by Bronagh on September 5, 2013
Stella Newman studied English at Sussex University. She lives in London and is a freelance copywriter and keen amateur cook. ‘Leftovers’ is her second book.
- Your new book, ‘Leftovers’, is about Susie who after reading a magazine article is a ‘leftover’, a post Bridget Jones thirty something who has neither her dream job, man or job. According to her friend Rebecca, Susie needs to get over her ex, Jake and start online dating. But Susie’s got a plan, if she can make it 307 days till her promotion and bonus, she can finally quit and pursue her dream job in food. Then surely, everything else will fall into place. If only her love life wasn’t complicated. What inspired you to write this type of story?
The starting point for me was thinking about the amount of women I know in their thirties, including myself, who don’t have all the tick-boxes that magazines tell us we should have: perfect kids, perfect relationship, perfect matching underwear, ‘Elle Deco’ immaculate homes… Every time I read ‘Grazia’ or ‘Red’ I see women who bear no resemblance to anyone I know in real life, so I wanted to write a story that felt more honest about the way we live now.
- To the readers of the website, that may not familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
I always loved reading as a kid. I started studying law at university, but dropped out – then went back to university the following year and studied English – which was kind of weird, in that it temporarily destroyed the pleasure of reading for me. After graduating, I worked in advertising for 10 years, then in marketing for another 5. All that time I wanted to write, but every time I mentioned it to friends, they would point out that very few writers get rich from writing. But I knew two things – I wasn’t in it for the money. And also, if I didn’t try writing, I’d always regret it. So I eventually wrote a book, got an agent, got my manuscript rejected and got upset. After a brief huff I wrote another book. That second manuscript sold very quickly – and that was my first novel, ‘Pear-shaped’. And then I wrote ‘Leftovers’, and now I’m writing another book.
- Out of the many books that you have read over the years, which one would you have liked to have said “I wrote that”?
So many! In the last five years alone, ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey, and ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel.
- Regarding the phenomenon of “Fifty Shades of Grey “and how well it did. Some people criticised the writing and the books that followed on after the series. Do you think the standards of writing has slipped?
I haven’t read Fifty Shades so I can’t comment, other than to say that from the excerpts I have read, I’m not convinced readers are buying into mummy porn for the quality of the prose.
- What authors do you admire?
Any author who convinces you that their world is real, regardless of how outlandish that world may be – so anyone from Edith Wharton to Philip Pullman to Jeffrey Eugenides to Hilary Mantel.
- If ‘Leftovers’ was to be adapted for screen, who do you imagine would play Susie and Sam?
If it can’t be me playing Susie, and Ryan Gosling playing Sam? Then I’d say Romola Garai for Susie. She’s very warm and likeable without being Hollywood perfect, and she was terrific in The Crimson Petal and The White. For Sam, perhaps Chris O’Dowd who is good at playing grumpy but endearing.
- Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
Real life – you can’t make up some of the crazy stuff that happens right in front of you.
- Who is your favourite literary hero/heroine?
I think the heroine, Rachel, in ‘Heartburn’ by Nora Ephron – a book which was a huge influence on me when I was writing Pear-shaped. Rachel is hilarious and warm and very real – and she loves good food and a bad man – things that I could relate to. And she eventually kicks ass. From the first page you’re rooting for her.
- If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
Tough, tough question. Probably ‘War and Peace’ – I’ve never read it and I’d have plenty of free time on an island. Then for some light relief maybe ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey, as it’s very funny and I’d need cheering up. And finally a dictionary – so by the time I was rescued I’d be really, really good at spelling.
- What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
Read as broadly and as deeply as possible and try to learn from the best, and the worst, out there.
- When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
- And finally Stella, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
I’m currently working on my new book, which currently has no title. I like writing about food and flawed relationships – so there’ll be more of that in the new one. I’m also eating a lot and blogging about food.