Thursday, 7 August 2014

Q&A with Joanne Phillips

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Joanne Phillips lives in rural Shropshire with her husband and young daughter. She’s the author of romantic comedies Can’t Live Without and The Family Trap, and the Flora Lively series of mysteries. Can’t Live Without was an Amazon top 20 bestseller in 2012 and her books regularly appear on category bestseller lists. Before becoming a writer, Joanne had jobs as diverse as hairdresser, air hostess and librarian, but now divides her time between writing and finding creative ways to avoid housework. She’s a fan of super-dark chocolate, iced coffee and Masterchef. Joanne blogs about writing and publishing at


1.    Did you always dream of being a writer?

I did, right from when I was in primary school. Telling stories is something I’ve always done – in my head, to myself, as well as on paper.

2.    Can you tell us a little more about your debut novel Can’t Live Without?

Can’t Live Without  is about a single mum called Stella, who wakes up one morning to find her kitchen on fire! She loses everything she owns in the fire, and has to start over, figuring out what it really is she can’t live without.

3.    The Family Trap is a stand alone sequel to Can’t Live Without, what’s the story about?

Here we pick up with Stella at the moment she’s about to become a grandmother – the same day that Stella discovers she’s pregnant by the man she’s about to marry. But the course of true love does not run smoothly – Stella finds out that Paul is not so keen on the idea of babies, and her dream wedding soon turns into a nightmare.

4.    Murder at the Maples is book 1 of a mystery series your writing. What can we expect from that series and why mystery?

I wanted to combine my love of romantic fiction with my love of innocent (i.e. not gory!) mysteries, which led me to create the character of Flora Lively. In future books we’ll see more of her love/hate relationship with Marshall, and find out more about her troubled past. Flora will grow and learn to trust, while solving increasingly complex mysteries on the way!

5.    What are you working on right now?

My next release will be another romantic comedy called You Are Here. This is one I’ve been writing on and off for years, and it is close to my heart. The heroine leaves her husband and goes off in search of her teenage love – with hilarious consequences.

6.    You also wrote a novelette and a collection of short stories, how is that different from writing a full length novel and what are the stories about?

It’s very different – the novelette was originally going to be a novel, but the topic – a woman with a stammer who has to overcome her fears to be able to marry her soulmate – was one that would have been difficult to develop into a full length novel. That it couldn’t be done, just that I didn’t want to go down that route. Working it into a shorter form felt right, and the reviews for that book have been amazing. The short stories are all about different aspects of relationships, but it’s a loose connection. There are very short flash fiction stories, and a few longer ones. I write short stories all the time, just to get into the flow of writing, so expect more collections in the future!

7.    Where and when do you write your stories?

I write whenever I can, wherever I can – but mostly I write in the day while my six year old daughter is at school, and either in my office in the house or in my summerhouse in the garden.

8.    What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

I love sewing and knitting/crocheting! I do like to be doing something, whether it’s creating or reading or going for walks. That said, I can also be incredibly lazy, and will happily spend an entire afternoon watching old episodes of Murder, She Wrote!

9.    Who is your favourite author and why?

Anne Tyler is my favourite author. Her book, A Patchwork Planet, was my inspiration for becoming a novelist. She’s amazing – her books are all so different, but have this heart to them. She makes her characters real and flawed and endlessly interesting.

10.    If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you want with you?

A Patchwork Planet, Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman, and a massive dictionary. There is always more to learn about our wonderful language.

11.   How would you describe your style of writing?

I’m trying to make it sparer, and I’m trying to focus more on creating a sense of the setting – description is not my strong suit. I think it’s just unique to me, really. I like to have my characters facing some kind of crisis, and I like to talk about the wider world through them and their reactions.

12.   You’re novel Cupid’s Way comes out June 27th. It’s a romantic comedy, what was your inspiration for it and what’s the story about?

The story is about a woman called Evie Stone who is trying to save a Victorian terrace street – Cupid’s Way – from demolition. Evie’s grandparents live in the street, along with a host of colourful characters. The inspiration comes from a terrace close to a place I used to live, where the residents had saved the street from being knocked down by forming a cooperative.

13.   Does your childhood have influences on your writing?

I’m sure it does, but I’m not certain exactly how. One thing that is key is that my early stammer created the need for me to ‘live in my head’ – I’m a very auditory person and I literally hear the dialogue between my characters as I write it. I was a loner as a child – still am! – and this sense of reaching out, trying to make sense of the world, comes through in most of my writing, I think.

14.   How important is the title of a book for you?

It’s possibly the most important thing! I can’t get into writing properly until I have a title, and I rarely change it once it’s set in stone. The title takes on its own life, it has a feeling attached to it, and it has to be attractive to readers.

15.   Imagine Cupid’s Way would be turned into a movie. What would be your dream cast?

I’m rubbish at these questions because I really don’t watch many current Hollywood films. I think Hugh Grant might make a good Michael Andrews, but as for Evie Stone I have no idea!

16.   Coffee or tea?

Tea – or iced coffee!

17.   Paperback or e-reader?

Both. Can I have both?

18.   Mountains or the sea?

The sea. With the view of mountains behind me J

19.    Summer or winter?


20.    Sweet or salty?

Sweet. Dark, dark chocolate is my favourite.


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