Thursday 18 February 2016

Q&A with Alison May, author of Midsummer Dreams

Hi, Alison. Can you tell us a bit about your new book Midsummer Dreams?

Midsummer Dreams was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but is a very contemporary story. It’s about falling in love with people you shouldn’t, and whether that’s something you can turn off or whether it’s better commit to the feeling no matter where it takes you. And it includes fruit punch, hypnosis, a donkey and a sword fight.

With four main characters in Midsummer Dreams to choose from - which one did you enjoy writing the most?

Alex. He’s an unrepentant playboy, and I think it’s the fact that he’s unrepentant that makes him so much fun to write. He’s not stricken by guilt. He has no qualms about the morality of his behaviour. He’s just incredibly good fun, which makes it easy to see why he can be so seductive.

I also loved writing Helen. She’s a proper old school feminist, and it was fun to contrast her ideas and priorities with some of the other characters, including Alex.

Midsummer Dreams isn’t the first of your books that has been inspired by Shakespeare – why do you think his work has influenced you so much?

I grew up in a fairly small Northern seaside town, which slightly incongruously, is home to a world class producing theatre, so I grew up being taken to the theatre and never seeing that as an elitist or inaccessible thing. And if you love theatre then Shakespeare is The Man. I’m lucky because having to read Shakespeare at school didn’t destroy my appreciation of his plays – and I know a lot of people are put off Shakespeare by the GCSE experience, but I love how immediate and alive his plays are, and they deal with all the really big human issues – love, death, power, family, cross-dressing twins.

If you were to be a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays, who would you choose to be and why?

Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She’s clever and funny, and she gets her man in the end (despite being absolutely adamant she has no interest in doing any such thing.) And she never has to pretend to be her own twin, or a man, or dead, so for a Shakespeare heroine she gets off fairly lightly.

You’re a writer so I’m guessing that also makes you a procrastinator. What do you do to procrastinate?

All the obvious things – facebook, twitter, hiding my own laptop power lead so I can tell myself it’s broken and I can’t possibly do any work, trying to watch all of youtube, making lists of what I should be doing, rewriting those lists and applying attractive colour coding. Really anything at all that isn’t just writing the sodding book.

How much attention do you pay to reviews of your books – the good and bad ones?

As little as humanly possible. Which means that I read them all obsessively.

Being a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association – how much of a positive impact do you think the RNA has had on you as a writer?

Almost too much to explain. I joined the RNA through the New Writers’ Scheme, which is a scheme for unpublished authors where you get a critique on your manuscript and you’re also able to attend all the RNA’s events, such as their parties and annual conference. For me the two years I was in the NWS were like the most exhilarating writing boot camp, but with wine. Most boot camps lack wine.

I’m now the RNA’s Membership Secretary and I’ve been involved in things like expanding the RNA to include self-published members, and I’m still super-proud to be part of the association.

What has been the proudest moment of your writing career to date?

So many. Stroking my first paperback. Seeing Holly’s Christmas Kiss go to Number 1 in the short fiction charts. Finishing Midsummer Dreams (I experienced a serious bout of ‘difficult second novel’ angst while I was writing it). Probably my biggest excitement so far though, is having Cora’s Christmas Kiss shortlisted in the RoNAs. I genuinely jumped up and down when I heard that news.

What are you working on at the moment?

Lots of different things. I’ve had a few months ‘off’ from writing in my normal style, so I’ve just finished my first non-romance manuscript about a woman who says she can talk to the dead. I’m also writing a tentative TV script about a paranormal investigator and a psychic guinea pig. I’m just gearing up to make a start on my next book which I *think* is going to be about grief and rediscovering love (or not) after bereavement, but will probably turn out not to be about that at all once I start writing.

Have you got any recent reads to recommend?

My favourite recent read is probably The Shepherd’s Crown – the very last Discworld novel from Terry Pratchett. I’d been slightly putting off reading it because I knew it would be the last time I ever got to read a Discworld book for the first time, so finishing it was bittersweet.

If you could interview any author in the world, who would you pick and why?

Well given that I can’t have Shakespeare for logistical reasons, probably Marian Keyes. As well as loving her books, she’s one of my favourite authors on twitter and in interviews – just incredibly funny.

If you woke up one day, Freaky Friday style, and found yourself living the life of one other author – who would you want that author to be and why?

The writer I have horrible life envy over at the moment is Jenny Colgan. She writes fantastic romantic comedy, and she also writes Doctor Who novels and audio plays. That is basically exactly what I want to do when I grow up. I am very very jealous indeed, which isn’t helped by the fact that I met her last year and it’s turns out she’s lovely. Writing for Doctor Who and being lovely – it’s just not fair, I tell you.

Midsummer Dreams is out now.

Alison is a novelist, short story writer, blogger and creative writing tutor who grew up in North Yorkshire, and now lives in Worcester. She worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, a freelance trainer, and now a maker-upper of stories.

She won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012, and her short stories have been published by Harlequin, Choc Lit and Black Pear Press. Her romantic comedies, Sweet Nothing, Midsummer Dreams, and the Christmas Kisses series are published by Choc Lit, and she has been shortlisted in the Love Stories Awards and the RoNAs.

You can find out more about Alison at, on Facebook at, or by following her on Twitter @MsAlisonMay

About Midsummer Dreams

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