I’m delighted to be joined by the lovely Caroline James, author of the Coffee, Tea… series today. She has agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions I have for her,,,
When did you start writing and what/who encouraged you to start?
I started writing seriously five years ago. I always wanted to write but never thought I was good enough, having hated school I didn’t realise the importance of education till later. I’d had a story in my head for years and came to the decision that if I didn’t write it, I’d go to my grave wondering what might have been. So, with this in mind, I glued my bum to the seat of a chair and began my first novel.
What is your writing process? Do you have a plot outlined that you follow or do you write and see where it takes you?
I have a good idea of the story and start with a synopsis of what is in my head then begin. Once I get going and the characters start to form and find their way I let the process flow. I don’t know where they might want to take me but the important thing is to get it down and edit later.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?
All the time, I hate it. I have to frog-march myself to the lap top, stop making excuses and write. It doesn’t matter what I write, once it starts I find I am back in the groove. Writing long hand in a note book can help too. Just sit with an empty page and write whatever is in your head and keep writing till you fill the page – suddenly the writing will start to flow again and you’ll soon be back on track.
Can you give us a brief outline of a day in the life of Caroline James?
Oh Lord… I’d like it to sound all glamorous and exciting and in a previous life it very often was. I represented many celebrity chefs and would often be jumping on a plane with them, off to fabulous events from TV to festivals and international shows. At the moment I do consultancy work which is hospitality related so my working day might be:
I get up very early, make cup of tea and spend some time writing at my ‘writing desk’. Change of position and am now in front of my ‘working desk’ where I’ll open email, make calls, arrange appointments and do whatever is needed with whatever consultancy I am working on. At some point in the day I’ll grab a bite to eat and lots of coffee. Some days I am away and may overnight, depending on where the consultancy work is. I always like to get home and in the evening and will cook for whoever is around then go for a walk or bike ride and clear my head. If there is time I’ll go back to my writing for a while. I’m quite late going to bed and may watch something recorded on TV like First Dates or Poldark, or catch up with a good book to change subject in my head before I sleep. Brandy in a hot chocolate and I’m away with the fairies.
How did you go about getting your books published and how long did it take?
I’m both traditional and indie published and both processes are similar. The actual writing is never as long as the editing and marketing can be terribly time-consuming too.
What first inspired you to write the Coffee, Tea series?
It was an event in Cumbria, the Appleby Horse Fair, which is an annual event and has been taking place for over 300 years. The locals hate it and would like it stopped and having experienced it first hand when I had a pub in Appleby and later a country house hotel, I could see both sides of the argument. I felt I had to write about it and out of this two characters developed, Jo and Hattie. Once they were in the books readers kept asking what happened next to them and so the series continues…
Jo and Hattie are two quite different characters and yet they gel together so well. How did you come up with their personalities and develop their characters?
The characters were initially an amalgamation of people I had known when I lived in Cumbria but as I began to write them they formed lives of their own and seemed to fictionally take off. You are absolutely right – they are very different people but their common denominator is that they care, about people and about life and circumstances throw them together to deal with it.
In Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me, your descriptions of Barbados really bring the place to life for the reader. Why did you choose the Barbados as part of the setting and have you been?
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Caribbean over the years and the islands fascinate me, especially Barbados. There is a history that is little known that goes back to the first settlers, it is very controversial but still alive and kicking today. Perhaps I’ll write about that one day. Barbados is a beautiful island of contrasts and I wanted to share this with readers. There is the calm and breathtakingly beautiful west coast with white sand, turquoise sea and gentle breezes contrasted sharply by the east coast which has Atlantic tides crashing to the shores and a rugged and wild coastline. I find the east coast very spiritual, a good place to be. There is an expression that Bajan’s say, “My Belly-Button Buried in Barbados,” and once you have experienced it you will understand why it pulls you back.
Jo and Hattie go through some difficult life events in Coffee, Tea the Caribbean & Me and you write about these with real sensitivity. Have any of these issues been drawn on from personal experience?
I think you’d have to have led a very sheltered life not to have reached my age without some ups and downs and I have had my fair share. So it is natural to pull on my own experiences and those of people I observe. It is what makes a life interesting and the good times make sense of the bad.
And finally, when can we expect to see what is happening next with Jo and Hattie?
Well, they have set up a new business in Cumbria called Boomerville. Jo’s hotel is now a retreat for those over fifty who aren’t ready to settle for slippers and senility in the closing years of their lives. Boomerville has a great deal to offer its residents from pottery and baking to clairvoyance and spiritual experiences with a shaman and to be honest I wish it was real because I’d be booking myself a very long stay there! Boomerville will be published in Spring 2017.
Thanks for your fabulous questions Abbie and for hosting me on your lovely blog.
Happy reading! Caroline xx
You can buy copies of Caroline’s books by clicking on the titles –
A huge thank you to Caroline for taking part in the Q&A, really looking forward to the next instalment in Hattie and Jo’s lives!
You can read my review of Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean And Me here!