Q&A with Rachel Dove, author of The Chic Boutique on Baker Street.

Winner of the Prima Flirty Fiction Competition.

The perfect escape to the country...
Recently single and tired of the London rat race Amanda is determined to make her dreams of setting up an idyllic countryside boutique come true, and the picturesque village of West-Field is the perfect place to make a fresh start.

Local vet Ben is the golden boy of West-Field, especially to resident gossip Agatha Mayweather, who is determined to help Ben get his life back together after his wife left.

When a chance encounter outside the 'chic boutique' sets sparks flying between Amanda and Ben, Agatha is itching to set them up. But are Amanda and Ben really ready for romance?

Today on Hummingbird Reviews, I am delighted to be welcoming the author of The Chic Boutique on Baker Street, Rachel Dove, to the blog for a Q&A session with me. In case you weren't already aware of Rachel's fabulousness, Rachel won the Prima Magazine and Mills and Boon Flirty Fiction Competition back in 2015, and her entry was the book you see before you today! How fantastic is that? Tempted to find out more about the author? Then keep on reading!

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? And what's your shoe size?
Hi, I am Rachel Dove. I am a former adult education teacher, and I now write full time, short stories, the odd horror tale and romantic fiction novels. I am a size 9 shoe! Very difficult to get pretty shoes. When I take over the world, pretty shoes in big sizes are first on my list.

When was your last book published?
The Chic Boutique on Baker Street was published in April 2016, and is out now in paperback and ebook. It was the winning entry of the Prima/Mills & Boon Flirty Fiction Competition.

What is it about?
It's set in a village in Yorkshire called Westfield, and it is about Amanda Perry, a lost London lawyer who escapes her rat race disaster of a life to start anew. When she meets her new neighbour, Ben Evans, however, sparks fly, and now always in a good way!

How do you hope readers will feel while reading it?
I like to tell a story that will keep a person reading. A book should be an escape, a little pitter patter of the heart to warm the cockles on a cold day.

If you were to describe this book in the same way you'd describe the weather, what would you say?
I would say it's like coming in from the cold, laying under a blanket and listening to the rainfall outside the window while you escape.

When did you begin writing? What was your first book about?
I have been writing since I was a child. I write many different genres, although most don't see the light of day! My first book I self-published as an experiment and I am still proud of it. Crossing Life Lines is about love, the afterlife, and getting it right.

Whether that was a while back or just recently, did you or do you have any goals for your writing?
I always just wanted to write. To finish a book is an achievement I always wanted to achieve, and nowadays my writing life is everything I dreamed of and more. I have just completed my fourth book, and I still can't believe it.

Which authors inspire you?
The list is massive! I was a precocious child, and read the classics. Still do! I love James Patterson, and the New Adult genre is interesting to me too. Isaac Marion is my current go to read, he writes beautifully - about zombies! Love zombies!

Describe your writing style in three words.
Fun, meaningful, flirty.

What themes do you usually focus on within your writing? Is it different with each book?
Yes, I like each book to be different, but they always tend to focus around love and relationships. I like to test the theory that love conquers all.

Once you've an idea firmly in place, what's the next step for you?
I let the characters develop, I take notes, start character profiles, work out the kinks in my head till the pieces fit. I like to have a title right from the off.

Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
Starting the book is very exciting, when you first see words on the page. And typing THE END will never get old.

Are there any techniques/methods you use when it comes to plotting?
I use character profiles, so I have a basic file on each character, which I add to as the book develops. I always quite like doing the synopsis, so I have a plan to refer to.

Have you ever come face to face with writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?
I think that naturally some parts are harder to write than others, and some days the words flow. Others, they don't. I take a break, read something in another genre. Things often come to me when I am away from the laptop.

Where do you normally find inspiration?
Everywhere! I like to research, and doing things that my characters would in the name of realism, is big on my list at the moment! It also gets my bottom off my chair!

What does a typical day in your life look like?
I work full time from home now, since I left teaching so I get up, sort my kids and animals out (dog and cat) then I do the school run, do errands, go for a walk, take a class, clean the house. Then I am at my desk and most days I work till school run time. Then it's mum duties, and I might do another hour or so researching or writing, then it's time to curl up with my hubby and read or watch a box set or movie. The phones are off at 9pm in our house.

