A Boxing Day treat! My final interview with a book blogger…

Happy Christmas all! Are you having a relaxing Boxing Day or are you hitting the shops?

Whatever you are doing this afternoon, I hope you enjoy the final interview in my series with independent book bloggers. Today I’m talking to a lovely blogger from Northern Ireland… Do you know who she might be?

1) Hi Bronagh! Welcome:)  Please tell me more about yourself. What are your three favourite things?

Hello, my name is Bronagh, I live in Northern Ireland and I enjoy books, tea and new adventures.

2) Where can we find your blog and how long have you been reviewing? 

My book news, interviews and reviews site Handwritten Girl started during the hot summer of 2011 and has been growing ever since. Not only does the website include book reviews, it also features author interviews providing tips and advice for aspiring writers, which I hope readers of the website find useful and encouraging.

3) Nice one! Why did you start blogging?

I started reviewing for a number of reasons. As a reader I was constantly telling people about a great new book that I read or people were asking me for a recommendations so the website became a shortcut for this and appealed to a wider community.

4) What’s the best and worst thing about being a book reviewer?

The best thing is of course getting to read so many wonderful books and the worst is not always having the time to read them!

5) What’s your favourite book of all time and why?

I have never really had a favourite character of all time, but having just finished and loved Mhairi McFarlane’s new book ‘Here’s Looking At You’ I must admit I did love the female lead in the story. Her name was Anna and had quite a dark and witty sense of humour and a kind aura about her, she was the type of girl that you would like to have as a friend.

6) How do you feel about books being made into films. Do you think this is a good thing?

I used to be quite cynical about books being adapted for film as it’s hard to compress a whole book into a two hours or less. But, I’ve now come to the conclusion that for people who aren’t readers, if they see the film and enjoy it, then maybe they will seek out the book and experience the story in its original form. After all every film starts with a script, which isn’t to far removed from the format of the typical book.

7) How do you handle it when you have read a book you don’t like? Will you still review it? 

If I read a book and I don’t enjoy it and just like books I that I do enjoy, I still review it. As a writer myself, I appreciate the time and effort that an author has gone to write a book— just because the book isn’t for me, doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it, so it is worth pointing out the elements which do work, as well as do not, in those stories.

8) Do you read books quickly, or slowly?

The speed which I read is based purely on how much I like the story. If I think the story is brilliant and I can’t wait to see how it will end, I could easily devour it in a day. Well, as long as I don’t have any other distractions. Usually I read a book in two days.

9) Do you prefer a genre? If so, why?

I enjoy comedy, romance and you cant beat thrillers. Give me anything with a good narrative, regardless of the genre though, I will give it a go!

Thanks Bronagh!

You can connect with Bronagh on Twitter – @handwritten



What’s with all the squirrels?

*SPOILER ALERT. Avoid this post if you haven’t read This is a Love Story*

When Sienna meets Nick it's not the way it happens in love stories. It's because of a squirrel on water skis...

When Sienna meets Nick it’s not the way it happens in love stories. It’s because of a squirrel on water skis…

I had a lovely conversation with a reader this week about the hidden surprises in my first book This is a Love Story.

If you’ve read This is a Love Story you may or may not have noticed them… There seems to be a 50/50 split between readers who pick up on it and those who don’t.

For those who are curious, *whispers* here comes the ‘spoiler’…. there are quite a lot of SQUIRRELS in the story…

They appear randomly throughout the book, never really playing much of a key role, but just running on the top of fences, looking cute with their fluffy tails and generally being awesome.

There have been several different reactions to these little surprises, ranging from mild irritation to sheer delight. But this week was really nice because a reader not only asked me directly what the squirrels meant, but also came up with her own pretty detailed (and very clever) theory.

