Category: Author Interviews

Author Interview: MJ Arlidge

Posted March 16, 2016 in Author Interviews / 0 Comments

MJ Arlidge Copyright Bill Waters 2014 (3)Hot on the heels of his latest release, Little Boy Blue, which I reviewed yesterday, I am over the moon to have an interview with the fantastic MJ Arlidge to share with you all today.

Matthew has worked in television for the last 15 years, specialising in high end drama production. He has produced a number of prime-time crime serials for ITV In the last five years, and is currently working on a major adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans for the BBC.

1 – Hi Matthew, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

So I’m a TV producer by trade. I’ve worked on a number of well known shows over the past 15 or so years, including Eastenders, Monarch of the Glen (I know…) and Mistresses. More recently, I’ve specialised in producing crime serials for ITV and it was during this period of my life that I dreamt up the idea for my first novel, Eeny Meeny.


2 – DI Helen Grace is a tough and unyielding character. Where did the inspiration for her come from?

The key thing for me when creating Helen was not to make her boring. Like many others, I always love the bad guys and girls, but sometimes find the heroes and heroines too straight, too nutritional. I wanted my protagonist to be different and I enjoy writing female characters more than men, so it was no accident that my hero was a woman. I also knew I wanted to avoid the clichés of failing marriages, drink problems etc, so I decided to opt for pain as my hero’s emotional crutch. I was reading a lot of Stieg Larsson at the time and think I was influenced by him too. The unconventional, kick ass spirit of Lisbeth Salander is very present in Helen Grace.


3 – How much research do you do for your books?

Depends what I’m writing. Two or three I’ve done virtually no research for – just let my mind go where it will. Others – such as one about a serial arsonist and another set in a prison obviously required more research to get the details right. But my rule of thumb is to do all your research, then push it aside and make it all up. You can’t be hidebound by reality. This is fiction after all and should be more exciting and sensational than real life.


4 – What is the structure of your writing day?

Pretty rigidly 9-5. A lot of writers knock off at 2pm and take the dog for a walk but I think that’s a little lazy. Clearly you get less creative as the day goes on, but you can always be editing what you’ve done. I think the unusual aspect of how I work is that I plan for as long as I write. 2/3 months planning, 2/3 months writing. I have to know exactly what happens in every chapter before I start writing – this leads to fewer narrative cul de sacs along the way. I am contractually obliged to deliver two novels a year to Penguin, so I can’t hang about!


5 – Six Degrees of Assassination was a huge success. Can we expect a printed version to hit the shelves anytime soon?

Audible, who produced Six Degrees, are very keen to do this, so watch this space…


6 – How did the concept of a commercial, audio-only thriller come about? Are there more in the pipeline?

Audible are very keen to challenge the BBC’s monopoly on audio/radio drama by creating stories that are truly epic in scale. We deliberately set out to produce a story that was incredible hooky and felt like a movie. We were lucky to have stars such as Andrew Scott in it that would grace any film.


7 – What is the best thing about being a published author?

Seeing your books on the shelves. Meeting your fans both in person and on Twitter. People’s appetite and enthusiasm for books is incredible and always inspiring.


8 – … And what is the worst thing about being a published author?

The pressure of producing the next one!


9 – Which other authors do you admire, and which book do you wish you had written? Are there any new up-and-coming authors who have caught your eye?

I love the great American thriller writers – Thomas Harris, Patricia Highsmith, Harlan Coben, James Patterson. I would have killed to have written Silence of the Lambs, which in my view is a near perfect crime novel. Re new talent, there is a novelist called Fiona Barton, whose novel “The Widow” came out early this year. I found it compelling – she is going to be one of the big writers of 2016.


10 – What is your next novel about and when will it be released?

It’s about a serial killer picking people off inside a women’s prison. Would what it be like to be locked in with a serial killer? Little Boy Blue is out in March 2016.


11 – What are you currently reading?

Double Indemnity by James M Cain. I’m going through a Cain phase at the moment – I’ve just finished The Postman Always Rings Twice. I love his stripped down prose.


12 – How can readers find out more about you?

I have a FaceBook page but I can more often be found hanging out on Twitter.



