I’ve known Carol for a long time and her writing is one of my failsafe escape routes. She offers a real and yet romantic view of living in London.
She’s also The Sun newspaper’s doctor, so speaks out on important health issues, from radiation spills to models hurting themselves as they stumble out of night-clubs. I’m delighted she’s found time to answer my questions.
Which book most influenced you when growing up?
The stand-out book has to be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I learned about the power of surprise, the imaginative use of language, and the idea that fiction, like life, is improved by adding cats.
Where do you write?
I can write almost anywhere as my first draft is always with paper and pencil, then I transfer it onto laptop, editing a little on the way. My bureau is cluttered but my cat Mishmish always finds somewhere to sit.
Tell us which books are your go-to comfort reads.
I find three books consistently uplifting: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies by Jean Kerr, and Cocktails and Camels by Jacqueline Carol. That last one is by my mother, and I’m not biased at all.
Who or what had the biggest impact on your creative life?
My mother. She wrote a fictionalised autobiography in her early 30s, and went on to write in a number of different genres including children’s picture books. She was also one of the first people who successfully self-published back in the 1990s.
How has your reading affected your writing?
I doubt I’d write anything if I didn’t read. I owe so much to the authors who’ve gone before, to the characters that take over my mind, stories that keep me up at night, dialogue that makes me laugh, and plot twists I can’t see coming (they’re rarely in books touted for twists that you can’t see coming).
How far do other media, such as music, film or fine art influence your writing?
Music strongly influenced my first two novels, in particular the character of Sanjay who, since his diagnosis of terminal cancer, only listens to music by artists who are dead. For me, the best books are like a Motown hit – concise and upbeat, yet with a heart-rending core.
What makes your story world special?
Authenticity. I’ve been trained to observe, and much of my writing is inspired by personal experiences like growing up abroad, practising medicine, and having three children within three years. I don’t write real people into novels, but the insights I’ve gained strongly influence my writing.
To which authors would you compare your style?
I think my fiction style has echoes of Nick Hornby, Lindsey Kelk, and Tony Parsons (before he turned to writing detective novels), though one reviewer unexpectedly called one of my novels ‘Roddy Doyle with lipstick.’
Will you give me a hint about what you’re working on next?
Due to be published in January, my next book will be different from my first two novels. It’s more serious and evolves through the eyes of just one character. The Girls from Alexandria shuttles between the present day and the past, going back to the 1950s and a cosmopolitan Egypt that no longer exists.
How did you learn to write?
I served a long apprenticeship. For over 30 years, I’ve written for publications ranging from The Sun to The Lancet. I then authored a string of non-fiction books before turning to writing novels. It took me over a million words to reach where I am now, and I’m still learning.
Thank you, Carol, for taking the time to answer my questions. Hampstead Fever is currently on sale and I can heartily recommend it. In fact, when it was first published, I said this:
Combines the observational wit of Nick Hornby, the emotional depths of Anna Maxted and the complex cast of Armistead Maupin.
Find out more about this author and her atmospheric books:
Blog Pills & Pillow-Talk
Facebook page Carol Cooper’s London Novels