I responded by saying that the squirrels mean whatever they mean to each individual reader. Now I know we are just talking about fictional squirrels here (let’s not take this too seriously!) and I know this is a little cheesy, but this got me thinking about reading and its wider context. It reminded me of something I have taken for granted for a while…

It struck me once more, that one of the most beautiful things about books, art and anything you really absorb in a similar way, is that it means something very special to you and that is often quite unique.

My own view is that people naturally react differently to fiction depending on their own personalities and life experiences, so ultimately the valid truth behind symbolism in a book is entirely subjective and belongs solely to the reader…

A writer could put one book out into the world and get a thousand different reactions to it. How do we ever know that a book we read makes someone else feel exactly how we did, even though as humans we share so many feelings in common? How do we know that the imagery the words conjure would be the same as it would for a person sitting next to us on the bus, reading the same chapter through different eyes?

Readers bring words to life in their own special way and as a writer it’s lovely to think about this, about all the different experiences and feelings your work might conjure in people, from passivity to joy, or even real sadness. You do some of the work, but readers take it somewhere else and I’m so grateful to the people who get in touch to tell me what their experience was like, and those who write reviews.

I want to thank the reader who took the time to share with me her own theory. I also spoke to someone who told me that he saw the squirrels as a symbol of experience. He highlighted (in a tongue-in-cheek way, of course) that in life you collect experiences – these are the ‘nuts’ – and then like a squirrel, you stash them away until some time in the future, when you might want to go back to those experiences again, and do something better (or differently).

I thought that was lovely too.

In truth, the squirrels in This is a Love Story came about accidentally.

My editor mentioned to me that a few were popping up and I didn’t even realise I was doing it… It was totally subconscious. We decided to keep them in because we liked them, and I’m really glad I did because today they reminded me of something wonderful about literature. Something that had, shamefully, passed me by recently.

If you want to go on a This is a Love Story squirrel hunt, or you know someone who likes squirrels too… the Kindle ebook is available through Amazon at the moment for just 99p.

This offer ends early next week.

Finding inspiration in The Lake District…

I went to the Lake District last week to visit some of my family, and fell in love with it all over again.

I’ve been to the Lakes a few times to visit my brother and nephews, and I only seem to appreciate it more every time I return.

My boyfriend Andy came too. He was amazing because he patiently drove us all the way up there and back, in spite of all the cheesy songs I was playing in the car.

By Andrew Jones

By Andrew Jones

It was fantastic to see my family again, and it was also a great reminder of just how beautiful that part of the world is. Whenever I arrive in the Lakes I’m always so thankful that we have such wonderful landscapes relatively close by. We really are so lucky.

When Andy wasn’t putting himself in what I considered to be slightly nerve-wracking situations trying to get the best photos he could (one shot involved him being worringly close to a waterfall), I was relaxed enough to really enjoy our surroundings!

I also had some early ideas for book four, which I mentioned to him while he nodded and took more pictures of rolling hills and farm animals.

We went to loads of places in just a few days including Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston, Ulverston and Keswick. A big highlight was going to see Beatrix Potter’s house at Hilltop. It was so magical for me because I loved her books when I was little, particularly the Tailor of Gloucester. I have early memories of her books being read to me, and looking back, that was probably the beginning of my love of books.

By Andrew Jones

By Andrew Jones

Visiting Beatrix’s house is like stepping back in time, it has been so beautifully looked after by the National Trust.

As much as I love the city I live in, I’m so glad we got away from London for a bit to get some fresh air.

By Andrew Jones

By Andrew Jones


When we returned from the Lakes I jetted off to Belfast for a weekend with two of my lovely friends, Claire and Lucy. I hadn’t seen them since the launch of  the Three Little Words eBook earlier this year, so this was long overdue!

We went to some stunning bars including a 1940’s style cocktail lounge in a hotel, but one of my favourites had live Irish music and we ended up dancing around until we were dizzy.

Everyone in Belfast was so lovely and friendly, and I cannot wait to go back.

It was a great few days away. Time to start book four!

