Wednesday, May 1, 2013

CLP Blog Tours: Transplanting Holly Oakwood by Di Jones


Follow the tour HERE



ONE

Holly sat in the middle of a privet hedge outside her best friend’s apartment, planning her murder. She’d been there for an hour, her limbs bent like paperclips. She rubbed her arms where the hedge had scratched her and twisted to see a spider dangling beside her. Why hadn’t she worn long sleeves for heaven’s sake? She shifted, crouched back on her heels and peered up at the darkening sky. The air was dank and chilly and the smell of privet pungent in her nostrils. This vigil wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done, but she had to find out if her suspicions were correct.
A car pulled up. She sank back into the hedge, holding her breath and watching as a familiar figure crossed the road, strode down the path whistling, and let himself into the building.
Her breath came out in a rush. Her fingers tightened around the branch above her and it snapped, throwing her off balance. She rolled onto the ground and pressed her face to the grass, trying not to sob. Tom was supposed to be in New York, not here in Maida Vale.
She needed to be sure. After thirty minutes she clambered out, certain Tom wasn’t coming back. Cautiously she surveyed her surroundings, her breath whistling between her teeth. She shook out the kinks in her cramped limbs and through a haze of pain, disbelief and anger, reached the front door of the building.
What was Sonia’s security code? She knew it, of course she knew it – the exchange of security codes was as natural to their friendship as the secrets they shared. Her fingers fumbled on the cool smooth metal but eventually they remembered the pattern, and the door clicked open. She pushed it wide and stumbled into the foyer.
She couldn’t wait for the lift and ran up the stairs without pausing. Outside her friend’s door she wavered. Would her perfect life change irrevocably if she knocked? She thought of her less than happy single days before she met Tom. But she had to know, had to be sure. She raised her hand, then tapped on the door.
No answer. She knocked again.
“Who’s there?”
She opened her mouth to tell Sonia it was her, but as the words of greeting bubbled in her throat, she clenched her teeth, deciding it was better to retain the element of surprise. Her hand hovered above the polished wood of the door, then she brought her knuckles down on the unyielding surface and rapped again.
“Who’s there?”
A key scraped in the lock, the door opened, and Sonia stood in front of her. She’d never seen her friend look more beautiful. Her hair was dishevelled and her skin radiant and glowing, burnished with a fine mist of perspiration. Her eyes were soft and warm, but a split second later they widened in alarm.
“Holly.” Sonia’s fingers fluttered to her mouth, then down to the silk of her robe, which she tried to tighten around her. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“Thought I’d drop round and see what you’re up to.” She struggled to keep her voice light, but could hear the edge of panic creeping into it. “Fancy a drink at the wine bar down the road?”
Sonia leant against the door. “It’s not convenient right now.”
“I’ll only come in for a minute then.”
“No.”
Sonia’s refusal sharpened Holly’s resolve. She twisted with speed and grace, and in one fluid movement lined her shoulder to the door and threw her seventy five kilos against it. It yielded and she slid her foot behind it, levering Sonia off balance.
“Stop,” said Sonia, in a voice as sharp as new scissors. “You can’t barge in here.” Her perfume hung between them; exotic, heavy and insidious.



Finding her lover in bed with her best friend was the worst thing ever, but leaving London for Los Angeles pushed trouble to a whole new level.

Holly Oakwood’s cosy life is shattered when her boyfriend has an affair with her best friend. Determined to mend her broken heart by throwing herself into her career, but unable to hide her contempt for her new boss, she loses her job as well.

She lands a dream job in a Consulate in LA, but that’s when her troubles really begin. She struggles to settle, loneliness begins to bite, and everyone around her is thin and shallow. She loses her confidence, makes a fool of herself once too often, and her new boss hates her. Can she salvage anything from the train wreck of her new life, or should she return to England?

What ensues is a comically entertaining series of events that catapult Holly into new friendships, the promise of romance and the realization that home is where the heart is.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I was born in Liverpool, England to parents who had a strong sense of adventure and moved many times.  I’ve lived in Canada, the United States, England and New Zealand.  I’ve worked in a variety of jobs ranging from envelope stuffer to bakery assistant, librarian to trade development executive, but none of my jobs were as much fun as the one that allowed me to write and get paid for it.  That was a few years ago, and each year it’s become more and more apparent what I want to do is write full time, a dream that first occurred to me at seventeen.

