My guest in this week’s “Book Talk with” feature is Imogen Payne. I’ve seen her name with increasing frequency on social media, and I recently read one of her books, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I’m delighted that she agreed to talk to me today.
Welcome, Imogen. Can you start by telling our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi everyone! I’m Imogen Payne, and I’m the author of the best-selling Sunny Shore Bay and Lily Vale Village series.
I live in the British countryside with three stuck-up cats, one mad dog and a very well-trained husband! When I’m not writing, I’m often found cooking up a storm in the kitchen, taking long walks through the nearby woods or snuggling up on the couch with a good book.
It’s lovely to meet you, Imogen. Welcome to Book Talk. What’s the first book you remember reading or owning?
I always adored the Noddy books by Enid Blyton, I still have many of my original copies knocking around the house somewhere! My dad used to read The Faraway Tree to my sister and I at bedtime too.
I see from your previous Book Talk posts that Enid Blyton is very popular with our peers, and for good reason!
She certainly is! I think she must have inspired so many writers, and often wonder what she’d think if she could know just how many of us cite her as a favourite. And talking of favourites, what’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Probably Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson, I re-read that book so many times as a child. It’s a tragic story that covers topics such as domestic violence, poverty and cancer, and yet somehow, Wilson manages to create little moments of joy and humour amidst the seriousness.
Sounds very different from The Faraway Tree! Do you have a favourite among the books you’ve written yourself?
It’s hard to pick as I’m attached to each one, but my latest story Secret Flowers and April Showers in Lily Vale Village hits close to home. It’s about two sisters who don’t get on, and as someone who has a sister (who I love dearly, but have had my fair share of disagreements with), I poured a lot of myself into it.
Do you read any genres apart from the one/s you write in?
I am partial to the odd thriller, and I’m a big fan of Gillian Flynn. Dark Places was a very harrowing story, but utterly gripping from start to finish. If any of your readers are interested in dipping a toe into the thriller genre, I couldn’t recommend Flynn’s work enough.
Which author/s had the biggest influence on you?
I read a lot of Jacqueline Wilson growing up, and despite being children’s books, her characters always felt like real people.
Nowadays, I’d say Fay Weldon is a big influence, for the same reasons. Her characters explore very real and raw emotions, despite their situations being quite bizarre in many cases, yet somehow, the author makes them strangely relatable.
I read one Fay Weldon book many, many years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it, and still have my copy. It was The Heart of the Country. It was on television, too. I also watched The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and enjoyed that. I don’t actually know why I never read any more of her books. Must rectify that! Do you read books more than once?
As a child, I re-read books so much, they started to fall apart! These days, I don’t revisit books so much, though I must admit, I’ve probably read The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon about ten times over the years.
Which book (if any) is your go-to comfort read?
I don’t really have a comfort read exactly, but I do have a nostalgia folder on my Kindle with a lot of my favourite childhood and teen books in it. Sometimes, I’ll flick through them for old time’s sake. There are many Jacqueline Wilson books in that folder, and I do enjoy looking back over them and remembering when I had all the time in the world to sit and read to my heart’s content without adult responsibilities getting in the way.
Childhood books really are such a comfort aren’t they? Even when I haven’t got time to read them I do find just knowing they’re there can make me happy. I have lots of my old childhood favourites on my bookshelves, and I just can’t bear to part with them. Do you prefer hardback, paperback, e-book, or audio, Imogen? Or don’t you have a preference?
I feel like this is a controversial choice, but I prefer e-books! They are much more comfortable to read, I find when I’m reading a large paperback, my hand begins to ache after a while, but maybe that’s just me!
I am also a fan of hardback books, mostly because I hate bending the spine of paperbacks, hardbacks just feel so much more sturdy to me.
Well, it’s not controversial to me! I’m exactly the same. I find e-books much more comfortable to read because of aching hands and wrists, and also eyesight. I find the paperbacks often have very small print too. But for special books that I really love, I do like a hardback, and funnily enough I find them more comfortable to read than paperbacks. Do you read series, or do you prefer standalones?
