Tuesday 29 April 2014

Author Interview ~ Alison May.

Today I'm delighted to welcome Alison May to Reviewed the Book, a Contemporary Romantic Comedy author published by Choc Lit. You can check out Alison's books at the end of this interview.


Tell us about yourself and your books.

Hello. I’m Alison May. I write romantic comedies that are frequently quite unromantic and, in places, a little bit weepy, but otherwise definitely very romantic comedy-ish.

When I’m not writing I alternate between going to Zumba with excellent intentions about losing weight and Being Healthy, and arriving home from Zumba where I eat cake.

How challenging was your journey to becoming published by Choc Lit?

There were highs and lows. Most of the lows were as a result of it taking me the best part of six years and a whole part-time creative writing degree to work out that I wanted to write a novel. I spent a long time trying to be a playwright. I was bad at it. So very bad.

Sweet Nothing is my first novel. I have no doubt that the process of writing it was horrendous for large parts of the time, but somehow once you sign the contract you manage to put the pain out of your mind. Like childbirth. At least I imagine it’s like childbirth - I’ve never actually done a childbirthing but lack of experience or knowledge should never stand in the way of a good simile.

You tend to write more novellas instead of full length novels – why do you find short stories more appealing to write?

Actually I write both, but I do love writing novellas. They’re shorter, which is lovely because you don’t have to think of so many words, and it is having to think of all the words that makes the whole writing malarkey so tricky. I’m quite happy to admit that I find novella writing easier – up to about 50,000 words I find I can hold the whole story in my head. Above that and I end up having to use whiteboard and copious amount of sticky notes to keep track of who’s doing what, with whom, at what point.

Having said that, I also love playing around with structure in stories, so I use a lot of flashback and I like to get inside the heads of lots of different characters. It’s much easier to do that in a full-length novel, so hopefully I’ll get to carry on as I am at the moment and keep writing both.

What are you currently working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

I’m working on my Christmas novellas for 2014 AND 2015, which means Christmas tunes playing full blast to get me in the mood. I’m seriously considering putting decorations up, but that’s the sort of behaviour that makes my normally very understanding husband look at me like I might have lost the plot.

The next two Christmas novellas are linked stories, both of which link back to some of the characters in Holly’s Christmas Kiss. I’m at the exciting ideas stage at the moment, so am busy falling in love with my Christmas 2014 hero. What can I tell you about him? Well, he’s called Liam, and he’s about to receive some very very good news.

What do you find most rewarding about being an author?

I love the moments where a story just falls into place. You can spend weeks trying to crowbar a character into a plot, or sort out a timeline that isn’t working, and then all of a sudden light will dawn and you’ll have a moment where you realise that if you just change one tiny thing everything works and hangs together. Those moments are magic. I mean, they’re not actually magic. They’re the result of the weeks of frustrating hard work getting you to a point where you’re able to see through the mess to the solution. But they feel like magic, which is almost as good.

Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Practical head says ebooks. They’re cheaper to produce and buy. They’re lighter to carry around. You can keep a whole library in your handbag.

But paper books are lovely, aren’t they? I own hundreds (probably thousands) of the things, and you can stroke them and hold them and, in extreme circumstances, lick them.

I can have both though, right? You’re not going to come round and take my kindle away, are you? *barricades door against evil book police*

Do you celebrate or treat yourself after your books are released? If so – what do you do?

I’m slightly ashamed to say, not really. To be honest, the last few months since Sweet Nothing came out have been such a blur. I went straight from edits on that book, into edits on Holly’s Christmas Kiss, into writing novel 2 and now starting my next Christmas Kiss novella. I haven’t really stopped long enough to celebrate.

I probably ought to change that and have a little treat. So can I have David Tennant, a large bag of malteasers and a bottle of champagne brought to my room, please? *Waits expectantly*

Name the best book you read last year, your favourite book and the book at the top of your TBR.

