Carmen was born and brought up in a chilly and windy corner of Scotland in the depths of the countryside. Her hobbies are cooking, cleaning, arguing about whose turn it is to walk the dog, clean the fish tank, take out the rubbish, do the laundry... and so on.
You have 10 published works! How do you come up with all your ideas?
When I started writing my first book, I worried a lot about this. Now I worry about how will I ever write down all the ideas I have! I think if writers write, painters paint, musicians make music, the ideas will come. It’s all about opening the creative floodgates, tapping into that part of your mind. You will find it limitless!
Compared to the many other stories I’ve heard, it was pretty smooth. I wrote three chapters and a full synopsis of ‘Three In A Bed’ and sent it to six agents. Five said no, one phoned back immediately to say: write this book now! (I do think it helped that I was a national newspaper journalist at the time) I took about 18 months to write the book and it took another five months to sell. I think it went to five publishers who said no and then the sixth loved it. Luckily for me I’ve been with the same agent (Darley Anderson) and the same publisher ever since.
From book five onwards, shopping is the backdrop as the main character, Annie Valentine, is a personal shopper. I’m really interested in the psychology of shopping, all our body issues and very personal states of mind come to the fore when we shop (especially for clothes). Plus that whole idea of re-inventing yourself, dressing for who you’d like to be, dressing in anticipation of an occasion... that’s all very fertile ground for a writer. I love fashion as an art form: Vogue magazine and catwalk shows, the stories behind big designers like Coco Chanel. I find that all fascinating. I’m really tall (6ft plus) and I used to find clothes shopping traumatic, I know what works now but I’m far, far from a shopaholic. My wardrobe is tres minimal and I like it like that.
There are two best things: being paid to do the thing I love and getting fan mail from readers who have loved the books. Sometimes when I do signings, readers bring along a cherished, dog-eared copy which they’ve read over and over. That always makes me feel very emotional.
The strange thing is I never thought I’d write rom com. I thought I was terribly, terribly serious and earnest and literary. But when I write, the romance and the comedy just pour out. Nothing I can do about it! Maybe one day I’ll write that terribly serious and worthy literary work. But no other genre appeals, I’m far too squeamish for horror or crime.
Any advice for new writers?
Describe a typical writing day.
As soon as my children are at school, I’m at my desk and getting on with it. I try and put everything else on hold that needs to be done, or else suddenly my writing time will have disappeared. I plan the books out very thoroughly in advance and although some scenes may not work in the writing, I know exactly where the story is going to go. This is hard to do – but very, very worthwhile. If you can’t sort out the plot problems in the plan, you will not sort them in the writing.
Are you working on anything new? If so, what can you tell us about it?
Yes, Annie Valentine Five (we’re working on the title!) She goes to New York with her daughter Lana to help with Svetlana and Elena’s new dress label. Annie lurrrves New York and does not want to leave.
I’ve just finished book four in the teen series, Secrets at St Jude’s – Rebel Girl. It comes out in June.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I love the French countryside and also, in total contrast, New York City!
Books by Carmen:
The Personal Shopper
Up All Night
How Was it For You?
Did The Earth Move?
Three in a Bed
Late Night Shopping
The Secrets at St. Jude's: New Girl
St. Jude's: Jealous Girl
St: Jude's: Drama Girl
St. Jude's: Rebel Girl
Don't forget to check out Carmen's website!
Thank you for taking time for an interview Carmen! I can't wait to read Annie Valentine 5 and I hope to see you at a future signing!!