Hello Ali! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your first novel, Miracle on Regent Street. Can you tell us what it is about?
A: Thank you so much! I still can’t believe it’s actually happening and that people might (hopefully) buy it! Miracle on Regent Street is a story about a sweet, unassuming stockroom girl called Evie Taylor who works in the basement of Hardy's, a faded, forgotten old department store that has seen better days. For the past two years she's lived an invisible life in London, sorting endless boxes of archaic stock by day and looking after her sister’s two young children at night. Her neighbours think she's the hired help, her self-obsessed shop floor colleagues mistake her for her stockroom predecessor and even her manager doesn't know her actual name. But despite all this she loves working at the store. So when she overhears that Hardy's is at risk of being sold unless it seriously increases its profits she hatches a secret plan to save it. Evie and Hardy's are both looking for a Christmas miracle to turn their fortunes around. The question is will they find it?
I definitely look forward to reading it! Is Regent Street a place where readers can frequently spot you? I used to work nearby and it has definitely an aura of past grandeur that other shopping streets seem to have lost.
A: I utterly agree! I adore the faded splendour of Regent Street. It’s home to my favourite shops like the utterly divine Liberty and (now sadly no more) Dickens and Jones. It’s definitely the place I know best in London. In fact, most of my working years have been spent around there. I used to waitress in a steak restaurant just off Regent Street, my first magazine job was just a quick hop, step and jump away (when I was wearing flats. Which to be honest, wasn’t often) and I spent nearly two years at Glamour magazine which was right round the corner on Old Bond Street (another favourite street and which also features in the book). I’ve spent too many lunch breaks to mention ambling up and down, gazing at the beautiful buildings, and peering in the hallowed windows of Hamleys, particularly at Christmas. Plus it’s always been the street I buy first in Monopoly!
Readers will be able to close their eyes and step into Hardy’s, the department store created by your pen, feeling like they’re really there. Would you say that it is as much a main character as Evie is?
A: Absolutely! I actually see Hardy’s as a reflection of Evie herself. And I love the fact that no male love interest features on the cover, because truthfully, I see Evie’s love affair with Hardy’s as the most important one of all (although never fear - there are a couple of dashing leading male characters too). I really hope the readers will care as much about Hardy’s journey as Evie’s.
You have written for publications such as Red, Cosmopolitan and Company and were a deputy features editor at Glamour. Do you think you will you now dedicate your time to writing fiction only?
A: I really hope I’ll be able to juggle both as magazines will always have a special place in my heart. But writing books is a childhood dream fulfilled and I’m currently dedicating most of my time to writing my second book, The First Last Kiss (which will be published early in 2012) as well as looking after my two children who are 2 and 6 months. But once the first draft is finished I’ll definitely be picking up my journalist pen again!
Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?
A: I love twitter and Facebook and I think it’s brilliant that authors can communicate with readers every day. I literally can’t wait to hear from people who’ve read (and hopefully liked!) my book. But equally I’m the queen of Write one sentence, look at ASOS, write another sentence, go on twitter. If I actually finish a chapter I figure I’m pretty much due an hour long Net a Porter shopping spree (if my husband is reading this - not really! I’ve never even seen that website!) So, I think my only hope of actually getting any writing done is to do what I do with my two year old son’s TV viewing which is to only allow it to go on twice a day, for an hour maximum. Or put myself on the naughty step if I look at it too much…
What is your one fundamental piece of advice for aspiring writers?
A: Find your own voice. Don’t try and be anything you’re not as people will instantly see through it. I have tried (and failed) to get books published before where I was trying to second guess what the industry wanted, or follow a trend. But I’m a total, unashamed hopeless romantic and I’ve finally found a way to harness it!
And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
A: I think you’ve covered everything wonderfully. Thank you so much for having me!
Thank you for your time!
And now, for a chance to win one copy of Miracle on Regent Street, click here and complete the form. The competition is open to UK readers only and will close on the 14th November at 1pm.