I love, love, love the novels by Abby Clements ever since I read the suitably festive Meet Me Under the Mistletoe back in 2012 and so I'm super excited that not only her new book, The Winter Weddding, was released last week (which has sneaked its way right to the top of my to-read pile), but also that I had the opportunity to interview Abby to coincide with the publication of her new book! Read on to learn all about her favourite part of the writing journey, the wedding-cake-eating research she did for her new novel and why she loved Iona Grey’s Letters to the Lost and Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Wife so much.
Hi Abby, thanks so much for joining me at Page to Stage Reviews today for a Q&A to celebrate the launch of your new novel: The Winter Wedding. I love cosy reads for the colder months, but as you must have written it a while ago, can you tell me how at the height of summer you transported yourself to the winter season to convey that time of year accurately within the pages?
Thanks for having me! It’s a pleasure to be here.
Now, to your question… Conjuring up a snowy castle in the Highlands of Scotland when you’re actually sweltering your way through an urban heatwave in summertime London really wasn’t easy! But it was fun, too. I love Christmas, and luckily I have lots of nice memories to draw on. Looking through old family photos or even just holding a wooden decoration in my hand was helpful in bringing those cosy winter feelings back.
It also helped to talk to some of the other writers, like Claire Sandy and Chris Manby, who were also writing wintery books and so were in the same boat, and to share some hints and tips. As I wrote, I kept focused on the characters and storyline, and added in the Christmassy details towards the end of the process. Whatever the time of year, I’m really writing about characters, their dilemmas and their emotional conflicts, so the sparkle - while definitely important! – comes along the way, rather than driving the story.
What is your writing routine like? And do you have any (quirky) habits to get you in 'the zone'?
When I sit down in the morning, before I start on any creative work, I handwrite three pages – it’s free writing, so any old stuff that’s on my mind (you can Google ‘The Morning Pages’, suggested by Julia Cameron’s in her book, The Artist’s Way, if you want to find out about this technique). I find this a brilliant way to clear the way for me to focus on my novel, as I can leave day-to-day concerns on those pages and move on to the interesting stuff.
I work in cafes, and that first coffee of the day gets me started. I’m definitely a morning person and usually hit my word count by midday, tailing off or stopping after that and doing publicity or admin instead. I like the white noise, or music, in cafes – as well as the occasional opportunity to eavesdrop…! It’s amazing where a single overheard sentence can lead you.
What do you find the most exciting part on a book's journey from an idea in your head to publication?
I love the brainstorming part at the beginning – creating a new imaginary world, meeting the characters and getting to know them, deciding on the setting, all the fun mental work that goes on before there’s a single word on the page. I enjoy working together with my editor, Jo, bouncing ideas back and forth in person, then on email, until we’re both happy.
How much wedding cake-tasting research did you really do for The Winter Wedding?
Happily, the research stage of this novel coincided with me and James getting married ourselves so I got to double up! We got to taste some really delicious cakes, finally settling on a lemon drizzle with white chocolate cigarillos and forest fruits. It was insanely good.
Most of your novels have been stand alone reads so far, are there any characters you would love to get back to? And if so, which characters are you itching to be reunited with? Personally I'd love to read more about Amelia Grey!
Ah, Amelia! Yes, I do sometimes wonder where life has taken her. I was definitely still wondering about Anna and Imogen in Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop, so it was a lovely opportunity to be able to revisit them for the sequel, The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop. But I feel now that all my characters are quite sorted, or on the way to being… I suppose this must be how some parents feel when their kids leave home? You know the story’s still continuing, but you let them go. I’m ready for new characters and settings now.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading yourself, and which 2015 novels do you highly recommend?
I love a really immersive novel that transports you to a different point in time, a foreign setting, or best of all, both. My favourite books of 2015 were Iona Grey’s stunning debut Letters to the Lost and Dinah Jefferies’ bestseller The Tea Planter’s Wife – both richly evocative, wearing their research lightly.
The Winter Wedding has only just been published, but are you able to give me a little scoop on what you're working on next? I need something to keep me going until your next release!
I don’t know myself yet, we’re discussing this at the moment, but you will be the first to know! I’m expecting a baby girl in February, so I will be taking a few months to focus on being a mum, but I’m looking forward to getting back to writing next autumn.
Thanks so much, Abby, for your great answers! How exciting to hear that you're expecting a baby girl in February. I wish you all the best in those final months (may morning sickness not get in the way of cake consumption!) and I look forward to hearing all about your next novel after that new adventure.
The Winter Wedding was released this month and you guys can get your own shiny copy now from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.