Discovering your novel is being published at the same time as an old friend’s doesn’t work for everyone. But, as Brigit Grant discovered, Freya North and Jane Green don’t seem to mind
Ok, so here’s the pitch. Two Jewish female authors who were both born in Hampstead bring out novels just weeks apart. One of them lives an almost fairytale existence in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband, five children, countless chickens and blossoming roses. The other lives an equally charming rural existence in Essendon, Hertfordshire, as a single mother with two young children, a horse called Nathan and a dog called Twig.
Although the biographies of both women read like the central players in a summer blockbuster, Jane Green and Freya North are in the business of coming up with fictitious characters for their books, which sell millions worldwide.
And in spite of the simultaneous release of both novels, there will be no handbags at dawn or fighting for shelf space in bookshops, as the authors were friends at primary and secondary schools. They remain close enough to be able to talk about their novels at a Daunt Books- organised event on 2 July in their old stomping ground of Hampstead.
Discussing their respective books and careers is on the agenda, although anyone thinking this is a chick-lit soirée should think again, as these writers have long overtaken the genre, which now typifies one-hit wonder novels and not the work of Jane Green, who is rarely off The New York Times’ bestseller list.
Summer Secrets is her seventeenth book, which is about three unique sisters who are bound together by ‘secrets’ until a mysterious man comes to town.
With this kind of synopsis, it isn’t hard to fathom why Green has such a loyal fan base of women who not only order her books ahead of publication, but also get them signed while lunching with her at such quaintly-named places as the FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, Georgia.
Green’s Facebook page is full of such highlights, along with pictures of her food alongside twinkling lights and fresh peonies, which appear in her cookbook, Good Taste.
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, Freya North has been guesting on BBC’s Meet The Author to talk about her book, The Turning Point.
Her fourteenth novel tells the story of British author Frankie Shaw and Canadian musician Scott Emerson, who meet by chance and, despite living thousands of miles apart, vow to make their relationship work.
North gave up writing her PhD in art history in 1991 to write her first novel, Sally, about a woman embarking on a no-strings erotic affair. An agent at Curtis Brown put that novel into a five-publisher bidding war, which resulted in a three-book deal for a six-figure sum.
After Sally came Chloe, Polly, Cat, Fen and Pip. She is a winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2008 and the new book is true to her style, with lots of realistic romance.
Reflecting the lives of real women is key to the appeal of both novelists’ work, although woe betide anyone who files them under the aforementioned chick-lit label, as they were writing novels long before it hatched.
As North pointed out just the other day on her equally-busy Facebook page: “This lovely Amazon review of The Turning Point completely nails it for me; ‘Whatever else this novel does, it should finally kill off attempts to label North’s books as ‘chick-lit’.”
No doubt both authors will be delighted to discuss the subject further in Hampstead next week, along with anything else you might care to ask two women whose own lives belong in novels they may one day choose to write.