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1 – What is your average writing day like?
An average day of writing usually begins around 10am, though I’ve usually sat down at my laptop around 9.30 and spent far too long reading emails, facebook, the papers, my horoscope… you name it, I am the master of procrastination. And I love google. I swear, I am addicted to google.
I then usually work right through until about 7pm – breaking for lunch and perhaps a run/walk or bike ride in the afternoon.
Depending on whether or not I am on deadline, I might then continue working after dinner, sometimes until gone midnight. It sounds like a very long day, and it can be, but often a lot of that is just spent thinking about a scene, or some dialogue, and not actually writing. If it was I’d probably write a book in three months, and not my usual twelve.
2 – You often write books with a magical element, how do you come up with these ideas?
Well, I have a very active imagination! I spend a lot of time thinking ‘imagine if’ and go through all kinds of scenarios in my head. I also brainstorm with friends. I have a lot of friends in LA who work in the film industry, and we often bounce ideas off each other, which is always really useful.
And then, I think a lot of ideas come from what I would like to happen to me. For example, the idea for Be Careful What You Wish For, came about because I was catching the tube one day and I thought to myself, gosh I wish I could find a seat.. and the idea just ran from there.
It was the same with ‘Who’s That Girl?’. I’ve often thought to myself, If only I knew then what I know now, and thought how amazing it would be if you could bump into yourself when you’re 21, I mean, wouldn’t it be fantastic! Just think of all the things you could tell yourself! Which made me think, hang on, I’m going to write a book about that…
3 – Can you tell us about your writing process – are you a planner or do you dive into the story and hope for the best?
I’m a total planner. Firstly, I come up with the general idea for the book, the main premise, and then I start to think of my characters. I usually spend about three months doing this, creating scenes in my head, snatches of dialogue, funny incidents… I build up an entire picture of what is going to happen, before I even start the first chapter. With my books, the story is often quite complicated – for example with Who’s That Girl, the time travel element demanded a lot of planning. My dining-room table was covered in bits of paper, and two large calendars to keep track of what Charlotte was doing, and the same with Lottie, as it was super important that I got it right!
Along the way, scenes might change, my characters come alive and start doing things and saying things that I might not have expected, but ultimately I know where I’m going and what I want to happen.
4 – When you’re writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as visual inspiration for the characters? If so, have you got any examples?!
I know that some authors do this, but every character is completely in my head. I’ve been asked this question a lot, and I often find it quite to imagine which actress could play one of my heroines. Saying that, I do have a couple of friends who, let’s say, have ‘inspired’ characters. So for example, Beatrice in ‘Who’s That Girl?’ was loosely based on a good friend of mine, but then I added lots of extra elements myself, such as the fact she’s a maths and physics genuis and reads the New Scientist.
I think my friend is more a Vogue type of girl…
5 – What is your favourite women’s fiction book of all time and why?
Gosh, that’s a tricky one. I’m not sure if I can pin down just one book as there are so many books that I love… Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, of course!), Emily Bronte (who doesn’t fall in love with Heathcliff?).. the list goes on and on. But If I was pushed, I would have to say Audrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveller’s Wife. I just adored that book. Truly. I could read the last page over and over…
6 – What do you think of the chick lit label? Are you happy for your books to be grouped into that category?
Absolutely. I have no problem with the label chick-lit at all! Just as long as readers continue to enjoy my books, that’s the most important thing!
7 – How was your journey to getting published?
I’d previously worked as a freelance journalist and written features for lots of women’s magazines, in both the UK and Sydney, where I lived for a little while. I then had an idea for a novel, and I wrote three chapters and sent them to some agents. Luckily, a few of them really liked the idea, and I was signed up a wonderful agent, who’s still my agent today.
She advised me to go away and write the rest of the book, and so I gave up my job and sold my car, which gave me just enough money to live off for six months. Which meant I had just six months to finish the book!
It was scary, but very exciting, as was the bidding war that broke out when my agent sent the finished manuscript to several publishers. After lots of chewed fingernails, and rather too many gin and tonics on my part, I got the news that my book was sold and I had a two-book deal! I was over the moon.
‘What’s New, Pussycat?’ came out April 2000, just before my 30th birthday. Proof, that dreams really can come true.
8 – Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on now?
I’m writing my new book, another romantic comedy with a touch of magic. It’s set in Italy, London and New York and is about a couple called Lucy and Nathaniel. I don’t want to give too much away at this stage, but it’s going to be published next year, June 2010. It’s currently called ‘The One’ though that will probably change.
To visit Alexandra’s website click here!