Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Interview with author Jemma Forte



British author Jemma Forte had a successful career in television, presenting for the likes of the Disney Channel and ITV, before she turned to writing novels, with her first title released in 2009.

She now juggles both jobs on top of being a mother, talk about keeping busy! Her latest novel, When I Met You, was published earlier this month and for the occasion I caught up with Jemma to talk about the new book, her writing process, inspirational female authors and what she'll be working on next.

Can you tell us about your new novel, When I Met You, and your inspiration for main character Marianne Baker?

Jemma Forte (JF): "I decided it would be interesting to write about a dysfunctional family and for the main character, Marianne, to be not only a product of her upbringing but also of the times we live in. She is in her 30s, stuck in a rut and still living at home because she simply can’t afford to move out. She has grown up without her dad in her life but one day, completely out of the blue, he comes back and her whole world implodes.

"In many ways When I Met You is a 'stranger comes to town' story. Her long lost father arrives with a secret and the book is about what happens over the course of the next nine months or so. I wanted to show how one person can change the dynamic of an entire family and to write a story about love, loss, family and kindness."

You've come to writing from an exciting career in television, how did this career change come to be?

JF: "I started my career at the Disney Channel where I worked as a presenter for five years and then I went on to host various shows for the BBC, ITV and C4. At a certain point I had two children at which point it became difficult to juggle everything. A lot of the TV series I worked on were shot all over the country, I was lactating, sleep deprived and so it made sense to concentrate on my babies and to do some writing for a while. The fact you can write in your pyjamas being a huge plus point.

"I had written a draft of my first novel a few years previously and around this time I dug it out and sent it off to a lot of publishers. Happily, Penguin picked it up and so suddenly I officially became a ‘writer’.

"These days I do both. My kids are older and at school now, I’m a single mum and I write and do all sorts of other jobs. I present, do adverts and appear on shows such as The Wright Stuff as a panellist. It’s great to combine the two careers as I enjoy both enormously. Admittedly it can be a bit of a challenge to find enough time to write but somehow it all pans out. Just about."

What kind of writer are you? Do you have any rituals that help you get in the "zone" or a word count you set for yourself each day?

JF: "I try to write the minute I have the house to myself and no other pressing work things to attend to. I have learned to ignore the fact the house is a mess because otherwise I simply wouldn’t get it done. Something has to give and it’s always the ironing! With two kids and other jobs on I don’t really have time for writer’s block so in a way my circumstance forces me to be very disciplined. If I’m not really ‘in the mood’ I’ll edit what I’ve already written but if I can get 2000 words written in a day I feel really happy.

I also find that taking exercise before sitting down at the laptop helps. I guess it’s something to do with blood flow to the brain? Other than that I have to admit I’m a bit of a ‘slob’ writer. I find bed the most comfortable place to write and often work (as previously mentioned) in pyjamas. Barbara Cartland would not have approved."

Who are your female inspirations, writers or otherwise?

JF: "I have lots of favourite female writers but if I could only have dinner with one it would be Caitlin Moran every time. I love her as a journalist and her book How to be A Woman is incredibly inspiring, funny and important. I also love Jojo Moyes and Lisa Jewell and they inspire me a lot in terms of my career as a writer.

"Other than that I have three amazing sisters who I couldn’t do without, lots of feisty friends and a great mum and step-mum to boot. So it’s fair to say I’m not short of fantastic female influences."

When I Met You has only just hit the shelves, but are you already working on your next novel? If so, can you give us a little scoop?

JF: "I’m very excited about the idea I have for my next novel. I don’t want to say too much but I’m hoping it will be a very emotional story of redemption which explores some of the problems unique to relationships in the 21st century; the way we communicate these days has changed so much and has been affected by social media and by having our phones glued to us 24 hours a day.

"It’s a work in progress at the moment but I am looking forward to immersing myself in it over the coming months."

When I Met You is published by Mira and you can buy your copy from Waterstones, Amazon or your own preferred retailer.

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