1 June 2010
Author Interview: Martel Maxwell
Q1. Tell us about your new book, Scandalous.
Scandalous is a romantic comedy following half sisters Max and Lucy Summers, lifting the lid on London’s showbiz scene.
Q2. The book is set in the world of journalism - how much did you draw on your own experiences as a journalist/broadcaster when writing the book?
Not so much from broadcasting but I poured my experiences as a showbiz reporter (I used to work on The Sun’s Bizarre desk) into Scandalous. One of the best things about the reviews (like chicklitreviews) has been the feedback that’s it offers such an accurate portrayal of the showbiz scene. Piers Morgan, who started out as an entertainment reporter, said it was a ‘waspish, funny and insightful portrayal of the mad, bad world that is Planet Showbiz.’ That’s me showing off! Max is a showbiz reporter and every A-list party she crashes, the things she does for a scoop, it’s all based on the many and varied things I used to do.
Q3. Scandalous doesn't hold back when it comes to the shadier side of kiss and tell stories, and drug use in showbiz circles - was it important for you to keep this element of the book quite gritty and realistic?
Absolutely. I love gritty books and while I wanted to write a romantic comedy that is hopefully touching, it had to be balanced with the seedy side that I saw and know to exist. There are kiss and tell girls who’ll do anything to get their mark. Being in the showbiz world in London can be glamorous and wildly exciting but it can also be fickle and shallow. I had to show that side too. I’d certainly want to experience a story with that balance. And the gritty side can be incredibly captivating.
Q4. Your 2 leading characters, Max and Lucy couldn't be more different. Which of them are you more like, and is anyone in the book based on anybody you know?
Max is the glamorous version of me – you know, the picture you have of yourself should you ever land a hot date with George Clooney. Everyone says Clooney, so how about Bradley Cooper? Hell, how about both? The toned, tanned version with no cellulite. But she is a party girl, she’s flawed, often nursing a hangover and sometimes flakey. That was definitely me – and on occasion, still is.
Lucy had to be totally different to Max. I have a sister who’s blonde, sweet and lovely too but in real life Holly’s only 15 so Lucy’s definitely not based on her! Lucy’s the kind of girl many of us dream of being – organised, disciplined and elegant. But even good girls can be bad and Lucy has her moments. Or at least she tries to.
I thought of my own mum Anne when I wrote about Lucy and Max’s mother Marj. My mum’s the funniest person I know and I wanted to convey the closeness daughters and mothers can have.
Kirk Kelner is a mix of many an actor/pop star type I’ve met and interviewed.
Shagger Sheri too is no one in particular but based on a few kiss and tell kind of girls I met.
I’ve had less experience of aristocracy I admit but Hartley is imagined from various people I’ve met.
Q5. How exciting has it been promoting your debut novel? What fabulous things have you got to whilst promoting it?
It’s been ridiculously exciting. The highlight was my launch party at the Groucho Club in London (get me!) My friends at Ladbrokes sponsored the event and I had a ball. As one friend said it was like a wedding party for one. Ha, maybe that makes me sound like a loser! Guests included the Arsenal player Mikael Silvestre, Miss UK and Scotland Katharine Brown (who wore flat shoes just so I didn’t feel too small) David Van Day, some Capital Radio DJs, Bizarre editor Gordon Smart..so I had a few celebs but also my friends and family which was incredibly special. Hey, you girls better come if I have another launch.
It’s been great fun doing local press and radio interviews in Dundee and Scotland too.
I’m incredibly lucky because I often go on shows like This Morning and gmtv with Lorraine to do newspaper reviews and presenters like Eamonn Holmes mentioned Scandalous. As a debut novelist boy do you appreciate people who are willing to help. The likes of Lorraine Kelly and Eamonn are very giving.
Q6. Are you planning a second book yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
I’m two-thirds through Book 2. It’s a completely different story but one of the characters is a showbiz writer for a magazine this time. So there’s plenty of showbiz and scandal. I hop even more scandal!
Q7. What do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing books?
Partying, going out for dinner, relaxing, reading, music and (when I’m good) lots of sport. But I’m not always good. Family and friends are very important to me. I’m very close to my mum and sister and am lucky enough to have friends from school, uni and others I’ve picked up along the way. I split my time between Scotland and London so that keeps me busy. Thankfully because I’m such a daydreamer the train journey normally flies by.
Q8. How did you feel when you first found out that your book Scandalous was going to be published by Penguin?
Like I needed to be pinched to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. “I’m going to be published by Michael Joseph at Penguin – as in the same label as Marian Keyes and Jane Green? You’re kidding, right?” Thankfully they weren’t. I’ll never forget sitting in a room with Kate Burke (who’s just moved to Harper Collins) who was the editor who said yes and my agent Diana. I felt like the luckiest girl alive.
Q9. Finally, do you think the use of social networking tools are a positive for authors these days, particularly debut authors like yourself to get your book out there in the public eye?
Absolutely. And you can actually gauge how important it is by tracking your Amazon ranking. Apparently it’s quite common for authors to be obsessed by their rank so I’m not alone! Nothing beats a review in a paper or on a site like yours for pushing you up the ranks but say I have something important to post on Twitter and Facebook (I try not to post everything for fear of boring followers to tears) and you put a link to the book with it. Or even better, when Eamonn and his fiancee Ruth Lansford tweeted about Scandalous to say they were loving it. Something like that can result in a huge surge. Well when I say huge, I’m probably still in the modest numbers. But one day. Hey, the glass has always got to be half full.
Thanks so much, Martel!