May 2010


Ilana Fox is the author of two novels, Spotlight and The Making of Mia. She has worked for a variety of national newspapers and websites, including the Daily Mail, The Sun and She lives in London with her clothes, shoes, bags, kittens and boyfriend. To find out more, visit: or follow her at (Interview by Paula Phillips)

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  1. 1. What inspired you to write Spotlight?

    The UK seems to have hundreds of 'celebs' without any special talent, and I think the point is that these people fill slots in brands. For example, you know a couple of people from The X-Factor will end up being relatively famous - but it doesn't particularly matter who that person is or how well they sing. It's about how commercial they are, and how media-friendly they can be. Think about the Sugababes too. They're still the Sugababes, but none of the original members are in the band. I wanted Spotlight to concentrate on what 'fame' means today, and I wanted to do a really juicy, fun story about what it would be like to step into someone else’s shoes. I loved Freaky Friday when I was younger, and I've always wanted to write a story with a life swap in it.

  2. 2. What was it that made you choose the chick lit genre?

    I originally wrote my first book, The Making of Mia, because there was nothing in the bookshops that I wanted to read. Nothing really spoke to me, so I thought I'd see if I could write a book I'd like to read. I did a degree in Literature, so I often turned to trashy novels as a way to escape the Chaucer and the poetry. It's fun, and sometimes you'll come across a book that really speaks to you and inspires you. I wanted to do create something like that, and hopefully my novels touch people who read them. Underneath the froth and the fun I try to raise issues that will make you think.

  3. 3. Is there anything of you in your characters?

    Not really. When I first approached my agent about The Making of Mia, he questioned the size of Jo, the protagonist, as he felt she was too big. After I met him he said that he was worried about offending me in case I was as large as she is! All my lead characters are sweet, slightly naive girls who come up against problems and they really have to look inside themselves to find strength to get through the other side. They do this with spark and innovation, and I'd like to think I'm as gutsy as they are. Several people have asked me if Jess, who works at a national newspaper in Spotlight, is based on me, or if any of the characters in the newsroom are based on real people. Jess hates working on the paper, whereas I love working for newspapers, and I'm sure that one day I will go and work for one again. And as for the other characters? There are some similarities with real people, but it's definitely all fiction!

  4. 4. Has any of your plots been inspired by friends/family?

    A little bit - some of the characters in my books have been inspired by situations friends have got themselves in, or things they have said. But mainly I'm influenced by people in the public eye, by people in showbiz and Hollywood. They live such crazy lives, and when you work for a newspaper you really get to know things about celebrities that could never be published. Some of that ridiculousness has been put in Spotlight.

  5. 5. Did you base Teen Idol on real TV talent shows?

    In Spotlight, Teen Star USA is the biggest show in America, and I based it on a mixture of The X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent. The program showcases the talents of teenagers and makes them stars - and when Madison's approached to enter it she knows it's going to be life-changing. I was really aware when I was writing the book that people would draw comparisons with other talent shows, and because Teen Star USA is fixed, I wanted to make sure readers didn't think I was implying that real shows are - I know people who work on them, and they're definitely not. I was inspired to write about talent shows because of Leona Lewis - she truly is talented, and although she's a by-product of a reality-type program, she absolutely deserves to be famous. She's amazing. Madison Miller is kept very 'American Sweetheart' in the book and isn't allowed to dress provocatively or be anything but vanilla. I drew inspiration from Leona Lewis for that – she conducts herself with dignity, and she doesn't need to make a fool of herself by being 'sexy'. A friend of mine is friends with Leona, and I'm hoping she'll read the book and will love it - fingers crossed!

  6. 6. What are you working on now?

    My new novel! It's called No Prince Charming and it's about a girl named Ella who's looking for her happy ever after. She thinks she has it but when she realises her life - as perfect as it is - is never going to make her truly happy, she gives it up. However, things start to go badly wrong for her, and she has to start all over again. It's kind of a modern-day fairytale, and if you look closely you'll see lots of fairytale references in the names of the characters, and the situations they find themselves in. I've worked really hard on this novel so far, and I have big plans for it - and I hope people love it as much as I do!

