Di Jones has released another charming Chicklit novel and has generously agreed to allow me to host her during her Chicklit Plus Blog Tour. Read below for an excerpt from her new book, Meeting Miss Mollie, as well as an author interview. Tomorrow I will be posting a guest post by Di about her perfect writing space.
About Di Jones
I was born in Liverpool, England to parents who had a strong sense of adventure and moved many times. I’ve lived in Canada, the United States, England and New Zealand. I’ve worked in a variety of jobs ranging from envelope stuffer to bakery assistant, librarian to trade development executive, but none of my jobs were as much fun as the one that allowed me to write and get paid for it. That was a few years ago, and each year it’s become more and more apparent what I want to do is write full time, a dream that first occurred to me at seventeen.
I write chick lit – light hearted and humorous stories for and about women who value their families, their friendships, their careers, their independence, who have a sense of adventure, and who live and love with passion.
Like my characters, I love my family and friends, beautiful shoes, anything sparkly, the ‘occasional’ drink, parties, and a good belly laugh. I’m addicted to shopping, chocolate, bubble bath and anything else that smells nice, and the sort of tv programmes you’d never publicly admit to watching.
I live in a lovingly renovated home overlooking Auckland’s beautiful Waitemata Harbour, with my trusted friends Bronson Boxer and Dolce Dane. They keep me fit and exercised, scare the burglars away, sit loyally by my side throughout my late night writing sessions, and hang on my every word when I read final drafts aloud. They truly are my biggest fans, and I theirs!
I love my life, but not so much that there’s not room to live a load of other lives, through the hearts and minds of my characters, all of whom I adore, and some of whom I’m fortunate enough to call friend.
Connect with Di!
Meeting Miss Mollie Excerpt
Annabelle Smithson was the best when it came to giving relationship advice.
She pushed the stack of letters into a neat pile and picked up the top one, tracing her finger over the solid bond paper. She put on her glasses, unfolded the letter and a warm light feeling spread through her chest.
I’m a regular reader of your column and I hope you can help me. I’m at my wits end about my relationship. I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years and despite the fact we’ve been engaged for two years, a wedding isn’t in sight. Every time I try to broach the subject and get my man to commit to a firm date we end up fighting and break up. A week or two later we’ve worked it out but then I’m back to square one again, no closer to a wedding date. This has happened several times now, and I have a feeling we’ll never get married. What should I do?
Annabelle read the letter again, slowly this time, then removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes and viewed the countryside flashing by through the train window. The fields were golden and green, the rapeseed swaying in the light spring breeze, and the sky was azure blue with white fluffy clouds standing out in stark relief. It was ironic that beauty and harmony were all around, while the cities were polluted and crowded with people living miserable and unhappy lives. Not that she should care too much. After all, if it wasn’t for the unhappiness, intrigue and dishonesty in people’s lives, she wouldn’t be in a job.
She was lucky. Everything was beauty and harmony in her own life. Reading the letters for her problem page week in, week out was depressing, and if she wasn’t grounded it would pull her down badly. She didn’t take anything for granted and every day she reminded herself how fortunate she was. She had a great job, a lovely flat, a fun circle of friends, and the best husband in the world.
“What’s wrong, Annabelle?” Her friend June put down the Hello magazine she was reading and offered her a Pringle. “You’re completely and utterly fed up, aren’t you?”
Annabelle was tempted by the offer of the potato chips, but shook her head. She patted her soft waistline, which had been expanding of late. “Yes. It’s this reader, M. She keeps writing to me, but there’s nothing particularly unusual or interesting about her problem.”
“What is her problem?” asked June, crunching a mouthful of Pringles, making Annabelle’s mouth water.
“Her boyfriend won’t commit to her and she wants to get married. Honestly, June, if I had a tenner for every woman who wrote to me about commitment, or more accurately the lack of it, I’d be able to retire to the south of France.”
June nodded understandingly, and Annabelle thought, not for the first time, how lucky she was to have a friend like her. Several years younger than she was, June was slim and statuesque, with gleaming black hair, clear ebony skin and liquid brown eyes. She was a fashion plate who spent every last pound of her salary on high street clobber – and she wore it with panache, as if every piece had cost a fortune.
Theirs was an unlikely friendship; the trend conscious black secretary from the East End, and the middle class white writer from Basingstoke. But they’d hit it off from the first moment they’d met, and their friendship had remained solid over the eight years they’d worked in the same company.
“I think you should answer her, especially if she keeps writing to you. She sounds desperate. I know you say there’s nothing unusual about her problem, but isn’t that the point?”
“I don’t follow what you mean.” Deep furrows formed between Annabelle’s finely arched brows.
“You can help loads of women by answering this one letter, and isn’t that what you want? You keep telling me mass appeal is critical.”
Annabelle nodded. June was right.
