Hands up. I’ve already watched The Holiday twice this November – it’s one of my favourite feel good movies! so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have Zara Stoneley in my hot seat to chat about her novel, The Holiday Swap.
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 now splits her time between a country cottage in Cheshire and an apartment in Barcelona, and writes fun, romantic stories set in the British countryside that she loves so much.
Zara Stoneley is the author of the Tippermere series (Stable Mates, Country Affairs and Country Rivals) published by HarperCollins, as well as several standalone novels including The Holiday Swap. She is currently writing the first book of a new series, which will be published by HarperCollins in 2017.
You can find out more about Zara Stoneley on her website www.ZaraStoneley.com.
She also spends far too much time on social media:
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise The Holiday Swap in 20 words or less.
Grab opportunities and live the life you really want – rather than the one other people think you should!
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I love the movie ‘The Holiday’, the whole idea of swapping homes and lives is a great one – it can open your mind to opportunities, remind you about dreams you might have pushed to one side. As I spend part of the year in the Cheshire countryside, and the remainder in glamorous Barcelona I thought it would be a great basis for a story.
What scene did you most enjoy writing Zara? Why?
I absolutely loved writing one of the final scenes – Hugo on New Year’s Eve. It came as a surprise to me – but I don’t want to say any more and spoil the story! I loved it, not just because of the surprise element, but because it showed the vulnerable side of my gorgeous Hugo. I also loved writing the scene in Paris when Flo discovers her boyfriend has been unfaithful because it was so much fun, I was just cheering her on to do her worst – how many girls would just love to do something similar when they discover their man is a rat?
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be?
Actually, a reviewer, Kaisha Holloway at The Writing Garnet summed it up perfectly – ‘Grab life by its baubles and make every single moment count’!
Did you travel to any places?
I spend a lot of my time out in Barcelona, but writing The Holiday Swap gave me the perfect excuse to revisit a lot of places (it also gave me a great excuse to eat more tapas!). There are some incredible spots that are a bit off the beaten tourist track and I wanted to include some of those – as well as the more familiar locations. I really wanted you to be able to imagine being there when you read the story, to see the city through the characters eyes.
On the Cheshire side, Tippermere has featured in a lot of my other books and is based on a mix of villages in the area where I live – my main research was making sure that I stayed true to the Tippermere that readers already know.
I love your book trailer!
What do you think book trailers achieve?
I don’t often do book trailers, but decided ‘The Holiday Swap’ was the perfect book for one. I think the images in a trailer can convey so much more about a book than just a cover and description can. The Holiday Swap is about contrasts – between places, lives, and dreams, but it’s also fun and uplifting. I hope the trailer conveys that.
Do you make use of local resources for promoting your novels?
I love meeting up with readers and other authors, the best bit is being able to chat informally and answer questions. What’s lovely about these events is that they aren’t direct promotion for a book but more a chance to chat with other book lovers, it’s a really wonderful personal connection. I was recently invited to chat to a local literary society who meet in a wine bar – it was a great, informal atmosphere. I read ‘the Paris incident’ part of my book that I’ve mentioned above and there was lots of laughter (it is so wonderful to know that the words work!) and so many questions – we chatted for hours. I’m also part of the ‘Cheshirati’ (a group of Cheshire authors) and we’ve done library events where our aim is to entertain but also pass on hints, tips and advice to aspiring authors. I’m off to chat to a local writers’ group next week as well. It’s so rewarding to attend events like this as writing is such a solitary occupation.
What are you currently working on Zara?
My next book is about a teacher in a village school who has had to uproot from city living, and a local vet who has more than a few complications in his life. The village they live in is absolutely gorgeous, but idyllic rural life is seldom as straightforward as it appears…
Finally, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
Seeing my books on the shelf at Waterstones. It’s an incredible feeling seeing a book that you’ve written sandwiched between John Steinbeck and Robert Louis Stevenson!
Thank you for being my guest Zara.
Wishing you success with all your projects.
Publisher: HarperImpulse (3 Nov. 2016)
‘Fun, flirty and fabulously festive’ Cathy Bramley
Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak!
Tucked away in the idyllic English countryside, Daisy Fischer’s cosy little cottage has always been her safe haven. But when her completely dependable boyfriend issues her an ultimatum, Daisy realises there’s a whole world out there she’s missing out on.
Florence Cortes’s life couldn’t be better – gorgeous apartment right on the beach, fabulous job and dreamy boyfriend, or so she thought. Suddenly, Flo’s life isn’t so perfect after all.
When the girls house swap for the holidays, it’s not long before Daisy is being distracted by sun, sea and sexy Javier while Flo finds herself snowbound for Christmas with only handsome neighbour Hugo and a house full of animals to keep her company.
Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas, but in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it…
What readers are saying about The Holiday Swap…
‘The perfect antidote to the winter blues…a sweet, funny and compelling tale that makes you wonder exactly what your life would be like if you just had the nerve to try and change it’ – Debbie Johnson, bestselling author of Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe
‘Humor, heartbreak and plenty of ho, ho, ho! I loved The Holiday Swap!’ Mandy Baggot
‘Warm, happy, perfect to curl up with and guaranteed to make you smile!’ Kitty Loves Books
‘Heartwarming…will make Christmas feel extra magical’ The Reading Shed
‘One of those books that you should read curled up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate’ Michelle Ryles, Top 1000 Amazon reviewer
‘The perfect holiday read’ Jane Hunt Writer Book Reviews