Firstly, I loved Millie’s Game Plan. What inspired you to write this novel?
Thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to hear someone has enjoyed something I’ve written. That’s the goal for a writer, after all.
The inspiration came from a true story. A few years ago, when I was single and living on the Isle of Wight, one of my teaching colleagues – Claire – and I used to bemoan the fact that young, free and single men on the island were a somewhat finite commodity, and we wondered how or if we would ever meet Mr Right. She told me about a friend of hers who, in a similar situation, decided to draw up an action plan for finding her own Mr Right. She had a list of qualities she was looking for, and decided the best places to start looking were at village cricket matches. She selected a catchment area on a map within a twenty-mile radius of her home, listed all the cricket clubs to visit, and set off on her mission. She duly found her Mr Right, and is still happily married to him a number of years later.
That, I thought, would be a great basis for a romantic novel. The rest I made up!
Tell us abit about your writing process. How did Millie’s Game Plan come together?
It took years to write, because I was working full-time. I’ve just checked back over my archive, and I began writing it in 2007 and didn’t publish until 2013.
Initially I sent a partial manuscript and a synopsis to an editing service, because I was concerned as to whether or not my style and plot worked. The style was okay but the plot needed more thought – it was too woolly!
Fortunately, the man in my life is a very strategic thinker – so I discussed the plot with him during a four-day drive through France and Spain. Now, I should add here – he’s a strategic thinker but not a reader of romantic comedies, so the plot began to resemble something by John le Carre, with underground gangs stealing and forging church silver in order to sell it on the black market… not quite what I was after! But talking it through was very useful, and I eventually arrived at the final plot.
As a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, which runs a New Writers’ Scheme for aspiring authors, I was able to submit a manuscript, each year, for a critique from a professional author. I submitted Millie’s Game Plan in two consecutive years, receiving invaluable feedback and recommendations for improvement. I then worked on it for the next couple of years, and submitted it to a professional editorial service for final guidance.
I was nothing if not determined to produce the best book I could!
Who is your favourite character from the novel? Why?
I think it has to be Millie. She’s the one I spent the most time with, although I did fall in love with Josh – obviously!
Millie is trying very hard to keep all her plates spinning – whether at work, at Hamlets youth theatre which she runs in her spare time, or worrying about her widowed mother – with whom she has a slightly tense relationship. Added to this, she’s embarked on her search for Mr Right and ends up having to deal with the fallout from the crime at the church. Hopefully, my readers can all identify with the pressures Millie has to handle.
Saying that, I really like my secondary characters too – Vonnie, for example, is one of the leading figures in the village who is a little eccentric and slightly saucy; then there are the adolescents in the youth theater who are wonderfully pubescent. I used to teach that age group so I had plenty of material to draw on!
This novel was such an entertaining read. Would you consider writing a sequel?
Good question. I have toyed with the idea of taking Millie’s friend, Sacha, and writing her story. I think I could have lots of fun with Sacha as she can be quite outrageous – although her heart is in the right place.
I can see Millie using her practicality and level-headedness to help iron out a few wrinkles in Sacha’s life before she settles down. And it would be lovely to see how Millie’s life has moved on, too.
Millie’s Game Plan is full of romance and it’s a great Chick-Lit. What advice would you give to anyone wishing to write a Chick-Lit novel? Plus, is romance a definite must-have?
Ooh…is romance a definite must-have? That’s a very interesting question. Not necessarily as a central theme but I think the hope of romance always keeps the reader interested.
I’ve watched any number of movies, where the main story involves crime or a disaster, but there’s some chemistry developing between a couple of lead characters, which is not necessarily brought to a romantic conclusion but the prospect of a happy-ever-after is hovering in the background.
My advice to authors wishing to write, would be to read plenty of novels in the Chick-Lit genre, and decide what works best for you. I’ve read a LOT in this genre; some leave me cold, some make me weep with emotion, some are too silly for words, others have me chuckling out loud.
The first Chick-Lit to hook me was by Jilly Cooper. Her stories were intelligently written, witty and full of heart – and her heroines had believable imperfections. Later I discovered Marian Keyes, who can plumb depths of emotion one moment and have you roaring your head off with laughter the next. I’m also a huge fan of Jennifer Crusie – her writing is so smart and her humour cracks me up.
For me, in a Chick-Lit novel I need:
- a heroine I can believe in and, to some extent, identify with
- much more to the plot than boy-meets-girl
- eccentric or interesting characters
Finally, I think it’s essential for aspiring writers to share their writing with others. As soon as I joined a writing group, my output increased and improved. If you’re serious about publishing your work, seek the advice of professionals – whether seasoned authors or people offering editorial services.
Now, Millie’s strategy to win the guy/s is daring, smart and a little crazy. Mr Right was not who she expected. What advice would you give to those hopeless romantics?
Well, it can’t hurt to have a plan, can it?!
Modern dating seems to be so much about websites and dating apps that if I were back on the dating market, I’m not sure what I’d do…
Cast my net wide, probably, and not commit myself too quickly. Although, the reality is, I’d probably contact all my friends and say, ‘D’you know any lovely, single men going spare? Could you introduce me?’ Then, when that didn’t work, I’d resort to the vast and worryingly deep e-pool of potential suitors.
That said, I think some people are so eager to settle down, that they settle for Mr Available, instead of finding someone with similar values. It’s hard to live with someone when you don’t see eye-to-eye – no matter how hot he looks in cut-off jeans.
And finally, one thing I have learned: kindness, compassion and a sense of humour count for a lot!