“If you need any more convincing, remember how your advice helped me,” said June, twisting her wedding ring. Annabelle had lived through a succession of June’s disastrous boyfriends until she’d met Eric two years ago and settled into domestic bliss. She was now mother to ten-month-old Alice, and in motherhood had found peace and contentment, which helped to calm her previous wild ways.
Annabelle smiled at her broadly and, giving in to her weak will, reached for the Pringles. “You’re right, and more importantly, if I don’t get this woman off my back, I’ll probably keep hearing from her.”
“Good point,” said June, taking the tube of chips back and popping a couple into her mouth.
With a sigh Annabelle unzipped her new Mac Airbook from its small black case and powered it up, eager to write her reply to M. June was right; this problem would be of interest to a lot of women, and the sensible thing to do was feature with this letter. She’d be able to use the problem to showcase her mental agility, not to mention her cutting sense of humour. After all, it was important for an agony aunt to entertain her readers and offer sound advice. Ask Annabelle was her life, but while she loved the column more than anything else, she’d be lying if she didn’t say she never stopped thinking about the day she’d be syndicated. Even better, perhaps she’d get a slot on TV. It happened all the time these days, like it did with Stella Smith, who’d begun her career with a small column in the Liverpool Echo and was now featuring on This Morning.
Annabelle put the Airbook on her lap and her fingers moved quickly over the keys. She bit her lower lip in concentration and a frown settled on her Botoxed brow.
Have you ever read the book ‘He’s just not that into you?’ It should be every girl’s bible and from what you’ve told me about your situation, it should definitely be yours. The bottom line is that engagement is easy for your man. Marriage is a real commitment and it’s obviously one he’s not ready for. You have two options; stay with him and stay engaged, perhaps forever, or leave him and find out if he does want you. If he does he’ll make a date. If he doesn’t, eventually you’ll meet someone else who will.
“Sorry, not a one. I’m addicted to them,” June said apologetically, shaking the empty tube.
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll be back shortly and I can have supper with James,” said Annabelle.
“Great idea to leave the conference early.”
“The closing speeches are always totally self-congratulatory and not at all interesting or amusing,” said Annabelle. “I’m dying to see James and it’ll be a great surprise for him.”
“You sure no one will notice we’ve left?” asked June for the third time since boarding the train.
“No, everyone will get completely smashed at the dinner and be so hung over in the morning they won’t know who stayed and who didn’t. Anyway, I don’t give a toss. I want to get home.”
“Me too,” said June. “I’m struggling being away from Alice. It’s the first time.” She laughed. “The good thing about being away is Eric appreciates me after spending two days solid with the baby.”
“Same with James. Not with a baby of course,” she added. Children weren’t part of their plans. “He’ll appreciate me even more after being by himself. Cooking isn’t exactly his forte. He’ll have been living on Marks and Spencer microwave meals.”
Twenty minutes later Annabelle and June climbed off the train and after a short cab ride Annabelle was rounding the corner from home. She took her lippy out of her bag and applied it carefully before checking her reflection in the tiny silver compact mirror she always carried with her. Her skin was creamy white against the ruby gloss, and her rich brown tangle of curls accentuated her plump heart shaped face.
The cab stopped, she paid the driver and pulled out her key from her bag. It was seven, and all the lights were on in the flat, a sign James was home.
She let herself in quietly and crept down the hallway, determined to surprise James. Music was playing quietly in the living room but she knew he wasn’t there. She could hear the hiss of the power shower coming from the bathroom and the scent of his shower gel wafted through the flat; spicy and aromatic. He always took long showers, so she’d fix a drink for them while she waited for him to get out. He wasn’t expecting her back until lunchtime tomorrow, so it’d be a lovely surprise for him to find her home.
A woman called out above the music from the living room. “It’s going to fit. It’ll be absolutely perfect.”
Annabelle didn’t recognise the voice. It wasn’t Susie, James’s sister. “What will be perfect?” she called out.
No answer. She walked into the living room, wondering who James had over.
An ethereal blonde stood in the living room, holding a tape measure against the deep padded cushions of her expensive Laura Ashley couch.
“Who are you, and what are you doing?” Annabelle asked amiably, wondering if James intended to surprise her with new covers for the sofa.
The woman spun around, dropping the tape. It clattered on the oak floor.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” said Annabelle, bending to pick up the tape. She passed it to the woman, who took it from her outstretched hand.
The blonde blinked rapidly and licked her lips. “You’re Annabelle, aren’t you?” she asked in a whisper.
“Yes, of course I am,” Annabelle replied. “Who are you?”
The woman was young, and Annabelle guessed she was no older than twenty-three. She was astonishingly pretty, with alabaster skin, cornflower blue eyes and rosebud lips. She was fat. Not overweight fat, but pregnant.
“I’m Libby. I…um…work with James,” she stammered, watching the door nervously.
Annabelle had never heard of Libby, and was about to ask how long she’d worked with James, but before she could interrogate the girl further, she heard footsteps in the hall. Thank God, James was out of the shower and could throw some light on who this strange young woman was, and why she was measuring Annabelle’s Laura Ashley couch.
