"Du Maurier was a depraved genius" - An Interview with Lisa Gabriele

The Winters by Lisa Gabriele
If you're a big fan of Daphne Du Maurier and Rebecca then you need to know about Lisa Gabriele's new book, The Winters. A modern version with an added step daughter creates an interesting twist on this incredible story. I was lucky enough to ask Gabriele some questions about her inspiration, writing habits and reading loves. 

Do you remember the first time you read Rebecca? Tell me about it!

I first came to the movie Rebecca as a child, but only finally read the book when I was seventeen. Rebecca was one of only a few books we kept in the house—we were poor, so library people. I don’t know what possessed me to pick it up. It was my mother’s favourite. I thought I knew the story from the movie. How wrong I was. I remember a sharp intake of breath when Maxim admits he murdered Rebecca in cold blood (in the movie she died by accident, remember). The unnamed narrator barely blinks an eye. And yet…I still wanted them to be together. It took me a long time to realise that Du Maurier was a depraved genius.

Is Rebecca your favourite Daphne Du Maurier book or do you have a soft spot for any others?

Well, it’s my favourite for a lot of obvious reasons, but one story I have reread again and again is Don’t Look Now, which was also an incredible (and different) movie. It’s a nightmare of a story; a dead child, psychic sisters, the gothic decay of Venice. Perfection.

What inspired you to write this contemporary retelling?

It was the fall of 2016, between TV contracts, and I was enjoying that rare convergence of time plus a bit of money. I had the itch to write another novel, smack dab in the middle of the U.S. election and the most distracting news cycles in modern history. Every time I’d get momentum, a news alert would flash across my screen and shatter my concentration. So I shut everything off and popped in Hitchcock’s Rebecca and remembered in the book that Maxim had murdered Rebecca. Suddenly I wondered how a modern woman would react in a similar situation. Surely she wouldn’t be so easily swept off her feet. She’d definitely better adjust to life in a remote mansion, this time inhabited by an imperious step-daughter-to-be. And if things turned dark and dangerous, surely she’d bolt. The questions became so compelling I had to write the book, surprising even myself by each answer.

Would you do another Daphne Du Maurier retelling in the future?

I don’t think so. I had a particular fixation with Rebecca. Though I think about Wuthering Heights a lot. It was also about real estate in a way, which would be a major theme in my modern update, were I to write one. I think my new book is going to have vague All About Eve vibes. I’ve always been a bit of a pop cultural magpie.

What do you think is so compelling about retellings? What do you hope fans of Rebecca get from your book?
The Winters isn’t a strict retelling; things change dramatically when you add a step daughter in the mix. And of course, the end is…well, quite different. I’ll leave it at that. But my favourite retellings (Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a recent fave) simply allow me to spend more time with characters I love. I sometimes want that experience as a reader. What I hope fans take away from The Winters is how much I love and admire Rebecca, and that writing a modern response is a way to demonstrate its indelibleness. I also want people to contemplate all the ways in which women have changed and men, especially rich and powerful ones, have not. Mostly I want them to have a bit of fun in noting the ways the books align and how they depart from each other. I certainly had fun writing it. I hope that shows.  

I’d love to hear about how you became a writer and getting your first book deal?

I was one of those lucky people who sent her work out to a dozen agents and received one reply. I signed with that agent. Prior to that I was (and still am) a TV producer. I’d done a bit of writing, mostly funny essays for newspapers, and I had published my teen diaries in an early iteration of Vice magazine before it became a global empire. A friend suggested I gather up the essays and get an agent. When I met with the agent she asked me if I had a book in me, and I said yes—God knows why. But when I looked at my essays and articles I saw a bunch of funny, heartbreaking stories about my childhood woven into them, and from there started elaborating them into Tempting Faith DiNapoli, a largely autobiographical novel that was a bestseller in Canada. That was almost twenty years ago. Since then I’ve written nine books in and around TV contracts, some more successful than others, some in my name, some ghostwritten, some under a pseudonym. It’s been a meandering career.

