A celebrity author in my handbag

Carol Cooper





Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author who turned to fiction after writing a string of popular health books. Her second novel, Hampstead Fever, was chosen for a prestigious promotion in WH Smith travel bookshops. She lives in Hampstead and Cambridge, and has three grownup sons.

As Dr Cooper, Carol is a frequent face on Five News, Sky News and other TV channels, as well as on radio, where she often comments on a range of topical health matters. I was excited about meeting this celebrity author with such a wealth of experience.

Carol had been invited to speak at Cardiff University, and we managed to grab some time in Cardiff Bay to chat about her second novel.

I waited for her in my favourite coffee shop, Cadawaladers, in Cardiff Bay. Cadawaladers sits above the water, on a jetty, and is accessed via a small bridge. Carol hurried over the bridge and was wearing a red dress. She joined me at a table, located on the balcony, overlooking the water.  We ordered coffee and some muffins.  It was Graduation Day, in Cardiff, and a constant stream of chattering graduates walked past. We took our time to absorb the vibrant atmosphere before beginning the chat about Carol’s new book.

Jessie:  Can you capture the essence of your new novel, Hampstead Fever, in a couple of sentences?

Instantly, she retrieved a copy of her novel from her large blue handbag. 

Carol:  Hampstead Fever is about six Londoners grappling with life’s problems in the sweltering summer of 2013. Emotions are already at boiling point when a mysterious actress arrives on the scene, upsetting those around her and forcing decisions they may later regret.

Jessie:  It sound like another great read.  Read me an extract that will tempt the reader.

Carol flicked through the book and winked as she restrained a mischievous grin.

Carol: “What are you going to do about this?” complained Geoff.

“Do about what?” said Daisy, even though it must have been blindingly obvious.

He threw the sheet back dramatically, hoping to amuse her. “This.”

Carol’s fun manner is infectious.  It was clear that the women on the neighbouring table were straining to catch a glance of the new novel. Carol left the book peeking out of her blue bag, and it was impossible to miss the tempting front cover.  One of the ladies searched for the book on her phone.  

Jessie:  Your first novel, One Night at the Jacaranda received high praise.  What have the reviewers said about Hampstead Fever?

Mischief lit up Carol’s face again as she read out a review so that the ladies could hear.

Carol:  I’ve had some great reviews for Hampstead Fever, but these three are my favourites so far:

“Wow! With its racy storylines, dovetailing plots, fascinating characters and a well-known but equally interesting setting, Hampstead Fever is one of those books you just can’t put down.”

“Fast-paced and sharply observed. I whipped through this in one sitting!”

“Cooper just makes these characters come alive. Why can’t all love stories be like this?”

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Carol: My characters have become very special to me, even the less likeable ones, so I did miss them when I stopped writing. There are six main characters in Hampstead Fever, and I’d like to spend more time with some of them, so I’ll be taking them into another book to have new adventures.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Carol: As I’m sure most authors say, it would just be nice if lots of people read and enjoyed my novel. Having said that, I’d quite like my English teacher from school to see it as I think she’d be proud of me (and hopefully not too shocked by the racier passages).

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Carol: While Hampstead Fever has some important themes like parental anxiety, ageing relatives, and sick children, it’s also an easy and entertaining read with fairly short chapters. That makes it a good book to pick up while you’re waiting, or whenever you find you have a moment to read.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Carol: It’s for the novel I’m currently writing. The story is set in Egypt, where I grew up, and many scenes are from a child’s viewpoint.

‘Tante Zahra was famed throughout Alexandria for her burping, a habit she blamed on swallowing air with her meals. She wore a towelling turban to hide the fact that she was too old to have any hair left.’

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Carol: I think it’s making your work visible. You could write the most wonderful book ever, but nobody will buy it if they don’t know it exists. There are over two million new books published every year, nearly 200,000 of them in the UK. So, even with the backing of a big publisher, most authors have to work very hard (and need a bit of luck) to get their book noticed.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

The best advice I ever had is to keep my writing simple. When writers start out, they often use flowery words, and far more of them than they need. As Somerset Maugham put it, “The best style is the style you don’t notice.”