London gems that inspire my writing…

In my three years of living in this gorgeous city I’m glad to say I’ve discovered some inspiring places to write books*. Not only that, but some parts of the city have ended up in my books, either directly, or as the inspiration behind some fictional places.

While I’m usually holed up inside, squinting at my laptop, it’s nice to get out sometimes for a change of scenery. It’s even better when one of those wanders forms the basis of a scene.

Here are some of my favourite spots to write when I do tear myself away from the house, and some of the places that inspired chapters in This is a Love Story and Three Little Words. I’d love to know yours too, so do please get in touch and let me know.

The Haberdashery, N8

The Haberdashery in Crouch End

The Haberdashery in Crouch End

I must admit I’m a little bit in love with this cafe. I discovered it when I lived in Crouch End and I kind of knew I would adore it before I even went in. I don’t know if it was the fairy lights (all year round), the pretty bunting that hung outside, or the chalked sign by the door that said ‘Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten’ (I know, I don’t get it either). It just kind of seeps shabby chic from several metres away and you can usually hear laughter and the chinking of crockery whenever you walk past it because it’s really popular.

When you step inside it only gets more sweet. There are homemade goodies on sale ranging from distressed teddies to quirky paintings, your drinks arrive in mismatching tea sets that look adorable and there’s a real local feel to it.

I spent a lot of time in there with my laptop and a latte, working away on Three Little Words. It really was a very happy time for me. I loved The Haberdashery so much that I held the launch of Three Little Words there and it was a fabulous venue that I would highly recommend. It was great to celebrate the book in the exact spot where some of it was written.

The launch party for Three Little Words at The Haberdashery

The launch party for Three Little Words at The Haberdashery

Rokit, Covent Garden.

While I’ve never walked into this shop, fired up my laptop and started writing (which would be weird), it’s a wonderful hangout if you’re looking to ‘get to know’ your characters. It’s great to see some wild and wacky clothes, imagine them on your heroes and heroines, and think about how they look and dress. Whilst your character’s imaginary wardrobe is certainly not the basis for a well rounded pretend person, I find it really helps to picture them clearly in my mind.

One of the first bits of golden advice from my agent was to walk around shops and just look at things, feel fabrics and textures, and imagine exactly what your character would wear. In addition to being a great excuse to hit the high street, it’s also genuinely a brilliant way to decide whether you want your lead gal wearing leopard print platform brogues and a tracksuit or whether she’s a smart shirt and jeans kind of lady.

It’s thanks to Rokit that a character in my third book, which comes out next year, has such an unusual and enviable dress sense…

Alexandra Palace Park, N8

A picture taken by Pip in Alexandra Palace Park

A picture taken by Pip in Alexandra Palace Park

This is a thinking space for me, a great way to escape and consider plots and characters (also lovely for running, if you’re into that).

If you’ve never been here I would suggest starting at the bottom. Jump on a bus from Finsbury Park and get close as you can to the bottom of the park and then walk all the way up to the top. Don’t peep, however tempting it is, until you are right in front of the palace itself. And then turn around.

The view is stunning. You can pretty much see the whole of London spread out before you and it’s a nice to sit there and think about deep and meaningful stuff. I was so touched by Alexandra Palace that it inspired a scene in This is a Love Story, where Nick and Sienna go to the park. I always remember that when I return and that’s why for me, it’s one of my favourite parks in London.

– Balham.

Balham was a big part of This is a Love Story, although the venues/office I wrote about were made up. It’s the general feel of Balham that I love, even the train station is quaint and somehow rather pretty.

One of my favourite real-life venues in the area is The Balham Bowls Club. It’s got a really old fashioned feel to it and so much personality. I also sang at The Bedford in Balham when I was in a band last year and it was a fantastic music venue.

I haven’t been to Balham for a little while actually, but I hope a visit is on the cards very soon…

Hornsey Library, N8

Hornsey Library is modest and tucked away from the High Street. I spent many hours writing Three Little Words there. I don’t know what it was about this library, but I found it a great place to really be able to concentrate.