When you’re writing, do you have a routine?

Yes. Nothing special. I get up early, sometimes as early as 5:00 am. I make coffee, eat breakfast, check email. Then I shut everything off. I have a playlist (mostly Max Richter and Jonny Greenwood) that sets the mood. I write for 5 to 6 hours, eat lunch, nap, get a bit of exercise and then go to bed early. When I’m in the throes of a book, I don’t make plans during the day, and only vital plans at night.

Any writing advice?

My favourite bit of advice that really works is to leave off the day’s work at a critical moment in the book. That way you’re guaranteed to get back at it the next day, anxious to figure out that bit. This lulls you into continuing, day after day, even when the work is hard and feels pointless. Also your first draft is going to be garbage. They all are. Just keep going.

What other books do you recommend for fans of Rebecca?

Well, all of the rest of Daphne du Maurier, but especially My Cousin Rachel. Anything by Patricia Highsmith. There was a book out last year called A Separation by Katie Kitamura that had Rebecca vibes, that urgent first-person narrative; a missing person haunting the story in his absence. Next year look for Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland, a Rebecca-esque mystery set in the art world of New York and the Hudson Valley. It just blew me away

Finally, what have you read lately that you’ve enjoyed?

See above. That’s one of the perks of being a writer; publishers send you books coming out to read and possibly blurb. There are a few great ones coming out soon, including Tamara Jenkins Reid’s next one, Daisy Jones and the Six. I inhaled it. Like everyone else, I loved Shari Lapena’s new one, An Unwanted Guest. I tore through that. I loved Sunburn by Laura Lippman; a master. On a less deadly note, I loved Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. And Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation was a wild ride.

Thank you to Lisa and Vintage for working with me on this blog post! Make sure you follow the rest of the blog tour:


Dear Evan Hansen

Today's going to be an amazing day, and here's why...

Dear Evan Hansen is the novelisation of the Broadway musical you may have heard of. It tells the story of Evan who writers letters to himself and what happens when one of these letters is taken by someone who should never have had it. It mimics the usual, chatty style of a YA contemporary novel and throws you into the world of American high school with anxiety-ridden Evan. He doesn't fit into many of the social groups and doesn't have many friends. He's one of those quirky YA characters that wonders if he's alone but never really is. It's typical of the genre, but that's okay. I found that his story was easy to connect to.

Evan's letters reminded me of those one line a day books. The idea is to write one line every day for five years so that you can look back on what you were doing on this day last year, and the year before that etc. Kind of like Facebook but hand written in a cute notebook and without the embarrassing photos/text speak. The point is, I keep one of these diaries. Every day I try and think of one good thing to write down. It doesn't always happen, I'll be honest. Some days I just write 'Today was crap because...' But most of the time, I have something. I'll give you some examples...

Today I baked cupcakes and they were so good. Went for a run and got to finish season four of Brooklyn Nine Nine.

Today I finished an absolutely brilliant book - can't stop thinking about it.

Today I saw Mum, went to the cinema to see The Greatest Showman. It was good to spend time together.

I don't want to remember the bad things. It's the same but different to Evan who writes his letters anticipating the day. In both cases, we're trying to get into the same mindset. Appreciate everything that is right with the world and forget the bad. In a time where everything can feel so disheartening - the planet, politics, the scary, unknown future, I think it's so important to be present in the now. It's something I've always struggled with, whether it's putting too much pressure on myself and getting feelings of derealisation or stressing too much about next year, yet I'm determined to keep trying to relax more and enjoy the now.

