Hi Lynne, and welcome to the April edition of Accent On … on this Bank Holiday weekend.
Your début novel, French Kissing is the charming story of Anna Mitchel, a young woman who has been writing to her French pen-friend, Alex, since their school days and now meets the adult Alex. What was the inspiration behind the book? Did you have a pen-friend as a child? And if so, are you still in touch?
- The inspiration for the plot of French Kissing was an overheard phone conversation when I was travelling back from Paris on the Eurostar with my family. A young Frenchman sitting across the aisle spent the entire journey phoning his English friends, informing them he was coming to London and asking if they’d like to meet up. Unfortunately, no-one seemed eager to see him, which made me feel very sorry for him, but also gave me the idea for a story in which a Frenchman comes to London and is very much welcomed by an English girl.
- I didn’t have a pen-friend as a child, although I would have liked one. I do have an old university friend who now lives the other side of the country and we have been exchanging letters for decades. Somehow we never updated to emails!
- How lovely to receive actual letters though – I’ve always enjoyed opening a letter, holding it my hand and savouring the anticipation of what it’s about to say!
- So, French Kissing is set in London and Paris. You live in London, Lynne, and enjoy travelling. Where is your next novel set? And what about the one after that? Do you prefer to create your stories in cities rather than more rural settings? Any particular reason why?
- My next novel is the first of a series set in the West End of London. I do tend to create stories that take place in cities, mainly, I think, because I live in a city myself, but also because I’ve visited and explored a lot of different cities and am often inspired to write by them. However, the book I’m currently writing is set partly in London, and partly in a quiet village. I’m enjoying writing about my heroine’s reactions to the contrasts between the two places.
- I can’t wait to read them! I love the West End but I’m very much a country girl at heart, so I shall enjoy reading those very much.
- Where do you write? And do you prefer to work in silence or are you happy to work with background noise?
- I used to write anywhere, including the proverbial kitchen table, but when my eldest daughter moved into her own flat, her bedroom became my writing room, which is great because it means I can – and often do – stick post-it notes all over the walls if I want to! I prefer to write in either silence or with instrumental music playing quietly in the background. Luckily, even though I live in a city, our road is quiet!
- That is indeed lucky – we’ve had a building being knocked down in front of our apartment since the New Year and they’re preparing to build another in its place – it really is a case of not being able to hear myself think!
- When you’re not writing, what do you like to read, and where is your favourite place for reading?
- I like to read any sort of fiction: mainstream, science fiction and fantasy, historical detective novels and classics. My favourite genre is romantic fiction, which is what I most like to write. The only factual books I read are history – usually Roman history, which is the era I’m most interested in.
- My favourite place for reading is in a garden on a sunny afternoon.
- Sounds an idyllic place to read! Do you prefer a physical book or an e-reader? And why?
- I do own an e-reader, and I find it great when I’m travelling as it means I can take a whole library with me, but I prefer physical books. There is something wonderful about turning the pages of a book, its batteries never run out, and curling up with an e-reader just doesn’t feel the same.
- Oh, I’m with you there! Plus, I like to read in the bath and a dropped e-reader would be a costly mistake!
- I thoroughly enjoyed French Kissing and can see why it won the Accent Press and Woman Writing competition. A publishing deal was part of the prize – an excellent prize! I know you enjoy writing competitions. Can you tell us your favourite things about them – apart from winning, of course!
- I’m a great fan of writing competitions, as I believe they are a wonderful way for aspiring writers to hone their craft. Having to keep to a particular word count means a writer learns to make every single word work towards telling the story, while having to meet a competition deadline means no procrastination – you have to get on and write!
- Absolutely! Now, you’ve already answered my next question – How did you come to be published by Accent Press? So … What can we look forward to next?
- As you know, in 2015 I spotted that Accent Press and Woman magazine were running a writing competition for women’s contemporary fiction, and I entered ‘French Kissing,’ which won the first prize of publication by Accent Press.
- My next book, ‘A Stage Kiss,’ is due out in January next year, and is the first in a series of books set in the world of show business.
- I’m so looking forward to reading that! In the meantime, let’s share the blurb of French Kissing for any of our readers who might have missed it …
Anna Mitchel has been writing letters to her French pen friend, Alexandre Tourville, for fifteen years, but hasn’t seen him since they met as children on a school exchange trip. When Paris-based Alex, now a successful professional photographer, comes to work in London, Anna fails to recognise him. Instead of the small, geeky boy she remembers, he is tall, broad-shouldered – and gorgeous.
Anna’s female friends are soon swooning over Alex’s Gallic charm, and Anna’s boyfriend, Nick, is becoming increasingly jealous of their friendship. When Alex has to return to Paris to oversee the hanging of his photographs in an exhibition, he invites Anna to accompany him so that he can show her the city he adores …
If you were locked in a well-stocked library overnight, what book would you choose to help you pass the time?
- I’d re-read ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R R Martin –a hefty tome that would definitely last all night, but a real page-turner.
- And finally, Lynne, is there anything you’d like to tell our readers about yourself which might surprise them?
- I first submitted a manuscript (a children’s adventure story) to a publisher when I was fourteen. They didn’t publish it, but a kind editor wrote a letter encouraging me to keep on writing. I’m so glad I took her advice!
How lovely! Well, thank you so much, Lynne Shelby for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait for A Stage Kiss to come out!
And next month I’ll be placing the accent on another Accent Press author … You’ll just have to wait and see which one it is. But before then, I’ll be starting another new post (hopefully weekly, but knowing me it’ll probably be monthly!!!) reviewing and recommending books I’ve been enjoying. I haven’t settled on a title yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know. And do hope you’ll join me …