What inspired you to write the From Manhattan with Love series?
I’d written two series set in small towns (My O’Neil Brothers series was set in Vermont, and my Puffin Island series was set on an island in Maine) and I’d explored some of the issues that come from living in a small community. But small town living isn’t for everyone and I wanted to focus on characters that had a very different lifestyle. That was how I came up with the idea for a series of books set in New York City. The heroines in the first three books were born on Puffin Island and grew up in a small community, but they couldn't wait to leave home and experience city life. They struggled with the pressure cooker effect of living on a small island where everyone knows what you’re eating for breakfast. I love New York City, so for me that was the perfect urban setting. It allows plenty of scope for varied storylines, which I knew I’d need in order to sustain a longer series.
Please share with us a glimpse into your latest release, Moonlight Over Manhattan.
My heroine Harriet is shy and has been protected by her sister and brother pretty much all her life. She runs a dog walking business with her twin sister who recently moved out of the apartment they shared. Harriet is now on her own and having to build a new life for herself. It’s daunting, but she is determined to push herself out of her comfort zone. To do that she decides to set herself a ‘challenge a day’. Once a day she is going to force herself to do something she doesn’t want to do. One of the first thing she does is to agree to dog sit for moody doctor Ethan. This pushes her further out of her zone than she’d like, but there is no way she’s leaving him to care for the dog on his own. The relationship doesn’t quite work out the way she anticipates!
Harriet is determined to challenge herself with something new throughout the month of December. For someone so shy, where does she find the courage?
She finds it tough, and some situations are tougher for her than others. For example, it takes enormous willpower to force herself to stay with Ethan, but Harriet is a very determined character. She wants to prove to herself that she can do this without the support of her family. She needs to know she can handle herself. And the hardest thing for her is when her stammer returns. That shakes her up because it feels like such a backward step. She thought she had that under control. But each time she forces herself to face a challenge, she comes away with a little more confidence and that helps her meet the next challenge.
What role does food play in Harriet’s relationship with Ethan and others?
Ethan devotes much of his life to his work at the hospital and usually the last thing on his mind is food. When he walks through the door of his apartment he is too tired to be bothered. I’m sure many people can identify with that. It isn’t that he can’t cook, he just doesn’t have the energy left at the end of the day. It isn’t a priority for him. But then Harriet arrives and all that changes.
Harriet knows how to take care of herself, and if she’s living in his apartment to care for the dog, then she’s going to be eating properly. She can’t believe that Ethan is so good at looking after other people but so bad at caring for himself. She loves cooking, and it’s part of the way she nurtures herself. Because Ethan is living in the apartment with her, she ends up nurturing him too and in a short space of time transforms his life!
Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?
I am! There’s never a time when I’m not working on a book. Moonlight Over Manhattan is the final book in my From Manhattan With Love series, and now I’m writing standalone novels. They will have all the same elements as my other books – friendship, community, family and of course romance – but all within one book. The first book, How To Keep A Secret, will be out June in the UK and July in the U.S. I’ve just finished it so I’m now on the first chapter of my second standalone, which will be out at the end of 2018. I’m loving this new direction!