You don't have to be like me to relate to Evan's stories, there will probably be something else you connect to. Even though it's very typical of a YA Contemporary, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It has all of the elements that makes this genre so popular as well as the issues that many young people are dealing with on a day to day basis. Grief, anxiety, broken families and unrequited love are all themes that comes across vividly in the story. In parts, it's awkward to have such an insight into Evan's mind. You want to give him space because he's obviously so uncomfortable around people. When you're done with the book, I would recommend listening to the soundtrack, especially seeing as the music is coming to the West End in 2019

For fans of: Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera and John Green. 

Sincerely, Me.

Thank you to Penguin for sending me this book for review.

REVIEW: The Temp - Michelle Frances

The Temp - Michelle Frances
Published by Pan Macmillan on 30 September 2018
My rating: 4 /5
Book Depository purchase link.

Last year, The Girlfriend was one of the ‘it books’ of the summer. I read it on the beach and pretty much devoured the whole thing in a day. The twists were epic and timed to perfection, the characters were dislikable but had enough about them to draw you in and the premise was TENSE. A year on and my experience of reading The Temp wasn’t much different.

The Temp follows Carrie and Adrian, a power couple in the film industry. Despite never planning to have children, Carrie falls pregnant and is determined to keep the baby, throwing her relationship with Adrian off balance. Then Emma arrives, the temp that Carrie never wanted. She’s insanely talented and she wants something. Paranoia and jealousy run rampage on the three of them and the fallout is so much fun to read.

Michelle Frances is able to set up clues subtly and fill your head with red herrings without your knowledge. The story was crafted cleverly, alternating between perspectives in a way that only strengthened the dynamic between the three of them. As the plot developed, I couldn’t pull myself away. I aligned myself mostly with Carrie but also had a soft spot for Emma. Maybe because they are women, but most likely because they both have a passion and a drive that makes them hard-working. All of the film clips and conversations about screenplays and producing gave the story a cinematic edge and I think it could work really well on the screen.

After reading so many average or below average thrillers recently, it felt like summer 2018 was a failure for this genre. Nothing grabbed me like The Girl On The Train, The Couple Next Door or The Girlfriend, but The Temp has proven that there are still exciting stories to tell and talented authors to write them. I did think the final reveal was a push too far and out of nowhere, but by that point I was already in love with the story and the characters. If you enjoyed The Girlfriend, The Temp is definitely worth reading! I can’t wait to see what comes next for Frances.

Love, Jess

Thank you Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy for review.

BLOG TOUR: Friendship Fails of Emma Nash

Friendship Fails of Emma Nash - Chloe Seager
Published by HQ on 9th August 2018
My rating: 5/5
Book Depository purchase link.

My Review
Emma’s back! It’s been a while, but I couldn’t have forgotten her. In Friendship Fails, she’s on a mission to find some new friends but as you can probably already tell, it doesn’t run smoothly. Does anything in Emma’s life?

Emma’s irrational decision-making skills and her naivety is what makes her life so fun to read about. There are some properly cringe-worthy moments in this book. I don’t think anything can top her date with a 13 year old in Editing Emma, but Friendship Fails comes pretty close at points. Just wait for her attempt at befriending Hannah Condom.

To add even more drama, Leon’s back in the mix. I was screaming (silently) at the pages for Emma to STAY AWAY. But you know what she’s like… Anyway, even though the romance storyline of Editing Emma returns in Friendship Fails, it’s far from the centre of the plot. Instead, Emma’s more preoccupied with how Steph is spending more time with her new boyfriend and Faith’s got a new relationship of her own. With things still a little awkward with Gracie, Emma needs to befriend some new people at school and (dare I say it) participate more.

I enjoyed how her love for fashion came through so much more in this story and there’s a lot of mother-daughter banter going on in the background. Of course, all of it is told in blog form in traditional Emma Nash style. It fast-paced, light-hearted and a great example of humorous YA. I couldn’t stop snorting while I read it, so maybe I shouldn’t have taken it on the train with me...

My Own Bookish Friends
Just like Emma, there was a point last year when I realised I needed to make some new friends. I’d just moved to a new city where I didn't know anyone outside of my boyfriend and his mates. I couldn’t leech onto his friendship group forever. I needed my own people! People who read!

