Thursday 6 February 2014

Twenty Questions with... Katie Oliver

I am delighted to welcome Katie Oliver onto my blog today, author of Prada and Prejudice, released last month by Carina UK which was then closely followed by Love and Liability just this week. So buckle up and get ready for a round of Twenty Questions and an excerpt that will leave you wanting more...

ACT ONE – all about you…

I decided to pursue writing more seriously once my two boys left home. So I set out to write (and finish) a book, get an agent, and get my book published. Of course, that was easier said than done... Yet here I am, three years later, with a book published by Carina UK/Harlequin, and two more on the way!

1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

Fell into – like poop? Well, I’ve wanted to write since I was about eight years old, when I stapled some paper together into a book, wrote out a story, and drew the illustrations. I think I charged my father a dime to read it. Poor man.

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

I hope my style is light and fun, with plenty of romance; as far as rituals, I don’t have any. Except that I do need quiet to write, and I like to have a mood board of character pictures and locations in front of me. And also a bowl of M&Ms, with all of the green ones removed. Kidding.

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

Oh, yes - so many! Wendy Holden is a particular favorite. I love her breezy style and the way she interweaves various storylines into a compelling read. And I love her clever titles. Katie Fforde is another favorite, and Chris Manby. And I never tire of Jeeves and Wooster (or anything by P.G. Wodehouse). Come to that, a lot of British writers have influenced me.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

Just write. You’ll always have excuses – I don’t have time, my hand hurts, I’m not inspired – just sit down and do it. Your first effort/draft may not be very good. But it’s a start, and it can be rewritten. It WILL be rewritten. And secondly, write the kind of book you’d like to read. Don’t worry about what the hottest genre is – write what YOU like, and your passion will fuel your work.

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

I sing harmony really well.

I play keyboards...really badly.

I get some of my best ideas in the shower.

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

1. My iPad. How did I ever manage without it?

2. My iPhone. See above.

3. My laptop. I can write on anything – a notepad, the back of a bank statement – but without a computer, I couldn’t email, or blog, or chat on social media to nice people like you, Aurelia!

4. My Keurig coffee maker. It brews a single, perfect cup every time. And I can have my Veranda Blend while Mr Oliver has his Italian Roast (yuck).

5. My iPod. (My God, I have a lot of Apple stuff, don’t I?) I love to listen to music while I’m on the treadmill, and the iPod makes it easy. And almost fun. Almost.

ACT TWO – all about your new release…

He’s a man in possession of a large fortune…but is he in want of a wife?!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Natalie Dashwood loves to shop. After all, as the heiress to the renowned London department store Dashwood & Jones she’s been wearing designer shoes since she could walk! But a socialite’s life isn’t as perfect as you might imagine… Natalie’s spending is spiraling slightly out of control, her rock star boyfriend is engaged to someone else, and it seems the family business is in financial crisis.
New high-flying business exec Rhys Gordon has been brought in to save the company from ruin, but what are his motives? And infuriatingly even a shoe-shopping spree can’t take her mind off his distracting and oh-so-charming smile… 
Couture and confetti mix with scandal and intrigue in this wonderful tale of retail, romance and redemption.

7) Congratulations on your recent release of Prada and Prejudice, what was your inspiration for writing Natalie Dashwood’s story?

Thank you! Nat’s a character who’s been in my head for years. I originally envisioned her as a flapper, or a sixties model...tall, slim, well-intentioned, but lovably clueless. I imagined what would happen if a girl like that had to work with a man like Rhys Gordon – a man who’s driven, determined, acutely conscious of the bottom line (and of Natalie’s bottom line). I suspected there’d be plenty of fireworks – and not just the between-the-sheets kind, either.

8) Did the story flow from your fingertips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

The scenes with Natalie and Rhys nearly wrote themselves, as they say. When you get those two together, stuff...happens. Other things, like getting a grip on Ian’s slippery character, proved more difficult. And I discarded reams of stuff when I revised. Some of the Hannah and Duncan scenes didn’t make it.

9) I see Prada and Prejudice 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?