I’m a fan of series, especially ones where you become really attached to the characters. This is what I try to achieve with my Lily Vale Village and Sunny Shore Bay series, although they can be read as standalones, I include many reoccurring characters which fans of the series will know well and love.
What’s your current read?
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani. Set in Paris, it’s about a young couple who hire a nanny to take care of their two small children. Louise, the nanny, seems wonderful at first, but things begin to take a dark turn as the story progresses. I don’t want to give too much away, but I challenge anyone to read the chilling first line of this book and not find themselves wanting to read on!
That sounds intriguing! Have you ever preferred a film or tv version to the original book?
Ooh, a tough question! I suppose I would say I prefer the Harry Potter films, I only read up to book three as the writing style didn’t really grasp my attention as a youngster.
I loved the Gone Girl film too, but to be fair, I loved the book just as much.
That’s interesting. I was already an adult by the time the Harry Potter books appeared, and I loved them even more than the films. Is there any particular book that inspired you to write?
Not particularly, I’ve enjoyed telling stories ever since I was little. It was always my dream to become an author for as long as I can remember, I don’t think any one book inspired me, I believe it was a culmination of many.
So, what’s your latest book about, Imogen?
The book I’m currently writing is set in the village of Lily Vale, and it follows a librarian who is missing out on the real world due to her crippling shyness. She’s forever escaping into her books to avoid any sort of social interaction, but when her favourite author comes to the village for a book signing, well, let’s just say her world is turned upside down!
That sounds great fun! What’s next for you?
A new Sunny Shore Bay book, Fish & Chips in Sunny Shore Bay will be out on 31st July, and I’m in the first stages of writing that Lily Vale story I mentioned. After that, I’ll be focusing on Christmas and hopefully we’ll be celebrating the holidays in both Lily Vale and Sunny Shore Bay this year!
Well, that’s something for all your readers to look forward to! Thanks so much for joining me on the blog today, Imogen. Happy writing (and reading)!
The Sunny Shore Bay series of novellas are set in the gorgeous seaside town of Sunny Shore Bay, where there’s drama around every corner and plenty of laughs to be had, as well as a touch of romance!
If you fancy a trip to the countryside instead, why not check out the Lily Vale Village novellas, which take place in an idyllic and tight-knit village. Expect unlikely friendships, plenty of fun and yes, another hefty dollop of romance!
You’ll find that sometimes a character from one series pops over into the other to say hello, and there are plenty of reoccurring characters to get to know and love, so come along and meet the gang, happily ever afters guaranteed!
New From Lily Vale Village!
Secret Flowers & April Showers in Lily Vale Village
As a florist, Sarah is used to arranging flowers, not receiving them. So when a mystery bouquet turns up on her doorstep, she launches into detective mode to uncover her secret admirer.
Could they be from Ross, the cocky personal trainer she’s had a crush on for the longest time? Or is she looking in the wrong direction?
Coming soon from Sunny Shore Bay!
Fish & Chips in Sunny Shore Bay
Heather’s mundane life takes an unexpected turn when her beloved Nan falls ill and she’s forced to take ownership of Sunny Shore’s famous fish and chips kiosk, The Salty Sea Dog.
After an encounter with a cowboy hat and a box of smelly fish, Heather crosses paths with Simon, a rugged and charismatic fisherman. With his gentle coaxing and patient understanding, she begins to feel brave enough to chase away the shadows of her traumatic past and finally take control of her life.
But when an accident that echoes her darkest memories occurs at The Salty Sea Dog, Heather must confront the barriers that hold her back, lest they keep her heart forever anchored in fear and hesitation.
And when a huge opportunity is thrust her way, Heather has to make the biggest decision of her life. Can she overcome the ghosts of her past and open her heart to the future, or is she fated to never take that big leap into the unknown?