July 2008


Carol Mason's new novel is Send Me A Lover. From north-east England, she now lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband. She's had a varied career, including stints as a model, hotel receptionist and waitress, before giving up work to concentrate on writing a book. Her debut novel, The Secrets of Married Women, was released in 2007.

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  1. 1. What inspired the plot of your latest novel, Send Me A Lover?

    My husband and I genuinely did have a similar conversation to what Angela and Jonathan have in the book. My husband said that if he died before I did he'd want me to remarry. And he said maybe he would send me somebody, because he knows exactly the kind of man who would be right for me. I thought it was a lovely concept. Shortly after that I was in my car listening to the radio and I heard Celine Dion's song Send Me A Lover. I listened to the words and somehow the words of the song and the idea of my husband sending me someone from the other side just came together in what I thought was a really strong idea for the book.

  2. 2. Why did you choose Greece as the location for Angela's holiday?

    I have been to Greece on holiday. And I actually went with my mother. In the book, Angela goes on holiday with her mother as she realises that it's been two years since Jonathan died and she's not really moving her life ahead. So she thinks maybe a holiday would be the start of change. My mother and I had a very good time - a real bonding time - in Greece, and it just felt natural that if I were to write a story that was partly a mother-daughter story, then Greece is where it should be set. Although what happens in the book, with all those various men, alas did not happen in real life, when my mother and I went! Which my husband will be pleased about - or he'll never let me go on holiday without him again! Although, admittedly, I did see a greater proportion of very attractive men in Greece than I have anywhere else! But also, Greece, with all its ancient civilization history, made it a perfect setting for the more surreal aspect of the storyline.

  3. 3. If someone told you they don't like reading tearjerker novels, how would you talk them into reading yours?

    Send Me A Lover begins two years after Angela's husband has died. So she is never the grieving widow who walks around in her dressing gown, eating ice-cream and ignoring phone calls. We never see her mope, like you do in many novels that deal with the loss of a loved one. She's trying to get on with life, as she would be two years later, but she's having a hard time with certain things - like the idea of falling in love again. Yes she has her moments where she remembers what a mess she was when he died, and she has her guilt because she constantly thinks there was something she could have done to prevent his accident, but the book doesn't dwell on the past. It's a story about life, not about death and dying. The main thrust of the story is her adventures, with her mother, in Greece. Angela and her mother have a quirky, complicated rapport - there's much love there between them, but they are both very difficult people, who are afraid to wear their emotions on their sleeves. They're more like sisters really, in the way they scrap and are brutally honest with each other. So there are a lot of laughs in this story. And there's romance! And a little intrigue, in the two men who Angela meets, who both have this uncanny way of knowing her better than perhaps they should. Whether they really do, and Jonathan has sent one of them for her, or whether Angela just desperately wants to believe that, to convince herself that death is not the end, and to give herself permission to love again, is something the reader will have to decide as the plot unfolds.

  4. 4. What message do you want your readers to take from the book?

    I think sometimes it's good for us to just go with the flow a little bit. We're so driven to control everything, to analyze ourselves and our choices, and our directions that it just becomes so exhausting and stressful. That doesn't mean we should cop out, do nothing, not attempt to improve ourselves and just leave it all up to fate or destiny - I'm not even sure I even believe in destiny. But I do believe that there is an element of life that is a bit of a mystery to us. Who hasn't experienced an extreme coincidence that has left us questioning how on earth it could have happened? In the case of finding love, I think you're less likely to find it when you try very hard to. If you are open to it coming to you, and just go with it, I believe it will come, sometimes via a very unusual or unexpected route. In Send Me A Lover I'm not saying there is an afterlife and that the dead aren't really gone (that's too intellectual a track for me, and personally, a bit of a spooky thought!). I'm just saying none of us really knows, do we? And it's not knowing that keeps life interesting.

  5. 5. What are you working on now?

