Bella Summer Takes a Chance is out now and you can see my review here
Author Michele Gorman has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions
When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
For me it started out as a practical decision, if not a very realistic one. I was working full-time in London and wondered what I could do to earn a living without having to change out of my pyjamas. Since flannel-clad ladies of the night weren’t likely to be popular, I decided I’d become a writer. Armed with a love of reading but no practical knowledge of writing, it took a while for my ability to catch up with my ambition. Ten years later, my debut, Single in the City, was published by Penguin.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
It was a long and winding one! I wrote my first book on weekends, and only after finishing did I realise I’d written an entire novel with no storyline, making it unpublishable. It was an expensive lesson learned, as it had taken a year to write, so I outlined my next book (Little Sacrifices, which I eventually self-published under the pen name Jamie Scott). That one got me a NYC agent, but not a publishing contract. My agent didn’t like my third book, and by that time I didn’t much like my NYC agent, so I fired her. The book that would become my debut was born on a holiday to Italy as I was ranting to my then-boyfriend about the first chick lit book I’d ever read. It was a New York Times best-seller. It was terrible. I thought I could do better and outlined Single in the City over a bottle of chianti. It took over a year to write and edit, but my wonderful London-based agent, Caroline Hardman, negotiated the UK/Commonwealth rights sale to Penguin and it was published in June 2010.
What was your inspiration for Bella Summer Takes a Chance?
It began with the idea of what’s “enough” for a woman (complete with giant quotation finger movements). Where is that line? As I started to play with Bella’s situation, I found myself feeling very disgruntled on her behalf, in all spheres of her life. Why should a life in which nothing is wrong be a life that’s right? Just because society, or your friends or family or boyfriend say so? No way. I wanted Bella to grab the golden ring with both hands. She may fail, fall off the horse and end up in a heap on the ground with her underpants showing, but she’s going to try.
The fragility of identity also interested me. Having taken so much time and effort to get my first publishing deal, I knew how hard it was to continue on a creative path when anyone else in her right mind would have given up. As Bella says: When do you stop becoming a musician-with-a-day-job and start being an accountant-who-is-musical? I think that having that experience helped me write her journey realistically.
Who was your favourite character to write from the book?
Ah, this is a question I get asked a lot. If pressed, I’d have to say it’s probably Frederick. He popped into my head fully formed, and really wrote himself. That’s not why I love him, but it was nice to have such an easy character! Usually I have to wrestle them to get them to do what I want, since they tend to go off in unexpected directions.
If Bella Summer Takes a Chance was made into a movie, who would be your dream cast?
I’m terrible at remembering actors’ names, so I’ll ask for some help from your blog fans … Who would you cast? Bella is 38, Canadian/American, with red hair. She’s feisty and independent, intelligent and funny. Frederick is also in his late 30s, very well groomed, sharp and witty. Mattias is Swedish (but more Saab than Volvo Turbo), tall with dark hair and green eyes. Kat is in her mid 30s, Austrian, petite, with a dark bob, who always wears bright red lipstick. Clare is 26, English, cuddly and very approachable. Faith is 36, English, willowy, blonde and beautiful. And Marjorie is 91, patrician and full of life.
What has been your greatest experience of being a published writer?
My launch party. I was surrounded by all of my friends, my agent and all the lovely people at Penguin who’d got my debut to publication, and my Mom flew over from the US. It was a bit like being a bride at a wedding – I never got to finish a glass of wine and spent the whole night grinning and being kissed by people I adore.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write, and write, and then rewrite until the story on the page is as good as the story in your head. Being a writer is like any other profession. It takes a lot of time and effort to practice your craft until it’s good.
If it’s important to you to find a traditional publisher, and agent, then keep at it. That means a lot of query letters and submissions. Try not to get disheartened (that’s not easy!), because there’s a lot of luck and timing in finding someone to represent your work (and your writing has to be good, of course). And if you choose to self-publish, remember that doing so requires exactly the same level of quality control that traditional publishing has. Hire a cover designer and most importantly, professional editors (copy editor and content editor). You wouldn’t expect to buy a car or a pair of shoes that hadn’t been professionally designed and finished, that hadn’t gone through rigorous quality control. Readers shouldn’t have to pay for books that lack those things either.
What was the first book you ever bought yourself?
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
What was the last book you read?
The Rose Hotel by Rahimeh Andalibian, which is a true story that follows a family from 1979 Iran to the present. The first half was really good, but I lost interest a bit in the second half. I think this was because I was more interested in the early years in Iran than the later ones in the US, rather than any lack of storytelling on the author’s part.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just started my next book, The Reinvention of Lucy Winters. Everybody loves 26-year-old Lucy. She’s the perfect friend, sister, daughter, girlfriend and colleague, always willing to bend over backwards for others. Perfectly pliable Lucy. Though she doesn't like to think of herself as a doormat, she has felt a lot of footprints over the years. So when she tries hypnosis to finally kick her smoking habit, she decides to make a few other changes while she’s there. To her surprise, the hypnosis works - perhaps a little too well. Lucy awakens a new woman, no longer a pushover. Unfortunately she's stuck in her old life, and it's one that no longer fits. Her newfound spirit will put her on a collision course with everyone she knows, and challenge the very identity that she’s so carefully built.
Set in the cutthroat world of investment banking, where nice girls finish last, it’s a warm and witty Cinderella tale of self-discovery, only there's no fairy godmother or handsome prince to come to the rescue. It will be up to Lucy to make her own happily ever after.
Thanks so much Jenni, for having me on Mama J Hearts! xoxo
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Thank you, Michele, for taking the time to answer my questions.