Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Brook Cottage Books is thrilled to have Victoria J Brown as a guest on the blog. Victoria is currently touring with Fiction Addiction Book Tours and kindly agreed to an
interrogation interview for the blog.
JB: I am fascinated by the fact that you are a wedding planner. How on earth did you end up in that line of work?
Victoria: While I was at university I worked in a hotel, working as a barmaid and waitress (as many students do). However, because my degree was in Business & Marketing, the Manager promoted me to Trainee Marketing Assistant. This was the start of my Events, Marketing and PR career. So when it came to getting married I had over 10 years’ experience in the Events field. So planning our wedding was like second nature, however, it was important to me that our wedding was unique and personable to us.
There is so much money spent on weddings, so making a wedding not blend into the several other weddings that guests will be attending that year can be quite difficult. I found when I was researching that there wasn’t many ideas on how to make a wedding different, (not like there is today). So I decided I would love to help brides make their wedding individual to them. So it was after this I qualified to become a professional wedding planner.
For a few years I worked as a wedding planner, but wanted to develop this further. Since then, I have written 3 non-fiction weddings books. My company Calm Weddings (www.calmweddings.com) is an online boutique. We are currently expanding so that we can help suppliers as well as brides. The Calm Weddings website will soon allow wedding suppliers to put their products on the site.
I love weddings. I’m a big softy. I love the romance and the essence of why couples get married. I think sometimes this is lost when planning a wedding. The stress and complications can overshadow the reason why two people want to spend the rest of their lives together. Hence the reason, I named the company ‘Calm Weddings’.
JB: How do you fit your writing around your career?
Victoria: I love what I do, and that includes writing. I think that’s the key. I’m very lucky to enjoy my job (including the writing side). I usually write on a night, sometimes if I get chance I’ll do bits during the day. But usually it’s the evenings when I write. It’s nice once I’m into writing a novel, as it’s like reading a book you can’t put down and you can’t wait to get back to it.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes time can be quite stretched as I have a 7 year-old and a 5 year-old, but doing what I do allows me to be at home for them. I also did my MA in Creative Writing when the girls were younger, and that was quite difficult as there were many deadlines etc. However, I realised if I could juggle my time between looking after little people, working and studying, that I could survive on little sleep J.
JB: You won a short story competition in which Adele Parks was the judge. Tell me a little about how that felt and what your story was about.
VICTORIA: This was so amazing! I was so thrilled I can’t beginning to describe how ecstatic I was. It was when I was studying for my MA, Adele came in and spoke about her career. At this time a competition was launched for the whole university (staff included). Adele had written the first part of the story about a couple who were going to get engaged. We had to finish the story with a how, when and where!
I wrote about a camping trip that wasn’t really a camping trip but a romantic cottage break. Adele said, ‘I liked the humour, tension, character development. It’s a clean script, definitely the strongest …’
I was lucky enough to win some mentoring with Adele. She was so lovely. Her advice was really constructive and definitely helped me further with my writing. I couldn’t thank her enough.
JB: You also write inspirational books. Are you a naturally positive person?
Victoria: Truthfully, I wasn’t … but I am now!
There have been many life events and circumstances that have affected my life (as many other peoples), plus depression and mental illnesses has affected my family, so I’m very pro helping anyone who suffers with depression.
When we were going through some dark times, I started to read about the Law of Attraction. Rhonda Byrne’s Book, ‘The Secret’ changed my life! I truly mean that. Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t read it and think, ‘well that’s it I’m the most positive person ever now’. But it made sense to me. It took years to retrain my brain. But when you do, it’s addictive. It’s so nice to be grateful for the smallest things in life, (running water, shelter, food etc.) I wake up on a morning and thank the universe. I continue to say, ‘Thank you’ throughout the day, not for the sake of it, because I mean it.
I’m now the most positive person I could ever be. It doesn’t feel right to be negative. You find many people who believe in this way of thinking have actually been through some hard times, and realising where you could have been to where you are now is just a really good feeling.
When you become this way you notice how negative people are, what people complain about and it’s truly sad. However, admittedly, I don’t have much negativity around me. If you believe in the Law of Attraction, you believe you’ll attract like-minded people to you. I believe I do. Yes, there are times when things don’t go the way I would have hoped, but then I just think there must be another opportunity, and that particular one wasn’t right for me. I have thousands of inspirational quotes saved. My books were a way of helping others to have at least one motivational quote a day. I’d love to write a deeper book in years to come, that would include my own experiences, and experiences of others. Where I am in my life now, is just such a lovely place to be.
JB: Do you have any writing rituals, such as certain music playing while you write?
Victoria: I’m a silent writer. I can’t have any music, or background noise, except in the summer time when I love to hear the birds singing.
JB: In the book, How my Life Became Chaos, Kat is dealing with more than her fair share of issues. Where did you get the idea for the book?