My last group of friends ditched me because they formed a religious cult and decided the devil ‘lived inside me’ (long story) so finding new friends to trust was scary. I organised a meet up with the people I'd spoken with over Twitter and although I've met and become friends with so many bookish people now, there are a few I want to give a shoutout to here...

Ashleigh - A Frolic Through Fiction
I'm going to be mega cringey here and admit that I wanted to become friends with Ashleigh before we met up. Sometimes you find people online that you just know you're going to click with. Ashleigh encouraged me to start my booktube channel last year and she's the kind of friend that I know I can turn to when I'm feeling low or need advice. I hope I can be just as good a friend to her!

Charlotte - Bookmarks and Blogging
The reason I warmed to Charlotte so much is because I admire her. She's opinionated, honest and hilariously awkward at times. Even though we disagree on so many things (sweetcorn and Taylor Swift to name a couple) we still always have so much to talk about.

And a shoutout to Jemima from Beware of Books. We've only met once but it didn't feel right to leave her out of this!

Love, Jess

Thank you HQ for sending me a copy of Friendship Fails of Emma Nash.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? - Holly Bourne
Published by Usborne on 9th August 2018
My rating: 4/5
Book Depository purchase link.

It seems like Holly Bourne can’t come out with books fast enough. In the past year alone this is the fourth review I’m writing about a novel she has written or contributed to. I’m still wondering if she’s actually human or if she’s just a bunch of computers that use crazy algorithms to create a ‘dream author’. Or maybe she just has coffee linked up to her via drip?

The wonder that is Holly Bourne
All the same, I’m grateful for another Holly Bourne book. I look forward to them so much it’s probably unhealthy. When it comes to Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? I think it’s Holly’s most daring yet. It calls upon mental health and how we view it as a society, as well as antidepressants, therapy and the future.

I’m sure a lot of other people are shouting this from the rooftops right now but I have to add: the mental health reputation was fantastic. Right near the start, Olive has to fill out a questionnaire so her therapist can analyse how much of a risk she is. Bourne uses real questions and has Olive react to them in a way that’s painfully true. This just sets up the book and the realistic references to follow.

No one experiences mental health in exactly the same way so I’m scared of saying ‘everyone will relate to this’ but I do think quite a few people will. Olive feels hopeful at times, helpless at others. She’s determined, destroyed, tired and overwhelmed. Her character was too much and irritating at times but having an understanding for someone with mental health problems and not writing them off as a ‘snowflake’ is the point of the book, so it definitely worked for me.

Kindness really is contagious!
The idea of camp reset I think is both genius and a bit weird. How realistic is it to go to a luxurious camp to try and experience intense treatment? It’s a great idea for a book, but I’m not sure if it was 100% believable all of the time, as it was just a bit too neat. What about the people who have to wait a year or more to get an appointment in their area? What about those who move around so much it’s impossible to get a regular therapist? What about those whose parents don’t believe in mental health problems? I fully get that an author can’t write every story, and they shouldn’t have to. It’s not fair for me to blame Holly Bourne for not writing about every aspect of mental health, but the ease and convenience of camp reset is something that played on my mind while I was reading.

That and how this book was a bit on the long side. I think it could have been a tighter story had it been a bit shorter. But who am I to complain about too many pages for Holly Bourne? I’m already waiting for the announcement of her next book…

Let me know if you also enjoy this one!

Love, Jess

Thank you Usborne for sending me a copy.

REVIEW: It's A Wrap - Perdita & Honor Cargill

It's A Wrap - Perdita & Honor Cargill
Published by Simon & Schuster on 1 June 2018.
My rating: 4/5
Book Depository purchase link.

Being in denial any longer is not going to help. I’ve been in a reading slump this month.

