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The Ex Factor By Eva Woods

The Ex Factor‘The Ex Factor’ is the latest book by Eva Woods.

Modern dating is hard, especially when all you meet are liars, oddballs, men who wear Superman pants and men who live with their mums. So why not date someone who already comes pre-approved? Just because your friend’s ex wasn’t right for her doesn’t mean that he won’t be right for you. That’s Marnie’s new plan for herself and her three best friends, perennially single Helen, recently divorced Rosa and cynical lawyer Ani. Through bad dates and good, the four friends begin to realise that there are advantages to dating pre-screened men…but there can be some serious pitfalls to falling for your friend’s ex.

‘The Ex Factor’ is seen from the perspective of four best friends, Helen, Marnie, Ani and Rosa who have all given up on love. Helen is busy working on her unique dating website, which is aimed for people in relationships, Rosa is trying to get over the heartbreak off her husband going off with the work intern and has to see him everyday at work, whilst Ani, is a divorce lawyer and is unable to get past a second date meanwhile Marnie has returned from years of travelling, full of mystery and intrigue, her friends are dying to hear about her exciting life, but it seems that life is far from glamorous for Marnie, but she’s not letting anyone know about what really happened.

Right from the start, this story was fun, based in London, the four friends are reminiscent of the ladies from ‘Sex And The City’, their fun loving, adventurous, enjoy cocktails and most of all they are looking for their Prince Charming. The concept of sharing exes from their past does make for interesting reading and I found myself wondering how this would effect their friendship, as they all enjoy dates with past partners as they wondered if these exes could potentially be the ones who got away.

The mixture of characters, personalities and fun situations all make for light hearted and entertaining ladies. Each character was unique and relatable with their own issues and I found myself warming to each of them. I loved Helen, a quiet character, she’s content with her quiet life involving routines and spending time with her cat, Mr Fluffypants, but when her old flame from her past reappears, she finds herself struggling with the project even when she meets IT consultant Karl, a man who is helping with her website that is forever being hacked. I particularly loved Rosa, I found myself sympathising with her as she is suddenly thrown into the world of singles, having adjusted to married life and content in finding her happy ever after, it falls apart when her David has an affair. She’s a sweet character, who has to write about the dating project much to bemusement of her handsome boss Jason and bitchy Suzanne. She’s constantly found in ridiculous dramas and is a bit like the Bridget Jones character of the story. Ani is the more sensible and serious of the group, coming from an Indian background, she feels the pressure of being single and throws herself into her job, whilst the instigator of the project, Marnie is quite a mysterious character, her life is far from perfect but she refuses to divulge about her life and where she has been from the past couple of years much to the frustration of her friends.

I really enjoyed this story, I thought it was a fun and refreshing book with plenty of witty one liners and funny situations that made for refreshing reading. A story about friendships and starting over ‘The Ex Factor’ is a great introduction to a new author.

You can buy The Ex Factor from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Ali Harris

Ali HarrisAli Harris grew up in Norfolk and was a book and magazine-addicted musical theatre geek. When she was eighteen, she moved to London where she studied performing arts whilst working as a waitress. Inspired by authors such as Helen Fielding and Lisa Jewell, Ali found herself writing in her spare time. Six months later, she sent three chapters to ten agents and got nine rejections plus a flicker of interest from the tenth. Giving up the waitressing, she began to her dream career as a journalist at Company, Ali then went onto write at Cosmopolitan and ELLE whilst trying to write her book, but the writing bug persisted and within months of marrying and having her first baby, Ali’s first book ‘Miracle On Regent Street’ came out in October 2011, followed by ‘The First Last Kiss’ in January 2013 and now her third novel ‘Written In The Stars’ is now in the shops

