You mentioned that a robin was your initial inspiration for this delightful book, how did the book evolve from the robin to the rest of the story?
I once read a BBC news story about some crows that brought tiny gifts to a mother and daughter that used to feed them regularly in their garden. Little gifts of junk and rubbish that shouldn’t mean much to us humans, but the crows are probably thought to be a real treasure. The story hung around in my mind for some time, and I knew it might make a good novel, so I just expanded it from there after a robin landed in my garden on Christmas day, and then sat beside me while I was taking a break from the day’s festivities.
Your descriptions of the Bluebell Wood and the birds visiting was so realistic, was this based on somewhere real?
All the things that happen to Ava and the bird table in her cottage garden are inspired by the birds that visit my own table – from the variety of birds that visit, to their feeding habits, and even the type of food they like! The village of Bluebell Wood however is entirely fictional, but is based around many of the small villages in Cambridgeshire, where I live.
You often include something magical in your stories, how do you decide with elements of magic dust to include?
That’s a tough question! I don’t really decide, ideas just come to me. I have a great belief in things that can’t quite be explained; signs that guide us, alternative healing etc. I think that helps a lot; if I believe it might actually happen, then usually my readers will too!
We have loved your books since we first started reading them, at what point do you decide when a book could become a series? What inspired you to create the St. Felix series?
Usually when they become successful, and readers want to hear more about the characters or the place I’m writing about, then I talk it through with my publishers and we decide together. Neither the Notting Hill books, or the St Felix books were planned as a series. They’ve just evolved and I love writing both of them.
St Felix is inspired by the beautiful town of St Ives in Cornwall, which I have visited many, many times. It makes writing the books set there, very enjoyable and extremely easy to imagine.
What inspired you to start writing? What advice do you have for aspiring novelists about getting started?
How I began writing is a very long and unusual tale, that I would encourage your readers to search out on my website if they’re interested, as the whole story is there. It involves Ronan Keating, a cancer awareness charity, and an internet message board!
My advice to new writers is always the same – don’t give up! I had over 100 rejections before my first book was published. I was on the brink of giving up, but I just knew that my book was a story readers would love once it got into the hands of the right people – and luckily, they did!
When you are not writing, what do you do to relax?
I have two chronic illnesses (M.E. and U.C.T.D.) that means any down time I have is mainly about resting! I also have three dogs who keep me busy. I sadly can’t walk them anymore, but I do try and accompany my family on my mobility scooter as often as I can when they take them out.
I also enjoy rummaging around antique shops when I get the chance. I love the thought that what might I buy could have belonged to several people over the years, and I always wonder what interesting stories it would have to tell if it could talk…
See our review of Hope and Happiness in Bluebell Wood by Ali McNamara