Friday, June 7, 2013

CLP Blog Tour: Meeting Miss Mollie by Di Jones

Follow the tour HERE

She’s the Agony Aunt who has it all. Except for one small problem – her life is a disaster.

Annabelle is a hard nosed writer with a good marriage, a nice flat, a thriving career at Adorn magazine and a busy social life. She has only one ambition – to be the best known Agony Aunt in the UK.

When her world is turned upside down by her husband’s infidelity she strikes out on her own and goes flatting with a jet setting businessman. But things in her new house aren’t quite what they seem and her problems mount.

Through her ups and downs, Annabelle forges a relationship with the strangest of friends and discovers the best things in life are those she always avoided.

Meeting Miss Mollie is a story about lies, loss, loyalty, love and laughter, and will appeal to anyone who loves chicklit or romantic comedy. You’ll laugh as you read this book, and perhaps even shed a tear.

This is the second novel by author Di Jones, whose first novel Transplanting Holly Oakwood has been in the Top Ten in romantic comedy. If you enjoy Jill Mansell or Sophie Kinsella, Di is a new author you must read.

Annabelle Smithson was the best when it came to giving relationship advice.
She pushed the stack of letters into a neat pile and picked up the top one, tracing her finger over the solid bond paper. She put on her glasses, unfolded the letter and a warm light feeling spread through her chest.

Dear Annabelle,

I’m a regular reader of your column and I hope you can help me. I’m at my wits end about my relationship. I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years and despite the fact we’ve been engaged for two years, a wedding isn’t in sight. Every time I try to broach the subject and get my man to commit to a firm date we end up fighting and break up. A week or two later we’ve worked it out but then I’m back to square one again, no closer to a wedding date. This has happened several times now, and I have a feeling we’ll never get married. What should I do?

Yours Sincerely,

Annabelle read the letter again, slowly this time, then removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes and viewed the countryside flashing by through the train window. The fields were golden and green, the rapeseed swaying in the light spring breeze, and the sky was azure blue with white fluffy clouds standing out in stark relief. It was ironic that beauty and harmony were all around, while the cities were polluted and crowded with people living miserable and unhappy lives. Not that she should care too much. After all, if it wasn’t for the unhappiness, intrigue and dishonesty in people’s lives, she wouldn’t be in a job.
She was lucky. Everything was beauty and harmony in her own life. Reading the letters for her problem page week in, week out was depressing, and if she wasn’t grounded it would pull her down badly. She didn’t take anything for granted and every day she reminded herself how fortunate she was. She had a great job, a lovely flat, a fun circle of friends, and the best husband in the world.
“What’s wrong, Annabelle?” Her friend June put down the Hello magazine she was reading and offered her a Pringle. “You’re completely and utterly fed up, aren’t you?”
Annabelle was tempted by the offer of the potato chips, but shook her head. She patted her soft waistline, which had been expanding of late. “Yes. It’s this reader, M. She keeps writing to me, but there’s nothing particularly unusual or interesting about her problem.”
“What is her problem?” asked June, crunching a mouthful of Pringles, making Annabelle’s mouth water.
“Her boyfriend won’t commit to her and she wants to get married. Honestly, June, if I had a tenner for every woman who wrote to me about commitment, or more accurately the lack of it, I’d be able to retire to the south of France.”
June nodded understandingly, and Annabelle thought, not for the first time, how lucky she was to have a friend like her. Several years younger than she was, June was slim and statuesque, with gleaming black hair, clear ebony skin and liquid brown eyes. She was a fashion plate who spent every last pound of her salary on high street clobber – and she wore it with panache, as if every piece had cost a fortune.
Theirs was an unlikely friendship; the trend conscious black secretary from the East End, and the middle class white writer from Basingstoke. But they’d hit it off from the first moment they’d met, and their friendship had remained solid over the eight years they’d worked in the same company.
“I think you should answer her, especially if she keeps writing to you. She sounds desperate. I know you say there’s nothing unusual about her problem, but isn’t that the point?”
“I don’t follow what you mean.” Deep furrows formed between Annabelle’s finely arched brows.
“You can help loads of women by answering this one letter, and isn’t that what you want? You keep telling me mass appeal is critical.”
Annabelle nodded. June was right.
“If you need any more convincing, remember how your advice helped me,” said June, twisting her wedding ring. Annabelle had lived through a succession of June’s disastrous boyfriends until she’d met Eric two years ago and settled into domestic bliss. She was now mother to ten-month-old Alice, and in motherhood had found peace and contentment, which helped to calm her previous wild ways.
Annabelle smiled at her broadly and, giving in to her weak will, reached for the Pringles. “You’re right, and more importantly, if I don’t get this woman off my back, I’ll probably keep hearing from her.”
“Good point,” said June, taking the tube of chips back and popping a couple into her mouth.
With a sigh Annabelle unzipped her new Mac Airbook from its small black case and powered it up, eager to write her reply to M. June was right; this problem would be of interest to a lot of women, and the sensible thing to do was feature with this letter. She’d be able to use the problem to showcase her mental agility, not to mention her cutting sense of humour. After all, it was important for an agony aunt to entertain her readers and offer sound advice. Ask Annabelle was her life, but while she loved the column more than anything else, she’d be lying if she didn’t say she never stopped thinking about the day she’d be syndicated. Even better, perhaps she’d get a slot on TV. It happened all the time these days, like it did with Stella Smith, who’d begun her career with a small column in the Liverpool Echo and was now featuring on This Morning.
Annabelle put the Airbook on her lap and her fingers moved quickly over the keys. She bit her lower lip in concentration and a frown settled on her Botoxed brow.