One of the loveliest things about this library is the gallery space upstairs. They always choose really cool exhibitions to show. Next to the gallery is a lovely little cafe that was (and I hope still is) run by a wonderful guy who wears pirate inspired attire.

What are you favourite places to write in London? Has anywhere made it into one of your books, short stories or poems? I’d love to hear from you…

(*or sit and think about writing books.)

Most awkward questions to ask a writer…

Being an author is one of those jobs that sometimes catches people’s interest, just like being a journalist, policeman, or a vet.

Most people know a writer, or a very talented one who wants to be published. Even if that isn’t the case, people understandably like to know how a book goes from that troubled first draft through to a polished, finished product. There’s no doubt it’s a wonderful thing to do something for a living that’s interesting.

But from my own experiences and from talking to other writers, I’ve identified ‘those questions’. The ones that occasionally crop up and make us want to stockpile chocolate bars, crisps and nuts, and hide away from the world. I can imagine people get this in every job, so please tell me yours too.

1) Have you read this book?

This one always makes me a little nervous, I have to admit. All my life I’ve been a keen reader, a real lover of books. Like most people I’ve read a lot, but not nearly as much as I’d like… Time just isn’t on my side with this (as well as writing books, I work full-time and I’m studying part-time towards a degree). Not only that, but when I’m writing my own drafts I sometimes avoid the work of other authors to make sure I don’t accidentally take on their tone! Sometimes I opt for memoirs or more obscure things, so it can be a bit humiliating when I’m at a party and people ask me if I’ve read X, Y or Z and I just feel my ears go hot.

I only wish I could read more!! *sighs*

2) There’s a mistake in your book… did you know?

Of course, this one’s a horror isn’t it? Just about every writer will have experienced this. When it happens all I can describe it as is a cold, sinking feeling followed by a strong desire to buy all your books from every shop in walking distance, head for the coast, hire and boat and dump them in the middle of the sea.

Unfortunately mistakes do sometimes get through… I know, it’s awful, and they often happen in the strangest ways making them look even more bizarre to the reader. Books are written and proof read by humans, sadly we make mistakes. A close friend of mine recently experienced this and told me her woes over dinner. I tried to offer words of comfort as she wiped away her tears behind a large burrito, but there was nothing I could do until a little time had passed.

But, do tell a writer if there’s an error. We can change drafts sometimes and if there’s time before release we can catch it early. Just be gentle with us… please! 😉

3) Is that character based on you?

I must admit I had a real giggle when I opened John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and found his author’s note (if you haven’t seen it you should have a look, it’ll make you smile I promise!)

It is interesting how people sometimes connect the similarities between an author and a character and not the hugely obvious differences.

On the plus side, it’s really cool that people are not only reading the book but paying this much attention to it. You write about what you know, and a hell of a lot of your work will be inspired by your life… However, I certainly have no intention or desire to write about myself fact-for-fact in a fictional book. I can’t imagine anything more boring…


4) I’ve been looking at your reviews… how do you cope?

Yes, someone actually said this to me.

Here’s a fact. If you write a novel that will be published to a wide audience, then some people will dislike it. In fact some people will hate it, and some people will take to Amazon/Good Reads etc and spend (way too much) time composing angry, venomous reviews (one about a book of mine was really carefully done, with lots of GIFs to illustrate just how shit they thought it was). That is part of the job, and if you are a newly published writer then you need to get used to it I’m afraid. Whether you are relatively unknown or whether you are up there with the likes of Zadie Smith and J.K Rowling, people will write bad reviews about you.

That’s fine. People absolutely have the right to their opinion (and you can learn from some of them, if you want to read them that is). But please, can’t we focus on the positives? Especially when the majority of reviews are really nice? Meh, maybe it’s just me…

5) Do you ever get writers block?