Ever since reading the extraordinary Save The Date by Morgan Matson, I have lost my patience for reading and nothing I have picked up has really wowed me. I’ve wandered from YA to YA, desperate to find something that will draw me in. I haven’t had a problem with my passion for buying books (quite the opposite) but staying hooked? That’s something else.

So, when It’s A Wrap arrived, I put it to the top of my TBR.

Admittedly, I have sort of abandoned my TBR for this month but shh, you don’t know that.

It’s A Wrap is a fun YA with elements of light drama, humour and romance. Elektra is an actress at that awkward stage where she’s no longer being cast for child roles but is yet to find an adult agent. On top of that, she has school, exams, a boyfriend far away and a dog to look after. Her life is a bit hectic and I really liked her as a protagonist.

Her laughably pathetic attempts at being a social media goddess were ridiculously relatable. Picking the right Instagram filter is the least of your worries when you have nothing cool or interesting to take a photo of and what are you meant to tweet if you’re just getting on with your homework? It brought the glitzy life of acting into the reality of teenagehood, embarrassing moments and all. I can see fans of Chris Russell and Alice Oseman having a soft spot for this series.

I haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy but diving right into this one wasn’t a problem because I got everything from Elektra’s past acting work to her best friends’ relationship history in a natural way. I think ‘natural’ is a good way to sum up the feel for this book. The scripted scenes for Elektra’s acting were added in smoothly and they felt really natural, just like how the romance felt cute and natural.

Okay, so I’m still in the slump but at this difficult reading time It’s A Wrap was the only book I wanted to read and I’m so glad I did!

Love, Jess

Thank you Perdita and Honor for sending me a copy.

REVIEW: Save The Date - Morgan Matson

Save The Date - Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster on 14th June 2018.
My rating: 5/5
Book Depository purchase link.

This is my favourite YA book of the year so far.

I don’t say that lightly. If you’ve been following my blog for even a week you’ll know I love YA and I read a lot of it. But Save The Date has surpassed all the five star reads I’ve come across so far this year and is now wearing the crown of best book. Beating it is going to be hard.

Morgan Matson is fantastic at writing summer contemporaries. I’ve loved all of her previous books including, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Second Chance Summer, Since You’ve Been Gone and The Unexpected Everything. Save The Date is another summer romance with probably the ultimate setting for this genre: a family wedding.

Charlie Grant comes from a big family and they’re not just well known in their local community. Charlie’s mum is a famous cartoonist who has been depicting the Grant family in the paper for decades. The real and fictionalised Grant family are almost indistinguishable and Charlie gets confused over her own childhood memories. The cartoon is also the cause of some family tension and as it comes to an end on the same weekend of Linnie’s wedding, emotions will be running high.

Charlie’s desperation to make the family weekend perfect and the chaos that ensues fills this story with a powerful hit of nostalgia and laughter. I relate so much to leaving for university, knowing that everything is about to change and wanting to hold onto your old family life. That part of being caught in between is so difficult. You don’t have your new home yet and you are losing your old one, it’s a really difficult part of life.

As is fancying your brother’s best friend, but that’s a whole other part of the story and one I think you need to read for yourself to really appreciate the drama. Jesse is one of those guys that you can’t help but like even if you think you shouldn’t. He’s not a bad guy which makes makes the whole situation even more difficult. I was as confused as Charlie when it came to him.

Then there’s Bill. His name doesn’t make him sound like your typical YA romance character and he’s definitely on the quieter side but I liked how he took a bit of a back seat for a large part of the book as this really was Charlie’s story.

From the teen romance moments to the bickering between brothers and sisters, I couldn’t get enough of this family. The book is over 400 pages so not exactly short but I could definitely read a sequel (and I never read sequels!) The dynamics between the family were a real highlight. I didn’t just want to read about them, I wanted to be part of them.

I could not have more love for this book. It’s utterly brilliant and you need to read it.

Love, Jess

Thank you Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy.

