A novel for Kate Middleton’s handbag

Emily Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily came to visit the Chat Room on a rainy day in Wales. She was wearing a floaty, floral dress and a raincoat.  I noted that her bag was an overflowing brown, leather Fiorelli bag. Despite the rain, Emily was very cheerful and happy to talk about her book. Whilst bouncing her little baby daughter, Florence, on her knee Emily was also keeping one eye on her son, Elliot. The mischievous toddler was heading towards a pile of books, with a pen in his hand and a glint in his eye. After refocusing the children onto their colouring activities, and trying to stop Elliot drawing on his little sister, we settled down for a chat.

We drank tea and ate Welsh cakes, as we discussed Emily’s debut novel, Letters to Eloise.

Jessie:  Why did you decide to present the novel in a series of letters?

Emily: As a child, I always wrote letters as I loved to receive replies. We moved around a lot as children so I kept touch with friends and family by writing letters, ever hopeful of that reply. There is nothing more special than receiving a hand-written letter. My late grandmother loved writing letters to me and even in her nineties she would send them. It seemed the perfect way for Flora to write to her unborn child.

Jessie: Capture the essence of your book in a couple of sentences.

Emily: Letters to Eloise is the warm, witty, and heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams. The novel is a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.

Jessie:  You have received an incredible number of reviews.  Please read some extracts from the reviews.

Emily: Thank you. I have been so lucky to receive such lovely reviews.

At this point, Elliot was keen to show off his colouring so we paused to make another cup of tea. Emily took the opportunity to retrieve the reviews of her book.  It took some time as she has over fifty reviews.

‘It is a very emotional book. It’s utterly heart-breaking at times but, perhaps surprisingly, there is quite a bit humour in it too and it is also uplifting.’

‘What a beautifully written book. I enjoyed every page as the story unfolded. Sad at times but also uplifting – just like real life. Loved it.’

Emily Williams

‘I am so glad that I stumbled upon this book. I absolutely loved the entire thing. I’m a sucker for stories like this, stories about true love, and stories about the sacrifices we make for this love.’

Jessie: Have you got an extract from your book to tempt a reader?

Emily didn’t even need to read from the book, as she knew which words would hook the reader.

Emily: However, as soon as I saw that positive blue line seep along the window in the plastic casing of the pregnancy test, I knew you were the one to whom I will write my letters.

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

Emily: I really did miss the characters and still do. Parts of the story still come to me and the words play out in my mind. I became so immersed into the story over the four years that I wrote the book that it was really hard to let it go. It was very emotional for me to write, after been told that I couldn’t conceive. Then when I became pregnant, the words of the book had extra meaning for me.

I felt a mixture of sadness and elation when the book was finished. Then pure fear that I would never be able to write anything like that again!

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. 

Emily: I would love Kate Middleton to read my story. I would hope that she would connect to Flora, having had two children herself, and I would love to know her opinion as the story unfolds

Kate, if you’re listening, DM me and I will send you a copy!

Emily Williams

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

Emily: Letters to Eloise will connect with your soul after you read it (I hope). You’ll always want to keep the story close to your heart.

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

Emily: ‘I knew where he’d be; where he always was.’ This sentence is from my YA novel ‘The Subtle Art of Keeping a Racehorse. I mainly just have notes or mind-maps in the notebook rather than sentences but this is the last full sentence in the book

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Emily: The biggest challenge is being noticed in a sea of other equally fantastic authors. Writing quality is the first step but then finding readers willing to take to risk on an unknown author is very challenging.

I have been so lucky with the support of fantastic book bloggers and reviewers that have been so kind. I am hoping that one day I will succeed in getting my name known out there as an author but at the moment I am content when I receive the lovely reviews I have had for Letters to Eloise.

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

Emily: Believe in yourself and never give up!

A little more about Emily…

Emily Williams is hard-working and driven to succeed. She is passionate about her writing: she has adored writing for as long as she can remember. She grew up wanting to write novels.  Fortunately, a career teaching enables her to inspire children to use their imagination and writing skills to develop their own stories. Emily is ever thankful to her own primary school teachers for instilling her passion in writing and is hoping she can do her little bit to pass this on.

Emily has far too many animals, but aims in life to buy a farm so she can have some more!

Emily is currently working on her next novel, whilst looking after two children, and host of small pets and suffering from a poorly wrist after a riding injury.

Best of luck to Emily with her debut novel, she has already received an impressive number of accolades.  Emily’s unique storytelling hooks the reader from the outset.  I am looking forward to her second novel. 