Yes, I do. I procrastinate. I clean the flat when it never needed to be cleaned, I shuffle papers around, start sifting through old photographs and I paint my nails all the colours of the rainbow. (If you ever see me on Monday morning with brightly coloured and beautifully painted nails, you’ll know things didn’t go well.)

It’s awful. If you happen to be asking me when I’ve got writers block and I’m out trying to forget it then you’ve reminded me and oh God noooooo…..!!!!

So, there they are.

The top five most awkward questions to ask a writer.

If you are a writer, do you agree or disagree? If not, what’s your job and what are the most awkward questions people ask you?

Another book cover to share…

With Three Little Words hitting the UK shops in just a few weeks, I thought things couldn’t get much more exciting until I saw this…

Below is the cover for the Netherlands edition of Three Little Words, called ‘Vergeef Me’, which will be published by Unieboek next month.

It’s a really unusual jacket and I love it for that reason. It’s so dramatic too. Again, it’s incredible to see the different design approaches publishers take, and I appreciate them all. I’m so impressed with it, so a huge thank you to Unieboek for such a beautiful cover design.

I can’t wait to see the sample copies in the flesh!

Three Little Words - The Netherlands edition published by Uniboek

Finding something special…

Today my boyfriend and I decided to head to Brick Lane for an afternoon of general wandering. I wasn’t really in the ‘shopping mood’. I was happy just pootling around, taking in the sights and smells, and wondering how everyone was managing to be so effortlessly cool.

Then Andy and I decided to pop into a place called ‘This Shop Rocks’ on Brick Lane. It sells all sorts of vintage things from plates to hats and candlestick holders. As soon as we walked in I was instantly amazed at all the stuff inside, it was like a treasure trove and certainly lived up to its name.

As I walked round the shop, I pictured serving friends cocktails in vintage milk bottles with weird straws and cooking delicious foodstuffs with some seriously funky pans. You probably know the scenario all too well yourself. You instantly start imagining the things in your home/in your hair/over your shoulders and how bloody amazing they would be.

Anyway, I’d just about managed to control myself (reluctantly slinking away from the milk bottles), until we walked round and saw something A*M*A*Z*I*N*G. And that was it. I FELL IN LOVE. I fell head-over-heels in love in the way that so many people do with inanimate objects on aimless Sunday afternoons. It’s unexpected. It’s magical. Your bank account does not like it but who cares BECAUSE IT’S LOVE.

Straight away I started cooing and sighing, tilting my head to one side and shifting around on my feet excitedly. As I tugged at Andy’s arm crying “ohmygoditsbeautifullookatititsmyfavouritecolourandeverythingohmygodohmygodohmygod”, he stood there, stroking his beard and staring at it. He had his intense thinking face on, complete with furrowed brow, so I knew it was serious. Then after a few moments he turned around and simply said “You have to get it. It’s beautiful. Go on!”

Now, this gorgeous find is related to writing, so you can probably imagine why I lost my mind over it… Can you guess what it is yet? Here’s a hint…


Got it yet? Good.

Not got it yet? It’s a vintage typewriter.

It’s called a ‘Super G’ and it’s made by Smith Corona in collaboration with Ghia, and I believe it’s modelled on a racing car (complete with racing stripes). It was made in the 1970’s. This means the typewriter is older than me, which I think is really cool.


Like the geeky things we are, Andy and I rushed home to clean it, polish it and generally tinker with it until it shone like the sun. I did some research and it was also manufactured back in the seventies in orange and brown. It’s beautiful.

One of the loveliest things about this unexpected purchase is wondering what has been written by its previous owner/s… How many letters, words, sentences (or even whole stories) it has aided and how magical that all is. It looks like it has been well loved and well used, and it has known language before I was even born. Now, I love my laptop and wouldn’t be thrilled with the idea of producing a whole manuscript on a typewriter nowadays, but there’s something so cool about the clunky feel to its keys, the clever but so simple mechanical functions it has, the sound of the paper being rolled into place and the TING when you get the end of the page. It’s like being a kid again.


