Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Before becoming an author, I worked as a health journalist and online agony aunt for a youth charity. It taught me the power of using words to educate, soothe, and inspire people, and I started writing fiction for teenagers. Then, when I turned 30, I got the idea for my first-ever adult novel How Do You Like Me Now? I’ve since enjoyed writing for both age groups. When I’m not writing, I’m obsessively stalking my cat around the house, asking for her to love me.
Can you share a little about your writing process to us?
I have to write in the morning. When the clock hits 11:30am, it’s game over for me, so I try to do all my day’s writing before then. I’m a proper lark and love being up early. I use this twist on the pomodoro technique when drafting, which means I write in 1x20 min, 1x30 min, 1x40 min, and 1x60 block each day. You have freedom over which order you tick them off in, but I mostly start at 20 mins and work my way to my longest stint.
What most inspires your writing?
Other authors, mostly. If I’m reading a book and feeling sick with envy, then I find that really inspiring. It makes me want to up my game – so it’s like a writing lesson as well as just a joyful reading experience. In terms of getting ideas for novels, I tend to get them when I’m either really sad or really pissed off. I find, just by living life, I get supremely upset or angry at least once or twice a year, which turns into the seed of a novel.
Why do you think humour is such an important tool in your writing?
I do write about quite dark topics and I find humour is a great way for readers to explore dark themes without feeling overwhelmed by them. Also, life is never all black or all white. As humans, we tend to be cracking jokes even when our lives are at their hardest. It’s realistic to have comedy running through the triumphs and tragedies of our stories.
What inspired you to write Girl Friends?
Girl Friends was written in that peculiar time of international lockdowns, when we were all adapting to being shut into our homes for the best part of two years (in the UK anyway). I noticed a real side-effect of lockdown was that it meant, for a lot of women, the awful things that happened to them in the past kind of caught up with them. I have a friend who works for a rape crisis charity who confirmed they were having loads of calls about historical assaults. It seems the Covid pandemic gave people time and space to digest the other raging international pandemic – which is violence against women and girls. This inspired me to write a book about confronting the past, and how #MeToo has got us to re-examine our formative years and the sexual violence that was a normal part of them.
What do you hope your readers take away from Girl Friends?
A sense of catharsis and further understanding. Both of themselves and other women around them.
Are you currently working on any writing you can tell us about?
I’m currently writing my fourth adult novel, which is a thriller with multiple characters set at a baby shower. It’s proving to be great fun so far.
Describe your writing spot for us.
Oh, I’m not picky. I’ve taught myself to write anywhere and under any circumstances. It’s a hangover from being a news journalist. I find I do my best writing on train journeys though.
What books have you recently read and loved?
I’m devouring Liane Moriarty’s backlist at the moment and just finished Truly Madly Guilty which I absolutely loved. I’m also a huge Mhari McFarlane fan – she writes the best romances I know – and I’m flying through her latest Between Us.
What book do you always recommend to others?
People always ask me for writing advice, and I always point them toward The Science Of Storytelling by Will Storr. It teaches creative writing through the prism of neuroscience and how our brains process story. It’s absolutely life changing, and totally changed how I write prose.
Tell us what reading means to you…
Escape, understanding, and connection. The best books do all three.
What is the one tidbit of advice that has stuck with you throughout your career?
The writing is the only thing you can control. I’ve had over ten novels published now, and the publishing industry is a mental-health rollercoaster with huge peaks and huge troughs. You have no control over what happens to your book once you’ve finished writing it and that’s so hard. The only way to stay focused (and sane) is to keep writing one sentence after the other, and make them the best sentences you can.