I began writing the outline back in January of 2010, on a legal pad in my office. I was between contracts and had very little to do, so decided to start writing the book I’d always talked about. The economy was in a downswing, and Gordon Ramsay was very popular. Somehow those two ideas came together in my head, and what I ended up with was P&P. Funnily enough, I pitched my second book, “Love and Liability,” to my agent and she offered me representation based on that. It wasn’t until later that I showed her the first book, and she loved it.

It ended up crossing Helen William’s desk at Carina UK a year or so ago, and she liked it enough to offer a three-book contract.

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?
As she approached the closed conference room door and eased it open, Natalie was desperate for an aspirin. Her head was pounding. But she hadn’t anything but a petrified cough drop.
“Sorry I’m late,” she apologised as the door swung open. “I didn’t hear the alarm—”
When she caught sight of the man standing at the head of the conference table, Natalie’s voice trailed away. Her eyes widened in mingled dismay and horror.
Oh, blimey, no. It couldn’t be.
He had darkish blond hair and blue eyes. He wore a Thomas Pink shirt, obviously a different one today, because this one was striped, without a wine stain. And he most definitely didn’t reek of second-hand Pinot Noir or dog wee.
Natalie cringed inwardly. To think that only last night she’d twined her arms around his neck, pressed herself shamelessly against him, and begged him to have sex with her.
“Natalie,” Sir Richard said, “allow me to introduce our new Operations Manager, Rhys Gordon.”
Mortification swept over her as their eyes met. Rhys Gordon rescued companies from the brink of financial ruin and turned them back into the black. He was famously good at what he did. Photos and articles about him appeared regularly in the business pages of newspapers and magazines, and occasionally in the tabloids as well.
Natalie bit back a groan. She’d thrown herself at Mr. Gordon, grandfather’s newly hired Operations Manager, like a cheap slapper.
Just let me die now…
11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Prada and Prejudice, to make us rush out and buy it?

It’s funny and sexy and features a heroine – Natalie Dashwood – who uses a Louboutin shoe to outwit the villain. You’ve got to love that.

It has lots of intertwining stories – Natalie and her uneasy relationship with Ian Clarkson, her best friend’s husband; Rhys Gordon and his brother Jamie (a very hot chef); Alastair James and his wife Cherie, whose marriage is in trouble; and of course Dominic Heath, the petulant rock star who discards Natalie and then tries repeatedly to win her back... to disastrous (and comical) results.

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

Yes. I’ve another book featuring some of the same characters, and some new ones as well. And I’ve begun two books, one set in New York, the other in Baltimore, Maryland. Both have headstrong American heroines and mega-hot European heroes and promise to be lots of fun.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…

13) Plotter or pantser?

Both. I have to have at least a loose outline before I write, but I don’t always hold to it – I let the characters take me where they will, as long as things end up where and how I want them to end.

14) Digital books or print books?

Both, again. God, I’m wishy-washy, aren’t I? But I really think they both have a place. Ebooks travel well, they’re reasonably priced, and you can search on words and look up word meanings. But books – well, I’ll always love a real book, too. I can’t imagine a shelf without lots of books on it.

15) Tea or coffee?


16) Extrovert or introvert?

Introvert – although I’m not as much of a introvert as I used to be.

17) Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter is my happy place. I’ve met friends from all over the globe.

18) Christmas or birthday?

Christmas. It’s such a universal time of joy and peace and people smiling.

19) Morning person or night owl?

Definitely a morning person. I rarely stay up past 10:00 PM anymore, you know.

20) Sweet or savoury?

Ooh, sweet. Give me chocs or give me death.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Katie, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Katie Oliver, and to keep up with her latest projects and shenanigans, you can visit her at:

Facebook     Amazon     Amazon UK     Goodreads
Twitter     Blog     Website     Pinterest

Buy it now…

Add to Goodreads
ISBN: 9781472074232
Released: 2nd January 2014

Amazon UK / US
Nook UK / US (B&N)

Add to Goodreads
ISBN: 9781472083968
Released: 3rd February 2014

Amazon UK / US
Nook UK
Google Books

Excerpt from Prada and Prejudice…

She probably shouldn’t have had that third glass of Pinot.