Victoria: I love writing about real-life issues. Life is full of drama. I did a talk the other week for a group of young people, they wanted to know where my ideas came from, I honestly think of ideas every day. From a conversation with a friend to reading the newspaper, there is always something going on in people’s lives – and generally no-one else knows about it!
I also wanted to write a book about modern life: women who have jobs / run businesses, and things they have to think about if they have a family. We do still live in a world where most women have to put their career on the back burner to have a family. (Yes, I know it has become more popular for Daddy to step in but it’s usually Mummy who makes the changes – you only have to research statistics to see this is true). I myself have done this, I wouldn’t change it as I love what I do. I was made redundant when my first child was born, so this pushed me into setting up my own business. This was great for me. However, there are many women who have to take a step back in their career.
There is a lot of drama in the book, but if you start talking to people and really find out what’s going on behind closed doors (a title for a future book J) you’ll find that everyone knows someone who is going through some kind of hardship or worry.
JB: 50% of the profits from the book go to the charity Hope for Holly. Tell me a little bit about that.
Victoria: My husband is friends with Holly’s Mum (they went to school together). Holly was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2012 when she was 3 years old. Having children so close to Holly’s age just compounded my empathy for them. I can’t even imagine what her parents are going through, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Holly still has lots of treatments now, she’s such a pleasurable little thing. It’s important to me to always try and help charities in any way I can. This seemed like a logical solution to help a small charity that was well known to us.
JB: How long did it take you to write the book?
Victoria: Over a year, maybe longer – I kept changing the structure and the plot! When I finally completed my first draft, it took another 6 months before the final copy was ready to be professionally edited and then finally published.
JB: Do you have any plans for another book?
Victoria: How My Life Became Chaos is the 1st in the Chaos Series. I’ve already published, Will the Chaos End and Never-Ending Chaos. I have so many ideas. I have notebooks full of things I’d love to write. However, I am currently working on a series of Novellas, based around wedding planning. As part of Calm Weddings, I wanted to link some fiction books that relate with wedding tips and advice.
JB: Do you have any advice for budding authors?
Victoria: Go for it. Never ever give up! Once you have finished your novel, get your work professionally edited. If your passion is to write, do it for yourself and no-one else.
JB: Thank you so much Victoria.
Read on for an excerpt from the book and to find out about the great giveaway on this tour.
Kat is pregnant after only being with Max for 6 months. Running her own beauty salon, dealing with her depressed alcoholic father, fighting battles with Max’s mother and facing ex-girlfriends, Kat isn’t sure if having a baby is the right thing to do. Her life feels like one big mess, whatever decision she makes will change her life for ever.
50% of the profits go to the Hope for Holly Charity.
The laughter was the strongest memory of that afternoon. We giggled as we ran through the perfectly trimmed hedges of the maze while Mum and Dad followed our screams of excitement. This type of frolicking would usually have had me, a twelve-year-old, sitting on a bench, far too cool to join in such childishness. There was something about knowing I wouldn’t bump into my school friends, and my parents’ enjoyment, that made the whole day different. I was relishing the fact that I was still a child. Libby was only six years old at the time, and pleasurably held my hand as we meandered round the densely grown hedges.
Mum had packed a bundle of sandwiches. We devoured our way through the mixture of ham, cheese and jam, picking at the plain-flavoured crisps, the pink, decorated cakes and the chocolate biscuits. The large red blanket allowed space for us all as we soaked up the glorious weather, appreciating the small breeze that cooled our clammy bodies.
Lampford Hall stood proudly at the top of the park but the Hall itself was not open to visitors. Lord and Lady Lampford had opened their delightful grounds to the public but wanted to keep their home private. A dwarf stone wall with wrought-iron railings separated the Hall from the gardens and three members of staff circled the magnificent place. The sandstone building gleamed elegantly in the sun as people stood outside the guarded area, taking photos which would allow them to savour the moment for ever.
We had listened to Mum tell a story about the fairies who lived in the magical Hall (for Libby’s benefit, not mine, although I loved listening to her tales). Libby had been mesmerised as Mum told her they all have their own responsibilities. Libby, who’d lost her first tooth the month before, concluded that the ‘tooth fairy’ must have the most important job. Mum explained we couldn’t go inside the magical Hall because if we saw the fairies the magic would disappear; just like we couldn’t see Santa. I remember thinking that when I had children I’d want Mum to tell these amazing stories. She’d had them stored, adapting them for different scenarios. When I listened that day I wished I was younger, still believing in the magical spirit of childhood. It was a deep-rooted feeling. One that had nested with me since my discovery that Santa didn’t exist (all because of Hannah Johnson, who hit me and told me I was stupid for believing such a ridiculous story). When Mum explained the truth, it wasn’t only Santa that disappeared; the enchantment of childhood and that special ability to believe in anything also vanished.
