Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Heather!
Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I am a mum of five (not the band), comedy writer and author living in Scotland, UK. I began writing at the ‘tender’ age of forty, first for stand-up comedians on the Glasgow and Edinburgh comedy circuit and later embarking on my first novel, The New Mrs D. More recently I became a grandmother and now spend my days trying to write while he throws wet, nearly empty baby cups at me shouting, ‘drink please!’
How long have you been a writer?
I’d like to say years and years, but it reality it has only been five. It was a close call in deciding to be one though as when I first became confident enough to begin telling the world quite openly that I was a writer, a man in my local pub eyed me up and down, before asking if I’d be interested in some work as a Christmas elf. (True story). This may have been for two reasons, 1) because as a writer you find very few people willing to accept it as a real occupation unless you are famous and 2) because I am five foot nothing. I chose writer and have never worn a pair of pointy ears since. Well, there was that one time, but I promised my husband I wouldn’t talk about it to anyone outside of the bedroom…
Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?
I’m a mum, a grandmother, a writer, a marketer, and yes, I supplement my income writing humorous blogs for businesses. I think it can take several years before a new author will make enough money for it to be a full living, unfortunately and I have tended to put all of the money made in sales back in for promotion, editing and other things related to my writing career.
What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.
I was inspired and encouraged to write, first by my late father, and later by a friend who was dying of cancer and loved my sense of humour so much he told me often that I should write a book. After he passed away, that is exactly what I did. So it seems it has been experiencing loss and death that has inspired me! But I am a very deep thinker, so it has been the saddest times of my life when I have felt most ready to put pen to paper, oddly. I do think lots of difficult life experiences can add to the creative person’s toolbox.
Please give a brief description/storyline about The New Mrs. D.
It is the story of one woman’s midlife crisis on discovering – on her honeymoon of all times – that her husband is addicted to porn. She then goes on the take the rest of the honeymoon alone while considering her options and inadvertently ends up on a journey of self-discovery. The novel is both a comedy and an examination of one woman’s feelings about herself as a result of discovering what she thought was her husband’s occasional use is actually more serious and a problem that has been directly affecting the intimate relationship. What most people don’t realise about The New Mrs D when they first pick it up is that it as well as being unashamed of its roots in cheesy and riotous humour, it also delves deeply into a little spoken about issue for women in the modern age from the perspective of an intrinsically personality flawed woman. It covers the difficult subject of her discovering her partner’s porn use and how she is finally able to admit that she is threatened by it. That is the key here; not to tell the world porn is a bad thing, but allows the situation to be viewed (and I hope examined) entirely from one woman’s perspective.
What was the inspiration for this story?
Initially, my idea was simply to write a comedy about a woman who for some reason ended up taking a honeymoon alone and having a series of mishaps and adventures. That was really how the book started out, until I began delving into the many and varied reasons cited for divorce these days and this was when I discovered a very interesting paradox – that porn use is now more rife than ever in this digital age and yet women are very often embarrassed and afraid to admit they feel threatened (and hurt enough to leave) when they discover their significant other is using it outside of the relationship. I started to read forum posts online from women distraught at the discovery, most often followed by a stream of ‘get over it’ comments from, sadly and often, other women. It made me feel there was something wrong when we can’t allow women to set their own boundaries in relationships and that they should be made to feel bad for admitting they were threatened by the increased sexualisation of women in the mainstream. I spoke to women who admitted to lying about their reasons for leaving a relationship because they were so ashamed to tell people the truth; their husband was choosing virtual sex over sex with them. Whilst I am not in any way opposed to porn, I did feel I wanted to write something that might give a voice to these devastated women who have been vilified and accused of having no self-confidence because they feel threatened by something which is becoming so widely accepted. I realised that no one was addressing this issue in the mainstream in fiction, and found myself wanting to do tackle it myself.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
Like giving birth, with all the joys and after equal amounts of pain! It was wonderful and I cannot wait to do it again.
Do you write books for a specific genre?
After my first flurry of publisher rejections with book one, I started to think that writing comedy was going to be difficult as it is quite niche and no one seemed to see a market for it. It is chick lit, yet without the romance and I have seen very few non-rom com type novels in the comedy genre. Every publisher seems to demand romance in their funnies. I didn’t want to write like that and I didn’t want to write about women who needed a man in order to complete their story. That has been particularly difficult –writing something which appears to cross a couple of genres. But however much I think about trying to write for the market, I come back to what I instinctively want to write: comedy. Maybe one day there will be a shelf for comedy fiction without romance. Who knows? Maybe they will give me my own. ;-)
What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?
