Our thanks


As our fifth International Chick Lit Month ends, we’d like to thank all those who took part.

To everyone who contributed posts: Stacey Ballis, Dana Bate, Shirley Benton, Tara Bond, Harriet Bourton, Cathy Bramley, Ellie Campbell, Carla Caruso, Julie Cohen, Jennifer Collin, Victoria Connelly, Bree Darcy, Lisa Dickenson, Miranda Dickinson, Lucy Dillon, Deborah Disney, Meg Donohue, Ella Griffin, Jenny Hale, Sophie Hart, Sophie King, Sophie Kinsella, Chelsey Krause, Erin Lawless, Emily Liebert, Jane Linfoot, Carole Matthews, Cress McLaughlin, Anna McPartlin, Susan Murphy, Samantha Napier, Sophie Ranald, Susie Orman Schnall, Karen Swan, Nic Tatano, Beth Thomas, Stacey Wiedower and Tess Woods.

And of course thanks to everyone in the chick lit community who took the time to visit the site and share their comments. Remember, all year you can check out all the latest chick lit news at the four organising websites – Chicklit Club, I Heart Chick Lit, A Spoonful of Happy Endings and Chick Lit Uncovered.

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Ruth Saberton: Made in Cornwall

Ruth SabertonLong before Ross Poldark decided to do a spot of topless scything or gallop his horse across the clifftops, the rugged scenery of Cornwall made a huge impression on my writing.

Living in Polperro, one of the most photographed fishing villages in the county, I’m never very far away from a view, story or a colourful character to inspire me. Even when I moved away to live in the Caribbean for two years I was unable to forget the harsh beauty of home. Icing sugar beaches and bathwater seas just didn’t create the same creative alchemy as a wild sea never the same from one moment to the next, scoured light with a magical quality all of its own or legends, standing stones and lonely engine houses telling tales of times long past yet somehow only just out of reach.

It’s no coincidence that it was only when I decided to set a novel in Cornwall that my career as a writer really began. I’d met the late Cornish novelist, E V Thompson at a book signing and he gave me the best advice – write about what you know and love. What did I know about? Wanting to be a writer and living in Cornwall!

This was my light bulb moment and a year or so later my first novel, Katy Carter Wants a Hero, was completed. Set in Cornwall, and the not autobiographical at all (!) tale of an English teacher who wanted to be a writer this was the book that Richard and Judy championed and was featured in the national press. Neighbours from the next village over the cliffs, they came across my manuscript in the village shop and the tabloids thought this was a great story.

And that’s part of the magic of Cornwall. It’s a levelling county where A listers and fishermen rub shoulders in the pubs and where locals are far more interested in their own day to day lives than tall tabloid tales. It’s a place as refreshing and grounded and real as the unyielding rocks and pounding waves.

I never consciously intended to continue setting my novels in Cornwall but it just seems to happen that way. While living in the Cayman Islands, writing about the West Country became almost therapy for easing my homesickness. I called this twisting, turning pain ‘the claw’ because it really did feel as though talons were reaching in and clawing at my heartstrings. My latest novel, Runaway Summer, really helped me to imagine that I was back at home and Jake, Summer, Mo and Jules became my friends.

There are so many places and events in Cornwall that have inspired my books that it’s hard to know where to begin…

I taught English at Bodmin College for ten years and every day my drive to work took me through the beautiful Lanhydrock Estate. It was a journey that I never stopped appreciating and stunning at any time of the year. My favourite walk is from the small car park at Respryn, through the ornate gates guarding the property and up the drive to the main house. The driveway climbs steadily through the beautiful parkland, weaves its way alongside huge cross country jumps that make my heart belly flop into my boots, passes by ancient trees and finally arrives at the formal gardens by Lanhydrock House. What better after a walk in the chilly winter air than warming yourself by the fire in the Great Hall, buying some gifts at the Christmas Shop and then having lunch in the restaurant? This beautiful property is the partial inspiration for the Verneys’ Estate in Amber Scott is Starting Over.

