It’s been AGES since I’ve interviewed anyone on here, mostly down to being too busy doing other things (like being interviewed myself, or writing, or editing. The list goes on…) but that changes today.
Rowan, welcome! It’s great to have you here.
Hello, very pleased to be here, thank you for having me.
It’s a pleasure! So, your latest novel, ‘Lessons in Laughing Out Loud’ is out. Could you tell us a little about it? Who’s it for? What’s it about?
‘Lessons…’ is about Willow, one of a set of identical twins, who’s life took a very different turn from her sister’s because of a dark secret from their childhood. Now in her late thirties Willow looks back on her life, her failed marriage and bitter divorce, her estranged step-daughter, her amoral boss and hopelessly unrequited love for a male friend, and realises that if she is to have any chance of a future, she must finally face her past.
What drew you to writing about identical twins?
I always wanted to be a twin, but actually it wasn’t the twins that came first, it was Willow and her story. Willow always had a sister, but about of a third of the way into writing the book, I found myself wondering what if her sister was also her twin, it seemed to make the contrast between their experiences of childhood all the more poignant.
And why did you put them in this situation?
I’ve been reflecting on my own past recently, and trying to work out how its impacted on the person I am now. I wanted to write a book about a person who had been through the very worst and was struggling to let herself become a whole person, despite it all. That makes it sound a bit depressing, any one who’s read any of my books will know there is quite a bit of humour in there too. not to mention kissing and in this book a very fine pair of shoes.
This is (according to my questionable maths!) your tenth book. Does writing them get any easier?
Actually if you count my teen books, I’m up to about nineteen! (Nik looks embarrassed and skulks off to find his abacus…)
No. No, if anything it gets harder, it’s not coming up with ideas, I’ve got loads of those – but the ideas that I do have tend to stretch me much more as a writer, technically in terms of plot and structure and also finding the balance of light and dark. But I wouldn’t want to be writing books that were a walk in park, I suppose if I feel challenged, I feel like I’m doing a good job!
Has your writing process changed?
Not really, I am one of those people who starts at the beginning and then slogs it all the way through to the end, editing as I go so that the finished first draft it pretty near to the final thing. I do plan a little more now than I used to, but not too much. I don’t want to avoid the possibility of killing the spontaneity!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Honestly, and this might sound a bit silly, but when I was writing my first novel my editor told me that I didn’t have to describe every little detail in order to one character from scene to the next, for example, putting on her shoes and coat and getting the bus etc etc. ‘Pop in a line break,’ she said. It seems obvious, obviously – but I seriously needed someone to point it out to me, and it’s amazing how many writers I’ve shared that tip with since, and literally seen the light bulb come on over their heads! Sometimes we’re just two caught up in the process to be practical.
What do you think a story needs to have in order for it to be great?
Honest, relatable, very well developed characters, an intriguing, though not necessarily pacey plot, and most of all, it needs to make the reader care what happens next.
What’s next for you?
A small nervous breakdown and a large gin. And them lots more writing, for as long as they will let me.
Anything you’d like to add?
Er…..have I said thank you for having me? My mother would be proud. And also please buy my book, if you don’t mind. A-hem.
grew up in Hertfordshire secretly longing to be a writer despite battling with dyslexia. After graduating from university she worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years before winning Company Magazine Young Writer of the Year in 2001. Her first novel ‘Growing Up Twice’
was published in 2002.
Rowan has gone on to write eleven novels for women including the bestseller ‘The Accidental Mother, The Baby Group’
and ‘The Accidental Wife‘
and eight novels for children and teens including the paranormal adventure novels Nearly Departed and Immortal Remains under the name Rook Hasting. Her books are published around the world. She now lives in Hertfordshire with her family.
And a little more about the book…
–Have you ever wondered what might have been…?
Willow and Holly are identical twins. They are everything to each other. Holly calls Willow her rock, her soulmate, her other half. And Willow feels the same about Holly. They are alike in every respect but one – Willow is afraid on the inside. And all because of a secret – one that binds the sisters closely together and yet has meant their lives have taken two very different paths.
Willow often feels there are large parts of her missing, qualities she only knows she’s lacking because she sees them in her sister. For a very long time Willow has felt separated from Holly by one terrible moment in time – a moment that meant Willow’s life was never the same again. And when the past catches up with her, Willow realises its finally time for her to face her fears, and – with Holly’s help – learn to laugh out loud once more.