My name is Laura Jane Williams, and I write about messy modern romance. My last book, Our Stop, was released last year and I’ve been busily working on the adaptation for screen. My new book is The Love Square, and if you can believe it I’ve already written a novel due for release next year, too! I’m used to writing a lot of words quickly – I used to be a columnist for Grazia, and also Red online, and I’ve written three non-fiction books as well: Becoming, Ice Cream for Breakfast, and The Life Diet, all of which focus on self-love and creating a life you love.
So Laura, how are you doing at the moment in lockdown?
Thank you for asking! I’m okay, actually. I’ve had mostly peaks with very few troughs, but I do have to say that when it’s felt tough it’s been really tough. I gave myself some time right at the beginning to just grieve, really. It felt scary and strange, and so I spent two weeks sleeping a lot because processing massive global change is exhausting! Then I started to introduce walks and workouts into my days, and stocked up on scented candles and my favourite foods. I’m blessed that my only role in all of this has been to stay at home. I’m so thankful to the key workers who kept the country moving whilst I watched another episode of Schitt’s Creek.
Have you been writing in lockdown/doing any digital events?
I’ve been one of those annoying people who has written a whole novel in lockdown, I’m afraid. I do say though, that only because I was contractually obliged! I had to be very selfish and sort of step away from the news and delete social media and create a little bubble for myself. My next novel involves travel, and being a romance some touching and kissing, too, so it’s been almost a pornographic escape to write about those things, imagining what it will be like when we can all finally get on an aeroplane without threat to wellbeing again! As for digital events, i’ve been saving those for the release of The Love Square, so we’ve got lots lined up for August in lieu of in-real-life events, which is exciting.
Can you tell us a bit about your background, what did you do before you wrote Our Stop, and now The Love Square?
I sure can! Before I wrote fiction, there was a bit of non-fiction. I wrote about my twenties in Becoming, overcoming burnout in Ice Cream for Breakfast, and curating a life you love in The Life Diet. I’ve had columns in magazines – I was actually Grazia’s dating columnist for a while! – and written for a lot of the big magazines and newspapers too. And before that, I did everything from fitting car seats at Babies R Us, selling furniture, teaching English as a foreign language, beauty PR, copywriting – you name it, I’ve paid my rent with it. I spent fifteen years having at least three jobs on the go at a time, all hoping that one day I could write full-time.
What made you decide to write The Love Square?
I was actually writing The Love Square before I pivoted to Our Stop. Once Our Stop was released and did well, my publisher signed me up for more books and I told my editor I’d been working on a story based on Far From The Madding Crowd, the Thomas Hardy novel. In that, the protagonist inherits a business, and with it three different potential suitors, so that was my jumping off point for The Love Square, too. As I developed the idea it was so freeing to write a modern rom-com where there wasn’t just one ideal man my leading lady pines for… developing three ideal men, all in their own way, was really fun! So I hope readers can feel that; that they get a sense of the romp of a time I had writing it, and so get to experience that when reading it.
Did you always know you were an author/writer?
Yeah, I think so. The thing is, I always thought that people like me didn’t write books. It’s weird how we tell kids that people in the arts just don’t make any money, so we encourage school-leavers to train as doctors and lawyers and accountants – “sensible jobs” – so that they’ll have money to then spend on… buying books, going to galleries, watching films or the theatre! My parents gave me no financial support once I’d left school, and made it very clear that if I was going to succeed in the arts (or any career) then I’d have to do it on my own two feet, which made me really dogged and determined to not only become published, but in a fiscally viable way too. That’s one of the things I a proudest of in my life: I am very privileged in so many ways, but have always paid my own bills.
Can you tell us a little of what it is about?
In short, Penny Bridge has always been very unlucky in love. She has breast cancer in her twenties and it spooked her ex-boyfriend, so she’s used to being strong and being on her own. A sudden change in circumstance means she has to leave London for a year to take care of her uncle’s business in Derbyshire, and it gives her a sort of YOLO attitude to enjoying herself whilst she’s there. She meets Francesco, then she meets Thomas, then she meets Priyesh… and whilst dating three men tries to figure out who, if any, are “The One”.
Where did the inspiration for Penny come from?
Aside from Far From the Madding Crowd, Penny is a mish-mash of all the strong, determined women I am lucky enough to know in my life. Just like in Our Stop, where Nadia works in STEM, I wanted her to work in a traditionally male environment like a kitchen, and to be really talented at it too. I had so much fun researching the lives of prominent female chefs and how they got to where they are – because there aren’t actually that many of them! Catering and food is such unsociable hours, and often seems totally incompatible with motherhood, making it ripe for exploring how a thirty-something woman might consider that.
And lastly, who are three female authors who inspire you in your life and writing?
Oh gosh. Can I only pick three? I consider reading to be a cornerstone of my work as a writer, so I do read widely and often – meaning my favourite writers change week to week. Zadie Smith was the first author who really felt like this moment of “woah! How has she created this world that means so much to me?” She’s such a sharp thinker, but also lets you know that she’s practised learning how to think, which is such a gift. I always have the next Jessie Burton on order for similar reasons. And gosh, I feel cliched saying this because I know she means so much to so many, but Elizabeth Gilbert is like, mythological at this point isn’t she? For the ways she inspires creativity as a way of life, and extols the virtue of living well in order to write well? I can get on board with that. I frequently ask myself in times of need: what would Liz do?
You can find out more about Laura on www.laurajaneauthor.com or @laurajaneauthor on social media.
You can buy The Love Square here.