Carol’s links

Blog Pills & Pillow-Talk

Twitter @DrCarolCooper

Facebook author page Carol Cooper’s London Novels

Website drcarolcooper.com

Instagram drcarolcooper

Pinterest drcarolcooper


Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-09-12 07:00:48.

Hello! magazine in my handbag

Pamela Francis





Pam Francis is a freelance journalist who over the years has interviewed hundreds of celebrities for Hello! Sunday Express Magazine, and many other women’s magazines.  She thought it was about time she wrote a novel set in that very world, and used her experiences to create characters and storylines.

It was time to put on my glad rags and sparkle all the way to a venue fit for a celebrity.  I was chauffeur driven, in a Mercedes, by my husband.  I couldn’t fit our red stairs carpet in the boot, but was delighted to see that the management had rolled out the red carpet at The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath. It was the perfect setting to meet celebrity guru, Pam Francis. Pam has interviewed a crowd of celebrities for prestigious magazines. 

I waited in the hotel lounge for Pamela to arrive. I sipped the champagne, as I made final adjustments to my questions.  She arrived in style in a taxi, wearing black jeans, heels and a floral French Connection jacket, and showcasing a black Chloe handbag.

Pam is the sort of person you imagine making her famous interviewees feel at ease whether it’s in a greasy spoon café or the Ritz.   

Pamela:  I love it here but we could have met at the lovely café in Bath Market.

Placing her champagne on the table, she sat down in the elegant setting.  She opened her handbag to reveal her book.

Jessie:  I love the front cover of your book.

Pamela:  I take Lottie with me for company.  She laughed.

Jessie:  What is ‘Someone Like Me’ about?

Pamela: ‘Someone Like Me’ is a modern love story which tells the story of Lottie, 39, a chef in a vintage cafe whose life changes when superstar Daniel French walks in one day for lunch. It asks the question, what happens when your secret affair becomes front page news.

Jessie:  How has ‘Someone Like Me’ been received by reviewers?

Pamela:  I am delighted with the positive reviews.  I’m thrilled that everyone seems to like the story.

‘Funny, intriguing and page-turning. Ideal for a rainy day or holiday read as you won’t want to put it down.’

‘I ended up sitting up to 2am to finish it in one sitting.’

‘A well-written, intriguing and believable storyline, with people I cared about, and an important plot twist I really didn’t see coming.’

Jessie:  The reviews highlight the humour and the compelling narrative.  In a nutshell, what’s ‘Someone Like Me’ about?

Pam: It’s about an ordinary small town girl who falls in love with a big time star and discovers that life and love in the spotlight of fame is a more dangerous and painful path to happiness and love than she could ever have imagined.  She ends up shamed on the front page of every tabloid in the land, stalked by the paparazzi, and threatened with the most gruesome forms of torture by Twitter trolls.

Jessie:  Presumably you got your inspiration from your line of work.  Are you afraid that celebrities will recognise themselves?

Pam: The characters are all compilations of people I’ve met. So no, there’s no danger of that.

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Pam: Lost, but pleased with the result. And yes, I did miss my characters. Especially the main character Lottie who made me laugh.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

Pam: My mum, who is sadly not alive. She was the one who read to me as a child and inspired my love of books, and I know she would be so proud.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Pam: Lots of us think that exciting life-changing events would never happen to someone like us. This book will give you hope that they do.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Pam: Help! What is my next book going to be about?

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Pam: Writing every day when life gets in the way.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Pam: Don’t outline and plan too far ahead. You are the first reader of your book and you need to be surprised about what happens.

Jessie: I have to ask about your life as a journalist.  What was it like writing for Hello?  Did you meet the celebrities in person? Did you have a favourite interview?