Of course, Natalie reminded herself as she made her way unsteadily through the crowd, she hadn’t actually drunk the wine; she’d hurled most of it at Dominic.

Too bad she’d missed.

Natalie paused in the drawing room doorway. Her gaze swept past the clusters of elegantly-dressed people clutching glasses of champagne, intent on finding the door. The exit had to be around here somewhere.

As she lifted her tissue – already soggy – and blew her nose, Natalie scowled.

Bloody Dominic.

This disaster of an evening was entirely his fault. After all, they’d come to Alastair’s party together. She’d even bought a new dress for the occasion. But she never imagined Dominic would dump her halfway through the party to announce his engagement…to his ex-wife.

Natalie sniffed. She honestly didn’t give a fig if Dom and Keeley got back together again; they deserved each other. No, it was the public humiliation factor that upset her.

She’d seen the furtive glances of surprise and pity cast her way when Dominic announced the engagement, not to mention Keeley’s smug little smile as she lifted her hand to show off the ginormous diamond ring glinting on her finger.

Those glances of pity had stung. She didn’t want to be the girl everyone felt sorry for, the girl everyone whispered about.

Not ever again.

As everyone lifted their glasses to toast Dominic and Keeley’s happiness, Natalie’s humiliation curdled into fury. She hadn’t meant to fling her glass of Pinot Noir at that well-dressed bloke in the bespoke suit; she’d been aiming for Dom. But two glasses of wine drunk in quick succession had left her light-headed, furious…and her aim a bit off.

Where in hell was the door?

Ah, there it was. Lovely door, marvelous door! She’d leave here and…Natalie frowned. Well, with no money for a minicab, and no ride home forthcoming from Dominic, she’d figure that out when she left.

Her hand closed over the doorknob, and she flung it open. Rows of coats hanging on wooden hangers met her gaze. Oops…not the front door, then, but the coat closet. She could’ve sworn...

“Excuse me,” a male voice behind her asked in mild concern, “are you all right?”

She whirled around – which, truthfully, didn’t help her spinning head – and snapped, “Of course I am. I’m fine.” She glared at him, and her heart sank. Those penetrating blue eyes…that expensive bespoke suit...

Crikey. It was the bloke she’d just doused with Pinot Noir.

“Your attempt to exit via the coat closet – not to mention the state of my shirt and tie—” he glanced down at the wine staining his front “—tells me that you’re far from all right.”

“I told you, I’m sorry about your shirt,” she said stiffly. “I’ll pay for the dry-cleaning bill.”

“That’s not necessary. Have you a ride home?”

“No,” Natalie said. She narrowed her eyes as she glimpsed Dominic, holding court in the drawing room with his arm draped around his new fiancée’s shoulders. “Not any more.”

He plucked the empty wine glass from her hand and put it on a passing tray. “Look, I have to leave. I find I need a change of clothes,” he added dryly. “I’ll give you a lift home if you like.”

For the first time, she studied him. He had dark blondish hair and blue eyes, coupled with a rugged build and a lived-in sort of face. Not classically handsome, perhaps, but compelling, in a Daniel Craig-ish sort of way.

Perhaps that’s why he seemed vaguely familiar.

“I’d be happy to take you home, Natalie.”

Ian Clarkson stood before her. Although married to her best friend Alexa, and darkly handsome, Ian always made her feel a tad uncomfortable. He’d made it clear he was interested in her, the cheating sod. He was definitely a wolf in posh clothing.

“I’m taking her home.” Daniel Craig left no room for argument.

“But Natalie doesn’t know you,” Ian challenged him, “does she?”

Before hostilities could escalate further, Alastair James made his way towards them. “Natalie, darling, there you are! You’re not leaving, I hope?”

“I’m afraid so.” She kissed his cheek. “Grandfather wants me at the board meeting tomorrow morning, God knows why. Congratulations, by the way! How has Cherie put up with you for so long?”

