Sunday, 14 September 2014

Prada and Prejudice - Katie Oliver tells all!

Welcome, Katie Oliver, and thank you for agreeing to ‘talk’ to me via my blog.

Thank you, Vanessa.  It’s lovely to be here!

First things first, time for us to find out about you, via one of your books… I read “Prada and Prejudice” and got sucked in! This is my review…

4 stars – Review on Amazon and Goodreads

“I got this book for FREE when I did a search of the top 100 the other day ... after getting a mixed assortment I started reading this one & was so hooked I read it in a day!

The thing about a book like this is that it enables complete escapism into a chick-lit world! The characters are not average, the situations are far-fetched... BUT... I loved it! Sometimes, I don't want to read a story that's real - I want one where I laugh, muse and cheer for the characters.

I thought the main characters had everything that is great about British humour - it's so dry (especially with men!) I also liked the depth to the story and underlying issues that surrounded the central characters. So much more going on than a lazy spoilt rich girl.

Not sure it is like Pride & Prejudice at all though. If you liked Bridget Jones - this is the book for you. The central male character had "hints" of Darcy, but in my opinion is nothing like him. He works hard for a living, Darcy was a "gentleman". Natalie is definitely more Bridget Jones than Elizabeth Bennett!”

What do you think of my review?

I think it’s a lovely review, and I think you really “got” the essence of what I tried to do when I wrote the book.  My intention with Prada and Prejudice was to pen a fun, frothy, entertaining story – something to make the reader forget about that overbearing boss, that towering stack of laundry in the basket, that miserable, hour-and-a-half commute home.  I wrote what I like to read but couldn’t always find…something romantic and funny, with characters I cared about and with a darker ‘edge’ - in this instance, in the form of Ian Clarkson and his obsession with Natalie Dashwood. {I agree ... Clarkson had real issues! Eek!}

Since I am a HUGE Pride & Prejudice fan, I have to ask, are you?

Oh, yes, unquestionably!  I’ve read the book, I’ve seen every film version (not to mention the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth, and that unforgettable damp shirt!) - {who could forget that damp shirt... I'm feeling faint all of a sudden}, and I’ve watched Bridget Jones’s Diary a half-dozen times, as well.  

Pride and Prejudice is a classic of literature because of the emotion Jane Austen invested in the story…because her characters are memorable and real…and because it’s a story that still resonates with modern readers. 

You story is unique and different, but it is obviously targeted at women who love Austen. Is this a genre you have always loved to read, and what inspired you to start writing about Natalie and Rhys?

Thank you!  The Dating Mr Darcy tagline was conceived as a way to present the three books as a cohesive series, although each can be read on its own.  While they are similar to Jane Austen’s books in that they feature the romantic misadventures of a particular set of characters, I tried to take the books in their own, unique direction.

I was inspired to write Prada and Prejudice one evening while watching “Kitchen Nightmares,” featuring Gordon Ramsay. On this particular episode, Gordon travelled to Boca Raton, Florida to try and salvage a failing Italian restaurant.  The restaurant owner was a headstrong Italian princess, and the conflict between her and Chef Ramsay was epic…it was also hilarious, and even touching at one point, when she broke down in tears.

I began to play the writer’s favourite game, ‘what if,’ and imagined what would happen if a strong character like Ramsay came in to salvage a troubled British department store and butted heads with a stubborn, spoilt girl accustomed to having her own way – and Rhys Gordon and Natalie Dashwood came into being.

I have to admit that I am crushing on Rhys at the moment! Does he have qualities of men you have met? Do any exist? (Ha ha… lucky my husband does not read my blog!)

Good thing my husband doesn’t read my books!  LOL.  Rhys is pretty hot, isn’t he?  He’s smart, street savvy, determined and ambitious – and yet he isn’t conventionally handsome.  In my mind, Rhys is a little bit Daniel Craig, with the personality and drive of Gordon Ramsay, and he’s a little bit Ewan McGregor.  He’s slightly rough around the edges.  He has a temper.  But there’s no one more dependable or fiercely loyal to those he loves. {Sigh... I'm feeling faint AGAIN}

What do you think it is about ‘Darcy qualities’ that drives so many women (including me) crazy?

