Tell me what inspired you to write about your latest book?
The weirdest of things can spark off the idea for a story. V for Violet all began with fish and chips. Or to be more precise, with me sitting at my lap top drinking tea and eating popcorn while accidentally reading about how fish and chips were one of the few food stuffs that were exempt from rationing during WW2. Then my tea went cold as I spent the next few hours madly researching V For Violet blog tour bannerthe history of fish and chip shops and particularly how this classic British supper helped to keep up morale during the war. One thing led to another and before long I was reading about the vast numbers of deserters during WW2, a letter from one gay soldier to another, the numbers of young men who were declared ‘missing presumed dead’, and suddenly Violet was in my head. Not as somebody who directly experienced the war, but as somebody who was born at the exact moment victory in Europe was declared. I knew then that this story was going to be set in the early sixties and that my teenage protagonist would have to struggle with growing up amid the after effects of the war along with the whole of society. And of course she had to live in a fish and chip shop!

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say Waterstones website?
I wish I could say that I don’t EVER read reviews of my books. But that would be a big fat lie. Because of course I read them. Probably every single one if the truth be told. When the reviews are good (which hooray! They mostly are) it’s the best feeling in the world. But when a bad one crops up, it can be the worst feeling in the world. Like a stab in the heart. It feels as though all those months of hard work, the sweat and tears, the soul searching, the sleepless nights were all for nothing. Somebody out there HATES you and HATES your book. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a little bit. But it does suck. For a moment. But then I remind myself that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you can’t please everyone all of the time and that even the greatest of bestselling writers get bad reviews sometimes. And actually, if a valid criticism has been made, I would most definitely take it on board and try to learn from it. And then of course, I’d have to eat a whole packet of Jaffa cakes just to make myself feel better!

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?
I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t write about. I certainly don’t shy away from dark subjects. The darker the better as far as I’m concerned. I’m fascinated by the power and depth of human nature, the good the bad and the ugly. I would never restrict myself as a writer, so no subject is off limits.

How hard do you find it to keep within an age category?
My books have always been categorised as upper end YA (at least 14 years upwards). But I have never consciously written for a particular age group. For me, the writing process is all about character, the journey and the setting and making my writing as vivid and alive as possible without worrying about the age of the book’s potential readers. I trust the reader to make their own choices.

What did you do before becoming a writer?
I’ve always written. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. But I’ve always done other stuff too. I trained as a fashion designer and designed for lots of high street names such as Top Shop and Miss Selfridge. I worked as a production controller for a magazine publishing company, I designed knitwear for children, ran an all-female painting and decorating company, owned a vintage tearoom and I now sell deliciously scrumptious crumpets and tea from a converted horsebox called Betsy which I take to markets, fairs and festivals.

Which author inspires you?
I absolutely love Helen Dunmore and Julie Myerson. Their writing captivates me and draws me in from their very first words. Julie Myerson’s latest book, The Stopped Heart, was absolutely stunning. But not for the faint-hearted!

And Meg Rosoff of course. I strive for her originality and insight.

And Stephanie Kuehn for treading the dark path.

Which genres do you read yourself?
Psychological thrillers, contemporary family dramas (Anne Enright – The Gathering), historical fiction. In fact, probably the only genre that doesn’t grab me (at the moment) is light-hearted romance!

What is your biggest motivator?
Striving to become a better writer is the only reason that I sit down in front of my lap top every day.

What will always distract you?
A dirty kitchen floor. I can’t concentrate on anything if there are muddy footprints and dog hairs all over the place. I am a demon with a bucket and mop!

How much say do you have in your book covers?
My publishers (Hot Key Books) are always very generous in sharing the creative process of book cover design with me. I am always amazed at the ideas their in-house designers come up with and am lucky that I’ve loved every cover design they have created.

As a child were you a great reader?
I read loads as a child. I was a typical bookworm. I was never happier than being curled up on the sofa with the latest Famous Five (that shows my age!) and a big bar of chocolate. I went to the library every Saturday and borrowed six books which I would devour during the week. And if all else failed, I would raid my mum’s collection of books. I remember being totally terrified and enthralled by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Which book shop is your favourite?
I would have to say the little book shop on Fore Street in St Ives. It’s small but perfectly formed and there’s always a book on their shelves that I’ve wanted to read for ages but never got around to. What could be better than a new book, an ice cream and a beach to relax on?

What can you not resist buying?
Beautiful notebooks to write in, vintage tins, crocheted blankets and anything written by Helen Dunmore.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?
I don’t really have any rituals because I don’t really have set writing days. I write whenever and wherever I can. Even in the bath when I really can’t let go of an idea!

How many books in your own to be read pile?
I’ve lost count. They’re piled up on my bedside table, on the floor next to my bed and under my bed.

What is your current read?
The Green Road by Anne Enright and Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy. Not that I’ve got a thing about Annes or anything… 

V for Violet by Alison Rattle is out now, published by Hot Key Books.


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