DEB: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
ERICA: I started writing as a hobby in my early thirties when I was a stay-at-home mother with two young children. I never intended to become a published author; writing was merely an extension of my love of reading and I simply thought it might be fun to write a story of my own in place of reading one. In my naivety I had no idea what I was getting into and before I knew it, I was hooked and couldn’t stop writing. Fifteen published books later, and I’m still hooked.
DEB: Tell us a little about your book, The Queen of New Beginnings.
ERICA: This was one of my favourite novels to write because not only did I love every minute I spent with the characters, but it was one of those books that seemingly wrote itself. The story revolves around Clayton Miller, a well-known comedy scriptwriter suffering from writer’s block, and the unlikely friendship he forms with Alice Shoemaker, a voiceover artist. They each have good reason to avoid telling the truth about themselves and as the story unfolds, we see that not only is Clayton his own worst enemy, (but with his heart in the right place), but that Alice’s childhood was far from conventional.
DEB: What was your inspiration for this book?
ERICA: For me it’s always a character who kick-starts a novel and in this instance it was the character of Clayton Miller who was the catalyst. He popped into my head one day when I suddenly imagined a tired and jaded man cynically composing his obituary and from there he became a constant presence in my head and I had no choice but to get to know him better. Then as time went by I could hear him interacting with other characters and the ideas just kept flowing. I always think of writing a book as being akin to throwing a stone into a pool of water and watching the ripples spread.
DEB: Have you always been interested in writing women’s fiction?
ERICA: People often ask me if I’d like to write a different style of novel and my answer is always the same - I love what I do. I see my books as being stories, which revolve around relationships, whether they be relationships between friends, members of a family or people falling in love. I particular enjoy writing about families because whilst families may have similarities, every family is different, which means the potential for stories is endless. On the whole it is women who enjoy this genre of storytelling, but I know from meeting my readers as well as receiving emails from them that men also enjoy my novels.
DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
ERICA: I didn’t really have to do an awful lot of research for this book as I have a very good friend who is a comedy scriptwriter and over the years I’ve absorbed his stories of the business he was in. With regard to Alice and her work, all of my novels have been turned into audio books and I’ve been lucky enough to meet the actresses or voiceover artists who have recorded them and again, I’ve absorbed the nature of their work.
DEB: What is your normal writing day like?
ERICA: From Monday to Friday I try to be in my study at half past eight in the morning and will work through the day until seven o’clock or seven-thirty in the evening. I stop for a short lunch break but for no more than twenty minutes as I don’t like to lose momentum. If I’m stuck on a scene or chapter, I’ll potter in the garden for a while or run an errand that needs doing in the hope that inspiration will come. But basically I don’t like to stray from my study when writing, I like to stay in the zone. The same goes for when I’m in Italy and working there. I suppose I’m naturally very focused and self-disciplined.
DEB: Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
ERICA: I like to be surrounded by what I call creative clutter, such as keepsakes and photographs of my sons. I also like to use the same files, pens and pencils for making notes – some of these I’ve had for more than ten years.
DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
ERICA: It was unbelievably exciting and an answer to a prayer because I was going through a divorce and desperately needed a job and an income. With the publication of my first book – A Breath of Fresh Air – not only did I suddenly have money in the bank, but the novel became a bestseller, not just in the UK, but in Sweden.
DEB: Do you have any advice for new writers?
ERICA: Don’t write because you want to be a famous bestselling author, write because there’s nothing else you’d rather do.
DEB: When you’re not writing, what kind of books do you like to read? Do you have a favourite author?
ERICA: I read all the time, whether I’m writing or not. A snapshot of favourite authors would include Anne Tyler, Jodie Picoult, Harlen Coben, Lee Child, Kate Atkinson, Douglas Kennedy, Lionel Shriver and David Nicholls. I tend to read contemporary fiction, but just recently I’ve started reading the Shardlake series of novels by C.J. Sansom, which are set at the time of Henry VIII.
DEB: What are you working on right now?
ERICA: I’m working on the final draft of a new novel called The Real Katie Lavender. It’s about a girl who discovers that the man she’d thought was her father wasn’t. Feeling that she no longer knows who she is, she tracks down her biological father to find out the truth about him as well as herself.
DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
ERICA: The one thing that always surprises my readers when they meet me at a book event is how small I am. For some reason they imagine a much bigger person. Apologies to anyone who feels short-changed!
Sourcebooks has generously offered readers here at Debbie's Book Bag the opportunity to win two copies of The Queen of New Beginnings.
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