Hi Bella. It’s lovely to have you back on Novel Kicks. Your book is called Escape to Willow Cottage. Can you tell us a little about it?
Hi Laura. I’m so happy to be back, I love you guys!
Escape to Willow Cottage is the story of Beth who is running away from a bad relationship and Carly who is trying to secure the future of hers.
Beth has her young son, Leo, to protect when she impulsively buys Willow Cottage at auction. When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
What’s your writing process like? How has your writing process changed since writing your first novel?
My writing process is very structured. I am a project manager by profession so it feels natural to me to apply the same approach to my writing. I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters and working out my plot and story threads before I start to write. There are always lots of post-it notes involved!
It has changed in that I know a bit more about what I’m doing now whereas with the first book I just happily bumbled along and then did lots of editing later on.
If you were able to go back and give yourself advice when you were a new writer, what would you say/tell yourself?
Start writing a whole novel NOW! I have always written but it took until 2013 for me to challenge myself to write a full-length novel and I wish I had done this years ago because I enjoy it so much.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Shenanigans – it makes me smile.
What are your ideal writing conditions? Any writing rituals?
Somewhere warm with custard creams – that pretty much covers my requirements. I use our spare bedroom as my writing room but if I win the lottery I would really like a shepherd’s hut – oh well, a girl can dream. I don’t have any writing rituals, as such, but I like to celebrate finishing a novel with a glass of fizz (basically any excuse to pop a cork).
What’s the best and also most challenging aspect of being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is … writing. I know that sounds dumb, but to be able to sit down and write the story that’s in your head is what I was always meant to be doing. If books were banned tomorrow I’d still need to write. When readers enjoy my books that’s the cherry on the cake.
The thing I find most challenging is maintaining focus and not being distracted by new ideas. This was what used to stop me from finishing stories in the past, I would be derailed by a new shiny story that just had to be written. To try to pigeonhole my thoughts I have a file on my computer called ‘Random Thoughts’ where I jot down ideas – it currently stands at twelve thousand words!
Are you able to tell us what you’re working on now?
I think so, if not my editor will have deleted this question!
I am currently editing my fourth novel, which has the working title ‘A Year in Ottercombe Bay’. It’s about Daisy who has to return to her childhood home in Devon after a relative dies and leaves her something unusual. Daisy has to face her past before she can make something of her future.
Which fictional characters would you like to hang out with for a night? Why these characters?
It would have to be Harry, Ron, Hermione and Luna from Harry Potter. I am a huge Harry Potter fan and the chance to hang out at Hogwarts and do magic would be amazing. They are also incredibly well drawn characters and Luna is delightfully unique.
Which authors do you admire?
I love Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell and think they are two of the best examples of authors in the romance genre. I also still love Dodie Smith who wrote my favourite childhood book ‘A Hundred and One Dalmations’ and ‘I capture The Castle’. I hugely admire authors who can write a twist you can’t see coming – I’ve still not got over ‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh. I am also in awe of anyone who can write more than one book a year!
If you could escape to one place, where would you go?
I adore the Caribbean so I wouldn’t be too choosey about which island as they are all so beautiful. Before our daughter came along we were lucky enough to holiday there a few times and with the pure white beaches, clear blue sea and swaying palms you cannot help but relax into the laid back rhythm of life with a rum cocktail in your hand – bliss!
What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking of writing a book?
– Make time and do it. No excuses – if you really want to write then something else may have to give.
– Get some training. Either join a local writing course, find one online or read some books but find out the basics about how it’s meant to be done. It will save a lot of editing later!
– Join a relevant writing association because they will give you so much support. The life of a writer can be remote at times so having others that know what it feels like can really help. They will also be there to give you a kick up the bum when you are procrastinating and a glass of wine when things go well. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and through them I met my editor, have learned loads and have made so many friends.
Thanks for having me on Novel Kicks today, Laura, it’s been fun. (It’s been fun having you back. Bella.)
About Escape to Willow Cottage:
Escape to Willow Cottage was originally digitally published as a four-part serial under the title Willow Cottage. This is the complete story.
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Escape To Willow Cottage was released by Avon Books on 10th August 2017 and is available in most UK book shops and online.