I hate slow drivers...

June 27, 2013
Written for Amazon November 2012

My family and I moved to Cambridge last summer and I love everything about it. Except, that is, the recent deluge of Sunday drivers that seem to have hit the streets. I don’t know where they came from. They weren’t here when we first moved – back then, I saw speed camera vans lying in wait around practically every corner. (Apart from the time I didn’t see one, and almost ended up with three points on my licence…Whoops.) But now I try very hard to stick to the speed limit. Unfortunately,this is impossible. Because lately, the people in front of me have been forcing me to drive twenty miles an hour below the speeding limit. Earlier today, a couple of visiting friends from New Zealand, Andy and Anna, witnessed the full extent of my annoyance. While Anna would have probably jumped out of the car, had it not been for the fact that she was hemmed in between two children’s car seats in a three-door car, Andy shouted triumphantly: “You were born to speed!” Sadly, I think I was just born without any patience, and that’s not something I’m proud of. But I know what he meant: he was referring to the fact that my dad used to be a racing driver.

I had an unusual childhood, growing up. We used to follow the racing season around, which meant I didn’t see a winter until I was twelve years old. We’d spend summer in Australia, which was where we called home, and then summer in England or America, depending on which car series my father was racing at the time. It was pretty cool having a Le Mans winning dad, but the truth was, I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Cars going round and around? Zzzzz… It wasn’t until he retired from competitive motorsport that I started to watch Formula One – and that was only because, as a teenager, I’d met drivers like Ayrton Senna, and knowing their personalities made the sport more interesting. Going behind the scenes at races also gave me the idea for my third book, Chasing Daisy, which is about a girl, Daisy, who works in hospitality for a Formula One team. She and her friend Holly get to travel the world and live in the lap of luxury while waiting on two hot drivers – one of whom Daisy falls madly in love with. Unfortunately, he has a childhood sweetheart and puts his life at risk every time he goes to work, so their odds aren’t great… Formula One may be ultra glamorous, but it doesn’t exactly reek of chick-lit, so most of the action occurs off the racetrack. And the action is fast. There’s certainly not a Sunday driver in sight… @PaigeToonAuthor

Don't stop believing

June 27, 2013
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I’ve written stories ever since I could write. I’ve always had an overactive imagination. I remembered recently that, as a young girl, I used to write stories that had sad endings. I didn’t like the thought of adults reading a child’s story and expecting it to be simplistic and cheerful, so I wanted to surprise them by writing an unexpected ending. My poor mum used to worry about me, I think!

I still have a touch of the melodramatic in me, but now I’m more drawn towards happier endings – even if sometimes they are bittersweet.

When I was about ten, I decided that when I grew up, I would be an author and a mum, so I could work from home and still look after the kids. But in the meantime I would go to work for a magazine. Of course, as I grew up, I started to understand how difficult it would be to realise my dreams, butI DID go to work for a magazine after university and a year off travelling. I started off doing work experience at a film magazine, and when I left, I asked the editor to please, please think of me if he heard of any jobs. He did, and a few months later I went to work at a teenage title called Big!. It was such a fun job – I was the editorial assistant, which is effectively the magazine secretary, and I used to have to reply to all the readers’ letters. They were convinced Leonardo DiCaprio came into the office on a daily basis. Early on, a colleague of mine asked what I would ultimately like to do, and I replied that I’d like to write a book. She wasn’t being mean, but she did say, ‘that is such a journalist cliché, everyone wants to write books!’ After that I shut up about it.

