Friday Night Drinks with…. Cressida McLaughlin @CressMcLaughlin @HarperFiction @KarenSwan1 #FridayNightDrinks #TheCornishCreamTeaBus

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I have been looking forward to this evening for ages because tonight I am having Friday Night Drinks with one of my absolute favourite authors and all-round lovely virtual friend, Cressida McLaughlin. It’s a special evening too, as the full version of Cressy’s latest book, The Cornish Cream Tea Bus was published only yesterday.

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Welcome to the blog at last, Cressy! I am so excited to finally have you on. First things first, one are you drinking to celebrate the launch of your new book?

A glass of prosecco or, as it’s a special occasion, champagne. Pink, preferably. Pink champagne seems like a cliché, but it is my all-time favourite drink. 

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Pink champagne it is then. 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 live in Norwich, which is a great city for versatile nightlife, with lots of cozy pubs and smart bars to choose from. I’d take you to St Benedict’s Street, for cocktails at The Ten Bells, wine and live music at Platform 12 or, if you want a quieter atmosphere, The Bicycle Shop. If the weather’s nice, we might walk along the river and sit in the garden of The Rushcutters, watching the boats and swans go past.  

That sounds great. My only visit to Norwich was when I went to look at the University in 1989! I didn’t end up there, but the city seemed nice. 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?

I would invite Karen Swan and Henry Cavill. Karen Swan is a goddess of fiction, I am in awe of every book she produces, and I would love to hear about her life in the fashion industry and where she gets her story ideas. Henry Cavill is my favourite actor and, in my opinion, perfect romantic hero material. But he also comes across as smart and funny, and I’m sure would be good fun on a night out. 

Oooh, good choices! I adore Karen’s books, I would love to spend an evening chatting with her, I’m going to tag her, in the vain hope she might agree to a night out! 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?

I’ve just finished my final changes to The Cornish Cream Tea Bus, which came out in four e-serial parts in June and July, and then as a paperback yesterday. I really enjoyed writing it; it wasn’t as straightforward as some of my previous books, but I feel stronger and more resilient as a writer for having had to work so hard on it, and I think the book is a lot better as a result. I want it to be successful, for readers who already enjoy my books to love it, and for it to find new readers, too. It’s a summery, uplifting story in a beautiful setting, and I hope people will see it as a real holiday indulgence; a romantic, escapist read they can sink their teeth into. 

Your books are always the perfect holiday read, I am such a huge fan and have been since the first one. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Holding your book for the first time is always such a proud moment, and never gets any less special or – in some ways – unbelievable.  Holding my first paperback, A Christmas Tail, having a launch at my local Waterstones and watching the copies disappear from the table is something I will remember forever.  The biggest challenge is also the biggest thrill. Putting your work out there  – something that you’ve been working so hard on for months, that you really care about, and feel protective towards, and putting it in the hands of readers.  There’s always the fear that it’s actually awful, and of course there are the bad reviews. You start to grow a thicker skin, realise that not everyone is going to like it, but there’s still a hold-your-breath moment before each new book comes out. 

I love that picture of you signing your book. You just look so happy, exactly as it should be, it makes me smile.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

Can I have two? They’re both pretty typical writer goals, I think. I would love to be a Sunday Times bestseller, and I would love one of my books to be adapted into a film or TV series, preferably with Henry Cavill in a starring role. ☺ 

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve just started thinking about my next book.  It is in very early, fledgling stages at the moment, so I can’t really say any more, but I am very excited about my initial idea, the potential it has to be a romantic, engaging and, hopefully, compelling story. 

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?

My husband, David, and I went to the Amalfi coast a couple of years ago, and I’m not sure anything will ever beat it.  Everything about that week was beautiful, luxurious and special. We did lots of walking around the town, sat in the square with cold beers and people-watched, lounged by the hotel pool with the cliffs above us and the sea below.  We got a speedboat out to Capri – the boat was all white leather and wood like something out of a James Bond film – sat on these seats on the bow and got a wonderful view of the Amalfi coast, of Naples and Vesuvius.  It was a magical week, and I’d love to go back there.  At the top of my bucket list is seeing the Northern Lights.  Even pictures of them make me gasp, and I would love to see them in real life.  I can’t think of anything more impressive or awe-inspiring. 

