Name: Miranda Dickinson
Age: 39 (eek!)
Where are you from: I’m from The Black Country – born in Kingswinford and now living in Stourbridge.
A little about yourself:
I grew up in Kingswinford, West Midlands as the eldest of two children, went to The Kingswinford School, King Edward IV College Stourbridge and gained a BA Hons degree in Performance Art from Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education (now the University of Gloucestershire). I signed a three-book deal with Avon (HarperCollins) in January 2009, after my unpublished manuscript was spotted on Authonomy.com and the following year signed for an additional three books. I married my husband Bob last month, although we’ve been together for six years.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
It’s all very exciting at the moment! My fourth novel, When I Fall in Love is published on 8th November and I have already begun to write my fifth novel, which will be published next year.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had always written little stories from when I was a child and my dearest wish from the age of five was to see something that I had written on the shelves of my local library in Kingswinford. But I didn’t start writing seriously until 2002, when a friend gave me an old PC. I didn’t set out to write a novel – I just started writing to entertain myself and the story grew and grew.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As with a lot of writers for a long time I thought I didn’t have the right to call myself a ‘proper writer’ until I had published something. But now I believe that if you write, you are a writer. I have a phrase I use when I lead writing workshops: Write Like You’ve Made It Already – and I think if writers give themselves permission to do this it can save years of worry!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I have always loved New York but could never afford to go there. When my friend gave me the old PC I started writing a story set in the city, which meant I could research New York and write about it – the next best thing to being able to go. It never occurred to me that this would one day be published because it was just something I wrote for my own enjoyment, but this is what became my debut novel, Fairytale of New York.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I write in the way that feels most natural to me, so I don’t really see it as any particular style, but people who read my books say that I have a very defined writing style. For my romantic comedies I try to make the story and characters as vivid as I can and I write in short scenes (very much like you would see in a film or tv series) to keep the action flowing. When I write my short stories and for my new project I’ve started which is currently known as ‘Project Darkly-Sparkly’, my style is very different – much darker and moodier. It’s good to try out different styles because I think it keeps your writing fresh.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
All my book titles are song titles: this began with Fairytale of New York which wasn’t my original title for the book (I called it ‘Coffee At Kowalski’s’) but was chosen by my publisher. I chose the titles for my second and third novels, Welcome to My World and It Started With a Kiss, and my fourth novel’s title When I Fall in Love was a joint effort between my publisher and me.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
All of my novels have messages that I hope resonate with readers: Fairytale of New York is about facing problems from your past and moving on; Welcome to My World looks at overcoming fears and seeking your heart’s desires; It Started With a Kiss was about following your heart and believing that anything is possible; and When I Fall in Love is about love, loss and second chances at life.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
All my books are based on aspects of real life. I couldn’t write stories about people living fabulous lives where everything is great, or having unrealistic careers and lifestyles because that kind of story doesn’t interest me. I like writing about real people, with real lives and real jobs who aspire to something beyond where they are at the beginning of the novel.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sometimes, yes. It Started With a Kiss features a lot of my experiences of singing in a wedding band (with a bit of artistic licence, obviously!) and the band members are loosely based on my own group of friends. Uncle Dudley in the novel is inspired by my lovely father-in-law, who asked to be written into the novel, so that was very fun to do! In my new novel, I based the main character of Elsie on my friend Gemma, but it was mainly her worldview and sense of humour that inspired the character.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
There are many! For my romantic comedy writing Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle have been real influences. My sense of humour and characters are inspired by Sir Terry Pratchett’s novels (especially The Truth and The Lost Continent) and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. My love of the impossible and magical happenings have been inspired by Sarah Addison Allen’s The Snow Queen and Cecelia Ahern’s The Gift. And for personal growth Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has had the biggest impact on me, together with the Bible.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Julie Cohen, who has been a fantastic support to me from the beginning of my writing career. Not only is she a fabulous author but she is also an amazing cheerleader, generous in her support of other writers and totally in love with the art of writing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Key by Simon Toyne – the second book in a fantastic conspiracy trilogy, and The UnTied Kingdom by Kate Johnson, which is absolutely brilliant.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’ve just read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which was the most unusual and inventive book I have read in a long time. I’ve also had the privilege to read books before they are published by new authors Tom Gillespie, Mhairi McFarlane and Abby Clements and they are all well worth looking out for!