'I gave my agent a bit of a hard time' - An Interview with Lisa Hall

Lisa Hall

Thriller fans, look who I have on the blog today! Lisa Hall is the author of Between You And Me, Tell Me No Lies and The Party. Her thrillers have been making waves for the past few years and I can still remember reading the first one (BYAM) thanks to my mum's recommendation. I was completely enchanted by it and I'm so excited to get to ask Lisa some questions...

Your first novel Between You And Me had such a great response and you must have been very proud as a debut author. How has life changed from being a debut author to now?
Not that much actually! I don’t work full time in an office anymore (unless you count writing!) which is lovely, and I also go out a lot more to launches etc, which is also lovely…

I love asking authors: what’s your story of finding an agent and becoming a published writer? It seems that everyone has a slightly different experience!
I had already signed my first deal by the time my agent called and said she wanted to sign me. I gave her a bit of a hard time, to be honest! But she was very nice and invited me to lunch to talk about things and needless to say she won me over (for that read: she made me see sense and realise that I didn’t actually know what I was doing!) There’s no way I’d be without her now.

Tell Me No Lies was a fantastic second book. Did you feel a lot of pressure to match the success of your first book? Did your process change at all?
I did feel a lot of pressure, especially as I went with quite a far out ending for my second book. I wrote the ending that I wanted to write, and it was quite stressful waiting to see how readers would react to that, especially after the success of BYAM. My process didn’t really change, but obviously I was on a deadline second time round, so everything had to be done much more quickly.

The Party is out very soon! Where did the idea for this book come from?
The idea for this book came from a conversation I had with someone after a night out and they confessed that they’d drunk too much and couldn’t remember getting home. It planted a little seed and I just thought, ‘what would happen if you knew something had happened, but you just couldn’t remember what…’

Whenever I think of your books, I think of harsh endings. How do you find planning and writing your endings?
Endings are my favourite! The end is quite often the first part of the story that I have straight in my head, but I write in a very linear way so it’s normally the last part I write, even though it might be the first sentence that pops into my head. I love writing that part – I’ve shocked myself with my endings!

Do you have any good or bad writing habits that you’ve noticed in yourself?
Too much tea and too many snacks while I’m writing. The tea isn’t so bad, but the snacks are starting to make themselves visible!

If your books were turned into film/TV would you have any dream casting calls or decisions you’d love to make?
When I wrote The Party Suranne Jones was in the back of my mind for Rachel, and when my Dad finished reading it, he texted me and said, ‘Suranne Jones is a perfect Rachel!’ so I think that nails it!

What have you read recently that you’ve loved?
Recently I’ve read and loved Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson and Vox by Christina Dalcher. Two completely different books but both really made an impact on me.

What do you love to do when you’re not reading or writing?
I run a lot – I wouldn’t say I enjoy it at the time but like I said, the snacks are making themselves visible and I do love that sense of achievement once I’ve finished.

Finally, Tell me one goal you have (could be writing related or not) for the next year.
I think my main goal is to just keep doing this well enough to be able to carry on – I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t write!

Thank you HQ and Lisa for this interview. You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:


'The idea came to me at a funeral' - An Interview with Jo Jakeman

Jo Jakeman
Today Jo Jakeman is joining me to talk about her debut thriller, Sticks and Stones. It's a fantastic book about a woman who locks her husband in the cellar in the heat of the moment and is faced with an important question: what next? I ate it up like a perfectly crafted biscuit last month! Jo is a talented writer, winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at York Writing Festival and has a great insight into writing for fun and crafting the skill. It's been such a treat to ask her these questions.

First off, I have to mention how great Sticks and Stones is. Where did the initial seed for the idea come from and how did it evolve?

Thank you! I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. The idea came to me at a funeral. We rarely say anything bad about people who have died. We tend to remember the best about them, but I started wondering whether anyone might be brave enough to say, ‘I never liked him.’ I imagined being at a funeral where people weren’t too sad about the deceased, perhaps even had a hand in his death. It took a lot longer for me to work out what he might have done wrong and what had made the women snap.

