17 Jun 2015

Among a Thousand Stars by Jo Bartlett

When her mother turns up naked and proud during her first term at college, Ashleigh Hayes assumes that life can’t get any more embarrassing. Ten years later, with best friend Stevie at her side, and a successful career as a freelance photographer for monthly magazine Glitz, it looks like she might have finally got the hang of things. Only she seems to have inherited the embarrassment gene from her mother and her every encounter with new boss, Tom Rushworth, looks set to send her career spiralling backwards. Getting past their shaky start, Ashleigh and Tom embark on a relationship that was only ever meant to be a bit of fun. But when life, paparazzi and love-sick Labradors get in the way, they suddenly find themselves caught in a roller coaster ride of emotions.

Praise for Among a Thousand Stars:

'The perfect feel-good read' Kerry Fisher, Bestselling Author

‘A very funny and thoughtful look at relationships behind the lens - a really enjoyable and poignant debut' My Reading Corner

‘Sharp and witty dialogues, realistic characters, laughing-out-loud and tear-jerking situations’ On My Bookshelf

Can you tell us a little about your latest book.Among a Thousand Stars tells the story of Ashleigh Hayes – a woman who, on the surface of it all, seems to be living her dreams; hanging out with the rich and famous as a photographer with Glitz magazine. Yet she dreams of taking photos with more meaning and outgrowing a lifetime of living in someone else’s shadow. Except when you have a mother who thinks nothing of stripping naked in front of your friends, and a best friend who doesn’t know the meaning of embarrassment, that’s quite a tall order. When Tom Rushworth comes into her life, their ‘no strings’ relationship seems like the perfect distraction - but sometimes life has ideas of its own.
What inspired you to write it?
One of my son’s best friends at primary school was the son of fashion and celebrity photographer, Perou. It intrigued me that one day he could be off photographing One Direction or Dita Von Teese in New York and the next day he’d be back in the school hall with the rest of us, trying to elbow his way to the front of the nativity play. So I had this idea of writing about someone working on the perimeter of such a glamorous world, but who still had the ability to live a separate anonymous life, with the same kind of problems as the rest of us.

Is it part of a series?
At the moment it’s a stand-alone novel, but the story of how Tom got himself into the situation he’s in at the start of the book is told in the free short story Before A Thousand Stars, available on Amazon and various other platforms. There are also characters who I can see myself wanting to spend time with again, so we’ll see.

If your latest book was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
Ah, every writer’s favourite question. Tom’s a tricky one, as he’s emotionally distant and quintessentially British at the outset, but it mainly seems to be American actors who have the right look for him. He’s got to have dark hair and striking blue eyes, so probably someone like Patrick Dempsey – although he’s about fifteen years too old for the part now, but still looks good to me!
As for Ashleigh, in my mind she’s always been a dark-haired version of Holly Willoughby looks-wise. So if Holly was willing to hit the hair dye and give up presenting This Morning to try a career in acting, I’d give her a shot.

What made you want to become an author?
I didn’t really have a choice, I can’t help myself. I’ve always written and there’s nothing better than escaping to a world full of characters you’ve created. That said, it’s not an easy path to take – you face rejection at every turn, from submissions to publishers, right through to reviews on Amazon and sites like Netgalley and Goodreads. Sometimes putting yourself out there to be judged is painful, but I still can’t imagine ever stopping – it’s my first love and you never forget that, do you?

Name one of your all-time favourite book covers?
I really like Joanna Trollope’s The Other Family, as the scene on the front cover looks just like one of the beaches near where I live and it could almost be my children depicted there.

Name one book that made you think 'wow'? Why did it have such an effect on you?
It’s probably been said lots of times before, but I’d have to say Jo Jo Moyes Me Before You. It’s got all the characteristics I love in a book – a lead character you can identify with, moments that make you laugh and ones that can make you cry. I try to cover that spectrum of emotions in my stories, and I’ll keep dreaming of writing something that could hold a candle to a story like that.

Who, or what, inspires you?
In short, everything! I’ve got this sign in my kitchen, that a friend bought me, which says ‘careful, or you’ll be in my next novel’. And it’s so true! My closest friends tell me they recognise elements of themselves in my characters or snippets of conversations that have wormed their way in. Stevie, Ashleigh’s best friend in Among A Thousand Stars, draws on my relationship with those friends, and lots of people have said he’s an absolute favourite when they read the book.

Where is your favourite place to write?
I can write anywhere, whilst the TV is on and the rest of the family are getting on with life around me. I did some rewrites for Among A Thousand Stars sitting around a pool in Spain, but my favourite place to write is sitting by the wood-burning stove in my front room. Maybe that’s why so many of my stories end up with a key Christmas or winter themed scene in there somewhere.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
I loved the Bridget Jones’ films, but I’ve refused to read the new book because someone told me Mark Darcy’s fate and I’m still sulking! I absolutely love The Notebook, though, so I’d probably have to say that.

Who is your favourite author (s) and why?
I’ve already mentioned Jo Jo Moyes and, of course, Nicholas Sparks. However, growing up, my writing heroines were probably Jilly Cooper and, one of the queens of chick lit/women’s fiction, Jill Mansell. That said, I also love Sue Townsend and still revisit Adrian Moles’ diary entries whenever I need cheering up.

If you could have a dinner party with any author from any time in history, who would you choose and why?Charles Dickens would be my pick. Having written a Christmas novella myself, I’d want to ask him how he managed to write something as brilliant and timeless as A Christmas Carol. I’d also like to ask him if he was as much of a cad to his wife as rumour suggests.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I can put my right foot behind my head and touch the end of my nose with my tongue – sometimes at the same time, if there’s been enough wine!

Tell us something interesting about the area where you live.
I live on the coast in Kent, just outside Canterbury, where the sky and sea stretch for miles and somehow all my stories seem to have a coastal theme. It’s a county that’s the old stomping ground of Dickens, Marlow, HE Bates, Chaucer and, according to today’s papers, Britain’s new fattest man!

Jo Bartlett has been a teacher for longer than she ever expected, which made it difficult to choose names for her children because ‘challenging’ students put her off so many potential choices. She now combines educational consultancy, teaching in HE and blogging as one of The Write Romantics, with writing both fiction and non-fiction, and lives so close to the South-East edge of England that she’s very nearly French.
Among A Thousand Stars is her first full-length novel.
Twitter – @J_B_Writer

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