This week I’m joined by Chris Penhall who writes for Ruby Fiction. I asked Chris some questions so that we can get to know her …
- Why did you start writing?
I started writing because when I was a child I always wrote, scribbling little stories, or writing poems. Then for many years, it was all about writing essays for exams or writing reports and documents for work, so that storytelling element ebbed away really. But I always had this dream to be a published author, and when we moved to Portugal in the mid 1990’s and the children were at school and nursery, I finally started to put pen to paper. At last I had the time and the space in my mind to do it!
Previously I had tried to start things, but for some reason I felt it had to be perfect from the first word, so I put myself off doing anything about it. So, once I realised I just needed to actually write things down, my big, long learning curve began, and I wrote all sorts of things that needed a lot of improvement. But at least I wrote, and all the ideas I had accumulated and imagined started to be processed into tangible words.
- If you had to cast the film off your book, who would you choose?
My dream casting for the film of the book would be …
Actually, before I start – Tom Hanks if you are reading this, I’d love you to produce it, and there’s a tiny cameo role towards the end of the book that either you or Keanu Reeves could play. Just putting it out there….!
I love Lily James, so if she’s interested in playing Alice that would be great? I think when I was writing the part, I had Kylie Minogue in my head for some reason. I’d love Alice to blossom into the kind of Kylie like gorgeous creature by the end of the book. Mainly for her, but partly to annoy Adam.
When I started writing the role of Luis, I had Antonio Banderas or Javier Bardem in mind, but that was nearly ten years ago, and so I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think that now Poldark has finished Aiden Turner could pass for Portuguese/Australian. I think he’d be perfect.
- Where do you write?
I was a great fan of Sex and the City back in the day, so have occasionally attempted to write draped over my laptop whilst sitting on my bed a la Carrie Bradshaw. However, this hurts my back, so it’s a dining table, desk, kitchen table, and occasionally sofa for me. I have every intention of writing in coffee shops too, once I get myself properly organised. I do, however, have a pair of sandals with feathers on should I wish to continue the Sex and the City theme.
- What gives you inspiration for a story?
My inspirations for stories come from everywhere. I’m very visual, so sometimes it will come from a place I’ve been to that leaves an imprint on my mind. It could come from overheard words, a news story, things that have happened to me that trigger an idea, or even a song.
Basically, my ideas come from everywhere, and once I’ve got a theme for a story, they ping into my brain, and get incorporated into the writing. My inspiration for The House That Alice Built came from my experience of living in Portugal and the way my outlook changed when I lived there.
- If you had to give a piece of advice to a wannabe author, what would it be?
My advice to anyone who wants to be an author would be to get things written down in the first instance and not worry about the quality – once you’ve got something onto the page you have something to work on, or something to throw away, but at least you’ve started to get the words out. I did an online course to help me along, and then I got a mentor, too, but if that’s not possible, there are lots of online groups and forums full of people who love writing. Or you could join a local writing group. Being around other people who love to read books and write make you feel less isolated in your dreams and can push you along a bit.
- What can we expect from you next?
I wrote The House That Alice Built as an individual book with no thought of writing a sequel. However, now the book is out there, I think that I want to know what happens to Alice next. Life never runs smoothly does it, and there are many bumps in the road to happiness, so I’m working on a sequel. It also gives me yet another excuse to head to Portugal. Research you know….
Thank you, Chris. It’s lovely to find out more about you. Mx
About Chris Penhall
Chris Penhall is the winner of the Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition 2019, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. She is a freelance writer, radio producer, and occasional broadcaster for BBC Essex, as well as an Associate Producer for the Richard and Judy Book Club podcast.
Born in South Wales, she has also lived near London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! She is now working on her second.
A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.
To keep in touch with Chris you can use the following links
About The House That Alice Built
Home is where the heart is …
Alice Dorothy Matthews is sensible. Whilst her best friend Kathy is living it up in Portugal and her insufferable ex Adam is travelling the world, Alice is working hard to pay for the beloved London house she has put her heart and soul into renovating.
But then a postcard from Buenos Aires turns Alice’s life upside down. One very unsensible decision later and she is in Cascais, Portugal, and so begins her lesson in ‘going with the flow’; a lesson that sees her cat-sitting, paddle boarding, dancing on top of bars and rediscovering her artistic talents.
But perhaps the most important part of the lesson for Alice is that you don’t always need a house to be at home.
You can get all the links to buying the e-book or audio by visiting www.chrispenhall.co.uk
Or the Ruby Fiction website: https://www.rubyfiction.com/dd-product/the-house-that-alice-built/