There is a sense of female solidarity in the story. How important was it to you to weave this in?

It was really important to me. For anyone who finds themselves in a difficult situation, isolation only makes it worse. When you find out that you aren’t the only one experiencing something, or feeling something, it’s such a relief. A lot of abusers either take advantage of someone’s isolation, or engineer it so they are cut off from family and friends. Imogen, Naomi and Ruby are very different characters but all of them feel they have nowhere to turn – until they find each other.

I spent the book torn between what was morally right and what was just plain right. How did you walk this line so carefully?

I always had an eye on the future I wanted for the characters. I didn’t want the women to go through all of this only for me to turn them into the real monsters. We don’t always think of the consequences when we act, and that’s what got Imogen into this terrible position in the first place. I felt I had a moral obligation to be looking out for her in the long term!

Philip’s emotional abuse gives him so much control over Imogen and I worried this could be her downfall in the end. Did you do much research into abusive relationships?

Yes but, unfortunately, I didn’t have to look too far. It has happened to people close to me, and it’s often in the news. Once I started writing Sticks and Stones, more and more friends, both women and men, started opening up about their experiences. What struck me most was how rare it is that outsiders see what is really going on behind closed doors. Emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical marks. One man who spoke to me was over six-foot tall. His ex couldn’t physically over-power him, but she had other ways to control him.

It’s a complete twister of a thriller. Did you plan much of it in advance? How did your writing process work?

I didn’t plan any of it and, as a result, it needed several rewrites to get it right. I had my characters, and I knew how I wanted it to end. Other than that I just sat at the laptop and waited to see what appeared on the screen. I didn’t start looking at structure and building tension until I’d completed the first draft.

What has been your writing journey so far and can you tell us a bit about how you found the search for the perfect agent?

I’d write even if I didn’t have a publisher. I feel happier on days I write. It was always the dream that I’d love to see my book in a bookshop, and I thought I’d regret it if I didn’t give it all I had. Before Sticks and Stones I’d sent other manuscripts to agents and hadn’t got any interest. In 2016 I was throwing everything at my writing and applied for the three competitions at York Festival of Writing and booked myself a couple of 1-2-1s with agents. I was shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter, won Friday Night Live, and when I sat down for my 1-2-1 with Imogen Pelham at Marjacq I knew I wanted to work with her. Thankfully she felt the same, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I heard that not too long ago you completed a writing course with Curtis Brown Creative. What would be your advice for aspiring writers who are considering entering into any writing course?

I owe such a lot to that course. It really gave me momentum. My advice to aspiring writers is to take every opportunity you can – to write, to read, to get critique on your work. Writing is a skill just like any other and it needs practice. You read a lot about ‘exciting new talent’ bursting onto the writing scene but I don’t believe that anyone is born that way. Talent is the result of passion plus hard work.

I’m sure everyone who has read Sticks and Stones is dying to know, what’s next for you in your writing career?

I’m currently writing a story about second chances. It’s about a woman who is trying to start a new life, with a new identity, after being released from prison. She begins to think that someone is after her. Is it her own guilt making her think that or is someone really out to get her? As a society though, do we really let people wipe the slate clean? Do we forgive past misdeeds? People have long memories! It is due out in summer 2019.

And lastly, what have you been reading lately that you’ve enjoyed?

I’ve just finished Dark Pines by Will Dean. Great protagonist, eerie setting, and a cracking read about a deaf reporter called Tuva Moodyson who is covering a murder case in rural Sweden. I don’t always read crime thrillers though and am currently halfway through Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce. It’s an incredibly uplifting and amusing book, but moving too. I am loving it so far.

Thank you Harvill Secker and Jo for sending me a copy of Sticks and Stones and providing this interview opportunity!

Follow the rest of the blog tour to see more exclusive content and reviews:


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