English author Alison Bond’s latest novel A Reluctant Cinderella is about a woman working in the male-dominated environment of sports agents. Bond has worked as an entertainment agent, including a stint at ICM. Her first novels, How to be Famous and The Truth About Ruby Valentine, were both set in the entertainment industry. (Interview by Angela Smith)Interviewee A to Z
Can you tell us about your novel A Reluctant Cinderella?
It’s a page-turner and a romance all wrapped up in one handy package. The heroine, Samantha, is outwardly a hugely successful woman but secretly she feels like a massive fraud. When her life is sabotaged she has to figure out who loves her and who hates her.
What inspired you to start writing?
I just love reading. I always thought I might try writing something one day and then (probably when I was reading Jackie Collins) I suddenly realised that was the sort of book I should, and could, write. It wasn't long after that I quit my job to make it happen.
How has your movie industry experience affected your writing?
Working in the film industry makes you see how messy everything gets behind the scenes. I was dealing with a lot of big personalities and some days it felt like having a hundred deeply neurotic friends all asking for your advice. Also I was, and still am, fascinated by the business part of the film business. Everything is ultimately driven by money and that can be very dangerous.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel?
I think being able to minimise the gap between what is in your head and what you write on the page is the most challenging part. When you start out you think it's going to be so easy because what is in your head is so vivid and exciting, then you try and put that into words and you realise how efficient the mind is at filling in the holes in your amazing idea. You need to set realistic expectations and then you can surpass them.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
That's a really difficult question! Maybe dialogue. I know some people find it tricky but if I could write a whole book of smart conversation and heated debate I would find that a total pleasure.
Do you think villains are essential to a story?
Yes, although often the heroine is her own worst enemy and so becomes a villain in that sense.
What other jobs have you considered or undertaken besides writing?
I have worked in primary schools in the UK, Poland, Nepal and Mexico. I think teaching tiny children to read and write is quite something. Also I'd like to run a beach bar on the Pacific coast of Mexico. And be in a rock band.
Do you use real-life experiences to help develop your storyline and characters?
Characters, yes. And I'm of the school of thought that all plot is driven by characters and the choices they make so I would have to say yes to both.
Have you ever experienced writers block? If so, what did you do about it?
Writer's block is a funny thing. Philip Pullman said '"I don't believe in it. Why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?" I think writer's block is what happens when you haven't enough plot or you don't know your characters deeply enough. You literally don't know where you are going and so, of course, you stop. If that happens then I relax, turn on the radio, cook something, go for a walk or drink a glass of wine and think it through.
If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?
Cinderella. I’d take her by the hand, liberate her from her life of servitude, and maybe suggest some higher education or a trip abroad.
What is your favourite chick lit book?
The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank is a beautiful thing. And I could read Chances by Jackie Collins every year for the rest of my life.
If you were stranded on a desert island and only had three material things, what would they be?
A good cooking pot, a Swiss army knife and a clockwork radio.
What would you like readers to take away with them after reading your books?
Ambition and a sense of adventure.