    I am working on my third novel that's about a divorce that maybe shouldn't have happened and the return of a lost love. I'm excited about it - certainly about the emotional content that's going to drive it. It's a bit of a 'the one that got away', only in this case, it's not so clear who is 'the one' who did.

November, 2007
  1. 1. Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.

    Well, when I was finishing my degree in Toronto, a friend was trying to write Harlequin romances. It seemed like fun, so rather than get a job, I thought I'd give it a go. Hadn't I always dreamed of being a published novelist? I wrote two books, neither was very good. They got stolen when my house was broken into and my computer got ripped off. I then found a job in marketing/PR for De Beers Diamonds and enjoyed earning some money. Then my husband accepted a job across the country and we moved and I got what I thought was my career 'break' working as a writer in a small, local advertising agency. But after four years of dealing with a temperamental boss, and getting tired of writing about things I had no real passion for, my husband said, 'Why don't you quit that stupid job and try to write a book again. Give yourself a year to see if you can get published.' So I did. I wrote the book, sent it out to dozens of agents and was told it was too much like all the rest of the chick lit out there. So I wrote another one that was trying to be some sort of social satire. A few more dozen agents later, one or two showed genuine interested in me - mainly because they liked my writing rather than the book. So I ended up signing with an agent, who said please put that book in your drawer and write another one that you feel passionate about. So I did. Book 3 went out to all the major publishers and got some close calls, but ultimately was rejected. My long-suffering and incredibly supportive husband said I should have one more go at it - write one more book and that would mean I'd been at it for five years, and if that didn't work, then maybe I was destined to do something else with my life. So I wrote one more book. That book was The Secrets of Married Women.

  2. 2. Did you ever think about giving up?

    Yes! And I am not a quitter by nature. Plus there was my pride - everybody who knew me knew what I was working at doing, and to give up would have meant I'd have to tell them all I'd failed! But after book 3 got rejected I lost so much faith in the industry - I mean, if a good agent thought it would sell, and a couple of publishers came so close to buying it, why had I not succeeded? I still had faith in me to write a good book, but I realised that writing a good book was a guarantee of nothing. It's impossible to predict what publishers will consider fresh and new, or to gauge what it is they will buy, so I realised that there would have to be a time when I would decide it wasn't practical for me - or fair on my husband - to keep at it. I hadn't had a pay cheque in ages and writing is incredibly lonely work. So far all this business had been for me was rejection after rejection and lots of tears, not to mention the effort! Imagine pouring your heart and soul into something for a full year, then having two or three people make a yes/no decision on you, just like that. I wasn't sure I had it in me to go through the whole process again. But now of course, I'm so pleased that I did.

  3. 3. How did your book deal for The Secrets of Married Women come about?

    My agent sent my book out to the top houses again. One of the two who had loved my previous book - but not quite enough to buy it - ended up being the one we sold to. My agent phoned me from England and it was 8am my time and I'd just woken up. My husband answered the phone and when he handed it to me, my agent asked me if that was my husband. I said it was. She said, 'Well, tell him to go and put some champagne on ice.' I fell silent. After a few moments she said, 'Are you still there? Go, on, I'm waiting. Go tell him...'

  4. 4. And how did your smile then compare to the one that won you Britain's National Smile Princess crown when you were 17 years old?

    I can truthfully say, I've never experienced joy like I did when I heard I'd made it. I remember being in my car some hours later, and feeling like nothing in my life could ever make me feel happier and more elated than I felt at that moment. I was grinning my face off and bawling tears at the same time. I was so damned proud of myself. I really had worried that I was going to disprove the old saying 'if you give something your all, you are bound to succeed' . . . but no, I had proven that it was possible to succeed at something that is so incredibly hard to do. And I wasn't related to or knew anybody who was well connected. I'd never worked in the media as so many writers have. I didn't even have a degree in English. I just had a dream I wasn't prepared to give up on.

  5. 5. How did it feel to finally hold your book in your hands?

