- Just My Luck marks your 20th book in 20 years – what’s the biggest challenge and the biggest benefit to having a few books under your belt?
The biggest challenge is to ensure that all the books are fresh. Every time I write a novel, I like to explore an original theme and have different dynamics between new and surprising (but believable) characters. Ultimately, my job is to continue to entertain my readers. I would hate to think anyone ever picked up one off my novels and thought, ‘Oh this is just like her last one’. The biggest benefit to having quite a few books under my belt is that I am confident about my writing process. I know the words will come eventually and I trust myself to dare to ruthlessly self-edit. I don’t fear cutting enormous swathes. My biggest self-edit was scrapping 80,000 words.
- In terms of your writing process, what’s changed from when you started out to now?
When I wrote my first novel, Playing Away, I was still in full time employment. I worked at Accenture, an enormous management consultancy. My role was to oversee the advertising in Europe, Africa, Middle East and India. I worked long hours, in a demanding role, I wrote Playing Away in what little spare time I had. I felt torn and exhausted a lot of the time. However, that novel secured me a two-book deal that financially allowed me to give up the day job and start writing full time. I immediately got pregnant and so the next three or four books were written around my new full-time job, being a mum! It was not until about book six when my son was at school that I started writing a regular 8 hours per day and managing to consistently hit a daily word count of 1000 words upwards. I think at that point, the process became more fixed and reliable, I was able to hone my skills. I started planning and plotting more vigorously. I started to write in chronological order. I guess the whole thing became more serious, slick and secure.
- What’s the elevator pitch for Just My Luck?
Three couples have been close friends for 15 years. Throughout that time, they’ve bought a lottery ticket together every week, always using the same numbers. Then one week a tiff leads to a rift, two of the couples quit the lottery in a huff. The very next week their numbers come up and Lexi and Jake alone hold the winning ticket. Only they are legally entitled to the £18 million prize, but the others will go to extraordinary lengths to get a share. This is a novel about what money can, should and definitely should not buy. It is a novel that exposes that everything comes with a price, even winning.
- What was your inspiration behind the book?
A friend of mine works for the lottery company in the UK. He was telling me fun stories about what winners spend on, what their reactions were to hearing the news they’ve won, how the lottery company has a duty of care towards the winners. It was all fascinating. Then he just casually commented, ‘We always offer to arrange security for their children if the win is seriously big’. I found that so interesting. Imagine, the best moment of your life, being handed a check for millions and then suddenly realising your family were now at risk in a way they never had been before. That was the moment I thought, I really need to write about this!
- Did anything surprise you during your research into lottery winners?
Yes. I was surprised to hear some people never spend a single penny of their winnings. This is a very rare case indeed but occasionally a winner will sort of freeze when they hear they’ve won, as they don’t know what to do with their new-found wealth. They literally can’t believe their luck. I guess they always played never expecting to win, which is a really odd concept when you think about it. It strikes of a particular sort of hopelessness. I find that extraordinary, I mean why enter at all if you are not going to spend it or give it away to do good?
- If you won the lottery tomorrow – what would you do with it?
Oh my gosh, I’ve thought about this so much during the process of writing Just My Luck. My family and I have imagined indulging in great big splurges on one hand, and the impulse to give to friends and family or charities on the other. In the end, realistically, I don’t think I’m a great big splurge sort of person. I love the home we live in (we built it ourselves) so I wouldn’t want to move. I would do loads of home improvements though, and maybe get a cleaner and gardener – now we cover off all household chores ourselves. I do love clothes, but I could never imagine spending thousands on designer clothes, I think I’d continue to buy high street, just maybe more of them! I would buy a small London apartment for my son, pay off my sister’s mortgage, buy a starter home for my nieces and nephew. My husband keeps mentioning a Lamborghini though, so you know, there might be one ridiculously flash purchase!
- You love to push your characters to their limits – do you think that people reveal their truest selves when the intensity is turned up?
I do. I delight in putting my characters – who are often very ‘ordinary’ people – in extraordinary circumstances to see who we really are at our cores. The truth is, none of us are that ordinary. Humans are capable of extreme acts of selflessness and selfishness, enormous displays of love and devotion but also excessive cruelty. Generally speaking, while I do put my characters through some punishing and exposing experiences, I try to land them where I believe they deserve to be. That is part of the fun of being an author, you get to serve up just deserts, which sadly doesn’t always happen in real life!
- What would be something that people would be surprised to know about you?
I think I am an open book. I’m not sure I’m that surprising. That’s a bit boring, isn’t it? How about I lived in Botswana for two years between the ages 24 and 26 where I helped set up a new advertising agency. That was quite an adventure.
- You recently visited Australia for a book tour – what were your takeaways?
First and foremost, that I want to go back! I met so many lovely, warm, interested readers. I’d like to do more of that. The Australian sense of humour is very similar to the UK sense of humour so I felt right at home. Very welcomed. I always say that the important thing about life is seeing what people have in common, not what separates us. It was brilliant to note that people on the other side of the world are pretty similar to those I live right next door to.
- What are you working on next?
I’m writing a thriller about two women who both go missing on the same night. One is a wife of a landscape gardener, working mum of two boys, living in a scruffy part of London; the other is a wife of an extremely wealthy Dutch banker, living in a penthouse in one of the smartest parts of the city. The question is what do these women have in common and why did they go missing? I’m hoping to deliver the twists and reveals that people have come to expect from my thrillers.