I am delighted to have Zara appear on my blog and would like to thank her for agreeing to this.
Zara Stoneley was born in a small village in Staffordshire and wanted to be James Herriot when she grew up. After completing an IT degree, working as a consultant, running a dog grooming business, teaching, and working at a veterinary practice she decided she had more than enough material to write several books even if she would never qualify as a vet! She lives in Cheshire with her family and a very bossy cat, and loves spending time in sunny Barcelona. Zara is currently writing a new series, the first book ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, published by HarperCollins is available now – discover a hot vet and the most gorgeous country village ever!
- Tell us a little about your new book?
Summer with the Country Village Vet. This was a dream book to write as I love animals, wanted to be a vet when I was younger, and can think of nothing nicer than living in an amazing village like Langtry Meadows! In the book though, Lucy has got a rather different view. She loves city life, but after being made redundant reluctantly takes on a temporary job at the village school. To complicate things further, the only cottage available to let has a condition attached – she has to look after all the owner’s animals! Her life is turned upside down and it isn’t long before she meets Charlie, the rather gorgeous local vet, who has a very good reason of his own for keeping himself to himself!
2. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Lucy is a normal girl who’s determined to make the best of life, but underneath her capable and controlled exterior she’s quite hurt. She always felt the odd one out at school, and never good enough – but she’s thrown everything into the career she loves and is now happy. By going back to village life she’s having to face up to her past, which is a really big step, but she realises that maybe it’s the only way she’ll ever be truly happy in the future. I love Lucy, she’s brave, capable and incredibly kind.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’m not sure because I’ve as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write. My grandad and mum always encouraged me when I was young, then I won a prize in a national short story competition when I was at primary school, and after that there was no stopping me!
4. Which writers inspire you?
The simple answer to that one is that there are too many to list! I love exploring different genres, Jilly Cooper was an early influence, and I loved Dick Francis novels. I love all writers who can make me care about their characters, and leave me wanting to live in the locations they create.
5. Describe a typical day in the life of author Zara Stoneley?
First thing I do is switch the kettle on – I need a cup of coffee before I can function properly. On a normal writing day I’ll spend an hour or so whizzing through my emails, catching up on twitter and Facebook, and sharing any news I’ve got. I’ll then write until late morning, and tend to have brunch rather than breakfast and lunch, as I’ve definitely put on weight since I’ve been a full-time author. I’ll have a stretch (my back seizes up otherwise) and then it’s back to writing. Mid-afternoon I do try to find time to go for a walk, but it doesn’t always happen if I’m working to a deadline. I find my best time for writing is late afternoon, some days I really get into it and all of a sudden I realise it’s late evening and I’m hungry. If my son is home from Uni then evenings are spent with him, but if I’m home alone then I quite often have the TV on in the background, and my laptop on my knee.
6. Do you have a favourite place to write?
I either sit on my sofa with the cat curled up next to me (when she’s not trying to sit on the keyboard), or at my little writing bureau – I found it in an antique shop not long ago and love my tiny writing space! If I’m at the early planning stages of a story and jotting notes down then I often find being outside (on the beach or in my back garden on a sunny day) is really inspiring.
7. What is your writing process?
I have to write a synopsis for my agent and publisher in advance, and sometimes we’ll meet up for a brainstorming session which can be fun and really helpful. When I’m fleshing out the initial idea, I like to use pen and paper – for some strange reason the ideas seem to flow better (although my handwriting is nearly illegible!) – after that everything goes straight onto the laptop. I set a target each day of how many words I want to write, which helps stop me getting distracted – although my most productive time is the late afternoon and evening, so sometimes I make very little progress for most of the day, then it all happens in a rush!
8. How do you come up with your ideas?
I jot down ideas as they come to me (usually at very inconvenient times!). All kinds of situations give me inspiration, but most of my stories stem from a ‘what if’ question, which then leads to a ‘but’. Never be afraid of your ideas, however batty they might sound, I normally find that if I write an idea down and still like it a week later, then it’s worth exploring further.
9. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I think the biggest difference is that I now have a wonderful editor to work with – it’s great to be able to discuss ideas with somebody, and have early feedback. I also now have to work to deadlines though, it’s a proper job, so I can’t have days when I walk away because it just isn’t working. I have weekly goals and so I know that if I don’t get much written one day, I’ll have to make it up the next day! I also now have to find time to write guest posts and promote my books on social media, and give talks at book clubs – it all means I have to be much more organised and disciplined than I was before my first book was published.
10. What was your first thought when you saw your first published book?
Wow! It was incredible to be able to pick up a book and realise I’d actually written it. It took a while to sink in, as the road to getting published can be long and a bit lonely. Signing a book contract was very exciting, but seeing the actual finished book was amazing. I took it to bed with me!
11. What are your thoughts on writing a book series? You have the Tippermere series and this is also going to part of a series?
I love writing a series as it really gives me chance to get to know the characters, and watch their lives change – one book is never enough! They do involve a lot more planning, and I tend to have lots of notes that I constantly reference to make sure that the timelines work properly. I’d love to return to Tippermere at some point (in my mind there’s unfinished business with Mick and Lottie, and Pandora really does deserve a story of her own!), but for now I’m settled in Langtry Meadows – which I think is the most gorgeous of all my locations.
12. What is next for you? What are you working on next?
The second Langtry Meadows book ‘Coming Home to Jasmine Cottage’ is with my editor, and that’s due out in September. In this book there’s much more focus on Charlie, although Lucy, the school, and animals of course play an important part! Both books can be read as standalone’s, but I hope after reading ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’ you’ll want to find out more! I’m also currently working on an outline for the third book in the series, and working with my editor and agent on a very secret project – more news soon!
I am super excited to find out what that secret project is.
I am so glad to have Zara appear on my blog and excited to share this with all my readers. I wish her every success.