13 June 2013

Author Interview: Abby Clements

Today I am really pleased to be welcoming the lovely Abby Clements to my blog for an author interview! I reviewed Abby's latest book Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop a few weeks ago on the site, and it was a fantastic summer read, packed full of a great story, and lots of yummy ice-cream too! Abby was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so here it is!

My thanks go to Abby for answering the questions, and to Alice at Quercus for organising the interview :)

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Vivien's Heavenly Ice-Cream Shop'.

Vivien’s is a feel-good, summery novel about two sisters who take over a run-down ice cream shop in Brighton. The women are at different stages in their lives – elder sister Anna has just bought her first flat and is moving in with her boyfriend Jon, with a spare room for his young son Alfie, while carefree younger sister Imogen is travelling in Thailand, indulging her twin passions for diving and photography. When their beloved grandma Vivien dies, they are both forced to make some tough decisions about their future – and so starts a summer of ice cream (and romantic) adventures.

Q2. Your debut novel was about christmas, now this is a fab summer novel. Do you enjoy reading seasonal novels yourself (I do!), and are you planning another festive book?!

Glad to hear you enjoy a seasonal read -- I certainly do. One of my favourite parts of researching my Christmas book, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, was curling up on the sofa reading lots of other authors’ Christmassy novels and watching films for inspiration. The only odd thing was that with publishing schedules as they are, it was in the middle of spring! So when I’m writing there’s often a kind of seasonal jet-lag, and some of Vivien’s was written while I was wrapped up in woolly jumpers. A novelist should be able to transport the reader, though – and in the same way writing both books transported me to a different part of the year.

In terms of future books – my next book is a cosy, autumnal read – Christmas features in it, but it’s not quite as Christmassy as Mistletoe. I wanted to capture that snug time of year leading up to the festive period, walks through the park kicking up golden leaves and time with friends toasting chestnuts by an open fire.

Q3. The sisters in this book, Anna and Imogen, are united over the love of their grandmother and her shop. Where did you get the inspiration for the ice cream shop, and the idea of the story?

In the last couple of years, gourmet ice cream shops have sprung up across London (where I live) and also Brighton (which I love to visit), accompanied by ice cream festivals, stalls and mobile vans. I liked that it didn’t seem to take much to get started – just a passion for food, and a spirit of experimentation and culinary adventure!

The traditional British ice creams – like 99s – may not have been so sophisticated, but all the same they’re absolutely part of our culture. Buying one is a sign that summer has started, and there’s nothing like hearing the tune of an ice cream van to trigger those happy childhood memories. So I liked the idea of the two worlds, past and present, coming together – Grandma Vivien came from the old school of ice cream selling, but has been losing customers fast. So Imogen and Anna have the challenge of updating the shop to include more exciting flavours, but they also want to keep up the community spirit Vivien’s shop has always had.

Q4. Imogen is a big traveller, and loves living in Thailand. Is that something you've done yourself, and if not, does that lifestyle appeal to you?

I’m quite fond of Imogen and I think that, yes, that’s probably because I’ve spent some time being a beach bum myself! I travelled to Thailand in my twenties and visited the island, Koh Tao, that Imogen learns to dive on. The fish, coral and sharks were so beautiful and really stayed in my mind. I used to love nothing more than throwing some things in a rucksack and travelling – but, like Imogen, there came a point where I started to realise there was a lot to stay home for, too. I’m much more of a homebody these days, and you can’t knock it.

Q5. The ice cream ideas in this book sound amazing - where did you get the ideas for them all, and did you try any of them?! I've never made ice-cream before but this book made me tempted to try...

I’m pleased you like the sound of the recipes and are tempted to try making them – it’s a lot easier than it seems, I promise! I did a day-long course in ice cream making and tried quite a few of the flavours then. My favourite was a very fresh pear and ginger sorbet.

Q6. I'm sure you've heard this many times, but the cover is simply GORGEOUS. How important do you think a good book cover these days in the age of eBooks and Kindles?

Ah, thank you! I feel very lucky with how cover turned out, as it was exactly what I’d pictured as I was writing. I think the design team at Quercus are great, and take the time to get covers just right. It’s an interesting question you ask about eBooks – it’s true of course that when its reduced down to a thumbnail a cover can have much less impact. I think it’s still important – as the cover still needs to stand out to readers online - but different things work at that size. A bold, iconic design (like One Day, for example) can often be more effective  than the softer, illustrative covers that might work in a shop. At the moment quite a few of my books sell in their print versions from stores, so I definitely think that the detailing and finishes (foil, glitter etc) make a huge difference. Finding a cover that works well in both formats is the challenge now, I guess, and I think we’re seeing some really interesting designs as a result.

Q7. Your two books have been released within a year of each other - does it take you long to write a book, and what is your typical writing day like?

I love writing – so having it as my full-time job has been a dream come true for me. That’s a cliché  I know! But I do have to pinch myself sometimes.

All the same, it is a job, and I have to be quite disciplined in order to get the work done. I take around three months to write a first draft, and then another month to revise it by myself, and then with feedback from my editor and agent. I normally find that revision stage more challenging than getting the first draft finished – but it’s so important and always moves the book on a lot.

I work Monday to Friday, and tend to do most of my writing in the mornings, when I have most energy. A cup of coffee and I’m off - my target word count is usually around 2000 words a day. I write uncritically until I have the first draft down, and then the red pen comes out. The afternoons I spend on publicity, admin, or things like cover copy, and social networking.

Q8. What's next for you?

I’ve just finished my third book, a cosy, autumnal read which will come out this September. It’s called Amelia Grey’s Fireside Dream, and it’s about a couple, Amelia and Jack, who move from their small flat in Hackney to do up a wreck of a cottage in Kent – Amelia’s always dreamed of living in the country with a real log fire. Room by room, they renovate and decorate, and Amelia uncovers some of the secrets of the woman who lived there before her. But financial pressures, interfering relatives and an attractive local man all put Jack and Amelia’s marriage to the test. It’s been great fun to write, although the stories I heard from friends about their own home-renovation disasters have put me off for life!

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