What inspired you to write Country Pursuits, and how did you research it?
Jilly Cooper is my heroine and I always wanted to write a bonkbuster. I am a country girl at heart and grew up in the rural fields of Bedfordshire, where I was a member of the Ivel Valley Pony Club and in my later teenage years gate-crashed many a Young Farmer do! The British countryside and village life is unique and wonderful and contrary to what a lot of people think, far from boring. I still go home regularly to see my parents and go down my quaint local pub to get all the latest village gossip. I drew a lot on my own experiences of country living, but decided to set it against the glamour of the Cotswolds. Some of the characters are drawn from real life, some are imaginary but I wanted to create a kaleidoscope of characters that people could warm to, lust after or in Sebastian’s case, love to hate! Even though Country Pursuits is a romp of a read, there are all kinds of sex – good sex, bad sex, embarrassing sex, sex on drugs… It’s important that although the cast are gorgeous and glamorous, they are not completely perfect and readers can relate to that.
How would you like a reviewer to describe your book? Don’t be modest!
If you love a juicy British bonkbuster set in the Cotswold countryside, then Country Pursuits is right up your street. Set in the picturesque village of Churchminster (which made me want to swop my Manolos for a pair of green wellies there and then) Country Pursuits boasts an exciting, colourful cast you will fall head over heels in love with. When their beloved village comes under threat the villagers join forces – while a brooding Brad Pitt lookalike moves in and sets local hearts racing. Funny, fast paced and heartwarming (and with plenty of sex) Country Pursuits is escapism at its best!
Tell us about your education . . .
I went to St Andrews School for Girls in Bedford until my GCSEs, which was like St Trinian’s. I was extremely naughty and didn’t do very well in my grades and my long- suffering dad quite rightly got fed up paying for my education and sent me to the local sixth form to do my A Levels. After a GAP year in which I worked on a kibbutz in Israel, I studied Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough university.
Have you made any unusual career moves in the past?
In my time at more! I dressed up as a chain-smoking nun on the run, a randy traffic warden (who bought Shaftesbury Avenue to a standstill) a giant dormouse who did a smash and grab on the Neals Yard cheese shop and Posh Spice. I spent a day with the Army driving around in a tank on Salisbury Plain and one very long night in a haunted pub in Somerset with no end of scary characters – and that was just the locals. I also had to jog round Regents Park one afternoon with two balloons hidden up a T-shirt with the word JUGS emblazoned across it…
What are your hobbies?
Reading, exercising, listening to Just A Minute on Radio 4, going out with friends and boyfriend, flying with my dad, walks in the country and on the beach.
What are your greatest achievements?
Getting my book deal! Interviewing a whole host of A List celebs.
What or who inspires you?
Jilly Cooper! Other authors I admire are Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell’s Barbara Vine novels and George McDonald Fraser for his wonderful Flashman novels. I like female British comedians like French and Saunders and broadcasters like Sandi Toksvig and Nicholas Parsons for their jolly, feel-good attitude to life.
What are your music and film interests?
I listen more to the radio than music – I have only ever bought three CDS in my life and one of those I bought twice! Even though I watch through my hands, I like scary horror/serial killer type films and also escapist adventurist Indiana Jones films. Nothing very highbrow…
Tell us five unusual things about yourself!
I took up flying for nine lessons but stopped before I went solo as it was too much like hard work! Justin Timberlake’s press people threatened to turn off my tape recorder in LA when I interviewed him just after his break up with Britney Spears and I asked him if he’d cheated on her…. I broke my kneecap doing dressage of all things when I was younger. I also appeared on 80′s quiz show Childs Play, where Bernard Cribbons had to guess what I was describing. Recently Saturday Night Takeaway contacted my parents with an old tape of me on Childs Play and asked if my parents could get me on the show so they could ‘out’ me in the audience! My mum was all for it but luckily my dad rang me and told me about it as it would have been my worst nightmare. I still have the pink sweatshirt somewhere.