Today on Getting To Know... I welcome the very talented and very lovely Carol Cooper, author of Hampstead Fever and One Night at the Jacaranda.
Your most recent novel, Hampstead Fever, follows the lives of six Londoners that are all intertwined. What was the inspiration behind this story?
The novel came out of the characters I had made up, who are six very different people, all of them approaching 40. I love hot summers, but I’m aware that emotions can reach boiling point, so I thought I’d write about how a heatwave affects their lives, and makes them do things they shouldn’t. The action takes place in Hampstead, where I live. While it’s an upmarket and very picturesque part of London, the area means subtly different things to each of the people in the book.
The novels you write are contemporary, what is it that draws you to this genre?
I think it is the perfect genre for creating a world that readers can relate to. I write with an eye on the everyday, which includes modern dilemmas like being a single parent and a working mum, coping with ailing relatives, today’s competitive job market, the role of the media, and the challenges facing Britain’s health service. Having said that, the aim of the book is to entertain, not to contemplate solutions to these problems.
When you're writing do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?
Sadly not. Although I’m driven to write, many things crop up needing instant attention. For example, I write expert comments for The Sun newspaper. It’s a great forum for any writer, and I love the chance of saying my piece on the health story of the day, whether it’s a radiation spill or a celeb’s liposuction. The downside is that it’s often at short notice.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?
I like almost all my characters, and I have an affinity for Karen, a single mum of four, as well as for Geoff, a stressed doctor, but my softest spot is reserved for Dan. He’s out of jail following wrongful imprisonment, and determined to go up in the world. Neither educated nor articulate, he tries hard to make up for it by reading widely and working hard. He’s now got a job in the kitchen of a trendy new Hampstead eatery, and he’s living with the woman of his dreams and their baby, but it’s not all plain sailing.
When you're not writing what would we find you doing?
I got remarried three years ago, so you’ll find me spending time with my husband. And, like every writer, I also love reading.
You are also a doctor and have written health books, firstly how on earth do you find the time and secondly what made you decide to make the jump to writing fiction?
Well, here’s my secret: I now do everything part-time. It would be impossible otherwise. As for what triggered the jump to fiction-writing, I think the desire has always been there. I first tried to write a novel when I was at university, but that didn’t get very far because I knew nothing about the world at the time, except maybe how to pass exams. I do love health journalism, as well as writing non-fiction books, but with novels there’s a chance, with luck, to create something that’s lasting. We’re still reading good books published 20, 50, and even over 100 years ago, while non-fiction books are more ephemeral.
Having taken a look at your non-fiction books, you have written a lot about pregnancy, birth and the early years. What made you decide to specialise in this area?
As a family doctor, I’ve looked after a lot of pregnant women and their babies, so this is an area I know about from the professional viewpoint. Then I had three children in under three years (my second pregnancy was twins), so I figured I’d mastered Parenting 101 and could add my experience to my medical expertise, creating useful and realistic guides on child health and the like. Of course, nobody ever has parenting taped. You go on learning new things about family relationships until you drop off your perch.
Do you have a favourite author?
That would be Kate Atkinson, though I also love Tony Parsons, Maggie O’Farrell, and the ever-witty Howard Jacobson.
If you could give the younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?
Be yourself. As the saying goes, everyone else is taken already. It takes time to evolve your own voice as an author, so the best thing is just to keep writing and make it as good as it can be. I’d also tell myself that, unlike climbing a mountain, with novel-writing there’s no such thing as arriving. Each book is as good as I can make it at the time, but the whole writing game is a process of learning and discovery. If it weren’t, it might become very dull.
What can we look forward to next from you?
I’m working on another novel that takes some of the characters from Hampstead Fever into new adventures. There’s also going to be a novel mostly set in Egypt. I grew up in Alexandria, a cosmopolitan world that remains fresh in my mind.
Thank you so much to Carol For taking the time to answer my questions, it's been a pleasure!
To Connect With Carol Cooper
Twitter - @DrCarolCooper
Facebook - Carol Cooper’s London Novels https://www.facebook.com/onenightatthejacaranda/
Blog - Pills and Pillow-Talk https://pillsandpillowtalk.com/
Pinterest - DrCarolCooper https://uk.pinterest.com/drcarolcooper/
It is high summer in London and trouble is brewing.
Chef Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him.
Stressed doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a mercurial actress. Journalist Harriet’s long-term relationship with Sanjay hits the buffers, leaving each of them with serious questions to answer. Meanwhile single mother of four Karen lacks the appetite for a suitable relationship.
Passion and panic rise in the heatwave. Who can spot the danger signs?
Available in bookstores and online from Amazon and other retailers.
Amazon link http://mybook.to/HF
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist and novelist. She writes for The Sun newspaper, broadcasts on TV and radio, and has a string of non-fiction books to her name including an award-winning textbook of medicine. In 2013 she turned to contemporary fiction with her debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest title is Hampstead Fever.