When I was approached to take part in a Q&A for this book, I was excited for the opportunity. it’s the perfect feel-good read for the current climate. Thank you to Midas PR for approaching me!
Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives she realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid.
So Jennifer writes letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared.
At first, she feels liberated. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always what it seems. Death has a way of surprising you …
Q&A with Melanie Cantor
This is your first published novel – congratulations! I really enjoyed the book.
Q. Writing letters is a pivotal part of the story, and I found this a refreshing change in our technology driven era! How did you come up with the idea?
A. I’ve always been a keen letter writer. Not so long ago, it was the best way of communicating with friends and family when you were apart. I have so many letters in my memory box from people with whom I’ve now lost touch. They are a joy to reread and tell stories long forgotten. And I still get a thrill when a handwritten envelope lands on my doormat. When it came to writing Life & Other Happy Endings, it was vital to Jennifer to have her courageous words properly considered. Emails are skimmed, letters are read. Letters were the only way.
Q. I used to live in London and could vividly picture myself walking around Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill whilst reading – what made you choose these locations in particular?
A. It’s such a beautiful area isn’t it? I lived around there for a very long time. Belsize Park, Hampstead and even when I moved East, I would still meet a friend for regular dog walks on Primrose Hill. I think that area has such a pull on my heart it seemed a natural place for Jennifer. Also her upbringing, which strongly influenced the woman she is, seemed to sit well there. Now when I go to Primrose Hill and see the Shard it sends tingles down my spine. And I have people telling me they can’t walk across Hampstead Heath without thinking of that scene from my book. No spoilers but you know which one I mean!
Q. The book, for me, is very much a combination of contemporary/domestic/women’s fiction and romance – do you read a lot of books in these genres, and is that what inspired you to write within them?
A. I’ve never really considered it but I guess those are precisely the genres I read. I’m not big on historical fiction or sci-fi or fantasy. I like real narratives (mainly contemporary) about people I can relate to and I love getting completely immersed in their journeys. There’s nothing better than falling in love with a character, and nothing worse than reaching the end!! I’ll often read a book I love time and time again.
Q. Jennifer is a fab character and I love how she really finds herself; becoming much more sure of herself and her own decisions. Was she, or any of the other characters in the book, based on anyone in your life?
A. Thank you! I think Jennifer evolved over time and became her own person, not based on me or anyone in particular but obviously influenced by my experience of the world. I don’t have a sister which is why I’m so thrilled with the impact Isabelle seems to have made. I just imagined the total antithesis to Jennifer and out she popped! Harry is a construct from men I have known and Leo is definitely a man I would like to meet!
Q. In terms of the big screen – and I’m especially intrigued to know this – who do you see playing your characters?
A. Oh my goodness! I have been happily playing that game for a very long time and maybe soon it will become a reality. I always saw Kate Winslet as Jennifer and Rachel Weiss as Isabelle. The ex Andy would then be Daniel Craig just for practical reasons (yeah right)! Olivia is Isla Fisher or possibly Amy Adams if she can do an English accent. Harry for me is Ben Chaplin and Leo, (confession: I had this person in my head as I wrote), is Rufus Sewell.
Q. You had a successful career as a celebrity agent and publicist and turned your hand to writing in 2008. What was it that initiated you to make the switch?
A. I had just turned 50, was financially solvent so had back up to keep me afloat while I wasn’t earning money (and trust me that lasted a lot longer than I had anticipated!) and had always wanted to write. My feeling was I had worked as an agent and publicist for nearly thirty years and had achieved a level of success that allowed me to bow out graciously. It was time.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your publishing journey? Was it quite straightforward or the opposite?
A. How long have you got? It took me a very long time (nearly ten years) a lot of rejection, a lot of heartache and a lot of tenacity. Now of course I can look back and say it was all worthwhile;that time allowed me to improve my writing skills and ultimately led me to writing the right book. I think if my first manuscript had got published, my career would have been shortlived! I’m hoping this will keep me busy for as long as I can keep people entertained.
Q. In terms of your writing style, how do you go about it? Are you a strict planner or are you more of a go-with-the-flow writer?
A. I am definitely a go with the flow writer. When I have an idea, I know the beginning, the middle and the end. I just don’t know how I’m going to get there. Once I start to know my characters, I often allow them to take me to places I hadn’t expected. Like Hampstead Heath! I love the fact that they can surprise me. Shock me even. I’d like to think their personalities are independent of mine so I let them do their thing. It’s all part of the joy for me.
Q. In a nod to the situation we all currently find ourselves in, have you been writing during the pandemic? Has it affected your creativity in any way?
A. I am very fortunate to have a two book deal with Transworld and now have an ever looming deadline for delivery. Without doubt this has been affected by the pandemic. At first I thought well I have nothing to do but write but those first scary weeks definitely played havoc with my best intentions. I’ve now got my mojo back and am trying to focus but it’s been tough.
Q. Finally, what’s next for you?
A. A Negroni I think. Is it that time yet?
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Melanie! I wish you all the success with Life & Other Happy Endings.
Thank you so much Becca. I have loved answering your thoughtful questions. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book.
Life & Other Happy Endings is available now for £7.99.
Until Next Time,