CAROLE: My latest book, Summer Daydreams, is loosely based on the life and experiences of my lovely friend and accomplished handbag designer, Helen Rochfort. Helen and I met some years ago through Facebook. Her status picture appeared on my newsfeed and I assumed she was a romance writer but, when I looked more closely, I came across her fantastic handbags.
Helen and I chatted back and forth. She bought my books. My publishers commissioned a promotional handbag design from her for The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and, as we spent time together, our friendship grew.
It was over lunch and a few glasses of wine that she told me her amazing story of how she’d followed her dream to become a handbag designer. The more I listened, the more I was enthralled and I realised that it was a story just waiting to be told. So Helen and I have worked closely together over the last year and the result is a lovely, warm story about Nell McNamara, a young mum who works in a chip shop – as Helen once did – but who steps out of her comfort zone to make a better life for herself and her family.
Carole asks Helen:
How does it feel to read your own story in novel version?
It is a very unique experience reading what has happened to you and your family in Novel form. So many small details and large major storylines are an exact reflection on the truth – but all on a much shorter timeline. When I finished reading Summer Daydreams for the first time (I have now read it 3 times!) I felt quite emotional almost as if I was reliving the experiences all over again – but in a good way! It has been quite a therapeutic process reflecting on events and realising we are doing this for all the right reasons – for my girls, my family and a happy fulfilled life!
Do you feel that Nell is a lot like you?
Yes, definitely. Nell is a lot like myself, at some points in the novel it was hard to separate myself from Nell as the character! I am extremely ambitious for both a successful Company and a balanced happy family life which is very hard to achieve as, I’m sure, millions of mothers will agree. My youngest one-year-old daughter has chickenpox at the moment and my eldest daughter, who Petal is based on, is chatting away to me non-stop. She keeps reading over my shoulder, peeping at what I am typing. You just have to Keep Calm and Carry On! In the novel, Nell does struggle with the same guilt,. When I am with the girls, I feel guilty not getting all that big work pile done. Then, when I am working, I feel guilty not being with them. Nell’s relationship with Olly is very similar to myself and my husband, Julian. He is very supportive of our joint ambitions and we work together in our company. Like myself, Nell sees good, positive friendships as very important. Friends need to support each other through good and bad times and be there for one another.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
It is quite a simplistic dream that I have for the future. I want to have a continuing successful company and a happy circle of family and friends.
Helen asks Carole:
How did you find writing Summer Daydreams in comparison to your other books you have written as this was so closely based on my life and experiences?
It was quite different and I was very keen to make sure that you enjoyed the experience and wasn’t terrified by what I was going to write! I think working together has been fun and I hope you feel the same. Writing is quite a solitary job and it’s been a refreshing change to share the process. It was also lovely that you were so open about your work, your life and your experiences – it made my job very easy! I’m glad that you’re pleased with the result. I think my readers will really enjoy it too. I think Nell will be a great inspiration – as you are!
Handbags or Chocolate?
Oh, that’s a tough one! I think though, it would have to be handbags. I’m not sure that I’d like to live without chocolate. You know what a chocoholic I am. But I definitely couldn’t manage without a handbag. It’s quite shocking the number of handbags I have. But, in my defence, I don’t collect the ridiculously expensive high-end brands. I prefer quirky, unique ones like your own.
What are your Daydreams for the future – a Carole Matthews film?
That would be nice! I’ve had three books optioned for films but none of them have made it to the big screen yet. I think if Summer Daydreams makes it to the big screen we’d have to have Sienna Miller playing Nell!
What is your ultimate aim?
I’d love to have a number one bestseller – I’m sure every writer would! But I’d just settle for my readers continuing to enjoy and buy my books. This is my twentieth novel and I feel very blessed to have had such a long career as an author. I have such loyal readers and I’m very lucky. I’d also like to stay happy and healthy and have my friends and loved ones feel the same.