In fact, one of my most popular (and most Tweeted) blogs is “The Enduring Appeal of Jane Austen’s Men,” which asks that very question:  what is it, exactly, that keeps us coming back to Mr Darcy, Colonel Brandon, Henry Tilney, and Mr Knightley?  The answer, I think, is that they are all good and decent men, but they are also flawed and human.  They are passionate.  They love deeply and completely.

What woman can resist that?

Natalie came across as very shallow and stupid at the beginning. Honestly, she improved because she was a really nice person, but I got the impression a lot of the initial attraction was all about looks. Do you think lust is just as important as love in a relationship?

I think it’s a very good starting point!  LOL.  Seriously, while physical attraction is important and is what initially draws us to someone else, it’s that person’s inner qualities that keep us coming back for more.  Kindness, a sense of humour, compassion, loyalty – they’re all far more important traits than physical beauty, which, let’s face it, fades over time. {So, so true... unless you pay for surgery! LOL}

The world in which Natalie lives is not the world most of us come from… do you think this is what makes reading these kind of books/ watching chickflick movies appealing? I certainly loved escaping into this world. For example, a £11,000 chandelier is not what every person would consider a reasonable purchase – Natalie was crazy!

Natalie, at least in the beginning of the book, has a very vague concept of financial reality and absolutely no idea what a budget is!  This is due to her privileged upbringing and the fact that her father died when she was eleven.  For most of her life, her mother and her grandfather, Sir Richard, have indulged her.  She’s a kind girl with a good heart – she simply has no idea how to manage money, because she’s never had to, and she’s ill-prepared to cope in the wake of the failing department store’s losses.

I definitely do like to escape into a world different from my own!  I think the appeal of chick flicks and chick lit is that they allow us to identify with heroines like Rebecca Bloomwood and her shopping excesses, Bridget Jones and her endless diets, and Andie Sachs and her fashion fails, while allowing us a glimpse into the worlds of high finance, or publishing, or high-end fashion magazines.  It just goes to show that everyone – no matter how rich or famous or powerful – has the same need to love and be loved.

To help budding authors reading this, can you tell us a bit about how you came to publish your books?

I wrote the books mostly on weekends and in free moments.  Up until very recently I worked full time, so writing was something I squeezed in whenever I could.  When I finished the third book, I approached the Elaine English Literary Agency in Washington, DC for representation and submitted “Love and Liability.”  Although they couldn’t use it at the time, Elaine referred me to Nikki Terpilowksi, who had just left to start her own agency, Holloway Literary.

Nikki emailed me and asked to see a synopsis and the first 50 pages, and then asked for the entire manuscript.  After reading it she offered me representation.  Needless to say, I was thrilled!

What was the editorial process like?

It was a bit daunting the first time.  Since Carina UK bought all three books, there were things like continuity to consider.  And each book had to stand alone, so that readers who hadn’t read the first book could follow the characters in the second or third. I think there were initially 11 pages of revisions for Prada and Prejudice.  But my editor, Helen, did an amazing job of shaping and refining the story into the wonderful read it is now.

It’s gotten easier with each successive book…I’ve learned to ‘think like an editor’ and anticipate the things an editor might comment on, and I try and fix them before they get tagged.

At the moment, many people have mixed views on social media. Do you think it is important? (I found you on Twitter – how fantastic is that!) If so, how do you prioritise your time?

I do think social media is important, and whether we like it or not – it’s here to stay.  I love Twitter and I’ve met so many lovely people (like yourself) there!  To me, it’s not a chore at all – it’s fun.  I have a Facebook author page and Goodreads and Amazon author pages as well.

