18 June 2013

Author Interview: Helen Chandler

Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy was a fantastic read that I thoroughly enjoyed, so I hope you've all picked it up and had a chance to love it like I did! Helen was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions about her book and another things, so here is the interview! My thanks go to Helen for answering my questions!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Two For Joy'.

Two for Joy tells the story of Toby and Julia, who, although they have been friends for years, don't realise that they're madly in love and completely perfect for each other until life has become so complicated that it's driven them apart.

Q2. Julia and Toby are best friends that turn to lovers - where did you get the inspiration for their story? Is it something that happened to you?!

Toby is a really decent bloke, and that's integral to the story - I wanted to find a way in which he ends up being torn between two women without compromising that decency, and that gave me the idea of a longstanding friendship with Julia, contrasted with a brief but intense relationship with Ruby. I've never experienced the friends to lovers thing myself, but, like Toby and Julia, I met my now husband in Fresher's Week at uni. Unlike Toby and Julia it was love at first sight for us, but in creating Toby and Julia I did imagine what my husband and I might have been like, aged 30, if we'd missed the boat of initial attraction and stayed friends instead.

Q3. Toby's pregnant girlfriend Ruby really struggles with the idea of pregnancy and motherhood - what sort of research went into her story, and was it difficult to write?

I haven't done any specific research, but I had my own daughter four years ago, and that brought a much greater awareness of the difficulties of pregnancy and motherhood. I was lucky that I was having a planned and much-wanted baby with a loving partner, but there were still moments when it all felt overwhelming. I imagined how it must feel if the pregnancy was a shock, and you're really not ready to be a mother.

Q4. 'Two For Joy' is your debut novel - how did you get your book deal, and how did it feel when you finally got a finished copy of your new book for the first time?!

I was pretty lucky - Hodder was amongst the first 'top ten' publishers my agent initially approached, and they came back with an offer. It was the most amazing day - absolutely up there with my daughter's birth and my wedding day! Getting the first book was also very special - albeit a bit chaotic. The courier arrived as I was trying to make macaroni cheese for my daughter's tea whilst responding to her endless questions and attempting to wrap a christening present. Two minutes after the courier, before I'd had time to really take it in, my friend arrived with her two small children, and the house descended into complete chaos! However, I then stuck a DVD on for the children, and got a big celebratory hug from my friend as I stood lovingly stroking the front cover, and had a real wow moment.

Q5. The cover is exquisite - I love the colours and the design. Did you have any input into it, and what were your initial thoughts on it?

I absolutely love it too! I had a bit of input at the beginning - my editor showed me some different covers, and asked what kind of thing I had in mind, and then fed that into her brief to the designer. When I saw the draft of it I was thrilled, it's genuinely one of the nicest book covers I've seen.

Q6. Who are some of your own favourite authors to read? Do you enjoy 'chick lit' as a genre, and what do you think of the constant media-bashing it takes in the press and online?

I am a HUGE fan of the chick-li genre! Some of my favourite authors to read are Lisa Jewell, Milly Johnson, Adele Parks, Katie Fforde, Erica James, Elizabeth Noble, Jennifer Weiner and Jane Green. I've also just finished 'You Had Me at Hello' by Mhairi McFarlane, which I thought was a stunning debut. I don't really get the fuss about 'chick lit' - as far as I'm concerned, the authors I've mentioned, and many others, are writing about big, meaty, serious subjects - everything from adultery to infertility to bereavement, but they're doing so in an entertaining and accessible way, and I think that should be celebrated, not denigrated.

Q7. What's your writing day like? How long did it take you to write 'Two For Joy' from start to finish?

Because I balance writing with looking after my little girl, I wrote most of Two for Joy while my mother-in-law looked after her on Thursday afternoons, and then the odd weekend when my husband took her out for the day. Working like this it took me a year to finish the first draft, then another six months to polish it.

Q8. If there were one book in the world you wish you'd written, what would it be?

Tricky! The obvious (and true) answer is anything by Jane Austen. However, for sparkling wit and dialogue I also love Nancy Mitford's 'Pursuit of Love' quartet, and wish I'd written those.

Q9. What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on my second novel, which is provisionally called To Have and to Hold and follows the stories of three very different couples, whose marriages seem to be falling apart, and whose lives become entwined in unexpected ways. I'm also really enjoying writing my blog, A Life More Ordinary, which is on my website www.helenchandler.co.uk.

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