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What’s the big idea?

People often ask me what the hardest part of writing a book is. My answer is always the same. The writing part is relatively easy, it’s coming up with what you want to write about that can prove tricky. That bit can be as drawn out and protracted (though thankfully not as painful) as giving birth. Only with no free drugs on the NHS to help you through it.

So far I’ve written three novels. The first was inspired by personal experience and had a very long labour (first ones often do). It started as diary entries, developed into short stories and only became a fully- fledged novel after a lot of self- doubt, false starts and rewrites.

Continuing the ‘birth’ analogy, the idea for my second book required a fair bit of intervention in order to arrive. My publisher wanted to know what I was going to write next. I didn’t know. For a while I got away with smiling enigmatically whilst raising one eyebrow whenever the subject of book two was raised. But I suspected there was only so long I could get away with this before they’d start thinking I had a facial tic as opposed to an intriguing idea brewing. It was a worry because, in truth, despite trying really hard, I couldn’t get it out (Is this analogy actually helpful or just plain weird?)

It was terrifying. My creative mind had gone blank. It got to the point where the more I strained to think of something, the more I was coming up with ideas that were the literary equivalent of Alan Partridge shouting ‘Monkey Tennis?’ Eventually however, after many long walks, many sessions of lying down on the bed hoping music would inspire me, a few casual panic attacks and some gin, the idea arrived. Safe and sound. And suddenly it was all worth it.

With my next book If You’re Not the One I got lucky. The idea to write about a woman who finds out what life would be like had she stayed with three different men from her past, seemed to arrive fully formed and gift wrapped with a beautiful shiny bow on it. The equivalent, if you like, of a natural, smooth delivery. Like one in a film, where it only takes about five minutes, you haven’t aggressively sworn at anyone even once, and there’s nothing to show for your exertions other than an attractive sheen of perspiration on your forehead.

I couldn’t wait to start writing. Apart from anything else, I felt it was a concept most people would be able to relate to. We all have to make decisions sometimes that impact on our lives in a number of ways, sometimes entirely unwittingly. Accepting or turning down a job for instance, saying yes to a date you’re not sure about, or simply not going to a party could all mean not meeting, or meeting different people.  And who you choose to share your life with is surely the biggest decision of all? Your partner affects, not just how your relationship is, but where you live, your extended family, finances, social circle… the list is endless. And so there it was, my idea, and the result is If You’re not the One. A book I’ve thoroughly enjoyed rearing (OK, enough now) and is finally making it’s debut into society on 7th February. When it does I hope it makes me proud. I want it to make people laugh, hope it might make people cry, but most of all, really hope it makes the reader think. And yes, I know I’m horribly bias and that you’re not supposed to have favourites, but secretly I think this one might be mine.

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