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A former columnist for The Guardian, Jenny Colgan contributes regularly to national BBC radio and is the author of more than eleven bestselling novels, including her recent international bestsellers The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris published in 2014 and Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the 2013 Romantic Novel of the Year award from the Romantic Novelists Association. She is married with three children and lives in London and France. You can visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
How do you balance writing between two timelines in Sweetshop of Dreams? Did you find it difficult to switch between Lillian and Rosie?
Actually it wasn't my intention to switch timelines at all. It was Rosie's story really, I just included a flashback to Lilian's past to give her some context in terms of the type of woman she was.
Then, I got really caught up in her story, I loved writing it and just adored the romance. It is slipping out of living memory, the Second World War; the stakes were so much higher then. So it was fun, plus I really enjoyed Lilian's cranky voice when she's talking about contemporary candy- I like her absolute refusal to have chewing gum in her sweetshop because she thinks it's vulgar!- so I just put more in.
It also, I hope, contrasts nicely with Rosie who, although she is a lot younger, obviously is much more conventional than her great-aunt; she's a nurse, so she's always trying to be sensible and look after people. I really like their dynamic. I do think people who look after the elderly well are just about the best people on earth. It's rewarding to look after a baby; to help and be kind and sweet and patient with people at the other ends of their lives is much harder.
To get back to the book, that's the fun of writing too: you can always have a shot at trying something new, and seeing if it works or not. I remember the first time I ever wrote a flashback, about ten books ago, and sending it to a writer friend of mine, saying, 'does this work?' and her saying, 'why on earth do you think I know what I'm doing either?". Which made me feel a lot better! And that's why it's always worth giving everything a shot...
Rosie Hopkins's life is...comfortable. She has a steady nursing job, a nice apartment, and Gerard, her loyal (if a bit boring) boyfriend. And even though she might like to pursue a more rewarding career, and Gerard doesn't seem to have any plans to propose, Rosie's not complaining. Things could be worse. Right?
Life gets a bit more interesting when Rosie's mother sends her out to the country to care for her ailing great aunt Lilian, who owns an old-fashioned sweetshop. But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what's comfortable might not be so great after all. (Courtesy of Sourcebooks.)
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