  And fourth, because I’m supposed to be learning to love my body the way it is.

Apparently, I’m not there yet.

As part of my Pinterest surfing, I found a good article on Why ‘Love Your Body’ Campaigns Aren’t Working that I encourage you to read.  The basic message is that our society not only equates thinness with beauty, but also with success in general and that’s why women find it so hard to make peace with a less-than-model-sized body.  I know I’ve read about studies that showed that people who appear to be healthier are more likely to get jobs or be promoted.  And that’s silly because, as I mentioned before, a person’s physical appearance often doesn’t reflect the quality of their diet or their level of fitness.  But I fear it’s going to take some major change before we all learn to reject that thinking.

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Me and My Body

I never used to struggle with body image.  I wasn’t skinny, but I’d accepted I wasn’t going to be.  Nature had made me curvy and muscular and even when I lost weight that didn’t change.  I never aspired to look like a super model.

But, in recent years, things have changed.  I’ve gained quite a bit of weight.  According to my BMI I’m obese, although I think I’m one of those for who it’s not wholly accurate.  I definitely have extra flesh on me, though.  And with it has come feelings of embarrassment and shame.  I’ve found myself feeling bad about eating anything not ‘healthy’ in public, even though all my (skinnier) friends were.  And that’s silly, because we all know people who eat crap and don’t exercise and are still stick-thin.  Equally, I’m willing to bet we all know people (though we may not realise it) who eat healthily and do a reasonable amount of exercise and are still overweight.  Nature does play a part.  So do age and health.

I’ve been reading a book about overcoming compulsive eating – emotional eating, to give it another name.  One of the things that it’s helped me see is how counter-productive it is to beat yourself up for being overweight.  Because, if you’re anything like me, feeling bad leads to comfort eating, which leads to more weight gain, which makes me feel worse about myself and so I start round again.  It’s crazy.  I think I’ve got the message now that I need to accept what I look like.

The book suggested a few things which I’ve tried.  The first was to get a full-length mirror and spend time each day looking at myself.  The idea is to look without judging and get used to how you look, rather than avoiding it.  Then, look for your best points.

photoI’m going to walk the walk here and share a mirror selfie of what I look like right now.  This is me.  No body-shaper underwear, make-up or anything else.  I’d be lying if I said I was entirely happy with my body, but I’m working on it.  What about my best points?  Well, I have boobs that many women would kill for.  I have a longish neck.  I have quite a nice face – I like my eyes.  I love the colour of my hair (not natural, I admit).  I have small feet, which means I can buy kids trainers which are cheaper.  I also have small hands and I like them too.  I like being short because it makes me feel feminine next to my husband, even with my less-than-delicate figure.

The second tip was to give or pack away any clothes that don’t fit or that you don’t feel you look nice in, and, if you don’t have enough left, buy some new ones.  The clingy jersey tops I used to wear now highlight every bulge.  I put something like that on and I instantly feel fat and ugly.  But I’ve got some gypsy tops and others in a looser fit – patterns seem to be good for concealing lumps and bumps as well – and in those I feel relatively attractive.  No outfit is going to take off three stone, but clothes that suit your figure really do make a big difference.

[If you don’t have much spare money, look in charity shops/thrift stores, discount chains, ebay etc..  If you’ve got none, maybe you have a friend you can swap clothes with.]

Now, of course, it’s summer.  Which means bathing suits.  There’s something to be done with different stylessummer size zero and cover-ups, but it’s still a lot of flesh to show.  I can’t claim I won’t feel envious of the bathing suit beauties on the beach, but I’m still going to be there enjoying myself.  Being overweight doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to enjoy the summer.  Worst case, if anyone gets into trouble, I’ll be much more use as a flotation device.

If nothing else, my little daughter will be with me on holiday.  What kind of message will I give to her if I hide away because of flab?  Should she be overweight at some point in her life, I certainly don’t want her to do that.  I want her to go out and live and tell anyone who doesn’t like it to sod off.  I saw a thing on Facebook that started ‘I was 7 when I discovered my mum was fat, ugly and disgusting.  Up until then, I’d thought she was beautiful.’  I sure as hell don’t want my daughter saying something like that when she grows up.  Admittedly, she’s only 2 right now.  But she’s going to grow, so I’d better start working on my body image now so she gets the right messages when she’s old enough to understand them.

