First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?
Better than 2020. I really struggled last year with the pandemic, and I don’t know if I’m just used to it now, or what, but things are really picking up mentally for me. I’ve been working on my next book which is due in a few weeks (!)
We’re super excited to be The Summer Job for the Zoella Book Club, can you tell us what the process was like for writing your first adult novel?
I have no process. I am a sit and stare at an empty page with a vague idea kind of person, and then the story starts to come and I just go with the flow. It’s not a process I would recommend though because it’s extremely stressful! I often finish a draft and realise the entire premise has shifted, or the main character is a totally different kind of person and I have to go back and redo the start. I am untrained and it shows!
How did the jump go from writing YA to Adult fiction?
I struggled to find my place as a YA writer, and always knew that one day I would take the leap. For me, it felt natural and more free to write adult fiction, but some of my favourite books and authors write YA.
We adore the characters portrayed in The Summer Job, who did you find easiest to write?
I wrote so much of myself into Birdy. I wanted to pay a kind of homage to myself as a lost twenty-something (and yes, lost thirty-something too). I wanted to write a character who actively took decisions that would hurt people – but was a decent and good person regardless. I have a lot of regrets about decisions I’ve made, people I’ve hurt and in a way, this was my way of forgiving my younger self.
Having spent your early twenties in hospitality in Scotland did writing The Summer Job bring back fond memories of your time there?
Oh, my time in Scotland was just a dream. I had so much fun and learned so many life skills working in hospitality. It might seem strange if you’ve grown up eating in restaurants and with wine at your table, but I hadn’t. Hospitality gave me those basic skills and that knowledge that really forms a part of who I am today. I also spent a lot of days walking with my Aunt’s dog Teal, a gorgeous, sprightly black and white cocker spaniel, drank whisky, went fishing out on Loch Ness and fly fishing on the rivers. I love it. It’s part of who I am now.
Why do you think so many secretly dream of packing up and moving somewhere quiet and peaceful like Scotland?
Life is too fast and we cram too much into a day. I think lots of people want to move away from the responsibilities, the social pressures, the noise. Far from the madding crowd. I love where I live in rural Austria, but the isolation has its downsides. I miss people – terribly. The pandemic has meant my social trips to visit friends have come to an end. Although our three chickens provide some slapstick humour, they’re not great to share a bottle of wine with.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on An Unfortunate Date, my new novel about a girl called Mara (31, Capricorn), a pregnant fortune teller, a hot European cellist, and a stargazing builder called Mike. It’s, hopefully, a story about love, destiny and our need to believe in something.
What have some of your top reads this year been?
The Push by Audrey Audain, You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry, The Split by Laura Kay, Uncoupling by Lorraine Brown and Where the Rhythm Takes You (YA) by Sara Dass. All these books are out now!
Did you have to read wine tasting for Dummies like Birdy, or do you have some experience in sommelier life?
I learned a little working in restaurants, but no, not really. I had to do an awful lot of research on wine for that book!
What does your perfect weekend look like?
Saturday morning brunch, followed by a stroll around a farmers’ market. A pint at a pub mid-afternoon and maybe a dinner out somewhere in the evening. Sunday is the day for papers and coffee and catching up with family on skype. If it’s hot, a swim somewhere with my girls Billie and Georgia, and the afternoon lazily picnicking in a park.
I’ve just realised I have described the perfect weekend in London. I MISS LONDON.
What do you always carry with you?
My notebook, a very specific type of pen. Lip gloss.
What would your last ever meal be?
Anything by Ottolenghi. Literally anything. He could put mud into a shoe and hand it to me and I’d eat it.
What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?
Give yourself a break. Nobody ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time on social media’ on their deathbeds. Not yet, anyway.