Outrageous Fortune which I loved, and Lulu was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Please enjoy the interview, and my thanks go to Amelia from Random House and Lulu for answering my questions :)
Q1. Please tell me about your new novel Outrageous Fortune.
Outrageous Fortune is the story of two girls, born into very different circumstances, whose paths cross and whose lives become entwined – though they have no idea of it for a long time. It’s about the pampered rich girl who loses everything, and the poor girl struggling to make her way in a tough world, and how they overcome those challenges and resolve the secrets in their pasts... There’s love, intrigue, sex, deception and all the stuff that makes, I hope, a juicy, entertaining read.
Q2. Where did you come up with the concept of the story for Outrageous Fortune?
Usually, I hear a true-life story that sparks my imagination. In this case, without giving away too much, I heard about a man who coldheartedly rejected his son for reasons that weren’t the son’s fault. It was such breathtakingly awful behaviour that it stuck with me. Then I went to an amazingly glamorous party where there were a lot of rich old men and some beautiful dancing girls, and imagined how it might be if one of those girls decided to make the most of her opportunity... The stories came together to form the plot of my novel. It’s a reversal of fortune story, with a good dollop of transformation – because I do love it when people reinvent themselves!
Q3. All of your novels are fantastic, and what I would call 'bonkbusters' - a great story, a bit of sex and scandal but keep you hooked until the end. What made you choose to write this type of book, and is it fun to create such lavish worlds for your characters?
Thank you very much! I’m glad they are page-turners, I think that’s the highest compliment. I loved bonkbusters when I was growing up, there was something so exciting about losing myself in a totally different world where the most outlandish things happened. I also adored Dynasty and all those big soap operas. I wanted to write something fun, entertaining and escapist. There’s a place for novels about heroines who are just like us, and a place for books about people who live in a world completely removed from the everyday. I love doing my research, dressing my characters and giving them luxurious lives. The odd thing is that some of the bits people find most unbelievable are true or based on fact – but of course I can’t say what they are...
Q4. Your novels are quite long, Outrageous Fortune was almost 700 pages! How long does it take you to write a book, and what's your favourite part of the book process, from start to publication?
The whole thing takes about a year from start to end, but writing the first draft takes three to four months. I tend to write quite fast and towards the end, I’ll be completely immersed in it and writing a lot every day. At that point, I’ve been known to go away by myself to work completely alone. The books are long, but I’m always looking to cut where I can. Editing takes another month, and then it’s into copyedits and proofs. The feeling of delivering an edited script is a wonderful one, definitely the best part – although getting my hands on a finished copy is also exciting.
Q5. If you had the choice to live as any one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
Goodness, it’s hard because nearly all of my characters have very gilded lifestyles which can sound hugely attractive on the surface... but they all have their problems and difficulties too, of course. I thought Jemima in Heiresses had lots of blessings and ended up in a very happy place. She reappears briefly in Outrageous Fortune and it was lovely to see her again. We also meet Allegra and Xander McCorquodale from Midnight Girls, definitely two of my favourite characters.
Q6. How do you feel about your books being called Chick Lit? What's your opinion on the bashing Chick Lit has been taking in the media lately?
We’ve got very used to the term Chick Lit, and no one’s ever agreed on what it means, except that it’s books aimed at women, so it covers a wide school. I’ve always thought that by Chick Lit, most people mean contemporary romance; sometimes it’s humorous and sometimes not, but it tends to portray a realistic life. The blockbuster is more in fantasy territory, closer to fairytale or gothic, though of course they can still be emotionally true with rounded characters. There are plenty of other categories that might fall under the Chick Lit banner – comic romps, thrillers, historical fiction..., you name it. The problem is that Chick Lit is a rather dismissive term, which is why so many authors dislike it. But women’s fiction, particularly romance, has always been seen as second rate, and it’s usually treated with scorn by people who consider themselves terribly literary and clever. I find that depressing but I comfort myself by remembering that these books often have bigger sales than most literary books could ever dream of. Despite snobbish assumptions, they are in no way easy to do well and the most successful ones are often brilliantly executed. And they bring enormous pleasure to many people. No one should be ashamed of reading what they enjoy – I think it’s the sign of well-rounded human being that they can read a wonderful romantic novel one day, and TS Eliot or the latest Booker winner, or whatever, the next. I also remember that Charlotte Bronte was told by a sneery literary writer of the day to get on with womanly pursuits and leave the writing to the men. Funnily enough, I can’t recall the name of the man who told her that.
Q7. What do you do when you aren't writing?
Read, of course! I read all sorts of things. By my bed at the moment, I’ve got a biography, poetry, and three novels – I’m reading Costa winner Andrew Miller’s Pure at the moment – plus my Kindle with the latest Sophie Kinsella on the go, and more lined up. I also love newspapers and magazines, where there are often lots of ideas for stories, so they count as research. However, when I’m not reading or writing, I have a couple of small children to look after as well. I’m training them to be bookworms as well, as it keeps them quiet.
Q8. Do you like reading chick lit? Who do you think are the best authors of the genre, and what is your favourite Chick Lit book of all time?
I love reading chick lit, it provides so much entertainment and pleasure. The best books are so cleverly done you hardly notice the skill that’s gone into the story, the characters, the dialogue, the description – it just flows like hot caramel. We’re lucky in this country to have so many talented authors, particularly funny ones (I think humour is incredibly difficult to do well), and I’m in awe of all the big ones: Lisa Jewell, Lucy Dillon, Sophie Kinsella, JoJo Moyes, Katie Fforde, Jenny Colgan and many more. My ultimate chick lit novel is probably The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford which I fell in love with at thirteen and still adore.
Q9. Finally, are you working on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell me anything about it?!
I’m always working on the next novel, making notes and scribbling ideas. I’m not quite in a position to tell all yet – I tend to work out a lot in the writing – but I hope it will be entertaining and that people will want to read it. That’s the most important thing of all!
You can buy Lulu's latest book Outrageous Fortune as a paperback or an eBook now.