When did you first fall in love with reading and writing?
I loved reading bedside stories to my little sister, so a shared enjoyment of reading and discovering characters and stories together was born from probably about six years old.
What attracted you to the Chick-Lit/Romantic Comedy genre, and would you ever consider writing in a different genre?
This is the genre I love to read. I have eclectic taste regarding everything from food to music to books. But ultimately, chick-lit is my favourite! I see snuggling up to a great chick-lit book by an author I love feels very much like a conversation with a best friend; it covers the personal issues I care about such as career, body image, social expectations, family, friends, love etc. It gives insight in to areas that are sensitive but also central to who we are and how we understand ourselves.
I recently read Don’t Stop Me Now (I loved it by the way)! What are some of the main things that inspired you to write this novel?
What a great question! I was given advice that I should write the kind of book I’d like to read, so I definitely wanted my protagonist to be smart and strong, and not need a man to come and ‘fix’ her or her life. I wanted Poppy to be like the women I know: ambitious and capable but also sometimes needing some space to figure out the best course for them, and really have a chance to pull out all that talent and resilience that can sometimes be overlooked or lost along the way.
DSMN is full of memorable characters. If any, who do you most resemble?
In my twenties, definitely Poppy. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do my best in everything and had a few meltdowns when things didn’t turn out as expected! I certainly let external successes dictate my own self-worth a little too much and catastrophized when things didn’t go to plan. My poor mother has spent so much of her life talking me down to rationality as I sobbed down the phone over exams and career, etc. But now I think I’m a bit more like Leanne- I try not to dwell on anything that doesn’t serve me. I stay positive and focus on the next step. Easier said than done sometimes, but I’m getting there!
So, what will Poppy and Tom’s wedding be like?
I got married at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton and it was the most special day ever. It was right in the heart of the community that welcomed me so warmly where I lived as well as worked, and set up a life with my husband Julian and baby twins. So, Brixton will always be my London home. I would love to think Poppy and Tom would celebrate their wedding on the steps of the Ritzy where their own life-changing story began together.
Poppy does a lot of self- reflection in the novel and her self-perception develops. Issues of identity and the pressure that we (or society) sometimes put on ourselves to attain that dream job is explored in DSMN. What would Poppy say to anyone questioning their self-worth because of negative and unexpected circumstances?
Such a great question. This is a hard one because we often define our self-worth by external markers of success, wealth or how we fare in the ‘race’ of life. From a young age we are encouraged to think in terms of ‘what do we want to be when we grow up?’ and answers such as a ‘doctor’ or a ‘lawyer’ surface far more readily than ‘happy’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘self-accepting’. Poppy gets the chance to turn the lens around and remember that Frank, her mum, Tom and Leanne all challenge her fixed, academic perception of success. She loves them for who they are, not what job they do or what title they hold. And through this, I think she starts to realise that she is loved and cherished beyond or indeed, even without the need for, an attached label. Once she frees herself from this narrow self-perception, her confidence grows and a big, bright, new world of opportunity opens up.
The support network in this novel is lovely. From the netball team to Poppy’s parents and boyfriend, she was surrounded by good people during a tricky patch and some mental health issues. Would you say that in a way, Poppy needed to go through this experience to become a ‘better’ Poppy?
I’m so glad you think so! I think Poppy needed a chance to recognise that there is always support out there- family, old and new friends, professional services …. that she is not all alone in this world and that it is not a case of being slung on the rubbish tip if you don’t excel every second of your life. Good people not only accept flaws, frailties and life-flips , they live through them too, they know how it feels and are ready to give a hand, without judgement and motivated by nothing more than love and friendship.
Lastly, can your readers look forward to a new novel?
Yes! And it has just received its first flutter of five star reviews this weekend, and I am so proud and relieved and excited! This book is called Reach for The Stars. I have a real soft spot for this little story because I think there is a little bit of Evelyn in all of us, and I really hope you love it.
Wondering what Colleen’s new novel is about? Read below.
Reach For The Stars
When Evelyn Dooley married her high-school sweetheart, James, she thought she was set for life. Now she’s 28, single, and fleeing to Dublin from her small hometown to avoid the gossip surrounding their break-up.
This was not in her five-year plan.
Then a chance encounter with gorgeous musician Danny leads to an unlikely friendship, and soon the pair are running music nights together. Surrounded by new friends and a welcoming community, Evelyn is building a life that she really loves – and sparks are beginning to fly between her and Danny…
But when her savings run out and home beckons, Evelyn has to choose. The safe, comfortable life she left behind, or a new adventure with Danny? Will Evelyn flee back to the familiarity of her ex, or reach for the stars and take a leap into the unknown?
Available for pre-order now. Out September 21st