I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to have an interview with one of my all time favourite authors on my blog today…the amazing Alice Peterson. I was lucky enough to chat to Alice about the release of her latest book, One Step Closer to You (get your copy here), along with where she finds her writing inspiration and the GORGEOUS Mr Darcy. I hope you enjoy…
Hi Holly, thanks for having me! I’m Alice, I’m 40 (gulp) and I’ve been writing books, both non-fiction and fiction for the past 15 years. All my novels include dogs since I’m canine-mad and the proud owner of Mr Darcy, I’m an ex-tennis player, rheumatoid arthritis survivor and coffee/white wine lover!
Can you tell us a bit about your new book, One Step Closer to You (released 25th September)?
‘One Step Closer To You’ is about family secrets, betrayal and the impact addiction has on an entire family. But above all, it’s a love story based around two best friends, Polly and Ben.
Polly and Ben are both single parents who meet at the school gates. They have chequered pasts, ghosts that haunt them, which is why they form an instant bond. The more time they spend together the closer they become, and Polly’s son, Louis, begins to see Ben as a father figure and wants them to get together. But life is always more complicated than that! Many obstacles stand in their way, one of the biggest being the return of Louis’s Dad, Matthew. Matthew is a complex character, reaching out to Polly and his son for a second chance. Polly is completely torn between feelings for Ben and unfinished business with Matthew, who is, after all, Louis’s dad. She faces one of the hardest decisions in her life. Does she owe it to Matthew, to Louis and herself to give him that chance? Or does she move on with Ben? I’d say the book is a really easy read but it’s darker than the classic romantic comedy with a surprising and dramatic twist.
One Step Closer to You is your sixth novel where one of the characters has a disability. ADHD is featured in You, Me and Him and in By My Side we see one of the characters coming to terms with a spinal cord injury. What inspires you to write about characters living with these disabilities?
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when I was 18. Tennis had been my childhood passion. I dreamed of winning Wimbledon; I’d trained with Tim Henman. I was about to go to America on a tennis scholarship when I was diagnosed with RA and, overnight, I could never play again. Having RA has changed my life in every way. Like so many people I have experienced disability, pain, fear, loss – along with joy and happiness and seeing the best side in people who have supported me. I always want to get this across in my writing as I think it gives my books emotion, heart and authenticity. Since having RA my eyes have been opened to people from all walks of life with various disability, some far worse than mine. I find these characters and the family and friends who love and support them, both inspiring and humbling.
How do you go about researching some of the conditions that you write about? Do you find it difficult to write about these disabilities, emotionally?
It varies from book to book but more often than not I write about people I know (beware!). You, Me and Him was inspired by one of my mother’s friends who has a son with ADHD. Often I read articles too. The idea for By My Side took off when I read the most incredible piece on Canine Partner dogs. I was so moved by this charity that train dogs to transform the lives of those with disability that I had to find out more. With One Step Closer To You, I focus on the impact addiction has on families – it’s not a disability but it did require research. I was lucky enough to meet some recovering addicts and talk to a specialist counsellor in this field. I can find it emotional and I do become attached to the people I write about, but I also find it compelling and interesting. I have learned so much about the things I have written about and made some lovely new friends.
One of my personal favourite books of yours is Monday to Friday Man. I read that your own dog, Mr Darcy is part of the inspiration behind this novel. Can you tell us a bit more about your lovely four-legged friend?
Mr Darcy is a Lucas Terrier (half Norfolk, half Sealyham) and is blond with brown eyes and a lovely big head! He is my best furry friend. He came along six years ago, at a time when I had writer’s block. I imagined having a dog would be great exercise. I need an incentive to drag myself away from the computer and Facebook! I had no idea, however, that Darcy would be the cure to my block. Walking him in the park opened up a whole new world of dog walkers. I began to meet my new friends under the chestnut tree and soon I realised what a great setting it would make for a romantic comedy. The lovely thing about dog walking is you get to meet such an eclectic bunch of people; it’s such a funny old mix, which is what I wanted to get across in Monday to Friday Man.
I love that this book is one of your favourites. In a way it’s one of mine too, in that it’s so close to my own story. I didn’t need to research this book since Darcy is like Gilly Brown’s Ruskin, I also rented out my spare room and had a Monday to Friday Man – though sadly he wasn’t anything like the naughty and mysterious Jack Baker! But back to Darcy, he really is wonderful; he’s so funny and affectionate, in his own little way, and great company as writing is solitary. I’d be lost without him now.
Do you have a favourite character from any of your books?
Gilly Brown from MTFM will always be close to my heart since she faces, with humour, grace (after being jilted two weeks before her wedding) and a dash of despair, the journey so many women face– in their 30s & 40s, not yet married and watching all their friends have babies and then escape from London to the countryside. I also love Cass in By My Side. And, I love Hugo in One Step Closer To Me. He defines loyalty and will melt any heart. Sorry, Holly, given you 3 there… hard to pick 1!
Can you tell us a bit about your publication journey?
Up and down. All those years ago I was lucky to get an agent quickly but I had no idea that over the next 15 years it would be such a rollercoaster of emotion. Being a writer involves rejections, deals, film options, but then no film, then another rejection, then biting nails to see if I get a new deal, then a new deal and champagne! I’ve learned a lot along the way in that if you get one deal, it doesn’t mean you’re safe. I have to keep on going and try to get my work out to as wide an audience as I can. That’s why I’m so grateful to bloggers like you who help us authors to do that. I still have so much hunger and ambition to do well. My journey isn’t nearly over yet!
I have no idea. Maybe something in the media, or maybe I would have set myself up as a counsellor, but it’s a hard question. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I’d be useless. Unemployable!
Who are your favourite authors and which type of books do you enjoy reading?
Jane Austen, Khaled Hosseini (although I found his last book disappointing), David Nichols and Jojo Moyes. I really like how Jojo Moyes also tackles strong themes, but still writes romantic comedies that are easy to read. I’m now half way through The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and I love the author’s dark dry humour. I’ve also just discovered Alison Mercer. I really enjoyed her last book, After I Left You – she has a lovely natural writing style.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment?
I’ve just finished a new book but don’t want to give anything away, except that there’s love, secrets, disability, emotion and plenty of drama! And I’ve had a bit of break over August. I took Darcy to Pembrokeshire and we walked along the beach, I read, relaxed and tried to think of a new idea … nothing’s come yet, so any ideas, anyone?
Thank you so much for being part of this interview Alice. I absolutely love your books and I wish you every success with One Step Closer to You.
One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson is published by Quercus, 25 September, paperback £7.99
For more information on Alice and her books go to: alicepeterson.co.uk or follow her on Twitter: