A self-confessed reading addict, Ella Allbright writes commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset. Her first novel in this genre, ‘The Last Charm’, was published in August 2020 by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins and is released in paperback today. Ella also writes as Nikki Moore, the author of the popular #LoveLondon romance series. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart, and in 2018 the collection was released in Italy. Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the bestselling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply. Her debut romance Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015.
- To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
I’ve always been an avid reader. I love the chance to be entertained, to escape, to live in other worlds and experience other people’s lives. Growing up, reading naturally led to writing and I wrote fairly dark short stories when I was doing my English GCSE. Luckily, my English teacher told me I was talented and gave me encouragement to keep writing. A few years later, I wrote my first category romance aimed at Mills & Boon and that manuscript got as far as an acquisition meeting (I didn’t realise that was actually very good for a first book plucked off the slush pile!) Another romance imprint showed interest in my second book, but I ended up putting writing aside while I gained HR qualifications, built a HR career and had children.
In 2010, following a serious illness, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a published author and started writing again, first entering short story competitions (and to my surprise being placed as a finalist several times) before writing a romance that later became my debut novel as Nikki Moore – ‘Crazy, Undercover, Love’. Joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I went through their New Writers Scheme – where your manuscript is reviewed as part of your membership – for four years, before being offered a four-work contract by HarperImpulse, a digital first romance imprint of HarperCollins. Six years later, I’ve had three short stories, five novellas and three novels published, and my next book is with my agent for feedback. I consider myself very lucky, but still have much bigger dreams, for instance to see ‘The Last Charm’ turned into a film.
- Tell us about your new book called ‘The Last Charm’.
‘The Last Charm’ is an epic love story set in beautiful Dorset, based around the charms on Leila’s very special bracelet. Jake and Leila meet as young teens, and over the following fifteen years move in and out of each other’s lives. At heart, this book is about love, loss and hope – themes I felt it important to write about, and could relate to. Reviews have been amazing, and it’s been compared to ‘Me Before You’, ‘Normal People’, ‘One Day in December’ and ‘The Notebook’; all books I’m very happy to be linked with.
- Why did you decide to write female fiction?
This is an interesting one, because even though ‘The Last Charm’ is marketed as commercial women’s fiction, I think the themes are universal enough to relate to everyone, regardless of how they identify. I also have some male readers, as I had with my Nikki Moore books. While being savvy enough to write for the market, I’ve not made a conscious decision to aim my books at certain people – I simply write stories I’m passionate about, believe in, that I hope might touch others and whose characters are talking to me. I do have ideas for a couple of psychological thrillers, so we’ll see who my readers end up being if those get written and published!
- If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
This is such a good question. I have so many favourite authors, and am lucky enough to know some of them or to have connected with them over social media. My book club would be composed of a mixture of authors writing psychological thrillers, police procedurals, romance and general fiction. As a starting point – Miranda Dickinson, Kim Nash, Lisa Jewell, Angie Marsons, Adele Parks, Catherine Isaac/Jane Costello, Jenny Colgan, Sue Moorcroft (who is also my aunt), Jules Wake, Catherine Miller… the list is endless – it would be a very large book club!
- If the story of Leila and Jake were brought to screen, who can imagine playing the characters?
I find this easy to answer for Leila: Emilia Clarke. She has such an expressive face, is adorable and also looked amazing with long silvery blonde hair – which Leila has – when she was in ‘Game of Thrones’. I find it much harder to cast Jake because I think of him as so unique, and I’ve not been able to think of someone who would absolutely fit the bill. In different Facebook Lives etc Tom Burke, Tom Ellis and Jonathan Rhys Meyers have all been discussed. Noah Centineo from ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ might make a good teenage Jake, if he could do a British accent.
- Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
Funnily enough no, even though there were times I was offered contracts and turned them down, meaning I could have ultimately been published much sooner. But I had to do what felt right at the time, and I stand by those decisions because I’m one of those people who puts little stock in having regrets. Every experience teaches us something, so I’m glad my writing journey has been what it was. Despite being published for the last seven years, I still feel that I have a lot to learn – luckily I’m a natural student (I read a lot and have lots of notebooks to take notes in!)
- What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
I actually love every part of the writing process – from coming up with the initial ideas, characters and plot; to storyboarding a book out on a long piece of poster paper that goes up on my writing room wall; to carving out the first draft, and then on to all the endless rounds of edits – which I see as opportunities to polish stories until they shine. I must admit that with every novel I write, I get to a point about 40,000 words in where it feels like a real slog and I convince myself what I’ve written is a pile of rubbish, but I’ve found over the years that I just have to push through those feelings and keep going until the story is finished. A bit like running a marathon!
- What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
This is so hard as I’ve read so many books and have lots of favourites. If I absolutely had to pick one, it would be from ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ by the Brothers Grimm… ‘Once Upon a Time…’ It’s a magical line to start to any story, rich with endless possibilities.
- If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
Another really tough question! ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig, ‘Remember Me’ by Christopher Pike (my favourite book as a teenager), and ‘Me Before You’ by JoJo Moyes.
- What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
There are so many things I can think of, but really I think it comes down to understanding the nuts and bolts of what makes a great story in the genre you’ve chosen to write in. For me a lot of this comes from reading widely in that genre, and understanding what makes each book good, spectacular or poor, and then choosing what learning to take from that.
- When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
Something visual for inspiration which relates to the story I’m writing. The storyboard I mentioned is covered in post-it notes setting out the plot and notes about characters, but will also include film and song titles along with pictures of the book’s settings. It’s quite usual to find me pacing up and down in front of the storyboard when I’m mid flow, checking on a plot point, looking at photos or jottings down new ideas that have come to me.
- And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
The book I’ve just handed in to my agent for reading and feedback is a story about a woman who’s lost her way and the man who helps her find it on a road trip around Italy, while searching for her father. I wrote it as a broadly escapist read – although there are some important issues in it, such as self-discovery and self-identity – as an antidote to the world we’re currently living in. I hope that readers enjoy being transported to Italy in the same way that I enjoyed being there in my head while writing it. More details to follow next year!
Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Bronagh!
If you’d like to hear my thoughts on ‘The Last Charm’, then check out my review here.