Interview with bestselling author Christie Barlow

Nearly two and a half years ago, we interviewed self-published author and mum of four Christie Barlow. Today, Christie is a best-selling author with five books to her name, and a publishing deal with Harper Impulse.

We caught up with Christie to find out what happened, and what advice she has for other aspiring novelists.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the sort of books you write.

I grew up in Northwich, Cheshire where my parents still live today. After meeting my husband we moved to Manchester where all of our four children were born but recently, we have moved to a gorgeous picturesque village in the heart of Staffordshire where I am the proud owner of chickens and a mad cocker spaniel called Woody.

My writing career came as somewhat of a surprise! Once hitting my mid-life crisis (but dodging the tattoo and the fast car) after wholly dedicating my life to the care of my children, they asked me what I wanted to do in life while we were discussing their career options. ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book,’ I found myself answering, and so the notion was born. I write women’s commercial fiction, specifically romantic comedy and am now a full-time writer.

What happened after your first novel was published?

I self-published my first novel and will always remember the proud moment I showed my children the finished product. I stood in front of them, with a book that had my name on the cover and the message was loud and clear.

If I could achieve something by setting my mind to it, then so could they. I would have been happy enough if my demonstration of what hard work and determination could achieve had ended there, but it didn’t.

I knew that a strong social media presence would be necessary to promote it – and sure enough, it circulated quickly and became the talk of the town. Within a few months, the first novel I wrote became an Amazon #1 bestseller in the UK and the USA.

How did you get an agent and publisher?

This is when my life really took a parallel course with reality.

One morning after the school run, I came home to find an email from a literary agent. I had just finished writing the sequel Misadventures of a Playground Mother, intending to self-publish again, when Ping! I not only had an agent but within a few weeks, I had a publishing deal with Bookouture for five books.

I have recently signed a contract with Harper Collins affiliate Harper Impulse and now have my own book column in a magazine too!

How many books have you written and what are they?

I have written five books so far:

  • A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother and The Misadventures of a Playground Mother (these are feel-good comedies about life at the school gates).
  • Kitty’s Countryside Dream (a feel-good romantic comedy about life, love and family).
  • Lizzie’s Christmas Escape (a sparkling Christmas romance).
  • Evie’s Year of Taking Chances (A heart-warming romantic comedy you won’t be able to put down).

Currently, I am working on my next release for September 2017.

Which book are you most proud of writing?

I pondered for a second on this question but soon realized all of them! I never in a million years thought I would be capable of writing one book and now I’ve just started to write my sixth!

Do you have any writing rituals to get you in the mood for writing?

After dropping the children off at school, I usually I go off for a brisk walk with my mad cocker spaniel, Woody. Then I come home to drink numerous cups of tea and settle down in my writing cave.

I have read numerous blog posts about authors who have story boards and spend hours on mind plans, however I’ll let you in on a little secret … I write whatever is whirling around in my head at the time. I know my characters inside and out and the general gist of how I want the story to progress, but then I love it when all of a sudden the story goes flying off in a totally different direction than I’d originally intended. That’s the magic of writing!

I write one draft from start to finish then I ping it over to my lovely editor and then go into complete melt down while I wait to hear her thoughts!

Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

I have so many! In my first two playground books, the characters Penelope and Rupert Kensington were so off-the-wall and whacky that they were absolutely fun to write about.

When I finished writing Kitty’s Countryside Dream, I felt bereft leaving Kitty Lewis and Tom Drew behind. I totally fell in love with them. Then there is Lizzie Stevens and Ann Sandeman in Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, their tale of genuine friendship is one I can absolutely relate to.

Which of your covers is your favourite and why?

When I first saw the cover for Kitty’s Countryside Dream I gasped! It oozed such warmth! I thought it was utterly gorgeous and of course it features a chicken!

This story would have never been written if it wasn’t for a local farmer selling me my first chicken over nine years ago. It was my feathered friends who provided that little spark of inspiration for this story.

Do you ever get writers block?

I haven’t as yet and fingers crossed it stays that way!

What’s been your biggest pinch me moment to date?

The first pinch me moment was when I was travelling on a train to Birmingham. I was sat in the carriage watching the scenery whiz by when the woman sitting opposite me took out a book from her bag to read. It was my book, Kitty’s Countryside Dream!

The second moment was when the publishing editor Charlotte Ledger from Harper Collins knew of my wonderful books and offered me a contract. Oh and not forgetting my first book knocked David Walliams off the top spot! Every day I pinch myself, I really do have the best job in the world.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?

I hope to still be writing with a huge back catalogue of books behind me.

Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

I’m currently writing book 6 which is due for release September 2017 by Harper Impulse. I don’t want to give much away except that it features narrowboats and an old picture house. I’m loving writing every second of it and I hope you’ll love it too!

What advice do you have for any other aspiring novelists?

Go for it and write the best book you can. Always read and read widely. Writers always find time to read. Set time aside to write every day that way there will always be continuity.

Find some people you can trust to read and give you honest feedback. I have a couple of good friends who read my chapters as I write them. They are always honest and constructive and finally, accept criticism if you respect the source. If my dream can come true, so can yours!

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to readers and followers?

The past three years have been truly amazing in the land of books and that is down to all the lovely readers, bloggers, friends and family. I absolutely appreciate that they have chosen my books to read and all the kind words and messages they send me.

If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing the job I love, so thank you. If you enjoyed any of my books I would be forever grateful if you’d write a review. Your recommendations can always help others to discover my books.

Christie is represented by Kate Nash Literary Agency. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, and read more about her on her website