He laughed. “I’ve no idea.” Still handsome despite the grey that peppered his dark hair, Alastair put his arm around Nat’s shoulders. “I’m glad you made it to our anniversary celebration. Ah, Mr. Gordon,” he added, and thrust out his free hand. “I see you’ve met my goddaughter.”

“Wait – you two know each other?” Natalie said in surprise.

“Only by reputation,” Alastair said, and raised his brow. “And quite a formidable reputation it is, too.”

“Oh. Well, he’s offered to take me home.” Natalie regarded Alastair quizzically. “Should I accept?”

His eyes met Gordon’s. “I’m sure I can trust you to see Sir Richard’s granddaughter safely home, Mr. Gordon?”

“Of course,” he replied, and extended his hand to Alastair. “I’m a man of my word, if nothing else. Unlike some.”

The smile he directed at Alastair, Natalie noticed, was chilly. Odd, that…but no one else seemed to pay any mind.

“Congratulations, by the way,” Gordon added. “I apologise, but the state of my clothing prevents me from staying.”

Alastair frowned. “Yes, Natalie, what happened? I’d no idea you and Dominic had parted ways.”

“It was decision.” She refused to cry over spilt wine; Dominic so wasn’t worth it. “I planned to break up with him after the party, but he dumped me first. I’ve apologised to Mr. Gordon for ruining his suit.”

“No harm done. Are you ready?” Gordon asked her.

She nodded. “Yes, let me just get my coat.”

He put a hand on her back and guided her out through the crush of people. As he stopped to collect their coats, Natalie glimpsed Dominic halfway across the reception room, and he glanced over at them with narrowed eyes. She resisted the urge to flip him the bird.

After all, one of them needed to be an adult. It might as well be her.

Outside, Mr. Gordon gave the valet his keys and helped Natalie on with her coat. “How are you feeling?”

“A bit dizzy,” she admitted.

Five minutes later, the valet roared up on a gleaming Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle and brought it to a stop before them. Natalie’s eyes widened. “Is that yours? You can’t expect me to ride on the back of this!” She looked down at her short coat, shorter dress, and six-inch heels.

“I’m afraid you’ve no choice, if you want a ride home.” He produced two helmets from the saddlebag and handed her one.

Natalie eyed the gleaming silver-and-black motorbike doubtfully. “I’m really not dressed for it—”

He gave her legs and her strappy shoes a critical once-over. “If you weren’t wearing those bloody stripper heels—”

“They’re not stripper heels!” she protested. “They’re Louboutins, and very expensive.”

“Well, you and your very expensive shoes will have to sit sideways. Put on the helmet. And button up, it’s cold.” He swung one leg over the motorcycle and waited.

“Bloody hell but you’re bossy.” Natalie did up her buttons and sat sideways behind him, shivering in the unseasonably cold night air, and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I won’t fall off, will I?” she called out anxiously over the growl of the engine.

“Not if you hold tight. Where do you live?”

“Ladbroke Grove.” She gave him the address and rested her helmeted cheek against his back in mingled trepidation and anticipation. Her head spun, but in a good way. Sod Dominic, and Keeley, and her ginormous engagement ring, she decided. She was ready to have some fun.

He revved the engine, and with a satisfying, throaty roar, they were off. Natalie tightened her hold on him as they turned off Holland Park Avenue onto the A40. It was already unseasonably cold, but with the wind in her face, it felt about three degrees.

As they roared through Notting Hill, Natalie nestled closer, glad of his warm, broad back. He smelt of soap and leather, and also, rather strongly, of Pinot. Strange, she thought as he skillfully wove in and out of the evening traffic and onto her street, since Dominic had dumped her, she ought to feel gutted. But she was having too much fun to care.

The Triumph growled to a stop in front of her building. Natalie slid from the seat, stood up unsteadily, and removed her helmet. “My hair must look a sight.”

He took her helmet and removed his as well, then hung them both on the handlebars. “A bit. But it suits you.”

“Thanks.” She looked up at him with wide grey eyes and murmured, “You know, actually, you’re quite sexy.”

“And you’re quite drunk.” He held out his hand. “Come on, let’s get you inside. It’s cold out here.”

