Today on Love of a Good Book Cressida McLaughlin talks about her four part serial and full length novel.
A Christmas Tail is published TODAY
Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.Cressy’s favourite things include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. She doesn’t (yet) have a dog of her own, but feeds her love vicariously through friends’ pets, and was once chased around a field by a soaking wet, very mischievous Border Collie called Wags.
When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.
Can you describe the Primrose Terrace series in one sentence?
Cat Palmer starts a dog-walking business in the sunny, seaside town of Fairview, but with her curious nature and talent for misadventure, it soon becomes clear that Cat’s new job isn’t going to be a walk in the park.
If you could choose one of your characters to spend the day with, who would it be and why?
Cat, definitely! She might have a tendency to get into trouble, but she’s got a warm heart, good intentions, and is able to find the fun in everything. We’d take the Primrose Terrace dogs to the beach and stop at the ice cream parlour along the way, except it wouldn’t be as straightforward as that. It would be a day of happy chaos!
Can you share with us one of your favourite quotes from the first part of the Primrose Terrace series, Wellies and Westies?
Outside, Disco had managed to tie the lead round and round the leg of the bench, and was sitting with her nose pressed into the wood, as if she’d been told to sit in the naughty corner. It was exactly how Cat felt.
Are any of the characters in the series anything like you?
I think I’m probably a mixture of Cat and Polly – I’m not as outgoing or as impulsive as Cat is. I am a dog lover who’s never owned a dog, so in that sense we’re the same, but while she has the confidence to start up her own business, I just like spending time with my friend’s dogs and looking at pictures of Cockapoos on the internet.
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?
It was full of highs and lows and roundabouts, lots of rejections and perseverance and eventually a lucky break. But always knew that I loved writing too much to ever stop, and while I was writing I may as well keep trying to get published too.
I met my amazing editor Kate at a launch event for Alex Brown’s brilliant book Ice Cream at Carrington’s, which I was covering for Novelicious. Over one of the best ice-cream sundaes I’ve ever had, I told her I’d written a book which was out on submission, she asked me to send it to her and, a few months later, we met up. It feels right, somehow, that both Novelicious and one of my favourite authors played a part in me getting my deal.
What’s next for Primrose Terrace?
The full Primrose Terrace, A Christmas Tail, is out as a paperback on the 5th of November. It’s been amazing to read reviews and talk to readers about it as the novellas have been published, but holding my paperback, and knowing that it will soon be going into bookshops, is one of the best feelings in the world.
What’s your writing routine?
My brain always works best in the mornings, so I try and start writing early. I’ll usually read over what I wrote the previous day, just to remind myself where I’m up to, and then dive in. I try not to get stuck into editing until I’ve got to the end of the novella, at which point I’ll go back and try and fix all the things I know are wrong with it.
As it’s published in four parts, I have to be really careful about planning so I don’t tie myself in knots when I’m writing the end. I can’t change something at the beginning of the book if it’s already been published, so I make sure all my ducks (or dogs) are in a row before I start the first chapter.
I would have a strategy that meant I could cover more than one section. I’d make a beeline to women’s fiction and look for anything new by Lucy Robinson, who in my opinion is writing royalty, as well as Kirsty Greenwood and Miranda Dickinson. I’d also have to go to the crime section. I love crime thrillers, especially Elly Griffiths who writes fantastic books set in Norfolk, Sharon Bolton and, if I’m after something seriously grizzly, Mo Hayder. How long could I be stuck in there – a week? A month? Could I order takeaway?
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s the least original, but the most true. Never give up. There were a couple of points where I thought about it – not the writing, but submitting and trying to get published – and I was told not to by a close friend and brilliant writer, and I didn’t, and then a couple of months later I met my editor. I’m very glad I listened!
Who or what inspires you?
Other writers, and hearing writer journeys on sites like Novelicious. The feature ‘My book deal moment’, reading about how other writers took a long time to get a book deal, and how much it was worth it when they did, really kept me going when I was trying to get published.
As well as brilliant books, (which probably goes without saying) I’m inspired by TV programmes. If I love a TV show, and the writing is brilliant it really spurs me on – I always want to be that witty or sad or romantic. I’ll finish watching it, have a burst of energy and rush straight to my laptop.
My husband is a real inspiration too – he’s my ultimate romantic hero, and is so supportive of everything I do. I’m sure I wouldn’t have got to this point if it wasn’t for his encouragement over the years.
Name one of your favourite places in the world?
Whitehaven beach on Whitsunday Island in Australia. I went there when I was eighteen, between A Levels and University, and it is the most breathtakingly beautiful place I’ve ever been. It is definitely making it into a story at some point in the future.
Primrose Terrace is being given its own cocktail, what are the ingredients?
This is the best question ever! Books and cocktails? Wow. The complete Primrose Terrace is A Christmas Tail, so it’s going to be sparkly and festive, and probably needs to be a bit fizzy.
I’ve just discovered there’s such a thing as a Primrose Martini, which is whiskey, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and lime juice. I love the sound of this, (I’m a big whiskey fan) and I’d only make one very necessary addition and have a shot of prosecco on the side, which would basically make it a Primrose Pornstar Martini. Perfect!
About the Book
A Christmas Tail was first published as a four-part serial set in Primrose Terrace.
Catherine ‘Cat’ Palmer realizes that bringing an adorable puppy into work is a bad idea, especially when it gets her the sack. Deciding it’s the perfect opportunity to launch her dog-walking business, Cat enlists the help of flatmates Polly and Joe. After all Primrose Terrace, the street where they live, is full of home-alone hounds.
Getting to know the owners and their precious pooches isn’t all plain sailing, but soon Cat is making friends, particularly with sexy Mark and his Collie, Chips. But is he the right man for her?
With her talent for misadventure, Cat’s new life starts to show some cracks, and when one of the street’s loveable schnauzers gets ill, it looks like this Christmas could be turning into a dog’s dinner. But Cat has never given up on anything in her life – and this is one Christmas that’s definitely worth saving…