Q&A with A.L. Michael, author of The House on Camden Square series.


Two’s company…

If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she’d have to cover her daughter’s ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie’s never been happier. Well, that’s what she’d tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different – not better…but easier – with a team mate.

Three’s a crowd?
But Esme’s dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn’t interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can’t believe her eyes. And soon, she’s got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn’t want her to?


Today on Hummingbird Reviews, I'm joined by the fabulous A.L. Michael for a fantastic author Q&A session. A.L. Michael is the author of hugely adored The House on Camden Square series, published by HQ Digital UK, as well as her fun-loving eBooks If You Don't Know Me By Now, The Last Word, My So-Called Love Life and the festively wonderful Driving Home for Christmas. I'm thrilled that A.L. Michael has taken the time to join me here today, and can't wait to share our Q&A with you! So without further ado, sit back, relax and enjoy.
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?
Hi! I'm Andi, I'm from London but currently live in Watford. I work as a reports editor for a mystery dining company, which involves finding as many synonyms for the word 'tasty' as I can. I'm also a creative therapeutic facilitator, which means I run workshop using writing as a therapeutic tool. My current research is in how writing can be useful in recovery from eating disorders.

When was your last book published and what is it called?
My last book was called Be My Baby, which was the third and final segment in the House on Camden Square series. I'll be releasing a new three book series in the summer of 2017, but I don't have a title yet! I'm also considering self-publishing a series of novellas called The Adventures of Ruby Tuesday, a character introduced in The House on Camden Square!

What is the series/book about?
The House on Camden Square series is about three friends who are left an arts centre by their childhood friend, rock star Ruby Tuesday. Be My Baby focuses on Mollie and her daughter Esme as they're faced with Mollie's ex (and Esme's dad) coming back into their lives.

How do you hope readers will feel while reading it?
All my books are infused with nostalgia for the carefree and drama of teenagerdom. And they're all a love letter to London. That probably won't change, no matter what I write.

If you were to describe this book in the same way you'd describe the weather, what would you say?
Ooh, what a fab question. The book is set in early autumn, so a lot of it is crunchy red leaves and hot chocolate clasped in gloved fingers. It's the smell of cinnamon, and winds that make the leaves dance. It's the sound of a storm building, and sunshine breaking after.

When did you begin writing? What was your first book about?
I've always written. I was attempting to write my first novel from about 12. I had about 4 unfinished novels as a kid before writing a full-length novel during my MA year. It was called Wine Dark, Sea Blue and was a coming-of-age novel about an arts graduate in the recession, full of casual drug use, loneliness and a search for happiness. It's different to what I write now, but it felt really authentic and taught me how to finish something!

Did you or do you have any goals for your writing?
I always knew I wanted to be an author, I just didn't really know what that meant! Getting published is just the beginning of the story! By the end of 2017, I'll have had at least 11 books published, so my new goals are to get a literary agent to take my work further. The big dream, one day, is for a movie/TV adaptation of one of my novels. Oh and paperback, obviously!

Which authors inspire you?
I love Neil Gaiman's approach to writing, his sense of humour, style and how prolific he is. Mhairi McFarlane is one of my favourite women's fiction authors, I just think she can create these wonderfully woven stories with the odd one-liner that makes me snort. Rainbow Rowell writes with heart, and I got to see her a Q and A a few years ago, which was amazing.

Describe your writing style in three words.
Sassy, nostalgic, fun.

What themes do you usually focus on within your writing? Is it different with each book?
Each book is different, but I'm always about strong female characters, parental relationships and the power of creativity. Each book is usually a love letter to London, too. The last books were about how creativity could be an outlet, a way to make yourself happy and express yourself. The next series will be about the joyous ways food can bring people together.

Once you've an idea firmly in place, what is usually the next step for you?
I write in chunks, usually out of order, in a notebook. Then I start typing up, and somewhere along the way I might create a timeline, just to keep everything flowing.

Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
The beginning is always fun, the excitement of a new idea, the endless possibilities.

Are there any techniques/methods you use when it comes to plotting?
I try not to plot too much, I really don't want the book to become stale. I hate writing where you feel like you're just moving from pre-written bit to pre-written bit. Sometimes the story tells you where it wants to go. With the most recent book, I've written a slightly clearer summary, just so I can let myself build up tension appropriately.