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Interview at Girls Love to Read

Posted at Girls Love to Read.

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1. Hello! Welcome to the site, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Chick lit writer, wife, mother of two (one toddler, one grown up step child), English.

More interesting things: I’ve skydived (I was unconscious by the time we landed, but even so), I have a borderline genius IQ (though talk to me first thing in the morning and you’d never believe it), I do amateur dramatics (and keep getting cast as people who like to grope other characters) and I really like cucumber (though not as much as I like chocolate).

2. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

The Dr Pepper Prophecies is a bit of fun. I wanted to write something that would make people laugh. The tag line for the book is ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ Think of a Bridget Jones-like character who’s obsessed with chocolate and labours under the delusion that she’s really good at fixing other people’s lives, no matter how bad her own is.

After Wimbledon has less comedy and more romance. The main character, Lucy, is struggling with where to go next in her life and career – and who to go with – all while playing in the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

3. Why did you decide to self-publish your novel? What was your road to publication?

Found out I could and did it. That was pretty much the road.

I’d always meant to try and get an agent, but never did. So when I found out I could publish for Kindle – for free – I just went for it. I learnt most of what I know about self-publishing afterwards and there’s still a ton more to learn.

4. Do you base your characters on real people, or are they entirely fictional?

They’re entirely fictional. But then, if I did base them on real people, I wouldn’t admit it. Really good way to lose friends. I will confess that the character of Will’s evil girlfriend in The Dr Pepper Prophecies is named after someone I used to know. Read into that what you will.

5. How do you write? Any naughty habits or guilty pleasures?

Would you like the full list?

Writing and I have a long-term on-off relationship, which includes violent attacks with red pens and the use of (legal) mood-altering substances. I’ve written on my blog about how I’m not a natural writer. I’m a natural at making up stories, but getting them out of my head and onto paper can be a fraught business.

6. Did being a published writer change the way you write?

It adds pressure. First, you feel that you have to write more and faster to satisfy your readers. Second, you worry more about whether people will like your work when they’re actually going to be paying to read it.

7. If you weren’t a writer, what else would you be doing?

My “real job” is as a full-time mum to my two-year-old daughter. I used to work in administration which – as I’m sure you can imagine – was deeply fascinating.

8. What’s your favourite Chick Lit book of all time?

Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? That’s the book that inspired me to write my first novel.

9. Where does the inspiration for your novels come from?

The Dr Pepper Prophecies was inspired by a combination of Can You Keep a Secret? and Jane Austen’s Emma. If you read the three books together, that would probably be obvious. I’d decided to write a novel and those were my influences at the time. Can You Keep a Secret? I bought for fun, while Emma was on the reading list for a writing course I was taking that summer.

I was in Melbourne for the Australian Open the year I wrote After Wimbledon and was very into tennis at the time. I’d also been struggling with where to go next in my life, so it was a kind of therapy (I had to cut a lot of my ramblings from the first draft!) and the two things came together in the novel.

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Q&A – Sky’s Book Corner

Part of the TDPP anniversary celebrations.  Posted at Sky’s Book Corner.

Did you always dream of being a writer?

A dancer, actually, but my knees weren’t up to that.  I always planned to write a novel, though.

Wedding Hells is the prequel to The Dr Pepper Prophecies in the Chocoholic Series. Can you tell us a little more about them?

TDPP is a modern version of Jane Austen’s Emma.  It’s about Mel, who sets out to help others – whether they like it or not – while making a complete hash of her own life.  Things just go tits up for her – she’s like Bridget Jones in that respect.

Wedding Hells is a short story I wrote as an introduction to TDPP.  I offer it free on most Amazon sites, so people can meet Mel and try out my style.  It takes place a few years before TDPP, at Mel’s sister’s wedding.

