The Writing Life of: Cressida McLaughlin
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Cressida McLaughlin. Cressida will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘The Cornish Cream Tea Summer‘, which will be released on 14th May 2020 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Cressida McLaughlin is the bestselling author of uplifting, romantic books including The Canal Boat Café and The Cornish Cream Tea Bus.
She grew up in London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in the beautiful city of Norwich with her husband David.
Apart from writing, Cressy loves terrifying ghost stories, romantic heroes and Henry Cavill.
When she isn’t writing, Cressida McLaughlin spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
When I was little I remember wanting to do two things: work behind the delicatessen counter in Sainsbury’s, or be a florist. I got the chance to do the first one when I worked at Sainsbury’s during my GCSEs and A Levels, and using the meat slicer was not as much fun as I had anticipated! I also soon realised that being a florist was a cold job, and I hate being cold, so it turned out neither of those were suitable.
I have always loved books though, and had vague ideas about doing something that involved them, though I didn’t want to be a writer until much later.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
I loved all the Point Horror books, and would stay awake into the small hours reading them and being terrified, long after I was supposed to have turned my light off. I also loved Judy Bloom, and have a very tatty copy of Tiger Eyes that I reread occasionally, and it still makes me cry. She is a wonderful writer, and perfectly understood all those confusing teenage emotions.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
It was in my mid-twenties. I had completed a degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia, which has a very strong creative writing reputation, but at that point I was just interested in reading books and writing about them, not writing my own. After university I got a job working at the local Adult Education centre, and at that point you could try a term of a course for free if you were an employee, and I don’t know what made me do it, but I picked creative writing. After the first few sessions I was completely hooked. I paid for another two terms, and then went back to UEA to do a diploma in Creative Writing, and it was as I got to the end of that course that I decided to try and write a novel.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
I have one of the spare bedrooms in our house as my office, and I love it. It has a huge desk my husband made for me, bookshelves with tonnes of books on, and lots of fairy lights. I am an early bird, and like to be at my desk by 8am at the latest, and then usually work until about 2 or 3pm. I don’t have a set word count, but I feel happy if I’ve managed around 3,000 words, though it can be as many as 6,000 or as few as 1,000. I like to shut the door, put some of my favourite music on low and focus – and coffee helps. There is always lots of coffee.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
I’ve had five full-length novels published – The Cornish Cream Tea Summer will be my sixth – and one, slightly shorter book that has only been published as an ebook. I also have four unpublished novels on my computer, which I still love, even though I feel I’ve come a long way from those, writing-wise. But the third book, Meg in Wellies, did help me get my first agent and then my publishing deal, and I don’t consider any of them wasted. I learned so much from them.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I used to be a pantser, but I have done a full one-eighty on that, and now the thought of writing a book without fully planning it out brings me out in a cold sweat. My books are serialised as four ebook novellas before the full book comes out.
When I got my first deal I was still working four days a week, which meant that I had to fit my writing in and, usually, I would still be writing the last part after the first part had been published. This meant I couldn’t go back and change anything, so I had to plan everything out very carefully. Now I write full time, I write the whole book in one go, and I can’t imagine not being able to go back and change anything – I don’t know how I did it! But I still love planning everything out: it somehow makes the writing freer when I don’t have to think about what’s going to happen next.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – HarperCollins
Pages – 394
Release Date – 14th May 2020
ISBN 13 – 978-0008333478
Format – ebook, paperback, audio
Charlie has a new helper on her bus, her free-spirited and loveable cousin, Delilah, who’s paid a visit to the charming Cornish village of Porthgolow and is helping out on Charlie’s adorable cream tea bus.
When the Director of a new TV series filming further along the coast tells Delilah that the bus would be the perfect addition to their onsite catering, she takes him a bit too literally. Charlie and Delilah find themselves caught up in the filming of a lavish period drama and it isn’t long before Delilah finds herself drawn to the handsome male lead.
