Give us the elevator pitch for your book The Love Story of Missy Carmichael
In Missy Carmichael’s life has become small. Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes in her empty home, the mistakes she’s made. She feels she deserves this fate, but a chance encounter in the park opens the door to something new, if only she’s brave enough to grasp the opportunity. Is 79 too late for a second chance at life?
What were your plans for book launch pre-Covid?
I was incredibly lucky that I was able to have a spectacular launch party in London in February, and did a few events on my tour in the UK before the rest got cancelled. My book was a Sunday Times bestseller for three weeks, which was a dream come true. Other author friends haven’t been so lucky – they’ve had their launches completely cancelled and no events to help get their books noticed in the beginning, which is vital. To be honest, I feel like I can’t complain too much, because at least I had a good start. I’m trying to stay positive and think of other things I can do from the comfort of my own home – I’ve started a blog about TV, am contributing to podcasts, writing articles for newspapers and trying to engage with my readers in innovative ways. Hopefully people will still stumble on my book and enjoy it.
Where were you when you heard your book tour/ launch was cancelled?
Given that I live in London, I think my involvement in my launch in New York was always going to be remote, in that there was never a launch party or tour planned. I’m very disappointed that people won’t be able to go into shops to buy my book or see it on display, but to be honest I’d much rather people stayed safely at home–and hopefully found it online!
What went into writing and selling your book?
Decades of reading and dreaming of seeing my name on the cover of a book. Such hard work, but also such joy – the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 6 and wrote a story about Icarus. I wrote poetry at university, and started writing a book in my early 20s – it was a spin-off of Mary Poppins, about what Winifred Banks got up to while she was marching with the suffragettes. I think it’s best it’s probably still in a drawer somewhere! Then in my early 30s I tried to write a book about working in television, because I was a TV producer. It was kind of dystopian and unwieldy, and I probably wasn’t an experienced enough writer to tackle it. But when I was on maternity leave with my second son, my husband suggested we put him in nursery two days a week so I could finally try to write a whole book. I’d had an idea about loneliness and old age, and spent nine months pushing a pram round the park thinking and planning. I wrote it in a three-month rush, two days a week, and adored every second of it. I spent the next year editing it very slowly while I was back at work–not so much fun! I started submitting to agents in June 2017 – it took me a year of submission and rejection to get an agent, but my book deal came in a rush in September 2018. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.
What is the weirdest job you held on your path to publication?
Years ago, I had to look after Buzz Aldrin for the day while he filmed a pilot show in London. I found the whole experience hugely embarrassing as I had no idea what to say to him. What do you say to a man who walked on the moon?! He was very charming. I still have his number on my phone, and show it off to people sometimes, like we’re friends.
What do you want readers to take away from your book?
I always said I wanted to make people cry in a happy way–not in a grief-stricken way, but in a kind of cathartic purge that leaves a washed-out feeling. Perhaps that’s what we all need right now.
What’s your favorite Indie Book store?
There’s a wonderful bookshop/cafe in Crickhowell in Wales called Book-Ish. It has the best feng shui of a book shop that I’ve ever felt. Right at the centre of the community, as it should be.
Can you recommend one other debut?
The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley. A warm, joyous romp of a read.