What does your family think about you being a writer?

My husband hopes I’ll become wildly successful so he can retire.

What inspires you most when you’re writing?

Usually some form of sugar.

What inspired you to write After Wimbledon and what’s the story about?

A trip to the Australian Open.  It’s about Lucy, a pro tennis player in a casual relationship, who’s struggling with whether it’s time to retire and go for real life and love.  It has less humour than TDPP, but more romance.

What are you working on right now?

A spin-off from TDPP about Mel’s sister, Brittany.

Where and when do you write your stories?

Home and baby group.  Whenever I get the chance, basically!  I have a toddler, so I’m lacking in time and energy.

You also write short stories, how is that different from writing a normal novel?

I think short stories are harder to write, because you have to explore the characters and get a complete story into a few thousand words.  It’s easier to write them about characters that have already appeared in novels.  Then you can just cover isolated events in their lives and you don’t have to cram in so much information.

Early Daze is technically a novella, but it’s 40,000 words so there was room to do a whole story.  I may well write more of that length.

Can you tell us more about the short stories you already wrote and are still in a working progress?

Wedding Hells is about Mel’s adventures as a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding.  Flights of Nancy is a stand-alone story about a woman who’s been told she’ll meet Mr. Right on a certain day.  Early Daze is written from my own experience of becoming a mother to a premature baby.

What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

Amateur dramatics, walking, Zumba, comedy and a bit of reading.

The covers for your books are really bubbly, colourful and creative. How were they developed?

I ran a design competition on 99 Designs for the current cover of The Dr Pepper Prophecies and chose JelenaM as the winner.  She then went on to design the covers for After Wimbledon and Wedding Hells.  I provided character descriptions, colour schemes and some ideas and she actually made them look good!  For Flights of Nancy and Early Daze I did my own with stock pictures.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Making people feel good.

Who is your favourite author and why?

I like books that bring you into another world.  Two favourites for this are Stephanie Laurens and Erich Segal.

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you want with you?

The SAS Survival Handbook, something inspirational and a large blank book to write in.

If you could plan the perfect holiday, what would it be?

I would have a transporter to get there, to avoid the need for travel sickness pills.  Sunshine, but not too hot because I’d want to get out and do things.  It would include beautiful scenery, beaches and a babysitter.

Coffee or tea?

Don’t like either.

Paperback or e-reader?

E-readers are great, but paperbacks are still necessary for reading in the bath.

Mountains or the sea?

Sea

Summer or winter?

Summer

Sweet or salty?

Usually sweet.

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10 Interesting Things About Me

Part of the TDPP anniversary celebrations.  Posted at Reviewed the Book.

Authors end up writing a lot about ‘how I started writing’ and ‘what inspired my book’.  Instead, I thought I would share ten unusual (and hopefully interesting) things about me.

  1. I’ve done skydiving, bungee jumping (twice), sky swinging, zorbing (lots), paragliding, parasailing, hang gliding, white water rafting and just about every adrenaline sport going. I visited New Zealand and it was a condition of the visa (not really). And, after all that, I’m still afraid of heights.
  2. I act as well as write (as an amateur). Given the choice, I always like to play the bad guy. I don’t want to be nice on stage; I’m nice in real life. Mostly.
  3. I have a first class degree in physics. What was that about chick lit writers being dumb?
  4. My daughter was born three months early. My first months of motherhood were spent in Neonatal Intensive Care and chained to the breast pump, which I’ve now written about in my new novella Early Daze. Fortunately, she is now a healthy toddler.
  5. I bite my nails. Apparently I took it up, age 2.5, when my sister was born. I’ve quit several times, but always go back to it in times of stress. Apparently, I have an addictive personality.
  6. I don’t drink alcohol. I’ve never smoked or taken drugs. Just as well in view of point 5.
  7. I was married on stage in our local theatre. My husband and I met when we both joined our local amateur operatic society for a production of The Pirates of Penzance, which was performed there, so it seemed appropriate.
  8. I have a sapphire engagement ring. To be honest, I think diamonds are a bit boring on their own.
  9. I live in a town with a castle.
  10. Despite having written a book about the Wimbledon tennis tournament (After Wimbledon), I’ve never actually been (I know, it’s awful. It was actually inspired by the Australian Open).