Author Interview: Catherine Webb

Posted February 17, 2016 in Author Interviews / 0 Comments


Catherine’s first novel, Mirror Dreams, was completed when she was just 14 years old. The book was published in 2002 and garnered comparisons with Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman.

Webb went on to publish a further seven young adult novels under her own name, earning her extensive critical acclaim and two Carnegie nominations for her novels Timekeepers and The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle.

Under the open pseudonym Kate Griffin, Webb has also since published a further six fantasy novels for adults. Dubbed the Matthew Swift and Magicals Anonymous novels, these books are set in an alternate modern-day London saturated with magic. They revolve around the concept that the pulse, the rhythm and the heartbeat of the city and the millions of people living within it becomes a palpable form of magic itself.

In 2014, Catherine released The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August under the pseudonym Claire North. It is the extraordinary journey of one unforgettable character who lives his life over and over again. It became a paperback bestseller and was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, the Waterstones Book Club and the Radio 2 Book Club.

A lifelong Londoner, Webb describes herself as a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting, and she is endlessly fascinated by such questions as who leaves copies of the yellow pages on top of bus shelters, how the hidden tunnels beneath the sorting office were built, and why anyone would ever dispose of perfectly good pairs of shoes by throwing them over the nearest telephone line.


Hi Catherine, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a scribbler from London, who started writing at a fairly early age and got lucky. I was raised in a house full of books, and spent most of my childhood in the local library. I studied History at the London School of Economics, before following that path to its logical conclusion and studying Technical Theatre at RADA. I’ve been writing SF/Fantasy for about 15 years now, and divide my time pretty evenly between writing and working as a freelance theatre lighting designer.


You’ve written a number of books on a wide range of topics. Where does your inspiration come from?

Um… this is one of those questions that writers can spend large parts of their careers dodging, I think…

Simple answer is: everywhere. Writers are renowned for being jammy gits who’ll steal (sorry – I mean research) anything from anywhere. Friends, family, people who’ve pissed you off, they all appear in your books whether you mean them to or not. Walking through unknown streets, reading books, listening to the news, hearing stories from around the world, learning about science and ancient history, the world is full of big and shiny ideas just waiting to be abused in the name of fiction. In as much as everyone in the whole world, not just scribblers, are shaped by their experiences, so a writer’s books are generally speaking an unintentional reflection on themselves and the world they live in. (Or sometimes an intentional one; it depends.) I don’t go out of my way to look for any particular source of stuff; I just do what most writers do and try and keep my eyes and ears open and every now and then sit up and go ‘that was interesting… say it again…?’


How much research do you do for your books?

Depends on the book. Some books – like Harry August – require a bit, but it’s not as gruelling as you might expect. I am sat on this very rusty History degree which means, if nothing else, I sorta already know where to look for things and perhaps more importantly, what to reject as nonsense. (The internet absolutely makes researching things like places and dates etc. much, much easier, but it’s also soggy in lies so having some distant recollection of the value of footnotes is very helpful indeed.)

It also helps that a lot of the research you could do for a book isn’t necessarily designed to go into it. For example, if you have two scientists arguing about wave-particle duality, it’d be a chapter that your editor would rightly cull if you spent all of it discussing the effect of ultraviolet light on positively charged gold film, with graphs, rather than advancing the story. Or if you wanted to set the scene for a character in 1938 Poland, you’d be much more likely to open with a riff about the latest radio music and what the commute to work is like than to begin with ‘it was 1938 and Maria was worried about the Nazis’. I mean, sure, she probably would be; but not as a daily grind. Human life is about human needs, even in the past, even in great minds. If you and I both get stomach viruses and spend all day in the bathroom lamenting the futility of the human experience, odds are Einstein did too.

Research that dominates a book is research that should be in an actual non-fiction book. If you ever watched House on the TV, it was a glowing example of how techno-talk is usually a tool to convey something else, through all the unintelligible noise. “Doctor, this patient needs a CT scan, an MRI, a bloods work up, warfarin (and I still love you) stat!” Details, drips and drops thrown in as if it was an everyday nothing, another piece of human life, matter more than sweeping explanations of how society worked in 1845 Edinburgh.