I absolutely love the Fowey Regatta Week in August. From the heart stopping Red Arrows tearing across the sky to myriad boats clotting the estuary to magical fireworks on the final Saturday – there is something for everyone. The town teems with life; bands play, gigs race and even the smallest boats can take part in the torchlight procession. The Fowey Regatta was the inspiration for my book Escape for the Summer after I saw four girls having a whale of a time in their little motorboat…
It’s a badly kept secret that the Blue Peter Inn in my home village of Polperro is the inspiration for The Mermaid in “Katy Carter Wants a Hero” and The Ship in “Runaway Summer”. Practically dipping its toes into the harbour, the Blue Peter is lit by fairy lights and candles, warmed by crackling log fires and serves some of the best and heartiest meals you’ll ever come across. Their ploughmans is wonderful and the Sunday roast will leave you wanting a stomp across the cliffs to work it off – if you manage to eat it all of course! The Blue Peter has fond memories for me as I once worked behind the bar and I have had many wonderful times there with my friends, some long gone. With its low beams, relaxed vibe and friendly atmosphere and its one of my favourite places, especially as dogs are made welcome too and always get a biscuit. It also has a ghost – but that’s another story…

A coffee at The Harbour Tea Rooms in Polperro is always a treat. I don’t think there’s a coffee shop with a better view anywhere in the world. I love to sit here with my latte and watch the harbor kaleidoscope by as the water ebbs and flows, boats ride the tide and the seagulls paddle in the shallows. This is the place where Jake and Summer relax in “Runaway Summer”.

The Hurlers on Bodmin Moor fascinate me and there’s certainly an energy here that is ancient and powerful. I’ve never yet counted the same amount of stones twice, which could be down to my dreadful numeracy, but as a writer I like to think that it’s because of something far more magical. Riding my horse through the standing stones on a misty autumnal morning is a very spiritual experience for me. Mo in Runaway Summer feels the same way when she rides her horse there.

I absolutely love Kilminorth Woods in between Looe and Polperro, where ancient trees tangle the pathways and flashes of the sparkling river can be glimpsed through the branches. The woods are magical; full of dappled light and deep pools of green solitude. I often ride my horse here and if you’re on foot and take the lower path you might see a kingfisher or maybe a heron or two. In the summer my partner and I take our kayak up the river and picnic at the pretty hamlet of Watergate. This peaceful woodland is the inspiration for Fernside Woods in Runaway Summer.

Seagull cries are the soundtrack to my writing, as are the waves and the chugging of trawlers in and out of the harbour. Seagulls appear in all my books! Although they drive me crackers when it’s spring and I’m fighting the latest battle in my ongoing Seagull Bin Bag War just the sound of their cries is enough to transport me home, no matter how far away I am.

And lastly but probably most importantly, Polperro itself plays a starring role in my books. The narrow lanes with their evocative names, lichen crusted chimney pots topped with dozing gulls, fishing boats riding the ride and higgledy-piggledy model village houses are the perfect backdrop for intrigue and romance. When I was planning Runaway Summer, the first book in my new Polwenna Bay series I didn’t need to look far for inspiration for the setting.

Add to all of this pinch of imagination, a dash of artistic licence and a sprinkling of characters and my books practically write themselves. I can hardly wait to get stuck into the next Polwenna Bay novel and share the beautiful place I live in with my readers.

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Geraldine Fonteroy: Plots of Gold

Geraldine FonteroyWoo-hoo! – International Chick Lit Month is here, and what better way to celebrate than to delve a little into what my warped little brain thinks chick lit is all about – stonkingly brilliant plots! Not just any old plots will do when it comes to chick lit. What makes the genre so endearing is the fab experiences a reader can enjoy by jumping into the intriguing (and occasionally insane) situations posed by the author.

For example, ever felt like one little lie is harmless in the grand scheme of things? How about a larger lie? Perhaps one involving an esteemed profession that usually involves years of study? Um, maybe not. In my Twinkle Twinkle Little Lie, the protagonist takes things a step further and impersonates a lawyer – with predictably grim and hilarious results.

For me, it’s the implied ‘what if’ in chick lit that keeps my Kindle working overtime, and the element of possibility that keeps us all intrigued.

Would you interview for a job in a world completely alien to you? Devil Wears Prada hits the right (or write!) note with the proposition that a daggy girl with no style can make it big in fashion. Better yet, it was based on the author’s own experiences. Not sure if Nicky Schmidt’s Naked in Knightsbridge was based in reality – although from what I know of her, Nicky isn’t adverse to a Hobnob or twelve. But a tubby, lazy, workshy twenty-something who sells herself online in a marriage of convenience certainly appealed to thousands of punters.

Chicklit plots and truth? Surely not? Lauren Weisberger might have relived her Vogue days, but what about all those other favourites? Are the plots for real? Personally, my books contain an element of reality. My first book, The Revenge Date, is based on a young friend I know. Both stunningly beautiful and studying to be a doctor, every man who meets her seemingly becomes instantly infatuated – including the boyfriends and husbands of her besties. Combine this lucky creature with that rather horrifying U.S. reality TV show Cheaters and you have the plot of The Revenge Date. Well, almost (you’ll have to read it (*she begs*)).