But Delilah has made a habit of making rash decisions and it’s one of the reasons she’s hiding out in Cornwall. Could this be one impulsive step too far, or is a change of direction the start of something quite unexpected…
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I actually sent a request out on Facebook. A lot of The Cornish Cream Tea Summer is based on a TV set on location in Cornwall, and as well as watching lots of ‘behind the scenes’ videos on YouTube, I wanted to talk to someone who had worked on location. I got a lot of information from the brother of a writer friend, who has worked as a supporting actor and a production assistant. He gave me so much help, long answers to questions and funny anecdotes. I’ve been on holiday to Cornwall a lot recently – I love it there, which is why I wanted to set a book there. So visiting Cornwall and researching some beautiful locations wasn’t a hardship at all!
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
It took about six months to come up with the idea, plot it and write the first draft. I usually write quite quickly and messily to begin with, then go back and polish it until I’m happy with it. Then there are editing stages after I’ve sent it to my editor. From ideas to the end of edits has been eight months this time round.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
The first book in the series was called The Cornish Cream Tea Bus, and this one, while still having the bus in it, is about the main character, Delilah’s, journey to Cornwall and the summer she has there – how it changes her. So, in keeping with the theme of the first book, we simply changed ‘bus’ to ‘summer’. I love the title – I think it sounds romantic and dreamy, and hopefully readers will too.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Delilah Forest is my main character, and she was a lot of fun to write. She’s spontaneous and impetuous, she has impulsive ideas that don’t always work out as well as she’s hoped. But she always has good intentions, and she’s very caring. There are also some familiar characters from the last book. There’s Charlie, Delilah’s cousin, who runs The Cornish Cream Tea Bus and is very proactive, a sunny character, and Daniel, Charlie’s boyfriend, who is entirely sure of himself, handsome and – occasionally – infuriating. It was also great fun to write the characters on the TV set, some of whom have typically thespian traits.
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
It was probably quite typical of an author’s journey to publication: a long, winding one involving lots of rejections from agents and publishers, lots of heartbreak, perseverance and luck. I met my editor at another author’s book launch. I was covering it as a blogger for a brilliant bookish website called Novelicious, which I was reviewing for at the time. I got chatting to her, told her I had a book out on submission with publishers, and she asked me to send it to her. We met for lunch a couple of months later, talked through that book and some other ideas I had, and she ended up offering me a deal. I’ve been with her, and HarperFiction, since the beginning, and I love working with them.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I’m just about to start work on my next book, which might also be set in Cornwall, and might be Christmassy this time, instead of summery. I will hopefully be able to share more details soon.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
I would love to be able to read minds. I’m so curious about what people are really thinking, though of course it’s a double-edged sword because you might not want to know everything. But I think, for a day, it would be amazing.
2) Do you have any pets?
We had a huge ginger cat called Jack, who was as soppy as anything and so lovely, but he died a few years ago. We haven’t replaced him, but I always make sure I have at least one dog – and sometimes a cat – in my books, adding fun and chaos, and upping the adorability factor.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
Why Is My Life So Difficult?
It’s a question my husband asks me frequently, when I try to do things like unzip myself out of my pocket instead of my actual coat, or put the running machine at the gym on the cycling setting and wonder why I can’t keep up. I tend to make simple things harder than they need to be.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
There is a beautiful, cliff-top spa hotel in my Cornwall-based books, and I think it would be perfectly appropriate for me to be one of the hotel guests in the background, lounging by the pool or in the hot tub.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Predictably, I love Cornwall. It’s such a beautiful place, with long, sandy beaches and hidden coves, all that wonderful blue water. There is something magical about it. But the best holiday I’ve ever been on was to Amalfi in Italy. I spent a whole week feeling like I was in a James Bond film. It was stunning and luxurious, certainly not something we can do often, but it was the perfect holiday and I will always remember it.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
‘Why is your life so difficult?’ 😂
I would like to say a big thank you to Cressida McLaughlin for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.