As we patiently await the new book in the Notting Hill series, Emily Pontin discovers more about the inner workings of Cambridgeshire author Ali McNamara.
It seemed impossible for me to be able to travel up to Cambridgeshire to talk to Ali McNamara in person, so email seemed like the best option so she could reply when she had a break from writing her new novel.
Ali was originally a fitness instructor before she turned to writing which she would never have considered as a career if she hadn’t started writing on the Ronan Keating forum back in 2010. “When I wrote my stories on the forum, I had no thought at all of becoming a full time author. It was complete chance. I definitely believe my very active imagination comes from being an only child, and this helps greatly but the Ronan Keating forum was where I first realised that people actually enjoyed the stories I was writing” Ali explains.
The author she feels most inspired her writing was Enid Blyton, “I think she most inspired me as a child. I loved her Famous Five, Secret 7 and the boarding school books which were Malory Towers and St Claire’s. I used to read all of her books growing up.”
So far Ali`s imagination has given us four best selling novels. The much loved `From Notting Hill with Love Actually` a story that follows movie lover Scarlett as she gets the chance to house sit at one of her favourite film locations, Notting Hill which Closer Magazine described as `an endearing, romantic and fun read for chic lit and romcom fans`.
“It was actually the third novel I had written, but the first that was published. I had a LOT of rejections before my literary agent, Hannah Ferguson took me on at The Marsh Agency in London, and then we had to wait another whole year before we found a publisher that was interested in the story.
Ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. I’m always getting them! I never thought about From Notting Hill with Love Actually being a series when I wrote the first one”. Ali explains. “It was just an idea I had about writing a story about a girl that loved the movies so much she wanted her life to be like one. But it was so popular that I decided to write a sequel, and now a third book will be published later this year continuing Scarlett’s tale.”
`Breakfast at Darcy’s` came next, which tells the story of Darcy McCall who inherits Tara, a small island located off the west coast of Ireland after her Aunt Molly passes away. “I was on holiday with my husband in Ireland, and we visited a remote island called Great Blasket on the West Coast. The idea came from a discussion we had about how easy/difficult it would be to live on an island such as that. Of all my books I think Breakfast at Darcy’s is the one that people have told me they love the most. I don’t know if it’s the characters or the setting, its set on a remote desert island in the west coast of Ireland that sparks peoples interest, but I would think overall that’s the book that gets the most positive reaction and that’s not just in the UK, but worldwide, it’s been a very popular book.”
A much loved sequel to `From Notting Hill with Love Actually`, `From Notting Hill to New York Actually` followed, which continued Scarlett and Sean’s tale, two characters Ali says are “Completely made up! Although I did base two characters on real people in the sequel” she admits.
Ali`s latest novel, Step Back in Time follows the character of JoJo as she gets hit by a car on a zebra crossing and goes back in time to the 70s, 80s and 90s. Where did the idea for this great book come from? “Step Back in Time was a book I think ive always wanted to write. I love time travel novels and I love time travel TV programmes and films. Ive always had a fascination with them, so I always wanted to write my own time travel story, so that’s where Step Back in Time came from. It was mainly just because I always wanted to write a time travel book really, but make it a fun book, nothing too scifi about it. It was like a normal girls love story but set through four different decades.”
Ali lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband, two children and two dogs. Living in such a beautiful city such as Cambridge, has Ali ever considered setting a novel here? “Yeah I would love to set a book here, if a story came up that was suitable to be set here then id love to. It would mean a lot less research that I usually have to do for my books if I set one where I live so that would be fab if I could do that in the future.”
A Richard Curtis Love Affair:
`From Notting Hill to New York Actually`, the second in the From Notting Hill series ended with Sean asking Scarlett to marry him in their flat in Notting Hill. But what’s next in store for the couple when the third book in the From Notting Hill series, From Notting Hill with Four Weddings Actually is released at the end of this year? “It’s partly set in London, partly in New York. There are some characters you’ll know from the previous books and some new ones too. I’ve also written my most evil character ever, which was great fun. Although Scarlett doesn’t think so! I wanted the third book in the Notting Hill series to show Scarlett growing up a little bit. She’s still that fun person that enjoys films and daydreams her life but I wanted her to realise a bit more about the reality and the world and understand a bit more about of what goes on behind the scenes in the media industry. In this book there’s lots of fun and she still gets up to a lot of mischief, as she always does, but there’s a slightly more serious tone and I think Scarlett wakes up a bit to the world in this book”
So what’s next after From Notting Hill… with Four Weddings Actually? “I’m just starting to write my next book for 2015. This story is set in Cornwall, and has a big mystery to solve, to mix in with the usual rom-com theme.”