Ali McNamara received over 100 rejections before her first book From Notting Hill with Love… Actually was published. Several delicious rom-coms later and Ali is a firm favourite in the women’s fiction community. She joins us now to talk about her new book, The Little Flower Shop by the Sea, while telling us a little more about her writing process. (You can take a peek at where all of this writing happens, too, by checking out yesterday's My Writing Room.)
When Poppy Carmichael, the black sheep of her flower loving family, inherits her grandmother’s beloved flower shop on the beautiful north Cornish coast, it’s with much trepidation she returns to the pretty harbour town of St Felix where she spent much of her childhood.
But St Felix has a few surprises in store for Poppy – a tight knit community that only wants to help, an eccentric American florist, a shy policeman, and Jake, a local flower grower with a past just as troubled as Poppy’s.
As Poppy begins to discover just why the little flower shop is so beloved, it’s not only Poppy that finds herself beginning to heal, but the whole of St Felix too.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
They all spring from ideas that seed themselves in my mind, usually when I’m in the middle of writing another book so I can’t do anything about them! So I note them down in my ‘Book of Ideas’, then when I’m next looking for inspiration for a new novel, I see if it's possible to grow that seed into a story long enough to run for 100,000 words!
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I very rarely start writing before lunchtime. If I’m in my office by 11am I consider that early! My late start is not because I’m lazy, but because I like to get everything else out of the way first, so I can fully concentrate on my writing. Whether that be emails or social media – which I tend to do on my iPad, or household chores and exercise! I always try and do some type of exercise every other day, I’m a little bit addicted!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Blimey, what a question!
I’m going to say A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford.
I remember reading that when I was much younger, before I ever even thought about becoming an author, and thinking if I ever wrote a book it would be like that.
(NB. I still haven’t written that family saga … yet!)
What female writer has inspired you?
Cecelia Ahern – I love Cecelia, she’s not afraid to do something a little different with her writing. She creates a make believe world that adults not only delight in reading, but believe in too.
What authors have you been recommending recently?
Mitch Albom – Mitch’s writing reminds me very much of Cecelia’s. They both enjoy adding a magical touch to their stories.
Clare Balding – I very much enjoyed Clare’s book Walking Home. So much so, I’m going to read My Animals and other family next!
I plan with a notebook so I have a rough idea of how the story will pan out through the book. I’m quite in awe of writers who plan their whole story out using colour co-ordinated sticky notes! That’s not for me. I’m a great believer in letting your characters tell the story for you. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve sat down not knowing what’s going to happen next in a story, only for my characters to lead me in the direction they want to go when I start typing – and they’re usually right!
What was your journey to being a published author?
Long – with lots of twists and turns. I had over 100 rejections before my first book From Notting Hill with Love… Actually was published.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Always write something you’d like to read yourself, and if you genuinely think your story is better than some of the books you see in the shops, don’t give up if you get a few rejections!
What are you working on at the moment?
My new book is provisionally titled Love…Me x
It’s come from an idea I had about what would happen if you could write letters to your past self. What would you say, and would you always advise yourself to steer clear of difficult times and bad situations, even if you knew in hindsight that going through them would bring about something good?
It’s a lot of fun, and I’m really enjoying writing it.