A few weeks ago I sat down (virtually) with Sara at Gliterary Girl to talk about No Reverse, Cassie, Josh, my writing… and me! I thought I’d share this with you today. And don’t hesitate to have a look at Gliterary Girl: it’s a great e-zine, so pretty and with great insight into the latest books out there.
GG: No Reverse is your biggest hit to date and rightfully so, did you know when you finished that it would be such a great success? I certainly did.
Thank you, Sara, for your vote of confidence. And thank you so much for having me on Gliterary Girl. I love your reviews, interviews and everything here. And it looks all so pretty and stylish.
When I finished the first draft of No Reverse, I had no idea if the book will be well-received or not. I only knew that I had written a very personal story. No Reverse isn’t auto-biographical but it deals with motherhood. The story came to me when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so very happy and so was my husband, but I was also very scared. That was when I started thinking about the women out there—or the girls if they’re Cassie’s age—who are on their own or still in a new relationship, have no money, no family support, no education. Then the prospect of having a baby can be even more daunting.
I wanted to explore the “what ifs” and it took me to some places that maybe are still a bit unchartered in the romance genre. And that’s why I think some readers—or people hearing about the premise of the book—were shocked or even angry. I don’t condone Cassie’s choices, but I can understand why she made them.
GG: Through Cassie, you were able to grasp the essence of an American traveling abroad. Was that difficult to achieve and were you worried it wouldn’t feel authentic?
No, not really. Madison—the heroine in the Oxford trilogy—is from Louisiana and studies in Oxford for a year as part of her master’s degree. She is really included in the student life. Cassie’s stay there lasts only a couple of weeks and she isn’t really trying to integrate: she has some more urgent issues to deal with
That said I’ve lived abroad for most of my life, so this is a feeling I’m familiar with and that I hope I described truthfully.
GG: Did you spend any time in the States and what were some of your techniques for finding your US voice?
My husband has always made fun of me because he thinks I should be an honorary US citizen. I’ve traveled in the US, I’ve worked in the US, the most influential people in my career and in my life are American and some of the most precious friends I have are also American.
I find America absolutely fascinating, beautiful, frustrating and inspiring. I hope my US voice sounds real. All my beta readers and editors have been American right from the start and if I start sounding a bit too British, they pick on it right away.
GG: Cassie’s character is a bit self-righteous as well as confrontational. And many have found her endearing or a little too sanctimonious, which may have made her character more than a little frustrating. Some have even gone as far as to say that what she did was unforgivable. Can you provide a little insight into this character that has drawn so much critical attention?
Poor Cassie, she got some serious heat and I feel guilty because it’s all my fault! One reviewer went so far as to say she was one of the most unlikable characters she’d ever read. Ouch! Cassie has made controversial choices but I can understand why she made them. I might have made some of them, or I might not. But that’s not the point. The book isn’t about me. I think she’d stayed true to herself from the start to the end of the book. And that’s what, as an author, I want to achieve.
I think many readers—and most of my readers are women—have reacted strongly to her (either in a positive or a negative way) because Cassie’s story touches on some very sensitive issues for us women. One of them is our rapport to motherhood.
It’s my humble opinion that the romance genre has remained very PC about motherhood and what leads to it, pregnancy. I’ve read very few books dealing with abortion or even a heroine giving up her child for adoption. Often the possibility isn’t even considered. That’s not necessarily very realistic. I had a reader getting in touch with me, telling me how much it meant to her to read a love story about a girl who gave up her child for adoption. She had to do that when she was sixteen. After that she never felt she was worth finding love because she felt so guilty. But reading about Cassie and Josh she said she believed she’d get her second chance too. When I received her email that really made my day!
GG: Josh is such a strong character, mixing a perfect blend of attributes, while still retaining a realistic sensibility. He is the stuff of fantasy, yet he’s not unattainable. A down home boy with class. Is his character based upon someone you know, or is he an archetype of your dream guy?
Josh is my dream boy. He’s the American sweetheart with an edge. He’s strong but he’s also flawed. While I think many readers fell in love with the teenage version of him, he was more difficult to ‘get’ later on. But again I was just trying to be true to him. When Cassie comes back into his life, he’s broken. Very successful with a bright future in front of him, but still broken. He doesn’t welcome her with open arms and he struggles to figure out how he feels about her. Any other way wouldn’t be realistic.
But hopefully in the next book, Josh will be able to reconnect with the boy he once was. I’m writing the book now and I can tell you that my heart melts when I hear Josh’ talking in my head!
GG: Your peripheral characters are equally vivid and engrossing. How much back story did you compile on them while putting this story together. In addition, much prep work goes into your books?
