What can you tell us about your new book How We Met?
It's a big, emotional book about the changing nature of friendship, that second coming of age (probably around 30 when everything starts to get that little bit more serious!) and learning what's really important in life.
The story is about friendship between Liv and her friends, so how important is friendship to you?
It's vital to me. I don't think I would have survived this far without my friends! I have friends that I have known for thirty years and a group of university friends who I still hang out with, even though we've now multiplied with children / partners etc. My friends keep me sane, remind me of what's important and are people I can share life's highs and lows with, which is really what I wanted to explore in HOW WE MET
A lot more books are being written about life after death, eg PS I Love You and how characters cope with everything afterwards, why do you think this is?
I think writers have always been and will always be, drawn to the big universal issues of life and death and indeed life after death! (Look at the success of books like The Lovely Bones) In terms of why there seem to be more now, maybe it's something to do with the recession / terrorism / the spate we seem to have had of huge world disasters ??! (Haiti, Tsunami. etc) It might be just me (probably!) but these times feel quite apocalyptic - I think people / writers are really thinking: when it comes down to it, what is really important? Who do I love? If I was staring death in the face or I lost somebody I loved, how would it change the way I see life? How would it change me?
Tell us about the inspiration for the story.
Like I say, friendship and my friends have always been hugely important to me and I guess, deep down, they have given me so much, that I wanted to give them something back - I kind of wrote it for them / us - i wanted to write about the value of friendship but also, how friendship stays true and strong even through tough times. In terms of the untimely death in the book, when I was at sixth form, a boy died in my class. I didn't know him that well, but I went to his funeral and I remember the shock - how his death was against the natural order of things. That feeling stayed with me and I've always wanted to write about it in some way. (In fact ten years ago, I started a really bad novel about a friend who dies! It's so bad, I read some of it recently...there are just whole scenes on beaches with people staring out at sea and saying nothing interesting...)
You used to write for various women's magazines, so what were these experiences like?
I had a brilliant time working as a magazine journalist - it's a passport to fun! I'm telling you (especially if, like me, you are game for everything although, then you are always the person in the office that they send on the assignments nobody else will do like going naked at a nudist resort for a WEEK (yes really!) and being a footballer's wife for a week, oh and going to a sex school in Moscow.
How much did your day to day writing as a reporter aid the writing of this book?
Not much to tell you the truth, since writing fiction (as I found out when I wrote my first book seven years ago!) is a completely different skill to writing journalism. I do draw on my experiences occasionally though...!
What was your background before writing for magazines?
Save for a couple of ill-advised office positions (I used to get sacked because I couldn't work the photocopier ) I have always written for a living. Before i worked in magazines, I worked at a local newspaper called the Herald and Post, where the most exciting stories, were stuff like people turning a hundred and the council erecting a wall.
Which book comes top of your reading list?
Right now? God, SO MANY! But if I had to pick one, probably The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. I daren't start it, because it has themes that are similar to the book I’m writing now (mental illness) and I am scared it'll be brilliant (I know it's brilliant) and it'll put me off!
Which authors can you thank for influencing your work?
I think it's more books, than particular authors who have influenced my work (well, obviously the author but you know what I mean!) I like to have certain books that when I'm writing, I use for 'quality control' as it were. .. I dip in and out of them to remind me of the standards I am aspiring to. The current books I have at my side are Jeannette Winterson's memoir - Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? The Descendants by Kaui
Who do you most like to read?
I'm not really loyal to a particular author - I just like the books I like. In no particular order, however, I love Hanif Kureishi, Ian McEwan, Chris Cleave, Kate Atkinson, Justin Cartwright and Zoe Heller. Commercial fiction wise, I love Rowan Coleman, Lucy Robinson , Lisa Jewell and many more !
If the book were made into a film, who would you cast as the central characters?
That's a hard one, because actually of all the books I've written, the characters of Mia and Fraser came to me full-formed (I hate it when writers say that but this time, it was true!) so they were always just themselves....If I were to pick the actors / actresses who best fit who they were in my head, though, I'd say: Ralph Little
What advice can you give to aspiring novelists?
Do you want me to be completely honest?! Make sure you are good with pressure as it is not a career for the faint-hearted! Writing-wise, I would say try not to think too hard about the big picture when you are beginning a novel - you'll get scared off! - Start with tiny steps (i.e. the motivations of a certain character, or a certain scene) and let it build organically. if you keep going, eventually you will have something.
What is next for you?
I just want people to enjoy HOW WE MET as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am currently writing my fourth novel, out in January 2014 - I hope there will be many more after that too!