Q1. Please tell me about your new book The Greatest Love Story of All Time.
The Greatest Love Story of All Time is probably the worst love story of all time for quite a lot of the book. The novel begins with a breakup so painful that Fran, the main character, has been rotting in bed for nearly three weeks when we first meet her. Her close group of (somewhat eccentric) friends, however, are fed up with Fran’s wallowing and so they force her back out into the world with a plan for her recovery which involves internet dating. Fran has other plans though and starts stalking a woman called Nellie Daniels to try to ascertain why she was dumped. All the while she’s dealing with an evil cat, a mother with a drink problem and some internet dates so bad she can hardly believe they’re real. But all the while a truly marvelous love story is ticking away in the background.
Q2. Your title is quite a bold statement - how did you come to call your book this title, and where did you draw the inspiration for your love story between Fran and Michael?
The title of the book is a perfect expression of the slightly hyperbolic way in which Fran views love, although it’s actually one of her friends who first coins the term. I still smile when I look at the title now because it feels like it’s straight out of Fran’s mouth. As for Fran and Michael – well, we’ve all been there I think. Met a man to whom we’ve assigned God-like qualities and declared ourselves instantly unworthy. Not very healthy and the inspiration definitely didn’t come from my current relationship !
Q3. Stefania is one of my favourite characters in the book, and I especially loved the way your wrote exactly how she would speak the words! Who was your favourite character in the book and why?
Oh that’s hard. I love Stefania, I love Dave, I love Leonie and of course I love Fran although at times I do want to punch her. I wish I knew all of them and often wonder where on earth they came from. However I’m going to have to say that my favourite character is Duke Ellington, Fran’s evil cat. He is the only character in the novel who is based on a real person (well, cat) and every single sentence that I wrote involving Duke Ellington made me laugh out loud, thinking of the cat who inspired his character. Like Michael I find most cats quite dull but every now and then you come across a true king of felines - feisty, rude, arrogant, evil and hilarious.
Q4. This is your debut novel - how did it feel to get your book deal with Penguin, and then to finally hold a finished copy of your book in your hands for the first time? Was your publishing journey an easy one?
Getting a book deal was extraordinary. I was in the middle of moving abroad when it happened and I felt so detached from normality that when the news came through from my agent I just thought that this was the final straw – the world had gone completely mad. The moment I held the book in my hands the first time I felt surprised that it was so big but otherwise didn’t believe it had anything to do with me. As for my publishing journey… I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I should pretend that I spent years slaving over my manuscript, begging publishers to read it and coping with endless agonizing rejections. The reality is that I was contacted by a publisher, very soon after starting my Marie Claire blog, who said she thought I’d make a great novelist. I wrote half a book and got a deal (although with someone else – the publisher who originally approached me rejected it!) So yes, the logistical part of it was quite straightforward but I still had to go through the same blood sweat and tears as any other author to actually write the thing.
Q5. How do you feel about the term Chick Lit and people putting your books into this genre?
Good question! I once had lofty aspirations to write hefty historical novels full of complex imagery but it appears I’m better at writing about boyfriends and stalking. I suppose I’ve always seen chicklit as being about handbags and high heels, neither of which hold much importance in my life. Now I actually read the stuff though I’ve realized that they’re not at all. There’s a lot of really brilliant authors out there in the chicklit ether.
Q6. You blog for Marie Claire on their website - how difficult did you find it going from writing a blog to writing a novel?
Oh my god it was a nightmare! I sat down on the first day to start writing my novel and just nothing came out. I was paralysed with fear. I went back to the sitting room and told Kieran, my housemate, that I basically didn’t have a novel in me and was going to have to abandon ship and remain a blogger forever. Fortunately he was having none of it and sent me back to my room to give it another go.
Q7. Are you a fan of reading chick lit yourself? Who are some of your favourite authors and books?
I’m early days with chick lit so I can’t answer that question very well. I only started reading it when I started writing my book, so when reviewers have highlighted things like an alcoholic mother being a ‘chicklit staple’ I’ve been, like, “Ah… Oh dear. Still got a lot to learn, Robinson…” Recently I enjoyed Marian Keyes’ The Brightest Star in the Sky which genuinely kept me in suspense and moved me greatly. What lovely, real, complex characters with messy, imperfect lives. Wonderful.
Q8. You've got a Facebook page and a Twitter account, as well as your own website and blog as we mentioned. Do you think social networking is an important tool for authors to use in this day and age, and do you believe it has an impact on the success of a book/author?
OK here’s an exclusive: I can’t stand social networking. I have all those online tools because I know they help – I can’t pretend I don’t live in a digital age if I want to sell books! But, the more I do it the more I can see the value of it. And I have to say I LOVE that I’m able to receive feedback from readers and to ‘meet’ them online every day. I’ve been getting loads of reader emails in the last week since my book came out, telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my novel and it’s made me realize that it’s worth the time I spend on these networking sites – otherwise my readers would just be a faceless sea of people rather than a bunch of women (and occasionally men..) who I can see and read about. It’s nice to see their twitter feeds too; that way it isn’t all about me – I’m part of the world in which my readers live. I like that.
Q9. Are you working on a second novel yet?! If so, can you tell me anything about it?
I am. We’re still deliberating over the title but it’s a book about being a perfectionist and a workaholic . . . although of course there’s a big old love story there too! Actually there are a few love stories come to think of it, all quite different. There’s sordid affairs in cheap hotels, there’s steamy romances conducted in cleaning cupboards, there’s painful unrequited love and also a very complex online love story that drags Charley, the main character, into a whole new world. Charley is 32 and very successful, well-dressed and brilliant – but she’s not happy. At the beginning of the novel she breaks her leg and starts an online business that brings love into her life in a very unusual way . . . and that’s all I can tell you right now!