For the Oxford trilogy, A LOT of prep work. Not only on the historical period featured as a back story in each book—the English civil wars, the Tudors—but also the Voodoo rituals and Oxford traditions etc…
Sam was actually a character who came to me for Oxford Shadows (Book Two) and I had to keep him in my life. That’s why he appears in No Reverse and will have his own story soon. The more I write about him, the more I know him, where he comes from, what makes him happy, what doesn’t etc…
In No Reverse, there’s some kind of love triangle although I don’t think the book is about that at all. I didn’t want the “other girl” to be horrid and unlikable. So I made Lenor a more complex character, sweet and loving but with her own shortcomings. And that was how I started learning more (in my head if not in the book itself) about her past and what really happened to her. She will have her own story early 2014. I’m VERY keen to share it with my readers.
GG: I read No Reverse a number of months ago and it really resonated with me. It captured something genuine and deep as well as being sweet, yet sexy. Have you read any books recently that affected you similarly?
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn really got under my skin. It almost made me sick because it left me so unsettled! So I guess that makes it a brilliant book.
As you already know, I’m a die-hard fan of Tammara Webber and I really liked Here Without You, the last book in the Between The Lines series.
GG: There has been some controversy surrounding the No Reverses ending. You left it on a cliffhanger and people are shouting positively or negatively about this decision. Can you explain why you chose to leave their story this way?
As a reader, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the never-ending series: trilogy that becomes a five-book deal etc… No Reverse was supposed to be a stand-alone but I reached the page count and I wasn’t even close to where I wanted to take Cassie and Josh… and the other person in their life. With No Reverse I wanted to deal with their relationship, then and now, and the repercussions of decisions they made when they were still kids into their adult lives. Fast Forward is about them building a family together while being at what is still a very early stage in their lives since they’re twenty-four now.
No Reverse and Fast Forward are hopefully two different stories. I don’t think No Reverse ended with a massive cliffhanger but with a Happy For Now. However, if some readers think I misled them, then I should apologize and I hope things will be completely clear from now on.
GG: When do you plan to release the follow up?
Fast Forward should be released on December 19th, but I intend to share the cover and the first chapters on October 25th.
GG: Now for some personal questions because as much as we love chatting about your books, we also want to know a little about you and your writing process. Is there any thing in particular that you use (movies, other books night out, family time) to drive your motivation when you hit a slump?
The only thing I absolutely need to be able to write is a kid-free zone. I can’t write with my girls around. I really need to have a dedicated space and silence, or at least no screaming, shouting, arguing etc… after that, I guess like every author out there I need music and each book has its own playlist.
GG: Do you have any advice for new authors looking to get their work published? Any complications or warning blocks you could issue, as well as inspirational anecdotes.
Maybe in thirty years from now, when I’m old and wrinkly (or older and wrinklier than I already am) I might be entitled to give some advice. I’m very much at the start of my journey. For me there was no real question though: self-publishing appealed to me and I was okay with the idea of never seeing my work in a bookshop. But that’s me and I can understand why it’s very important for other writers.
But if I had to give some advice, I’d say:
One/ Be ready to work VERY hard and do things you might not expect to be the “writer’s job”,
Two/ Be kind and respectful to everyone you meet (in real life or online),
Three/ Be genuine in everything you do, the books you write, the characters you create, or when you interact with readers or bloggers.
GG: So the downside about being a published author is having to deal with the unfortunate bad review and everyone gets them – including Charles Dickens. How do you deal with this?
As an author, I can’t get all excited about 5-star reviews if I can’t deal with the 1-star here and there. Although the review I find the most helpful for improving my craft are the 3-stars: they’re the readers who didn’t HATE my books but still didn’t LOVE them and those reviews are often very articulate.
At the end of the day, the only reviews I do VERY MUCH mind are the ones full of spoilers. It’s kind of disrespectful, but more importantly it ruins the future readers experience.
GG: I know asking for a favorite author is too broad a question and I would never expect anyone to choose just one, but is there any writer or writers that you admire and considered inspiring while writing?
I’ll be true to my Goodreads profile. I’m a die-hard fan of Simone Elkeles, Tammara Webber, Richelle Mead. I loved On Dublin Street by Samantha Young. I’d read anything by Jennifer L. Armentrout, who’s such a skilled writer and can make me giggle (or rather Daemon Black can!).
GG: If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have ventured?
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I couldn’t be anything but a writer. I tried and I failed.
GG: And finally, we want to know a little about you. Family, dogs, friends, favorite food…anything.
I have two daughters I’m crazy about, one husband I’m also crazy about but for different reasons, no dog. We live in London but I spend most of my time in the US either on-line or watching the Nth rerun of Law and Order and Sex and the City. By the way, it took me ages to understand why I’m addicted to both and the reason is BIG.