As a result, sure, I do research… but mostly on details, rather than big stuff, unless the big stuff is hugely relevant, in which case odds are I’d already stumbled on the big stuff beforehand, otherwise I might not have attempted to put it in the book.


What is the structure of your writing day?


What is this ‘structure’ of which you speak?

My alarm goes off somewhere between 7.30 – 8 a.m.. Except after gig nights, when it’ll go off at 8.30 a.m.. These are kinda the only things I can really guarantee, and even that’s subject to change.

Sometimes the day will be be 10 hours of non-stop writing. Sometimes it’ll be 13 hours of theatre work. Sometimes it’ll be 6 hours of writing followed by 8 hours of lighting a music gig; sometimes it’ll be 4 hours of writing and then 4 hours of seeing friends who I haven’t seen because of all the work and there is really far too much work, I suspect. Sometimes I’ll go swimming in the morning; sometimes there’s a martial arts class in the evening. Sometimes it’s pizza night, sometimes it’s work-night in the theatre, sometimes you lose a whole day to answering email or attending meetings or working out your tax return or sorting paperwork or there’s a chapter you’re working on that’s really good and you forget to eat or there’s proofs that have to be done now or copy editors or you’re waiting for the plumber or you’re in another part of the country for work or….

… yeah.


There kinda isn’t one.

But I’m also sorta groovy with that! Having other obligations in my life apart from writing means that when I finally get to write, I’m very ready to write indeed. It also means I get out of the house, see new things, meet new people, and every day is always different. I think this is perhaps a good thing – certainly for me, I think I need that more than any ordered rhythm to the day.   I muddle by.


How long does it typically take you to write a book?

Depends on how much time I’ve had to think about it beforehand. Usually a couple of months; can take a lot longer, though, if there’s a lot of lighting in the middle or if I haven’t spent as much time mulling it over as usual. Harry August, for example, took about six weeks, preceded by nearly a year and a half of doodling notes down while on followspot duty at the National Theatre and while finishing up a series of Kate Griffin books for a different contract. Touch, which followed, took longer, partly because there wasn’t as much planning time, and partly because I had an endless succession of shows to light in between chapters, in my lighting designer guise.


How do you get past writer’s block and distractions such as the internet and social media?

Luckily, I’ve never yet experienced writers block. I suspect, however, this is because I only really bother to write when I want to write, and just always kinda look forward to it and enjoy it, no matter what I’m working on.

As for social media… meh… I’m not too fussed by it, to be honest. Publishers tell their writers that it’s crucially important to have a social media presence, but I’m not too convinced. I suspect that social media is important once you’ve already achieved a certain success already, or if you’ve got something else going on in your life to make it worthwhile. I check twitter once a day because I think it’s important as a decent human to engage with readers who’ve been generous and kind enough to engage with me, and I scribble a bit for the blog, but mostly on stuff that concerns me such as environmentalism, feminism and theatre, rather than about much writery stuff. It’s not a big distraction. I suspect that the fact there are two jobs, and both are quite time consuming, also means I’m fairly focused on what needs to be done, simply because if most of what I have to do isn’t done now, then tomorrow will be too late.


What is the best thing about being a published author?

I get paid to sit down and write stories for my living. Without wanting to over-simplify this one: IT’S THE BEST THING EVER.


… and the worst thing?

Sometimes you have to do things other than just sit around writing stories. While my love is pretty much all about the scribbling part, I’m aware that I am also part of a commercial industry and it’d be damn stupid of me to ignore this fact. Also, let’s not kid ourselves – there’s no job security, fluctuating and frequently poor pay, no pension, no sick leave, no work colleagues or reliable community except the voices in your head (although I do love my editor and agent) and a perpetual sense, once the manuscript is with your publisher, that its future is now out of your hands. You have to be willing to accept that some books will fly and some will not and sometimes there’ll be a bad day and sometimes a good and that all you can really do is sit back and keep on scribbling to the best of your ability, hoping one day for a bestseller to sneak up on you despite yourself. It’s a strange powerlessness which I think a lot of writers struggle with but which over the last decade or so I hope I’ve achieved a kinda zen with? Because did I mention – for all of that, I still get paid to write stories all day!!


