March 2014


Karen Ross is the author of Mother of the Year. She is a former journalist, broadcaster and advertising copywriter. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

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  1. 1. In the novel, publisher Freddie Ford says, ‘Stories choose their authors, rather than the other way round.’ How did this story choose you?

    Freddie Ford is a complex character, and while I was writing Mother of the Year, I realised he has a dodgy moral compass. So I’m not sure you should believe everything he says! But yes, I did have very personal reasons for wanting to explore the mother-daughter relationship. My own mother died young. So growing up, it has always fascinated me to observe the evolving relationships between my friends and their mothers. I have friends whose mothers don’t know they smoke … don’t know they have been made redundant … are even unaware they are divorced … I also have friends whose daughters don’t know their mothers are having affairs.

  2. 2. JJ describes herself as not being a ‘chick lit heroine’, in what ways is she not a chick lit heroine? What kind of heroine is she?

    As we all know, chick lit heroines are rarely seen in anything less than a pair of Louboutins. But JJ is known, for better or for worse, for wearing her trademark Crocs at every opportunity. She’s learnt to get through life by laughing at herself, because that’s one way to protect herself from living in the public eye – as she sees it, her life is cannon fodder for her famous mum’s newspaper columns. JJ doesn’t think of herself as a heroine at all. She’s just another twentysomething girl, trying to muddle through. But other people recognise that she is smart, talented, and resourceful.

  3. 3. What do you think of the chick lit label?

    It’s just that. A label. Shorthand for a particular type of story. Genre fiction also embraces thrillers, horror, fantasy and crime. I don’t know why people get so hot under the collar about it. But I understand the question behind the question, and I think those who refer to chick lit in the pejorative have their own agendas.

  4. 4. How did you find the process of writing the novel, what were the major successes and struggles?

    Writing fiction is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s a daily struggle, and that’s what keeps it interesting. Getting as far as typing ‘The End’ was a huge success in itself. Prior to publication, the major triumphs were that Mother of the Year was a finalist in the Good Housekeeping Novel and was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

  5. 5. Were there any situations or incidences in the novel that you borrowed from real life?

    Like JJ, I have a medical phobia. In practical terms, this means I rely on friends to drag me kicking and screaming to the doctor. The last time that happened, was when I knocked down in the park by a dog the size of a supermarket trolley. My friends were sure I’d broken my ankle, and I knew I hadn’t. But I went to the hospital to humour them and I didn’t faint. So that was a good result.

  6. 6. How would you describe the relationship between JJ and Beth?

    Fragile at the outset but essentially a comedy of errors underpinned by great love for one another.

  7. 7. What are you most proud of with this novel?

    The fact that so many readers seem to love Mother of the Year – the reviews are beyond my wildest hopes.

  8. 8. What do you hope your novel gives readers?

    Several hours of escapist entertainment, a few laughs, and perhaps an opportunity to reflect on their relationship with their own mother and/or daughter.

  9. 9. Tell us about your journey to being an author?

    My career has included journalism, broadcasting and advertising, so it seems like a natural evolution.

  10. 10. What authors have inspired you to write?

    John Irving and Tom Sharpe.

  11. 11. How would you describe your writing style?

    Funny and fast-paced. A deceptively easy read that might give you pause for thought once you’ve finished reading.

  12. 12. What do you think is the biggest challenge to the newly published author?

    Getting enough publicity to make your book stand out from the crowd.

  13. 13. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt on the path to publication?

    The value of good editing and a great literary agent.

  14. 14. Are there any plans for further books?

    Yes! I hope to be back here telling you all about the next one before too long.

  15. 15. JJ finds herself at dining in a dark restaurant. Who would you must like to share such an experience with?

    Eric Cantona. Now he no longer plays football, he looks as though he knows his way round a good meal.

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