Since joining several online groups for authors and bloggers I have been fortunate to meet some lovely people and author Caroline James is one of them. Her new book Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me was released last month and I’m delighted Caroline has agreed to tell me more about her writing.
Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me
‘The time to be happy is now…’
Jo remembers her late husband’s words but is struggling to face the lonely future that lies ahead. A heartbroken widow, the love of her life, husband Romany John, has died suddenly and Jo finds herself alone with ghostly memories at Kirkton House – a Cumbrian Manor that until recently, she ran as a thriving hotel. Her two sons have moved away; Jimmy to run a bar in Barbados and Zach, to London to pursue a career as a celebrity chef. Middle-age and widowhood loom frighteningly and Jo determines to sell up and start again, despite protestations from colourful friend, Hattie and erstwhile admirer Pete Parks. Hattie convinces Jo to postpone any life-changing decisions by enjoying a Caribbean holiday in Barbados and their holiday sets off a course of events that brings mayhem and madness to Jo and her family.
Confused and anxious for her future, can life really begin again for Jo? Is there hope in middle years and can romance happen?
An Interview with Caroline James
Hi Caroline. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and your latest book ‘Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me’.
Hi Linda – thanks so much for hosting me on your lovely blog.
Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?
OK, ‘speed date’ head on, here goes…
I hated school and left home at 15 and headed to Cornwall where, in-between beach days and surfing, I worked in a hotel. Three years later I got a grip, shed the cheesecloth dress, hippy cowbell and Jesus sandals and went to college and my career in hospitality began. From pot washing to waiting table, working for a large hotel group and ultimately owning a pub then gorgeous country house hotel in Cumbria, after which, I ran a business representing celebrity chefs for many years which was great fun despite the crazy and sometimes bizarre situations I often found myself in.
(I was a pot washer too so maybe there’s hope for me yet as a writer!)
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
Four years ago. It was a do or die moment, as in glue your bum to a chair, stop talking about it and get writing.
(That might be one of the ways I’m going wrong. Note to self – glue bum to chair…)
If you hadn’t become an author, would you have become a chef as I notice you have lots of food related elements in your writing and on your website, or is there another creative outlet you’d prefer?
I’d like to have been a criminal lawyer but having buggered (can I say that?) school up that was out of the question, although I went on to get an education in my own time. I have been a chef and, having worked with some of the best when I represented them, know how hard they work to get to the top. It isn’t all about glamour in front of the camera; it takes blood, sweat, tears and courage to rise above the rest.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I write what I know and flavour it with a subtle camouflage of made-up characters. Research is made easier by the internet but I like to emerge myself physically in the places I write about.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
Food trips across the page with as much pleasure as I have when I’m eating it. Death makes me dig deep and having experienced tragedy in my life, it is painful to write.
How different or similar do you find writing short stories or articles for magazines in comparison with novels?
Just as hard. Every short story or article is a pocket version of a novel, it has to have a beginning, middle and rounded ending but you have less time to tell the story.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
My best time is very early morning, as in 5 am. The world is sleeping and calm and the only sound is the ticking of a clock. I can meet up with my characters again and in the peace of an undisturbed day I can find out where they are going next. I write at an old oak desk in the corner of a room with doors firmly closed.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I love crime and lots of complicated tales from the darker side. I’ll have a go at most genres but if it doesn’t grip in the first few pages I don’t often hang in there.
If you could chose to be a character from ‘Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me’, who would you be and why?
I’d like to be Hattie because she rides through life with an open mind and willingness to try anything once. Age is just a number to Hattie and she’s a larger than life colourful character who has a heart of gold. To be like this would be a joy, not worrying about the extra pounds, the commitment to day-to-day nonsense or what people think – imagine the freedom!
If ‘Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me” became a film, who would you like to play Jo and Hattie?
If we’re talking block-buster I’d have Meryl Streep as Jo and Melissa McCarthy as Hattie.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me’ should be their next read, what would you say?
It’s never too late in life and there is always hope no matter what…
You supported Movember with the publication ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boys’. What made you choose to do that?
It’s a great cause and Movember is an excellent charity that is committed to changing men’s health and someone close to me was suffering with prostate cancer, which bought it home. We must look after our men – they often forget to look after themselves.
What was it like writing in collaboration with two other writers, Sheryl Browne and Emma Calin?
Fabulous – lovely ladies and great writers, as are all the contributers in the book, Let’s Hear It For The Boys.
What’s next for Caroline James as a writer?
I’m on the final furlong with the next book, Coffee Tea The Boomers & Me and loving it. There is a really nasty evil character in there called, Andy Mack, and I am enjoying the ride with him (they say write what you know!”). This is due for publication Autumn this year.
(Now I’m intrigued about Andy…)
Thank you so much, Caroline, for your time in answering my questions.
Thanks for asking such great questions Linda, it’s been my pleasure to chat with you here.