  1. Your new book is called ‘Written In The Stars’, can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired you to write it?
    It’s the story of Bea Bishop, a woman who has been paralysed with fear for years, not making any decisions for herself, instead piggy-backing along her life path with the help of her family, friends and boyfriend of seven years, Adam. We first meet her on her wedding day when she is waiting outside the church and is about to walk down the aisle to marry Adam. She knows she loves him – everyone believes they’re the perfect match – but still, she isn’t entirely sure that she’s doing the right thing. But, she pushes away her concerns and tells herself everyone feels nervous on their big day. When the wedding march begins, she takes a deep breath and walks towards Adam and what she hopes is the happy ending she is desperate for. Suddenly she spots her ex boyfriend, Kieran, in the congregation and the shock of seeing him makes her slip and fall over and she is knocked unconscious. At this point in the story Bea’s entire world (and the story) splits and we see her make two entirely different decisions. In one story, she gets up, brushes herself down and marries Adam, determined to focus only on her new life as Bea Hudson. In the other, Bea Bishop (as she remains) runs out of the church and sets about facing up her past, something she knows she has to do in order to completely move on. We see each story, each path, each version of her life played out in parallel throughout the course of a year. But do the end up in different places? And which one will give Bea the happy ending she longs for?

    I was inspired to write this book by the idea that in this day and age, with social network playing such a big part in our lives, it is pretty impossible to completely let go of our pasts. Through Facebook we are given us daily, sometimes hourly reminders of what our life could be like by connecting us with ex colleagues, old boyfriends and school friends. That’s why I decided to use Facebook status updates as the device by which we know which story we are following. Bea Hudson for the married version, Bea Bishop for the single. I was particularly interested to explore whether the choices we make have a big impact on our futures, or if they are already… ‘Written in the Stars’ (see what I did there!)

  2. To the readers of the website, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    Oh that’s hard. Ok, so I once dreamed of being an actress and did a degree in Performing Arts (which means I basically have a 2:1 in Jazz Hands) I’m a magazine journalist who has written for ‘Glamour’, ‘Marie Claire’, ‘Cosmo’, ‘Red’, ‘Compan’y, ‘Stylist’… all the greats, basically. I have singing tourettes when interviewing celebrities, which is painfully embarrassing for all involved. I’m a die-hard romantic and a total technophobe. I love musicals. I have seen Barry Manilow in concert more times than I care to mention. I have a husband, two small children and a ridiculous pet house rabbit called Miss Lulu Lop Ears who thinks she’s a dog. I have over active tear ducts. I love a statement ring and have a weakness for Marc Jacobs handbags.

    As for my writing I think particularly since the success of my last novel ‘The First Last Kiss’, I have come to be known as an author who writes highly emotional, thought-provoking and heart-breaking books that may have helped to keep Kleenex in business for the past few months! That’s what people tell me, anyway!

