Ali McNamara has just released her second novel Breakfast at Darcy’s. She is working on the sequel to From Notting Hill With Love … Actually. You can find out more at her website. She lives in Cambridgeshire, England, with her husband and two children. (Interview by Angela Smith)Interviewee A to Z
Tell us about your new novel Breakfast at Darcy’s.
Breakfast at Darcy’s is about a girl called Darcy who finds out at a funeral she’s the sole beneficiary of her aunt’s wealthy estate. But the terms of her aunt’s will state before Darcy can inherit any of her money she must go and live on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland for a whole year, and set up a new community of people to live there with her. Being a city girl, Darcy doesn’t find the switch from high-heeled boots to wellington boots an easy one, or for that matter any of the other many changes that the island of Tara has in store for her…
Where did you get the inspiration for the main characters and setting?
I got the idea when I was on a touring holiday of Ireland and my husband and myself were parked up one day overlooking the island of Great Blasket in County Kerry. When my initial spark of an idea began to turn into a plot for a fully formed novel, we later went over and visited the island with our children so I could do some proper research. My island of Tara is based very heavily based on what I found on that trip and on Great Blasket’s own history. The characters come from my own imagination!
Your novels have been based in Notting Hill and Ireland. Were these places you travelled to?
Yes, all my novels have been written about places I’ve visited, including my next one which is set in New York! It definitely helps if you’ve been to the place you’re writing about, not only for descriptions, but to inspire ideas that might not have come to you otherwise!
Which character did you have the easiest time writing?
All my characters seem like real people to me, so I don’t really struggle with writing any of them.
Which character is most/least like you?
Scarlett - From Notting Hill with Love … Actually is most like me. I’m a dreamer for sure! Least: Dermot - Breakfast at Darcy’s, he has far too much technical knowledge, and is far too practical to be like me!
Do you base any of your novels on real people/events?
Yes, my next novel I’m working on right now has a couple of characters based on real people I met and some of the things that happened to me when I went on a research trip to New York this year. But I’m not saying who or what!!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I used to be a fitness instructor so I still try and keep as active as possible when I’m not writing, exercise helps keeps me sane!
If you had to stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would you take?
Apart from the obvious like food and fresh water … A Kindle filled with books; my Macbook with the internet (I could cheat and have photos on here too!) and my hairbrush!
Which fictional character would you most like to have dinner with?
Sean – From Notting Hill with Love ... Actually is pretty special. But then so is Oscar ;-)
Do you think every novel needs a villain?
No but it needs a villain in the form of a conflict of some kind to give the main character some problems, or there’s no story.
What's next for you?
A sequel to From Notting Hill with Love … Actually due out in 2012! All I can tell you is Scarlett gets to go a bit further afield this time when she gets to visit New York… I went there this year on a research trip and had a whale of a time. But Scarlett’s is even better… ;-)
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! It took me over four years to get my first book published and many, many rejections in the meantime. If writing is what you really want to do, keep going. One day someone will love your work as much as you do and that’s the right person to work with you into turning your story into a novel…