Of course, sometimes, a true plot of gold is about the impossible. Impossible wealth. Impossible beauty. Impossible scenarios. Step right up to my newest creation: Nightmare on Fifth Avenue. Gorgeous wife of billionaire awakes to find dead body in the lounge of Fifth Avenue apartment, and handsome husband gone. As the plot unravels, it becomes clear hubby is about as posh as a caravan by a motorway, and she struggles to hide the dire situation from snobby society friends.

If that’s all a bit much for you, then perhaps a nice dose of something by Hilary Mantel would suit, but for those who love the unexpected in love and life, and crave a buff knight in shining Armani, I can only suggest you keep your Kindles tuned to twists and turns of the amazingly creative plots that define chick lit.

Chin-chin, fellow chick-litters,

Geraldine. X

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Geraldine Fonteroy is a stay-at-home London mum who lives perilously close to the M25 with her family. She enjoys reading and writing chicklit, pubbing, EastEnders and the occasional sneaky peek at BBC’s Don’t Tell the Bride. Her latest novel, Nightmare on Fifth Avenue, is due out later this year.

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Fictional Friends

Book Characters Who Are Actually My BFFs and Just Don’t Know It
by Meg Donohue


Since I enjoy reading a wide range of fiction, my bookshelves overflow with the stories of all sorts of characters. There are the characters who have made me laugh but would probably annoy me to pieces if I met them in person, the ones who are so dark and twisted that I could not stop reading their stories but would certainly run the other way if I caught a glimpse of them in real life … and then, every once in a while, I read the story of a heroine who worms her way so deeply into my heart that it seems like a profound loss to know we will never be able to meet over a martini.

Here are five of the ladies I’d most like to befriend in real life:

1. Madeline Mackenzie from Liane Moriarty’s BIG LITTLE LIES. Madeline is an awesome combination of being very social while not being a “Social Sheep” – she has a sharp, independent mind and forms her own opinions about the people who surround her. Her surface might be shiny and pretty, but there’s depth and heart to spare below. Plus, she’s hilarious.

2. Louisa Clark from ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. What’s not to love about Lou? She funny and quirky and cares deeply about her family and friends. I’m excited to hang out with Lou again in Moyes’s upcoming sequel, AFTER YOU.

3. Chicky Starr from Maeve Binchy’s A WEEK IN WINTER. I adore Chicky’s no-nonsense competence and straightforward, hard-earned wisdom. She’s openhearted and warm, a down-to-earth fairy godmother for troubled souls. Everyone could use a Chicky in her life.

4. Jane Rosenal from Melissa Bank’s THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING. Jane is extremely well-read and intelligent but doesn’t pretend to have all (or any) of the answers. She’s also delightfully sarcastic, a bit eccentric, and a dog lover. If she’d answered my Craigslist roommate post when I was in my twenties and living in New York, we could have gotten into some serious fun together.


5. Forgive me, but I’m afraid I must round out this list with a heroine of my own making here: Maggie Brennan from my latest novel, DOG CRAZY. Maggie is an endearingly odd duck. She’s funny, empathetic, a wonderful listener, a great friend to dogs and people alike, and a lover of wine and popcorn. My kind of woman!

Meg Donohue is the author of Dog Crazy, All the Summer Girls, and How to Eat a Cupcake. She has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three young daughters, and dog.


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Jane Linfoot’s Top Tips For Aspiring Writers

My Top Five Tips for Writing and Getting Published
by Jane Linfoot


1. My first tip is, you have to WRITE. This may sound obvious, but with writing it’s very easy to prevaricate, and talk about it, and think about it, but not actually do any. To be a writer, you have to get those words down. A journal is a good way of getting into the habit of writing every day, and sending chatty emails to friends is also a great way of developing an easy, natural style. Any writing is good practice for when you launch into something bigger.

2. Alongside the writing, it’s very important to READ too, because by reading you can learn a lot about the mechanics of how to write. It’s great to read and let yourself get caught up in the story, but it’s also good to read again, in an analytical way. If you look at structure, use of language, points of view, character creation and speech, how an author builds tension and manipulates a reader’s emotion, you will be more aware of how to handle these things successfully in your own writing. Reading within the genre you write lets you see what’s out there, and spot the trends, but reading other genres is also a fab way of getting ideas and inspiration too.