My favourite book of last year wasn’t actually a new release. It was one I’d just never got around to before - Cuban Heels by Emily Barr. I love Emily Barr. She’s very clever and somehow manages to turn her settings into almost another character. Cuban Heels also had one of the most interesting main characters I’ve read in a long time, Maggie. She doesn’t always act particularly nicely, but Barr manages to keep you engaged with her. I’d highly recommend it.

Favourite book ever is an impossible question. It varies according to mood, so depending on the day it’s either The House at Pooh Corner¸ Margaret Attwood’s The Blind Assassin, Jane Eyre or pretty much anything by Marian Keyes or Terry Pratchett. Today I’m feeling Pratchettish, so I’m going to say one of the City Watch Discworld books. Night Watch I think. It’s an unusual book for Pratchett because it’s a timeslip story. A comic fantasy timeslip. Brilliant.

And the book at the top of my to read pile at the moment is Mhairi Mcfarlane’s Here’s Looking At You.

If you had the opportunity to meet one author and take in all their advice, knowledge and inspiration, who would you choose?

I’m going to stick with Terry Pratchett I think. It might sound like an odd choice given that he’s the king of comic fantasy and I write romance, but the way that he structures stories is unsurpassed. You start off with multiple strands that don’t link together, and all of a sudden you get a glimpse of the whole story and see that it could never have been heading in any other direction. Masterful.

Thanks for joining us, Alison!

Alison was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester. Alison has worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and is now a writer and creative writing tutor.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and won their Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012 for her short story Feel the Fear which appeared in the RNA’s 2014 anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply¸ published by Harlequin.

Alison writes contemporary romantic comedies. Alison’s debut Sweet Nothing (Amazon) was released by Choc Lit Lite in November 2013 and her novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss (Amazon) in December 2013. You can follow Alison on Twitter @MsAlisonMay.

Would you risk everything for love?

Independent, straight-talking Trix Allen wouldn’t. She’s been in love once before and ended up with nothing. Now safely single, Trix is as far away from the saccharine-sweet world of hearts and flowers as it’s possible to be.

Ben Messina is the man who broke Trix’s heart. Now he’s successful the only thing rational Ben and free-spirited Trix see eye-to-eye on is the fact that falling in love isn’t part of the plan. But when Ben’s brother sets out to win the heart of Trix’s best friend, romance is very much in the air. Will Trix gamble everything on love and risk ending up with zero once again?


  1. Hmm, two books I clearly must read are Alison May's Sweet Nothing & Margaret Attwood's The Blind Assassin. I've heard so many good things about them!

    Great interview, Alison. Thanks!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview. :)

    2. Anonymous29/4/14 16:37

      Yes - you must read the Blind Assassin Beverley. It's genius. After you've read Sweet Nothing, obviously ;) x

  2. Really enjoyed reading this interview, Sophie and Alison. Love the idea of the April Chistmas music to aid the upcoming novellas! I'm pleased to hear about them too - thoroughly enjoyed Holly's Christmas kiss.

    1. Thanks Clare, glad you liked it. Think Christmas music in April would drive me a little mad but good for inspiration!

    2. Anonymous29/4/14 16:36

      The Christmas music in April is driving me mad Sophie! That is one of the downsides :(

  3. You always make me giggle, Alison - great interview. And why not put up the Christmas decorations - one less job to do in December.

  4. Interesting interview. I enjoy writing both lengths too - keeps it interesting! Looking forward to the 'Holly's Christmas Kiss' sequel already.
    Angela Britnell

  5. Good interview, thx. Nice to hear of another North Yorkshire-born author.. me too! SD

    1. Thanks for commenting Sandra.

    2. Anonymous29/4/14 16:35

      There's a few of us either Yorkshire-born or Yorkshire-resident. Donna Douglas, Jessica Gilmore and Jane Lovering all live in that neck of the woods. I'm in exile now!

  6. Great interview Alison, with your usual lighthearted touch. It illustrates only too well how busy a writer's life is.

  7. Some great replies there, Alison, and I found myself agreeing to a lot of what you say! Can't wait for your next book :-)


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