  3. What authors do you admire?
    So many! J.K Rowling, just because she’s a legend and I cannot imagine carrying that enormous, perfectly layered and plotted and story, that carefully drawn and brilliantly imagined world, the entire history and characters inside her head for so long. I admire Helen Fielding for single-handedly paving the way for so many women writers to write about modern women with humour and heart in a genre that still sells millions of copies. I love Jennifer Weiner as she’s one of the many female authors who inspired me to start writing. She writes humour and pathos and deep emotion so brilliantly – and she also is famously championing that contemporary women’s fiction should be taking more seriously. Also, on a more personal level, I am in awe of my friend Paige Toon because she writes brilliant books and characters that come to life seemingly effortlessly whilst I appear to go through torture and a much slower and more painful process to get to the same place. I am inspired to get to her level of confidence, certainty and turnover!
  4. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    Oh it’s hard – too hard! There are so many for a multitude of different reasons. I adored ‘Labyrinth’ by Kate Mosse when I read it a few years ago and it’s one of the only books that I long to read again. If only I had more time…
  5. What do you find the hardest in the writing process?
    You know in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ when Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry talk about ‘soggy bottoms’. Well, I often fall prey to a flabby middle in my books. It is usually at the half way mark that I start sinking a little, panicking that the story is not going where I want it to, that my characters aren’t coming to life enough, that I’m not making the right decisions for them. At this point I have been known to chuck 40,000 words away and start again. Or at least I have to stop, regroup, change a few things and then try and push on till the end. I am happiest when I’ve finished the first draft and I LOVE the editing process. It’s such a relief knowing that someone else is going to read it and have some input so I’m not carrying it on my own anymore. I also tend to rewrite a lot off my own back at this point (much to my editor’s dismay I think!) I just suddenly get these lightbulb moments once the story is out of my head that make me understand my characters so much more. I love going back and colouring in the characters, creating more light and shade. I just find I have so much more perspective at this point.
  6. What book did you read, that made you decide to become an author?
    I have always written for my own amusement but reading ‘Ralph’s Party’ by Lisa Jewell made me realise this was what I wanted to do for a living. Prior to this brilliant debut, I hadn’t read anything that resonated with me so much. As someone who had always loved to read and write it definitely made me think I want, no – I need to do this as a career. I loved Lisa’s writing style (she is still one of my favourite authors today) and I completely engaged and related to the complicated lives of Jem, Ralph and co who were struggling to find their place in the world. Something I very much related to in my early 20s. I guess this idea continues to inspire me now particularly with Written in the Stars, this idea that all of us have moments when we wonder if we’re making the right decisions, choosing the right careers, the right partners, living our life in the best possible way. That it isn’t always smooth sailing and happy ever afters.
  7. If you were starting your writing journey again, is there anything you would do differently?
    I don’t think so. For a while I wished it hadn’t taken me quite so long (ten years!) to be published. But then, I had a fantastic career in magazines prior to becoming an author and I wouldn’t change that for a second. I also don’t think I was really ready before. As you can tell, I’m not a big believer in regrets!
  8. What’s been your proudest writing moment?
    Definitely publication day for ‘Miracle on Regent Street’. It’s such a cliché but it really was a dream come true. My publishers had organized for a taxi to drive down Regent Street with me in it – and my book cover was emblazoned on the side. I kind of got mobbed in the street when I got out (mainly because my publishers were giving away free books – but still…) It was the moment I felt that finally, after years of false starts and lots of hard work and rejections, my dream had come true.
  9. What tips or advice would you offer an aspiring writer?
    To have utter faith and confidence in yourself. You will need it to cope with the endless rejections. If you are lucky enough to be published quickly then you will also need this same self-assurance to not take bad reviews to heart. Also, it is so important to enjoy what you do and to write a book that you love and you could only do that if you believe in what you are writing. If you do if for more cynical reasons (money – ha! Fame – double ha!) not only will agents/publishers see through it – you will also be sorely disappointed because (apart from a very small percentage of authors) there is not much of either in this business. You have to not just want to do it, but need to do it. I would also say that you have to write often. If you treat it as an occasional hobby, that’s all it’ll ever be. It took me years to get a book deal because I let life get in the way, I threw myself into my career and social life, fell in love, got engaged, then married, renovated a house, wrote a few chapter here and there, when I had time, or thought that the ‘muse’ might strike. It took me getting pregnant and telling myself it was my final deadline to really sit down and take it seriously. A year later I had an agent. And another year later, I got my book deal.

    The last piece of advice – and the one thing I always say to aspiring writers is to remember that all it takes is one ‘yes’. That and the determination to never give up.

  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one thing you always need beside you?
    A latte. And a tidy desk. I’m the freak that finds it impossible to be creative unless everything is tidy! Yes, it is an avoidance technique…. That’s why I have a writing shed – so I can ignore the chaos in my house!
  11. If you were stranded on a desert, what three books would you bring with you to occupy your time?
    Ooh that’s so hard. I’d say really, really thick ones so that I wouldn’t run out of reading material too quickly. Let’s say ‘War and Peace’, because I will never read it otherwise. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy… (published in one enormous tome! Is that cheating?) because I never finished it as a child. My parents brought me it as one book and it was so heavy and that my 10 year old self could barely pick it up let alone lug it around! And last but not least I’d definitely take a book about Surviving on a desert island!
  12. And finally Ali, do you have any new projects coming up on the horizon?
    I’m currently writing my fourth novel which I am super excited about as it is set on Broadway, both in present day and in 1955 during the golden era of musicals. So not only am I getting to geek out and doing lots of incredible research (me to husband: ‘I really MUST go to New York on my own for a week and see lots of shows”) but I am also indulging my love of history in an era that I am completely fascinated by. Heaven!

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