I try to Tweet in the mornings and throughout the day, most days.  I’m on Facebook and Goodreads sporadically, but I try to pop in at least once or twice a week.  It’s sometimes tough as a writer to juggle social media with writing responsibilities, particularly if I’m on a deadline – as I am now.  I’ve learned to wing it and do the best I can.  But for me, writing always comes first.

Do you have an author you admire? If so, why?

Just one?  LOL.  I admire Helen Fielding; she defied the standard romantic convention at the time and wrote about a woman who wasn’t rail-thin, who didn’t work in a glamorous job, but who, like most of us, struggled with her weight and disastrous boyfriends and dead-end jobs.  And despite her failings and foibles, we all fell in love with Bridget Jones.

What are you working on now? Tell us about it…

I’m writing the sixth book in the Dating Mr Darcy series, “Prada in New York.”  Natalie persuades Rhys to let her come along with him to Manhattan to open a new Dashwood and James store.  Holly James is in the city as well – her boyfriend, chef Jamie Gordon, is opening his first US restaurant in midtown.

Natalie is dismayed to learn that Rhys has a sexy new personal assistant, Darcy Quinn.  She’s convinced that Darcy wants a bit more from Rhys than just a pay raise.  Holly is equally dismayed when she meets Jamie’s gorgeous new sous chef, Catherine.  He’s spending more time with Catherine than he is with her!  So when ex-flame Alex Barrington reappears in her life, Holly finds herself wondering…did she choose the wrong man?

There’s also a cat burglar on the loose, and when he steals a portrait of Natalie’s father from the apartment, Nat is determined to catch the thief.

Where we can find out more about you and buy your books?

Kobo US -
Katie Oliver Website -

The perfect trilogy for Austen-and-shopping-mad fans! Give in to your love of scandal and Prada in this glamorous collection of the Dating Mr Darcy trilogy!

Prada and Prejudice
He’s a man in possession of a large fortune….but is he in want of a wife?!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Natalie Dashwood loves to shop. After all, as the heiress to the renowned London department store Dashwood & James she’s been wearing designer shoes since she could walk! But a socialite’s life isn’t as perfect as you might imagine… Natalie’s spending is spiraling slightly out of control, her rock star boyfriend is engaged to someone else, and it seems the family business is in financial crisis. New high-flying business exec Rhys Gordon has been brought in to save the company from ruin, but what are his motives? And infuriatingly even a shoe-shopping spree can’t take her mind off his distracting and oh-so-charming smile…
Couture and confetti mix with scandal and intrigue in this wonderful tale of retail, romance and redemption.
Love and Liability
Sometimes your sensibilities make absolutely no sense!

Holly James is looking for her big break. A young journalist for BritTEEN magazine, she is dying to write about something more meaningful than pop stars and nail varnish. So when she spots a homeless teenager outside the office, she feels compelled to tell her story. But her evil boss Sasha has other ideas…
Holly is sent to interview a city solicitor she has never heard of. But Alex Barrington turns out to be the very opposite of fusty and boring and Holly’s interest struggles to stay strictly professional!

With Sasha sabotaging her every move, and her story about teens on the street leading her into London’s dark underworld, Holly is chasing both love and success at the same time. But happy endings like that only happen in books don’t they…?
Mansfield Lark
Gemma Astley has succeeded where so many others have failed. She has somehow managed to tame tearaway rock star Dominic Heath and stop his womanising ways for good. But just as they find happiness, Dominic’s secret aristocratic past becomes public knowledge, and jeopardises everything.

Dominic is actually Rupert Locksley, heir of Mansfield House, a crumbling stately home that needs major financial investment to save it from ruin.

Dominic’s mother pleads for his help, but his father, the Earl, is on the verge of disinheriting him. Meanwhile Dominic’s new status as Mansfield’s long-lost heir attracts the attention of cut-throat socialite Bibi Matchington-Alcester, who means to make him hers at any cost.

Gemma and Dominic will need to test the strength of their foundations – as well as those of Mansfield House – if either are to remain standing.

Friday, 5 September 2014


When a book does not sell you can do one of two things (in my humble opinion)... despair and pull your hair out OR make it FREE.

