I’m really excited that the second book in my Rainbow Beauty trilogy, Strawberry Summer, is out today.
Holding the lovely chunky finished book in my hands has got me thinking about when it was just an idea on a scrap of paper, and about the long journey that little first thought has taken.
It’s a journey that’s almost finished, as I’m just about to check over the copy-edited third book, Blueberry Wishes, so I’m just a hop, skip and some fun quiz and recipe-type endlims away from finishing the whole of Abbie’s story.
Just to fill you in, when they find themselves penniless and about to be made homeless, Abbie, her mum and sisters start a new life in a grotty flat in a strange town, still reeling with shock.
But then Abbie makes some lovely new friends (including the official Most Gorgeous Boy In The World) and comes up with the idea to start a beauty parlour in the empty shop below their flat. The book is full of family and friends’ drama, loads of business know-how, and a big helping of romance, too.
Rainbow Beauty, the beauty parlour, and what you’d imagine was the core idea of the book, was something that came out of my mouth while chatting to my editor on the phone. Before I knew it I found myself going on about the family starting a business and Abbie making all the fresh, natural products right from scratch. As she asked for more detail, I waxed lyrical about Rainbow Beauty being a place to dream and scheme about the future, and heal their hearts.
I’m not sure where that all came from - probably all embedded in my subconscious after all the happy hours I’ve spent in Lush and The Body Shop, and in front of The Apprentice – but I couldn’t wait to get started.
So then came lots of planning. Here are a few of the resources I used.
There were a lot of sample products, too, but when I came to take the pic I found I’d used them all!
The lovely male ballet dancers who work in Lush Covent Garden helped me with my research, spending ages talking me through the products and demonstrating them on me (which was extra-nice as I was extremely pregnant at the time and appreciated a bit of pampering!).
I had to cost out everything for the business, find out about permits and cosmetic testing, and best of all, invent all the Rainbow Beauty products.
I also had to gather loads of information about the town I was setting the books in, Totnes, including how long it takes to walk between each location, which supermarkets were within reach and all about the surrounding area. By the time I was calling the nearest college that offered beauty courses to find out in detail what they covered (Abbie’s sister Saff enrols) I realised I should probably stop the research and, you know, get on with making up the characters and what they do and stuff.
Luckily for me, between all the ideas that had emerged from the research and all the scribbled notes I’d amassed from bits and pieces of thinking time (during ironing, train journeys and dog-walking, mainly, in my case) I appeared to have that pretty much covered.
So then I wrote up my notes and make them into scene plans (I write in scenes rather than chapters) and worked those up. I got all my resources up on the wall in front of my desk, so there would be no excuse to wander off in search of a missing piece of information when I got writing.
Then I stopped for a bit. Three months to be precise. Just for a rest before writing the book. Oh, and to have baby Freddie and get him to sleep enough at nights so that I could function (I was so tired I remember wailing to my husband, ‘I’ve just put my toothbrush in the fridge, how am I supposed to write a novel??’).
But somehow that bit of my brain still seemed to be working so with the help of Messrs’ Twining and Cadbury I cracked on and wrote Peppermint Kiss in three months. Then came the other two books. For those I had the luxury of a little more sleep and time, though still with enough of a panic at deadline time to make me feel like I have a proper job with ‘targets’ and ‘stress’.
And now Freddie is two and a half, and the second book is out, and the third is about to go to the printers (and the e-bookers). I’m looking at my (OK, OK, slightly stalker-ish) Rainbow Beauty wall and realising it will soon be time to take it all down. But to be replaced with what?
I’m not feeling the call of the next idea yet. I’m sure I will, but for now, I’m in the middle of a busy year getting round to schools and festivals to talk about the series (all three books are out this year). I really enjoy that so much – especially when they crack out the cakes, as here at St Eddie’s in Liverpool.
When I even so much as think about writing another three long novels back to back, it feels like my brain might actually explode. But I know it will happen, or a stand-alone, or a series. I know the next idea will come calling, and I’ll stockpile the Dairy Milk and build up another whole world from a scribble on the back of an envelope. I love finding that first spark, and writing and editing, and especially meeting readers and signing their books.
I love the whole journey, and as this one isn’t over yet, I’m going to enjoy every minute I have left of it. And I wish all of you happy reading and writing too!