Q. You've been writing for over a decade - how were you able to make the transition from the workforce to full time author?
A. Sheer nerve. I left my job at the Daily Express in London and gave myself three months to write a book AND get myself a publishing deal. Absurd, in hindsight, and yet I did it. I wrote Straight Talking in six weeks, then signed a deal after a bidding war for far more money than I was earning, and I knew then that I wouldn't have to go back to an office job.
Q. So many mothers these days write about their lives both online and in books - yet your novels truly speak to the generation of thirtysomething women trying to balance their hectic lives and still be good parents. Have you personally faced some of the experiences you touch upon in your books and how hard is it to keep your personal life truly personal?
A. I write about real life, and the experiences that I have, that my friends have. When I first started I was single and in my late twenties, and now, twelve years on, I've had four children, been married, divorced, found happiness again, dealt with loss, and run the full gamut of life, all of which has found its way into my novels. I never write about my own life specifically, but always draw upon my experiences for inspiration, and I've certainly lived through some of the things I've written about. I always aim for emotional honesty, and it's very difficult to portray that accurately unless you've either been through something yourself, or have the ability to truly empathise with others who have lived it. I suspect that I could keep my life very personal, and in some respects I do, but I have never minded using my life in my work, and my private life is still private. I think perhaps where I draw the line is in choosing to be very cautious about who I share my life with - I have a very small circle of friends who I trust implicitly and absolutely, and beyond that everyone else is a good acquaintance.
Q. How disciplined are you as a writer? Do you shut the computer down after a certain time of the evening - do the kids let you "write in peace?" or do you steal away times throughout your busy day to dive into your next book project?
A. I have to be enormously disciplined these days or my books would never get written - there are always numerous distractions: gardens to be weeded, bills to be paid, websites to be surfed. I now leave the house and go to the local library to write - I like the routine of going to the same place every day and hiding away, yet being 'in the world'. Writing can be so solitary, but to write about the real world you need to live in it, and be amongst people as much as possible.
Q. Out of all the books you have written, which has been your favorite and why?
A. It's always the last one I've written, so right now I would have to say Second Chance. It's also one of the most personal for me - I wrote it initially after I lost a friend in the Tsunami, and then as my marriage was unravelling, and the very process of writing enabled me to sort through my own feelings about my life and my marriage, so it was enormously cathartic.
Q. Have you ever worked on more than one book project in a year? How do you decide your next project or do you work with your editors on the concept first and then deliver a finished product?
A. It would be so easy for me to have more than one book at a time, but I honestly think I would end up with nothing. I write one at a time, and although the inspiration for the next usually comes towards the end of writing, I never start until I'm actually finished.
Q. Tell us about how you first broke into the publishing world - how were you able to find an agent and land a book deal and what is your advice for first time authors trying to break into the business?
A. I would say persistence and resilience. The first agent I wrote to wrote back saying my work was 'frankly unpublishable.' Nine bestsellers later I have to say I'm not sure she was right. I was very lucky. I wrote the right book at the right time, and feel enormously blessed to have had continued success, but the best advice I could give would be to write the book you want to write, not the book you think will sell, and don't let one person's opinion put you off.
Q. What is your advice to women who are currently stuck in one job but have a burning desire to do something else? How do you take that leap of faith without knowing if rejection awaits you on the other side of the exit door?
A. It is so very hard to advise others. I have always been frighteningly impulsive - I tend to leap long before I look, and have always had the ability to trust that it will all turn out okay. If I had to give advice I would say if it truly is a passion, you have to follow it, even if it means doing the due diligence and starting it slowly while you're still supporting yourself elsewhere. My experience with people who have followed their heart is that it always takes them in the right direction.
Q. Who are some of your favorite authors and aside from your own books of course, what are your suggestions for great summer reads?
A. I'm reading The Whole World Over by Julia Glass which I'm halfway through and LOVING. Also reading Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin, although it's taken a backseat to the Julia Glass. If you haven't read The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, do. (seems to be a glass theme here...) Not only is it a stunning, funny, poignant book, I met her very briefly at an event recently, and think she is just the most beautiful person, both inside and out.
Q. Do you think your own children may one day follow in your footsteps? If so, what would be your advice to them?
A. Oh, I think probably not, although my five year old daughter does spend an inordinate amount of time 'writing' books. If they did become writers I'd be thrilled, and I would advise them to keep their computers safely locked away somewhere and not, like their mother, in the bedroom where children can pour pink lemonade all over it and cover it in black sharpie.
Q. Do you have any upcoming book projects in the works? If so, can you give us a sneak peek?
A. I have a yearning to write a mystery which I think will be my next project. Still very much my voice, but more of a storyline, and set again, I think, in my fictitious town of Highfield, CT. I may even revisit a couple of characters from previous books - I think Alice and Harry may pop up in this one.