I am such a huge book lover that I tend to read everything – and I mean everything. Cornflake packets, gravestones, religious pamphlets I didn’t ask to be shoved through my door, everything. I know it has been said before, but I do think choosing a favourite book is like choosing a favourite child and in my case, I have five of those so too many people will be disappointed after my decision! I can tell you that my first ever, favourite book was, The Silver Chair by CS Lewis. Since those days of my childhood I have continued to love children’s books and suspect that’s why I became a mum of five, so I could prolong having an excuse to read them. Now I’m older, I no longer feel I need an excuse, I will always be a big kid at heart. I adore all of the children’s classics to this day.
Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?
I expect you may never have had this answer before but I like to write longhand, lying in front of a roaring fire on a big cushion with a huge writing pad and my favourite pencil. Yes, I have a favourite pencil – the Palomino Blackwing 602, which my lovely son bought me a box full of for Christmas one year. I love the feel of a freshly sharpened pencil on clean, crisp white paper. I just hate all the hours of typing up I have to do afterwards.
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
Interestingly, I am very inspired by music and have a book I am itching to get on with buzzing around my head that came to me after listening to a David Gray song. I started it before the one I am currently in the process of completing, but abandoned it because I felt it wasn’t working. It is very different from anything I have ever written before and I wasn’t altogether at home with going so far out of my comfort zone. But now I keep hearing that song everywhere and when I do, I think I must go back and finish it! I think perhaps I will now book two is almost ready to go out. I have to say there have been many times I haven’t felt the comedy writing flowing so well and listening to some really upbeat music often brings my humour-mojo back.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?
I have tried so hard to be strict with myself, but I am typically disorganised in both work and thought processes. If it wasn’t for my wonderful editor keeping me on track, I’d never finish anything. I do tend to float away into a series of random thoughts and places. Even my characters lead me astray, My current book was comfortable set on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, a place I have visited many times and know well. One day, I found my characters getting on a ferry to the Isle of Jura across the water – a place I had never been to - ‘all by themselves.’ Suddenly I realised I was writing about somewhere I didn’t know and then everything got held up while I planned a visit there. I am dangerous and a little eccentric, let me tell you!
What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
I hate editing. There, I said it. My ideal world would be one where I could write and write first drafts from hours on end then slot the entire manuscript in a machine that tidied everything up at the end. The part I like best? Making stuff up. It is that simple. Writing comedy is for me like having the freedom to think like a child and make my characters act as daft and carefree as them, without apology. Everyone loves to laugh, but you can often get too caught up in your own seriousness to just allow yourself to laugh like a child at silly things. It is one of life’s great, underrated pleasures in my opinion.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
Writing about writing. Isn’t that odd? I love to encourage people to go out, unafraid, and create things. Time with my family is another and I also love hiking for miles and miles in the Scottish hillside.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
To read On Writing by Stephen King. It is, in my humble opinion, the greatest book ever written on the subject of writing for beginners. I still refer back to it now from time to time. I was pulled me out of a mid-manuscript crisis of confidence with The New Mrs D (my first book) by taking someone’s advice to pause to read it.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
The greatest compliment anyone can ever give me is when I read in a review or someone tells me directly, ‘I felt this was so like me,’ or ‘your book really resonated with me’. It is wonderful to feel you have reached people at a time in their lives when they needed to. It’s the best thing ever.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
I try to answer everything ever sent to me. Emails, tweets, Facebook comments, blog responses, Instagram messages, all of it. I’m always delighted to hear from a reader. Of course, I’m not getting hundreds a day being one of the lesser known authors, so it is still achievable. I do love authors that try to answer people, even when you know they have thousands, if not millions of fans. One of my favourite authors is Elizabeth Gilbert and if you tweet her, of course she cannot possibly answer every one, but she favourites every tweet and you feel at least heard, even though you may not be. It is a nice touch, I think.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?
Oh so many things in the book are from real events! My cousin, who I thought never read books, has battered me with a copy of my own for including a carbon copy of an incident where she walked into a bar feeling like the bees knees in a beautiful new top to find all the bar staff wearing the same one. Also, the episode involving some antics at the site of a volcano, which some critics cited as being unrealistic are actually based on tales of actual events gifted to me by volcanology professors both here in the UK and the US. There is also a tale about the (rather rude) misinterpretation of a Greek word for bread, which I won’t give away here, but this actually happened to a friend of a friend, who gave me permission to use it.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
I am a huge fan of comedy, so my influences are really there rather than in authors. I love the Monty Python gang, Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper, Billy Connolly and the late, great Spike Milligan. I still watch old recordings of The Goon Show I find on YouTube and absolutely howl with laughter. Being able to get the balance right with subtle humour based on human observation is a work of true, comedy genius.
What is your definition of success as a writer?