Read my review of Letters to Eloise on My Reading page.

 

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

A big Yeehaw from the would-be cowgirl author!

Lottie Phillips 

 

 

 

The Little Cottage in the Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my holiday in Sussex, I managed to meet up with Lottie to discuss her delicious new book, The Little Cottage in the Country.  Lottie cycled out to the holiday cottage on a vintage red bicycle.   I had spent the morning setting up a temporary Books in Handbag Chat Room.  Lottie arrived on a gloriously sunny day wearing cropped jeans, a Gingham shirt and cowboy boots. Her beautiful book was peeking out of a fabulous leopard print handbag.  As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted with Lottie’s big smile.  She removed a tempting parcel of pastries that she had bought from the local bakers in the village.

The intense summer sun sent us inside the cottage. We drank a beautiful blend of coffee, as we savoured the freshly baked cakes.  Eating the cakes delayed our conversation a little.  The plump dried fruit enhanced the sweetness of the pastry and the oozing custard was divine.  Lottie walked around the holiday cottage and admired each detail.  The space, in the tiny holiday cottage, had been designed thoughtfully to create a sense of home.

Lottie handed her beautiful book to me, and we noted how the colours of the cover blended perfectly with the room. The book could have been photographed, in situ, as part of a magazine feature.

Jessie:  The book cover looks more delicious than the cakes that we have just eaten.  Please tell me what the book is about.  I challenge you capture the flavour of the book in a few sentences.

Lottie: Anna Compton thought that moving to the countryside, leaving London and her past firmly behind her was the perfect solution.

But very soon she’s chasing pork pies down hills, disguising her shop-bought cakes at the school bake sale – and trying to resist oh-so-handsome Horatio Spencerville, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Manor…

Jessie:  Well, the book sounds like the perfect escape for me.  What have other reviewers said about the book?

Lottie:

‘It’s funny, witty and well -paced book that I highly recommend you to select as your summer holiday read! Fabulous debut!’ (Sparkly Word)

‘Highly recommended as the perfect summer read and I guarantee it will have you chuckling in no time!!’ (Karen Mace, Amazon Reviewer)

‘Loved it. I laughed my way through it!’ (Donna Orrock, NetGalley reviewer)

Jessie:  The reviews sound brilliant.  I’ll open a bottle of wine so that we can toast your success. Come on, read me an extract from the book that will tempt a reader.  Lottie’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she started to read the extract.

Lottie: ‘The conversation with Diane did not go according to plan: somehow (and Anna blamed the one bar of signal and not the fact she had polished off most of the Merlot).

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

Lottie: I was bereft! I missed Anna, Linda and Diane more than words can say! They were incredible fun to write and had taken on a life of their own. In fact, between you and me, they’re still here * taps head * so watch this space.

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. 

Lottie: Anyone who needs a giggle and a feel-good book! Though if someone is able to put a copy in front of Graham Norton or Miranda Hart then my dreams would come true…

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

Lottie Phillips

Lottie: I’ve had people tell me this book should be available on the NHS. If you are ever feeling a bit down, in need of a pick-me-up, reading even a paragraph of this book should hopefully put the spring back in your step. Call it a handbag-sized natural remedy… And who doesn’t love to read about a hunky Poldark fellow like Horatio?

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

Lottie: It’s about the novel I’m currently writing and it reads: Tom, Hawaiian shirt, good-looking, makes dinner, OTT

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Lottie: Oh, tough one. I would say the biggest challenge is self-discipline… Twitter is fantastic as I can chat to my readers but, equally, it is amazing how much time I can waste posting GIFs…

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

Lottie: I’ve had so much advice from so many wonderful people but the best piece is this: don’t ever stop writing (and reading), practice really does make perfect.

Lottie is….

…a rubbish baker but still harks after the cosy kitchen scenario where she expertly shows her child how to make the perfect cupcakes (with no mess and not one bead of sweat in sight)…

…obsessed with interior décor…

…in love with Country and Western music and wine (preferably together). One day she will go to Nashville, wear suitable cowgirl attire, swig beer with a sexy nonchalance and be an expert in line dancing (obvs).

Lottie stayed chatting into the evening.  It was a great treat to find someone who also admitted that they enjoyed County and Western music.  We sat in the garden listening to various tracks on my iPlayer as we finished a couple bottles of wine.  Lottie is great fun and that bodes well for any reader of her new novel The Little Cottage in the Country. Who doesn’t want to live in a Little Country Cottage?

 

 

Please see all my author 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.