November 2009


Miranda Dickinson’s first novel Fairytale of New York is out this month. The story, then called Coffee at Kowalski's, was spotted last year on HarperCollins' site for unpublished authors,, and became one of its first titles to be offered a publishing deal. Based in England, she is also a singer-songwriter and a successful participant in the NaNoWriMo challenge.

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  1. 1. Tell us about how your publishing deal came about.

    I'd been writing for seven years and was trying to muster up the courage to send my novel to an agent but kept chickening out. Then I heard from a friend on - the online writers' forum I'm a member of - about, a new site for unpublished writers that HarperCollins had launched. I uploaded my manuscript, which was about three-quarters complete, just to see what people would make of it. To my surprise, the reaction was really positive - especially from guys, strangely enough! About a month after I joined the site, I received an email from Avon (part of HarperCollins) saying they'd spotted my novel on the site and were interested in reading my full manuscript. At first, I thought it was a scam! But then I Googled the editor's name and realised it was genuine - so I then spent three days and nights completing the manuscript and sent it off... I honestly didn't think I'd hear from them again but two weeks later I received a phone call from Maxine Hitchcock, the publishing director. She said Avon wanted to offer me a three-book deal - I was flabbergasted! Even now, a year after Avon first contacted me, it's still sinking in. It's a complete dream come true!

  2. 2. What inspired you to write Fairytale of New York?

    I've been in love with the city that never sleeps for as long as I can remember, reading books about the city, watching films set there and mercilessly grilling anyone I know who's visited New York for all the lovely details. I couldn't afford to go there, so I decided to buy a travel book and learn as much as I could about the Big Apple. It sounds silly now but I was worried that the sales assistant in the book shop might want to know why I was buying a travel book to a place I wasn't going to, so I decided to write a story set there. I'm a massive fan of chick-flicks like Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail (Nora Ephron is my hero!) so I wanted to write an old-fashioned romantic comedy set in New York. I didn't always know it was going to be a novel - it just started as one chapter and kept growing!

  3. 3. Why did you set the story in America, rather than your native Britain?

    Like I said, I wanted to write about a city I've been in love with for years. New York is a character in my novel, as much as any other - I love films that are set there and I wanted to explore the unique atmosphere of Manhattan's neighbourhoods and inhabitants. My protagonist, Rosie, is an English woman, so I wanted to show New York from a British person's perspective.

  4. 4. Why will Rosie appeal to readers?

    I think readers will like Rosie because she's optimistic, witty and totally in love with her adopted city. She's a girl-next-door with big dreams and a real inner beauty that everyone but her can see. She's also a fighter - there's a big secret in her past that almost destroyed her, but now we see her, nearly seven years later, with a flourishing business, daring to believe that the best is yet to come.

  5. 5. If Fairytale of New York was turned into a big-screen romantic comedy, which actors do you see in the roles of Rosie, Nate, Celia and Ed?

    What a fantastic question! Rosie's a tough one: it would have to be someone who could do a convincing accent, (not a plummy one like Renee Zellweger did for Bridget Jones), as Rosie comes originally from the Midlands in England. In my head, I can see someone like Kate Beckinsale or even Mandy Moore - someone who looks real and not too glamorous! Nate is an easy one: Matthew McConaughey would be perfect! Celia is actually based on Norah Ephron (I saw an interview with her a few years ago and it struck me that she would make a fantastic best friend for Rosie), but someone like Allison Janney or Wendie Malick would be brilliant in the role. As for Ed, it would have to be Patrick Dempsey - a little world-weary but witty and devastatingly handsome! I just hope that if Fairytale of New York ever makes it to Hollywood I can help with the casting!

  6. 6. What did it feel like to first hold a copy of your book in your hands?

    It was completely surreal! I thought I'd jump up and down, scream, cry and just be completely girly but it was actually a beautifully quiet moment. I just sat on my sofa, staring at it. Having a book published has been something I've been dreaming about since I was a little girl, so when it actually happened it took a while to sink in! It's so strange to hold a book in your hands where you know exactly what's written on every single page. The book looks fantastic, though - the cover design (by nic and lou) is absolutely gorgeous - really sparkly and wintry-looking. I'm totally thrilled with it.

  7. 7. Do you have another novel in you?

    I hope so - I have to have at least another two! I'm halfway through writing book 2, which will be released in November next year. It's called Welcome to My World and this time will be set closer to home - although there are stories from all over the world in there, too. So, instead of just researching one city, I'm currently surrounded by travel magazines researching places across the globe. Book 3 is due for release at the end of 2011, and that's in the planning stages, too, so even when I'm writing the second one I always have a notebook nearby for scribbling ideas for the third in.