Have you ever come face to face with writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?
I just try and trust that I have a process and I'll write when I'm ready to write. Recently, I've been dealing with a... sense of overwhelm, if not writer's block. Sometimes, reading too widely or being part of the industry makes you feel like there's never a unique idea, everything will be promoted and packaged the same, and it felt pointless to write, because it would only be sold to look like something else. I felt like nothing I could write had any value or meaning. So I just waited until a story really grabbed me, and started making me feel excited again.

Where do you normally find inspiration?
Everywhere - stories told by colleagues, movies, TV shows. Sometimes it's how a character looks, sometimes it's newspaper articles that make me wonder 'what if?'

What does a typical day in your life look like?
I go to work 9-5, sometimes I tutor in English for an hour, go to a yoga class, come home and make dinner, write my book or my dissertation, wait for my partner to come home, watch some TV and then sleep. It's pretty boring really!

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult?
Structural edits. It's like unpicking threads in a tapestry. Achieves a lot, but takes time, effort and is a bloody misery.

How do you usually come up with your titles?
Haha. Well, most of the time they got changed by my publisher. I picked things that matched the book but weren't on trend enough. With the last series, I picked song titles I liked.

When it comes to creating your characters, what is the first step you take?
What's their trauma, what makes them different? What are their insecurities and their talents? If I don't find them interesting, my readers won't either.

Have you ever taken a research trip? If so, where did you go, and for which book?
The second book in The House on Camden Square series is set in Malcesine, Lake Garda. I had been to Lake Garda on a pre-uni trip when I was 18. I knew I wanted to set my book there, but wasn't sure which town. I returned with my Mum on a 'research trip' and it provided the boost of inspiration I needed.

Do you set yourself word-count goals?
Yep. When I'm not on too tight a deadline, my happy place is 1200 a day. At the moment I'm hitting about 6000 words a week. It would be more if I wasn't studying as well.

What is your definition of 'success'?
Paying for my holidays with my royalties, getting lovely reviews from readers who really get the book, building up a readership and continuing to write.

What is your definition of 'happiness'?
Making food for friends and family, being creative, moving my body, eating well, laughing until my face hurts and being told each day that I am loved.

Which do you find the hardest? The beginning, the middle or the end?
 The middle! There's a slog that hits somewhere around 45k for me. The beginning is luxurious, and the end feels like a joyous canter. It's the bloody middle that's my problem!

What is the best advice you ever received?
As long as it makes you happy, just keep doing what you're doing.

What one piece of advice would you pass onto another writer?
Don't talk about your story too much. Write the thing down, that's the point!

Tell us an author who is on your auto-buy list.
Mhairi McFarlane, Liane Moriarty, CL Taylor, Jennifer Cruise.

If you were to write in a genre entirely new, which would you pick and why?
I love thrillers, but I don't think I'd be disciplined enough to write them! I'd like to write more domestic thrillers, about personal interactions and groups of people. Kind of like Liane Moriarty.

What are you working on at the moment?
It's not got a title yet, but it's the first in a three book series and it's to do with the power of food and cookery. It's inspired by my work as a mystery diner and all the fab places I've visited. And it's set in a burlesque club!

I've also just started plotting The Adventures of Ruby Tuesday mini-series, if readers wanted more Ruby.

Now for some quick-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? Both.
Summer or winter? Spring.
Bath or shower? Shower.
Sweet or savoury? Sweet.
Holiday in the city or in the countryside? City.
Text or call? Text.
Facebook or Twitter? Both!
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
TV programmes or movies? TV.
Wine or beer? Wine.
Cats or dogs? Dogs... except for my cat, obvs.
Chinese or Indian food? Chinese.
Pasta or cheese? This is possibly the hardest question I have ever encountered. Both!

About the author.
A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of eight novels. Her most recent series, The House on Camden Square, includes Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, Nice Day for a White Wedding and Be My Baby.

She is a Creative Therapeutic Facilitator, currently researching the power of creative writing to be helpful in recovering from eating disorders. She also works as a report writer for a mystery dining company, where her natural ability to multitask allows her to be judgemental and drink cocktails at the same time.

When she's not writing, she likes yoga, trying to bake healthy treats and was a hipster before hipsters were hipster. Well, she likes chai lattes and owns a MAC.

You can find A.L. Michael on almichael.com & Twitter.
You can find all of A.L. Michael's eBooks on Amazon UK & Amazon US.