Would you like to be a Kalachakra like Harry August? What do you think would be the best and worst bits about living the same life over and over again?

Nah. I think it’d probably be a bit pants. Puberty – god, let’s not go through puberty again. I think there are better mechanisms in the universe for trying to undo the cock-ups of your own existence. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it’d be great to have more time to see things, to learn things, to be all the things and see all the things that I want to do. The world is a vast and wonderful place and I’d love to know more of it, far too much to see than I can ever see, far too much to ever know and that’s a shame – but I think I get by ok despite this, and there are better mechanisms for self and global exploration than constantly dying a lot.


Who would you like to play the lead characters in “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” if it were made into a film?

No idea. Sorry. Someone has optioned it, which is awesome, but as a writer it’s my job, I feel, to keep my head down and muddle on. The idea of a film being made is always exciting, but for sanity’s sake probably best not considered too deeply.

Also: as a lighting designer I spend a huge amount of time around actors, and have seen famous bods perform terribly and actors whose name will never be spoken of in the history books create the most stunning, moving characters you’ll ever see. As a result I’m pretty jaded when it comes to thinking about ‘what if’ questions of casting, and my lighting designer soul trumps the writer to ask only this: will whoever you cast stand in their light, please?


Which other authors do you admire, and which book do you wish you had written? Are there any new up-and-coming authors who have caught your eye?

I love Roger Zelazny and all his works. Also on the list should be Terry Pratchett, Ursula le Guin, Anne McCaffrey (up to All The Weyrs of Pern, and including the Ship Who Sang – after that my feelings are more complicated), Ruth Ozeki, Robert Louis Stephenson and Raymond Chandler (so good). The complete Garfield got me through most of my childhood, and I’ve recently also finally invested in the travelogue/comics of Guy Delisle and the complete Sandman.

As for up-and-coming writers…. I don’t really know, to be honest. I pick up new books and read them without really paying much attention to who the writer is, I don’t usually regard it as relevant so long as the words catch and carry me. I recently read The Three by Sarah Lotz, which was both terrifying and spectacular, and I always look out for books by James Smythe and Nick Harkaway. Thinking about it – Viper Wine by Hermoine Eyre was also a stunningly good book, as was The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne.

I also sorta have a clone who I think is kinda wonderful – Helena Coggan, who’s first book, The Catalyst, was published early 2015. I say she’s my clone in the sense that she’s currently 16 years old, wrote her first book when she was 14, and goes to my old school. However, and I hate to say this, having read The Catalyst I have a sneaky feeling that it’s a more skilled, intelligent and mature book than anything I wrote at that age, and having met Helena I have a suspicion that she is going to surpass me in every possible way, including morally, and eat my brains.


What are you currently working on?

Currently writing a book about Death’s PA.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but without wanting to spoil too much too soon…

… basically that.


What are you currently reading?

Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. I don’t usually read books of that ilk, honest, but what with all the recent political stuff going down in this country (cutting of the welfare state, cutting of doctor pay, freezing of public sector pay, reduction in environmental subsidies, Corbyn getting leader of Labour, cutting of arts funding etc.) I figured that I should learn a bit more about economics in general. ‘Cos my ignorance is really quite impressive. I have the Rough Guide to Economics sitting on my bedside table at home, but this book was recommended to me by a friend who does Environmental Economics with the WWF, and her recommendations are always good. However I’m a little worried as I’ve got a long train ride tonight, and only a few dozen pages to go, and it’s the only book in my bag….


What’s currently on your desk?

Honest to god – my laptop, phone, a water bottle, half a melon, a bottle of hot sauce, some carrots, a Tupperware box and a USB stick. You catch me answering these questions while waiting for the dress rehearsal of the pantomime I’ve been working on all week, and as a result I’m far from home and in the upstairs bar of the theatre. It’s a lovely place to sit in at the moment – since we’re still working on the show, there’s no audience members, so I’ve got the entire place to myself. There’s fairy lights woven through the ceiling overhead, then covered with translucent red drapes. There’s a little stage area for storytelling, there’s comfy sofas, and there’s me, rucksack at my feet, waiting for the DSM to call me downstairs to have another look at the end of Act 1.

