Sipping Pimms and eating fresh strawberries at Wimbledon are the perfect start to the British summer for Rayne. Immersed in her career as a journalist in the City, she’s been too busy and distracted to give men – or other outside interests – much of a chance lately. That’s something her friend Lily thinks she should correct, coming up with the perfect ‘sex with an ex’ solution – much to the amusement of the crowd on Centre Court!
When Rayne runs into old flame Adam, former good guy who is now all grown up with a hint of bad boy about him, it’s a tempting thought. But is that such a good idea, when she knows that four years ago, she broke his heart?
Back from travelling the world and settling into running the family business, Adam never expected to see his university girlfriend again. And he definitely didn’t think he would still be angry with her for running away, or that she would still have the same stunning effect on him. But she does, so maybe the perfect way to get her out of his dreams and from under his skin, is to have a hot sex-filled night with her? The only trouble is, one night might not be enough…
First love – can you ever go back?
Congratulations on your latest release Strawberries at Wimbledon, Nikki. Can you share the highlights of your writing journey with us?
There have been loads of highlights over the last fifteen years, when I first started writing my first novel – both big and small. (Writing took a back seat for eight years in the middle while I pursued a HR qualification and had my son). The moments that stick out in my mind include:
• The first positive report I received about one of my manuscript from a reader on the Romantic Novelists Association ‘New Writers Scheme’ which said the book was of publishable standard.
• Getting an Honorable Mention for the RNA Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2010 and the phone call from Katie Fforde (one of my favourite authors, and the judge that year) that followed, congratulating me and telling me to keep writing.
• Being offered my first publishing contract for my short story ‘A Night to Remember’ published in the best selling RNA/ Mills and Boon anthology last February.
• Being offered a four book contract with HarperImpulse (the digital first romance imprint of HarperCollins) in October 2013. Thrilled doesn’t even begin to cover it!
• The day my debut novel Crazy, Undercover, Love was published (April 2014)
• Being contacted by readers, bloggers and reviewers to say nice things about my stories or ask if I can write an article for them/what I’m writing next/if I’m going to write a sequel.
• Crazy, Undercover, Love being shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award (for new writers).
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel incredibly lucky and grateful to be doing something I love so much.
What’s the inspiration behind #LoveLondon, your current series of short stories?
The #LoveLondon series came from me pitching my second full length novel Picnics in Hyde Park (a romance wholly set in London) to my lovely editor Charlotte, and her brilliant idea to write a number of London based short romances leading up to the novel. The idea has evolved a number of times, but we eventually settled on a linked series that would start at Christmas – Skating at Somerset House – with a story to follow roughly once a month to capture key dates or events, with one character in each short related to / friends with one of the main characters, Matt or Zoe, from Picnics. And so New Year at The Ritz, Valentine’s on Primrose Hill, Cocktails in Chelsea and Strawberries at Wimbledon were created to follow my Christmas baby.
Are there specific writers, or other people, who have influenced your writing style?
I read widely over a number of genres – romance, thrillers, crime, horror, non-fiction, mainstream women’s fiction – and I get something different from every one, whether it’s entertainment, education, escapism or inspiration.
I read a lot of Mills and Boons books in my teens and I’m sure that’s had a lot of influence on the fact that I love writing about love and write up the hotter end of the scale (depending on what the story needs e.g. Skating at Somerset House is towards the sweeter end as it’s a cosy Christmas read, whereas Cocktails in Chelsea is hotter because I was aiming for a springtime, flirty read). I also read a lot of Christopher Pike in my teens (American teen / YA horror writer) and when I went back and read a few of the books recently I could see that his ‘voice’ in places had a similarity to mine, even though we write in completely different genres. Cecelia Ahern, Sue Moorcroft (award winning author who happens to be my aunt), Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and JoJo Moyes are female writers I really admire and who I think have influenced my writing style / aspirations.
Your latest release, is the fifth story in the #LoveLondon series, ”Strawberries at Wimbledon’, another iconic London event. How does Wimbledon fit into this tale about first love revisited?
When Charlotte and I were working out titles and themes for the series, we wanted a really summery story and a British event in London we could set it against, so Wimbledon was perfect. Wimbledon is where Adam and Rayne, university sweethearts, run into each other again after nearly five years apart, just after Rayne’s friend Lily has suggested in the middle of Centre Court (much to the crowd’s amusement) that Rayne should ‘have sex with an ex.’
Do you have a tried and tested writing process you can tell us about?
My stories spend a lot of time percolating in my head before I get any words on paper. I think of ideas while I’m washing up, or in the shower, or driving to work and try to jot brief notes down on paper ASAP if it’s practical. I usually do a handwritten spider diagram to set out the main characters, their backgrounds and personalities, the setting and themes too. By the time I start writing I have a very good idea of how the story is going to be structured and will unfold, but apart from that I kind of write into the wind i.e. it’s organic! The characters often do things I wasn’t expecting, but I’ve found that tends to make the story better. If it’s unpredictable it makes it more fun for me, and if I’m having fun I figure my readers are too. I often don’t write in order; I go back and forth and write scenes when they are most vivid in my head. After finishing the first ‘dirty draft,’ I put it away for a few weeks and then go back to it to redraft. I revise each story at least four times and then again after I’ve had my editor’s notes. I am a horrible perfectionist so it always takes me longer than planned to finish a story to the point I’m happy with it.
The final book in the #LoveLondon series is ‘Picnics in Hyde Park’ when is this released and what’s next for you?
It’s due out on 25th June. I can hardly believe it; the last six months have flown by and I’m feeling a bit sad that the initial publication journey for this series is almost over. But of course I’m hoping the series itself will have a long and happy life. As for what’s next, I’m planning on taking a break from writing for a month or two to focus on doing some local media press – I would love to go on the radio – and perhaps organise a few book signings with my two paperbacks. After that I’m going to spend a few months working on a commercial women’s fiction book and may start looking for an agent. Of course, at some point I’m planning to do more with HarperImpulse given how fab they are.
What comes first when you’re crafting a story; setting, characters or plot? Why do you think this is?
With the romances, for me, it’s usually the characters that come first, and the plot grows from them; their personalities, backgrounds, conflicts and dreams. I think it’s that way for me because if I thought of the plot first I’d be afraid I’d then be trying to shoehorn the characters into it, which could make it feel forced. Saying that, for the commercial women’s fiction book I’m working on next, the plot and main character came to me at the same time.
Are you a social media addict or phobe? Do you have a favourite social media platform?
I’m a bit of a social media addict. I love Twitter, and Facebook follows closely behind. In one way that’s great because it means I’m not afraid of using the platforms and can be very visible to my readers; talking and sharing things with them, as well as thanking them regularly (bloggers and reviewers too) and chatting with other authors / aspiring writers in the community. On the other hand it’s not so great because I end up on Twitter far too often when I should be writing!
Where do you do most of your writing? Why is this your favourite place to write?
I do most of my writing either in my front room, which I have as my writing room with my bookcase, laptops, filing cabinet and book covers stuck up on the wall. I like writing in there because it’s very light and airy. Sometimes I write on the sofa or in bed when I want to be comfy and warm (really bad for the neck, back and shoulders though). To be honest I can write pretty much anywhere, as long as I have my laptop and there’s a plug handy!
Thanks for having me on your blog Jane.
My review of Strawberries at Wimbledon will be posted later today.