Me and Super G

Anyway, just thought I would share this with some fellow book lovers, avid readers and writers who might just find it as fascinating as I do.

What a brilliant day!

The relationship between ambition and self-doubt…

I was at a party recently talking to one of my friends about a work trip. She had delivered an important, high pressure presentation, sharing her expertise and generally being a fountain of wisdom and know-how. I can imagine the whole build-up to the event itself was very nerve-wracking, and after the trip I was listening to her intently (albeit gorging on crisps and dip) when she said “I just couldn’t believe I was giving this presentation to all these people. They were listening to me, telling them about my work.”

As I sat there, listening to said friend, all I could think about was how talented she is, and how it was very right that she was the person giving that presentation because well, she rocks, and she knows what she is talking about. From my point of view, she was just the woman to do it and of course, she made a great success of it all because that’s just how she rolls.

Another friend of mine has recently become a teacher. I’ve known her since we were six-years-old and running around the playground and bickering about which of our imaginary unicorns was the best. On an evening walk she told me how surreal it seemed that she would soon be teaching full time, even though she was really excited about it all. I can’t imagine a better girl for the job, she’s creative, intelligent and a fantastic role model. But when she spoke I nodded in agreement, remembering how I felt when I got my first book deal. It was a mixture of total happiness and shock that my work was going to be read by more people than a handful of close friends and my mother. Infact, it’s still a bit of a surprise (well a total surprise) when I am contacted by a reader. It makes me SO happy.

Then I remembered a theory I read in the paper ages ago about something called Imposter Syndrome. Ok, it does sound a little dramatic, (don’t worry, it doesn’t involve a fever or any kind of strange rash…) but the basic idea behind it is fascinating.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Imposter Syndrome is a theory or phenomenon that is very common in ambitious people, both men and women, who basically think they are a fraud within their position, or that their appointment to that role/position is some kind of mix-up or mistake. If you want to find out more about it, give it a Google, there are reams of stuff online about it. It seems, talking to many amazing people over the years, that this feeling is pretty common. It doesn’t just apply to celebrities and scientists, it can happen to anyone, no matter what they do.

I was 23 when I got my first book deal and I was still daunted by basic things like cooking anything other than pasta, paying bills and generally being a proper adult, and to be honest I felt that it was all some kind of elaborate joke. I remember going to meet my agent for the first time and being so nervous that I could barely see straight and nearly walked into the men’s toilets. How could this have happened to me? It was so amazing, so wonderful, that it wouldn’t quite compute. I morphed back into the gawky kid I used to be, unable to string proper sentences together and knocking things over all the time.

Strange thoughts kept buzzing through my mind. What if I accidentally re-wrote something I watched or read years ago without even realising? What if my first book was a fluke and upon attempting the second, I would simply sit in front of the laptop watching 4OD and wondering how to type basic words? What if I only had one book in me? It was very interesting how my brain responded to this amazing thing that had happened to me and I remember it so well. Even though I was estatically happy about it all, there was this nagging self-doubt somewhere in the background.

Even now those feelings come back sometimes, but I try and talk myself out of them. I go for a run, or make a coffee, or read one of my favourite books and it all goes away.

I think that a small amount of self doubt is (most of the time) not a bad thing, although I can imagine that for some it unfortunately becomes a serious anxiety issue. Not being excessively confident keeps me on my toes. It keeps me grateful for everything that has happened and it keeps me focused on the future. It is the nagging doubt in me that prompts me to always try to improve and get better at what I do. Writing is a life-long journey, and just like you grow as a person, make mistakes and enjoy successes, this also happens in your writing too.

Sometimes it’s good to know that other people feel the same. It’s comforting in a way to know that the people you admire and respect experience the same kind of feelings as you, and it’s positive that people are always assessing their position and how they feel about it.

