One of our favourite things to do on night in is curl up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and good book. That’s why we are so excited to share with you our conversation with Giovanna Fletcher about her latest book Walking on Sunshine. Telling us everything from the inspiration behind this heart-warming story to the ups and downs of the writing process, we loved learning more about the life of an author.
We also have a competition live on our social challenges right now, to win a signed copy of Walking on Sunshine, alongside Giovanna’s previous books, including Dream a Little Dream, Some Kind of Wonderful and Billy and Me and a Monsoon voucher. Visit our Facebook page to enter.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work? How would you describe yourself as an author?
Well! I’m an author, podcaster, mum, wife, actress – so generally quite busy! But it is lovely to keep life so varied. A lot of those different elements of my work come back to one central thing, though, which is storytelling. As an author, I would say I write ‘commercial women’s fiction’, but that is just a label. I love telling stories about people and relationships. And if I make a reader cry – job done!
Can you give us a little introduction to your latest book?
The idea for this book came to me around four years ago, but then various other books (oh, and baby Max) meant I wasn’t actually able to sit down to write it until now. And, actually, I am so pleased about that – I feel like it was the right time for me to write the book, and these characters, and get to the heart of their story. It follows three friends, Mike, Vicky, and Zaza, who are all going through big changes in their lives, not least the loss of their dear friend Pia – Mike’s partner – who recently passed away from breast cancer. But though Pia’s gone, she left a plan – a list of loving instructions to help Mike and her friends come to terms with their loss. When the list sends them trekking to Peru, where high mountains and sweltering rainforests push them to the brink, all they have to guide them is their faith in Pia and in themselves.
What got you into writing and what are your favourite/least favourite things about the writing process?
I was a total bookworm growing up, and always had my nose in a book. I have such a love of storytelling and learning about different people – what makes them tick, and what they’ve experienced in life, so it has probably come as no surprise to the people who know me that I have ended up writing! I actually have TWO favourite parts of the writing process. The first is losing myself in my characters and their stories – really getting to know them and being able to let them run wild. And secondly, of course, pressing send on a final edit! My least favourite part of the process is the frustrating part in the middle – the part when nothing seems to make sense anymore. It can be hard to remind yourself of it at the time, but it always seems to work out.
What are your three essentials for a writing session?
Comfortable clothes. A nice hot coffee. And a tidy house, so I don’t get distracted feeling like I should be doing housework!
Minus your own book of course, what has been your favourite book to read this year?
I would have to say Unlost by Gail Muller – it is a non-fiction title that I have been telling EVERYONE about. And I was lucky enough to interview Gail at the Cheltenham Literature Festival earlier this year. The book is all about Gail’s adventures on the Appalachian Trail, which notably came after she’d been told she would be in wheelchair by the time she was forty. The book is so inspiring and captures all of her highs and lows as she takes on one of the toughest trails out there.
Walking on Sunshine starts with a dedication to all those who have supported CoppaFeel! – an amazing charity that raises awareness and money for those with breast cancer – and goes on to tell the story of friends and a partner who have lost someone to breast cancer. Were you inspired to tell this story based on your work with the charity?
Gosh, yes. Returning from any of the treks, I have always found myself feeling so inspired by the people I meet and the stories I hear. There is something really magical about being out in nature, away from everyday challenges. It gives people time to stop, reflect and breathe – I feel very lucky to have shared those moments and conversations with incredible groups of people.
For this book, you write from the perspective of three different characters, which – for a reader – is a great way to feel more connected to all the main characters. How hard is it to switch between these different perspectives?
I could have done it an easier way! But ultimately I wanted to step in to each of their shoes; to show that we are all coming up against different challenges and difficulties, and approach them in different ways. The important thing, though, is to vocalize thoughts and feelings. I feel that in real life, and I feel that about my characters, too. Using first-person was the best way to do this. It also meant I really got to know those people, while they occupied my imagination: I could see them, and know what they liked and disliked, how they dressed, how they took their coffee, and how they might react to different situations. I don’t know if other authors do the same, but I always find that photos really help me visualize who each characters is – Pinterest is my friend for this! I search for images of people until I think ‘That’s him! That’s Mike.’ And then I can see that person in my mind and step into their perspective.