Biography – Alice Peterson
I became a writer in a fairly unconventional way. To my friends and family, I was always, ‘Alice, the tennis player’ and, at the age of 18 had been awarded a tennis scholarship to America. I was about to sign a contract when I experienced pain in my right hand. Three months later I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a chronic autoimmune condition for which there is no cure. I have never picked up a tennis racket since, a sadness that shall always be with me.
I have discovered a new path in life, my writing. My first book, A Will to Win, was published by Macmillan, and subsequently five novels have been published in this country and abroad, including the ebook sensation, Monday to Friday Man, which knocked Fifty Shades of Grey off the number one spot. My latest novel, By My Side, features a golden Labrador, called Ticket – a dog to die for!
Things I love: my family, friends, coffee, writing – and finally last but not least, my handsome little man – my Lucas Terrier, Mr Darcy.
To find out more about Alice and her novels, please visit www.alicepeterson.co.uk
On the 18th July 2013, your fifth book ‘By My Side’ was published, can I just say that I love this book and thank you for writing a truly wonderful story.
Back to the question. As a reader I got so much from this book, but I felt that the way you wrote about this subject and the organisations involved, you got something too, what did the story bring to you?
Firstly, thank you Kirsty. I am so glad you loved By My Side. And you are so right – I got a lot from writing this book. I love dogs and have always known how intuitive and loyal they are, but learning about Canine Partners (www.caninepartners.org.uk) the charity that trains these incredible assistant dogs to transform the lives of those with disability, demonstrated just how special they are. I was humbled by the partnerships I met. Ticket, the Canine Partner dog in By My Side, turns my heroine’s life around; he gives her hope, bundles of fun and the confidence to face the world again. Anyone who ever says, ‘It’s just a dog,’ could never be my friend…
Researching spinal cord injury also taught me about the amazing charity, the Back Up Trust (www.backuptrust.org.uk) and how life doesn’t have to stop when you’re in a wheelchair. Finally, this novel led me to making a really close friendship with Sarah Orr. The book is dedicated to her.
Are any of the characters in ‘By My Side’ anything like you?
I think Cass is the one I relate most to, in that just like me, her life changed dramatically when she was young. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when I was 18 and the life I have gone on to lead is very different to the life I’d imagined as a teenager.
Similarly Cass is twenty-one and her passion is medicine – but her dreams and hopes seem unreachable when she is involved in a car accident, that leaves her unable to walk. Cass has to find the strength not to give up and she has to dig deep to believe she can be just as ambitious and happy as before, and fall in love again. I really enjoyed creating Cass as she I could really emphasise with her, and was rooting for her all the way.
I would love ‘By My Side’ to be turned into a film, who would you like cast in it?
Oh, so would I! I’d love to see it on the screen.
CHARLIE BELL – JIM STURGESS (plays Dexter in ‘One Day’)
CASS could be played by LILY JAMES (star of Downton Abbey) http://www.aceshowbiz.com
TICKET – a gorgeous bouncy golden Labrador…
You’ve recently republished your autobiography, ‘Another Alice’. What inspired you to tell your story?
Another Alice is the story of my tennis-mad childhood and how, aged 18, I was on the verge of going to America on a tennis scholarship, when I was diagnosed with the most severe form of RA. Overnight my life was turned upside down. I wrote the book during a very dark time in my life, when I was in constant pain. I felt so strongly that I needed to tell my story because firstly many people believe ‘arthritis’ is something only old people get. In fact RA is an autoimmune disorder, entirely different to the wear and tear of joints that is common in older people. I was passionate to raise awareness of how life changing it can be at any age. Secondly, I wanted a creative project. It didn’t take away the pain but it certainly distracted me from it. Finally, I wanted to write my story to thank my friends and family for all their support, especially my parents. Another Alice is dedicated to my mum and dad who have been through so much with me.
Writers put so much time and energy into their characters and I have been told in the past that a writer carries their characters around with them.
So my question is if you could go out for a day with any one of your characters: who would it be, what would you do and why did you pick this particular character?
I’d probably go out for the day with Charlie Bell from By My Side. I’d love to go skiing with him (just as he does with Cass). In my fantasy world, I don’t have RA, so we’d race down the slopes together, laughing, the sun beating against our faces. We’d go out in the evening, drink cocktails, put the world to rights, and end up dancing. I can’t decide, however, if we’d end up together or I’d be telling him to wise up about Cass!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone facing the same diagnosis you had, what would it be?
Not to be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak. I think it’s courageous to say to people, ‘I’m finding this hard. Can you help?’
What or who in life inspires you?
My parents inspire me all the time. They are the best. My sister Helen, is also a big inspiration. I always turn to her for advice. She exudes confidence, is a very talented graphic designer (http://www.perfectworld) and her attitude to life is ‘don’t sit back and wait for it to happen, make it happen’.
If there was one saying that could sum up your life to date, what would it be?
‘You never know what is round the corner’ – there have been times when I’ve been close to giving up, but I always hold on to this saying.
What can we expect next, any future books in the pipeline?
I have a book out in 2014. It tackles a gritty theme. There’s also plenty of humour and romance and I hope it’s moving. I like my reader to laugh and smile & shed a tear or two!
They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
I wrote my first book about my tennis and RA and foolishly thought I’d have no trouble getting it published. I was really naïve back then (this was about 15 years ago). I was fortunate to find an agent fairly quickly but finding a publisher was much harder than I’d imagined, rejections pouring in. However, my agent didn’t lose faith, and nor did I, and finally we secured a deal with Macmillan. It really taught me how competitive and ruthless the publishing world is; it’s like any other business. It also taught me that I had to develop a thick skin. It’s been such a rollercoaster ride since book one – but I don’t regret a single minute. I love my job. I think getting rejections is a valuable thing, in that it has made me more determined to succeed – although it doesn’t feel anything like that at the time!
Was there any book you read as a child that convinced you that you wanted to become a writer? If so, which one was it?
No, not really, as writing was never something I thought I wanted to do. But I do remember loving my books, and one story I adored as a little girl was, The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark, by Jill Tomlinson. He was called Plop and I always give this book to my godchildren.
If you were told that you could live any day without repercussions for your actions, what would you do and why?
I’ve just been given a parking ticket so I wouldn’t mind taking ALL the money from traffic wardens across the country and giving it to Canine Partners and Back-Up. Or if that sounds far too worthy, I would spend it on a bonkers shopping spree…
What is your all time favourite book?
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I named my beautiful Lucas Terrier, Mr Darcy.
Please would you share who your 5 dream dinner party guests would be?
Steve Coogan – I watched him on Philomena and have such a crush on him – who thought Alan Partridge could be so attractive?!
Jojo Moyes – would love to talk to her about, Me Before You
Gary Barlow – he has the x-factor hah!
Tanni Grey-Thompson – what she has achieved is so inspiring.
Jim Sturgess – I could try and convince him to play Charlie Bell in By My Side.
At your dinner party, there’s a cocktail in honour of your books, what are the ingredients?
Passionfruit, citrus & lots of vodka. It’s light and fun but with a powerful punch!
I would like to say a great big thank you to Alice for talking to Love of a Good Book