I am an avid reader and one of my favourite beach reads is anything by Carole Matthews. I help at the book stall at our school's summer fete and there are several ladies who come year after year and ask me to select some beach reads for their holidays. I think they'd enjoy Carole Matthew's latest book Summer Daydreams which is due out in paperback on 24 May. I was offered the chance to quiz Carole and accepted the chance to get to know a favourite author a little better.
The first page of the book has a letter from you, which is a refreshing change and makes the reader feel connected to you, what gave you the idea for this?
It was a suggestion from my lovely editor, Cath Burke, at Little, Brown. She knows that I love chatting to my readers on Twitter and Facebook and thought this would be a nice extension of that. For me, when someone chooses one of my books, I see it as an investment of their money and time in me and I really appreciate that. If it wasn’t for my lovely readers who go out and buy my books then I wouldn’t have a job.
The book is set in and around and the fish and chip shop, Live and Let Fry and the first page of the novel, conjures up the unique smell of fish and chips (with vinegar of course). You are also known for your love of chocolate which comes through in The Chocolate Lovers' Club. What is your favourite food and what is your favourite restaurant or cafe?
I just like to eat, full-stop! I don’t really class myself as a ‘foodie’ because I’m not very discerning. We recently went to the lovely seaside town of Southwold for the day and had fish and chips for tea with a big mug of tea - it was absolute heaven! I’d rather have that than fancy, fiddled about food any day. I do like a coffee shop too and wish I was the sort of author who could sit in one all day and write. But I can’t. I get too distracted by people watching. I think my favourite food, next to chocolate, is probably curry. We have an American friend who comes to the UK regularly and always wants to be taken for an ‘English curry’. Can’t beat a chicken tikka masala.
All this talk of food in the book was enough to make me very hungry, how do you keep slim. It must be a challenge when writing books based around food when your words tickle our taste buds. and let's not forget your regular visits to the Pudding Club. I’m a woman of a certain age and constantly struggle with my weight. I tend to be quite strict and watch what I eat during the week - fortunately, I love salad - and then it all goes to pot at the weekend. I do a lot of baking too which is a terrible temptation - so I have to force my cupcakes on everyone who comes through my front door. To balance out all the food, I do quite a lot of exercise too - mainly zumba and hiking. When I start making a ‘harumph’ noise when I do up my jeans, then I knock out all the carbs. Apart from one piece of Lindt chocolate after lunch every day. That never gets dropped.
Who was the inspiration for the character Nell?
My good friend, Helen Rochfort, who is an accomplished and very successful handbag designer. She runs a busy company and balances it with a hectic family life and two young girls. She’s amazing. The story of how she struggled to set up her business and break into the world of high-end fashion is truly inspirational. It was a book just waiting to be written.
What do Helen and Nell have in common and how are they different?
I think they have a lot in common. After writing the book, I confess that I’m sometimes not sure when Nell ends and Helen begins! I also think both Helen and Nell have a lot in common with many women now who will empathise with the pressures of trying to have a fulfilling career and making sure that the family are all cared for. It’s not easy.
It sounds like you know Helen well. How did you and Helen meet?
We’ve been friends for several years now and met through social networking, of all things! Helen’s status photograph was Barbara Cartland and I thought it would be another romance writer and, instead, discovered her wonderful handbags. We became friends through chatting back and forth. Then Helen designed some promotional bags for The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and we spent more time together. She told me her story over lunch one day and we’ve spent a lot of time working together over the last year as I wanted to make sure that she was very happy seeing her life and experiences in print!
I loved the sound of the button handbag. As a keener stitcher it has my name on it. Does the bag exist and where can I get one?
You know it does exist! I saw this amazing button-encrusted handbag at a craft fair when I was writing the book and described it in one of the chapters - I love buttons. But I lost the business card I picked up and now can’t find the woman who makes them. I have scoured the internet, but have never come across them again. They were very beautiful but quite pricey.
The world is filled with slick men like Yves, is he based on anyone in particular?
No, he was just a combination of a variety of slick men I came across when I was a corporate wifey many years ago. I think there are quite a lot of businessmen out there like him!
I was conned once in Spain by a market trader who sold me a table cloth with a hole in the middle. Certainly nothing on the scale of the tricks played on Nell, but even as a teenager, I couldn't let it lie and tracked the seller down at another market and got a replacement after talking very loudly so others would hear. Have you ever been conned? Would you seek restitution or put it down to experience.
I had a similar experience. We were in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China a few years ago and it’s a place where everyone goes to fly kites. I negotiated with a market trader to buy a pretty paper butterfly kite. He started at three hundred dollars and we settled on ten in the end. He handed over my kite and then asked me to pay three hundred dollars for the string to fly it with. He learned a lot of new English words that day. I don’t mind playing the game, but I don’t like being ripped off.
I enjoyed reading the book (in one sitting) and have one final burning question? Where does the title of the book come from as the book spans more than just the summer.
Book titles, I think, are the hardest thing. I liked this one because it sounded fun and summery. Also as I do two books a year now, one for summer and one very much a Christmas book, my publisher wanted to make that distinction so that my readers know what to expect. The Christmas book also does the same thing and is called With Love at Christmas.
Now two competitions. The first is being run by Little Brown Bird to win your own design on a handbag by Helen Rochfort go to: http://www.littlebrownbooks.net/handbagcompetition/ The second is open to anyone living in the British Isles and is a copy of the book in paperback. To enter this, become a follower of this blog and let me know your favourite beach read. This competition will end on 31 May 2012 and I will post a copy of the book to the winner.