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m writing my fifth novel, which is great fun because it’s at the first draft stage which I love best when it’s just mine and all new and shiny! I’m also working on some short stories for magazines and a darker novel which is really just an experiment at this stage. I’m putting together an online course for writers and planning some writing days/weekends for next year. So all fun!
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My friend and fellow author Kim Curran has been a tremendous support to me, both as a great friend and as a cheerleader for my writing. She’s been my beta-reader for the last three novels and I write my first drafts as if I’m writing them especially for her because I value her opinion as a reader and as an author.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do now, but because it all happened so suddenly initially it has taken me several years to see writing as a viable career. I still work three days a week but plan to become a full-time writer soon, so it’s a scary but exciting step!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Actually, no. I felt I was given a lot of creative freedom writing When I Fall in Love, and it represents a significant shift forward in my novels. I’m thrilled with it and honestly wouldn’t change a thing!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I grew up in a family that loves books, so I always had stories around me from my earliest memories. As soon as I could write I would make up little stories and I think that is where the initial spark for writing began in me.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My fifth novel is about what happens when your best laid plans are scuppered. It happens to all of us at one time or another and I don’t believe that there is only one Plan A for our lives. The novel is set in Plymouth, Devon and San Francisco, USA, so I’m very excited to be planning a trip across the Pond to do some research!
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m always looking for new ways to tell stories – whether that is a change in tense, looking at situations from different angles or finding new ways to describe emotions. I set myself a challenge with each chapter to use a word I haven’t used before, to keep my vocabulary fresh. I never want to be a formulaic writer and I strongly believe that there is always room for innovation within the boundaries of a genre. I hope I can always produce something that is a little bit different.
Fiona: Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As I’ve said above, there are lots of authors who inspire me, but I would have to say Sarah Addison Allen for the way she pushes boundaries of her stories and brings in an other-worldly sense of the remarkable into her love stories. I love that every one of her books is different and that she isn’t bound by the conventions of her genre.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
In recent years I have travelled more as I get asked to speak at events across the country and I’m keen to do more of this. For my latest novel, When I Fall in Love, I travelled down to Brighton to research locations for the story, and for Book Five I’ve already researched locations in Plymouth and am planning to visit San Francisco.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My gorgeous covers are designed by Nickki Dupin from the design studio Nic and Lou. She’s also designed covers for Marian Keyes and Claudia Carroll amongst others.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part this time has been to conceal an important part of Elsie’s life – there’s a really good reason why I have done this, because I want my readers to discover it as they read the story rather than seeing it on the blurb on the back. I want Elsie to be characterised by her amazing energy and sense of humour, rather than the key detail – but when she reveals it, it is well worth the wait, I promise!
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
For this book I learned to trust my gut instinct and write honestly about the subject matter with a depth that I don’t think I’ve been brave enough to go to before. I also used a three-act structure when I was planning the novel, which I haven’t used previously, but which really helped give shape and pace to the story.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t spend time worrying about whether you are good enough or not, just write. Listen to advice from other writers but don’t feel you have to conform to it – just take what resonates with you and find the way that works best for you. And last of all, write because you love it. Don’t write for ‘a market’, just write the kind of story that you would like to read – in my experience if you love it there will be other people who love it too! Don’t try to be ‘the next’ anybody – be the first YOU!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I just want to create fun, vibrant, interesting worlds for readers to wander in, and leave them with a sense of inspiration and hope when they finish the story. Life is amazing: I want my readers to get to the end of my stories feeling that anything is possible.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I really wanted to be an actress when I was younger, so I would love to have acted in films or musicals.
Fiona: Do you have a website/blog if so what is it?