1) How did you get into writing novels, and what made you decide to leave your former career?
Writing was a much-loved hobby long before I realised it could actually become my career. Even as a child I was always scribbling short stories and poems. I truly cannot think of a time when I haven’t wanted to write novels. It just took me longer to achieve that goal than I had ever anticipated it would.
Giving up the ‘day job’ is always a big decision and I did a phased exit with mine, first cutting down my hours and then working part-time before finally deciding to take the plunge and commit myself 100% to writing.
2) If you had to pick two actors to play Gemma and Finn in a film of Six Days, who would they be and why?
I always find this a very hard question to answer, but I have settled on two actors who I think would really suit the characters.
I believe James Norton would make an excellent Finn and would be perfect at revealing subtle glimpses of Finn’s complicated past.
Phoebe Dynevor would be my choice when casting Gemma. She has a look of innocence and trust but beneath it lies a steely determination which would make her an ideal Gemma.
You may be able to tell that I’m a devoted fan of both Bridgerton and Happy Valley!
3) Can you talk to us about your inspiration for Six Days? We understand that it was inspired by a real-life event?
With Six Days I wanted to write a book that begins where so many others end, with the happily-ever-after moment of a wedding.
I became fascinated with the idea of what might happen if only the bride showed up at the church. How many challenges would it take before her faith, love and belief would begin to crumble… or would she always stay strong, no matter what everyone else said or believed?
An intriguing true-life event in America inspired one element of the story and Six Days gave me a perfect opportunity to incorporate it with a tale of a bride whose groom has supposedly changed his mind at the last moment.
Sadly, to reveal more would ruin the story, but all I can say is that it proved the old saying is correct. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
4) How do you shape the plot of your novels and how do you develop your characters? Do you have very clear ideas and hooks from the outset?
They say all writers are either plotters or ‘pantsters’. I am definitely not a plotter. That said, I will always know where the book is going to start and where it will end – it’s just the bit in the middle that is a mystery to me. I like that though, as it feels as though you are uncovering the story in much the same way as your readers will.
For me it is always the plot that sparks a story. The idea for many of my books has begun with a simple question: ‘I wonder what would happen if…?’ Sometimes the ideas come from a real-life event I’ve read or heard about, but they could just as easily pop up from anywhere. Most of them lead to nothing, but if you’re lucky you’ll stumble upon one that get its hooks in you and refuses to let go. That’s the one you don’t ignore.
Characters tend to grow into themselves as the book progresses. They never feel completely authentic to me until I have named them – which I’ve discovered is actually much harder than naming your own children.
When you get it right, the characters become friends and live on in your head long after the book is finished. Missing your favourite characters sounds crazy, but it really happens.
5) We love that you write from your 350-year old cottage in the Hertfordshire countryside, which sounds idyllic! Have you written in the same space for a long time, and do you think it's important to have a dedicated writing space?
I write in a very small room in our 350-year-old cottage. Although we laughingly call it my office, it is also the room where the cat’s food tray lives. It doesn’t seem to matter how many fragrant candles I light, my books have all been written with the faint aroma of Whiskas in the air.
I like the discipline of having a dedicated writing space, so I have a ‘proper’ desk that is set up exactly like the one I had when I worked in an office. I am full of admiration for authors who write in busy environments, but I’m far too easily distracted even when I’m in a room by myself. If I tried to write in a coffee shop, I guarantee I’d get nothing done. Although the idea of having coffee and pastries on tap is very tempting…