Dear M,

Have you ever read the book ‘He’s just not that into you?’ It should be every girl’s bible and from what you’ve told me about your situation, it should definitely be yours. The bottom line is that engagement is easy for your man. Marriage is a real commitment and it’s obviously one he’s not ready for. You have two options; stay with him and stay engaged, perhaps forever, or leave him and find out if he does want you. If he does he’ll make a date. If he doesn’t, eventually you’ll meet someone else who will.


“Sorry, not a one. I’m addicted to them,” June said apologetically, shaking the empty tube.
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll be back shortly and I can have supper with James,” said Annabelle.
“Great idea to leave the conference early.”
“The closing speeches are always totally self-congratulatory and not at all interesting or amusing,” said Annabelle. “I’m dying to see James and it’ll be a great surprise for him.”
“You sure no one will notice we’ve left?” asked June for the third time since boarding the train.
“No, everyone will get completely smashed at the dinner and be so hung over in the morning they won’t know who stayed and who didn’t. Anyway, I don’t give a toss. I want to get home.”
“Me too,” said June. “I’m struggling being away from Alice. It’s the first time.” She laughed. “The good thing about being away is Eric appreciates me after spending two days solid with the baby.”
“Same with James. Not with a baby of course,” she added. Children weren’t part of their plans. “He’ll appreciate me even more after being by himself. Cooking isn’t exactly his forte. He’ll have been living on Marks and Spencer microwave meals.”
Twenty minutes later Annabelle and June climbed off the train and after a short cab ride Annabelle was rounding the corner from home. She took her lippy out of her bag and applied it carefully before checking her reflection in the tiny silver compact mirror she always carried with her. Her skin was creamy white against the ruby gloss, and her rich brown tangle of curls accentuated her plump heart shaped face.
The cab stopped, she paid the driver and pulled out her key from her bag. It was seven, and all the lights were on in the flat, a sign James was home.
She let herself in quietly and crept down the hallway, determined to surprise James. Music was playing quietly in the living room but she knew he wasn’t there. She could hear the hiss of the power shower coming from the bathroom and the scent of his shower gel wafted through the flat; spicy and aromatic. He always took long showers, so she’d fix a drink for them while she waited for him to get out. He wasn’t expecting her back until lunchtimetomorrow, so it’d be a lovely surprise for him to find her home.
A woman called out above the music from the living room. “It’s going to fit. It’ll be absolutely perfect.”
Annabelle didn’t recognise the voice. It wasn’t Susie, James’s sister. “What will be perfect?” she called out.
No answer. She walked into the living room, wondering who James had over.
An ethereal blonde stood in the living room, holding a tape measure against the deep padded cushions of her expensive Laura Ashley couch.
“Who are you, and what are you doing?” Annabelle asked amiably, wondering if James intended to surprise her with new covers for the sofa.
The woman spun around, dropping the tape. It clattered on the oak floor.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” said Annabelle, bending to pick up the tape. She passed it to the woman, who took it from her outstretched hand.
The blonde blinked rapidly and licked her lips. “You’re Annabelle, aren’t you?” she asked in a whisper.
“Yes, of course I am,” Annabelle replied. “Who are you?”
The woman was young, and Annabelle guessed she was no older than twenty-three. She was astonishingly pretty, with alabaster skin, cornflower blue eyes and rosebud lips. She was fat. Not overweight fat, but pregnant.
“I’m Libby. I…um…work with James,” she stammered, watching the door nervously.
Annabelle had never heard of Libby, and was about to ask how long she’d worked with James, but before she could interrogate the girl further, she heard footsteps in the hall. Thank God, James was out of the shower and could throw some light on who this strange young woman was, and why she was measuring Annabelle’s Laura Ashley couch.
Annabelle smiled at the young woman reassuringly, heartened by the sound of James’s footsteps outside the room.
The next moment her husband strolled in to the living room, wearing nothing but an expansive smile.

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:  I pretty much found the whole of this book easy to write, because the subject matter resonated with me on so many levels.  The bits that really flowed though were the chapters written from Mollie’s perspective.  These chapters needed very little editing because they came out right first time.  That’s because Mollie is someone special to me, so I could get inside her head.  I think it’s fair to say that as well as being the easiest bits to write, these chapters are the most fun I’ve ever had writing.

Q.  Which part of your book(s) was the hardest to write?
A:  I don’t want to give too much away here, but someone dies in the book and I found that part very hard to write for several reasons.  Firstly, I didn’t want to overdo it, but rather I wanted the reader to feel the emotions themselves.  The other reason I found it hard is that it reminded me of a deep loss I experienced and I relived the pain of that loss, even though the circumstances were different.

Q.  Which character from any book are you most like?
A:  Definitely Holly, from my first book Transplanting Holly Oakwood.  In fact I’d go so far as to say she’s my alter ego.  When I started writing this 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 only my second book tour and nothing funny happened on the first…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 my first novel Transplanting Holly Oakwood.  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 Meeting Miss Mollie, and my previous novel 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 Transplanting Holly Oakwood 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.

Author Bio:

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.
Connect with Di!

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