I suspect I have a fair amount in common with Annie, what with us both having younger kids and managing life as a write-at-home-mum, so I was interested to see how Annie would answer during a round of twenty questions...
ACT ONE – all about you…
After leaving university, Annie Lyons decided that she ‘rather liked books’ and got a job as a bookseller on Charing Cross Road, London. Two years later she left the retail world and continued rather liking books during an eleven-year career in publishing. Following redundancy in 2009 she realised that she would rather like to write books and having undertaken a creative writing course, lots of reading and a bit of practice she produced Not Quite Perfect. She now realises that she loves writing as much as coffee, not as much as her children and a bit more than gardening. She has since written another novel and is about to start work on her third. She lives in a house in south-east London with her husband and two children. The garden is somewhat overgrown. One day she hopes to own a chocolate-brown Labrador named John and have tea with Mary Berry.
I’ve always loved books and enjoyed writing but it was only quite recently that I felt confident enough to call myself a writer. For so many years I was simply too afraid of trying and failing. It took the birth of my children to make me realise that it was what I wanted to do. It also helped me re-locate my brain when I thought I’d lost it.
2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?
Drop the children at school, go home, make a large pot of coffee, put on the washing machine and write...
3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?
Anne Tyler made me want to be a writer. I love the way she portrays the wit, joy and melancholy of what it is to be human and her dialogue and eye for the minute detail of life is second to none. I met her last year and to say it was a landmark moment in my life would be as understated as her writing.
4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?
Stop putting it off and write. You can sort the washing later and the garden likes to be a bit overgrown and there’s no point in tidying the house if you have children.
Oh and back-up your writing. Many times.
5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?
I have Grade 6 trumpet
I speak fluent(ish) German
I once played football for Bristol University (we lost 17-0)
6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?
My laptop, portable hard-drive, iPod, mobile and Mr. Bialetti stove-top espresso maker.
ACT TWO – all about your new release…
Sometimes having it all isn’t enough…
Emma has everything she’s ever wanted. Her boyfriend’s just proposed and her career has finally taken off. And so what if her latest client just happens to be downright gorgeous? She’s getting married. Isn’t she?
Rachel’s married with 2.4 children (well, actually, 3) and life is all about trying to leave the house in a non-stained top. Once it was about skinny cappuccinos, cocktails and dynamic ad agency meetings. She wants her old life back, but can it ever be the same?
A sparkling, funny tale of two sisters and how often you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
7) Congratulations on your recent release of Not Quite Perfect, what was your inspiration for writing Emma and Rachel's story?
Thank you very much! I did a Creative Writing course at my local Adult Education Centre and our tutor introduced us to Harlequin and their brilliant editorial guidelines on novel writing. I started to play around with ideas for characters to see if I could produce the germ of a novel. Emma, Martin and Richard came to life, while Rachel’s family and the other characters came later.
8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?
There was quite a bit of cajoling and pushing and prodding and editing and re-writing. I remember getting stuck at 20,000 words but I kept going and it flowed from there.
9) I see Not Quite Perfect is your debut, how long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?
It took me 18 months to write and then another two years of being considered by various editors before it landed on the right publisher’s desk!
10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?
He answers after one ring. ‘Emma Darcy.’ His voice is warm and welcoming like an embrace.‘I just wanted to say that I thought the article was great.’‘Thank you.’ His voice is expectant.‘And to apologise again for Martin. I felt bad that our lunch ended that way.’‘Well, I admire your fiancé for staking his claim.’ Emma detects a note of irony.‘Yes well, he has been severely scolded.’‘Lucky man. And where is he at the moment? I’m guessing he doesn’t know you’re making this call or is he about to come onto the phone and give me what for.’There is a playfulness to his voice, which Emma knows should be sounding alarm bells in her brain. He is clearly enjoying the illicit nature of their conversation.‘Actually, he’s out for the day.’ As soon as the words are out of her mouth she knows she’s in trouble. With one sentence she has made herself sound available and suggestive all at once.‘I see.’ He is toying with her, she knows this but her heart is beating fast and there’s another emotion. Is it longing or excitement? She is on the brink of ending their chat when he says. ‘Well, I’ve got this lunchtime thing to go to at a pub in north London if you fancy it? A friend of mine is doing a poetry reading and I’ve promised to go. To be honest, I’m dreading it but it would be altogether more palatable if you were to join me.’And there it is. The beginning of the end or is it the beginning of the beginning? Emma isn’t sure. This isn’t an author meeting, it isn’t a discussion about plots or publication plans. There are no excuses this time. Richard Bennett is asking her out on a date.
