29 Apr 2016

Looking for Lucy by Julie Houston

When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?
I always loved writing stories at school and won my first writing (actually my only!) competition when I was seven. Ask any writer and they will always say they wish they’d started writing sooner and I’m no different. I’d had Harriet from Goodness Grace and Me in my head for a while and I suddenly started writing down her story in an airport in Tunisia several years ago when my plane was delayed. This book was published in July 2013, The One Saving Grace in February 2015 and Looking For Lucy is out this Thursday April 7th.

What is it about 'chick lit' / 'romance' that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres?
To be honest I don’t think I’m that keen on ‘Chic lit’. I like to think of my stories as Romantic Comedies or Women’s Contemporary. I think it’s the “Mr Darcy” effect I like in the books I read: you know the heroine is going to end up with the gorgeous man. I read all sorts of books, but not Science Fiction or Erotica. My favourite writers at the moment are Nicci Gerrard, Patrick Gale, Kate Atkinson and Leanne Moriarty.

Can you tell us a little about your latest release?
Looking For Lucy is Clementine’s story and, although hopefully still humorous, I have written about some aspects of drugs and prostitution. At the end of the day I wanted to raise the question as to whether prostitution exists solely on the streets. Where does marrying a rich man who one doesn’t love or even fancy fit into the general definition of what prostitution actually is? Looking For Lucy is still set in Midhope but this is Clementine’s story and her search for Lucy. Harriet and Grace from the first two books are in there because Clementine and her mate, Izzy, meet up with them at a dinner party and they become involved in what is going on in Clementine’s life. Looking For Lucy is very much a standalone novel but people who have read it say they loved meeting up with Harriet and Grace once more. (I always loved Rupert Campbell Black’s reappearances in Jilly Cooper novels!)
It’s quite a long story with the usual ups and downs but Clem gets her man in the end - and the life she’s always wanted.

What inspired you to write it?
I’ve always been fascinated by twins for some reason but particularly how some identical twins can turn out to be very different from each other. As a magistrate I used to meet some of the local sex-workers in court and always wanted to know their story – why and how they had ended doing what they did for a living.

If it was made into a film, who would you cast as the main characters?
When I was writing Looking For Lucy I always had in mind the extremely attractive actress Charlotte Riley – Tom Hardy’s wife. I am a total Peaky Blinders’ fan and I always picture Charlotte Riley when I picture Clementine. As identical twins Charlotte might end up playing both parts like her husband did when portraying The Krays in Legend. Now there’s a thought!! Joseph Millson - he was Major Ross in the recent TV drama Banished – would definitely be Rafe Ahern.
Rafe Ahern!!

What is your favourite book that made it to the big screen?

D H Lawrence’s Women In Love and of course the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. It can’t be beaten so why would anyone try?

What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?
“Maggie and Me” by Damian Barr. I heard about this book on Radio 4’s “A Good Read” and loved everything about it. It was witty and clever and, as a true story of a boy growing up knowing he was gay in a rough part of Scotland, very poignant.

Where do you currently write? And where would be your dream writing location?
I’m a lark and like to write early rather than later. I used to write in what was originally the kids’ playroom – a super room with French windows looking down on the view in the valley. Unfortunately my husband, who has a promotions company, started working from home and bagged it for himself. I now have a bit of a cupboard which is jam-packed full of books, computer and more books. On a good writing day I’ll be at the computer for six am and write for a couple of hours before going for a swim or run. Then it’s breakfast with the crossword before a few more hours writing. Then a walk with the dog to clear my head and, if I’m really on a roll, a few more hours after that. I’ve been teaching three days a week since Christmas (back down to two now) so holidays and weekends and days off are writing days.
My dream writing location is back in my original playroom! I’ve tried writing on a beach or by a pool but am easily distracted by a good book, a cocktail and bronzed lovelies!

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I teach just two days a week at the moment, but at the junior school where Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding went as a child.

Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
We’re only a couple of miles from where Happy Valley has been filmed over the past couple of years.

What inspires you as an author?
Reading brilliant books and wanting to create something just as good. Every time I read a new Kate Atkinson I am bowled over by her ability to write such superb stories.

Do you have a muse?
I devoured Jilly Cooper from an early age. If she can be classed as a muse then she is it!

What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I’m at the start of writing two novellas for Christmas. I’ve never written a novella before but my agent suggested I write one last Christmas as a follow up to the first two books about Harriet and Grace. I didn’t because I was too immersed in Looking For Lucy, but hope to have one as Harriet and Grace’s Christmas skiing holiday and one as a follow up to Clementine’s story ready for next Christmas. The next big project is a World War 2 story that is set in present day Midhope and wartime London and Midhope. There’s going to be quite a bit of research involved and I suppose a bit of a switch of genre.

Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
To see the Aurora Borealis

What do you listen to whilst writing?
I don’t!! I need total silence when I write.

Name one of your all time favourite songs.
Sylvester’s “You make me feel (mighty real)”
It’s absolutely fantastic to dance to!!

Julie Houston lives in West Yorkshire where her novels are set with her husband and two children. She continues to teach a couple of days a week, is a magistrate and is currently working on her fourth novel which, like the Midhope series of books, is set in Yorkshire.
She cannot understand her husband and teenaged children’s need to be constantly flinging themselves off snowy mountains, playing rugby or deep sea diving and so has learned to leave them to it while she finds a comfy spot – preferably a sunny one with a glass in hand – to read a good book.
Email Julie
Twitter: @juliehouston2

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