Book Nerd Interview
She is currently working on her next novel.
Your inspiration for writing Minty and approach to writing a mystery.
When I was a little kid my dad worked as a baker-confectioner. He was the guy who made all the wedding and birthday cakes, and when he came home at the end of his shift his overalls smelled of a combination of flour and sugar. Some years later he swopped his overalls for a suit but I never forgot the sweet, comforting aroma that was so distinctly Dad.
So you can imagine my reaction when I sensed that same scent around my house, a month after he died. On that occasion, I put it down to my imagination - wishful thinking if you like. Until it happened again and again. And again. It was unnerving, perplexing, yet strangely consoling. Then, in the middle of one June night, the scent reappeared. By this time several months had passed since I’d first detected it and I really couldn’t get my head around what was happening to me. So, unable to get back to sleep, I sat in the sunroom for an hour or so trying to work out what was going on.
By now the sun was rising, diffusing the room with golden light, so I sat back, closed my eyes, and tried to empty my mind - to relax awhile. And then I heard it, the familiar sound of my dog, Bonnie, panting at my feet. I put out a hand to stroke her. Until I remembered - she had died the month before. Then, in an instant, Minty's story came to me: a tale of identical teenaged twins. A story of love and loss, hope and redemption. Something that would explore my unanswered questions about the afterlife.
Since I was working on another novel at the time, I let the concept ferment. Then, two years later, it was Minty’s turn, and work on the book commenced. I jotted down ideas for scenes, spent time on researching the link between identical twins and ESP. Looked into ancient Roman customs (the twins are obsessed with ancient Rome). Researched and listened to jazz (Minty and Jess are jazz freaks), particularly saxophone music. I also read up on the various stages of grief, even although I’d had first-hand experience of bereavement myself.
Once I’d arranged my thoughts into a rough plot, I discovered my cast of characters – or they found me. Even my pets wormed their way into the story: my rescue dogs Bonnie and Clyde metamorphosed into Romulus and Remus, the twins’ golden retrievers; and our ginger tom, Mr Bo (short for Mr Bojangles) popped up as Octavius, Jess and Minty’s cat.
Then the actual writing began and man did that story flow! It poured out of me so quickly that the first draft was completed in a matter of weeks. Nevertheless, it took another seven revisions before the manuscript was ready for submitting to agents. Through each of these edits I worked on things like reworking and deepening the plot, planting clues, checking for consistency, playing about with the structure and ensuring a satisfactory character arc for Minty and the rest of the cast. It wasn’t always easy. There were times when I thought I’d never get the darned thing to hang together the way I wanted it to. I even thought of giving up on it. But I couldn’t. For you see, this was a book I had to write…I wrote Minty for me. Yes, of course I wanted it to get published one day – what writer wouldn’t? But being honest with you, I wrote the type of book that I wanted to read. One that would move me, that would make me laugh; a book that would linger in my memory the way the smell of flour and sugar had lingered on my dad’s overalls all those years ago. Did I succeed in my task? I believe I did, and, if you read Minty, I hope you do too.
Top Ten List - Things you would change about your high school years if you could go back in time.I would’ve:
· dropped Physics much earlier than I did. For the record, physics is not fun (that was the title of the course textbook – a lie if ever there was one!), OK maybe physics is fun but not for me it isn’t! ;-)
· had more self-belief
· studied harder and mucked about less in class
· gone on vacation with my parents to the US and Canada instead of spending six weeks on a remote Scottish island with my friend and her family, nice as that was
· learned to drive whenever I turned seventeen and not left it until many years later
I wouldn’t have:
· had that haircut in first year (what was I thinking?!)
· been so easily influenced by some of my friends
· been in such a rush to grow up
· worried so much about things that just weren’t worth the bother
· cared less about what people thought of me
Fourteen-year-old twins Minty and Jess are inseparable. Maybe they bicker now and then, even crave a bit of space once in a while. But they have a connection. Unbreakable. Steadfast. Nothing can tear them apart. Until a family trip to the coast puts their bond in jeopardy. As Minty tries to rescue her dog from drowning she ends up fighting for her life. Will Minty survive? If she doesn’t, how will Jess cope without her? Only the stormy sea has the answer.