“No, wait.” Natalie pressed herself against him and slid her arms up around his neck. She giggled as she stumbled and his arms came around to steady her. “I’ve never said this to anyone before,” she breathed as her eyes locked with his, “but I really, really want to have sex with you.”

He removed her arms gently but firmly from around his neck. “No, you don’t. You don’t even know me.”

“That’s the whole point, isn’t it? To...” she hiccupped “...get to know you.”

“Miss Dashwood—”

“Why don’t you want to have sex, then?” she demanded.

“Because you’re drunk,” he said again, his words patient but firm. “And because you’re mad at that boyfriend of yours—”

“—ex-boyfriend,” she interrupted.

“—and I won’t be your revenge sex.”

Natalie sniffed. “He’s been engaged to Keeley for two weeks! I still can’t believe it.” A tear trickled down her cheek. “It’s not that I care, mind you. It’s just that I – I couldn’t bear the way everyone at the party was looking at me, as if they felt sorry for me.”

“I think it was curiosity, that’s all,” he said. “They wondered how you’d react.” He lifted his brow upwards. “Is Pinot Noir your usual weapon of choice?”

“No. Prosecco.” She giggled and wound her arms round his neck again. He smelled of some deliciously expensive aftershave and, very faintly, of Pinot. “Come upstairs,” she murmured. “I haven’t a flat mate. And I don’t—” she hiccupped again “—I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

He swore under his breath. Her fingers were caressing his hair, and it was getting harder, in more ways than one, to refuse.

“You’re a lovely girl, Miss Dashwood, and your offer’s very tempting; but I have to decline.”

“Decline? But…why?” she asked, bewildered. “Don’t you want to have sex with me? Doesn’t anyone want to have sex with me?” she wailed.

He met Natalie’s wide grey eyes. “Believe me, I’d like nothing better,” he murmured. “But,” he added firmly as he untangled her arms once again from his neck, “that’s the last thing you need tonight. Trust me.”

“Never trust a man who says ‘trust me’,” she mumbled. “Grandfather taught me that.”

“Your grandfather’s a very wise man. Come on, inside with you. Let’s go.”

“Won’t you at least kiss me goodnight?” she asked forlornly, her words softly slurred.

“No.” He put his hands on her arms. “You need a good night’s sleep. You’ll thank me in the morning. Now come along, put your arm around my waist, there’s a good girl.”

And with that, he helped her up the stairs to her flat – really, Natalie thought, the bloody stairs had a mind of their own tonight – unlocked her door, bade her a polite good night, and turned to leave.

Suddenly her sister’s dog shot out the door, a tiny white ball of lightning intent on escape, and made for the stairway.

“Nigella!” she cried, and lurched after her. “My sister Caro’s dog,” she explained breathlessly. “I’m dog-sitting.”

“Got her,” Gordon said, and bent down to grab the teacup-sized ball of fluff as she darted past. She sank her tiny teeth into the fleshy bit between his thumb and forefinger. “Shit!” He dropped her, and she promptly took a wee on his shoe.

Nat gasped, horrified, and picked her up. “Nigella!”

“Have you a towel?” he asked evenly as he eyed his dripping shoe.

“Of course.” She led him inside the flat and returned a moment later with a rumpled, coffee-stained tea towel.

He wiped his shoe and returned the towel. “Thanks. Now I really must go, before you – or your sister’s dog – destroy another article of my clothing.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” she said again, her eyes luminous and wide as she met his gaze, “I really am—”

“Forget it.” He turned away, his expression unreadable. “It’s been...memorable, Miss Dashwood. Goodnight.”

Dazed, Natalie blinked at the empty doorway. Crikey, but she felt awful. First his shirt, then his shoe...yet he’d been quite decent about it all. She brightened. She’d ask grandfather to send a cheque to cover the damages. Except...she didn’t know Mr. Gordon’s proper name, much less his address.

“Wait!” she cried again, and dashed into the hall to run after him. She paused unsteadily at the top of the stairs. “Mr. Gordon – wait! I don’t even know your first name!”

But the roar of his motorbike engine, fading rapidly away into the night, told her that he was already gone.

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