If I’d answered this question three hours ago, however, there would have been a lighting plan, a script, two satsumas and a control desk (for controlling and programming lights) on my desk as well as all of this. It would have been far more interesting. But perhaps lacking for elbow room.

I guess the only other thing I should explain: the theatre has a café nearby that does boxes of take-away macaroni cheese for £1.50. It’s been all I’ve been living off all week, basically. The hot sauce on my desk was a present from the assistant designer, one of the loveliest, gentlest women you’ll ever meet, after she heard me complaining that the green room needed some Tabasco. I say this so you don’t just assume I randomly carry a bottle of hot sauce around with me… although… hum… maybe I should….


How can readers find out more about you?

I’ve got a website for writing –

And a website for lighting! –

And finally I’m on twitter @clairenorth42

Come say hi!


Catherine also has a great FAQs section on her website which covers off a lot more questions including the often asked … “What’s with all the pseudonyms”!

Author Interview: Claire Fuller

Posted January 20, 2016 in Author Interviews / 0 Comments

ClaireFuller colour large sizeClaire Fuller is a writer and an artist. Her debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, is published in the UK by Fig Tree / Penguin, in Canada by House of Anansi, and in the US by Tin House, as well as in six other countries. It won the 2015 Desmond Elliott prize for debut fiction.


Hi Claire, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hello Babs! Thank you so much for inviting me onto your website. I didn’t start writing until a little later than most authors – at the age of forty. I went to art school when I was eighteen and studied sculpture, and I have continued to draw and carve in the intervening years, but most of my time and creative output is taken up with writing now. I spent many years running a small marketing company which specialised in writing, but pieces such as white papers and websites for technology companies – very different to the kind of writing I do now.

Where did the inspiration for “Our Endless Numbered Days” come from?

It came from a news story. In 2011 a teenager called Robin van Helsum appeared in Berlin saying that he’d been living in the woods with his father for the previous five years, but that his father had died in an accident and he’d buried him and then walked for days back to civilisation. In the end it was discovered that Robin had made his story up, but by then I was intrigued, and my novel started with a series of ‘what if?’ questions to myself: what if Robin had really lived in the woods – what would have taken him there, how would he have survived, and what would have brought him out?

How much research do you do for your books?

I don’t do much research before I start writing, instead I do it as I go along. Our Endless Numbered Days is mostly set in a remote forest, with the characters having to survive on what they can find around them. I knew nothing about this kind of experience at all, so I had to research all of it – from how to catch rabbits and squirrels, how much snow they get in Bavaria, to how to make a bed out of some logs and bits of home-made rope! The majority of this was done online, but when I could I did some things myself – tramping through the woods and taking sound recordings, lighting fires, learning to identify which mushrooms are poisonous and which are safe.

What is the structure of your writing day?

I’m very lucky, in that a year and a half ago I was able to give up the ‘day job’ and write full time. Perhaps working 9 to 5.30 is ingrained in me because those are still the hours I keep when I’m writing. I very much see it like a job. Of course it’s not possible to write for eight and a half hours all the time, so my day is broken up with reading other people’s books, some research, some doing other things and just thinking. And it depends on where I am in the publishing process – whether writing a first draft, thinking about a new book, or editing.

How long does it typically take you to write a book?

My first novel took a year and a quarter, while I was still working full time in my marketing job. My second novel has taken two years – with one of those years working full time.

How do you get past writer’s block and distractions such as the internet and social media?

I don’t seem to suffer from writer’s block – there is always something I can write. It’s just that sometimes it’s really not very good at all. I find though that as long as I keep writing something I come out the other end and things get better, and often when I go back and look at what I’ve written, there’s something I can save. And as for the internet and social media, I love them both. Perhaps because I wrote Our Endless Numbered Days in very short bursts (sometimes only 10 minutes if that was all the time I had), I continue to work in that way. I write a bit, then I might look at Twitter for a few minutes. As long as I don’t find I’ve spent hours on there, I seem to get on okay.

What is the best thing about being a published author

So many things. But two really stand out: Going into a bookshop for the first time and seeing a book I’ve written on a shelf. And meeting people – complete strangers – who have read Our Endless Numbered Days and enjoyed it. That still feels amazing.

