April 2010


English author Tess Stimson has written nine books, including her most recent What’s Yours is Mine. She has worked as a TV reporter, including a stint in the Middle East, and as a creative writing professor. She now lives in the American State of Vermont.

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  1. 1. What were the major themes you wanted to explore in your latest novel, What's Yours is Mine?

    I’m fascinated by the whole nature/nurture debate, and the way people with the same genes and upbringing can be so different. I loved the idea of two sisters whose lives had gone in completely different directions being forced to re-evaluate their choices and each other.

  2. 2. How did your relationship with your sister, Philippa, influence the story?

    Significantly. We’ve led very different lives, and it’s often puzzled me that we’ve turned out so different. But writing the book, I had to walk in her (high-heeled stiletto!) shoes for a long time, and it made me view our relationship in a whole new light. I think she found it a revelation when she read the book, too: she’s always seen my life as perfect, and this gave her an insight into the problems and difficulties everyone faces, no matter how wonderful things seem on the outside.

  3. 3. Do you expect readers' sympathies to switch between golden girl Grace and problem child Susannah?

    Absolutely. Both of them have many good points, and a few flaws, and are fully rounded characters. Depending on which part of them is on view at any one time, the reader’s sympathy will switch from one to the other.

  4. 4. Why does adultery figure so prominently in your stories?

    There’s an old saying: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade! It’s something I know about from experience, and frankly, so do very many people. When you’re going through it, you often think you’re alone, and find it a revelation when you read about people going through the same thing. I found it really helpful to write about it, and I hope women who read about it will find it helps them in some way too.

  5. 5. You've been described as both a scarlet woman and a wronged wife. Does this give you a special perspective to write about adultery?

    I certainly see it from both points of view. Adultery is rarely about a wicked seductress who ruins a happy marriage, although that can happen. It’s more usually a symptom, not the cause, of problems in a relationship. Having been on both sides of the equation, I know better than most that the issues aren’t black or white, but grey.

  6. 6. Tell us about your next novel The Wife Who Ran Away.

    Who hasn’t imagined walking out of their life and starting again, even if just for a moment? This book is about Kate, a woman who leaves her home and family on a sudden impulse, and then finds things snowballing out of her control. It’s certainly a cathartic book to write!

  7. 7. How has your writing developed since your early novels?

    When I first started writing, bonkbusters were all the rage, and my books were all shoulder-pads, sex and designer labels. Huge fun to write and read, of course, but over the course of eight or nine books now, my writing has become tighter and darker and much more ‘real’. But the sex is still there, of course!

  8. 8. Why do you write from different character perspectives?

    Two main reasons: I love getting inside my characters’ heads, and really thinking the way they do, and writing in the first person enables me to do that. And secondly, I love exploring the bias a first-person narrator brings to everything they ‘tell’ you, and playing with the readers’ expectations. We tend to take everything our narrator says as gospel, no matter how unreliable they are, and I like exposing that with subsequent characters’ perspectives.

  9. 9. What inspired the storyline of The Cradle Snatcher?

    I had several nannies over the course of a decade when my three children were young, and the experience wasn’t always pleasant – and I’m sure my nannies felt the same way! Some of their confessions to me after they’d left made my hair stand on end! I liked the idea of looking at the situation from both the mother and nanny’s point of view, and exploring our ideas on what a mother should be.

  10. 10. Do you miss the television news world?

    Sometimes. I’m still a news addict, and tend to have CNN on in the background all day, especially when I’m alone in the house. But I wouldn’t want to go back to it. I’d find being constrained by facts suffocating, and being on the road is a tough life.

  11. 11. Which other authors do you admire?

    There are a lot of authors out there whom I love, but fewer than you’d think. Marisa de los Santos is great, as is Barbara Erskine, and Michelle Raymond is a great new writer too. Maybe I’m getting too critical as I get older, but I get very annoyed when I read a really lousy book – one that hasn’t been edited or even spell-checked properly. And I hate it when ‘big’ authors get lazy and don’t even write their own work – stand up, James Patterson!

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

    Doesn’t worry me. I’m a woman, and I write books for women. If that’s called chick lit these days, so be it. As long as people read my books, I don’t care what they call them!

  13. 13. Do you have any tattoos?

    I do, one. A dolphin on my shoulder. I got it when I was 30 and wanted to annoy my soon-to-be ex-husband by doing something I’d always wanted, but which I knew he’d hate!

  14. 14. Describe yourself in three words.

    My mother used to call me a romantic cynic, so I guess romantic, cynical and resilient might be three that work!

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