Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it. Mark Twain

Audrey Davis Interview Published on: 30, Aug 2018

What do you recollect as the best experience you had while working as a journalist?

Ooh, I had many amazing experiences. Up there with the most memorable would be visiting Scottish army regiment the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the Falkland Islands several years after the conflict. I saw penguins in the wild, drank at the famous Upland Goose bar and was dangled out the back of a Chinook helicopter. Not something I’d care to repeat! Another would be meeting Rowan Atkinson not long after the Blackadder series ended. I asked him what was next on the cards, and he wouldn’t give much away. Just hinted at a socially awkward character who didn’t say a lot …

What is your favourite place in Switzerland?

I have a soft spot for Gruyères, a medieval town in the canton of Fribourg. It’s obviously famed for the cheese of the same name, but also boasts a picturesque chateau and the H.R. Giger museum and café. Named after the designer of the Alien movie creatures, the latter allows you to sit in creepy Alien-style chairs sipping a nice cappuccino. Otherwise, I love just sitting on the terrace at home, looking out over the Alps and Lac Leman.

Where did you go to college? What is your favourite story from those days?

I studied journalism at Napier College in Edinburgh, Scotland. I moved there not knowing a soul, and shared a flat with eight other girls all studying different things. A highlight from those days – tinged with sadness – was meeting up with my dad at Edinburgh Filmhouse, where he introduced me to film director Alan Parker. We had a lovely chat (I’ve always been a bit of a movie buff), and made a point of waving to me as I stood at the back of the auditorium where he was making a presentation. My day died many years ago, but his passion for cinema definitely influenced my life.

Do you have a library at home? Which is your favourite book from your collection?

I have a small set of bookshelves in my study, and another area in the house with some favourite hardbacks. Having moved houses (and countries) more times than I can count, a lot of well-loved books are still languishing unpacked in boxes in the attic. I mainly read now on my Kindle or iPad. I don’t really have a favourite as such. I love hearing about new authors and my TBR (to be read) pile often gets out of control!

You really enjoy cooking. How much would you rate yourself as a cook and what is your favourite cuisine to make?

I’d say I’m a pretty good cook (family and friends will back me up on this!) I have countless cook books and large folders packed with recipes I find on the internet or pull from magazines. I’ll cook pretty much anything, and love to experiment with new spices and grains. Indian is a favourite, chiefly because we all love hot food, and finding a decent curry in this part of Switzerland is a challenge. And my seven-hour leg of lamb is always a winner!

What are the other things apart from cooking that you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Reading and writing, obviously! As I said before, I love watching movies and have a soft spot for the spooky and downright gory (much to my husband’s dismay). Settling down to a good thriller/mystery on TV works too. I spend far too much time on social media so – coupled with my love of good food and wine – I try to go to the gym three times a week. Less a pleasure, more a necessity!

‘A Clean Sweep’ was your debut novel and received great reviews and love from the readers. How did you feel about that and how did it inspire you to write better?

Completely gobsmacked and over the moon. As the reviews trickled in, I realised I’d actually written something that entertained people. Even made them laugh (and cry). I’ll admit I’ve shed a few tears myself (happy ones!) at the gorgeous comments readers made. It totally inspired me to write my novella trilogy and I realise now that being an author is ‘a work in progress’. Every day, every page, you learn a little more and focus on improving your craft.

Did you have the story for ‘A Clean Break’ in your mind while writing ‘A Clean Sweep’? How did that come into being?

No, I honestly didn’t. I guess the idea for Hattie Hastings hadn’t fully formed in my mind, but I wanted to write something in the meantime. It dawned on me that there was a potential back story about Emily and Jim’s marriage, so I decided to write a short, quite dark, prequel. As one reviewer described it as an ‘anti-romance’, I think I hit the mark!

All your books have humour as one of the themes in them. How difficult do you think it is to write humour as compared to other genres?

Humour is, and always has been, my defence mechanism in life. Ask any of my friends, and I’m sure they’ll tell you I’m a bit of a class clown. Maybe it masks an inherent shyness or insecurity, but I find it hard not to look for the funny side of things. That naturally carries over into my writing, and I don’t find it difficult. What I would struggle with is writing a mystery/thriller book or an angst-ridden tale of human suffering. I read all kinds of genres (although not historical sagas or sci-fi), but I take my hat off to every writer I’ve ever read, and even those I probably never will. You have to find your unique voice, and go with it.

How did you come up with the story for ‘The Haunting of Hattie Hastings’?

Eek! I wish I had a deep and meaningful answer to that one. To be honest, the title literally came out of nowhere (maybe I’d been nobbled by The Green Fairy, read the books if you don’t understand that one!) From there, the story of Hattie, Gary and friends just grew of its own accord. I’m a total pantster rather than a plotter, meaning I write something and it grows wings and flies, often in directions I never imagined.

If you could live one of your own stories for a day, which one would it be and why?

Hmm … I’d like to say Emily in ‘A Clean Sweep’ because it would be nice to have the attention of a handsome, young chimney sweep, but that might not go down well in my household! So, I’ll go for being Gary in ‘The Haunting of Hattie Hastings’ because a glimpse into the afterlife would be intriguing.

Is there any character in any of your books that is inspired by a real life person? If yes, who?

OK, back to that handsome chimney sweep again! Not long after we moved to our current house, the doorbell rang. There was a vision of youthful loveliness, whose opening statement was: ‘Madame, il y a un lapin sous votre voiture.’ Translation – ‘There is a rabbit under your car.’ Indeed there was; our neighbour’s bunny had hopped under my Mini Cooper. Both he and an equally easy-on-the-eye colleague have passed by over the years to clean the chimney (a legal requirement in Switzerland), and this inspired ‘A Clean Sweep’.

How do you define literary success?

Can I get back to you on that one? You know, I’d love to see one of my books feature in The Sunday Times best-seller list or gaze in awe at a display of my work in the window of Waterstones’ bookshops. Will it happen? Who knows. For now, I’ll settle for knowing that I have a following of readers who love my writing style and will hopefully support me in the future.

What is the next book that you are writing? When is it due for release?

Right now I’m working on two things – one, another light-hearted romantic comedy with a mythological twist; the other a story featuring a seventy-something main character who decides to make a bold decision about her life. I’m no spring chicken myself (but quite a bit younger than that), and I feel there’s plenty of room in the market for ‘older’ protagonists. Don’t get me wrong, I love chick lit, but not every book should feature a twenty or thirty-something looking for a happy ever after. When will they be released? When I’ve finished writing them, convinced myself they’re atrocious, attacked them with a red pen and finally feel they’re fit to be seen by other people.

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