Cathy Bramley's first novel is the romantic comedy Conditional Love, which came out in December. She tells us why Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan made her want to write warm, funny stories that people would love.
There is one book that made me decide to be a writer more than any other. It wasn’t The Lovely Bones, which I read on a solo trip to Spain – during which I sobbed so loudly that the lovely cabin crew lady came and sat beside me, took my hand and asked me if I wanted to talk about it. It wasn’t Bella Mafia, the Lynda La Plante thriller that I read in the jacuzzi on our honeymoon for hours until I went so wrinkled that my new husband wondered for a moment whether he had in fact married my granny by accident. Nor was it the Agatha Christie mysteries I read as a teenager, thinking I was sooooo cool.
It was (insert optional drumroll) Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan, which I picked up from the book exchange situated in a red phonebox in our village. (Anyone who has read my blog/Facebook/Twitter stuff will know that I went on to launch my book in this phonebox, so finding my inspiration in this precise moment is doubly important!)
I’m sure most of the people reading this article will have read this book. If you haven’t and you are a fan of romantic comedy, I urge you to do so.
It is the story of Issy Randall and her desire to follow in her grandad’s foosteps and own her own café. She is made redundant from her job by her boss/boyfriend and decides to follow her dream helped by an enthusiastic bank manager and an Amazonian best friend whose bosom enters the room before she does.
Quite simply, the pleasure I got from reading this book made me want to do the same for other people. I wanted to write a fun and witty story with a warm and lovable heroine, some great female friends and a good boyfriend/bad boyfriend scenario. I am generally known for being up for a challenge and so I set out to write Conditional Love.
I referred back to Jenny’s book countless times, in fact, it is positively frilly with post-it notes! From Jenny’s clever writing I learned how to use themes and symbols. I began to understand how to build tension, introduce conflict and, most importantly, how to take a flawed main character and help her to grow.
A year later, Jenny released Christmas at the Cupcake Café and guess what? I loved that too! I read it avidly and in fact, plan to do so again very soon. This time I will be looking for pointers on how to create a success sequel; how much to put in from the first one and how to make it a successful standalone story. If anyone can show me how to make a decent job of it, Jenny Colgan can!