A Look Behind The Book With Lynsey James.

me in jumperA school careers adviser once told Lynsey James that writing wasn’t a “good option”.

Six books later, I suspect she has something to say about that – and she’s still only in her 20s.

Her latest novel, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is a follow up to A Season Of Hopes And Dreams, which I was delighted about, as it marks a return of one of my favourite heroines of the year.

I was excited when Lynsey agreed to talk to me for my final Behind The Book post of 2017 as it was a chance to find out more about Cleo Jones and the inspiration behind her.

What a cracker to end on, as I hope you’ll agree.

Despite what the careers adviser told you, here you are a full time writer (yay!). Where did the confidence to follow your dreams come from? Has it been as you imagined?

Wow, what a brilliant first question to kick things off with. I think support from my family has definitely contributed to my confidence to follow my dreams. They’ve always believed I could do it, even when I didn’t. Apart from that, I genuinely couldn’t imagine loving anything as much as I love writing. It’s like oxygen to me. It’s been different to how I imagined, but in a good way. I’ve learned so much and made lots of amazing friends along the way.

What does your day look like? Do you treat it as a 9-5pm job? You’re still in your 20s, can you imagine doing anything else?

I get up, have breakfast, watch a bit of telly and then crack on with my writing. I don’t treat it as a 9-5 job as such, but I do structure my writing time and do some writing every day. If I don’t, things don’t feel right! I can’t imagine doing anything else, if I’m honest. Writing has always felt like the most natural thing in the world to me; I love it and I’ll do it forever if I can.

Can you talk about your path to publication? Did you submit your first book to agents or publishers? Was it an immediate hit?

I submitted my first book to agents first of all, and was lucky enough to get some amazing constructive feedback. Although they said no, I used the feedback to improve my draft and sent it off to Carina UK (now HQ Digital). A couple of weeks later, I got that wonderful email saying they’d like to publish me! It really was a dream come true. I signed with my awesome agent Sarah a year or so later. She’s a dynamo and truly the best in the business.

 

You now have an amazing SIX books under your belt, is there anything you know now that you wish you had known with your first novel? Are you ever tempted to go back and change something?

Wow, I know! Six books feels absolutely insane to think about. That’s a difficult question to answer because on the one hand, there are things I’d change if I was writing my first book now but on the other hand, I’m proud of how it turned out. And it’s kind of fun to see how my writing’s changed from book one to six.

I became a fan of your work after reading A Season Of Hopes And Dreams. I loved that your heroine had real struggles that she was still in the thick of. How much research did you do on the sensitive issues you tackle? What made you write her as still in the midst of them rather than having had them in the past?

A lot of the research actually came from my own experiences with body dysmorphia. It’s been in my life since I was teenager, but it got really bad a couple of years ago when I was trying to lose a significant amount of weight. I felt like I couldn’t trust my own self-perception and it really affected my confidence. It’s less severe now, but it really informed my decision to write Cleo as being in the midst of her struggles with it. I thought the journey would be an interesting one to write, and hoped it might help people going through similar things in their own lives. Body dysmorphia isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of in books, so to me it felt important to tell the story and to show how things can and do get better.

Your most recent book follows Cleo again. Can you talk about why you chose to continue her story (I’m thrilled you did).

In all honesty, I absolutely love Cleo. She’s one of my favourite characters I’ve ever written and I didn’t feel ready to say goodbye to her. I was talking to A L Michael, one of my best friends, and she told me to go for it and write a second part to Cleo’s story. I’m really glad I did!

I’m interested in the books you read – from your blog reviews you seem to have eclectic taste. Will there be a switch in writing genre for you in the future?

Never say never! I love to read a whole mix of books, so I’m really open to trying new things. As long as I’m creating stories for people to hopefully enjoy, I’m happy.

Did you ever consider using a pen name?

I haven’t so far, but if I decide to switch genres then I would.

Are you able to share what you working on at the moment?

I wish I could! All I’ll say is it’s top-secret and will be out next year. Watch this space for more announcements…

Do you have any writing tips you can pass on?

Read as many different books as you can. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.

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Thank you very much to Lynsey for answering my questions so honestly, I really appreciate her opening up about her own struggles – and I have no doubt that Cleo Jones is an inspiration to many people, myself included.

You can find out more about Lynsey via her website, on Twitter or buy her books via her Amazon page here. Her latest, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is currently £1.99.

I’m looking forward to posting some more Behind The Book interviews in the New Year but, just in case you have missed any, you can find the archive here.

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Book Review: Christmas At Hope Cottage.

ChristmasathopecottageIf Lily Graham ever fancies a break from writing contemporary fiction (and I hope she doesn’t) I think she’d make a brilliant food writer – as highlighted in her latest book, Christmas At Hope Cottage.

I guess when your main character does it for a living you also need to know your stuff but it’s more than just dropping the odd technical term in, she makes food seem magical.

That’s just one of the things I enjoyed about this book, which I found very hard to put down.

Here’s the blurb:

When thirty-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.

Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them.

As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place… and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.

The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

Poor Emma, it never rains but it pours. I don’t want to give anything away but she has more than just broken bones to contend with. I did find keeping up with where she was in the healing process a little confusing at times – although I was quickly distracted from pondering her injuries by her wonderfully eccentric family. They don’t live an easy life but it is a purposeful one, full of love and laughter.

The story switches between past and present with ease and you get a real sense of why Emma is the way she is. There are some darker moments in this book but it’s all the better for them.

Lily very cleverly steers you in different directions and just when you think you know how you want things to play out, she inserts a little doubt here and there and you change your mind. Thankfully, in the end, it all works out just as it should (or at least just as I felt it should).

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Bookouture for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.

Book Review: The Summer House.

jennyhaleReading The Summer House was a bit like having some delicious leftover birthday cake sitting in the kitchen – it was so moreish, I kept nipping back to it (just one more slice).

Amazingly, this is the first time I’ve read one of Jenny Hale’s books, despite her being a USA Today and Amazon best-selling author of romantic women’s fiction – with eight (I think) titles to her name.

Her latest sounds like it’s come straight from one of my (very best) dreams – not only opening a bed and breakfast on the coast but also managing to capture the attention of the local millionaire at the same time.

Here’s the blurb:

Callie Weaver and best friend Olivia Dixon have finally done it: put their life’s savings into the beach house they admired through childhood summers, on the dazzling white sand of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

They’re going to buff the salt from its windows, paint its sun-bleached sidings, and open it as a bed and breakfast.

Callie’s too busy to think about her love life, but when she catches the attention of local heartthrob Luke Sullivan, his blue eyes and easy smile make it hard to say no. He’s heir to his father’s property empire, and the papers say he’s just another playboy, but as they laugh in the ocean waves, Callie realizes there’s more to this man than money and good looks.

Just when true happiness seems within reach, Callie and Olivia find a diary full of secrets… secrets that stretch across the island, and have the power to turn lives upside down. As Callie reads, she unravels a mystery that makes her heart drop through the floor.

Will Callie and Luke be pulled apart by the storm it unleashes, or can true love save them?

It’s heartwarming, charming and a proper page turner. The characters are all likeable, the plot keeps you engaged and the setting is dreamy (I want to see wild horses on the beach).

In fact, I can’t really fault The Summer House…and yet there was just something that didn’t quite flow for me in the writing.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I did, but just not as much as some of the other books I have read this year. I know Jenny Hale has lots of fans so maybe it was me?

It certainly wouldn’t put me off reading her other books or watching the film adaptation of Coming Home For Christmas if I got the chance.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Three and a half stars.

With thanks for the Bookouture (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.