Q&A with Jenny Oliver!

Happy Monday, bookish beauts!

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming Carina author Jenny Oliver onto the blog to chat about her gorgeous Cherry Pie Island series and her life as an author! 
Welcome to Becca's Books, Jenny, and I'm thrilled to have you here!

First of all, Jenny, I’d like to congratulate you on the success of your scrummy stories! Where did the idea for your sweet-as-pie series title originate from?
Thank you very much, Becca! When it came to starting this series, I knew I wanted to set the books on an island and had loads of different ideas for names. Cherry Pie won out because it sounded so lovely, cherries are one of my all-time favourite fruits and we had these beautiful cherry trees in our back garden growing up and I loved seeing the blossom and the cherries ripen (the pigeons would always eat them before we did). The memories of that garden and those trees have become something almost magical to me. (I also have a love of Twin Peaks where Cherry Pie is key!)

The Dandelion Café was definitely in need of some TLC, and I just LOVED watching your character Annie White build it back up into the warm, cosy place that it once was. Is the Dandelion Café based on any place you have visited?
Sort of! I used to row a lot as a teenager and between outings we would visit the dingiest cafe and have bacon sandwiches and stewed tea in chipped mugs! I loved it. The lino on all the seats was ripped and gaffa-taped together and people would come in having been out all night and drink coffee and eat apple pie while we dreaded going out on the water again for another gruelling session. I would sometimes sit and think how I would renovate it if I owned the place and writing about Dandelion Cafe gave me the chance to put that into practise.

In each of your books, there is always a gorgeously satisfying focus on yummy food. Where does your love of food come from? It’s obvious that it’s a passion of yours from the way you write about it.
It all stems from my family. My mum cooked a lot, so did my aunts and my granny and family get togethers were always very food focused (and quite competitive)! The kitchen was very much the place to be in my family home - sitting on a high stool next to the big island unit, where all the cooking was done, having a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a good gossip!

What’s your favourite thing to bake/make?
At the moment I like to make rich, gooey chocolate cookies. Mainly because the recipe I have is foolproof. Quite often I think I’m a better cook than I am and things don’t always go to plan.
I adored how being back on Cherry Pie Island brought back so many memories from Annie White’s childhood. What did you hope to achieve by including these memories in the book?
To give the reader a real sense of who Annie was. I think everyone is heavily influenced by their past - it’s what shapes us into who we are today. I wanted Annie to go on a journey in the present that allowed her to put her feelings of injustice and guilt from the past to rest.

Was there anything in the book which you found particularly difficult to get right?
Yes lots! My first drafts always need work - both on the emotional depth and the structure - and that’s why it’s so important to work with an editor. They see what you can’t see.
For readers who are yet to visit Cherry Pie Island, could you describe it to them?
Cherry Pie Island is a little haven set on the banks of the Thames where the cherry trees blossom every year with blankets of white blossom, the rowers glide on the still water, the pub garden is strung with fairy lights and the cafe serves the best cherry pie in the world! One day I’ll live there, I hope.

How seriously do you take your writing, Jenny?
I love it and I can’t not take it seriously - my brain won’t let me. When a book isn’t working I’m wide awake at night with the plot rolling through my mind until I can fix it.

What’s the first thing you usually do when the very first flutters of a story are beginning to form in your mind?
Ill scribble it down in a notebook then tell it to my husband or ring my mum and ask her what she thinks.

How often do you hit that wall that writers so often talk about? Do you think there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block’?
Yes definitely and I think there are probably many different causes. At the moment, for me, deadlines keep the words coming!  

How long did it take you to completely finish writing The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Café? Did you enjoy the editing process?
I think the editing process is completely brilliant and always, without fail, makes the book better. It’s impossible, as an author, to see where the problems are because you’re so close to the work emotionally. Revision suggestions spark my imagination to come up with ideas that I wouldn’t have hit on with without them.

Would you say that your character Annie White is similar to you in any way?
Every heroine I write probably has a bit of me in them, but also quite a lot of other people that I know as well ;-)

If you were to visit the Dandelion Café, what would you choose to eat from the menu?
I’d start with the tapas - sample a bit of everything - then I’d have a cup of tea and a slice of cherry pie with custard and a teaspoon to eat it with.

On a personal basis, what are your main goals when it comes to your books? Have you achieved them yet?
My main goal was for readers to read them and enjoy them. And for my mum to like them! She thinks Cherry Pie Island Book 3 - The Great Allotment Proposal - is the best one so far so you’ll have to see if you agree.

Any tips for aspiring writers out there?
Make a deadline - whether it’s with a friend, parent, editor that you’ve employed…someone who will chase you on your word count and demand to see a finished novel.

What can we expect from the third book in the Cherry Pie Island series? The Great Allotment Proposal sounds like it’s going to be a blast!
It’s really fun! Emily is a fab heroine and really made me laugh. Book Two went on the road to the South of France but this one is firmly back on Cherry Pie - everyone is gearing up for The Great Cherry Pie Show. There’s lots of competitiveness, some cool new characters, a prize for the ugliest vegetable, and the start of a really lovely romance.

Who are your main supporters?
My family - my husband and my parents especially. My editor. And readers are particularly supportive which is amazing.

Do you think you’ll ever run out of stories to tell?
I hope not. If I do I’ll have to take a year out and travel the world in search of new ideas… Or just eavesdrop a bit more on the bus.

Any parting comments?
Thank you for having me. Enjoy the rest of the Cherry Pie Island series. Tweet me @JenOliverBooks and good luck to everyone who’s currently mid-writing. x

Jenny, thanks again for popping by Beccas Books! Im super excited for all of your future novels to come!

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