Eventually I went to work at top celebrity magazine heat. As part of my job, I edited the books pages, and as hundreds and hundreds of books would land on my desk, I would feel more and more desolate. I couldn’t believe I would ever be able to write a novel. I had ideas, but the thought of filling out over 100,000 words seemed impossible to me. Then, one day, a publicist from a publishing company (Nigel Stoneman from Simon & Schuster) took me out for lunch and told me that I should write a book. With my heart hammering in my chest, I told him my idea about a girl who gets on a 24-hour flight to Australia and, just before take off, receives a text from her boyfriend’s phone from a girl claiming to have slept with him. The publicist loved the idea, and five minutes after I got back to the office, I had an email from him and his editor (Suzanne Baboneau) saying that she wanted to meet me. That weekend I wrote the synopsis, the first three chapters, and my brother came up with the title Lucy in the Sky. A few days later I had a two-book deal and three and a half months to write my novel, alongside my full-time job at heat. I wrote it in two and a half months and it was one of the happiest times of my life. I’ve written a book a year ever since, but it still always seems to come down to those last three months.

With two kids now, I am a full-time mother and author and I thank my lucky stars each and every day. It just goes to show that it IS possible to follow your childhood dreams – however silly and unrealistic they may seem when you grow up. @PaigeToonAuthor

My life in books

June 27, 2013
I wrote this blog for International Chick-lit Month, May 2013

The book that got me hooked on reading:

The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. It was so magical. My brother and I were addicted to the entire series and I think I went on to read everything Enid Blyton ever wrote after that. Loved The Famous Five, too, and also that series about the boy who joins the circus, but I can’t remember what it’s called.

The book that makes me laugh:

No one does heartbreak and hilarity as well as Marian Keyes, but I’m mentioning her later so for this I’ll choose The Little White Car by Danuta De Rhodes. The author’s real name is Dan Rhodes, but he was taking the mickey a bit by choosing a female pseudonym. I don’t want to spoil it for you by giving anything away, because it has a brilliant twist.

The book that makes me cry:

The last book to make me sob like a baby was The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris. It’s about a girl who is no longer with the love of her life, but you don’t know why until later in the book. There’s a chapter towards the end which makes me want to cry now, just thinking about it. Beautiful.

The book that surprised me:

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I was living in America at the time and saw it reviewed in a magazine so I decided to check it out. It ended up becoming one of my favourite books, although I was absolutely gutted when it turned out not to be the true story that I had believed it was. Gullible!

The book that I would take with me to a desert island:

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. How I love this series! And I think a little Edward/Jacob action could cheer me up in any situation.

The book that I would put in a time capsule for future generations:

The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Whoa, this book took my breath away. It’s told from the perspective of a young woman recounting events from when she was eleven years old and the world started to slow down. The knock-on effect on humanity is pretty jaw-dropping. I think it’s a good reminder to everyone not to take our beautiful planet – and everything on it – for granted.

The book that I wish I’d written:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I love a bit of YA sci-fi and this series is absolutely incredible. My husband and I saw the movie, then I went on to read the first book and he the second, Catching Fire. Only I’m a faster reader than him and I was chomping at the bit to such an extent that he tore the book in half and gave me the first half! It felt so wrong but oh so right.

The book that is my guilty pleasure:

It’s got to be Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. Am I right, or what? Yes, you can pick holes in it, and there are some disturbing things about it, but I don’t think I have ever been so glued to the pages of a book before.

The book that I want to read next:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Like I said, I like a bit of YA sci-fi! I tried to catch the movie, but missed it when it came out at the cinema.

The book to look out for in 2013:

It’s already been out in America for a while and it’s just come out in the UK, but I absolutely loved Slammed by Colleen Hoover. It’s such a beautiful love story and it made me cry my eyes out. Her second, Point of Retreat, the sequel, is also out.

The book that got me hooked on chick lit:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. What can I say? Absolutely genius. Loved it!

The book that all chick lit fans should read:

Watermelon by Marian Keyes. In fact, anything by Marian Keyes. She’s the queen of chick-lit in my opinion. The Other Side of The Story was possibly my favourite until The Brightest Star in the Sky. Always funny, always touching, I think she’s the best in the genre.

The book I've written that is the most special to me:

It would probably have to be Lucy in the Sky because it is my first and I will never forget how happy I was to know that my childhood dreams of being an author were finally going to be realised. My fourth, Pictures of Lily, is also very close to my heart because it was set in the Adelaide Hills in Australia, where I grew up.

