Good morning Laura and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourselF?
Hi, Jo. Thank you so much for inviting me to your pad. A little about myself? I’m married to Gajitman and this September sees our twentieth anniversary, I’m a mother to two lovely, funny and caring children, who are growing up far too quickly, and I live on the Jurassic Coast. I have two cats, Daisy, our prim and proper princess cat, and Rascal, our #Splatcat. He gets around a bit on social media.
You live in Dorset and have used it as a backdrop for your novels. Is this going to be a continuing theme or do you plan to take your characters farther afield?
I adore the South-West coast. Living close to the sea is good for my soul. It inspires my writing and its vastness gives perspective to the problems life sometimes throws in my direction. I wanted to share that feeling with my characters and readers. My first three Choc Lit books are specific to Chesil Beach and Weymouth and Portland, but book four has wandered a little further afield, but as it stands, is still in Dorset. I love Italy ‒ maybe I should send my heroine there.
You are a member of The Romaniacs – ‘kindred spirits with a love of writing’. Can you tell us about the group and how you all came together?
My wonderful writing sisters. What fabulous women they are. I’m not sure I’d have got this far without them. I first met Catherine through Twitter, our common link being the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. We travelled together to the inaugural Festival of Romance, and that’s where we met Celia, Sue, Lucie and Debbie. If I recall correctly, we had virtually communicated with one another, but we’d not met in real life until that weekend. The RNA Winter Party followed, where we met Vanessa and Jan, and three months later, we started the Romaniacs blog ‒ http://www.theromaniacs.co.uk.
We have been there for each other through good times and bad, waving our pom-poms, or lending an ear and a shoulder, and have become close, family friends. My goodness, these girls can make me laugh so much. I consider myself fortunate to have met them and honoured to have them in my life.
Have you any particular places you would love to visit – ideal bucket list destinations?
I’d love to go to Prague at Christmas time. I have romantic images in my head from pictures I saw when I was younger. I’d wrap up though, as I’m not a fan of cold weather. I’d love to go back to Dubai. My parents worked there in the nineties. Gajitman proposed to me on the Arabian Gulf. Dubai has changed since then and I’d like to see how it is now. I’ve never made it to the Italian lakes. It was a holiday my mum and I were planning before she passed away. One day.
Plotter or Panster? What works best for you?
I change with every book, Jo. My work in progress has been planned to within an inch of its life, but the words aren’t falling from my head to the page. I’m wondering if it’s because I’ve not left enough room for organic growth. With my previous books I had the start and a specific ending, but only a rough idea of the middle. Writing the book was as exciting as reading one ‒ I had to turn the page to find out what happened next. I struggle with timelines, so that’s why I’ve planned book 4. I’m trying to avoid the change the entire structure because the story can’t possibly happen in a week issue. Following What Doesn’t Kill You, where the hero, Griff Hendry, is a coastguard, I’ve vowed never to give my characters shift work again. I have a Paloma Faith calendar for book four’s timeline, but it seems rude to cover her in sticky notes.
Name three of your favourite authors.
Jill Mansell, Jodi Picoult and Erica James. There are many authors I love to read, but these are the three to whom I return and whose books have influenced my writing.
If you could invite five well known people to dinner, who would they be and why?
Kate Bush ‒ I never thought I’d get the chance to see Kate Bush live, but I did in 2014, at the Apollo in London. It was amazing. I have loved this lady’s music since my teens. Her storytelling within her lyrics captivated me and made me want to write songs and poems. I learned about rhyming couplets from Kate Bush. I’d like to ask her about her songs and her inspiration ‒ find out what makes her tick.
Paloma Faith ‒ I’ve been to many Paloma gigs and she is charming, witty and entertaining, not to mention talented. I think we’d have a few laughs. She would certainly get the party started. And I’d apologise for the sticky notes.
Jodi Picoult ‒ an amazing speaker and a writer. I’d share my love of issue-driven novels with her. She is an interesting lady, who speaks with conviction and knowledge on many subjects.
Johhny Depp ‒ He is such a fascinating man. I think his acting skills are extraordinary and I’d like to find out how he goes about getting into character. And I’d do this while looking into those deep, brown eyes …
And I’m back again.
Nigella Lawson ‒ so she can teach me how to cook and how to be sassy. Perhaps, since I’m not a natural chef, Nigella would prepare the meal …
It’s been great chatting with you, Jo ‒ excellent questions. Thank you. I’m wondering if I could make that dinner party happen.
Thank you Laura, a great interview and if you did make your dinner party happen think i would bag a spare seat if there was one going…
Possessing little in the way of domestic skills, and with an insatiable hunger to write, Laura E. James found a much better use than cooking, for the family kitchen. Tucked neatly in one corner is her very small, but very tidy desk from where she produces issue-driven romantic novels, short stories, and flash fiction.
Living in and enjoying the inspirational county of Dorset, Laura is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, a founder of Littoralis, and one eighth of The Romaniacs, the RNA Industry Awards 2015 Media Stars Winner.
Published by Choc Lit, Laura’s debut novel, Truth or Dare? was nominated for the Festival of Romance Best Romantic eBook. Her second novel, Follow Me Follow You was a Lovereading.co.uk editorial selection. What Doesn’t Kill You, the third in the Chesil Beach Book Series, is the first title in Choc Lit’s new Dark imprint ‒ compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.
