Hi Sunny. I've always wanted to be a writer, and ideally a writer for children, but I had many jobs and four children (including two teenage stepdaughters) before I wrote the first book that got published, which was Threads. That turned into a trilogy, and The Look is the book that I wrote after that. It's set in the world of modelling - although the main character knows little about it and isn't sure she wants to to it. It also has the underlying theme of two sisters dealing with the fact that one of them is diagnosed with cancer. However, I wouldn't call it a 'cancer book'. It's much more about the sisters than the illness.
> 2. What inspired The Look storyline?
The storyline was inspired by a fan of Threads asking me if I thought she should consider a career in modelling. Although I knew a lot about fashion design, I knew very little about modelling, so I set out to research it. The theme of the sisters, and one of them being ill, came about because a friend of mine was very ill at the time, so I was thinking about it a lot, and because I was interested in hair loss, and how important our hair is to us. There's a big hair scene in the book, and I always knew that scene would be there. (My friend is fine now, by the way.)
> 3. How long did it take you to write The Look?
It took ages. Several months to write the first draft, followed by a rewrite that took almost as long. It was very painful! But worth it, I think. The sisters feel very real to me now.
> 4. What sort of research on modelling and cancer did you have to do for it? And did you learn anything new doing in the process?
I did a lot of research on the internet, and also met with a young model and with people in the fashion business. I even did a bit of modelling myself! (for Good Housekeeping magazine). On the cancer side, I was lucky to be able to talk to a doctor who treats teens with Hodgkins lymphoma, so I could be sure the statistics and treatments were up to date. I also knew someone who'd been through this as a young person. For the emotional side of it, my brother was very seriously ill when I was a teen, so I know what it's like to be in a family going through this, and how isolating it is. All books end up being autobiographical one way or another.
One thing that surprised me was that, for plot reasons, the hair loss side of the treatment was very important, but I didn't know until the doctor said so that many teens find this the most distressing side effect, even though it's not the most serious one medically. Looks are so important to us, and I wanted to show how shaving hair can be a ritual, a freeing process, a celebration. I wish more cancer patients knew this if they're worried about losing their hair. Also, it will pass.
> 5. What do you see in the future for Nick and Ted?
Interesting question! Good things. *plot spoiler*. They respect each other. They have a lot in common. They understand the serious things in life. They'll be OK.
> 6. What character in The Look would you want to have a conversation with the most and what would you talk about?
Tina di Gaggia. Anything she wanted.
> 7. Why and what made you want to be an author?
Moving to Hong Kong when I was 7 and suddenly being cut off from my friends. Reading was my way out, my escape into the world of the imagination. I never lost that. I wanted to be able to write books like the ones I read then.
> 8. Where is your favourite place to write and favourite writing snack?
My shed, or bed. A Twirl.
> 9. Favourite Book when you were little?
> 10. Any writing tips for aspiring authors?
Write. Finish it. It will be hard, and you will have moments when you think it's not going to work, but do it anyway. We all go through those moments. Writers are people who carry on writing anyway.
> 11. If there was a story of your life what would the title be?
> 12. What's the best and worst thing about being a writer?
> 13. What made you want to call The Look, The Look
The title came to me very quickly. It's about the fact that 'looks' are decided by editors and stylists. They choose who is beautiful this season. It doesn't have much to do with what kind of person you are, or what ordinary people think of you. If you go into the fashion business, you'll be at the whim of other people deciding whether you've 'got it' or not.
> 14. Can you tell us a bit about your other series, Threads?
Four girls growing up in London. One is a refugee from Uganda with an undiscovered talent for design. The others - a blogger, an actress and a would-be designer herself, take her under their wing and help her realise her dreams. She brings out the best in them, but she has a secret they have to work hard to uncover ...
> Quick fire questions:
> Nerdy or Trendy?
Nerdy. Big Bang Theory rules right now.
> Hard-cover book or Ebook?
Ebook. More portable. Unless it's about fashion, in which case lots of glossy pictures, please.
> Sweet or Savoury?
> Read the book before the movie or Movie before book?
Book first, then movie. Otherwise, the movie will always overwhelm the book in your head.
> One Direction or Justin Bieber?
Harry all the way. Sorry, Beliebers.