Seeing the Northern Lights seems to be the most popular pick amongst my guests! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

When I was 13 or 14 I was in the English National Opera’s youth group. We performed youth operas (I played a glass in an opera about crockery!) and we also got involved in various projects in the London Coliseum.  I remember once, before and during the interval of performances of Hansel and Gretel, going round to the bar areas, telling the audience members how they could spot a witch and handing out packets of supposedly ‘safe’ sweets. 

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 I had to narrow it down to one recommendation I think it would be The Greek Escape by Karen Swan.  It came out last summer and it is one of the best, most breathless and brilliant books I’ve read.  It has a twisting, compelling plot, great characters, beautiful locations, heartbreak, loss and a beautiful romance at its heart.  I love all Karen’s books but felt like this one was a step up – it was just MORE everything, and I fell in love with it. 

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Before every new beginning, there must be an ending . . .

Running from heartbreak, Chloe Marston leaves her old life in London for a fresh start in New York. Working at a luxury concierge company, she makes other people’s lives run perfectly, even if her own has ground to a halt. But a terrible accident forces her to step into a new role, up close and personal with the company’s most esteemed and powerful clients. Charismatic Joe Lincoln is one of them and his every wish is her command, so when he asks her to find him a secluded holiday home in the Greek Islands, she sets about sourcing the perfect retreat.

But when Tom, her ex, unexpectedly shows up in Manhattan and the stability of her new life is thrown off-balance again, she jumps at the chance to help Joe inspect the holiday house; escaping to Greece will give her the time and space to decide where her future truly lies. Tom is the man she has loved for so long but he has hurt her before – can she give him another chance? And as she draws closer to Joe, does she even want to? As magnetic as he is mysterious, there’s an undeniable chemistry between them that she can’t resist.

But whatever her heart is telling her, she’s in over her head – another client’s wife has mysteriously disappeared and serious allegations about Joe threaten more than just her happiness. Who can she trust? And will Chloe uncover the truth in time?

I loved that book too. 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?

Ugh.  I wish I had the perfect hangover cure.  If I’ve had a lot of alcohol, I always try and drink at least a pint of water before bed. Then, in the morning, a nice big breakfast – eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, possibly hash browns – usually helps.  Once, when we’d been out drinking in London, we got bean wraps from the M&S food shop at the station.  It had been a fun night, but we’d had too much whisky, and I was prepared to feel awful the next day.  But I didn’t – and it wasn’t even that I was still drunk and started to flag later – I just felt fine from the moment I got up.  So perhaps a three-bean tortilla wrap is the answer?  I haven’t tested the experiment a second time, but maybe I should. 

That’s a new one, I will give it a try. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

In the garden if it’s nice, or going to one of the beaches not too far from us – Norfolk has loads to choose from.  Lots of reading, cooking some delicious weekend food, and watching a couple of films in the evenings.  Generally being lazy and indulgent is my idea of a perfect weekend! 

Cressy, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been the most marvellous fun and I wish you great success with the new book. If it is half as good as your previous ones, I know I will love it. Let’s hope we get to meet IRL soon, maybe with Karen Swan, what a night that would be.

Cressida’s latest book, The Cornish Cream Tea Bus, is out now and you can buy it in ebook and paperback format here.

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Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Keen to give the bus a new lease of life, Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.
Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the sexy but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?

Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.

Cressy’s favourite things – other than writing – include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. (Though perhaps a good starting point for a story . . ?)

When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful and romantic Norfolk coastline.

You can find out more about Cressy and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and  Instagram.

You can also read my reviews of Cressida’s last two books, The House of Birds and Butterflies and The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse, on the blog to whet your appetite for her writing.

Next week I will be having drinks with author, Rachel Brimble, so please do join us.

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