I write chick lit – light hearted and humorous stories for and about women who value their families, their friendships, their careers, their independence, who have a sense of adventure, and who live and love with passion.

Like my characters, I love my family and friends, beautiful shoes, anything sparkly, the ‘occasional’ drink, parties, and a good belly laugh.  I’m addicted to shopping, chocolate, bubble bath and anything else that smells nice, and the sort of tv programmes you’d never publicly admit to watching.

I live in a lovingly renovated home overlooking Auckland’s beautiful Waitemata Harbour, with my trusted friends Bronson Boxer and Dolce Dane.  They keep me fit and exercised, scare the burglars away, sit loyally by my side throughout my late night writing sessions, and hang on my every word when I read final drafts aloud.  They truly are my biggest fans, and I theirs!

I love my life, but not so much that there’s not room to live a load of other lives, through the hearts and minds of my characters, all of whom I adore, and some of whom I’m fortunate enough to call friend.
  

My Character’s Journey
Transplanting Holly Oakwood is the story of a journey, in both a literal and figurative sense, and the figurative journey is one many of us can identify with.  Holly Oakwood is a young woman who thinks her life is all mapped out – she has a job she loves, a boyfriend who’s the center of her universe, and she knows where she’s going, or more to the point, where she’s staying.  And that’s London, the city she’s come to call home.

But Holly couldn’t be more wrong.  Life is about to change, and in a way she never anticipated.  Her boyfriend cheats on her - with her best friend - and she’s devastated to lose two of the most important people in her life.  Holly decides to focus on her career to get her through the pain and grief of her betrayal.  When she loses her job as well, she feels her whole life is crashing down around her.  But she’s presented with a chance to start all over again, somewhere new.  Holly seizes the opportunity and flies off to a new life in Los Angeles, despite the fact she’s never wanted to live there.  How many of us, faced with a broken love affair, have wished we could do the same thing and run off to a new life, leaving our errant lovers behind us?

Holly doesn’t think deeply about why she’s going - she’s swept up in the excitement of it, and hoping her ex will miss her and come to his senses.  The whole thing seems like a big adventure, but what she doesn’t count on is the fact that we can’t run away from the reality inside our head.  It follows us wherever we go, and in Holly’s case that reality is misery.

So Holly arrives in Los Angeles lonely and bereft, desperately missing her old life at home.  Despite the fact she’s in one of the most exciting cities in the world, something about LA pushes Holly’s insecurities to a new level.

What’s she insecure about?  Well, she’s ordinary, overweight, a bit of a klutz, and not in the slightest bit sophisticated.  In London, loved by Tom, these issues didn’t matter, but in the States they seem magnified, and Holly struggles as an awkward and disaster-prone newcomer.

Her job, the lynchpin of her new life, is complex and her new boss is harsh and critical – of Holly’s work, and her appearance.

Friendships offer Holly’s salvation.  She meets Charlie and Tessa who, like her, have transplanted themselves to LA to seek out new lives.  Charlie is a London hairdresser, with an eye for the ladies, and Tessa an aspiring actress from Washington, who walks dogs to pay the bills.  These new friends help her navigate the difficulties in her new life and offer much needed support and guidance when things turn tough.

Holly learns and grows in LA, but throughout her adventures, her character doesn’t change.  She is who she is – the slightly dim, loveable character we started our journey with.  What she does gain however is insight – into herself, and into those around her.  She learns to accept who she is, embrace her weaknesses, and importantly, she learns to make better choices for herself.

Holly’s journey started in a dank and chilly London and ended in the warm sun and blue skies of Santa Monica.  In parallel, her inner journey takes her to that sweet spot where she finds her place in the world.  She journeys from sadness, grief and loneliness to the security of loyal friendships, the promise of new love, and the realization that home is where the heart is.




Q.  What inspires your writing?
A:  In short, what inspires my writing is the need to appeal to others on an emotional level.  We all have common joys and fears, likes and dislikes and the desire to connect with each other.  Writing enables me to do this but with people I don’t get to meet, and that’s a privilege.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an author?
A:  The ability to be able to live in a parallel world to my own, for the period of time I’m writing the book.  There are so many choices in life, so many paths you can take, and by writing, I get to experience someone else’s life as well as my own.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an author?
A:  Having to come home from my day job, and start work all over again.  You do have to sacrifice quite a bit of leisure time when you write, but I love it, so you won’t find me complaining.

