I’m delighted to be welcoming Carol Cooper today. Carol is chatting to me about her latest novel, Hampstead Fever and she has some great tips to share too. Hampstead Fever is Carol’s second fictional novel.
Carol Cooper is not only an author, she’s a doctor and journalist too. She practises medicine in London, teaches medical students at Imperial College, and writes for The Sun newspaper.
After a string of parenting books and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to fiction. Her novels are all about 30-somethings looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.
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Please summarise Hampstead Fever in 20 words or less.
Hampstead Fever follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners during one hot summer as emotions rise to the boil.
Can you tell us more about the characters in Hampstead Fever?
Dan is an up and coming chef in a trendy new bistro in Hampstead. With a chequered past behind him, he’s now got the love of his life and a young son. His partner Laure, however, is consumed with anxiety over their child and has no time for Dan now.
Freelance journalist Harriet is struggling to pay her bills. She increasingly questions her career choice, as well as her long-term relationship with charity fundraiser Sanjay. Meanwhile Sanjay has never quite got to grips with surviving serious ill-health, so he’s not coping well with anything.
Karen is a single mum who juggles a teaching job and four children. She misses the intimacy of married life, but has little energy for a proper liaison.
Geoff is a stressed family doctor who has trouble keeping his end up in all senses of the word. He’s dissatisfied with recent changes in the NHS, and struggling with erectile problems.
Then there’s the glamorous Daisy, a mysterious and moody actress. When she’s not helping teach medical students, she seems intent on upsetting everyone around her.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if Hampstead Fever were optioned for a movie?
Renée Zellweger is ideal for the part of Harriet, and Jason Statham would made the perfect Dan. With blonde highlights, Julia Sawalha would be great as Laure who is half Lebanese. I’d have Armaan Kirmani as Sanjay, with Nina Wadia as his mother, if the make-up artist ages her for the role. GP Geoff could be played by Matthew Macfadyen, and I’m tempted to cast his real-life wife Keeley Hawes as Karen. The stunning Naomie Harris (remember her in Skyfall?) is a dead ringer for actress Daisy. If you read Hampstead Fever, you’ll see just why. It would be an expensive film, but very watchable!
Did you do any research Carol? What resources did you use?
I hung around Hampstead a lot, which is no hardship as I live in the area. I also looked up a few facts on the internet, such as which rock albums came out when. Music is very important to Sanjay, and this had to be right. There were various other details that I felt compelled to check, like public transport. It’s all very well the characters jumping into bed with the wrong people, but they need to take the right bus home.
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
My book covers have to have something bright red. For One Night at the Jacaranda, it was a pair of red shoes, and for Hampstead Fever it’s a sun hat half-covering a woman’s face. The designer is the very talented Jessica Bell.
Which authors have influenced your writing Carol?
It’s a long list that includes Kate Atkinson, Helen Fielding, Nick Hornby, Maggie O’Farrell, Nick Hornby, and Mary McCarthy (to be specific, her novel The Group). There are also a number of wonderful comic writers like Howard Jacobson, Tom Sharpe, and Jean Kerr (the author of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies) who taught me that you can treat serious subjects with a light touch.
Are there any tips you could share with new writers that have worked well for you?
My best tip is pretty obvious: keep writing. It’s only by flexing those muscles that you get them to do things better, and to learn to do new things. My second tip is to make use of beta readers, but that’s for further down the line, when you’ve got a finished draft. You can use friends, other writers, or readers of your previous work. I’ve found beta readers especially helpful developing some of my characters, such as when trying to make them more sympathetic without making them bland.
Finally Carol, have you done any writing courses that you would recommend to others?
Some years ago, I went to a Creating Fiction class at the City Lit in London. It was hard to fit in a regular commitment at the time as I was a busy hospital doctor, but I found it very useful. I’ve also been on an Arvon course which taught me a lot. Best of all was a writing course in Norfolk, where the late Ruth Rendell was the tutor. Her encouragement that weekend persuaded me to keep trying to write a novel. I think it’s worth looking around at courses, especially if the tutor is a writer you admire.
Thank you for sharing with us today.
Wishing you success with all your creative projects Carol.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Hardwick Press (1 July 2016)
A heatwave in London and trouble is brewing…
Chef Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him now.
Stressed doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a moody actress. Journalist Harriet’s long-term relationship with Sanjay hits the buffers, leaving each of them with serious questions to answer. Meanwhile single mum of four Karen misses the intimacy of marriage, but lacks the appetite for a proper relationship.
Passion and panic rise in the heat, but who can spot the danger signs?
Also available in UK bookstores.