It’s Friday again, hooray! My favourite day of the week, not only because it is the start of the weekend, but also because it is time to hang out again with a bookish peep and have Friday Night Drinks. This week I am delighted to be sharing my evening with the lovely novelist, short story writer, blogger, writing tutor, and Vice-Chair, no less, of the Romantic Novelists’ Association – the ever upbeat, Alison May. Alison won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012, and her short stories have been published by Harlequin, Choc Lit and Black Pear Press. Alison has also been shortlisted in the Love Stories and RoNA Awards.
Alison, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening. I feel honoured, since you are such a busy woman! First things first, what are you drinking?
Wine. Preferably sparkling. I’m not posh though so I won’t have the slightest idea whether it’s prestige champagne or supermarket prosecco.
I’m not posh either, so special offer prosecco will do me too. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
I think my clubbing days are behind me – thank goodness. I like a dance but I’ve always prefer conversation-based socializing to sweat-based really. My favourite summer drinking spots are generally outside – I’m fond of a good beer garden. At this time of year a nice pub is the way to go, squirrelled away somewhere in a cosy corner.
My local is fabulous, inside and out, and has the advantage of being within staggering distance if we over-indulge, I’m sure you’d love it. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
Terry Pratchett and Victoria Wood. I used to mock people who got upset when celebrities they’d never met died, but I cried at both of those. I’m sad that I don’t get to read or watch new work from either of them anymore and really sad that I never met them.
I totally agree, two amazing people, both geniuses. Victoria died in a year when we lost so many great artists but I also cried when I heard the news that we had lost her. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
So I’m an author. I write under my own name and as Juliet Bell, in collaboration with Janet Gover.. I started writing about 15 years ago and my first novel was published in 2011. Basically I want to keep writing books that people want to publish and hopefully that more and more people want to read.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
I think All That Was Lost, my latest novel, is the thing I’m proudest of. It was a book of the heart that I wrote in snatched moments in between other things. I was delighted that that was the book that found me my agent. I absolutely love what my publisher did with it in terms of the cover. And I was so proud that authors I really respect – Katie Fforde, Rowan Coleman, Liz Fenwick and Julie Cohen – gave me such generous reviews.
My biggest challenge has been writing two novels collaboratively, as Juliet Bell. In the end I loved doing it, but I’m a total control freak at heart, so giving up control and sharing all the creative process with another person was a challenge. The second Juliet Bell book, The Other Wife, is out now.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!
I want it all. I want film deals and bestsellerdom and to win big important literary prizes. I am in no way short of ambition!
It’s very refreshing to hear you say that, Alison, as I often hear people say it is all about the writing and not the success, but I am sure secretly we all dream of the movie adaptations and Sunday Times Bestseller labels.
What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?
At the moment I’m working on a split timeline novel about witchhunts, both the modern social media storm kind and the actual seventeeth century kind. It’s a big complicated book and I genuinely don’t know if I can pull it off which is scary and brilliant in equal measure.
That sounds fascinating – just the kind of thing I love to read. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
I love to travel too, when time and funds allow. I love New Zealand. I’ve been there twice, but I think my favourite place I’ve been is Hawaii. Very laid back, amazing scenery and incredible wildlife. Basically I’m happy anywhere that I can go out on a boat and see dolphins!
In the UK I love Scotland – Edinburgh is my spiritual home, and I love the area around Inverness too (see my earlier comment about dolphins).
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.
I once played an alien in a radio drama series. Strange but true.
Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
If you haven’t already read it then I highly recommend Together by Julie Cohen. It’s beautifully written and manages to be romantic and challenging all at the same time.
And, she says shamelessly sneaking in a second book, at the top of my To Read pile at the moment is The Queen’s Wing by Jessica Thorne. That’s totally different – it’s a fantasy adventure, and I’ve heard amazing things about it from friends who had early review copies.
I’ve also seen some early reviews for this from fellow bloggers and it sounds great. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Massive glass of water and paracetamol before bed. Same again in the morning. Then, as soon as you’re sure you’re not going to puke, it’s bacon sandwich time.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Well it’s winter so it feels like the time of year for hunkering down drinking hot chocolate, reading many books, and not doing very much else at all.
That sounds like my kind of weekend. thank you so much for chatting with me on the blog today, Alison, it has been an absolute delight.
Alison’s latest book All That Was Lost is out now and you can buy a copy here. Check out the blurb below:
In 1967 Patience Bickersleigh is a teenager who discovers a talent for telling people what they want to hear. Fifty years later she is Patrice Leigh, a nationally celebrated medium. But cracks are forming in the carefully constructed barriers that keep her real history at bay.
Leo is the journalist hired to write Patrice’s biography. Struggling to reconcile the demands of his family, his grief for his lost son, and his need to understand his own background, Leo becomes more and more frustrated at Patrice’s refusal to open up.
Because behind closed doors, Patrice is hiding more than one secret. And it seems that now, her past is finally catching up with her.
May thrills in this English familial mystery, adding enticing plot layers as intricate and divisive as the themes she introduces.
If you would like to find out more about Alison, here are her social media links:
Facebook: Alison May Author
Next week on Friday Night Drinks, I am featuring author and fellow member of the Yorkshire Terriers Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Angela Wren, creator of the Jacques Foret Mysteries, set in France.