So, there you go! Makes a change from the usual author interview…

 

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Author Interview: M’s Bookshelf

Part of the TDPP anniversary celebrations.  Posted at M’s Bookshelf.

Do you write under a pen name?

Sort of.  Gilby is my maiden name, which I now only use on my book covers.  I included it for two reasons.  One, when I came to publish I found there were several other people writing under the name Jennifer Roberts, including one writing erotic fiction.  I was quite keen to differentiate myself!  Also, my first two novels The Dr Pepper Prophecies and After Wimbledon were written before I was married, so it seemed appropriate.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I quite often get ‘predictable,’ but I write chick lit so that’s inevitable.  It’s a key element of the genre.  I think the hardest thing is when people hate your main character.  You can’t help but get attached to them, especially when you write in the first person, and inevitably some of you gets into them.  Sometimes the insults land a little close to home!  Fortunately, that hasn’t happened too often.

The best compliment is always when someone says my work has left them feeling good.  Although I sometimes deal with serious subjects, particularly in my latest work Early Daze, I always want to have a positive message and a happy ending.  There’s quite enough in this world that makes us feel bad.

What do your protagonists think about you? Would they want to hang out with their creator?

Mel (The Dr Pepper Prophecies) would look at me and see her future if she doesn’t curb her chocolate addiction before she turns 30.  So, probably not.  But we’d have got on when I first wrote the book, as long as she didn’t try to set me up with anyone.

Lucy (After Wimbledon) and I have a lot less in common, given that she’s a tennis pro and my main sport is channel surfing.  I don’t know that we’d really get on.  When I was writing we were both at a crossroads in our lives and so going through the same sort of emotions, which allowed me into her head to write the book.

Jess (Early Daze) is the one I have the most shared experiences with.  Sometimes we would talk about being mothers to premature babies.  And sometimes we would avoid each other, because we wanted to forget about it.

I think I need to write myself some more friends.

What are the biggest challenges you face in writing?

The greatest is the fact that I’m not a natural writer, which I’ve written about more on my blog.  Making up the characters and stories is easy, it’s the getting it down on paper that’s the hard part.  Sometimes it feels like I’m putting a fish hook into my brain and dragging the story out through my nose (sorry, lovely image).

I also have a toddler, who will play by herself quite happily right up to the point where I try to do something else.  Roll on school!

Have you ever written something you absolutely hate?

Not when I first wrote it.  But when you go through your book over and over again during the editing process, you lose all sense of whether it’s any good.  Frankly, by the time my work comes out I’m usually heartily sick of it!  Fortunately, my readers don’t feel the same.

If you became wildly successful as an author, how would life change for you?

Well, my husband says he’s going to retire and with him under my feet all the time I’m not sure I’d be able to get anything done.

I don’t know how famous I’d want to be.  I’d hate to have paparazzi following me around.  I think the ideal would be lots of people recognising my name and no one my face.  Otherwise, I’d actually have to go out looking neat all the time.  As opposed to now, when my toddler has usually covered me in something sticky.

Do you like being interviewed?

It always amazes me that people want to hear about me.  I try to be interesting!

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Author Interview at Fiction Dreams

Part of the TDPP anniversary celebrations.  Posted at Fiction Dreams.

Do dreams ever inspire your writing? What did you last dream about?

Not so far. I don’t know that my dreams would inspire chick lit. Maybe children’s TV. They can’t be weirder than some of that.

When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?

I started writing as a child. My first major original work was The Dr Pepper Prophecies, which I wrote in 2002. I published it in May 2013. Bit of a wait!

What is it about ‘chick lit’ that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres? 

I think it’s the humour aspect of chick lit that I like the most. Seeing the funny side of things going tits up.

I read a whole range of genres. I like a bit of Regency romance, sci-fi, historical fiction – usually from the early part of the 20th century. These days I seem to read more about book marketing than anything else!