Read an excerpt from Laura’s latest book…
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – but how strong can one person be?
Griff Hendry knows what it is to be strong. After a turbulent past, he’s dedicated himself to saving lives, working as a coastguard along the breath-taking shores of Dorset. It’s Griff’s belief that everyone is worth saving – which is why he can’t forgive his father, Logan, for what he did.
Griff’s future is plunged into uncertainty when his wife, Evie, tells him she wants a separation. The revelation is a shock and leads Griff to question what Evie could possibly be hiding – and she isn’t the only one holding back. Griff’s troubled stepdaughter, Tess, also harbours a dark secret.
As the truth is uncovered, Griff is forced to accept that perhaps he’s never understood what real strength is.
The white horses of the English Channel were charging head first into the obelisk of Pulpit Rock, their remains spewing onto the cliff tops of Portland Bill, then receding, threatening to drag the winter tourists and spectators into the rough water below.
The wild spray reached as far as the toes of Griff Hendry’s boots, as under the gaze of the red and white striped lighthouse, he stood firm. His instinct was to keep vigil over the families and photo-opportunists gripped by the sight of the huge breakers – people like him, restless and eager to engage with the outside world following the festivities of New Year. It made no difference he was off-duty; his experience as a coastguard and his years of living in West Dorset meant he knew the risk; nature was sometimes a beast – raw, savage, and powerful. She was to be admired, but with reverence. Much like love.
Both could drown you without warning.
He pulled his ranger’s coat tighter as he signalled to a man with two small boys to retreat from the brink of the cliff. The wind was gaining strength, and the desperate waves were grasping at the land. One violent gust and the sea would snatch the weakest person away.
‘Get back,’ Griff shouted. ‘You’re too close to the edge.’
As he returned his attention to the water, he saw the worst possible scenario unfolding. A massive swell was heading directly for the Bill. And directly for the children.
‘Move!’ he yelled, covering the distance between him and the boys in seconds. He turned away from the onslaught, propelled the older child to the man, and grabbed the toddler. He thrust them forward, crashed on to the grass, and arched over the young boy, protecting him from the briny storm. He remained there until the noise of shifting shingle ceased, then he brushed the startled lad’s fringe from his eyes, and gave a smile of reassurance. ‘Okay?’
The boy stared.
Griff pushed away from the ground, wiped his wet hands along his thighs, and helped his ward to his feet. Crouching at the boy’s level, he checked him over. ‘Are you hurt?’ Silence. ‘No broken bones?’ Still no reply. ‘Can you lift your arms like this?’ Griff raised his hands over his head, made a play of losing his balance, and launched himself onto his backside. The resulting squelch and Griff’s exaggerated call of ‘Oh, man!’ produced the desired response; the boy’s fixed expression broke with a chuckle.
Having risen to his full height, Griff turned to the father. ‘He’s a little stunned, and his back is soaked, but he’ll be fine.’ He handed the lad over and accepted the nod of thanks the equally wet man offered. ‘It’s as dangerous as it is beautiful here,’ said Griff. ‘More so on days like this. Best to keep safe.’
As he waved to the departing father and boys, his thoughts turned to his own family. He’d kept a close vigil over them, but the undercurrents were far more subtle than in any ocean. From riding high on wave after wave of ecstasy, his relationship with Evie had sunk without trace.
And Griff hadn’t seen it coming.
He needed Evie to talk, to tell him what the problem was so he could fix it, but communication was limited. Her usual reply was a shrug, or a silent diversion, and the more he pushed, the further she withdrew. The death blow came when Griff finally forced the issue with a question. A foolish, instantly regretted question. ‘Is it because of someone else?’
Evie, her green eyes fading to a silky grey, turned away and breathed her word into life. ‘Yes.’
It was after that she asked Griff to leave.
The fact it had been a week before Christmas – the week before the third anniversary of the day they met – proved to Griff the extent of Evie’s distress. Had she been thinking straight, she’d have put the children first, and she’d have kept the family together for the holidays at the very least.
There had to be more to the situation than she was letting on.
Griff raised his collar. Where had it all gone wrong?
The fortnight he’d already spent apart from her felt like a lifetime. Together for three years and married for just half that, the end was hard to accept.
‘I should be here with you, and Tess and Dylan,’ he said, the squall whisking his words out to sea. ‘And Ozzy.’ He’d lost count of the number of times he’d turned to call his dog to heel. Walking the Bill wasn’t the same without the lumbering beast hurtling around, making Dylan squeal. Or without Evie’s hand to hold. He even missed Tess’s teenage objections to taking some exercise. As the icy, January spray whipped Griff’s cheek, he stepped back, stiffness in his ankle eliciting a sharp intake of breath. He flexed his foot, releasing the old memory seizing his bones.
At sixteen, he’d jumped from Pulpit Rock.
It was that jump that broke his ankle.
It was that day he lost his best friend to the undersea rocks.
Twenty-four years on, and Griff hadn’t forgiven himself for allowing it to happen.
And he wouldn’t forgive himself if he lost Evie.
He raked his fingers through his hair and flicked the glacial drips to the ground. He’d grown tired of battling the gale for his hood, but his resolve to fight for his wife, his family, the life he loved, was greater than ever.