… and the worst?

The slow wheel of the publishing process. I’m very impatient! It can take a long time for a book to be published. It was nineteen months between when Penguin bought Our Endless Numbered Days to when it was published. There are very good reasons for this – the timing of publication is crucial, and then there is the editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing and publicity to get in place, but I still find it difficult to have to wait so long

What advice would you give a budding author who is looking to break into the industry?

Read, read, read. Find lots of books you like and analyse why they work for you. Then when you’ve written your novel and it’s as good as you think it can be, show it to some people you trust (not your Mum and Dad) and get them to give you critical feedback on what is and isn’t working for them. Be prepared to edit it all over again. And then, of course, even when you have a wonderful novel, there is still a big element of chance that comes into play for it to stand a chance of being published – something no one can control.

Which other authors do you admire, and which book do you wish you had written? Are there any new up-and-coming authors who have caught your eye?

I’ve just finished read The Past by Tessa Hadley, and I loved it so much. I wish I could write like she does – such a simple story really, of a family and how all the characters interact when they come back to stay in their grandparent’s old house, but so beautifully told, and perfectly concluded.

I’ve read lots more debut novels this year than I ever have in the past, and just to mention a few I’ve loved: The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger, Rawblood by Catriona Ward, and Did you Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg.

What is your next novel about and when will it be released?

My next novel is called Swimming Lessons and it will be released in early 2017. It’s about Ingrid, a woman who writes letters to her husband and hides them in the thousands of books he collects; and then disappears off a Dorset beach. And it’s about her adult daughter, Flora who comes back to her family home looking for answers about what happened to her mother, without realising that what she’s searching for is in the books all around her.

How can readers find out more about you?

I have my own website at On social media I can be found on Facebook and under @ClaireFuller2 on Twitter. “Our Endless Numbered Days” can also be found on Amazon and on Book Depository.

Author Interview: Darcie Boleyn

Posted December 16, 2015 in Author Interviews / 0 Comments

Last month I reviewed the festive book Wish Upon a Christmas Cake written by Darcie Boleyn. I’m now very pleased to have Darcie here on the blog to give us an interview.

Darcie Photo copy 2Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.


Hi Darice – Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I have always written, and as a child I used to enter short story and poetry competitions. This continued when I went to university but then, as life became busier, writing took a back seat. I nursed the dream to write for years when my children were young and I tried a few times but procrastinated a lot. A few years ago, my husband encouraged me to really try again, and following a few false starts, I finally had that amazing acceptance email. Since then, I haven’t stopped and I’m happier than ever!


Where does your inspiration come from?

Everything inspires me. It could be a song on the radio, a comment from my husband, something one of my children says or does, something I see when we’re in the car, a title that pops into my head, a line that a character (one who’s lurking in my head) says or even a book I’m reading. I always carry a notebook and my IPhone and whenever inspiration strikes, I make notes to refer to later.


What are your own Christmas traditions?

Christmas is a very important family time for us. I like to share the build up with my husband and children by preparing food in advance – things like sweet mincemeat and a Christmas cake – and by shopping for special gifts. Christmas day involves a champagne breakfast of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels with plenty of champagne (for the adults), tea and orange juice. We open presents as we cook and eat then head out to spend the rest of the day with extended family. The evening is lovely when we return home, full and sleepy, then all relax in front of a Christmas movie with our two dogs.


What is the structure of your writing day?

My favourite time to write is just after breakfast when I feel fresh and creative. However, as this isn’t always possible, I write wherever and whenever I can. I constantly make notes on my iPhone, in notebooks and even on the back of receipts. I often write in the evenings and at weekends and I no longer go out to work on Mondays as it’s my designated writing day.


How long does it typically take you to write a book?

I started Wish Upon a Christmas Cake in the summer of 2014. I wrote about 40,000 words while I was on holiday. I finished writing it just after Christmas of 2014, then edited it before submitting it early 2015. I recently finished writing my second book and that took about eight months in total but there were times when I was working on revisions for the first one, so I wasn’t working on book two without breaks.


How do you get past writer’s block and distractions such as the internet and social media?

Stop. Breathe. Read over my notes. Make a drink.

