I am delighted to welcome Gina Hollands to my blog today to talk about her new book which came out on 31st January 2022.
Gina was born and bred in Yorkshire, England. She has worked in public relations for 20 years, since graduating from Oxford University with a degree in modern languages. Gina now lives on the West Sussex coast with her husband and young son. When she’s not writing Gina is likely to be participating in her other hobby – dancing, be it salsa, jive or lindy hop.
Hi Gina, thank you for coming on to my blog to talk about your new book. What a great way to start the new year.
Hello Anne, and thank you so much for inviting me. I’m delighted to be talking to you!
Can you tell me something about your new book?
The Fall and Rise of Ronni Fairweather
When going back to your roots is the only way forward …
Raegan Kent-Walters is living the high life. Thanks to her husband’s salary, she enjoys the elite Surrey housewife existence of luxury holidays, exclusive gym memberships and skinny lattes.
But then the high life comes crashing down, and, whilst reeling from the discovery that her husband wasn’t the man she thought he was, Raegan is also confronted with the reality that she and her daughter, Sabrine, will have to make some major life changes.
So, out goes the state-of-the-art Range Rover, and in comes the beat-up old Transit van to take them away; back to Raegan’s roots in Yorkshire and the life she abandoned.
But perhaps by embracing who she used to be, Raegan can find the strength she never knew she had, building something unexpected – but truly special – to get her and Sabrine through to a brighter future.
I love the idea of someone reinventing themselves, when the chips are down, so I’d love to know what inspired you to write this book?
So much! I’m always fascinated that people manage to pick themselves up and go on to live fabulous lives even after some pretty hard things have happened to them. I find the very subject uplifting, and always remember that if I’m having a bad day, tomorrow can be heaps better!
The main character, Raegan, doesn’t just reinvent herself – she discovers the person she may have become if fate had had its way, which in the end it does and for the better. As a young woman, she’s desperate to escape the person she thinks she’ll grow up to be if she doesn’t take some major action. She’s ambitious and strives to better herself. Her biggest fear is ending up as she started. I find that an interesting theme too – what does ‘a better life’ mean and is it just a false perception?
Which comes first the characters or story?
I’ve realised after five novels that I write thematically –– I come up with a subject I want to explore and everything, including the character, builds around that. However, I find characters are intertwined with themes. Once I decided I wanted to write about a woman who pursued one life path, but then was forced to take another and in doing so learned so much about herself, the woman had to be Raegan. It wouldn’t have worked with anyone else. She had to be a little insipid at times but with a good heart. Those things were intrinsic to her character development.
Do you have a really clear picture of your characters in your head when you start writing? Who would you like to play Raegan in a film or TV adaptation of your story?
I knew Raegan inside out before I started writing. I think she was so clear to me because I put a lot of myself into her, which is why this is a very personal book. Having said that, she’s not me entirely, just a corner of my personality which I’ve blown up to create someone new. Most of her experiences aren’t autobiographical –– I don’t have a big house or a country club membership, for instance, so I had to pull from other people I knew and also from my imagination to create her as a fully formed character.
What a wonderful thing to contemplate –– who would play Raegan in a TV or film adaptation! If it were a British actor, then Carey Mulligan or Kate Winslet would be wonderful. Brilliant women who I’m sure could rock Raegan. If an American actor, Kirsten Dunst –– she’s about the right age and looks exactly like the Raegan in my head, or Kirsten Wiig (the lead in Bridesmaids), who is hilarious and would make a cracking Raegan!
It’s that time of year, so I have to ask, what would be Raegan’s New Year’s resolutions? Will she stick to them?
That would depend on whether it’s the Raegan at the start of the book or at the end. She goes through a steep character arc, so her mindset is different at these stages. If the Raegan at the beginning, then her list of ‘to do’ in 2022 would be:
- Maintain a size 8 figure
- Buy a new designer handbag
- Book a Caribbean cruise
By the end of the book, it would look more like:
- Expand the business
- See just how independent I can be
- Do more of what the hell I like
She has time on her hands, would she read a book or a magazine and which one?
At the beginning, she’d go for a magazine every time. She’d eat up for breakfast all those articles telling her how she should be looking and feeling and what she should be wearing. It would be an upper-class glossy, of course!
By the end, she’s more of a book woman, and it would probably be the kind of book she can learn from because she comes to believe in herself and that she has the capability to succeed in a way she never thought possible.
What is her most unappealing habit?
To start with, Raegan is very materialistic. She puts heavy emphasis on brands and image and thinks it’s making her happy. It takes a major shift in her life to realise this isn’t the true root to her happiness, but she also realises that finding the truth isn’t going to be easy for her.
She’s also a little too controlling of her 18-year-old daughter, Sabrine. She has a path set out for her, which Sabrine rebels against. Raegan does it out of love but must realise that Sabrine needs to choose her own route in life. This realisation is a hard one for Raegan to accept and is probably something a lot of parents can relate to.
What sentence or phrase does she most overuse?
‘Salmon for dinner tonight, darling. It’s Tuesday.’
At the start of the book, Raegan is a bit of a control freak who likes to ensure she’s the ‘right’ kind of wife for her husband, who in turn is, she believes, the right kind of husband for the woman she strives to be. That status quo suits her just fine, until one day her perfect world changes irretrievably.
What was the first thing she packed in her transit van, or the one thing she would rescue from a burning building?
By the time she comes to pack up the van, there isn’t a whole lot left in terms of material possessions. She’s had to sell everything of worth, so it’s really just the basics. She wouldn’t go without her daughter though. Although Raegan seems overbearing at times, she has a heart of gold and would do anything to make sure Sabrine’s okay.
Surrey to Yorkshire is quite a drive, and I’m guessing the transit is old enough to have a CD drive, so what would be the soundtrack on their trip up north?
That’s an easy one! It’s ACDC. I had their tracks in my head the whole time I was writing, especially the scene where Raegan and Sabrine have to make a hasty exit in the van when they meet someone rather undesirable. It’s a comedy scene and I imagined them slamming the van doors and speeding off to a backdrop of Back in Black!
Yorkshire was your birthplace, is it somewhere you see yourself returning to one day?
I’ve thought about that a lot and yes maybe one day we will go back there to live, but I’m not good with the cold and even just a couple of degrees can make such a big difference! I sometimes watch TV programmes set in Yorkshire and think how idyllic it all looks, then I speak to my best friend in York and she tells me what the weather’s doing, and I’m suddenly not all that keen anymore! For now, I’m happy in the Southeast. We live on the coast in Worthing, which is an eclectic town that I love. I adore being by the sea. If ever I have a spare hour, I go to the old lido cafe, sit outside with a coffee, and look out to sea. When you look out at the water, anything seems possible.
If you could go on a road trip anywhere in the UK, where would it be to, and who would you take with you?
I’d go to Scotland. I went to Edinburgh for the first time earlier this year and absolutely loved it. I’d like to explore the country and visit the more remote places. Having watched every episode of Shetland on TV, I’m obsessed by the thought of going there and seeing it for myself.
Although my family are amazing, I think all those hours in a car together would do everyone’s head in, so I’d take a girlfriend and we’d go to a ceilidh when we got there and dance all night.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on my first crime novel, which is a serial killer thriller set in Sussex. I’m a big fan of this genre and am so excited at the prospect of having my own crime novel out (fingers crossed). It’s entirely different from writing romance and general fiction, as you must think about clues, red herrings and suspects. I’m doing it as part of an MA in crime fiction at the University of East Anglia –– something I’ve wanted to do for years, and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and signed up!
Thank you for coming on my blog Gina, and I look forward to your crime novel, I hope we don’t have to wait too long.