Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for What Happened To Coco? My post is shared with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to VB Furlong for answering my questions!
Have you always wanted to write?
My love of books began very early, with my nose stuck in a Jacqueline Wilson book as I wandered around the house. Since then I’ve read everything I can get my hands on, and at the moment I’m reading Freckles, the new book by my all-time favourite author, Cecelia Ahern. I don’t remember daring to think that I could ever be an author until very recently, when I spoke to my favourite author (see above!) at her book event in 2018 and asked her how she did it. Her response was “literally just do it, give it to someone you trust to read, and then send it out.” I finished What Happened to Coco a few weeks later and after a friend read it and said she couldn’t put it down, I sent it out into the world! But whilst I may not have thought I could be an author, I’ve been writing all my life. At 10 years old I wrote a 40 page book about a girl who started at a new boarding school, so not much has changed since then!
What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?
Since leaving school I’ve been studying and working towards becoming a lawyer, and I’m just over a year until qualifying! I’ve needed close attention to detail for this role, so I suppose that has helped, or at least until my boss things I’m pedantic for my notes on the documents I proofread for him!
What was your inspiration for What Happened to Coco?
When I started writing Coco’s story I was at home in Swansea, South Wales, caring for my grandfather with terminal cancer. Some of the characters in the book have to deal with the loss of loved ones in the earlier chapters, and it was a way of working through my own grief. There are many things in the story that I faced or saw friends face when we were in our late teens and I was a complete disaster at that age, so growing up and being able to look back on those days in hindsight definitely provided some inspiration too. I was reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes at the time, and I think (although I didn’t realise it at the time) that What Happened to Coco is inadvertently and very loosely inspired by The Case of the Priory School, where a little boy goes missing from his bed at his boarding school late at night.
How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?
Coco and her friends came to me all in one afternoon. I was struck with the title first – “What Happened to-“ and I knew who this girl would be, the “it” girl at her school, confident and complicated. From there I thought about who she would be friends with, who would her boyfriend be, what would their group be like? Honestly, it was easy for this book as it felt as though they were begging me to write about them. I suppose people and snippets of my life might slip into characters here and there, but I would say there’s far more of me in the characters in What Happened to Coco than anyone else.
What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’ve been both! What Happened to Coco was complete pantsing. I would have snippets of conversations come to me at the most inconvenient times and I would just have to get them down then and there and weave it all together somehow! In my WIP and the things I’ve written more recently I’ve plotted a lot. I’ve taken to writing most scenes by hand in notebooks first and then transferring, that was draft 1 on my computer is really draft 2! I find it so much easier to get ideas down if I’m scribbling away.
How did you research What Happened to Coco? Did you enjoy it?
When I was young I was obsessed with the idea of going to boarding school, I guess I grew up in an era where our sleepover films were “Wild Child” and “St Trinians” so it’s no wonder! I used to look up fancy boarding schools online all the time and most of the things I’ve written are set in boarding schools so I guess I’m used to the setting. My boyfriend also went to boarding school in his last years at school – so a lot of the naughtiness, creeping around the hallways late at night, drinking in their rooms, were inspired and supported by his experiences (I really hope I’m not ratting him out to his Mum here!)
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
I have a thing for the classic romances, especially the Brontes and in particular “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Bronte. I love a story with a fierce woman unapologetically doing things her own way. Daphne DeMaurier’s Rebecca has also stuck with me and I don’t think I’ll ever shake that book. The author I read the most of is without doubt Cecelia Ahern, who takes a simple idea and sprinkles that something extra into every book she writes. My favourite of hers is “Lyrebird”. I’m definitely influenced by whatever book I’m reading at the time! One that I think made me a better writer was “Call Me By Your Name” by Andre Aciman. The last few chapters of that book are MAGNIFICENT.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother. She was an incredible woman who is the whole reason the Tudors were on the throne and well ahead of her time. She pulled the strings for the whole dynasty, a real life Cersei Lannister. I have a million questions to ask Agatha Christie and Amelia Earhart too, but I’d need to invite Taylor Swift so I don’t know how to cut this list down! Dakota Johnson, Carrie Fischer and Stevie Nicks also get honourable mentions!
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Donald Trump, cos, well, ew.
Who would play the main character/s in a film version of What Happened To Coco?
Coco – A young Tamsin Egerton, Ella – a young Rose Byrne, Harrison – Alex Pettyfer circa 2006, Bea – Grace Saif or Adelayo Adedayo, Conrad – a young Robert Redford.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I walk my dog, watch sitcoms on Netflix, I started loom-weaving wall hangings in lockdown too. I also love to journal and, of course, write.
What is next for you?
Who knows! I might be working on a Coco sequel but we’ll see what happens. I have an unrelated finished WIP set in an American high school which I’m obsessed with and I’m really hoping that will get out in the wild sometime soon!
Book? Life of Pi Yann Martel
Film? Forrest Gump or La La Land
Band/Singer? Taylor Swift, no contest.
TV show? Bridgerton! No, The Crown! No, Schitts Creek! Ahhh
Place? A hidden tiny park in my hometown
Biscuit? Would it be boring to say a digestive? Although I’d never turn down any biscuit.
What Happened To Coco? is available from Amazon.
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