For the readers of this blog who are thinking ‘Yes! I totally get that!’ – you must be confident in yourself. You are doing what you do not by luck, or fluke, or through some kind of catastrophic mix-up. You are doing what you do because you deserve it. It’s all because you studied hard, or learnt how to do something yourself through hours and hours of practice and hard work, because you are talented, because you persevered, and because you are good at it. And most importantly, don’t expect to start a new job/promotion/project/fitness challenge/novel and be perfect at it.

There is room to grow and learn and that’s totally ok…

Great films… 500 Days of Summer

Zooey Deschanel who plays Summer in 500 Days of Summer

Zooey Deschanel who plays Summer in 500 Days of Summer

This weekend I watched 500 Days of Summer.

Saturday’s viewing of this film was probably the 500th time I’ve seen it too… I have to be honest here, I’m a 500 Days of Summer geek. I know it well, too well. I know the words to each and every song as the film unfolds, I know what line is coming next, it’s all got a little out of hand.

I remember the first time I went to see this film at the cinema. For me, it was one of those rare times you watch a movie and feel so inspired by it that you want to write. I absolutely adored it, and still do.

It was a major inspiration to me when I wrote This is a Love Story, and as TIALS was the first novel I wrote, it brings about very fond memories.

There are so many reasons why I love this film, and here are some of them…

(***WARNING: May contain spoilers***)

1) The whimsical narrative: Richard McGonagle does a great job of saying sweet, simple, and beautiful things about Tom and Summer’s love story as it unfolds against the backdrop of some fabulous plinky plunky music. It’s so honest, well written, and gorgeously quirky. It just works. It’s always stuck in my mind as the kind of narrative voice that would work beautifully in fiction and a great example of the things you can learn while watching films and writing books.

2) Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt: She’s the non-committal, mixed-message giving, mesmerizingly beautiful heroine, he’s the good-looking, painfully shy, and totally adorable lead guy. They work so well together and I can’t imagine a better pairing for this movie. When Zooey and Joseph become Summer and Tom, they act out a story almost everyone can relate to. She’s everyone’s indie girl-crush, he’s so lovely you can’t help but feel she must be a little crazy, and you are desperate to find out how it ends.

3) The soundtrack: From Regina Spektor’s excitable and breathy ‘Us’ to ‘There Goes the Fear’ by Doves, the soundtrack oozes cool, and in my opinion the tracks couldn’t have been picked better for the film. The musical high for me is ‘You Make My Dreams’ by Hall and Oates, and THAT scene in the park (ohhh c’mon, everyone’s been so happy they’ve held a cartoon bluebird in their hand, right?).

4) The mystery: The film shows us enough about Summer to make her loveable and relatable, and yet we never really understand why she is how she is. It keeps you intrigued, while Tom is much more of a open book. The secrets she keeps are continually interesting. Why is she so hard to get close to? Why is she so unpredictable? Why can’t she see what she is doing to Tom?

5) It’s realistic: Tom has fallen in love with Summer. That’s the simple bit. But Summer is as easy to understand as a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing. So Tom does what most people do in his situation, he continually justifies it, despite fighting this inner gut feeling that something isn’t right. It’s so interesting how people do this, they hang on to any thread of positivity they can in the desperate hope that the outcome will be different. It’s common human behaviour, and it fascinates me.

6) The storytelling: 500 Days of Summer is played out in sections that don’t run in chronological order. You only know where you are at through the use of the numbered days in their love story. It’s a really cool way of unravelling a plot. There are hundreds of thousands of wonderful love stories out there, but I adored the style of this one.

7) The role reversal: This isn’t a movie about a neurotic woman crying into her cornflakes over an emotionally unavailable guy who doesn’t give a damn. This film turns all these all too common gender stereotypes upside down, and it’s refreshing. Despite all this, Tom isn’t left looking like an idiot. It’s well done, and it doesn’t make either gender look perpetually stupid. Yes, men do fall in love, and yes, men get upset and misread signals. It doesn’t just happen to women, and that’s absolutely ok.

