The Big Five-O live and kicking – and set in Broadstairs!

It’s here! My sixth novel, The Big Five O, is now live and kicking on kindle and in e book (the paperback’s in September) and I am suitably thrilled as always to see it finally “out there.”

I particularly love my cover – not just because the very-talented illustrator Robyn Neild has totally “got” all four of the characters and they are just as I imagined, but for the little glimpse of Bleak House (where Charles Dickens wrote part of David Copperfield, don’t you know?) through the window behind them.

It is always a joy to set a book in my hometown. Some novels take longer to write than others whatever you do, but I discovered some years ago that you can save a great deal of time if you set the action in a place you know.

In the early days I made up my locations – and soon found that you can spend an inordinate number of hours working out how long it might take a heroine to walk to the station or drive to London, and what direction the shops are in, while making sure this fits in with where the doctor’s surgery is, since you’ve already declared that’s opposite Tesco. Then you have to remember it all!

If your backdrop, on the other hand, is an area you know intimately, then geography (never a strong point!) and logistics become easy.

The Big Five O is the story of four women who are all about to be – surprisingly enough – fifty years old. They live in the seaside town of Broadstairs and I had great fun with real place names and some real people too!

The joint party the four are planning is to be held in the Pavilion, Broadstairs – where I have attended many a fine event – and the manager Dan, of course, gets a name check. Roz works at Turner Contemporary in Margate and goes for a drink in The 39 Steps – a bar I go to for the odd gin;  Fay runs her removal business from Pysons Road Industrial Estate and likes a drink in The White Swan in Reading Street, a pub which is my absolute favourite. Charlotte sells high-end properties on the North Foreland Estate, our local posh bit, and Sherie has beauty treatments in Bodilight where I get my nails done.

All four have something to be secretive about, but whether I was plotting the route for the car chase, picking a venue for the mysterious meet-up, or choosing a restaurant where the first spark of passion could ignite across the pasta (it had to be the fab Italian, Posillipo, on the seafront!), I simply had to visualise all that my lovely corner of Kent has to offer.

When it comes to characters however, things are a bit different. Do you base them on people you know? is a favourite question for writers, and my answer is quite often: Yes!

But aside from the walk-on parts for those playing themselves, I always mix up the details and blur the edges (I know my laws on libel, thank you) and use my friends and acquaintances as a source of inspiration rather than a blueprint. (While giving my enemies halitosis and a vinyl fetish.) 🙂

I expect readers who live in Thanet to hazard the odd guess as to who has triggered my imagination this time, but if past experience is anything to go by, then I’d wager that anyone who IS in it, won’t recognise themselves, while names thrown into the hat will be the last ones I had in mind.  That’s my story anyway M’lud, and I’ll be sticking to it…

The book’s out and I’d forgotten what it’s like…

I don’t mean the plot – though God knows I started writing it so long ago and it went through so many edits, that is hazy enough, but all the other stuff surrounding a new book hitting the (virtual) shelves. (The paperback for those who like a real book – yes me too – is out in September.)

What I’d forgotten is  the obsessive checking of the amazon ratings and the looking through one’s fingers at the latest reviews (not to mention the video of one looking rather raddled and wittering on about the squeezed generation that one’s publisher put out on launch day – it was the morning after one of those nights before). The small jump of elation when some kind soul has doled out five stars, and the resigned sigh when it is slated for having a strand about dementia – apparently entirely inappropriately for a book billed as “hilarious”. (I don’t think anyone was referring to that particular storyline.)

I’d forgotten the thrill of someone taking the trouble to write to say they liked it. (And the quiet pleasure of making a small plasticine model of those who didn’t and popping it in my pin drawer 🙂 ho ho.)  And the anticipation of planning the launch party for the paperback (watch this space). And the worry over which crash diet I am going to have to undertake in order to fit into something vaguely presentable for same (usually when I have a book out I put ON weight – it is the constant excuse to hit the fizz and open a celebratory bag of crisps – not a great look for someone who’s also written a weight loss book!).

I’d forgotten the quips. It used to be: have you sold as many as JK Rowling/50 Shades of Grey yet?  Now it’s have you made a million and  will it be made into a series on Netflix.

And the four a.m. horror of remembering who you forgot in the acknowledgements.

And which detail you included that makes it blindingly obvious to all the locals EXACTLY who you were basing THAT character on…

But mostly I’d forgotten how utterly delightful it is to have a book published and how one gets a little rush of joy every time one sees the cover.

You can hear me talking about it here, courtesy of the great Peter James…

or here thanks to my lovely publishers at Harper Collins…

If you have downloaded it – I know a few of the followers here have – then thank you SO much. If not – it’s only 99p – a bloody bargain if I might make so bold  – and I would absolutely love to hear what you think. You can be honest! I wouldn’t want anything less jxxx

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