The book that I'm writing next:

I’m writing two books this year, but my first deadline is for my new Young Adult series – a spin-off from my second and fifth books, Johnny Be Good and Baby Be Mine. In those two books, a girl called Meg becomes a PA to a bad boy rock star and ends up falling head over heels and making huge mistakes – like falling pregnant and not knowing who the father is… The baby turns out to be rock star Johnny’s, and Meg worries he might have more illegitimate children out there. It turns out that her fears are not unfounded, and my YA series is about the 15-year-old daughter he never knew he had. I can’t wait to be back in Meg and Johnny’s world again. After that, I’ll be writing my next chick-lit book, Thirteen Weddings, about a wedding photographer who falls in love with a groom…

The book that defines my life:

I think to some extent all of my books define my life. Lucy in the Sky is about a girl caught between two countries (and two men – this bit’s fantasy!) and I grew up between Australia and England. Johnny Be Good is about a bad boy rock star and partly inspired by the celebs I used to write about when I worked for heat magazine, Chasing Daisy is about a girl who works for a Formula One team – my dad is a racing driver… You get the picture! @PaigeToonAuthor

What's in a name?

June 27, 2013
Written for Booksandthecity.co.uk May 2013

BooksCityBlog2013

What’s in a name?

Coming up with titles for books can be a tricky process, but it’s one of the most important things to get right. I thought you might like some insight into how we came up with my titles, starting with my first…

Lucy in the Sky came courtesy of my brother, Kerrin Schuppan, who has always been incredibly creative (he’s head of menswear at super-stylish clothing company Country Road in Australia –www.countryroad.com.au if you’re interested). I was about to have a meeting with Suzanne Baboneau from Simon & Schuster about my book idea. My heroine, originally called Meg, is on a plane to Australia and has to turn her mobile off, but before she does, she notices a text from her boyfriend’s phone, saying ‘I have slept with your boyfriend four times this month.’ I didn’t yet have a title, so I texted my bro and he came back with a few suggestions, including Frequent Liar Points and Lucy in the Sky. I loved the latter so much that I changed the heroine’s name to Lucy, saving Meg (a name I really liked) for my second book, Johnny Be Good.

Johnny Be Good was also courtesy of my brother, and it was such a good fit that we used it despite my editor saying that books with a male name in the title don’t usually sell as well. (She was right: it’s my least well selling book, even though it’s probably the one my readers are most passionate about!) I can’t remember what my rock star character was initially going to be called, but Johnny seemed to suit him so we went with that, and as he’s a bad boy, the title was set.

Chasing Daisy is one we really struggled with. I wrote an entire book about a heroine called Anna! The title Love in the Fast Lane was suggested, but I have to admit I hated it. So I called my brother in desperation and he threw around a couple of movie titles: Run Lola Run and Chasing Amy. I liked the latter, so my editor, Suzanne, suggested a bunch of ‘A’ sounding names, including Daisy. It was strange reading the book back with a new heroine’s name, but now I can’t imagine Daisy as an Anna! I do like the name though, so I think she might appear in my eighth book…

Pictures of Lily is one I came up with myself, but I had to fight for it. It’s not a well-known song title, but that didn’t matter to me. I loved the whimsical sound of it, and it fit with the story about a girl who wanted to be a photographer. I think this might be my favourite book of mine, and I’m so happy with the new redesigned cover. I would have loved green for the original cover, but apparently green books don’t tend to do as well. So far the response from my readers has been good, so fingers crossed.

Baby Be Mine is the sequel to Johnny Be Good, and I’m so grateful to my editor Suzanne for allowing me to write it! Johnny Be Good was left on such a cliffhanger (with Meg revealing that she’s pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is) that my readers all went a bit mental at me, so I really wanted to write them a proper sequel, even though Johnny Be Good wasn’t my best seller. Baby Be Mine has a double meaning, because Meg didn’t know who the father of her son was. We thought about calling it Be My Baby instead as it’s more recognisable, but my readers voted on Facebook for Baby Be Mine, and it also worked better on the cover.