  8. 8. Tell us about your music career.

    I've been writing, recording and performing my own songs since I was 19 and have also sung with a couple of bands and as a session singer for a few artists. I've had quite a bit of radio play across Europe and last year I won Best Newcomer in the ISSA songwriting awards with my song Man Behind The Smile. This song has also been optioned by MTV for their programming, so it could appear on anything from The Hills to Pimp My Ride! This year I've finally been able to work on my first album (which I'm self-funding) and I hope to have it ready next month. You can hear my music at: (which takes you to my MySpace music page).

  9. 9. Which chick lit books and heroines have inspired you?

    I have to say that Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favourite heroine. I love the fact that she doesn't conform and believes in true love. I think the key to a good heroine is if you can imagine being friends with them - I can imagine that she would be a brilliant person to hang out with! I also loved Lizzy Walter in Harriet Evans' first book Going Home - again because she's such a witty, likeable character and the book itself is one of my favourites of recent years. Recently, I loved The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen - it's a deliciously different book packed with fantastic characters. Josey Cirrini, Della Lee Baker and Chloe (who is followed around by books) are all absolutely magical and make you want to spend time with them. It would be wonderful if Rosie becomes a heroine for somebody in the way that these all have for me.

  10. 10. November is National Novel Writing Month. Tell us about your experiences with the writing challenge.

    I've taken part in NaNoWriMo for the past two years, winning both times. In 2007, I wrote a comedy-thriller-fantasy novel (in the style of Neil Gaiman and Jasper Fforde - two of my writer heroes) called The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life, and last year I wrote a comedy-spy-thriller called Travels With My Teapot (Or Tea Ladies, Arise!) which was a very British comedy with a top secret underground network of tea ladies. (Both of these are up on I honestly can't recommend NaNoWriMo enough - it taught me so much about the craft of novel writing: effective planning, being disciplined to write every day and the crazy joy of just being able to write without stopping to edit it. I'm convinced that I wouldn't have been able to cope as well with the mammoth task of editing my novel this year if I hadn't done NaNoWriMo. It gave me so much confidence in my own writing ability and I made some brilliant friends through it, too. I'm actually doing it this year as well (even though my novel is published right in the middle!) - I have 50,000 words left to write for my second novel, so the timing's perfect!

  11. 11. What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?

    Just write. Write about anything and everything - it doesn't matter what the subject is, just write something. It could be a blog or a tweet, a novel or a short story. First and foremost, write something that entertains you. That's what matters more than anything. Believe in yourself and never stop learning about your craft. I don't think you ever get to a stage where you say, "I completely know how to be a writer now". It's a process, so you constantly learn and develop your style. The second thing is to read - again, anything and everything. See how other authors use language to craft their stories, tackle dialogue or action sequences, and create their worlds. Try to read outside of your genre, too: I adore chick lit but I'll also read biographies, crime thrillers, fantasy and literary novels, just to see how writers in those genres do it. Thirdly, watch and listen. All around you, every day, a thousand stories are there, waiting to be discovered. Then, get your writing out there. This is the scary bit, but it's really important. Sites like Authonomy are brilliant because you receive really useful feedback from other writers, some of whom are professionals who've been doing it for years. Start a blog - it's free and is great for showcasing your work. I set up a short story blog at so I could write a series of short stories set in a coffee shop. is very good for writing short articles and stories on and is searchable on Google - so if someone Googles your name, they'll find a selection of your work there! The more visible you make your work, the greater the chance that someone will spot it. Finally, never ever give up. I am living proof that this can happen to anyone: when I was discovered I had no agent (still don't, actually), was just writing for fun and even though I'd always dreamed of being published, I didn't really think it was possible. If you like your writing, the chances are that someone else will like it, too. So go for it!

  12. 12. Could you ever give up coffee?

    No, never! I actually had to give up caffeine this year after a health scare (right in the middle of editing) and it was the worst thing to have to stop! Thankfully, my local coffee shop does excellent decaf, so I can carry on with my cappuccinos and lattes! Coffee shops are the best places to write - that gorgeous smell of coffee, together with all the fantastic conversations going on all around you, is so inspirational.

  13. 13. What are your plans for 2010?

    Writing! I'm due to start editing Welcome to My World from about February onwards, following more or less the same schedule as we did this year with Fairytale of New York. At the same time I'll be researching Book 3 - I need to find a gorgeous castle in either Ireland or Scotland for the setting of the final scenes, so I might head off with my lovely boyfriend Bob for some sneaky weekends in the name of research! (Any suggestions gratefully received...) I'm also hoping to finally get to visit my beloved New York - my friend is planning to move there next year so that might be my excuse to go at last!

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