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Virtual Book Club: Pam Francis introduces Someone Like Me

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Pam Francis to Virtual Book Club, my interview series which gives authors the opportunity to pitch their novels to your book club.

Pam is a journalist who writes for national newspapers and magazines. After many years of interviewing some of the biggest names in showbiz, she thought it was about time she wrote a novel set in the world of celebrity, using her experience as research.

Always a keen reader, especially of romances, it has taken until the age of 66 for her to believe she has the ability to write a novel.

A mother to two grown-up children, and a four-year-old granddaughter, Pam lives in Bedfordshire with her partner Mike and cat Saffy. Feeling that missed out by not going to university she did a Masters Degree in Screenwriting at the age of 55. Her other passion apart from writing is singing in Rock Choir for enjoyment and to raise money for charity. She still interviews celebrities for magazines and finds them as fascinating as she always did.

‘A slickly-written first novel which romps along with a clever plot, well-drawn characters and a satisfying conclusion. If you love romantic fiction and rom-com movies, this is the perfect book to take on your travels.’  

Q: Your debut novel is clocking up some great reviews, all of them 5 stars, but what is it about Someone Like Me that makes it particularly suitable for book clubs?

I was drawn to the idea that extraordinary life-changing events, like meeting and falling in love with a superstar, don’t happen to ordinary women.  Someone like you and me. It would be interesting for book club members to discuss whether or not it was believable that a relationship  like this could actually happen. And whether or not it might stand a chance of success. Celebrities are also a very big part of our lives. There is no escaping their exploits  in newspapers and magazines. Everyone tends to have a view on whether or not celebs deserve to have a private life, when they are always courting publicity. And they might also ask the question, is it fair that a young woman who has never had experience of fame, should suddenly have to deal with Twitter trolls and death threats?

Q: Please tell us how you came to be a writer.

I grew up in the East End of London, and constantly wrote stories. I knew I wanted to write and was drawn towards journalism becoming a cub reporter on a local newspaper at the age of 18. From there I worked in Fleet Street as a news reporter, and as a single mother to two young children, eventually based myself at home as a freelance showbiz writer. Although I’d tried my hand at screenplays in my fifties,  I had never even thought I was capable of writing a novel until I got the age of 65 and decided that it was now or never!

Q: Why drives you to write?

Because it’s the only thing I am good at. Also for me, it’s a way of exploring my own emotional issues. Being surrounded by characters also stops me from ever feeling lonely. But mainly because I want to entertain readers. Make them laugh, make them think, and  introduce them into a new world.

Q: Is your day job a distraction or does it add another element to your writing?

My day job as a journalist definitely adds another element to my writing. I constantly meet the most amazing people and have the privilege of listening to their life stories. Listening to them talk about their childhoods, their relationships, their joys and heartaches. It makes for brilliant material.

Pam Francis on Virtual Book Club

Q: If you were trying to describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read anything by you before, what would you say?

Being a journalist I have always had to cut out the waffle and get to the heart of the story. So I don’t waste words. Also I’ve  learned how to hook the reader in to my news stories, which I hope I’ve achieved with my novel. And humour is a huge part of my writing.

Q: Did you know where your novel was going to go right from the start?

Well, I thought I did, but guess what? Characters have a life of their own, and they won’t be pushed into something they don’t agree with. So I tend to start off with an idea of where I think it’s going, but nine times out of ten, I am totally wrong!

Q: Your protagonist is Lottie Gilbert, 39, and a chef in a vintage café. What five  words best describe her?

Ditzy redhead, dreamer, sensitive, funny.

Q: Where is the book set and how did you decide on its setting?

The book begins in a café called The Loft in a Hertfordshire town. It was inspired by a real vintage café in Berkhamstead, Herts, called Café in the Attic where I loved to have breakfast. I returned to it recently to revisit its charm. And it’s now been turned into a trendy coffee shop called…wait for it…Black Goo! (I kid you not!)

Q: What is the central conflict in your novel?

The central conflict is really between Lottie and herself as she battles to accept that she is a relationship with a married man, and the damage she is causing both to his life, his wife’s life and her own.

Q: Was the seed of your story an idea or an image? 

I am very much a visual writer. Possibly because of my screenwriting training, I tend to think of scenes in pictures. So the seed was very much Lottie and her life going nowhere in a hot sweaty kitchen in the vintage café.

Q: Do you write with an imaginary reader in mind? If so, tell as a little about that person.

Nothing imaginary about my reader. She’s my 36-year-old daughter Holly,  a celebrity TV producer, who is still looking for Mr Right. She is also my harshest critic. And she gets bored easily. So I tend to write for her.

Q: Which scene did you find the most challenging to write and why?

The scene where Lottie has to make a decision about her future with her famous lover, mainly because I didn’t know at that point which way she was going to go.

Q: ‘Without chaos, there’s very little story to tell.’ What is the source of chaos in your story?

Most of the chaos is caused by the media, and their appalling behaviour! I am, of course, a nice journalist!

Q: In her book Wired for Story Lisa Cron says, ‘We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain. It’s how we make strategic sense of the otherwise overwhelming world around us.’ In what way are you trying to make sense of the world?

I’m always trying to explore the idea of my place in the world, and whether I am special enough to deserve good things in my life. Without wishing to sound too corny, I think my ‘inner child’ has a large role to play in my writing. It’s the only time she gets to come out to play.

Q: In which ways was writing the book transformative for you?

It made me believe more in myself and to take risks. In other words it’s never too late to fulfil your dream.

Q: How does your home and its environment influence your writing?

I have the most glorious garden with a summer house. When I’m writing there, so long as the spiders give me a wide berth,  I can make believe I’m this famous author.

Pam Francis for Virtual Book Club

Q: Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer? 

The question that keeps me writing is if I could run away from this life and live another, would I be any happier?

Q: When suffering from writers’ block, Hemmingway would say to himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Do you have a trick to get writing again?

It’s the same trick I use when I’m writing a magazine feature. I just imagine I am telling the story to a neighbour over the garden fence.

Q: Do you have a method for creating your characters’ names and what do you think makes a name believable?

Not so much their names, but what they look like. I scour the internet for photos of actors and actresses which resemble my characters. Print the picture out on my character backstory and sometimes use their first name too.

Q: What do you think the advantages of writing in the first person are?

I can totally become that character. It’s me. I can go right inside my head, and be that person.

Q: What was the first book you remember reading that transported you to another time and place?

Alice in Wonderland.

Q: Name your top five authors.

Marian Keyes, David Nicholls, Douglas Kennedy, Jane Green and Jane Austen.

Q: Which fictional character can you most relate to?

Bridget Jones. I am as scatty as she is, and have diaries and journals that go back to the age of 12.

Q: Which book/s are on your bed-side table now?

Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life.

Q: Is it true that you should never say anything interesting to an author because it’s bound to end up in print?

Yes, especially if you’re a celebrity!

Want to know more about Pam and her writing?

Website: pamfrancis.co.uk

Pam’s Amazon Author Page

Buy Link

Twitter: @pammiefrancis

Facebook: Pam Francis Writer

Remember, if you enjoyed this post please share it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Pam please leave a comment.  

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