One Perfect Summer. I loved the process of coming up with this title. I went for a meeting with my publisher and told them about the idea for the book. A group of about six of us sat around the table and brainstormed. Some ideas would spin off others, but I think my editor Suzanne was the one who actually said One Perfect Summer out loud. We all loved it, and it was a break away from the song titles of previous books, and looked great on the new cover design. The design spurned a whole new stunning look for my backlist.

The Longest Holiday was again the product of a brainstorming session with the team from Simon and Schuster. I initially thought of The Long Holiday, but Maxine Hitchcock added the ‘est’ and it immediately sounded better. Originally this book was set to be called Tell Laura I Love Her, but it was decided this felt like a step back and we should be moving away from song titles. The title, Tell Laura I Love Her, was actually suggested to me years ago after Chasing Daisy came out, by an old colleague from heat magazine, Charlotte Ward. She said one day she’d like me to tell Laura’s story. I actually came up with the idea for The Longest Holiday first and then tried to think of a heroine’s name. Laura popped into my head and I suddenly remembered Charlotte’s idea and realised the two plots could be combined. My readers love links to my other books, and I find it so much more interesting to write about characters when they already have an established back story.

As for my next book, it will be called Thirteen Weddings and is about a wedding photographer who falls in love with a groom. Stay tuned...

@PaigeToonAuthor

I've just finished writing my new book!

November 24, 2011
I’ve just sent my new book off to my editor and I’m feeling slightly bittersweet. It’s hard to let go of this one, but as my editor just return-emailed me to say, ‘it’s in safe hands’, and I know that she’s right.

I have loved writing One Perfect Summer – it’s my favourite book that I’ve written so far.

This year has been hectic – my husband and I bought and sold a house and this summer we moved to Cambridge with two small children in tow. Normally my deadline is the end of the year, but we’re bringing my usual July publication date forward to May, so I needed to deliver almost two months early. I don’t know how, but I ended up writing even more words than I normally would. Like I say, I have loved writing this book.

One Perfect Summer is set mainly in the UK – primarily Dorset and Cambridge, with small side trips to London, Germany and Austria. I enjoyed writing about Dorset – we went there this summer on a research trip – and I adored writing about Cambridge, which, together with Dorset, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

I came for a day trip to Cambridge in summer 2010 and at the time said to my husband that this is a city where I could live. A year later the dream became a reality and every day now I look around with wonder. I’ve found this city so inspirational to write about. Whenever I research a place for one of my books, I put myself in my characters’ shoes and a little part of me feels like that place becomes home. In the case of Cambridge, it actually is my home now, and it feels surreal walking around and imagining my characters lives here. They feel very tangible to me.

I found myself in a unique situation with this book in that, for the first time ever, I didn’t know how it was going to end. I have always known how my books would pan out from start to finish, but as I approached the last twenty thousand words, I began to doubt the ending I had in my mind. Even in the last few pages, I still didn’t know the path my characters would take. It was truly bizarre to find myself in their hands, in a funny way. I cried when it was finished – but you’ll have to wait until May to find out if those tears were happy or sad. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I think these characters may have more life in them yet…

Bye bye London

November 23, 2011
Posted on Booksandthecity.co.uk in July 2011

I love living in London. Today I went with my family to Westminster Abbey, the place where thirty-eight monarchs have been crowned king or queen in the last thousand years. The history is breathtaking, and this incredible city is surrounded by it.

Recently we took the kids to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, and in a couple of weeks I want to visit the Tower of London because I haven’t been since I was little. There are so many things that I still want to do here.

