September 2010


Christine Stovell’s debut novel Turning the Tide was published this year, after she accompanied her husband on a sailing trip halfway around Britain. She lives in Wales. (Interview by Anna Bell)

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  1. 1. Turning the Tide is your debut novel, what was it like when you first saw it published?

    Receiving the PDF of the book just before publication was unexpectedly emotional; as I downloaded it I saw the dedication I’d written to my dad and it made me cry because it brought home the realisation that he’ll never see it. Then there was the thrill of holding the book in my hand for the first time; Choc Lit books are beautifully produced and I was delighted with the cover – the photos don’t do it justice. Seeing my novel on sale in W H Smith’s at Waterloo station was a pretty special moment too; someone was browsing the book charts and I’m afraid I couldn’t resist recommending Turning the Tide to her, although I did manage to refrain from telling her I was the author!

  2. 2. Your sailing trip around the east coast of England was an inspiration for your novel. Did you find any real Little Spitmarshs on your trip?

    We initially kept our boat in a small boatyard near Walton-on-the-Naze on the east coast of England and had a very happy time there pottering round the backwaters, so that’s undoubtedly influenced my picture of Little Spitmarsh. As we continued our sail round the coast, aspects of traditional harbours like Ramsgate, Weymouth, Salcombe, Penzance and several places on the Isle of Wight all worked their way into the book. Little Spitmarsh represents all the faded seaside towns that I love, but which are faced with uncertain futures caught between the need to modernise and the risk of losing all that makes them unique.

  3. 3. You wrote from many different characters' point of views (including a dog). Which perspective was the most fun to write from?

    Yes, an expert reader did tell me to drop the doggy point of view in early draft but I’m afraid there were a couple of scenes when I just couldn’t hold back! I love getting inside different characters’ heads to show what they’re thinking, but I never ‘head-hop’; it’s one person’s viewpoint per scene or everything gets very confusing. And not all my characters get a say! I really enjoyed writing from each of their perspectives; there wasn’t one character where I thought, ‘Oh, not you again!’. I do have a weakness for George, the old man who’s served three generations of the Watling family, but I’ve got to say I loved writing Harry.

  4. 4. Harry was a feisty dungaree-wearing heroine. Did you deliberately not want to make her like a typical chick lit heroine?

    The ideas for my novels often begin with a scene – like a still from a film – which I then develop. The image for Turning the Tide began when I ‘saw’ a troubled young woman in oily dungarees sitting by the side of a creek and knew I had to tell her story. It’s true to say I wanted Harry to be someone who was more than capable of standing on her own two feet, a girl who isn’t afraid of breaking a fingernail and who doesn’t need a man to change an electric plug for her. She isn’t the kind of woman to fall at the feet of the first man to come along - Matthew really has to work hard to earn her love and respect – which is why the story of their relationship was such fun to tell.

  5. 5. If Turning the Tide was ever to be turned into a movie, who would you want to play Harry?

    I don’t think I’ve seen her yet; someone suggested Carey Mulligan but I’d like to see someone who isn’t too obviously cute but has a bit of edge. Harry isn’t some pneumatic blonde who’s going to have tongues hanging out when she walks in a room, she’s a ‘grower’, someone who really takes you by surprise.

  6. 6. What characteristics do you think make an irresistible hero?

    Well, it goes without saying that he’s got to be gorgeous to look at, and I certainly had fun describing Matthew. And I have a weakness for sexy voices, so Matthew definitely has a come-to-bed voice. However, for me it’s not about the window dressing but about the way he acts. Matthew has nothing Harry wants and everything she needs; she’s been clinging to the past and he’s swept in with changes that mean she has to look to the future. Matthew’s the person who challenges her until they both realise that they’ve found in each other a pairing of equals who will grow together, face their battles together, fight for each other in a mutually supportive partnership.

  7. 7. How did your publishing deal come about?

    The short answer is that I didn’t give up. I worked hard, I got my first draft of Turning the Tide appraised by a professional advisory service. I learned from a couple of near-misses and I kept my eyes open for opportunities. When I read about a new independent publisher called Choc Lit in the trade press I wrote to them the same afternoon – and here I am.

  8. 8. How important do you think is it for authors to use social networking?

    I enjoy Twitter but I enjoy it for the conversation and the news as much as anything. I do find the self-promotion stuff the hardest part about being published. Interviews like this are fun to do but I dislike having to draw attention to myself. It’s true that most authors choose to have an online presence but anyone who shouts about their book the whole time gets a bit tedious.

  9. 9. What are you working on at the moment?

    I’m currently working on Move Over Darling, my second novel for Choc Lit. It’s the story of heroine who’s escaped to the country meeting a hero who’s escaped from the country – so there’s some challenges ahead for a couple who can’t even agree on the best place to live. Again, I’m working with a cast of characters and setting some unexpected plot twists.

  10. 10. What is your favourite chick lit book of all time?

    Gosh, that’s tough! Ok, if I had to pick one I’d go for Jilly Cooper’s Rivals, a big, fat sexy read with a fabulous cast of characters. I’d choose it because I remember looking round one summer and seeing every other woman on the beach reading it and thinking ‘That’s what I want to do!’.

  11. 11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

    I’m training for my fourth half marathon. I’m lucky to live on the beautiful coast of west Wales and I’ve found that long distance running is a great way to keep fit, see the sea and work through any knotty bits in my plots.

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