Huge congratulations on winning your Chill Award! You must be so happy that your work has been recognised in this way, what inspired you to write this story?
I’m an arctophile – a lover and collector of teddy bears – and took my passion to a new level in 2003 when I took voluntary redundancy from a well-paid job I loved and moved back to my roots in North Yorkshire to open a teddy bear shop. Although there were busy days, there was a lot of downtime. If I wasn’t stroking the bears and deciding which ones would come home with me if they didn’t sell quickly, I was learning how to write and working on the draft of my debut novel, Searching for Steven.
It was perhaps inevitable that I would write a story which featured a teddy bear shop. Bear With Me is much more than teddy bears, though. It’s a romance story about being brave enough to try love again after losing the love of your life. There’s also a mother/daughter relationship and how this, and the whole family dynamic, changes when the mother is diagnosed with a life-changing condition.
What does the award mean to you?
I’m absolutely thrilled that Bear With Me won. I had jaw-ache from beaming the day I found out! As an indie writer, it can be very hard to make an impression on the Amazon charts so it’s such a privilege to have someone like Pauline championing indie writers through the Chill With a Book Awards.
What other titles have you published? Tell us a little about them …
All my books are set in the same place; a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay, which is modelled on my hometown of Scarborough. I started with the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay trilogy which includes in order: Searching for Steven, Getting Over Gary, and Dreaming About Daran. As well as being love stories, the trilogy focuses on three friends over a couple of years, exploring their relationships with each other and how these change over time and with circumstance. Each book focuses on one of the friends and is wrapped up nicely so they can be read as standalone although I would recommend reading in order. There’s a novella that prequels it called Raving About Rhys.
Bear With Me was my next release which is standalone although some of the characters from the trilogy make cameo appearances. Last Christmas, I released Charlee and the Chocolate Shop and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which are slightly shorter novels set at Christmas and are both warm and fuzzy stories of love and friendship.
Are you working on a new book? Tell me about that …
I’m working on quite a lot of new books at the moment. I planned to release a follow-up to Raving About Rhys next but it’s nearly finished and it’s ended up being set between November and January so makes more sense as a Christmas release. I’m writing another three novels set in Whitsborough Bay and keep dotting between them so it’s anyone’s guess what will be released first!
When not writing, what can you be found doing?
It would be a dream to write full-time but the mortgage needs paying so I fit it around my day job. I’ve always worked in Human Resources and, for the last couple of years, have been a home-based freelance HR Tutor. I mark assignments and give advice to students studying the HR professional qualification. I’m also approaching the end of year 1 of a 3-year MA in Creative Writing through Open University which has opened my eyes to different genres and styles of writing.
Which three authors have most influenced your journey to becoming an author?
Enid Blyton, Virginia Andrews and Jill Mansell. Enid Blyton’s incredible story-telling made me an avid reader as a child. Virginia Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic was the first ‘fat’ book I read, and I was completely gripped by it. I read that paperback (and the rest of the series) so many times, that my books actually fell apart! And Jill Mansell was the first romantic comedy writer I discovered, and it was through her that I discovered the genre I’d want to write.
Why did you choose the genre you write in?
I enjoy reading to escape and I’m a sucker for a love story. I watch romcom films over and over again because I love that warm and fuzzy feeling I get at the end. It’s the same with a well-written romance book. To evoke that feeling in readers through the words I write is an honour.
Which other genre would you chose if you had to change?
There’s more than one and these are actually serious intentions. I have a plot for a cosy crime story, a fleeting idea for a thriller, plus clear plots for an erotica novel and a YA fantasy series.
Quick fire questions …
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook
Tea or coffee? Tea
Marmite – yes or no? No. Evil. Ew
Marvel or DC? Marvel. Especially Thor. Hmm, Chris Hemsworth
Early riser or sleep in? Early riser
Pj’s or ‘normal’ clothes when writing? Normal but comfy – jogging pants, baggy T-shirt, sloppy cardi and slippers
Planner or pantster? Pantser
Book or kindle? Both
Pineapple on pizza – yes or no? Yes although I usually go for Meat Feast
And finally, … What is your favourite book of all time? Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews
Thank you for joining me today and many congratulations again on your Chill with A Book Award!
Thank you so much for hosting me. Great questions J
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Bear with Me is out now, here’s the blurb …
Jemma has the job of her dreams as curator for the children’s section of a museum in London. She spends each day surrounded by the one thing she’s absolutely passionate about: teddy bears. When boyfriend, Scott, shows a genuine interest in her passion instead of laughing at her for “playing with teddies all day”, she knows he’s a keeper.
Returning home to the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay to celebrate her birthday, Jemma thinks she’s heading for her happy-ever-after when Scott unexpectedly proposes. So, a few days later, why isn’t he retuning her calls or responding to her texts?
Julie has always been a wonderful single mother to Jemma and her little brother, Sean. As owner of specialist teddy bear shop, Bear With Me, and the creative genius behind the successful range of Ju-Sea Bears, she inspires Jemma with her ability to balance a demanding career with home life. So why is the shop now in disarray and why is Sean so upset?
Sam thought he had his future all worked out. With a promising neurology career, a home, and a devoted fiancée, life was looking good. But now he’s all alone in a strange city, far from everyone and everything he cares about, struggling to rebuild the tatters of his life. Did he do the right thing by running away? What does the future hold and is he strong enough to face it?
Sometimes love finds us when we least expect it. But sometimes love leaves us, just as unexpectedly. When you’ve loved and lost, can you bear to let love in again?
Bear With Me, as all will be revealed …
About the author …
I’ve always enjoyed reading, English was my favourite (and strongest) subject at school, and my favourite jobs have always been ones that have involved writing. Yet I’d never considered writing as a career until a former manager kept telling me that my business reports read more like stories and that I should write a book. Great idea but what would I write about? I racked my brains but the well of plot ideas was completely empty. Then something happened in my personal life that prompted the premise for my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It was as though the creativity dam had just been unblocked because, when I put fingers to keyboard, the ideas kept flowing and I soon realised I had a trilogy and a novella on my hands.
I was born in Teesside but now live on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast which has inspired the creation of the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay where I set all of my books. I live with my husband, daughter, cat, Sprocker Spaniel, and an ever-growing collection of collectible teddy bears. Although if the dog has her way, the collection will be reduced to a pile of stuffing and chewed limbs!
The dream is to be able to write full-time one day but, until then, I try to balance my time – usually unsuccessfully – between being an HR tutor, studying a Masters, and writing. The ideas keep flowing and I’m currently working on six new books which I hope to finish and release over the next couple of years.