    You know, not as thrilling as I'd imagined it would! It was probably more exciting for my mother and my husband than it was for me. I think by the time I saw my book as an actual book, quite a bit of time had passed (there's often a long lag between signing your contract and seeing your book come out), and I was so busy working on Book No. 2 and wanting that to be even better than Book No. 1 that I just took everything in my stride. Having said that it has been fun seeing the whole process of getting into print unfold.

  6. 6. Tell us about how the idea for the plot came about?

    For a while I didn't know what I wanted to write. I found a lot of chick lit to be too superficial. Even the best of it didn't always engross me as much as say, a Rosie Thomas or an Anita Shreve book. Yet I couldn't see me writing a story that lacked a strong element of humour. So I realised I wanted to be entertaining and funny, yet deep and meaningful and very real at the same time. A good friend and I were once talking about what sort of circumstances would make us have affairs, and she mentioned that the ideal affair would have an expiry date where both parties could walk away after that time, and life would go on as a sort of improved version of normal. At the same time, my husband and I found out we couldn't have kids, and I got to thinking what would happen if that news had devastated one of us so much that our marriage started to break down. Somehow an instant plot evolved before my eyes.

  7. 7. Which of the three women characters - Jill, Leigh or Wendy - do you most identify with?

    That's hard because I am none of them, yet there are elements of all of them I can relate to. I can understand Wendy trying to convince herself that black is white when it comes to her marriage, because haven't we all deluded ourselves over a man at least once in our life? And Leigh's got such low self-esteem, and she is capable of doing something that's fundamentally wrong and hurtful to a friend - which makes me very unlike her - yet I admire her in so many ways, because even though she does something very sneaky, she's not a fraud. But maybe I relate mostly to Jill. She's a good wife in so many ways, a good friend and a good daughter. I like the fact that even though she does cheat on Rob, she doesn't do it with a clear conscience. She both talks herself out of it and into it, at the same time, which is a very weird thing to do. And her remorse is, I'm sure, exactly what mine would be if I ever had to live knowing I was lying to the man I loved.

  8. 8. What have you learnt about yourself by writing a book?

    I suppose I've learned who I am. Previously, in other jobs, I never felt like I quite fit. I was never quite happy doing what I did - always that underlying frustration there. When I write, I'm at peace. And even on its hardest days when nothing is going well and I'm doubting my story, I never doubt that a solution will come to me, because I feel I've found what I'm good at. I have also found a large measure of self-confidence. I did what I set out to do, so I will never listen to anybody who tells me I can't do something.

  9. 9. Tell us about your next book, Send Me a Lover, out in July.

    It is about a young widow who learns to live again and find love again through a promise her husband once made to her: that if he died before she did, he would send her somebody to love. When she takes her mother on a holiday to Greece and two men come into her life who both have the uncanny ability of seeing into her soul, Angela has to wonder if one of them is the man her husband has sent her. But the book is not just about romantic soul mates. It's also an intense and heartfelt mother and daughter story, that goes to show that soul mates come in different guises - with a lot of laughs and wacky business along the way.

  10. 10. What are you working on now?

    Well, I'm just developing my idea for book No. 3. I have its basic premise and a good idea of characters, but I am now trying to work out where to take the story - which is the hard part for me. Writing without a clear direction in mind can be scary, yet the thought of having it all laid out feels very limiting for me. I like the story to evolve as the characters do, but I still need a basic sense of where it's going.

  11. 11. What book got you hooked on chick lit?

    Terry McMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting to Exhale. She's got such a strong voice and the ability to make you invest in her larger-than-life characters from the first paragraph to the very end, and she's so unbelievably frank and funny.

  12. 12. Who is your favourite chick lit heroine?

    Bridget Jones really stands out, doesn't she? She was so flawed, and yet so honest and so real, that even though you don't wish you were her, you certainly wouldn't mind having her in your family!

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