If that doesn’t work, I take the dogs for a walk or have a shower (for some reason that helps get my thoughts flowing).

If I really can’t get over the block, I leave the writing there for the day and pick up a good book. Usually, sleeping on an idea for a night or two allows my subconscious to work it through, then I can’t wait to get writing again.

Social media is wonderful because it opens up the world to us all, yet it can be a distraction when I should be writing. I have to be firm with myself and, if I’m writing, I just interact on social media during my breaks.


What is the best thing about being a published author?

Getting to do what I love every day and, more recently, receiving feedback from readers. When a reader enjoys your book and lets you know by messaging you or posting a review, it’s a truly wonderful feeling.


… and the worst?

Being my own worst critic. I have to force myself to just keep writing and not to edit every scene too harshly, or I wouldn’t make progress. It’s far better to get the words down while they’re flowing then to edit later.


Who would you like to play the lead characters in “Wish Upon a Christmas Cake” if it were made into a film?

Katie would be played by someone cute and funny like Sandra Bullock and Sam would be Johnny Depp or Gerard Butler.


Which other authors do you admire, and which book do you wish you had written? Are there any new up-and-coming authors who have caught your eye?

This is a difficult one to answer because I read lots of genres and will probably miss someone out. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Stephen King, Philippa Gregory, Adele Parkes and Sophie Kinsella are just a few authors who’ve inspired me over the years. More recently, I’ve been incredibly inspired by the authors I’ve interacted with on a regular basis, especially the Carina UK authors; they’re a fantastic bunch. I don’t want to name individuals, in case I miss someone out, but I’ve read lots of their books and been inspired by how talented they are. To be writing alongside them, as well as seeing my book featured with theirs on various websites, is something that makes me pinch myself every day. I feel very lucky indeed!


What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished the first round of revisions for a contemporary romantic comedy about a single mother of three and her hectic life. She’s had a tough time over the years but she’s resilient and she thinks she’s managing her life until an old flame turns up and turns her world upside-down.


What are you currently reading?

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin.


What’s currently on your desk?

My son’s TV and Xbox. We’ve had to move things around so I’m currently deskless! I have to write on the sofa or at the kitchen table.


How can readers find out more about you?

I can usually be found on Twitter @darcieboleyn and also on Facebook. I also have my own website and also write as part of the Pink Ink Ladies alongside nine other Carina-published authors.

Author Interview: Kerry Barrett

Posted November 18, 2015 in Author Interviews / 0 Comments


Kerry Barrett was a bookworm from a very early age, devouring Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfield, before moving on to Sweet Valley High and 1980s bonkbusters.

She did a degree in English Literature, then trained as a journalist, writing about everything from pub grub to EastEnders. Her first novel, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, took six years to finish and was mostly written in longhand on her commute to work, giving her a very good reason to buy beautiful notebooks.

Kerry has now released 6 books including 5 in the magical series “Could it be Magic?” and her latest novel “A Step in Time”.

She lives in London with her husband and two sons, and Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes is still her favourite novel.


Hi Kerry! Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi! My background is in journalism. My day job is writing for All About Soap magazine, bashing out features on EastEnders and Corrie. I’m also a big bookworm and I love reading, so I grew up wanting to write novels.

The books in the “Could it be Magic?” series are quite different from your latest release, “A Step in Time”. Where do you get your inspiration from?

All sorts of places actually! Sometimes from things I’ve read, or from conversations I’ve overheard. At the moment I keep thinking about someone I heard on a radio competition who said she she’d been engaged, called off the wedding, then she and her ex-fiancé had gone on the honeymoon. Expect that to show up in a book one day! A Step In Time started from my deep, undying love of Strictly Come Dancing and grew from there. Amy’s based on a mixture of many soap stars I’ve met over the years, and Cora’s inspired by my lovely Grandma, Jess, who sadly died just as I finished writing the book.

How much research do you do for your books?

It depends on the subject. I did lots of research for A Step In Time because of the historical aspect of the story. I was really aware that some of my readers would remember VE Day and the end of the war, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes. I also took dancing lessons and spoke to some fabulous people who danced their way through broken hearts, ill health and family dramas. I really like doing research. For the novel I’m writing at the moment, I’m doing lots of reading about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Victorian London


Do you work an outline or a plot to each book? Or do you just like to see where the story will take you?

