Tell me what inspired you to write The Boy Made of Snow?

I was always going to write a novel because that had been my dream since I was a little girl. And when I was an adult I kept telling myself, “One day, when I have time…” Then I realised: No one ever has time to write a novel! You have to make the time or it won’t happen. So I decided that “one day” had arrived and that I was going to start taking writing seriously.
I knew that the heart of my story would involve a little boy telling his mother a terrible lie that would lead to tragedy and murder. And I knew that his lie would be prompted by his obsession with fairy tales. But the story that most inspired me, and wound itself around my characters, was The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

I was very lucky. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I signed with my top-choice dream agent (Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown) just a week or so after sending out my first batch of submissions. She suggested some edits, so I worked on those for a month or so, and then she did all the hard work submitting my manuscript to publishers! Until then, I’d always thought that once a writer has an agent, a publishing deal must automatically follow. But now I know that isn’t necessarily the case, so I feel very grateful that my agent worked out a deal with my publisher about a month after sending out her pitches.

How many publishers turned you down?

I have no idea! I know there were several though! But a few were interested, and my agent and I chatted with editors at three different publishing houses. But in the end, you just need one yes. And I’ve been thanking my lucky stars ever since that W&N (part of Orion/Hachette) wanted to publish me. I couldn’t believe it.

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say Waterstones website?

I’ve read interviews with lots of authors who say it’s best to avoid reviews. The theory is they’ll either make you big-headed or completely crush you; neither of which is conducive to writing the next book. But, so far, I have to admit that I do check out my online reviews. I think they are useful as a learning tool if readers tend to have a consensus on what’s working or what isn’t. And I feel really grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my book, think about it, and then write about it. I think that’s a gift to any writer, really!

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

Never say “never”, I suppose. Lots of people have commented how dark my novel is. But I personally don’t tend to read stories that feature child abuse, sexual abuse, or serial killers who enjoy mutilating and torturing women. So it’s hard to imagine that I’d write a novel involving any of those subjects.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I was always a writer; I became a newspaper reporter because that meant I got paid to write stories all day. It’s a great job and now I combine part-time work as a freelance journalist with writing my second novel.

Which author inspires you?

All of them! Anyone who writes novels for a living; what an achievement. And all the ones who don’t make their living from it, but do it anyway just for the love of it; that’s even more amazing, really. It’s hard to pick a favourite author, and my list changes all the time, but Jane Harris and Kazuo Ishiguro are pretty much always up there somewhere.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I love literary fiction best, but I’m a massive fan of psychological thrillers too. I also enjoy the classics, historical fiction, and the odd bit of speculative fiction. Every year, I promise myself I’ll start exploring full-blown sci-fi, but it hasn’t happened yet. I tend not to read romances or police procedurals.

What is your biggest motivator?

My biggest motivator until now has been the fear of never giving writing fiction a shot. I’d always promised myself I’d write a novel one day, and I used to dream about being published, and finally that motivated me to actually give it a go. Now my biggest motivator is being determined to make the most of this wonderful opportunity, and to try to make a proper go of being a novelist. That’s motivating me to write my second novel. I want to see if I can do it again.

What will always distract you?

My dog Bambi sat with me for pretty much every word I wrote. He liked to perch on the back of the sofa and fall asleep behind my head while I typed away on my laptop – and he was a snorer! But I never minded that. What did used to distract me was when he woke up and wanted to sit on my lap – meaning I’d have to move the laptop to cuddle him – or he’d make me get up to let him out into the garden. He was quite old and sadly died, just a couple of months before the book was published. So now, I have no distractions. But I miss him terribly, and his absence feels like a distraction itself. Occasionally, I can get distracted online, by Twitter or something, but once I’m writing properly I usually lose myself in that.

How much say do you have in your book covers?

Very little so far – which is just as well, because I am not artistic at all! My publishers sent me a PDF and asked for my thoughts – but my thoughts were that I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the design!

As a child were you a great reader?

Yes! I’ve always been a bookworm. Like most writers, I’m a reader first and foremost.

Which book shop is your favourite?

In terms of indies, then one of my favourites is my nearest bookshop All You Read is Love, which is a really quirky store in Leytonstone, east London, with an eclectic mix of books and lovely homemade cakes too. In central London, I also love the massive Foyles in Charing Cross Road, and regularly meet a group of writer friends at the bar on the top floor of Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus – although it’s dangerous because if I don’t buy a book on the way up there, then I often drunk-buy on the way down.

What can you not resist buying?

I know loads of writers have a stationery fetish – but not me! I never buy nice stuff. I just scrawl my notes on any old pad I happen to have lying around, or the printer paper if I can’t find anything else. My downfall is books. I can’t resist buying books.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

I don’t have any rituals, but I certainly have a preferred way of working. It’s a bit weird, but before I write, I always make a huge mug of tea (the mug is so large it’s almost a pint glass) and a glass of diet coke with lots of ice cubes. I drink both the hot drink and cold drink as I write.

How many books in your own to be read pile?

Oh no. Now I have to count them. Hang on… Friends know I love reading and have periodic clear-outs where they give me all their old books. I currently have a pile of 24 novels waiting to be read. They are in a stack next to the book shelves in my lounge. A couple of the novels don’t look as though they’ll take my fancy though, so I might not read all of those. But there’s also a pile of 8 books on my bedside table that are definite must-reads. Something I’ve just discovered about the publishing industry is that you are often given free books. This has been such a joy to me! But it doesn’t help me get on top of my to-be-read piles.

What is your current read?

I’ve just started reading Sugar Money by Jane Harris. I think she’s amazing at voice and creates such memorable characters. I loved The Observations and Gillespie and I, so I have high hopes that I’ll enjoy this one too.

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