Pam: Writing for Hello! Usually meant going on a photo shoot. So yes, you get to meet them in person. It was usually features to celebrate engagements, pregnancies, new babies and weddings. But not necessarily in that order! One of my favourite features involved travelling to Ireland to meet dancer Michael Flatley who showed us round his stately home. I also loved covering Russell Watson’s engagement and wedding.  One of my favourite interviewees is Joanna Lumley.  She always makes you feel as though you are the most special person in the room. And I’ve also had the opportunity to interview Fergie the Duchess of York a couple of times, and some legends such as Joan Collins and Barbara Windsor and Sir Bruce Forsyth.

My barrage of questions had been fuelled by the lovely champagne.  Pam smiled and called the waiter to bring more champagne.  Out of her bag, she pulled a few magazines to show me the kind of thing she writes.

Pam:  Well, here’s a random example of an interview with Patsy Kensit which has nothing to do with the book.  I was interviewing her for the ITV drama Tina and Bobby. Viewers expect celebs to be full of confidence, and rarely nervous when they are being interviewed. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many actors I’ve interviewed suffer with low self-esteem, which vanishes when they become someone else in a drama. As you will discover in the book, it doesn’t matter how famous they may be, everyone has their insecurities.

It sounds as if Pam’s novel is fast paced, and her characters even shocked the author. 

Best of luck to Pam with, ‘Someone Like Me’.  This page-turning novel, by the showbiz journalist, sounds like a blast.

For more about Pam go to Pamfrancis.co.uk

Email: pam@pamfrancis.co.uk

Twitter: @PammieFrancis


Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Meet the author who created a piping hot novel in her Paris kitchen

Ally Bunbury 







It was a privilege to meet Ally Bunbury, at The Grand Hotel, Brighton, while I was on holiday.  Ally managed to escape from a project in London to chat about her debut novel. She arrived looking very glamorous in her favourite long sleeved, leopard print dress. She also wore her pearl earrings that were a present from her husband, Turtle. I experienced handbag envy when I noted the gold Longchamp clutch bag. Ally was a little self-conscious and shy at first, but she soon relaxed and lit up when she talks about the characters in The Inheritance.

Ally commented that her character, Gilda, would adore the Grand Hotel and we drank some Bolli in her character’s honour.  A man was playing jazz on the piano as we sipped the champagne in the conservatory as we looked at the sea.  Finally, we commenced out chat about Ally’s debut novel, The Inheritance.  The book is a celebration of romance, country houses, inheritance and celebrity. It a perfect book for the readers who like to indulge in Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper.

Jessie: Tell me about your glamorous book

Ally: The Inheritance is about an Irish girl named Anna Rose, who goes to work in London for the fabulous “PR Queen” Gilda Winterbottom. At an absurdly opulent party hosted by the Hollywood actress, Sofia Tamper, Anna meets George Wyndham, a dashing art dealer and heir to his ancestral estate in Scotland. Anna and George very quickly fall in love only to find themselves cornered into an impossible situation involving the ravishing but utterly spoilt Sofia, and with his inheritance under threat, George is forced to make a terrible choice. The story takes place in London, Paris, Ireland, Scotland and LA.

Jessie:  Capture your review with an extract from the novel.

Ally: ‘Turning away, Anna felt deflated at having lost what she thought might have been a chance with George. Then, seeing crystal photograph frames on a sideboard, documenting Sofia’s life, sun- kissed on a super-yacht, looking divine in a slinky dress at some sort of debutante ball, she had a reality check. Sofia was famous for being an IT girl who partied around the world; Anna couldn’t even begin to compete.’

Jessie: Your book is an entertaining peek into another world.  The story narrative sparkles with surprises and mischief.  I enjoyed writing the review but what have the reviewers said about The Inheritance

“Pitched as The Devil Wears Prada meets Bridget Jones this sparkling debut novels embodies the best of both.”

“A rollicking yarn.”
– RTE Guide

“With threads linking the London party scene, Anglo-Irish family life and a sprawling Scottish estate … there are private jets and Porsches pitted against old money and family tradition. The elite are up to their usual tricks, with sex, booze and back-stabbing aplenty.”
– The Irish Times

“Delicious escapism.”
– The Irish Examiner

“Jane Austin spiked with a dash of Made in Chelsea.”
– The Irish Independent

“This is a perfect indulgence read.”
– Sue Leonard

Jessie: Why should I put your book in my handbag? 