3. FILMS are a great way to learn about how to structure your novel. Yay! You can sit through an evening of rom coms, and call it work, because you’ll be learning loads about timing, and plot, and character, and dialogue. I find books about screenwriting very helpful, because with film the process of story creation is somehow distilled – stripped back to the bare bones, it’s easier to understand. If you get the basic framework of your novel right, the rest will follow, and film is a good place to begin with this.


4. It’s very important to submit your work to THE RIGHT PUBLISHERS, because every publisher is looking for something slightly different. If you send to somewhere that doesn’t consider your genre or manuscript length, you will be setting yourself up for a rejection you don’t need to have. Do your homework, and take a careful look at the submission guidelines on publishers’ websites. It’s well worth making an aspirational list of publishers and lines you want to target, even before you begin writing your novel.

5. Get out there, and GO TO WRITERS’ CONFERENCES AND EVENTS. It’s great to meet other writers, especially in the chick lit/romance world, where established authors give aspiring writers a very warm welcome, and lots of support. Many events run by the UK Romantic Novelists Association are open to non published authors as well as members. Writers’ conferences will often give you an opportunity to meet agents and publishers face to face, on a one to one basis too. Pitching your ideas, and chatting to people from the industry might be scary, but it can definitely be a great way to leap frog the slush pile, and might lead to a fast-forward route to publication.

Jane Linfoot writes fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines and a bit of an edge. Her books include How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates and High Heels & Bicycle Wheels. The Vintage Cinema Club – out this month – is about three friends, in love with all things vintage, who run their dream business from the faded grandeur of a rescued cinema.


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Romantic Comedy Reader Survey: What you thought

by Jennifer Collin

First up, wow. Thanks to everyone who tweeted, blogged, shared and whatever else you do on social media to spread the word about the inaugural Romantic Comedy Reader Survey. By the end of the survey period we had more than 500 responses!

Now, I know many authors and bloggers are keen to see the results, but I’m guessing just as many readers are interested too. I know I’ve been wondering how similar or different my tastes are to others.

Let’s start by getting a feel for who we captured in the survey. Well, the vast majority of readers were US-based.


And most of them were in the 26-35 age bracket.


Almost seventy-nine per cent of respondents prefer ebooks, with another 14 per cent reading both ebooks and traditional print books. Only seven per cent of readers prefer traditional print books.


We’re pretty savvy shoppers too. A whopping 75 per cent of the respondents say they spend only 99c on their ebooks.


We’re happy to try new authors (98% of respondents said they were likely or very likely to try!), and almost 87 per cent of respondents read a balanced mix of both traditional and self-published authors.

Almost 86 per cent of respondents noted reviews are one of the things that draws them to new books, and 95 per cent of respondents said they leave reviews, mostly on Goodreads (77%).



A ‘second chance at love’ is by far our favourite type of story – either ‘reunited lovers’ (83.1%) or falling in love again ‘after heartbreak’ (83.5%). Almost 19 per cent of readers like ‘friends to lovers’ stories and almost 16 per cent like confident, sassy heroines. Fourteen per cent of respondents said they like small town romances.

Pretty interesting stuff, hey? Here’s a link to the full survey report if you’d like to know more.

Congratulations to Alli Marsh, who was the winner of the $50 Amazon Gift Card.

Jennifer Collin writes quirky, and sometimes gritty, love stories about ordinary people dealing with what life throws at them. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, two noisy children and a cantankerous cat.

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Sue Watson on writing chick-lit (and a lemon cake recipe from the lovely Dan!)

Love Lies and Lemon Cake ICLMA chick-lit book is, to those who aren’t in the know, a fluffy meringue read about a girl falling in love with a boy then after a few minor obstacles they both collapse into a pink cloud of happy ever after. But for those of us who read and write chick-lit, we know it’s about so much more…it’s about the heartbreaking, hilarious and sometimes tragic stuff we all deal with in our lives.

I’m proud to write chick lit and though my own novels always have humour at their heart. My writing involves broken marriages, domestic abuse, alcoholism, homophobia and poverty…with the odd pink cloud here and there. If someone, somewhere can read about an experience and relate to it and not feel so alone ・then that’s good enough for me, because it’s one of the main reasons I write.

I also write so I have an excuse to discuss/bake/taste cake – and below is the well-tested recipe from Dan, the gorgeous Aussie hero from my novel Love, Lies and Lemon Cake! If you have read the book you will know how delicious and bittersweet his lemon cupcakes are ・just like him really!