I’ve lived in London for years – ever since I went to the University of Greenwich where I met my husband. We got married at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden and I used to work up the road at heat magazine before I had children. I’d spend my lunchtimes wandering the streets, past Pineapple Studios where the dancers can be seen through the windows, through the packed market with its many buskers, down to the river and across Waterloo Bridge with its spectacular views. Other days I’d walk through Trafalgar Square, past the majestic lions and Nelson’s Column, down to the gates of Buckingham Palace, returning to work via St James’s Palace and the back streets. I felt as if I knew it like the back of my hand, and I’m rubbish with directions, so that’s saying something. I still get a little thrill when I’m driving in town and know which way to go at Seven Dials.

Yes, I love London. I got married here, I’ve had two children here, and in the next few weeks I’m utterly determined to make the most of living here. Why? Because I’m leaving.

We’re moving to Cambridge. I love “the city”, but I grew up in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, and I’m a country girl at heart. Cambridge is one of those places that has the best of both worlds. We went there last year for only the second time and I was struck with the sudden realisation that this was a place where we could live. We were punting on the River Cam and I remember seeing some random guy sitting on the grassy banks with his trousers rolled up, reading a book and drinking a takeaway coffee. I thought: that’s what I want to do, dammit! Maybe not with my trousers rolled up because I hate my legs, and the reality of it is that I rarely go anywhere without at least one child attached, but even if a relaxing solo afternoon by the river was just a dream, living in this amazing city wasn’t.

Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. The architecture is stunning, the shops are all lovely and it’s still a city so you have everything you need. But then there are the surrounding sleepy villages, the river, parks and greenery.

It’s going to be hard leaving all of our friends – I know I’ll miss them desperately – and of course we’ll be saying goodbye to the city that has been our home for the past seventeen years. But until moving day comes, I plan to live London life to the full. I’ve too often taken it for granted. Isn’t that always the way with the place where you live? I know I haven’t made the most of living here and that’s something I’ll probably regret. I’ll just have to try not to make the same mistake with Cambridge.

Here come the nerves!

July 14, 2010
I always get nervous at this point in time – nervous and excited – because my new book Pictures of Lily is now on the bookshelves in bookshops. All my friends and family are going to read it and let me know what they make of it. But even more frightening and wonderful than that, is hearing what the readers think. I’m usually too terrified to look at the online reviews at first – it takes my husband to force me – but so far I’ve been lucky. I only hope that that luck holds out for my fourth book.

I still can’t believe I’ve written four books – or that I’m working on my fifth and currently daydreaming about the storyline for my sixth. In my head I’ve developed this whole parallel universe where my novels and my characters tie in to each other. Pictures of Lily links in to my first book, Lucy in the Sky, although it’s not strictly a sequel. It’s about a girl called Lily who’s still in love with a man she met when she was just sixteen. Her current boyfriend is Richard – who readers may remember was Nathan’s builder buddy from Lucy in the Sky (they travelled to the UK together). Richard is still mates with Nathan, Lucy, Sam and Molly so we get a chance to revisit their world in Sydney as a result. I always write my books in the first person, so talking about former heroine Lucy in the third person felt a bit strange, but it was still nice to write about everyone again and update their story. I hope my readers agree.

Luis from Chasing Daisy also gets a small mention, and Johnny from Johnny Be Good gets a nod, too, but my fifth book will do more than merely ‘nod’ to him. I’m currently writing the sequel to Johnny Be Good, so my readers will finally discover what happened to Meg, Christian and that infamous blond-haired, green-eyed rock star. I’m only 8,000 words in, but Meg and Christian are now living in the South of France with their one-year-old son who bears no resemblance to his so-called dad. Meg is living in fear that the truth will come out about her son’s real father – and in fact, it’s only a matter of time…

I’d better crack on – that book isn’t going to write itself – but I’ll be watching the internet behind closed fingers, waiting for those first reviews to appear. My first review though, will come from my mum – who I dedicated this book to. I’ve only received two finished copies of Pictures of Lily from my lovely publishers so far – the others are on their way – but I immediately sent one of these to my mum in Australia. She helped me research the book at Christmas – driving me around the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, where I grew up, so I hope she enjoys it. Here come the nerves again – I won’t have to wait much longer before I find out…