Q.  If you could not be author, what would you do/be?
A:  I’ve love to be an interior designer.  I’m passionate about colour, texture, furniture, and houses, so to be able to bring that all together and get paid for it would be fantastic.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?
A:  Living Many Li(v)es:  The Exaggerated Adventures of an Ordinary Person

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A:  That’s a hard one, but it’s definitely one of the Narnia titles by C.S. Lewis, who I was addicted to as a kid, and still read even now.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy are two I particularly love from this series.   When I was a kid I wanted to live in these worlds, and spent way too much time looking for a way into them.  The books are beautifully written and their messages and themes remain relevant.

Q.  Which part of your book(s) was the easiest to write?
A:  The first chapter of Transplanting Holly Oakwood, where Holly finds her boyfriend was cheating on her, was easy to write because I’ve been in that situation, so I knew the emotions Holly would be experiencing.   That’s one of the things I love about writing – being able to draw on your own emotions in order to shape and breathe life into a character.

Q.  Which part of your book(s) was the hardest to write?
A:  The entire middle of the book was hard to write, probably because it was my first.  I knew Holly was going to leave London, and I knew she was going to fall in love with Guy, but what I couldn’t figure out, was how she was going to get there.  I can’t tell you how many drafts this novel went through.  Once I had the idea of the car accident, which incidentally a friend suggested to me, everything fell into place.

Q.  Which character from any book are you most like?
A:  Definitely Holly, in fact I’d go so far as to say she’s my alter ego.  When I started writing my second book, Meeting Miss Mollie, I was scared I didn’t have another book in me because I wasn’t actually sure I could get into someone else’s head, but I think that’s something a lot of first time authors experience.

Q.  What is your favorite season?
A:  I love the summer and especially living in Auckland, New Zealand.  The lifestyle is very relaxed here, and what I love most about the summer are the beaches, the BBQs, and the long, lazy weekends when the sun is hot and the sea is cool.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book(s).
A:  Hmm, that’s a hard one, because this is my first book tour…can I get back to you when something funny happens?

Q.  Are you working on something new?
A:  Yes, I’m working on my third novel, which is called Taking the Lead:  Adventures of a Hollywood Dog Walker.  This book is the prequel to Transplanting Holly Oakwood, and is a about Holly’s flatmate in Los Angeles, Tessa.  Here’s a brief blurb:

Tessa Taylor leaves her home in Washington DC to pursue her dream of becoming an actress.   But Tinseltown is tough, and the road to stardom isn’t as straightforward as she hopes it will be. Tessa has to compromise to make ends meet as she pursues the dream, and work is hard to come by in Hollywood.  She tries one job after another, and they all end in disaster.  Until one day she finds the perfect job – and the perfect group of new friends.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A:  Yes, for sure.  What I’d like to say to you all is make sure you live your dream, or at least work towards it.  We all get bogged down by the day to day stuff we have to do and it’s easy to forget our dreams.  Keep hold of them, and do something each day to take you closer to achieving them.  There’s a saying I love:  It’s better to travel hopefully than arrive.  Not sure it’s exactly true, but the sentiment is sound.  Have a passion, and live with optimism.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind your book cover(s)?
A:  I’d love to tell you about my book covers, because I love them so much.  The cover for Transplanting Holly Oakwood was designed by the incredibly talented Ami Smithson of Cabin London, who is the sister of a very close friend of mine.  I met Ami when she was on holiday in New Zealand and I didn’t realize she designed book covers – I just knew she was a graphic designer.  When I started writing and needed a book cover, her sister said “Why don’t you use Ami?”  I went on to Ami’s website, which is where I saw another cover that I fell in love with, and I said to Ami, “I want something similar to that, but with a skyline of London and LA in it.”  I just loved what Ami came up with and she has been a very important part of my branding, with all my covers having a very consistent look and feel.  Ami also did the graphics for my website, and has already designed the cover for my new book, Taking the Lead: Adventures of a Hollywood Dog Walker.  It’s my favorite cover to date.






  
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