Ugh, Monday again, right? But cheer up, I have another great author interview for you all! Today I have an interview with the lovely Joanne Phillips. She lives in rural Shropshire, England, with her husband and daughter. Since leaving school she’s had an eclectic career, working as a hairdresser, an air hostess and a librarian. She now writes full-time. Can’t Live Without is her first novel.
Hello Joanna, it’s a pleasure to have you here, welcome to my blog.
Hi Miranda, thank you for having me.
You all know my interviews by now-random question first! You’ve had an eclectic career, (just like me ) is there any job that you’ve always wanted to do that you haven’t done, other than being a brilliant author of course?
Good question! Can I choose two jobs? I’ve always liked the idea of being an architect – not for commercial buildings but for houses. The way we live, and how our homes support us (or don’t!), fascinates me. Also, I would love to have been a speech therapist – such a worthwhile job. I had a stammer as a child, and it had an enormous impact on my childhood. A good speech therapist could, very possibly, have changed my life. Thankfully I met one in my early twenties who did just that!
I know what you mean about houses-we have a cupboard that you can’t even put a coat in! When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer? Do you remember what inspired you?
I always wrote stories, from as early as I can remember. I used to make up little books with paper and sellotape – I also had a stab at producing my own magazine when I was about seven! But the day I knew I had to be a novelist was when I read Anne Tyler’s A Patchwork Planet. I still think this is the perfect novel, and I have read it again and again over the years. I can’t write like Anne Tyler – believe me, I’ve tried – but when I started to take writing seriously I found that my own ‘writing voice’ came through all by itself. And I think, as a writer, you just have to accept this.
I used to do the book thing when I was younger too-usually folding over A4 sheets of paper. What books do you read? Do you read books in your genre, or books very different from it?
I’ll read anything – within reason! I can’t do horror, or anything with missing children or really upsetting themes. I’m just a wimp, at heart. But I don’t necessarily like my fiction to be too ‘light’ – I like to feel that I’ve been changed, somehow, by the experience of reading a novel. And I love characters that stay with me after the book is finished. I do read crime fiction, and for this I prefer series to one-offs, but again, nothing too gory!
Guess I can’t tempt you with Conner then! But your first novel, Can’t Live Without, sounds really interesting. Can you tell us more about it?
On the surface it’s about a woman who loses all she owns in a house fire, and her journey as she tries to put her life back together again. But of course, it’s not really about that :) When we meet Stella she is very materialistic – not in a particularly shallow way, more that she has had to struggle to bring up her daughter alone and got caught in the trap of wanting the best of everything. The fire is the catalyst – Stella’s life as she knows it starts to fall apart and she is forced to reassess her priorities. At its core, Can’t Live Without is a love story – can Stella figure out what (or who) it is she really can’t live without? – but it’s also a story about how to live happily, with integrity, in today’s consumerist society. But, saying that, these themes are well hidden, so you can easily read it as a funny story about a single-mum who loses everything in a fire!
Dare I ask-what inspired this novel? Please don’t say you’re an arsonist! Just kidding
One day I just had the (quite scary) thought of what it would be like to arrive home and find your house on fire! I was walking around a lake in Milton Keynes at the time, which actually becomes the setting for a pivotal scene at the end of the book. Stella sprung into my mind pretty much fully-formed as a person, but it took six rewrites (yes, six!) before the novel took on its proper shape. I started it before the recession hit, but now everyone is having to reassess their priorities and I think the book is very timely.
It certainly sounds like it’s written for right now! Where can we find your novels?
Can’t Live Without is for sale on Amazon Kindle, and will be available as a paperback from early July, both on Amazon and for order in bookshops. Readers can also buy signed copies from my website and look out for free giveaways on Goodreads.com
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Two exciting projects coming up this year – first, a chick-lit/crime crossover novel which I’m working on right now. Crossover fiction is becoming more and more popular, and I think the time is right for chick-lit to take on a bit more of an edge. I also think there are crime-fiction lovers out there (like me) who are looking for something a little more light-hearted.
The second project is, of course, a sequel to Can’t Live Without, which will be published in time for Christmas.
Just thanks again for having me on, Miranda, and a quick appeal to readers who enjoy my books to pop a nice review on Amazon and Goodreads – we self-publishing authors depend on them
Absolutely, I second that! Great having you here.
How does it feel to lose everything you own?
Stella Hill is proud of the home she’s created for herself and her daughter. She’s worked hard to buy the very best of everything … But when she wakes one morning to find her kitchen on fire, Stella knows her life will never be the same again.
At least she has Paul to lean on: Paul Smart, owner of Smart Homes, confirmed bachelor and unknowing recipient of a schoolgirl crush Stella never quite got over … When the charismatic John Dean turns up after sixteen years, Stella is determined not to fall for him again. Because now her heart belongs elsewhere. Or does it?
With a boss she’s half in love with, a teenage daughter about to go seriously off the rails, a spendaholic mother, and a house to rebuild, Stella’s problems are only just beginning.
Can Stella put her life – and her home – back together again? And will she ever realise just what it is she really can’t live without?
Laugh-out-loud funny, warm and compelling, this is for readers who love their chick lit with a bit of an edge. Ideal for fans of Fiona Gibson and Carole Matthews.
Review of Can’t Live Without
The first thing that attracted me to the book was the fabulous cover. It looks very professional, and is a perfect fit for the story within. And although I normally don’t enjoy women’s contemporary fiction, I was really intrigued by the blurb, as it sounded really different.
The humour! And the humour! Did I mention the humour? Joanne has a real flare for producing a story that is laugh-out-loud funny at all the right moments, and adds just the right amount of snark when it’s needed. I also loved the characters, as she made them very believable, complete with flaws just like the rest of us. I loved the main character, Stella. She was very strong, and yet allows us to see her real vulnerabilities throughout this novel. The story also flowed extremely well; it had pace, but didn’t rush at all. And as I mentioned above, the storyline for this novel was such a clever idea, and it really rang true, considering all of the economic problems everyone is having at the moment.
This will sound really bad, but…I couldn’t really find any! If I had to choose one thing, I might say that the daughter, Lipsy, was a little bit on the annoying side, and was a complete brat! So I disliked her intensely, but this wasn’t a bad point, I think the author meant for her to be this way, and she does change towards the end.
I thought this was a brilliant book. Really. And I really don’t like women’s contemporary fiction. But I would definitely read this again. I hope that Joanne goes from strength to strength with her novels, and gets the next one out soon! I would give this novel….
The giveaway has now ended, thank you to all who entered! The winner has been drawn, and will be contacted shortly.