Can you tell us a little about The Dr Pepper Prophecies?

TDPP is a modern version of Jane Austen’s Emma. Imagine that with Bridget Jones in the lead and written by Sophie Kinsella. It’s about a young woman who tries to help others – whether they like it or not – while making a right hash of her own life.

What inspired you to write it?

Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? I remember laughing myself silly over it and getting a lot of strange looks. I wanted to write something that much fun.

Have you ever spotted anyone reading your books anywhere?

Not yet. But someone might have had them on their Kindle. That’s the bad bit of Kindle for authors.

Who designs your covers?

JelenaM at 99 Designs, except for Flights of Nancy and Early Daze, which I did with stock pictures.

If The Dr Pepper Prophecies was made into a film, who would you cast?

I was asked this a while back, but couldn’t decide on a Mel. I’m now convinced that Zoey Deschanel would be great as Mel. Paul Rudd is my first choice for Will, although I also think Mark Ruffalo would be good.

What’s your favourite Chick Lit book that made it to the big screen?

Bridget Jones’ Diary. They did a wonderful job on that. Perfect casting.

What were the last two books you read?

I re-read The Reasons for Marriage by Stephanie Laurens, one of my favourite Regency romance authors. That was the first book I read of hers and it’s still my favourite. Before that it was Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson.

Name one female author who you think deserves to be better known.

The afore-mentioned Becky Monson. She’s a new name in classic chick lit. I’m looking forward to reading her next book.

Where do you write?

Home, and sometimes baby group while my daughter is playing.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? And did you follow the dream?

I wanted to be a dancer. Not ballet, you understand – I wanted to be in Fame in the West End. I did dance for a long time, though not professionally. I still do Zumba, but it’s hard to carry on as an adult – at least where I live. Realistically, I couldn’t have done it as a career. I have the wrong body type, my knees are shot and I wouldn’t have wanted the lifestyle.

In the movie of your life, who would play you?

I actually act as well as write – with my local amateur dramatic society – so I’d like a crack at playing myself.

Speed Round…

Top drink to make you tipsy?

Teetotal.

Shopaholic or shopadon’t?

I’m not really into fashion, but I do seem to end up buying more than I meant to. Usually for the house or for my daughter. She’s so much nicer to buy for because everything fits! And it’s my only chance to buy skinny jeans.

Sky-high heels or closer to the ground?

On the ground. I should get into heels, because I’m only 5’3”, but I live in trainers.

E.L. James or Jilly Cooper?

Haven’t read either of them, I’m afraid. I was rather put off reading 50 Shades after I read that the relationship described had all the key features of an abusive one.

Cry baby or tough cookie?

I have thin skin, but a tough core. I cry easily and you can knock me down without too much effort, but you’ll never keep me there.

Exotic beach or enchanted forest? 

Beach. Can’t have too much sunshine (I so live in the wrong country).

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Why I Write Chick Lit

I was given (read: I chose) Longbourn by Jo Baker for Mother’s Day.  It’s a sort-of-retelling of Pride & Prejudice, from the point of view of the household servants.  It’s a wonderful book, but at one point I found myself feeling really down, because I felt that my books just couldn’t compare to it.  No rich detail in mine.  No beautiful descriptions.  Some drama, but not on that scale.  Generally predictable plots.  Chick lit, in other words.

The thing is, though, my books don’t need that.  I write contemporary fiction, so I don’t need to include lots of detail about what life is like for my characters as my readers already know.  As for beautiful descriptions – honestly, I tend to skip a lot of them when I’m reading.  Just give me the bare bones and I’ll make my own mental pictures.  I don’t think I’m alone in that.  If I had no imagination, I wouldn’t be reading fiction.  It’s the plot and the characters I’m interested in.

But the thing that really made me feel good about what I write was that I felt bad when I finished the book.  Although the end was happy, the whole thing painted a picture of bleakness.  Harsh, lonely lives of physical and emotional endurance, where moments of happiness were few and far between.  I spent half the evening feeling teary and depressed.  And, you know what, I don’t want to write books like that.  I don’t want to make people feel like that.

