As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Cliched, I know, but it was always to be a writer. I had a tough time at Grammar School and was bullied, hence not doing well. I later went back to college but never thought I could write anything anyone would want to read. So my career took a different direction in the hospitality industry. Fast forward to my fifties, and I determined that I would die wondering if I didn’t write a book. Writing Coffee Tea the Gypsy & Me took a year and almost a hundred rejections. So, I self-published, and within a week, the book went to #3 in women’s fiction on Amazon. My childhood dream came true, and now I can confidently say that I am a writer.
Have you ever travelled as research for your book?
Yes. Coffee Tea the Caribbean & Me is set in Barbados. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the Caribbean and researched the island of Barbados thoroughly to ensure that the detail was correct. It was interesting to see a side of the island away from the tourist hot spots. The West coast is tranquil with white sands and turquoise seas, but the east coast has the Atlantic breaking on its beaches and is very different. Moody and spiritual and almost deserted in places. It was the perfect setting for the book. My latest book is The Spa Break, and the story finds four friends staying at a spa for a life-changing weekend of fun and shenanigans. The book is getting great reviews, and I did do quite a bit of research by way of spa breaks!
How do your books get published?
I am both an indie author and traditionally published. I currently write for Harper Collins UK (One More Chapter). Both have plus and minuses, but both are fascinating insights into my publishing journey. Self-publishing is very much about being totally in control of everything. Your book is your business, so you must know every trick to get it to readers. The same applies to traditional publishing, which is hugely helpful with good editing and distribution. Still, unless you are a big name, there is precisely the same amount of constant marketing to stay in touch with current and new readers.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Many people advise you to write what you know, which is a valuable tip. But the internet is vast, and research is at your fingertips, so you can quickly expand your knowledge. Keep going, write as often as possible, never give up and get a good editor. My book The Best Boomerville Hotel is about a fictional hotel in Cumbria. I once owned a hotel in Cumbria, so it was easy to write what I knew. The book is an Amazon best-seller, and reviews suggest it is ‘Britain’s answer to the Marigold Hotel!’
Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
The majority of my reading is on my Ipad. Ebooks are brilliant when travelling. I always have an audiobook on the go too, which I listen to when doing my housework, dog walking or driving. I love them. Good narrators bring a book to life. I rarely read printed books, but occasionally, generally on holiday, I will read a paperback.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I used to sit at my computer with an idea in my head and then crack on. Letting the plot unfold as I thought of it. Often it went off at a tangent, and on editing, I would have my work cut out. Now, I am very strict. I don’t start writing until I have a complete outline of the story plus character analysis. It takes a few weeks to get this right, but once the scaffolding of the story is there, the writing becomes speedier and much tighter.
Do you use social media as an author?
Indeed I do. I like to keep in touch with my readers with news and feedback, and social media is the perfect platform to do this. I dislike social media because it easily distracts me. I must discipline myself to a time limit and then get on with the vital writing business. Facebook is my best communication tool, followed by Twitter and Instagram. I have a TikTok account, but it can be time-consuming (yet enjoyable!).
What book are you currently reading?
The book everyone is raving about: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Gamus. It’s brilliant. Quite simply, she has nailed it and deserves all the success.
What books have you read more than once in your life?
I often re-read The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett. First published in 1908 and set in the fictional town of Bursley in the Potteries, it traces the lives of two sisters born into a secure world, supported by their parent’s drapery business.
I discovered this book when I was a young girl working in London. My flatmates were into Jilly Cooper novels and couldn’t understand why I read such ‘an old book’. I was born close to where the narrative took place and grew up on the borders of the five towns that comprise Stoke on Trent. I’ve always been in awe of Bennet’s writing. A male author who writes with such knowledge and clarity from a female perspective. The prose is exquisite, and he makes every word count. Over the years, when far away from home, I re-read The Old Wives’ Tale. Despite being a period setting written over a century ago, I am fondly reminded of the warmth and ways of Pottery folk, still retained today. Drawn to the book repeatedly, it feels like a hug from my mum. Bennett says, “No life is ever small to the person living it.” A phrase my mum might have said. The older I get, the more this book speaks to me and reminds me to be respectful. Everyone was young once.
What was your hardest scene to write, and why?
One of the most challenging scenes was when a much-loved pet suddenly died. I felt myself being drawn to a time when a similar event happened to me with my faithful Collie. The writing was agony and bought back every painful second of the event. Oh boy… do we get attached to our pets!
Thank you so much for hosting me on The Book Shelf Café News.
I wish you and your followers many happy reading hours.
Facebook: Caroline James Author