Choosing to immerse myself in the childhood atmosphere of Lampford Park, I joined Libby on the swings, slides and roundabout. We fed bread to the ducks, carrots to the deer and lettuce to the rabbits. We devoured soft chocolate ice-cream which trickled with
chocolate sauce, chocolate sprinkles and a chocolate flake - absolute luxury. We ran through the water fountains, tasting the splashes that bounced against our skin. Our clothes were soaked right through. Mum and Dad watched us from the edge, their arms linked together, enjoying our squeals of exhilaration. Over-excitement unleashed our deviant side as we dragged Dad by the arms, pulling him into the water jets. Libby and I laughed hysterically as he chased us through the shower of cold, refreshing water.
On the journey home we all (except Mum) had to take off our clothes. Libby and I were down to our pants. Poor Dad had to strip off too: his shirt and trousers were soaking wet. Mum wrapped me and Libby tightly in blankets as fatigue engulfed us. I remember closing my eyes as they joked about hoping they didn’t have an accident or get pulled by the police.
‘What would they think?’ Mum laughed.
It was decided that fish and chips would end the day nicely. Mum dropped us off at home with strict instructions to get our pyjamas on, ready for a cosy and warm night. It was mine and Libby’s job to rummage through our collection of videos and pick a suitable film for us all. It was always one of the Disney collection which Libby decided upon.
Usually Dad would have done the fish-and-chip run, but because we’d well and truly drenched him, Mum insisted she go. I still wonder to this day: if we hadn’t soaked him, would she still be here?
I wanted to ask the policeman that, as he sat with Dad in the lounge, relaying the news that Mum had been involved in a car accident.
She didn’t make the fish and chip shop.
Instantly, they said.
‘I think I’m pregnant.’
‘You think?’ Suzy smiled. ‘So you might not be.’
‘You’re right, I might not be, but I’m four days late.’
‘That’s nothing. Sometimes I’m a week late.’ Optimism shone from her eyes, her gentleness always present as she relaxed back in her chair.
‘I’m never late and I feel so ill.’
‘You wouldn’t be ill after four days, would you?’
‘Some of my customers say they knew as soon as it happened.’
I nodded, raising my eyes at the absurdity that a woman would know when one of her eggs had been impregnated. With flashes of how and when it could have happened piercing through my mind, I asked, ‘Can you remember that ball I went to with Max?’
‘God, how could I forget?’ Suzy groaned and we both laughed at the memory of me dragging her around Newcastle, York and Leeds, looking for the perfect dress. I was so nervous about meeting Max’s work colleagues for the first time. I wanted them to be impressed, or I didn’t want Max to be embarrassed; I wasn’t sure which was the more important. I knew I had to look my best: a scruffy beauty therapist is never a good advert. We’d shopped for weeks on end, but it was worth it: Max commented, as did most of his colleagues, about how stunning I looked. It didn’t stop the nerves, though.
‘Well, remember I told you I was that nervous, I drank too much and threw up in the toilets before the meal was served?’
‘I still can’t believe Max doesn’t know about that.’ Suzy laughed. Then suddenly, her smile vanished. ‘But that was, what? Seven, eight weeks ago? Did you miss last month’s─’
‘You remember a few weekends back we went to the Lakes?’
‘Of course. It’s when I met Michael,’ she giggled, like a teenager.
‘Anyway, I took two packs of pills back to back so I wouldn’t have my period whilst we were away.’
‘Well, now I’m due on and four days later it’s still not happening.’
‘But, if you’ve taken two packs together this can delay it, can’t it?’
‘I think so, but I don’t think I’d be this late.’ I ran my hand through my dark mane, the shine and texture inherited from Mum, the colour from Dad. ‘Plus, I feel so sick, my boobs hurt, and they’re bigger. I thought it was because I’d taken two packs of pills, but I know it’s not.’
‘You don’t know for sure.’
‘I’m sure enough - and I don’t know what the hell to do about it.’ Tears formed and I swallowed the lump in my throat.
‘Have you talked to Max?’
‘Not yet. There’s no point saying anything if I’m not.’ I sipped my coffee, trying to calm my nerves.
‘Right, come on. Let’s go.’
‘To buy a test.’ Suzy was already out of her seat as I sat stubbornly in mine. Not only was my sofa the most comfortable place to be, I’d had the day from hell.…
About the Author
Victoria J.Brown is a chick-lit author. While studying for her MA in Creative Writing she won a short story competition judged by Adele Parks. Although, Victoria holds a MA, she sees herself as a storyteller not a literary writer.
She is passionate about people following their dreams. She has written Annual Inspirational Books which provide daily motivational messages. Also being a qualified wedding planner and Managing Director of Calm Weddings, she has written 3 weddings books.
Please note that while How My Life Became Chaos is touring, if readers buy a copy of the book and send proof of purchase to the author, they will be sent an ecopy of Daily Inspirational Messages 2014.
The giveaway on this tour is 1, 2 and 3 of the Chaos series in one signed paperback copy.
a Rafflecopter giveaway