Annabelle smiled at the young woman reassuringly, heartened by the sound of James’s footsteps outside the room.
The next moment her husband strolled in to the living room, wearing nothing but an expansive smile.
Interested in buying Di Jones books? Check out the links below.
Author Interview with Di Jones
Q. Where do you get your ideas for your books?
A: My first book idea came loosely from some experiences I had when I lived in LA ten years ago, but they’re exaggerated and fictionalized and – to use a well known phrase – not based on any real persons, living or dead. I had wanted to write a book for many years, but I never really knew what to write about, so it seemed an easy option with the first novel to write about things that I sort of knew. Once I finished that novel I was quite scared I wouldn’t be able to write another one, but after that the ideas flowed. They can come from anywhere – from things I read in magazine articles, from people I observe, from things I imagine. They just pop into my head and then simmer for a while.
Q. What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: I spend Monday to Friday working in a full-time job to earn my living. I’m an information manager, which means I qualified as a librarian and have now moved off to the side a bit and help companies manage their corporate information. Outside of work I love to spend time with my family and friends (eating and drinking feature heavily), walk my dogs, go shopping with the girls, and spend time recharging the batteries at home, either outside in the garden, or curled up with a good book.
Q. If you could be anyone else for a day who would you choose and why?
A: I’d love to be able to spend the day as one of my favourite chick lit writers – Jill Mansell, or Marian Keyes, or Sophie Kinsella. It would be great to be inside their skin and see how their routines work, not to mention their imaginations.
Q. How do you tackle writer’s block?
A: I don’t often get writer’s block, but when I do, my trick is to sit down with a pencil and paper and start writing that way. There’s something about this old-fashioned approach that works for me, and all I need to do is write a couple of lines, then sit at the Mac and copy type it in, and then bingo – the rest flows. My big problem is procrastination…and if anyone has a good way to tackle that, please email me. Any suggestions welcome!
Q. What would be your perfect day?
A: My perfect day would be like this:
I get woken up by the sound of George Clooney singing in the shower, and I remember that the night before we arrived in Italy for our month-long summer holiday. We’re going to do nothing except eat, drink, make love and of course I’ll manage to get a bit of writing time in too….
Back to reality. My perfect realistic day would go like this:
I get up early and get in an hour or two of writing, and then meet a friend for brunch at a nice café. After that I’ll go and visit family, and then go home and play with the dogs for a while before writing a bit more in the afternoon. In the evening, might have a friend over, or go to a party, or if it’s been a busy week, collapse in front of TV and watch a funny movie. Relaxing is key.
Q. If you could choose any animal from the zoo to have for a pet which would you choose?
A: I’m very taken with giraffes. I love their colour and pattern, the fact that they’re so different looking from so many other animals, and I like the fact that they’re so large but still so very gentle looking. Their faces are so sweet and humorous. Have you ever seen a picture of how baby giraffes sleep? If you haven’t google it, as they look adorable. So I’d get a baby giraffe as a pet, and I can definitely picture my Great Dane playing with it. It would be a tad problematic as it grew however. Wouldn’t be able to have it in the house…
Q. What music do you like to listen to when you are writing?
A: Usually these days I don’t listen to music when I’m writing. I used to do it when I first started, but I have a problem with procrastination, and I find that when there’s a song on that I particularly like, I have a tendency to either sing along, or worse still get up and dance. The problem with either of those approaches is that it’s hard to write at the same time!
Q. What is your favourite non-writing activity?
A: Can I bundle a couple of things into one and say travelling? There’s something about being in another country and sight-seeing that’s fantastic. Colours seem sharper, smells more piquant, people friendlier and everything generally more exciting.
Q. Whose writing style do you think yours is most similar to?
A: That’s a hard one. I’ve been told my style is like Sophie Kinsella a number of times, but my first novel Transplanting Holly Oakwood has been compared to Helen Fielding’s style (Bridget Jones’s Diary). Although I’m flattered by the comparisons, I don’t think either is accurate, and I think I have my own unique voice. I do think however, that my style is British, rather than American, although I was brought up in both England and Canada.
Q. Writing food pop quiz:
Sweet or savory? Savoury, my favourite being either a good old Kiwi sausage roll, or anything with cheese in it (see below).
Hot or cold? Hot for both the weather and food.
Wine or water? Depends on whether I’m going to drink it, or swim in it.
Tea or Coffee? Coffee if I’m out at a café with a friend. Tea if I’m at home reading the newspaper. Don’t ask me why, it’s one of those strange things you can’t explain…
Ice-cream or gelato? Ice cream every time. There’s something about the rich, creamy, calorific yumminess of it. Two scoops please!
Chocolate or cheese? This is a hard one…how about chocolate cheesecake?
Cake or cookies? Definitely cake, for similar reasons to the ice cream question. If you’re going to eat something bad, go for as bad as you can get. Chocolate mud cake is a particular favourite.
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