Tuesday Chit Chat with Alison Sherlock

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We’re getting ready for Christmas at Romaniac HQ and today we have author, Alison Sherlock joining us. Alison, can I get you a mulled wine and a minced pie?

Just the mince pie, thanks.  Or maybe two.  After all, it is nearly Christmas!  I’ll pass on the mulled wine, though.  I’ve always felt there’s something a bit compost-y about it.  So, a nice cup of tea would be lovely.  Unless you’ve got some champagne stashed away back there …?

As your debut novel is The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club, we wanted to know if you had any dieting tips?  We Romaniacs have failed miserably on that front this year.

I would love to tell you that I am the next Rosemary Conley but my waistline will show you otherwise!  I do really think it’s a case of eating sensibly and exercising frequently.  The slimmest I have ever been was when I was a cleaner.  Eight hours of physical work a day and the weight just dropped off!

The idea for the Desperate Bride’s Diet Club actually came from some online bride-to-be forums I was loitering around when I was getting married.  There were all these crazy women just drinking juice in a desperate attempt to lose three stone because they had bought a wedding dress three sizes too small!  It was madness.  Everything in moderation is the key.  If a carb-free diet works for you, then great.  Although for me personally, a life without a slice of buttered toast or a crunchy roast potato just isn’t worth living!

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I love the opening scene when Violet grabs the last remaining M&S Chocolate Cake out of a stranger’s hands to go home and eats the whole thing herself.  Have you ever done anything similar?

Let’s just say there’s a certain branch of Waitrose that I’m no longer allowed into …!  No, just kidding!  One of the best things about writing is that your characters can go anywhere and do absolutely anything that you could never get away with in real life!  I may be physically sitting at a battered Ikea desk in deep Surrey with a snoring dog next to me but in my mind I’m wandering through an Italian delicatessen or going to a Valentine’s Ball in a stunning dress.  Writing is, quite frankly, bonkers and I think only other writers can truly understand the madness that lies within us all!
Your second novel has been retitled The Desperate Wife’s Survival Plan – was it your idea to change the title and what led to that decision?

It was the lovely sales team at Arrow who have declared me the ‘Desperate’ author!  Everyone reacted so positively to the title of The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club that they thought it prudent to carry on the theme.

As it happens, the title covers the story line very well.  The Desperate Wife’s Survival Plan is about Charley Summers whose pampered life suddenly spirals out of control when she is declared bankrupt.  She loses everything but her friends and her love of making ice-cream.  The next twelve months are all about survival – from becoming a cleaner to discovering money can’t buy you love.  All with a little help from her friends, of course!

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m in the early stages of my third book.  It’s set in the same village as the previous two novels and I’m still considering bringing the ghastly Trudie from the diet club into the story somewhere!  She was evil but so much fun to write!  I don’t want to jinx it but at the moment the writing is going quite well.  However I’m sure that the doom and despair part of writing every novel is lurking just around the corner.  As always, I shall fight my way through the darkness by lurking on Twitter, playing Spider Solitaire, baking homemade cookies and any other displacement activities that I can think up!

Could you tell us more about the ‘chance’ meeting with a literary agent at Winchester’s Writer’s Conference?

The Winchester Writer’s Conference is held every Summer and is a great meeting point for writers of all abilities.  They also set-up 15 minute one-to-one sessions with agents – sort of like speed-dating but far more scary!  I had two sessions booked by the organisers – but both agents cancelled at the last minute so they squeezed me into a quick timeslot with Judith Murdoch who had a fearsome reputation for speaking bluntly.

Trying to be brave, I handed Judith the first couple of pages of a book I had been working on.  It was long, flowing prose – my attempt at the Booker Prize!  She shot me down in flames and told me outright that it was complete rubbish!  Of course, she was right!  I wasn’t listening to my inner writing voice.  I was trying to be something I wasn’t.

Judith then asked if I had any other work with me so I shakily handed her one page of a story I had been messing about with.  I’m still not even sure why I took it with me.  But she giggled at a funny line I had inserted about half way down the page.  ‘This is much better,’ she told me.  ‘Go away and write like this.’  So I did.

My first two manuscripts were almost signed by various publishers but never quite made it.  Then my third book, The Desperate Wife’s Diet Club, was snapped up by Arrow.  I owe everything to Judith.  She stuck by me for eight years and three books, continually assuring me that I would be published.  And, as always, she was right.

You have a dog called Harry. What’s the daftest thing he’s ever done?

Dear Lord, where to start?  So, here is the beast …

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As you can see, he is the living example of beauty but absolutely no brains.  The other day he literally walked into a lampost.  We have a low childgate at the kitchen door – Harry is the size of a small pony and could quite easily jump over it but he hasn’t worked out that he can.  He is scared of the hoover, the loft ladder, tin foil and, currently, the Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, he isn’t scared of mud.  This is the ‘after’ picture.

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People were literally pointing and laughing as we headed home after our walk recently.

He’s daft and, on occasion, extremely smelly, but I wouldn’t be without him for the world.

FB or twitter?

Twitter.  I’ve only been on there a year and I love it!  The gossip, the chat, the funny quips!  Writing can be such an isolated living and Twitter is great from bringing that office chatter to your desk.  I truly wish it had been around when I first started writing all those years ago.

Hawaii or Norfolk?

Norfolk.  I’m sure Hawaii is lovely but the whole heat factor is a nightmare in the style stakes.  Humidity + naturally curly hair =  barely being able to fit through doorways.
Chocolate cake or mince pies?

Chocolate cake.  Mince pies are for christmas but chocolate cake is for life!
Hot chocolate or mulled wine?

Hot chocolate. Yum!

Thank you so much for inviting me to the fantastic Romaniac HQ and Happy Christmas everyone!  Now, how about another mince pie?  With all that fruit, surely they only count as one of our five a day?!

Oh, yes. They must be, right? Thank you so much for joining us, Alison and getting into the Christmas spirit with us. We look forward to your second novel and  I can recemmend your first as a great Christmas present.

Catherine x