For delicious escapism.

Jessie: Why did you start writing? 

Ally: Sometimes the best moves are sporadic, and stepping off the London treadmill to live in Paris during my late twenties was one of them. My father had been ill for many months and when he died at home in Ireland, I needed head space that I couldn’t possibly have found if I had stayed in my PR job, no matter how much I loved it. A close friend suggested I should move to Paris and rent her apartment and I jumped on the opportunity, even though I had no idea what I would do there. And it’s hard to explain, but when I walked into my pretty Parisian kitchen, bright yellow with tall windows, I was felt utterly compelled to write. I sat down at the rustic wooden table and began writing, and as the days went on, I played the saddest possible music, from La Boheme to soulful jazz, and I can remember tears pouring down my face as characters discussed their lives, made choices, had dramas and found love. It was purely therapy and that was how The Inheritance began.

Jessie: Do you have a special writing place? 

Ally: At the kitchen table in my house, looking out onto the Irish Wicklow Mountains.

Jessie: Do you feel different, now that you are a published author? 

Ally: I feel like the stars aligned, whilst I wrote The Inheritance, and a number of conversations with my close friends (which includes my husband) made my book happen. The feeling of people being behind you, holding you up, really can make good, and even great things happen. I had always known the power of friendship was strong, but before The Inheritance came to be, I hadn’t realised just what a difference self-belief, due to others belief in you, can make. After ten years of marriage, and the arrival of two gorgeous daughters, now that I have started writing again I feel as if a strong flame has been lit inside me and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Jessie: How do you use social media to support you and are you a member of any forums?

Ally: I now Tweet, Facebook and Instragram – and I really enjoy it, though it does take discipline not to get too distracted by the news feeds!

Jessie: How do you manage to find the time to write when you run a PR business? 

Ally: The major difference between writing in Paris, and County Carlow, where we now live, is that I am now a mother, and I also run my own PR business, so writing a book in ‘my own time’ is certainly challenging – especially when a room of one’s own is the kitchen! However, having worked in a large open plan office during my PR agency days held me in good stead, as I find I can sit down and write when the children might play Twister or built an obstacle course for their hamster, Mr Nibbles. And if there is one piece of advice I’d like to pass on about writing a book, it is this – ‘If you want to write a book, don’t watch television.’ And it does require discipline, as sinking into a deep sofa to indulge in Netflix after a long day, can be unbelievably tempting, but once you get into the habit of instead settling in behind your lap top with a glass of wine or a mug of steaming tea, it is another form of relaxation.

Jessie: Where did you get the idea for the new novel and did you plan the entire narrative before commencing? 

Ally: I begin with a central character and build the bricks from there.

Jessie: Do the characters ever surprise you and take over the story? 

Ally Bunbury

Ally: Gilda wrote herself … literally … the works sprang from my fingertips before I could even give them any proper thought. She is such a fast, pacy character. I am currently working on my second novel and really enjoying it. I’m at the delicious stage of creating character detail and as it is a love story, I am feeling quite dreamy on a daily basis. The title is yet to be decided and it will come out in June of next year.

It was a delight to spend a gloriously sunny afternoon with Ally in the beautiful hotel. Ally was completely at ease in the glamorous environment and smiled at me when I insisted on capturing the setting in a photo.  Ally didn’t have time to stay as she had to get back to another celebrity party to rescue one of her clients.

A few words about Ally…

Born in 1976, Ally Bunbury was brought up with her three sisters, and a menagerie of animals, in County Monaghan. Following a serendipitous encounter at a dinner party, Ally landed a dream internship with a PR agency on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which, in turn, led to a flourishing career in London and Dublin. Ally now runs her own PR company and continues to create dynamic media campaigns for her clients. She lives in County Carlow with her husband, the historian, Turtle Bunbury and their two daughters, Jemima and Bay. From their house, overlooking the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, Ally wrote her debut novel, The Inheritance .  She is currently working on her second novel.



Please see all my author interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.


Originally posted 2017-08-02 07:00:16.