I do plot, but not as extensively as some writers do. I normally start with an outline on one side of A4, which I then scribble all over as I go along. Usually I start with an idea of a beginning, middle and end and as I write it becomes clearer where the story needs to go.


What is the structure of your writing day?

Ha! I long for a structured writing day. I used to write on my iPad Mini on my 30-minute train journey to and from work but my trains have changed and I don’t get a seat any more (GRRRR) so now it depends. I write like a mad thing on my day off from work, and I also get up early (about 5am) so I can write for an hour, or an hour and a half, before the children wake up.

How long does it typically take you to write a book?

Ideally about six months. A Step In Time was quicker because I had a very tight deadline so it could be released in time for Strictly being on TV. The one I’m writing now has taken much longer. It depends on my life, really!

How do you get past writer’s block and distractions such as the internet and social media?

I think because I’m a journalist, I am lucky enough never to have suffered from writer’s block. Obviously a fierce news editor would have little patience with someone who said they couldn’t write a story because they had writer’s block, so I think I’ve had it trained out of me! I have various techniques to get over not being able to get started – such as starting in the middle of the chapter, or writing the last paragraph first. BUT I tend to think if I’m struggling to write something, it’s because it’s not right and maybe the story doesn’t need it. As for social media and the internet… I have lost HOURS on twitter. HOURS.

What is the best thing about being a published author?

It’s sort of the best and worst thing – when people are reading my book it thrills and terrifies me in equal measure. My best friend read A Step In Time when she was recuperating from an operation and she kept texting me about bits she’d liked, which was brilliant. I really like when I make people laugh and A Step In Time has also made people cry which I’ve discovered I LOVE!

… And the worst thing?

I think the worst thing is not having the time to devote to my writing completely. It so close I can almost taste it!

Who would you like to play the lead characters in “A Step in Time” if it were made into a film?

Michelle Keegan for Amy, definitely. A Hemsworth for Patrick (I’m not fussy when it comes to Hemsworths – Chris is my fave but I think Liam is more Patrick…). Lovely Neville Longbottom (I think his real name is Matthew Lewis) for Matty. And for gorgeous Cora, the amazing Sheila Hancock.

Out of all the characters in your books, which is your favourite and why?

Cora, without a doubt. I love her. But I’m really fond of them all, actually. I like Amy a lot and I like Esme in the Could It Be Magic novels. Harry, Esme’s cousin, is the closest to me, I think. Personality-wise.

What advice would you give a budding author who is looking to break into the industry?

Oh gosh. Just write, really. Write, write and write. And when you’re not writing, read. Read everything.

Which other authors do you admire, and which book do you wish you had written? Are there any new up-and-coming authors who have caught your eye?

My top favourite author of all time is Jilly Cooper. And my other top favourite author of all time is Stephen King. I love them both in very different ways. Every time I read a Stephen King book I wish I’d written it! I really like books that play around with structure and narrative – I liked the twist after twist after twist in Gone Girl, for example. I’ve also got a soft spot for crime novels (though I’ve tried and failed to write one many times – instead, I’ve made my next heroine a crime novelist!). I am really, really picky about what makes a good crime novel and nervous about trying new crime authors, but I recently read Angela Marsons’ debut novel, which was great.

What is your next novel about and when will it be released?

It’s about a crime novelist, called Ella, who moves into a house where something terrible happened 150 years ago. She sets about trying to find out what happened. The book also tells the story of Violet, who lived in the house in 1855.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading The Secret by the Lake, by Louise Douglas. I’ve only just started it but it’s very good so far.

What’s currently on your desk?

At work I have a folder of soap storylines, notebooks, pens, my Mac and lots of past issues of the magazine. At home, loads of post-it notes with scribbles about my new plot, my laptop and normally a bar of chocolate!

How can readers find out more about you?

I have a blog and a FaceBook page where people can contact me, or you can find me on twitter @kerrybean73. I also have an Amazon page where all my books are listed.

Thanks so much to Kerry for taking the time to give us a little insight into her writing world. I can’t wait to find out more about Ella and Violet!