I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today organised by Neverland Blog Tours for Meet Me at Willoughby Close.
Author Kate Hewitt is chatting to us about this novel and I’m also sharing my review. You’ll find a tour wide giveaway for (UK only) paperback A Cotswold Christmas too.
Kate is the author of over 50 books of women’s fiction and romance. An American ex-pat and former New Yorker, she now lives in a small market in Wales with her husband and five children. You can follow her blog at http://www.acumbrianlife.blogspot.co.uk, or find out more about her books at http://www.kate-hewitt.com. Follow Kate on Twitter @katehewitt1.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Meet Me at Willoughby Close in 20 words or less.
Meet Me At Willoughby Close is a light-hearted but honest look at the struggles of a single mom starting over in a new place—learning to take risks and also falling in love!
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel Kate?
I moved to the Cotswolds and found it hard to start over in an entirely new place where I didn’t know anyone. One day walking home from a lonely school run I had the idea of four women having to start over in various ways and all of them ending up as neighbours in a courtyard of converted stable cottages—that was the genesis of Willoughby Close!
Please tell us about the characters.
Ellie Matthews is a struggling single mum who ups and moves from Manchester to the Cotswolds in order to find a fresh start. What she doesn’t expect is to fall in love with her sexy-yet-nerdy boss, Oxford don Oliver Venables.
… and if you could choose to be one of your characters, which would you be?
I think I have written myself into every character in the story in some way or other, but if I had to choose, I’d be Lady Stokeley. She has a lot of wit, wisdom, and life experience! (I enjoyed her friendship with Abby).
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you?
Her fear. I originally intended Ellie to be optimistic and bubbly almost to a fault, but as I wrote her character all this fear kept creeping in. I began to realise that Ellie’s optimism was actually a cover for her fear, and that really helped me dig deeper into her character.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
Not a scene exactly, but I really enjoyed writing the humour in this book, as I don’t have a lot of opportunity to write humour in my other books—emotional contemporary romances and grittier women’s fiction! Keeping things light-hearted but real was important to me in writing this story.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be …
Life can be hard, but enjoy it and take a few risks!
Did you do any research for your book Kate? What resources did you use?
I had to research the ins and outs of Oxford University, which I did via a few visits to Oxford and the trusty Internet. I also researched the subject of Oliver’s book, Victorian childhood, which was convenient as I had just written a book set in the Victorian period and had lots of resources.
Did you travel to any places?
The village in Meet Me at Willoughby Close is based on the village where I lived, and so I wandered around the village quite a bit gathering inspiration. I also went to Oxford as mentioned above, and I’d already been to Cornwall where they go on holiday.
Meet Me at Willoughby Close tackles a social barrier. Why is this important to you Kate?
It deals extensively with bullying, which is important to me as I was bullied when I was young.
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
I love the covers of these books, which are designed by my publisher. I got to see them at every stage, from sketch onwards, and I’m really thrilled with the warm, whimsical look.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I like to write in the morning after the school run when I feel fresh and peppy, but the internet is always a distraction.
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
When I’m stuck in a book with either plot or character I take my dog for a walk through some nearby fields, by the River Wye. Letting thoughts drift through my mind without actively thinking helps loosen the mental knots I’ve got myself into.
Panster or plotter?
Both! I plot extensively and then my plot veers off course, which is actually the best thing that could happen.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Lots and lots, because there are so many wonderful writers out there. These books are most influenced by similar-style stories by authors like Cathy Bramley and Sarah Morgan.
Finally Kate, can you tell us what’s to come in this series?
Meet Me at Willoughby Close is the first in a series of four books. Find Me at Willoughby Close is available on March 14, Kiss Me at Willoughby Close on May 25, and Marry Me at Willoughby Close in July. All stand-alone stories.
Thank you for being my guest.
Wishing you success Kate with all your writing projects.
Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…
Ellie Matthews has come to Wychwood-on-Lea to find a new start for her and her daughter Abby. But, life there doesn’t start out as idyllic as she had hoped. While Ellie loves her cute cottage in Willoughby Close, the Yummy Mummies at the primary school seem intent on giving her the cold shoulder, Abby has trouble fitting in, and her boss, Oliver Venables, is both surprisingly sexy and irritatingly inscrutable.
But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places, and in small, yet wonderful ways. Slowly, Ellie and Abby find themselves making friends and experiencing the everyday magic of Willoughby Close. When Oliver’s nephew, Tobias, befriends Abby, the four of them start to feel like family… and Ellie begins to see the kindness and warmth beneath Oliver’s chilly exterior, which awakens both her longing and fear.
Ellie knows all about disappointment, and the pain of trying too hard for nothing, while Oliver has his own hurts and secrets to deal with. When the past comes rollicking back to remind both of them of their weaknesses and failings, will they be able to overcome their fears and find their own happy ending?
Discover the heartwarming magic of Willoughby Close… with four more stories of hope and happily-ever-afters to look forward to.
Ellie is a woman who never had the chance to find out who she is or what she wants from life. Falling pregnant at 17 and marrying childhood best friend Nathan, she made the best she could out of the situation. Always feeling overshadowed by her mum and sister she moves miles away to Oxford with 10 year old daughter Abby and family dog Marmite, needing a fresh start for them both. They are the first residents in Willoughby Close.
The emotional hook for me in this story was Abby. The effects of bullying in her previous school are all too real and yet despite this, there’s a sense of how strong she is. I felt Abby bolstered her mum, giving her permission to let go and enjoy life. I so wanted Year 6 to work out for her … The relationship that grows between Abby and Lady Stokeley is heartwarming.
Oliver and Ellie’s worlds are far apart (think the theme in Pretty Woman) giving conflict to the ‘will they won’t they.’ Oliver’s sister doesn’t help matters either. Neither of our leads are confident enough or have enough experience in reading between the lines … although I just knew that Oliver’s gruff exterior hid a soft centre 🙂 I must admit the romance was a bit drawn out for me.
I have to mention Marmite. 1/2 Golden Retriever and 1/2 Rottweiler, he brings a smile to some tense situations.
If you’re looking for a sweet and gentle romance, then this may just be the story for you.
The tourwide giveaway is for 3 paperback copies of A Cotswold Christmas (a Willoughby Close prequel).
Please note this is UK residents only.
Jera’s Jamboree is not responsible for this giveaway.
Please read the tour organisers Terms and Conditions before entering via the Rafflecopter below.