Which part of the writing process do you find most difficult?
The middle muddy part. It's all the clich├ęs, wading through treacle, chipping away at the block of stone.

How do you usually come up with your titles?
I like to have titles that convey the theme of the book, and I do check that a title I pick is not already taken, or similar to others. I like to have unique titles and so far my publisher has let me keep them which is great.

When it comes to creating your characters, what is the first step you take?
Eyes. It's all about the eyes for me, the rest of the physical traits work around that. For traits of character, I build up a profile and really get to know the characters.

Have you ever taken a research trip? If so, where did you go, and for which book?
Haworth, which is a favourite place of mine. I love the Brontes, and Westfield is loosely based on Haworth, plus my home town of Wakefield.

Do you set yourself word-count goals?
Yes, and 'I have an app for that'! I try to write at least 500 words a day, but more when the book is in full flow and hurtling towards deadline.

What is your definition of 'success'?
Setting yourself a goal and achieving it. Losing half a stone, cleaning out the 'crap drawer' at home, writing a book. It's about your successes, not measuring against others. Some of my best successes are the little ones, like potty training two boys!

What is your definition of 'happiness'?
Being content. When my children were small, I was working and studying seven days a week. I achieved my goals, and more, but I think my family suffered as a result. Now, I have less stress, and more time to be happy. Happiness is not about money, or things to me. Although, staring at my many piles of books to be read, that does make me happy!

Which do you find the hardest? The beginning or the end?
The end. You have to say goodbye.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
You can't edit an empty page. You have to write to be a writer.

What one piece of advice would you pass on to another writer?
The same. Plan a project, write it, and send it out into the world. Then, send another, and keep going. Rejections are par for the course.

Tell us an author who is on your auto-buy list.
Charlaine Harris, Amanda Egan and Lynda Stacey.

You were to write in a genre entirely new to you, which would you pick?
YA. That's next on my bucket list.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new romance, a standalone romantic comedy. Although, I just finished a book this week so I am currently working through my washing pile too.

Now for some quick-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? Coffee. I live on it. Caramel syrup is my kryptonite.
Summer or winter? Summer! Winter makes me miserable. Books and blankets see me through.
Bath or shower? Bath. I read in the bath.
Sweet or savoury? Savoury. I'm a bit of a carnivore, despite being vegetarian throughout my teens. Sorry!
Holiday in the city or the countryside? Countryside. I want to retire to a farmhouse or ranch. Beach hut would do!
Text or call? Text. I don't write in slang either. I don't like it.
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter.
Sunrise or sunset? Both are endings and beginnings.
TV programmes or movies? I like a good box set, where the characters can develop over time. I think there is a lack of rom coms nowadays.
Wine or beer? Wine.
Cats or dogs? I have both. Can't choose, because if they read this it will cause ructions. *Whispers* I love you both!
Chinese or Indian food? Love a good curry out. Chinese in my PJs.
Pasta or cheese? As Joey says, 'put those hands together!' (Friends reference - my husband has never seen an episode, he doesn't understand half of my jokes. I have to get them out somehow!)

About the author.
I am a wife, mother of two boys, perpetual student, avid reader and writer of words. I sometimes sleep, always have eye bags and dream of retiring to a big white house in Cornwall, with 2 shaggy dogs, drinking wine on my seafront balcony whilst creating works of romantic fiction. All done with immaculate make up and floaty dresses.

In the meantime I nearly always remember to brush my hair, seldom have time to look in a mirror and write many, many to-do lists.

My first solo novel, Crossing Life Lines is out now in Kindle and paperback format. Look out for my horror shorts, published through Bayou Brew Publishing: The House of Sugar Blood, August 2013 and Uni Assassin, out now, and my short story, Mallow Girl, out now.

In July 2015, I won the Prima magazine and Mills & Boon Flirty Fiction Competition, with my entry, The Chic Boutique on Baker Street, out now in ebook and paperback.

You can find Rachel Dove on Twitter & racheldoveauthor.wordpress.com
You can The Chic Boutique on Baker Street on Amazon UK.