Lemon cake

Dan’s Recipe for Love and Lemon Cake
(Makes about 20 cupcakes)

175g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
125g   soft margarine/butter
2 large free-range eggs
Grated rind of 2 large lemons
65ml floz milk

So first, prepare your paper cases lovingly in a cupcake tin
1. Preheat Oven 180 degrees C
2. Place all the ingredients into a bowl – add a large spoonful of love – and whisk until fluffy – yeah it’s that simple.
3. Spoon cake mixture into the prepared cases and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes (this varies depending on your oven – and the heat of your kitchen. My kitchen is always hot!)
4. Take them out, lie on a rack to cool (not you – the cakes) and breathe in that deep, citrusy warmth and imagine you’re sitting in Sydney Harbour with a cold beer before starting on that frosting.
5. Now this bit is up to you – if you want to dig out a little of that golden, lemony sponge and squeeze in some sweet-tart lemon curd, that’s fine with me… you go girl.

Bittersweet Love and Lemon Frosting
250g Icing Sugar (don’t forget to sieve)
80g Butter (many recipes say unsalted, but I think the salt adds to the flavour so stick with salted and take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before so it’s nice and soft)
3 tablespoons of grated lemon zest
If you like, you can add a couple of drops of lemon food colouring to give it that Aussie sunshine oomph.
25ml of whole milk

Beat together the icing sugar, the butter and that lemon zest with a drop of food colouring. Then, once it’s all mixed add the milk, pouring slowly while still beating – and continue to whisk for at least five minutes, the longer you whisk, the lighter and fluffier your frosting will be (think about those foamy white waves on Bondi).

When the cakes are cooled just top with a palette knife any way you choose – and add some zest on top if you like.

Now… enough about me and my cake… what about you? Tell me all your dreams! #lemoncakelivinglist

Love Dan x

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Q&A with Heather Hill

 Heather Hill ICLMWe put some questions to Heather Hill, author of The New Mrs D, to find out her writing habits, publication journey, and the inspiration behind her novels…

What inspires you to write?

I tend to carry a notebook around with me for those moments when ‘lightening strikes’. But I should warn anyone that knows me well, I listen to conversations and find people from all walks of life fascinating. It is interesting to watch how very different personalities interact with each other and it almost always informs my writing. The comedy is harder because I have to be in a good mood to write it well, and as a mum of five with everyday worries and clashing priorities, I can have difficulty finding my funny bone under all the ironing. When that happens, I steal some time out to be alone, put on my headphones and listen to my favourite, most upbeat music and hey presto! My mood is lifted and the funny stuff comes back. Watching and reading comedies help too. I need to be smiling to write comedy and I’m not often doing that when balancing the family budget or changing my grandson’s stinky nappies!

Which of your novels did you enjoy writing most, and why?

I have only completed one, ‘The New Mrs D’ but I confess that my work in progress is providing more enjoyment for me than that one. I think it’s because it’s not my first and I feel a little bit more confident in my writing. Last time, I spent a lot of days stuck because I was trying too hard to make my first draft perfect. It stalled me and my creativity was stifled. But I now know that nobody’s first draft is perfect, the magic happens in the edits.

Describe your journey from first draft to publication.

Boy, it’s been a journey indeed. I was very lucky in that it took only six weeks for me to find an agent, but then within a few months my novel was rejected by no less than thirteen major publishing houses. It was a tough time because I really didn’t know what to do next, especially as many editors were of the opinion that its controversial subject matter, porn addiction in relationships, deemed it unmarketable. I then self-published and the ebook was downloaded over 32,000 times and received mostly glowing reviews which was when a small press publisher, Fledgling Press, stepped in and acquired the rights.

Where do you get the inspiration for your characters?

It’s strange but when I begin writing a new character they don’t purposely evolve from real or fictional people I am familiar with. I don’t watch much regular TV but I love stories and so I do watch rather a lot of films and some of the characters have ended up being from there. But, usually I find when I start writing a new character they turn into someone I know from a film or real life after I’ve started writing them. Their personalities just seem to develop by themselves and suddenly, I become reminded of someone.

When did you first start reading and writing chick-lit?

When I began writing I wasn’t thinking of anything for the chick lit genre, I was writing a comedy. I wasn’t really familiar with chick lit except for the movies I’d seen adapted from books and hadn’t read any! When it became apparent this was the genre my work fell in to it was then I began to dip my nose in to many of the books. So, you can say I have only been a reader of the genre for about two years.

Who are your three favourite chick-lit characters?

