A heatwave brings emotions to boiling point… it is high summer in London and trouble is brewing.
Chef Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him.
Stressed doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a mercurial actress. Journalist Harriet’s long-term relationship with Sanjay hits the buffers, leaving each of them with serious questions to answer. Meanwhile single mother of four Karen lacks the appetite for a suitable relationship.
Passion and panic rise in the heatwave. Who can spot the danger signs?
Already a familiar face to many as The Sun newspaper’s doctor and through her many TV appearances, I’m delighted today to welcome Carol Cooper as my guest on Being Anne. Carol’s second novel, Hampstead Fever, was published on 1st July by Hardwick Press, and I’m really looking forward to reading and reviewing in October.
Hello Carol, and welcome to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself to everyone?
Hi Anne. Many thanks for inviting me round. I live in London and Cambridge, and, until a couple of years ago, I was known as a media doctor, which basically means writing and broadcasting on medical matters alongside practising medicine. But then I branched out into fiction with my debut One Night at the Jacaranda and realised my ambition of writing a novel.
I love your philosophy of “write what you like to read”. Tell me more about how that applies to Hampstead Fever…
Some writers can apply themselves to a genre they don’t really enjoy, but that doesn’t work for me. I can only pour myself into my story if it’s something I’d read myself, with complex characters that are flawed yet likeable. Bad things can happen to them, but the end must be uplifting. And I like realistic dialogue. Hampstead Fever is a contemporary tale, told from several different viewpoints. Think of the film Love, Actually. That’s the kind of feel I enjoy in a book, and I like to leave readers with similar emotions.
When you’re writing, do you have a “typical reader” in your mind? A certain background, or age group maybe? Are they exclusively female?
While I don’t have a typical reader in mind, I think most readers would be between 35 and 45. With my first novel, I was surprised to find I had so many male readers, but then half the book is told from male points of view.
I do get quite exhausted just reading about you Carol – doctor, teacher, writer, broadcaster, mother! How on earth do you manage to write fiction too?
Well, here’s my secret: I’ve figured out how to do all those things part-time. Plus my husband enjoys cooking, and my three sons are now grown up. In fact they’re older than many of the medical students I teach. It still doesn’t leave as much time as I’d like for writing fiction, so I’m always guiltily stealing moments wherever I can.
Did you always have a secret hankering to write fiction? And when you decided to do so, did you simply sit at your keyboard and write?
Yes, I always had that dream. I started on a novel when I was at university. It was dire, partly because I knew nothing at the time, except how to pass exams. Over the years I tried to write children’s books about trains in East Anglia, lost teddy bears, and a girl confined to a wheelchair. Then there was a rite of passage tale set in Cambridge. It was only when my father died, and I was sitting on a plane on my way to his funeral, that I got the idea for the plot of One Night at the Jacaranda. When I got back, I sat down and wrote it. They do say the death of the parent changes things… I followed this with Hampstead Fever two years later. It features many of the same characters, but stands alone equally well.
Tell me a little about your path to publication as a fiction author… did your journalism and media experience help or hinder?
Before my debut novel, I had already written about 10 non-fiction books and done a lot of journalism. That experience did help, if only to make me aware of the need for editing, ruthlessly at times. Of course, I had a lot to learn about plotting, character, and building suspense. Fiction is a very different beast. For instance, fact-packed pages are a good thing when you’re writing about child health, but, in a novel, that kind of information dump could send readers into a coma.
What writers do you particularly admire? If someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you really like them to mention?
I’d be thrilled if they mention Marian Keyes, Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, or Nick Hornby.
And what’s next for you? Are you working on something new?
I’m working on another novel with some of the same characters as Hampstead Fever. There’s also going to be a story set in Cambridge, and at some point a novel based in Egypt, where I spent much of my childhood. Hope my husband keeps cooking.
Thank you Carol – lovely to meet you, and I’ll look forward to reading and reviewing Hampstead Fever next month!
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist and author. She practises medicine in London, writes for The Sun newspaper, and teaches medical students at Imperial College. After a string of parenting books and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to writing novels about 30-somethings looking for love.