Writing My Fourth Novel: Bookends

I had just got married when I started writing my fourth novel. I'd come back from honeymoon, moved into our first house - a gorgeous little carriage house in London - and made my office on the third floor, overlooking the treetops in North West London. I thought, given how my art had imitated my life, I would write about an engagement, the planning of a wedding, the trials and tribulations of suddenly inheriting a new family who weren't exactly what you expected.

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I started Chapter One, and sat back, halfway through, running my fingers through my hair. Bored. I was bored and the words I was writing were boring. I didn't want to write the same old first person thinly-veiled account of my life. I wanted to do something bigger. Broader. Something that had some meat on its bones. I wanted to write about friendship, I decided. About a group of friends who had known one another since University, who were now in their thirties and still trying to pursue their dreams.

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Cath was my first female protaganist who wasn't based on me. I loved her. I loved her realness, and her friendship with Si. Then Lucy, and Josh - all of them felt, very quickly, like real people and like friends, a sure sign you have got your characterisation right.

Towards the end of the book, Si has a crisis, and initially he was going to be fine, but when I reached that point, his character took over, the course of the story, and I knew it couldn't end the way I thought it was going to, even though that was so much quicker and easier. I put the writing on hold, and spent weeks doing research, and to this day I'm glad I did. The trajectory of Si's life is far more honest, even though it was frightening, at the time, to deal with such a big medical issue I knew nothing about.

For me Bookends marks the start of my foray into commercial fiction, away from what has always been thought of as more traditional chick lit - single girl in the city trips around in manolos looking for Mr Right. From designer labels on every page in Mr Maybe, I consciously avoided them with this, wanting to write something less fluffy, less superficial. Of the earlier books, it remains one of my favourites.

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