I’m very pleased to welcome Stephanie Harte to Linda’s Book Bag today. Stephanie’s latest novel, Peppermint Park, is out now and available for purchase on your local Amazon site and I’ve enjoyed hearing more about it in today’s interview.
The tree-lined street in the affluent suburb of Chigwell, Essex was made up of extravagant mansions. Peppermint Park looked picture perfect on the outside, but behind closed doors, it was a different story. It concealed a life of torment, where family secrets were hidden from public view.
In the swinging sixties, Violet boards a plane bound for San Francisco with her boyfriend Bradley, to start a new life at Happy Acres, a hippie commune. Once they stepped inside the boundaries, they entered a different realm, one without clocks and calendars. Where naked yoga sessions and howling at the moon were compulsory activities, and people experimented with marijuana, magic mushrooms and moonshine as a daily pastime.
Violet and Bradley were having the most amazing time of their lives. They were living the dream. But was their amphetamine-fueled existence about to come crashing down around them? Surely you can never have too much of a good thing, can you?
Join Violet and Bradley on their journey as they take a leap of faith into unknown territory in search of a new beginning, set against the stunning backdrop of Northern California.
An Interview with Stephanie Harte
Hi Stephanie. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Peppermint Park in particular.
Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in North West London where I still live with my husband Barry, daughter Sarah, son James and Cairn terrier Ruby. I trained in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at London College of Fashion and worked for many years as a Pharmaceutical Buyer for the NHS, based at Barnet General Hospital purchasing medicines and related supplies for North London hospitals.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I had dreamt of writing a book for years but had always been put off by such a daunting task. But something changed and on New Year’s Eve 2013 I decided to make a resolution, this year I’m going to do it. The time had come, and I finally felt ready to put pen to paper.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
When I’m not writing I work as a self-employed Beauty Therapist teaching beauty workshops at a specialist residential clinic that treats children with severe eating disorders. I also love to sew.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I use the internet and spend a great deal of time checking multiple sources. I pay attention to tiny details to ensure my research is correct.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I find writing dialogue the easiest and I love writing descriptions. The most difficult part has to be finishing for the day when I still want to continue.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I write Monday-Friday in our office at home with my trusty terrier Ruby squashed on the chair behind me, in case I forget to take her for a walk.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I read a wide variety of books. I love anything from contemporary fiction to non-fiction, psychological thrillers, biographies, cookbooks and anything related to aromatherapy.
I know you have quite a scientific background. How useful was this when writing about some of the drug related elements in your story?
I think my background working in pharmaceuticals helped me when it came to writing about addiction as I know certain medication is closely monitored. It is just as easy to become dependent on prescription drugs as it is illegal ones.
Peppermint Park is your third novel. How has your style developed since you began writing fiction?
Unlike my other two novels Peppermint Park is a bitter sweet romance and it contains some serious issues. Having written two light-hearted novels I wanted to try something different with this one.
What made you choose the 1960s as the setting for Peppermint Park rather than the 1980s of your other two books?
A large part of the story is about a commune in the USA. I thought it would be appropriate to set the novel in the 1960s following the Summer of Love when the hippie culture was at its peak.
There are some unorthodox practices in Peppermint Park. What is your view of alternative therapies?
I love aromatherapy. I make beauty products and treatment oils using essential oils for my friends and family. I always use my own products when I run my beauty workshops.
If you could chose to be a character from Peppermint Park, who would you be and why?
I would be Sunshine; she’s optimistic about everything and lives in her own little world.
If Peppermint Park became a film, who would you like to play Violet and Bradley?
I would like Elle Fanning to play Violet and Justin Bieber to play Bradley.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Peppermint Park should be their next read, what would you say?
Hippies, moonshine and mayhem help Violet overcome her troubled past and find a brighter future.
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Stephanie.
About Stephanie Harte
Stephanie Harte was born and raised in North West London where she still lives with her husband Barry, daughter Sarah, son James and Cairn terrier Ruby.
She was educated at St Michael’s Catholic Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school she trained in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at London College of Fashion.
She worked for many years as a Pharmaceutical Buyer for the NHS, based at Barnet General Hospital purchasing medicines and related supplies for North London hospitals including, Edgware General, Finchley Memorial, Napsbury & peripheral sites . Her career path led her to work for an international export company whose markets included The Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
Since 2007 Stephanie has been teaching regular beauty therapy workshops at a London based specialist residential clinic that treats children with severe eating disorders.