On Thursday, 6th December I had the honour to spend two hours in the studio of Radio Tamworth 106.8fm alongside my friends, Kiren Parmar. In two hours we managed to chat about book reviews, cooking tips (not mine), annoying habits word of the week and even, murdering folk who plot spoil!
If you wish to listen 'on-demand' please visit RadioTamworth106.8fm or this link.
I have a new addition to my writing tools kit. She's as essential as my MacBook, post-it notes and imagination... a brand new teapot. But, she's no ordinary teapot selected from the beloved Price and Kensington range, oh no. This special delivery was crafted by HandDrawnWorld and I love it!
For further details: follow @HandDrawnWorld on Twitter or visit via this link
Wow! My third book ‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ is about to be published by Aria and I can’t believe a year has passedsince my debut novel ‘A Christmas Wish’ was released in 2017.
The idea for ‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ stems from the knowledge that not everyone enjoys the festive season. For some families, there is sadness and grief, for other folk relationship issues and break-ups but for the lucky ones, it is the most wonderful time of the year!
I have friends who buy presents in June and others who shop on the weekend before Christmas amongst the bustle of crowds – everyone has such a different routine regards this particular holiday. Personally, I like my house decorated on the 1st December which signals the beginning of present buying. Part of me feels cheated if I can’t enjoy my festive decorations for a whole month given the time it takes to unpack the loft and perform the transformation of the lounge. Despite loving or loathing the festive season – we all know we can’t avoid the age-old traditions, the annual invites and the fond memories of years gone by.
I wanted to explore the differences encountered by three women: Nina, Angie and Holly. Nina wants to cancel Christmas as it signifies the anniversary of her father’s death. Angie is eager to make amends this Christmas due to the disastrous year she has endured. And young Holly, she’s hoping for the best Christmas ever as she’s dating the hottest male at school.
Add into the festive mix the much discussed and yearned for moment when your stomach flips. Hollywood, Disney and true romantics constantly refer to this special moment when we encounter true love – a moment which has forever fascinated me. Nina has never felt it, Angie has but lost it and Holly… well, she’s currently experiencing it every time her and Alfie meet up.
‘The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm’ weaves the three women’s stories into a garland of festive delight and romance as each discovers what Santa has in store for their Christmas treat – and, it isn’t necessarily what they’d planned, hoped or asked for.
The majority of the novel is set in a fictional Christmas Tree farm located in a local village near to my home called Baxterley, Warwickshire. I never think of Christmas Trees as a farm crop until December arrives and I watch the local news reporter deliver their annual piece to camera regards the planting, care and sales of spruce. It intrigues me to think that someone has to nurture these spruces and firs all year round so we can enjoy our festive tree for a few weeks. Having researched the topic thoroughly, I found that growing, purchasing and caring for a real Christmas Tree isn’t an easy task. My fictional farm sells four species: Blue spruce, Fraser fir, Nordman fir and a Norway spruce - each has very different characteristics and histories which customers favour or dislike. The size seems particularly important: a teeny-weeny tree, a modest spruce or a jolly green giant seems to be the three categories favoured by customers. So, there is more to spruce buying than meets the eye – especially if you are craving the perfect Christmas on which to pin your memories. Worse still, if you are hoping to cancel Christmas, recreate previous Christmases or hoping to experience the best Christmas ever – as my three characters are planning. And then, what happens if it goes wrong? All the planning, the ideas and festive cheers goes AWOL and it’s not in your control to save or fix?
For those that love a Christmas read, I have packed the novel full of festive cheer and tradition, for those who aren’t interested in the December holidays there is plenty of romance and humour to delight and entertain whilst snuggled beside a cosy fire.
My aim is that every reader can relate to one of the females, one of their festive situations and hopefully, receive their own happy-ever-after by the final page of the story.
If anyone is wondering, on 1st December I shall be purchasing a Blue spruce, approximately five foot tall, so a modest height, to be decorated with silver garlands, bows and glass baubles. And knowing what I’ve learnt from my research, I’ll be watering it twice a day, every day until the dustbin men come to collect in January.
Update: on 1st December 2018, I visited my local Christmas Tree Farm and came home with not one but two Christmas trees! I have a beautiful Fraser fir with its distinct spicy smell and a tiny Blue spruce. I was hoping to buy a larger Blue spruce but there is a shortage this year. Never mind, it meant I could be slightly greedy and justify having both!
P.S. whilst buying my trees we spotted a peacock decoration - I couldn't resist! (My readers know that in each of my books a peacock is mentioned).
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
As a child, I was taken to my local library at Polesworth in Warwickshire on a weekly basis. I remember my three green cardboard ticket-holders – I was amazed by the number of books available to borrow for free. I think that day was my true beginnings as a writer. Another monumental moment was when I read ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and C.S. Lewis took my hand and led me through the back of the wardrobe towards Narnia. I’m not sure if I’ve ever returned home.
What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?
I’ve had many occupations: waitress, banking, retail industry, fitness industry and currently in education. I’ve always written alongside my other careers.
How do you carry out the research for your novels?
Research changes for each book depending upon the knowledge I currently hold on a subject or event. I tend to focus on research prior to the planning stage, a little more after the planning stage and return to researching specific details after draft one has been written. Prior to draft one, I don’t always know everything that needs to be researched so it can feel like an on-going process as the novel evolves. By nature, I’m a curious person so research and learning feeds my inquisitive side. I love discovering new and interesting topics in reference books, library achieves or interviews.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I adore the initial draft one writing – a blank page which is waiting for a story is my idea of heaven. Some writers hate this stage but my imagination thrives without boundaries so the words simply flow. My second favourite stage is day-dreaming. Creating new characters, their names and locations occurs as I move through my daily routines so, I tend to muse and make notes as ideas surface. My least favourite stage of writing is around draft three, when the story is captured and structured on paper but additional details are needed so it’s a case of rereading and adding, as necessary. I literally argue with myself regards over or under writing sections – quite often I add, then delete and re-amend the same detail to the point of frustration. I’m never a happy bunny until that stage is complete and I can start the first edit.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
The majority of my writing takes place in the tiny spare room claimed a few years ago as my writing room. It’s made a huge difference having a dedicated space for all my papers, work notes and diagrams. I can write anywhere, so regularly change venue to local libraries, coffee shops or even on trains, when necessary. I tend to write early in the morning or late at night during the week, with weekends providing longer writing sessions during the day.
When you're not writing, what do you like to read?
I read everyday, though my chosen genre changes depending upon the stage that my own writing is at. When planning or drafting I tend to drift towards reading crime or classics but once my planned story is drafted I move back towards contemporary fiction. I think it’s a working habit to ensure I don’t mix ideas or be influenced by the author I’m reading.
How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?
Social media is vital for me to stay in touch with my readers, other authors and bloggers. It makes my day when I receive an unexpected compliment from a reader who has loved my book – I literally walk about with a huge smile on my face.