Today I am delighted to welcome Wendy Holden to my blog as part of the blog tour for Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings
Hi Wendy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in Yorkshire, went to Cambridge and then moved to London to break into journalism. It took a while but I managed it in the end! I was a journalist on Tatler, the Sunday Times, and The Mail on Sunday before becoming an author. I’ve written ten consecutive Sunday Times top-ten bestsellers including a Number One. I live in the countryside, in Derbyshire. I am married with two children.
Why did you want to become a writer?
When I was a child I had a book called ‘My Life’ by Enid Blyton. She lived in a huge house in a vast garden and had a dishy tennis-playing husband. She had achieved all this through writing and she described her authorial routine as sitting on a swing chair in the garden, closing her eyes and waiting for her characters to come to life and do things, like figures on a cinema screen. Then all she had to do was write it all down. Fool that I was, I believed every word.
Actually, the other reason was that I was working in glossy magazines and found it hilarious. I wanted to share my experiences with a wider world!
Tell us a bit about your recent release.
Laura Lake is my fabulous new heroine – glam, gutsy and with a great sense of humour. She’s a reporter, a kind of female Tintin. At first she is an unpaid intern at a glossy magazine – sleeping secretly in the fashion cupboard and living on canapés. But then she gets her first big break – to infiltrate three society weddings and write a juicy expose. Security will be tighter than a bodycon dress, but how hard can it be to get the skinny? She’ll disguise herself as a ballgowned billionheiress for the castle-partying aristocrats and a boho-chic pixie child for the posh festival nuptials. Oh, and a moustachioed lobster for the Shoreditch hipsters. But nothing can prepare her for disappearing brides, raunchy royals and a brush with the next James Bond. Or the fact that her jealous office enemy will do anything to bring her down. Will Laura get the scoop of the year? Or will she be out on her ear?
What genre are your books?
They get called chick lit, which is fine by me. They are comedies about contemporary life. I picked weddings for Laura Lake’s first outing because they’ve got so complicated and overstyled. I read an article in a brides mag telling you how to get a blue unicorn. You find a horse, dye it and get a cone for its head from Hobbycraft. Laura goes to three types of fashionable wedding, but they are practically infinite these days.
What draws you to this genre?
It was drawn to me originally; I wrote my first novel whilst writing a column for Tara Palmer-Tomkinson in the Sunday Times. It made her hugely famous and, as I’d done all the work, I was a bit resentful. But then I realized I had a novel plot and my first book, Simply Divine, was all about a downtrodden newspaper hack who writes a column for a socialite. It was an instant hit and that was it, I was on my way.
And it was exactly the right subject. I have an eye for the ridiculous and there are few things more ridiculous than the celebrity lifestyle. I’ve written fourteen novels since and they are all full of film stars and socialites and the incredibly funny and silly things they do. Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is the funniest yet. She’s a glossy mag journalist, which is the perfect novel setting. I absolutely love glossies as they’re full of hilarious lifestyle detail whilst taking themselves extremely seriously.
Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?
I was writing a novel called Honeymoon Suite, which was more of a romance. In it, the heroine, who’s been jilted at the altar, ends up working in the weddings department of a stately home. I went to some wedding fairs for research and it was then I realized how much weddings have moved on, with their ice-cream bikes and flashdancing bridesmaids. There is also a class element to it; I had noticed that posh weddings had changed from the old chinless- wonder-and-Chelsea-church template. Rich people now have boho weddings or arty weddings or weddings like the one Prince Harry just went to in Jamaica, with people singing Bob Marley instead of hymns and saying ‘yeah man’ instead of ‘I do’, I thought in Laura Lake And The Hipster Weddings that my heroine could gatecrash examples of all these.
How much research do you do? / How do you research?
Because my beat, as it were, is glamour and gloss, I read every glossy magazine I can lay my hands on. I get lots and lots of material from them, because the best and funniest details are the ones you can never make up. Or I will go to specific things like the wedding fairs, as above. But sometimes I will be somewhere and a storyline will just suggest itself. That’s especially handy!
Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I have a plot, because comedy depends on contrast; you need to know what’s coming next. Also, Laura Lake is a woman of action, as well as being very curious and a bit accident-prone. There are lots of exciting scenes as she foils her adversaries and gets into trouble.
Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I am really happy if I can write 4000 words but my more usual total is half of that. I’m more concerned that I have moved the plot and the action on, as you can get stuck on particular bits for ages.
What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?
Just sitting down and doing it! There’s no way round the fact that bum has to hit seat and finger must make contact with keyboard. I find all manner of displacement activities before I finally get going.
What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?
When you’ve done a really good day’s work, or even better, finished a book and it’s gone off and is someone else’s responsibility for a while!
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I am more disciplined now and I have more confidence; I think writing comedy is good because it makes people happy. Some people think a great book is one that makes them cry but to me, it’s more of an achievement to make them laugh. I am proud to be an entertainer, someone who cheers people up and makes them smile.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I have written 15 books and so far it has not been a problem. I think about having a proper job and that usually does the trick.
Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
The Great Gatsby is my favourite novel. It is such a beautiful, sad, brilliant book. But it might be smarter to say I wish I’d written Harry Potter!
If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character,who would you spend it with and what would you do?
Sir Lancelot in Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. He’s the sexiest dude in all literature. I’d swing up on his jewelled saddle and we’d go off on his warhorse!
What can we expect next from you?
The next Laura Lake novel – Laura Lake And The Celebrity Meltdown! Laura moves her investigations to a fashionable village full of famous people. But the countryside is not as quiet as she first thought! I also have a short story coming out on ebook in the summer; Laura Lake And The Luxury Press Trip. In which Laura goes off on a magazine jolly to a palm-fringed paradise island, with unexpected consequences!
Have you ever had a book rejected by a publisher / agent? How did you deal with it? How would you advise other authors to deal with rejection?
My agent has rejected ideas I’ve had for books I wanted to write. He was always right; they were terrible! It has never stopped me having other ideas and trying again though. You have to be pretty thick-skinned as a writer and try not to take things personally. But it’s hard!
You’re hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors/celebs would you invite? (alive or dead)
I would invite Byron, Shelley, Keats, Shakespeare and T S Eliot. Then I would sit at the end of the table and just listen.
What are you reading at the moment?
P G Wodehouse’s Mike and Psmith. Psmith is one of my favourite literary characters. He is incredibly affected, but also incredibly funny, loyal and kind. He’s a bit like Laura Lake’s appallingly self-obsessed but hilarious actor friend Caspar
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Writing a brilliant book in one week and taking the rest of the year off
What literary character is most like you?
I passionately identified with the Ugly Duckling as a child. It was may favourite story. I loved the theme of transformation and that change from dowdy to glamorous has been my enduring theme as a writer. I’m not saying I’ve changed into a swan though!
What secret talents do you have?
I can draw cartoons and caricatures. I used to give caricatures of themselves to my friends for their wedding presents. It makes me cringe to think of it now! On the other hand, I met my husband when I was drawing caricatures of people at a university ball. He was in a jazz band and was playing right behind me.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?