I’ve been lucky enough to review a number of Michele Gorman’s chick lit books this year, and have been super impressed with each of them, and their unique style. So, I was quite excited when Notting Hill Press contacted me about interviewing Gorman, to aid in spreading the word about her latest book, Perfect Girl! Keep reading to get the scoop on this author’s inner workings…
Which book(s) has/have particularly inspired you in life?
MG: The book that pops immediately to mind is the Barefoot Doctor’s Handbook for the Urban Warrior. A great friend of mine passed it on to me not long after I’d moved to London. You know that lovely peaceful feeling that you get on holiday? Maybe you’re staring for hours at the sea or walking through a beautiful forest. The book is about having that feeling no matter where you are. I still remember two pieces of advice: Walk on the grass whenever you can (preferably in bare feet, although this may raise eyebrows if you’re doing it in front of your office building). And when confronted with negativity, invoke the ‘psychic egg’, which involves imagining an invisible protective force field around you. When my husband tees off about politicians in the news (a topic that never fails to boil his blood, even first thing in the morning), I shout ‘Psychic Egg!’, which usually shuts him up. So you see, it works 🙂
Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Did anyone ever try to push you in the direction of a more traditional career path?
MG: My background is financial rather than literary and I spent more than 20 years working in financial services, so becoming an author was a conscious decision I made in my thirties rather than a lifelong dream fulfilled. I decided one day that I wanted to make a living without having to go into an office or have a boss, and figured that since I loved to read, I ought to be able to write. I was wrong! It took many years to learn to write well, but eventually I got there, and my first novel (Single in the City) was published by Penguin in 2010. It turns out that I absolutely love writing and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Your characters are all so different! Where do you find your inspiration for them? Do you base them on people that you know?
MG: Nope, I never based characters on people I know. For me, the story idea comes first and then the characters appear, and they have to be able to handle the storyline. Once I have the idea and the characters, I write a detailed character study so that I know how they’ll behave in just about any situation (because I don’t know at the start where the story will go). Most of this initial research never appears in the book. For instance, I have to know what they’re upbringing was like, whether they were good in school, started dating early or late, etc.
Sometimes the character that appears isn’t right for the storyline. That happened in Perfect Girl. The original character was called Lucy and no matter how I wrote her, she just wasn’t right for the part. She was a pushover without being likeable, and a bit blah. Then I met Carol, who’s the protagonist in Christmas Carol (the novella I wrote last year) and I knew she’d be, well, perfect. So I got rid of Lucy, put Carol in her place and the story flew!
What led to you making Carole an analyst? Is that something that you’ve experienced yourself, or did you have to hunt someone down to tell you about the ins and outs of that cutthroat work place?
MG: Remember when I said I worked in financial services? My first job was on a trading floor in a bank, with a boss who made Gordon Gekko look like Father Christmas. Carol’s experiences are all fictional but it was easy to imagine them because I knew what it was like to work in such a pressurized environment.
Are you a ‘perfect girl’ like Carole tried to be? You wrote so well about how it feels to live with that pressure (trust me, I know it!), that I felt you must’ve had some experience with it yourself!
I think everyone has a bit of Carol in them, including me. I like to do things well, though I don’t have that urge to make other people happy. Carol’s feelings in the book are imagined, and come from the character study I did at the beginning. The fun thing about writing romcoms is that you get to take a situation and exaggerate it. That’s part of where the humour comes from. A good narrative throws roadblocks in the way of the characters, roadblocks that they must either go around or burst through. That “How is she going to get out of this??” feeling when you’re reading is what builds the tension in the story.
What are your must haves, when you sit down to write?
MG: Strong coffee and a view. A lot of my writing involves staring into space. It’s nice when that space is pleasant. I also always have a writing notebook to hand (I start a new one with each book) so that I can write down ideas as I get them.
What’s next for you? Will we be seeing a return of any favourite characters?
MG: My next two books have completely new characters, although as I mentioned, Carol is the main protagonist in Christmas Carol, so readers can continue her story there.
In terms of new books, my Christmas novella, The Reluctant Elf, publishes next month and I’m really excited for that. It’s about Britain’s worst innkeeper and here’s the book trailer: http://youtu.be/IjOS5PQQLa4.
Now I’m writing my next book for Avon/HarperCollins. The working title is Boyfriends Recycled and it’s about three friends who upcycle their exes through their local boyfriend recycling centre, but haven’t bargained on the consequences of the exchanges they make. It will come out in January 2016.
Thanks so much, Annabel, for having me on the blog! xo
I’ve loved learning a little more about Gorman’s writing process, and her upcoming projects. In fact, I’m going to be reviewing The Reluctant Elf in December, so keep your eyes peeled for that! You can check out my reviews of Perfect Girl, The Curvy Girls Club, and Single in the City if you’d like to know a little more about some of Gorman’s great books.