I loved Holly from PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern, Laney Cochrane from Moment of Truth by Shari Low and Kate Reddy from I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson – all busy, strong minded women who came back from adversity to realise their potential and their stories didn’t necessarily revolve around getting their man at the end.

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When Worlds Collide

by Elle Field

Elle Field author photoSometimes I don’t see the same location as the people I am with. Take Beech Street, the road leading from Barbican Underground Station to the Barbican Centre in London: To most it’s just a slightly grotty tunnel, but to me it’s where Arielle meets Piers for the first time in Kept, and the spot where Arielle gets mistaken for interactive art whilst they wait for an ambulance to show up. (Sometimes I feel I should sneak over there when it’s quiet and chalk ‘Arielle loves Piers, forever’ on the wall but, of course, in my head that’s already there!)

Or, take Brockenhurst train station in the New Forest – there’s actually a steak restaurant opposite it, but to me it’s The Cobbler, a pub with bright yellow walls and a flowery decor that Arielle and Ob adopt as their local pub after the decline of The Guinea Inn.

But, it’s not just me who sees this secret side to locations. You see, it might sometimes be a logistical nightmare cross-referencing my books, but it’s worth it to have all my characters inhabit the same fictional chick lit world. No matter which chick lit book you read of mine, the New News publishing family, for example, will always be based in the Gherkin, whilst Tabitha’s cafe, Tabi’s, will always be located on the King’s Road.

To help me keep everyone’s story arcs straight, I have a huge timeline to refer to, but that doesn’t stop me from sometimes messing up.  I had Geli popping up in Lost in London when she was actually in South Africa at that point in time in Geli Voyante’s Hot or Not, so I had to scribble her guest appearance out. If it contradicts an event that has already happened in another of my books then the event has to go. It may be a fictional world that my characters inhabit, but it has to remain a possible world!

Lost book cover Elle FieldDo you enjoy seeing characters you’ve read about before make a guest appearance in an author’s latest book?

Elle Field lives in London with her boyfriend and their cat. She enjoys exploring new places, watching musicals on the West End, and eating her way around London’s culinary delights. Lost, the second book in the Arielle Lockley series is out now: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Arielle-Lockley-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00U2X7E4A If you’ve not yet read Kept, the first book in the series, buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kept-ebook/dp/B00CHCOO7E The final book, Found, will be out later this year.

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The Cast Arrangement

by Ella Griffin

Ella Griffin

One of my Facebook friends has no idea about this but when I was planning The Flower Arrangement, I kept a photograph of one of his ex-girlfriends on my desktop.

She was at least five years older than he was and I liked that she didn’t bother to hide it. There were threads of silver in her long dark hair and lines around her deep-set brown eyes. She looked sad, even when she smiled.

They broke up, he moved on. But I didn’t.

She was the inspiration for Lara, the florist at the heart of my new novel. I changed her name and I invented a whole new history for her. But I couldn’t have done any of it without her face.

Once I have a face, I can start to build up a backstory. I can open a blank document at my desk and set a timer and ask my characters to tell me a secret. And it’s amazing what comes out.

The nightmares that Lara had after her mother died. The money that Mia used to steal from her mother’s handbag. The photograph of Harrison Ford that Katy tore out of a magazine because she wished that he was her father.


None of these details actually appear in The Flower Arrangement. But knowing a character inside out helps me to figure out what will hurt them and heal them when I plan out their stories. I do that in detail too, so that when I start to write, nothing that any of them do will surprise me. Until it does.

Until some of the customers who are supposed to walk into Lara’s flower shop don’t show up and instead, I meet people I’ve never even imagined.

A single mother who has been lying to her seven-year-old son about his dad. A woman who wants to rob the shop. An elderly man whose wife has just been killed in accident.

Until Ted, Lara’s father, floating in and out of a morphine haze in his hospital room wakes up to find a beautiful stranger in a red coat watching him.

Or Phil, Lara’s brother, a man I have earmarked for her assistant, delivers a package to a wedding magazine and sees Katy.

Or Katy’s dog, Pat, an ancient greyhound who is meant to die after eating a stash of her ex-boyfriend’s hash refuses to play ball and trots on into the next chapter of her story, leaving plot havoc and ditched scenes and in his wake.

And I have to turn my back on my big fat files of backstory and plot and trot after him and trust that it will all work out for the best. And the lovely thing is, it almost always does.

Ella Griffin is the author of Postcards From the Heart and The Heart Whisperer and an advertising copywriter and travel writer. She lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, with her husband. Her latest novel, The Flower Arrangement, is out this month.


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