There’s plenty of bad in this world.  Most of the media seems to be devoted to reminding us of that.  I don’t want to add to that.  I want to make people feel better.  Remind them that there is still much good out there.  That just because today was crap doesn’t mean tomorrow will be.  That there’s humour to be found in everything.  And that’s what chick lit is about.  So that’s what I write.

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New Author Interview on Dreaming With Open Eyes

This was written for Dreaming With Open Eyes.  See the last question for hints about my next project!

To begin with, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I’m English. I was born and raised where Surrey meets Greater London, and went to school nearby, but I now live about 250 miles north in North Yorkshire.

I did a degree from home with the Open University, rather than going away, but physics turns out not to be that useful in writing chick lit or looking after a toddler. Who’d have guessed? Frankly, as a self-published author, the most useful subject to study would have been marketing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know that I did. I just wrote. I knew I wanted to write a novel someday, and I did that at 20 with The Dr Pepper Prophecies, but it was a personal challenge rather than a career choice. This was long before the e-reader, when self-publishing was very expensive.

Having been given a Kindle by my husband (despite much resistance on my part), I discovered you could publish on Amazon and put up TDPP on a bit of a whim. Before I knew it, I was a fully-fledged self-publisher.

What is your writing style like?

The Dr Pepper Prophecies is very Sophie Kinsella-like, but as I go on my style is developing. Like her, I write as my main character, in the first person and present tense. My grammar checkers scream at me for sentences that are fragments, or that start with ‘And’ and ‘But’. The thing is, when you’re writing in this style, you have to write as your character would speak. And very few people use perfect grammar.

You’ve published 2 novels and 2 short stories so far. Are they all stand alone novels are do readers have to read them in any special order?

Wedding Hells is a prequel to The Dr Pepper Prophecies. After Wimbledon, Flights of Nancy and my new book Early Daze are stand-alone.

You’ve just published a new novella, which is called Early Daze. What is it about, and what inspired you to write it?

Early Daze is about Jess, whose life is turned upside down when her baby arrives three months early. The book follows her first few months as a mother, while her baby is in the hospital.

I did the best kind of research for this: I lived through it. My daughter was born in Jan 2012, two days shy of the end of my second trimester. Jess’ daughter, Samantha, is based closely on her. The Facebook posts Jess writes to update friends and family are adapted from the actual ones I wrote, and I also used the diary I kept. Can’t get more authentic than that! Jess and her relationships, however, are fictional. It’s not a memoir – my life is too dull for that!

Who designs your book covers? They are lovely!

They were done by JelenaM at 99 Designs. On that site, you run a competition among designers. I did that for The Dr Pepper Prophecies and then commissioned the ones for After Wimbledon and Wedding Hells privately. The cover for Flights of Nancy I did myself in the same style (I bought the pictures – I’ve no skill in that area!).

For Early Daze, I wanted something a bit different as it’s women’s fiction rather than chick lit. I’ve done my own cover with a stock photo, but I may well get one custom made later on.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Everything I’ve read says it does. I know I pick up books based on whether I like it. You really only have your cover and title to attract a browser.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Well, I have a toddler, so I don’t have a lot of time. I do Zumba classes, and I like walking. I read some (not nearly enough). We’ve just bought a new house, so there’s a lot of work to do there.

I do amateur dramatics and operatics with local societies, although not every show because they take up a lot of time. I like playing characters that are slightly evil or mad, because they’re more fun. I keep thinking I should write a book about an am dram group, but I’m afraid some people I know might creep into the characters. That’s never a good plan.

Do you ever experience a writer’s block?

All the time. Having one right now. It’s a miracle I ever write anything.

What is next for you? Are you currently working on a new novel?

I’m working – slowly – on a sort-of-sequel to The Dr Pepper Prophecies, only this time I’m writing about Mel’s sister, Brittany. I did think about a straight sequel, and I knew what would happen to Mel next, but I was having trouble making it work as a novel. This book will catch up with her, while letting me explore another character.

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