We are delighted to welcome best-selling and extremely lovely author, Miranda Dickinson to Romaniac HQ.
Hello Miranda – come in and warm yourself with a hot chocolate. Marsh mallows? Whipped cream?
Ooh, lovely! *grasps mug*… Hello Romaniacs!
Many congratulations on your recent wedding. Did you sing at your reception?
I did! My fab friends in the wedding band I sing with (who inspired The Pinstripes in It Started With a Kiss) did an amazing set at our wedding reception and they persuaded me to sing Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ with them, which was a lot of fun. It’s very odd to belt out a song wearing a wedding dress, though!
You have an amazing singing voice and it is clearly an important aspect of your life, but where does your first love lie? Music or writing?
Thanks for the compliment! That’s a difficult one because both music and writing have been a part of my life since I was very young. In many ways, I feel the two are linked: writing songs and writing books are just different ways of telling a story, while the only difference between performing on stage and writing a book is that you can’t see the audience when you write! So I think I’ll have to be awkward and say both, although right now writing commands more of my time.
Going with the song theme, do you choose the titles for your books?
My first book was originally called Coffee At Kowalski’s but when Avon signed me they changed the name to Fairytale of New York – so I never intended to use song titles for my books! I chose the titles of Welcome to My World and It Started With a Kiss (which also has a song title for each chapter, making up the band’s ‘set-list’ at the front of the book), and the title of my new novel, When I Fall in Love, was a joint effort between me and Avon.
Your novels have a Christmassy/winter feel to them, each set in a different capital. Was this a conscious decision or something that has evolved?
I didn’t set out to write books set in specific places, it just happened that way. When I wrote Fairytale of New York I never thought it would be published, so I wrote it to entertain myself. I’ve been in love with New York from afar for as long as I can remember, so when I started to write the story it was mainly to give me an excuse to buy a travel book and research the city I couldn’t afford to actually visit. When it did so well my publishers were keen for me to follow up with another story set in a place people would want to visit and that’s why Welcome to My World focuses on Harri’s dream of visiting Venice. After that, it just carried on, although I try to make the places synonymous with my main characters’ personal journeys through the books.
Elsie Maynard is an amazing young woman who we first meet eighteen months after an event that changed her life. I can’t tell you what this is because I want you to discover it in the book and also because I want you to get to know her for the fantastic person she is before knowing that key detail. But what I will say is that she finds herself with a whole life that she never expected, so the book follows her stepping into this and daring to see what she can achieve. She founds a choir like no other after a chance meeting with Woody Jensen, the former frontman of 80s one-hit-wonder rock band Hellfinger, who now sees himself as a bit of a rock’n’roll guru, and starts to think about what the future could hold for her. Then a request from a good friend leads her to travel to Paris and here she has to face what happened eighteen months before… It’s the story I’m most proud of to date and will hopefully have you laughing like a loon one minute and sobbing like a baby the next! There is one scene that reduced me to tears during every stage of the publishing process, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign!
You and I (Laura) first met through Twitter last year. If I recall we discovered a mutual love and respect for Capercaillie. (Can you hear Four Stone Walls being piped into our HQ?) You embrace social networking and today’s technology to communicate with your readers. Which mediums do you use and which is your favourite?
You’ve got to love Capercaillie! My parents are folk singers so I think it’s in my blood… I love social media and am a total geek when it comes to new applications and sites. In addition to my blog (http://www.coffeeandroses.blogspot.com) and website (http://www.miranda-dickinson.com) I use Twitter and Facebook, with Reverbnation and BandCamp for my music and post my videos on YouTube. I think social media is a gift to writers because it connects you with readers in a way that simply wasn’t available before. I’m always on the lookout for new things – I’ve just joined Pinterest so I’m having great fun with that! My favourite is still Twitter – it’s just such a witty, creative place and I love the positivity of it.
Your vlogs have a natural chatty style. Is this something that comes easily to you?
Luckily, yes! I love making my vlogs and find it a great way of communicating. I particularly love when people ask me questions about writing and publishing because their questions really drive the direction that the vlogs go. I love the collaborative nature of that. Plus, I’m a chatterbox and when I’ve been holed up in a little room with my laptop writing for days it’s nice to get out and talk to someone – even if it is via a camera lens!
If you were to present a chat show, who would be your first three guests and why?
That’s a great question – I’d love that! I would interview Sir Terry Pratchett because I am in awe of him and would love to chat about his writing, Russell Howard because I think he’s hilarious and Imogen Heap because I’d love to hear her talk about how she makes such incredible music.
Do visuals help you create your characters or are they fully formed in your mind before you start writing?
Every year I put together a ‘dream cast’ list for my book, mainly so that I can introduce the new characters to the lovely people who watch my vlogs and read my blog, but also so that I have a visual reference. Some of my characters are inspired by real people, which makes visualising them much easier. But there have been some characters who have been really strong in my mind from the beginning of writing the book even though they aren’t based on anyone – like Ed Steinmann in Fairytale of New York and Olly Hogarth in When I Fall in Love.
How do you go about choosing names for your characters?
Sometimes they just appear, sometimes I look at the end credits of films for inspiration and sometimes they are a reference to an in-joke that very few people know about!
What is the quirkiest research you’ve carried out?
I think I am the Queen of researching places I haven’t been to, so I have done a lot of crazy research over the past few years. For example, when I was editing Fairytale of New York there is one scene where Rosie looks out of her window and notices that the leaves on the tree outside are changing for autumn. My edit notes from my editor said: ‘Which tree?’ So I eventually found a New York tree census from 1999 on Google and narrowed it down to four types of tree that grow in the Upper West Side. Then I asked Bob (who is a horticulturalist) which of these had the prettiest autumn foliage and used that one as Rosie’s tree. That was a whole afternoon of research for one tiny detail!
We have a quick-fire round for you, now:
Frank Skinner or Lenny Henry?
Ooh, tough as they’re both from the Black Country where I live. Would probably say Lenny Henry because he’s from my home borough of Dudley.
Wolverhampton or Birmingham FC?
My husband Bob is sitting next to me as I write this and he’s a massive Aston Villa fan, so he would want me to say Aston Villa. But I’ll say neither and choose Stourbridge FC – go Glassboys!
Summer or winter?
Summer for being outside. And winter for Christmas and my birthday!
Christmas or New Year?
Always Christmas! New Year is always a let down.
Left or right hander?
Folk or rock?
Folk to listen to, rock to play!
Acoustic or electric?
Members of a supergroup?
James Taylor – guitar and vocals; Marcus Miller – bass; Herbie Hancock – keys; Imogen Heap and Cara Dillon – vocals and vocal percussion; John Mayer – lead guitar.
Miranda – many thanks for joining us today. Your enthusiasm is contagious and your energy is electric.
Thanks for having me and I hope you enjoy When I Fall in Love (listening to Capercaillie, obviously…) xx
Blog & vlogs: http://www.coffeeandroses.blogspot.co.uk/
My online shop: http://www.wurdystore.com/
Pinterest page: http://pinterest.com/wurdsmyth/
YouTube channel for my vlogs: www.youtube.com/user/mirandawurdy
When I Fall in Love:
The Book Depository:
Fairytale of New York:
The Book Depository (international free shipping) – http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Fairytale-New-York-Miranda-Dickinson/9781847561657
Welcome to My World:
The Book Depository – http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Welcome-My-World-Miranda-Dickinson/9781847561664
It Started With a Kiss – Shortlisted for the 2012 Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read.
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/It-Started-with-Kiss-Miranda-Dickinson/9781847561671