I have always loved to write but suffered for many years from something I think a lot of people who might suspect they could write a book and never do are afflicted with: perfectionism. I have spent my life reading mountains of books of all genres because I am an avid reader and book geek. I’ve looked at other great writers and never imagined I could write anything anywhere near as great as some of my favourite authors’ works. At the same time, I have read things thinking, ‘how the heck did this get published? I could do better than that.’ It’s a thing we don’t like to admit, but I think all writers have done that at one time or another. And here is where the perfectionism creeps in. And it is one of the biggest hinderers of creativity known to humankind. ‘What if I can’t write as well as this or that author?’ ‘What if people criticise my work?’ So then I put my perfectionism to bed forever with the one sentence I would repeat to any writer thinking they might be able to write a book but feeling too frozen by doubt to begin: ‘there is always going to be someone who will criticize your work. Always the readers your story lines don’t resonate with; always someone happy to tell the world they hate what you did.’ The bottom line is: it doesn’t mean you are not a good writer. It means you are read. And that is all any truly passionate writer wants. The road to success in learning to take the criticism and the inordinary amount of rejection most writers experience in their careers on the chin, and go on to write what is in your heart to write regardless.
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?
Yes! I am just putting the finishing touches to edits on I Hate That You Bloody Left Me – a title that may be changed I guess, but I love. It is a fast-paced, fun-filled tale about three widows in their sixties, who decide to try and get a reading from a world famous psychic medium for one last message from their late husbands. After failing to be chosen at the show which was to be his last before retiring, they embark on a road trip to his house on the Isle of Islay in Scotland to beg him to do one last reading… and end up accidentally kidnapping him.
Thank you for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews Heather, and for sharing with us a bit about yourself and your writing career!
About The Author
Heather Hill is a Scotland based comedy writer, author and mum of five (not the band). She is one of a rare kind; the rare kind being one of only 0.5% of women who are colourblind. She has been known to leave the house with blue eyebrows on at least one occasion. Her debut novel, The New Mrs D is being pitched for film by a British TV comedy producer and Snipper Films.
The New Mrs D by Heather Hill
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Format: Paperback - 257 pages
Kindle - 2552 KB
ISBN: 978-1502396532ASIN: B00P4D57KQ
Genre: Chick Lit / Romantic Comedy
Buy The Book:
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.
When funny, feisty, forty-something Bernice plans the adventure trip of a lifetime, she doesn’t expect to be spending it alone. But as it turns out, unintentionally contributing to a Greek fish explosion, nude karaoke and hilarious misadventures with volcanoes are exactly what she needs to stop fretting about errant husbands and really start living. But when Mr D tries to win her back, Bernice has a decision to make: is this a holiday from her humdrum life, or the start of a whole new adventure?
My Book Review:
If you are looking for an entertaining chick lit / romantic comedy that will keep you in stitches, then The New Mrs D is the book for you!
In her debut novel, author Heather Hill weaves a cheeky tale that follows forty-one year old newlywed Bernice Dando's journey of self discovery while on her honeymoon in Greece. Told in the first person narrative, Bernice aka "Binnie" takes the reader along for the ride as she calls a halt to her honeymoon after four days when she discovers that her husband David is addicted to porn, and they still haven't consummated their marriage! What's a woman to do when she isn't getting any loving? Why kick him out and continue the honeymoon plans without him of course!
Follow along as Binnie embarks on a madcap midlife crisis adventure in Greece, getting herself into some pretty hilarious circumstances, and along the way she discovers her true self. Binnie is beside herself when hubby David is addicted to watching porn on his phone instead of making love to her. She has had a history of self-image, self-doubt, and insecurity issues that goes back to her childhood. With a mixture of humor and drama, the reader can't help but get drawn into Binnie's adventure as she gallivants around the picturesque Isle of Greece. Throughout the story Binnie has flashbacks to her past intertwined with her crazy antics in the present, you can't help but feel empathy for the way her life has turned out, yet you can't help but also snicker as her zany antics provide a lot of comedic laugh out loud moments. And just when you think that Binnie is finally figuring out what she wants in her life, hubby David comes back into the picture and wants her back!
I really enjoyed following The New Mrs D's poignant personal journey of self-discovery. It was easy to relate to Binnie because of the real life issues that she struggled with, and to cheer her on as her wit and sassy personality pulled her through as she overcame her fears and insecurities. Through Binnie's adventures, the author provides a thought provoking and truly inspirational message for the readers: learn to accept and love yourself, flaws and all!
RATING: 4 STARS
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Virtual Book Tour
December 8 – Soap BoxVille2.0 - Review
December 9 – Chick Lit Goddess – Guest Post, Q&A & Excerpt
December 10 – CDyess Writes – Excerpt
December 11 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post & Excerpt
December 14 – Ai Love Books – Q&A & Excerpt
December 15 – Varietats – Review & Excerpt
December 16 – Fiction Dreams – Excerpt
December 17 – Chick Lit Plus – Review
December 18 – Authors and Readers Book Corner – Excerpt
December 21 – Novel Escapes – Q&A
December 22 – Book Babble – Review & Excerpt
December 23 – The Write Review – Excerpt
December 28 – Granny Loves to Read – Review
December 28 – The Book Sirens – Guest Post & Excerpt