11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Not Quite Perfect, to make us rush out and buy it?
It’s a story that everyone can relate to because it’s about not realising what you’ve got until you’re on the verge of losing it. It’s funny, fast-paced and a little bit heartbreaking too...
12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?
My second book, Getting A Life is finished – it’s about a group of friends who meet on the first day of university and follows the course of their lives over twenty-odd years. I’ve just started work on my third, which is about what it means to be a wife.
QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…
13) Plotter or pantser?
I wish I was a plotter but I am very much a pantser.
14) Secret Seven or Famous Five?
Secret Seven (and Malory Towers).
15) Digital books or print books?
16) Tea or coffee?
17) Cats or dogs?
A chocolate-brown Labrador named John (I don’t own him, I just want him).
18) Extrovert or introvert?
19) Save or spend?
Long to spend, have to save.
20) Facebook or Twitter?
Writing first. Twitter and Facebook only when I’ve reached the daily word count.
And that’s a wrap!
Thank you so much for taking part, Annie, I wish you every success with your new release.
To discover even more about Annie Lyons, and to keep up with her latest projects and shenanigans, you can visit her at:
Take the quiz…
HOW PERFECT IS YOUR LIFE?
Take this quiz to see if you’ve got it all or if there’s something better out there...
1. Your favourite tipple is:
a. A glass of Cristal.b. Something cold, crisp, dry and white.c. Whatever’s open in the fridge and provided it’s after 4pm.
2. Your morning routine includes:
a. A massage, a facial and a skin buff.b. Grabbing a pain au raisin and a skinny latte on the way into the office.c. Trying to leave the house in a non-stained top.
3. For your annual holiday this year you will be:
a. Staying on Richard Branson’s island.b. Going on a last minute break as you’re saving up for your honeymoon next year.c. Hoping the camping shop has an alcohol licence as you embark on your two week holiday under canvas with your husband and children.
4. At work you are:
a. The boss. No question.b. The bright young thing.c. The one who picks up the dirty pants.
5. The last time you had sex was:
a. In the Red Room of Pain.b. In the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, the stairs and then the living room again.c. On my birthday? Or maybe his birthday?
6. The animal you most identify with is:
a. A panther.b. A dolphin.c. An orang-utan – one with really droopy tits and a sad face.
7. The person you most admire is:
a. Margaret Thatcher.b. Emily Bronte.c. Supernanny.
8. What do you hate most in the world?
a. Bad service.b. Scheming work colleagues.c. Being made to feel like a domestic drudge.
9. Your ideal man is:
a. Handsome and very, very rich.b. Witty and attentive.c. Anyone who is prepared to do the washing up and pour you a glass of wine.
10. Your best quality is:
a. Your generosity. You can afford it after all.b. Creative passion.c. You would do anything for your family and friends.
Mostly A’s On paper you have the perfect life. You’ve got the job, the contacts and plenty of money. You can afford anything and you are generous with it (mainly because if you’ve got it, flaunt it right?) But you might want to dig a little deeper. Do people actually like you for who you are or just because you always pay the bill?
Verdict: Perfect but only if material things matter to you more than people. A bit like Emma’s godmother Rosie.
Mostly B’s You’re doing rather well aren’t you? You’ve got a promising career, an often steamy relationship and a bright future ahead of you. You’re very close to having it all if you can just keep everything together.
Verdict: Almost perfect but beware taking your situation for granted and thinking there’s something better out there. You’re a bit like Emma Darcy so read her story to find out how not to live your life...
Mostly C’s Ok, so life is a bit of a struggle sometimes isn’t it? It used to be dynamic and stimulating now it’s all about the nutritional merits of fish fingers and how long before you can legitimately have a glass of wine. You’ve got to take a step back and remember it won’t always be this exhausting or intense.
Verdict: Far from perfect so tread carefully. It would be easy to start questioning your situation and be drawn to temptations elsewhere. You’re a bit like Rachel so read her story but try not to live it...
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