How to write a book

July 27, 2009
Recently a lot of readers have been asking me for advice on how to write a book, so I thought my second blog of all time could be dedicated to that very subject! First of all I have to admit I didn't go the conventional route to get published. When I got my book deal I was working as reviews editor at heat magazine and I knew a lot of people in publishing because they would often take my team and me out to lunch to talk about their authors. I met Nigel Stoneman from Simon & Schuster this way and we became great pals because he's so down to earth and fun - not to mention an excellent publicist! One day Nige said I should write a book - he'd said it to me before, but this time I told him an idea I'd had for a few years. He loved it and said he'd convey it to his publisher when he got back to work. Five minutes after I got back to my desk at heat there was an email from Suzanne Baboneau - now my lovely, lovely editor - saying she also loved my idea and wanted to meet me. I had to write a synopsis (about 5,000 words detailing what my book would be about from start to finish) and I also wrote the first three chapters. Within a week of that lunch with Nige, I met Suzanne for breakfast, and on the basis of my synopsis and those early chapters of Lucy in the Sky, she offered me a two-book deal. I was unbelievably lucky because it doesn't normally work this way. Usually authors get book deals via agents, rather than direct with the publisher like I did. Most agents will expect to see the entire book before they'll approach publishers on your behalf and try to get you a book deal, and before they even get to this stage they will probably work with you to edit your book. Pick up a copy of The Writers & Artists Yearbook - it's published every year - for the most up-to-date contact info for agents, plus excellent advice on how to approach them. Only contact agents that are suitable for the sort of book you're writing - the Yearbook lists who represents who. You could also check out similar authors to yourself and find out their agents - their publishers should be able to tell you (you should be able to find contact details for publishers quite easily on the internet). Of course, before you get anywhere near doing this, you need to write that book... The best advice I can give you is to always enjoy what you're writing. If you don't enjoy writing it, chances are your readers won't enjoy reading it, so if you find you're getting bored, stop where you are and either take a break, skip to the next scene, or sometimes cut that scene altogether. I always write a synopsis so I know where the book is going. I think about my books all the time - in fact, I always think about the next book I plan to write as I write the current one - so I've already got a good idea about what's going to happen. But when I sit down to write a synopsis it forces me to plan the whole book out and that makes it a lot easier to write - and more fun because I'm excited about writing certain scenes months before I get to write them! Finally, just remember that millions of people get their books published so there's no reason why you can't either, so don't give up hope. Just get writing, keep at it and most importantly, enjoy it! Lots of love, Paige xxx

Never before seen

June 03, 2009
Me writing a blog, that is. Yep, I may be a writer by profession, but I just cannot get into this blogging business. Well, that's what I say now, but who knows what could happen – I'll probably become a Twitterer, Tweeter, whatever the hell that is, next. Anyway, I've been told I have to start populating my author portal so I've just filled out my (actually bloody difficult) author revealed questions and now I'm moving onto the big guns: blogging. So what to say? I'm soooooo excited about the forthcoming launch of my new book Chasing Daisy. It's out 6 July, fact fans. It's about a girl who falls in love with a racing driver and there's a little Johnny Jefferson cameo for all the readers of my last book. So many of you have told me off for ending Johnny Be Good like that, and to answer your No1 question, YES, I do intend to write a sequel! But you'll get a sneaky update in Chasing Daisy, so watch out for that... I think I might be done blogging now – at least for a little while. I'm off to France for a two-week holiday in a couple of days. Holidays don't quite have the same meaning when you're a full-time mum, but I'm sure it'll be fun teaching my 20-month-old how to say Merci, Bonjour, etc. Might give s'il vous plait a miss because he can barely say please, and he's still struggling with the 'flamingo' I tried to teach him the other day. Aim high, people, aim high. Ooh look, I'm getting carried away. Must go – just heard my napping baby squark on the monitor – but I promise I'll write again soon. Lots of love xxx

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