10 November 2011

Author Interview: Miranda Dickinson

Today, I welcome the lovely Miranda Dickinson to my blog for an author interview following my review of her fabulous new book It Started With A Kiss! This is Miranda's third novel and it was a joy to read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone. Miranda was kind enough to answer some of my questions so without further ado, welcome Miranda!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'It Started With A Kiss'.

It Started With a Kiss is a romantic comedy about following your heart. It’s the story of Romily Parker, a local radio jingle writer who sings with a wedding band at weekends. On the last Saturday before Christmas (shortly after disastrously declaring her love for her best friend Charlie), Romily has a brief encounter with a handsome stranger. They share a kiss and then he is gone – so Romily decides to spend the next year trying to find him again. She’s helped by her friends in The Pinstripes wedding band and her crazy Auntie Mags and Uncle Dudley.

Q2. The idea of being kissed by a stranger and then spending a year hunting for him is a new one on me! Is Romily's story inspired by a real life story at all and if not, where did you get the idea from?!

The idea for Romily’s quest came from a conversation I was having with my friends about our ‘what-if’ moments. You know the ones I mean – when you catch someone’s eye in a crowd and, for a fleeting moment, there is the possibility of something coming of it, but then the moment passes and you’re left wondering what might have happened if you’d pursued it. During the writing of It Started With a Kiss, I spoke to a lot of people about these moments and so many people had similar experiences. For example, one of my twitter friends (and a brilliant author himself), Tom Cox, had a ‘what-if’ moment on a tube train when there was a girl he wished he’d given his number to. And my favourite ‘what-if’ moment was from my friend Kim, who had a complete stranger give her a full, Shakespearean bow in Covent Garden before he left. That one made it into the novel because I love the romance and possibility of it. What would have happened if he hadn’t walked away? That’s what fascinated me and I wanted to write about someone who decides to pursue the possibility.

Q3. Romily is a wedding band singer, as are you! Are any of The Pinstripes gigs based on any that you've had with your own band, and are any of the Pinstripes based on your own band?

Thankfully, we’ve never done a wedding gig with bunny ears! A lot of the detail of rehearsals, setting up at gigs and the camaraderie between the band is based on my own experience and my band’s favourite gig stories. I’ve read several books featuring characters that play in bands where it’s quite clear the author has no experience of what it’s actually like, so I wanted to provide a faithful portrayal of the work that goes into playing for weddings. Being a wedding singer gives you a unique perspective on other people’s weddings and it’s a great opportunity to people-watch. My real-life wedding band, The Peppermints, will recognise traits of themselves in all of the characters (I think they’re all a bit nervous about how I’ve portrayed them!)

Q4. The cover of It Started With A Kiss is gorgeous! Do you have much say in your book covers? They have all been gorgeous wintry scenes so far - do you think they are perfect for your books?

Generally, authors don’t have a lot of say in their covers, but I’ve been quite lucky in that the team at Avon always asks my opinion. I adore the covers that Nicky, the cover designer, has designed for me – all three are so warm and sparkly and inviting!. When Fairytale of New York came out, no other books had covers like it, so it was then really interesting for me to see how that cover started a trend, just like I’d seen with famous book covers like the Dan Brown series. All my covers have a wintry feel because they’re published in November, but with the exception of It Started With a Kiss, none of them are set at Christmas, although they all have a Christmas scene in the story. It would be interesting to see what a summer cover for Fairytale of New York and Welcome to My World might look like – designed by Nicky, of course!

Q5. Your debut novel 'Fairytale of New York' was released after you were discovered on 'Authonomy'. Now you've had 3 books published by Avon/HarperCollins... how does it feel to see your books on the shelves and know you are now a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestselling author?!

Put simply, it’s just nuts! I get tingles every time I go into a bookshop and see my books there – and more so with every new book. Earlier this year, I saw Welcome to My World in the window of Waterstones and I was so excited I couldn’t speak for about five minutes! It was so fab to see it next to books by David Nicholls, Lee Child and Ian McEwan. I have a photo of me pointing at it excitedly like a loon! From being discovered on Authonomy.com (where I never expected anyone to notice my book, let alone want to publish it) to now publishing my third novel has been a breathtaking rollercoaster of a ride and I’m constantly amazed by what my writing has achieved in such a short time. Being a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestselling Author is completely crazy, too. It feels completely unreal most of the time but every now and again I have a little sparkly moment where I remember and I feel incredibly lucky to have had so many lovely people reading and loving my books.

Q6. How has your life changed since you've become a published author?

It’s become a lot busier! I’ve gone from working a nine-to-five day to working almost non-stop, but I love the variety of my week. I work three days a week writing reports for a food research company, with two days to write, plus evenings and weekends. When I have a deadline looming, I’ll even write in my lunch break at work and have been known to write through the night. I think as a writer I’ve grown in confidence since I became a published author – I’ve certainly learned a lot and I feel like I’m still learning. I hope that shows with each successive novel I write.

Q7. You recently launched your own writing prize, the New Rose Short Story Prize 2011. What gave you the idea to launch your own award like this, and how important do you think opportunities like this are for budding authors?

I wanted to create opportunities for unpublished writers. Before I was published, I was always hoping that someone, somewhere would open a door for my writing and it was frustrating that people who became published authors then never seemed to do anything to help other people. Now I’m in the amazing position of being able to open a door for other writers, so I want to make the most of it. My influence is very limited – I would love to be able to do more – but by launching the New Rose Prize I hope I’ve highlighted the wealth of incredible talent out there. It might not be a publishing deal, but at least I can over some recognition that could boost a writer’s confidence. It’s vital that opportunities exist for unpublished authors and I will do everything I can to do this.

Q8. Who are some of your own favourite authors? Do you have an all-time favourite book that you can read again and again?

I adore Sarah Addison Allen, Cecelia Ahern, Jill Mansell, Isabel Wolff, Jasper Fforde, Neil Gaiman, Charles Cumming and Sir Terry Pratchett – they are all incredible writers and reading their books is like opening presents for me! As for my all-time favourite book, it would have to be Pride and Prejuduce by Jane Austen – it’s just the perfect novel.

Q9. What do you think of the negative press that the term 'Chick Lit' is getting in the media at the moment? How do you feel about your books being classified as Chick Lit?

I think it’s a lot of fuss over nothing, fuelled by lazy journalists jumping on a very decrepit bandwagon. Chick-lit (in the sense that readers of the genre understand it) is full of wit, originality and real-life issues tackled with humour and hope. It’s not all about shoes and shopping and sex – there’s very little of that in my novels – it’s about love in all its forms, hopes, aspirations, relationships and life in all its frustrating brilliance. I don’t like the term, largely because it’s used as a derogatory tag-all by the media, but as far as readers are concerned, I’m happy to be a chick-lit author.

Q10. Finally, are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell me anything about it?!

Yes! My fourth novel will be called When I Fall in Love and it follows the story of Elsie Maynard, who finds herself setting up a choir after a crazy incident at a beach cafĂ©. It’s going to be full of laughter, surprises, rivalry and maybe the odd jazz hand, together with the last item on a very important list… I’m going to continue my vlog about it next year, so keep watching for exclusive sneak-peeks as the novel progresses!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Chloe!

Thank you, Miranda!  

You can buy Miranda's new book It Started With A Kiss in paperback and on eBook/Kindle (links go to Amazon).

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