Think happy thoughts... sales DO NOT MATTER! 
After, pulling far too much hair out for too long I have decided to go for option two!

My novelette FIRST DATE has great reviews, but it just did not sell. After I ran a free promotion I did get some sales but then they vanished into thin air.

I added three short stories to make it a bigger collection and still that did not do the job. Ultimately, it was only priced at 77 p so any sales were frankly silly money! This is why it is logical to give it away. I want readers to enjoy my story.

For those of you who want to know how I did this, basically you make it free with another distributor (in my case smashwords) and then Amazon price match it! Smashwords distribute to other retailers so I get more exposure... win-win! Maybe?

Since HYBRID has gone FREE permanently, I see regular sales of COMPLICATIONS, RETURN, and the BOXSET. I have readers! YAY! I have had amazing feedback (and some not so great... let's not talk about that too much).

Anyway, to celebrate I have designed a brand new cover with Gibraltar in the backdrop (yes... that is Morocco in the distance! I took this picture whilst on the cable car). After all, FIRST DATE is set there... it is based on my real date when I was an innocent teenager!

I would love to know what you think of this new cover... and if you read my little collection please leave me feedback!

Thanks so much and have a great weekend! :)

Vanessa :) xx

BARNES & NOBLE - FOR NOOK (The two reviews on here were given to me before I updated and tweaked the stories - I do listen to negative feedback and took on board the comments!)

Thursday, 4 September 2014

One Lovely Blog

I have been nominated for the "One Lovely Blog Award" by Julia, sister of a good friend of mine on Twitter, Terry Tyler.

CLICK HERE for her post!

Follow Julia and Terry on Twitter - they are both lovely (note the pun!)

Anyway, so basically I have to give 7 facts about me... I assume interesting ones!

Here comes the boring bit... THE RULES!

  • Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you
  • Share 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 blogs that you particularly like, or fewer if you can’t think of 15
  • If I’ve nominated your blog, please don’t feel obliged to take part if you don’t want to, but if you do, great stuff - the more the merrier! Thanks

Now that's out of the way...

7 FACTS ABOUT ME (oh, come on, don't yawn already...)

I was born and raised in Gibraltar and am bilingual (English and Spanish). Until the age of eight, I lived behind a closed border and only knew the 2.5 square miles known as "The Rock"... according to my distant cousin, when I was about 5 she visited and told me she had been in Spain. I asked where that was and she pointed across the straits of Gibraltar and said, "There!" Ha ha... it was right in front of me!

Gibraltar... my rock!

I am a jack of all trades, master of none (or many - who knows?). I have worked as a trainee accountant, secondary school mathematics teacher, swimming teacher, and now am a self-published "indie" author and stay-at-home mum! Most the time I have no idea what I want to do in life... can't I try it all?

Hey there... I sometimes sell books!

I LOVE to read books that make me feel some sort of emotion... I want to connect with the characters, feel for them, cry, get excited by what they do, mull over the predicaments!

Think happy thoughts...

My favourite novelists are both men and women! I love fiction laced with a romantic undertone. Ken Follett, Jane Austen, Jeffrey Archer, Sarra Manning, Leon Uris, Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling (NOT The Casual Vacancy!), etc...

Oh... is that MY book on the shelf? HA!

I am constantly fighting to keep in shape and have ranged from a size 8 to 16! At my height of 5 foot, 1 inch... I need to watch what I do!

Give me CAKE!

I enjoy exercise - my favourites being walking and swimming! I swam for Gibraltar when I was 14 years old!

Not me - I wish! :)

I once had a photo shoot with my sister - it was a laugh! The best pictures I have ever had taken of me! :)

Not my usual look!
Okay, so that's it...

Here are my nominations!

Thanks for reading...

Val Poore 

Gary Alan Henson

My Book Fairy

Carol Hedges

Susan Buchanan

Lydia Aswolf

Samantha Bacchus

Karen Einsel

Wiz Green

The Grumbling Gargoyle

Willow Star Serenity