Hi April! Love welcoming fellow RNA members to my blog and really hope you enjoy your first visit with me - wishing you much success and sales with your latest release, SITTING PRETTY! Let's kick off with my questions...
1. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Thanks to my theatrical grandmother I grew up believing my mother and aunty had been members of both the Tiller Girls and the Bluebell dance troupe. So of course I decided to carry on the family tradition. Why not?
Well, because I just wasn't good enough, that's why not!
After starting out in the local ballet school they ran together, just outside the New Forest, it was easy enough to spot the mediocrity of my dancing talent. I got through ballet, modern and tap exams by the skin of my teeth and acted rather than danced my way through the end of term shows.
So I decided to go into acting instead. After all, my grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts, Old Uncle Tom Cobbly and all had been on the stage, running their own touring theatre companies between working for other shows. Now there was a family tradition I could carry on, especially after spending most of my formative years treading the boards in two local Am Dram groups.
So I auditioned for every drama school which would let me and actually got into one. Sorted! I was going to be the next Judy Dench. Why not?
I suspect you're sensing a pattern here? Well, it seemed that when dancing was required I was more of an actress, and when acting was required I was more of a dancer!
Strangely enough, I did end up doing a few touring pantomimes and some children's theatre before joining a dance troupe and eventually working as a choreographer, but I always felt a bit of a square peg in a hexagonal hole.
My naughty grandmother, however turned out to have been embroidering the truth a little, and not for the first time (she insisted we were related to Bob Hope!). Mum and my aunty had been Jackson Girls, a prestigious troupe of dancers, but they hadn't been tall enough for either the Tillers or Bluebell. It just hadn't occurred to me that Grandma might be fibbing!
2. Coffee, tea or hot chocolate?
Well that depends! I don't function as a fully paid up member of the human race until I've had at least 2 cups of English Breakfast in the morning. But my teatime choice of beverage is Earl/Lady Grey.
I do like a coffee after a meal, but it usually has to be decaf as I have an intolerance to caffeine and can end up having palpitations.
Of course, if chocolate, milk and sugar had no calories it would be hot chocolate all the way! But they do, damn it! So that has to be saved for treats.
I suppose if I had to choose only one then it would be tea - I'm terribly English!
3. What genre do you typically read? Why?
I've always gravitated towards anything that makes me laugh, anything that makes me feel good about the world.I suppose I've always seen laughter as the best antidote to most of life's little mishaps or disappointments.
I grew up loving H E Bates' The Pop Larkin Chronicles - now there was a warm-hearted, generous family who knew how to have a good time, and how to make sure that everyone around them did, too. I still like to return to those stories from time to time, but now I read mainly contemporary romance, and if there's an element of light comedy about it, so much the better.
My favourite authors are Trisha Ashley, Milly Johnson, Sophie Kinsella, Carole Matthews and Katie Fforde. Whenever one of them has a new book out I'm itching to get my hands on it - they never ever disappoint!
4. Share a favourite childhood memory.
It was the seventies and my mother had started taking my brother and myself to London for little theatre weekends. Money was incredibly tight and so we'd stay in the cheapest little hotels available and Mum would pack up food to take with us, but it felt like such an adventure - even the time a mouse got into Mum's bag and chewed its way through the grease-proof paper wrapping and into our sandwiches!
One of the very first times we went, Mum took us to see J B Priestley's The Good Companions. I'd seen John Mills in things on television, but this was the first time I'd seen Judi Dench in anything and I immediately developed a huge, little girl crush on her. I remember I used to imagine she was my older sister and away working in the theatre. I used to make believe all the exciting stories she'd tell me when she came home for a visit, and all the backstage gossip she'd share with me!
When I went to theatre school I harboured a hope that one day I might get to work with her, but of course that never happened. If I ever got the chance, I'd still love to meet her, although I'd probably stammer and stutter and make a complete show of myself ... They do say you should never meet your heroes, don't they!
5. Do you prefer dogs, cats or none of the above?
I actually love both cats and dogs, and would happily have 2 or 3 of each, but that would have to wait until I was back in UK and in a house rather than an apartment.
One of the main characters in my debut novel, Sitting Pretty, is a gorgeous, smokey grey cat called Talisker (after the whisky), and I had great fun writing his scenes. But I had a lot of laughs writing about the various dogs in the story too - probably because they're all so naughty!
6. Do you have any pet peeves?
Probably more than would be considered rational! But I suppose my main one is loud, arrogant people in restaurants or on public transport, thinking their conversation is so fascinating that everyone else must be desperate to hear every word of it too. It turns me into a female Victor Meldrew every time - not a pretty sight - and I do eat out quite a lot!
Thank God though, for the "quiet carriages" available on a lot of British trains. I could hug the person who came up with that idea!
7. What was your first job? Did you like or dislike it?
My first job, at 16 and 17, was helping out at weekends in the little cafe in my local village. It was run by a lovely couple called Len and Barbara and was part of a dairy which had been in Len's family for generations. There was also a shop which was a bit like the one in Open All Hours!
They were a very kind couple who had no children of their own and I think they were quite bemused by me - I was certainly the only teenager they'd ever employed who had theatrical aspirations!
All staff were allowed to eat what they wanted from the menu and so my lunch for those 2 years I worked for them consisted mainly of sausage sandwiches, Cornish pasties, vanilla slices and strawberry milkshakes - but I was as thin as the proverbial rake back then.
I loved working for them and was sad when they decided it was time to retire. The couple they sold the business to were full of promises about keeping on the existing staff, but they soon started letting us go. Their reason for getting rid of me? Apparently I wasn't cost effective because I ate too much! Can't imagine where they got that idea from!
8. Tell me about your book, Sitting Pretty, and where you got your inspiration for it?
OK. This is going to make me sound completely paranoid, but the very first time we needed to call a pet sitting agency to come in and feed our cat while we were away, I somehow got it into my head that in our absence they could be getting up to anything in our apartment. My husband just rolled his eyes and muttered something about my imagination having an off switch. But, even though the agency we used turned out to be fabulous and our cat was more than happy with the care she received (and I'd happily recommend them to anyone in Dubai!), the thought stayed in my head that a situation involving a pet-sitter squatting in her clients' homes could have some comedy value.
Add a broken romance which, in my heroine's case is her husband dumping her, by phone, just after the removal men have driven away with all their worldy goods, and it sounded to me like the start of a plot for a rom-com.
SITTING PRETTY by April Hardy is out now!
Professional pet-sitter Beth believesher Greek boyfriend, Alex is the one. So when he’s offered a job in Dubai, he and Beth marry so they can move there together. But on the day they’re due to fly to their new life, Alex says their marriage was a mistake and ends it. By phone. Beth is suddenly husbandless and homeless. Distraught, and with her life in turmoil, when her old boss asks a favour she agrees on autopilot, and goes to feed Talisker the cat, whose handsome but dour owner Henry travels one week in three. Finding herself in luxury surroundings, with nowhere to go and determined not to hear her mother’s “I told you so”, she sleeps on Henry’s sofa. Next day, Beth has her job back and a plan. For the time being, she’ll quietly stay in her clients’ homes until she can convince Alex that this is all a big mistake. She’s pretty sure squatting’s against the law, but if she’s careful, no one need find out … until the mysterious Henry comes home unexpectedly.
SITTING PRETTY by April Hardy (Accent Press). Publication date, 7th July 2016
Winner of Emirates Airline's Festival of Literature's Literary Idol 2014