Search This Blog

Mhairi McFarlane

November 2014

HER debut novel sold 500,000 copies, it’s been optioned for a film, there have been talks about a TV series, meetings with big dogs of the film industry, and showbiz mates... but it was while in a pub back in Nottingham that Mhairi McFarlane realised she had nailed the dream of becoming a successful author.
“I was a friend who introduced me to a group of girls by saying I’d written a book. They were asking what it was about, I quoted a line from it and they all instantly knew it. ‘You wrote You Had Me At Hello!?’ All of them had read it. That was definitely a cool feeling,” says the 38-year-old, who lives in Sherwood.
This was two years ago. Her debut novel went on to shift over half-a-million copies; the biggest selling e-book for HarperCollins.
It’s also been sold to 16 countries and has been optioned for a film.
Even rival chick-lit authors said nice things about You Had Me At Hello, among them Lisa Jewell, Jane Fallon and Marian Keyes, the queen of the genre.
“I’d interviewed her when I was working at the Post,” says the former reporter-turned-feature writer, who quit seven years ago to pursue novel writing.
“We really hit it off, so when I entered a writing competition for the Telegraph, I asked if I could interview her for it. She agreed and I flew out to Dublin. Because I’d met her when You Had Me At Hello was finished I sent her a copy.
“I got this really nice email from her absolutely raving about it, saying ‘I’m so jealous of your talent, you’ve done so well, I don’t blurb a lot of women’s fiction but I will do this because it’s so great.’ That was amazing. Because she is the top dog of chick-lit.”
Mhairi’s third book, It’s Not Me It’s You, has just been published on the same day as Keyes’ latest.
“It’s kind of saying the publisher believes you are going to do well, what they call being a ‘priority author’,” she says.
It’s also her first hardback, after the paperback and e-book releases of You Had Me At Hello and Here's Looking At You, which made the Sunday Times Bestsellers list.
“I’ve been told that having your third book coming out in hardback is very unusual,” says Mhairi, who lives with her boyfriend Alex and their cat, Mr Miffy.
Not only that, it’s her first in the publishing premier league; the first two came out on Avon, a imprint of HarperCollins. This is with main imprint HarperFiction, the first of another two book deal.
It’s Not Me It’s You follows 33-year-old Geordie council press officer, Delia Moss, who proposes to her boyfriend, then receives a text from him that is intended for The Other Woman.
Like her past two books, it’s  essentially romantic fiction but with a comic edge.
“You Had Me At Hello is in many ways a conventional romance but was set up North, she was a crown court reporter - not a fluffy job - there’s a sarky sense of humour and swearing...
“There are no credit cards, no going to Manhattan. no being a PA to a rock star, no baking, no fretting about weight... I find that intensely dull.
“And I’m not talking about babies, yet. It’s relationships and work, which most of us know about.”
There have been a few parties at London’s swanky celebrity hang-out The Ivy Club & the V&A but most of the time Mhairi is writing, either at home or in Broadway.
Although reaching this level of success, just three years after her debut, does seems to have happened quickly, there were years of graft and frustration in the first four years after quitting her job at the Post.
“I got my agent in 2009 and my book didn’t come out for three years. That’s how long it took to get published. My agents spoke to a lot of heads of women’s fiction at various big publishing houses and they said they liked it but they weren’t taking on any chick-lit.
“It was the effect of the success of Bridget Jones. There was a goldrush and publishers got glutted with it.
“I did think I’d missed my moment. But I was lucky there was one editor who believed in it.”
Nottingham’s award-winning production company Wellington Films are working on a film for You Had Me At Hello and there having been meetings with more than one TV production company about writing a series in the mould of Cold Feet and Coupling.
But her priority is book four and she hopes to use non-London locations in the future, including her home city.
“I’d love to set a book in Nottingham. I think the time is right. It’s nice to make a change from the well trodden chick-lit locations of Dublin, London and New York.”

It’s Not Me It’s You is published by HarperFiction, priced at £10 hardback, £5.49 e-book. For more about Mhairi

No comments:

Post a Comment