A fun escape from reality

2011-06-29 00:00

What were the first words in your head when you heard that Penguin had given you the thumbs up? How did you reward yourself? Describe the feeling when you first saw your first book, A Million Miles From

Normal, bound and printed?


I think holding my freshly printed book in my hands was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While I was writing my first book, A Million Miles from Normal, I never really thought about it actually getting published. I was only focused on the actual writing of it. So the whole publishing process was very surreal.


How self-conscious are you in the writing process? Are you stressing about each plot twist and character foible, or are you smugly confident that it will be accepted and believable?

I am quite strict with myself when I’m writing. I spend a lot of time plotting and researching up front, and then when I sit down to write, my aim is to get it all out as fast as possible. I never stop or look back even if I think something isn’t working, for fear that it might break my momentum. There is plenty of time to go back afterwards and rework.

I’m never confident ... I’m constantly irritating myself, wondering if it’s as good as it can be.


Do men read your books?

I think some dudes do. And my guy friends have told me they’ve enjoyed them. Although I recognise that they might be biased.


What do you think of the label ‘chick lit’?

I think that since 80% or 90% of fiction in the world is bought and read by women, surely most ‘lit’ is ‘chick lit’?


Your style is reminiscent of ­Marian Keyes. Has your writing been influenced by anyone in particular?

Thank you, I think that’s a great compliment. Marian Keyes really is a master of her craft. I read everything I can get my hands on in as many different genres as I can, so I’m sure my writing is influenced by everyone and everything I read. But I can’t pinpoint any specific influences or authors.


You write in a wonderfully colloquial way, that’s not at all contrived. Is that deliberate or is it a style thing that you just get right?

Thank you. I think having worked in advertising for the last 17 years has been a great help in teaching me how to write in a chatty kind of style. I also try to write what I know, and that seems to help too.


What do you hope readers will take from the experience of your main character, Stella?

More than taking something from Stella’s experience, I really hope the book provides a fun escape from the daily grind. I think life can be really difficult sometimes, and some days are just hard. So if we can escape into a book for a couple of hours here or there, and it makes us smile, then that has to be a good thing. And if readers do take something from Stella, maybe it’s that life is short and you should only ever do exactly what you want to do, instead of what you feel obliged to do.


Are you or were you in any way like Stella? If not, is she modelled on someone you know?

I’m not like Stella at all. But in the book, Stella is one of a pair of twins from a big family, and I come from a big family, and have twin sisters. So some of the characteristics are loosely based on family and friends. But the plot itself is completely fictional. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Have you ever had a tattoo or swum naked in the ocean at night?

My parents may be reading this, so can I take the fifth? I’d also like to add this caveat — if I have done anything dodgy in my past, it was, of course, all in the name of research.



This Way Up

Paige Nick



STELLA is a happily married sex-advice columnist on a popular magazine. The only problem is that her own personal experience in that department has left her wanting and wondering.

But still, she dishes out well-researched, sound advice to her readers, smug in the knowledge that they are losers and she is A-okay. She hankers after a serious journo job at the magazine she works at, and has been led to believe she is next in line for a features position, which will bring her respect and credibility in her profession.

Married to the stable Max, a

respectable teacher, life is pretty peachy, until she hears, out of the blue, that the coveted features job has been given to the svelte Yolanda. Stella has been completely by-passed.

In a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, Max and her twin sister Lucy get the wrong end of the stick and think she has the job, and throw her a celebratory surprise party. Stella is too mortified to correct them immediately, and so begins a small lie that quickly snowballs into a full-on catastrophe.

Stella’s slide to disaster is both spectacular and heartbreaking to witness. It’s also very funny. Author Paige Nick has a wicked sense of humour which teases the reader, as the events of the novel surge from the sad to the sublime and even the ridiculous. Stella must lose everything before she can start rebuilding her life and mould it into what it should be.

Parallel to Stella’s unravelling, the reader meets Poppy and Buck, on a gap year touring the United States.

The device of Poppy and Buck’s adventures works well, and keeps the reader puzzling until the end, as to what relevance they have to ­Stella.

A fantastically entertaining, unputdownable read, with a charming coming-of-age, awakening theme. I loved it.

It will probably feature in my best books of the year, and would make a great present.

Stephanie Saville

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