  7. 7. Both of your books are about woman making it big. Is there a reason behind that?

    I want to write about women who inspire me, and the people who do that in real life are those who've come from relatively nothing and have made honest successes of themselves in their chosen fields. I couldn't write a standard book about a girl who loves a boy, but marries someone else, and then realises she's always been in love with the first boy, blah blah blah. Stories like that don't interest me. Romantic relationships are awfully important - of course they are - but I think girls should believe in themselves more, and realise there's more to life than men and looking good. My books are about relationships - ones girls have with their careers, their friends, their enemies and men.

  8. 8. How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?

    Like Jo Hill in The Making of Mia I always wanted to work on magazines – and I still haven't! I always wanted to be a writer but I quickly learned journalism wasn't for me, although I've been an editor and I love it. Writing a novel never seemed like something people like me did. I grew up on a council estate and didn't know anybody in the industry, but I realised that shouldn't stop me from following my dreams. I started writing The Making of Mia as a new year's resolution to see if I could do it, and I did! It was the best feeling in the world to know I could do it, and I try to champion other people into following their dreams. I mentor several people as and when they need it, and it's so lovely to see them become successes.

  9. 9. Did being a journalist help you with writing a novel?

    As a journalist I've written features but I gave that job up quite quickly when I realised I preferred making up quotes than doing straight, honest reporting! I've worked in social media for nearly 10 years, and I think that working in that field helped me with dialogue - social media's all about talking with people, and getting the tone right. I never realised it at the time, but it's a valuable skill to have, especially as the internet is taking over our lives!

  10. 10. If you had to choose a favourite book between your two novels which would it be?

    The Making of Mia was the first story I wrote but I definitely couldn't choose between the two. Mia was amazing because it was my first novel, and I was just so pleased to get it published, and I love Spotlight because I worked so hard on it, and wanted to make it the best it could be.

  11. 11. How long does it take you to write each book?

    I was working at the Daily Mail when I wrote MIA, and it took me nine months - I had a ridiculously expensive mortgage, no money, and a laptop from the 1990s (honestly) that couldn't connect to the internet. So because of my lack of funds to go out with, and because I didn't have the internet, I got it done relatively quickly. Spotlight took me longer. I wrote it while I was at The Sun, and while I was working there I came across all sorts of distractions; good friends, alcohol, and I met my boyfriend there, too! Spotlight took about 18 months. It wasn't the 'difficult second novel' I was expecting it to be, but I had lots of things going on in my personal life, and it meant I couldn't concentrate on it as much as I liked. I'm writing full time now, and I'm hoping No Prince Charming will take about five months to write. We'll see how that goes!

  12. 12. Which comes first for you – characters or plot?

    Plot, definitely. You can have amazing characters but unless there's a brilliant story for them to learn about themselves in, there's no point to them. I come up with a kernel of an idea and develop it into a story with twists and turns and subplots, and then I develop the characters after that.

  13. 13. If you had to have dinner with any three famous people dead/alive, who would you choose?

    Freddie Mercury, Jim Morrison, and Henry VIII. I'll leave it to you to try to work out why!

  14. 14. What’s your favourite holiday spot?

    Wow, that's a hard one. It would be a toss-up between Longboat Key in Florida (as featured in The Making of Mia), New York (as featured in Spotlight) or Thailand. I love Hong Kong and Italy too. In fact, maybe Italy? God, I don't know!

  15. 15. What are your goals for 2010?

    Make No Prince Charming as special as it could be is my main goal, and then I have others, such as trying a few different things with regards to my career. I also really want to learn to fly. I've been saying it for years, and maybe 2010 is the year I'll do it!

  16. 16. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

    Never give up. If you have talent and determination and you want to put the work in, you can achieve anything.

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