8) It’s energising: Tom is consistently struggling with his suitcase full of broken dreams. A man who works in the greetings card industry who really wants to be doing something else. He’s clearly talented but it takes for something big to happen before he considers acting on it. Why leave it so long? It’s great to see the change in him, but it also prompts you to think about things you want to achieve and how things can get harder before they get better, and it’s inspiring.

9) The imagery: From Summer’s gorgeously decorated apartment to the places the pair hang out in during their dates, the film is loaded with lovely things to see. Ok, realistically, I don’t know how the characters could afford all the trappings of their beautiful homes given their circumstances, but it sure is inspiring to see. Warning. You may watch this film and have a strong desire to head to your local Ikea/Urban Outfitters/Zara Home and splash out on fabulous accessories.

10) Not all love stories work out as expected: Tom and Summer’s love story is unpredictable, but that’s ok because real life works like that sometimes. The romantic encounters that leave you temporarily suspended in grief and regret can be the ones that teach you the most, and this film encapsulates all that, and how there is always hope after heartbreak.

And there you have it, just some of the many reasons why 500 Days of Summer is one of my favourite films. If you haven’t watched it yet, you know what to do!

Lost in a manuscript…

I’ve been a little quieter than usual the past few days. This is partially because I’ve helped my parents move house, and also because I am in that strange timeless zone I like to call ‘finishing a book’…

It is during this time that the following things happen:

1) I stop communicating with the outside world almost entirely because I am so lost in my latest manuscript. I lose all social skills and the ability to compose a decent text message or hold any kind of coherent/interesting conversation (bar the odd tweet or inane Facebook comment.)

2) I forget to eat some days. Normally breakfast and lunch are the first meals to go, followed by the realisation at 6.30pm that I am absolutely ravenous (and the subsequent pig-out session that goes with it.)

3) I cannot stop thinking about the characters. I am dreaming about them, I am pondering their next move while brushing my teeth, I’m wondering how they would like their toast, or how many sugars they would have in their tea. It’s giving me a headache.

4) I forget to brush my hair, and do other stuff that civilised people do like washing up. My writing space looks… well… bloody awful. I should be ashamed of myself.

5) When I do eventually crawl out into the daylight, it is all VERY bright. Think The Gremlins at a fireworks display and you’ve just about got it.

6) I have been writing so furiously that letters are actually jumbling before my very eyes and I can no longer spell quite basic words. This both shocks and worries me.

7) I am in a world where time no longer means anything, the only significant break is to step outside to get a few breaths of fresh air or have a coffee and I very much resent having to leave the laptop, for anything.

Ok, this is all a little exaggerated for comedy value…. but I’m sure lots of other writers will be able to relate to this. It this part of writing a book where I really do find myself in a ‘zone’.

During the first three quarters of the novel writing process I’m certainly glued to it, but there’s a real marked difference for me when I am getting to those last, few vital chapters.

Naturally that’s because the last few chapters close the story. The plot that you have carefully thought up, discussed with your editor, turned inside out and upside down is happening right here, right now, in Microsoft Word. (Yipeee!)

The last few chapters always hold, in my opinion, the most exciting bits. There’s the big reveal (or reveals), the crunch moments, the ‘I love you’s’, the closed doors, the new beginnings… It’s one of the most fantastic parts of the process, in my opinion, and yet the most antisocial too.

I have two chapters left to write of my third book. I plan to finish the first draft tomorrow, before it then goes through a rigorous editing process. I have no idea if I have hit on something really special, or if I have written 112,000 words of absolute dross. Clarity will only come during the re-reads and luckily there is plenty of time to perfect it. It’s daunting, but very exciting.

Friends and family, I will be back out in the wide world very soon… my hair brushed and everything…

I’ve missed you!