Sunday, 8 October 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Hollie Moat

Fab Firsts is my regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Today I'm interviewing Hollie Moat, whose debut was out earlier this year.

Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

It’s a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. In the beautiful English countryside, Will and Imogen - the very image of love’s young dream – are just days away from marriage…and then something terrible happens, something that makes them question everything they thought they knew about each other. Suddenly all around them relationships are breaking down and heating up, and the race is on to discover what’s real and what isn’t when it comes to love. So it’s Will and Imogen’s wedding that provides the fireworks, but the heart of the book is really the love/hate relationship between their friends, Bee and Ben. Their chemistry builds the novel’s tension up to an explosive conclusion. 

What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

My head has always been full of stories – I think that’s why I told so many lies as a child! I once read that every time Woody Allen has an idea for a film he writes it down on a scrap of paper and puts it in this drawer – which is now bursting with stories just sitting there waiting to be brought to life. As the years went by, that’s what the inside of my head started to resemble, I had to start writing a novel for my own sanity. I started with this one because I had a point to prove – I am crazy about Shakespeare but people were always telling me he’s too hard to read, too old-fashioned. But I just knew Much Ado would be a perfect love story for 2017. 

How long did it take you to write your first book?

It took 4 years from conception to publishing, although I should point out that wasn’t a solid 4-years of locking myself away and tinkering with it like some mad scientist. I’m a big believer in letting a manuscript breathe between drafts and it went through maybe 6 or 7 revisions in that time. In the same period I’ve also done 4 drafts of my 2nd novel and explored the idea of a couple of others.

If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I regret my original title, which was an extremely pretentious choice for what is essentially a rom-com. I went through some real shockers before I hit upon calling it Other People’s Business. 

Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

A few drafts in I attracted some interest from a publisher, and the woman I was in touch with there gave me a load of notes, which were amazing and improved the book so much. After I sent the revised manuscript back to her she passed it on to some colleagues for another round of notes. There was a lot of stuff in these new notes about character development that was extremely helpful and I used, but they also suggested I strip out several bits of the plot that are crucial to Much Ado About Nothing, and replace with some more recognisable rom-com tropes. That would have meant it wouldn’t be the story I felt passionate about telling, so I decided not to resubmit and go it alone. 

Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

If you have a story just get it down. That’s the hardest, and most daunting part. Even if your first draft is rubbish, you can reshape and edit it over and over again until you’re happy. But you need something to start with. 

Tell us about your first…


I remember fancying a boy at nursery called Daniel. I had an early appreciation for romance. 

Person you fell in love with

Look, I liked Daniel but I didn’t love him. That honour belongs to Zack Morris from Saved By The 

Prize you won

An Easter Egg decorating competition. I will hold my hands up and say there was probably a mix-up as I have no artistic talent whatsoever, but I took the glory anyway. 

 Album you purchased

Rhythm Of Love by Kylie Minogue. It’s still a classic. 

 Sport you enjoyed participating in

It would be a stretch to say I’ve ever enjoyed participating in sport. I enjoy winning – if that counts. But honestly, I work out four times a week and the endorphins when I’m done are the only remotely enjoyable part of it. 


I had a rabbit called Darla. She went feral. 

…choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I have mentioned this before but when I was very young I had this fantasy game where I would buy a run-down petrol station and do it up. I had so many good plans for that petrol station…

 …time you had any independence

When I was 14 I became an Avon lady. I had my own money and as many make-up samples as I could want. It was heaven. 

 …toy that you recall loving

Apparently I was extremely attached to a doll’s head (no body) and a blue plastic cricket bat. All these questions about my demented childhood are not putting me in the best light…

 … time you felt like an adult

I’m not sure I’m a proper grown-up yet. I still ask my mum for advice about everything. 

 … time you realised you were good at something

They picked me to be Mary in our school nativity. It was a musical version and I had lots of solos and more lines than anybody else so I thought I was destined to be a star. But in the end, my sister (playing an angel) upstaged me by putting her dress over her head and flashing her knickers to everyone. 

..time you bought or received flowers

When I was 17 somebody sent me a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day. I don’t know to this day who it was. But at least I know it wasn’t my parents, who would never have splashed out on red roses. Tulips or something, maybe. 

Thank you so much Hollie for answering my questions. I'm not sure any of us really feel like proper grown ups!

About the author: HJ Moat

‘For me, the idea of writing a novel has been much like dating that guy you’ve always had a thing for, but you never seem to be single at the same time as. As a pre-teen I wrote short, fantasy stories for no real reason other than my mother thought I was good at them. The lack of passion, I think, stems from a personal disinterest in the genre – even Lord of the Rings I appreciate only as an aid for insomnia (yes, I know many people think it’s nothing short of a masterpiece, don’t shout at me).

Then suddenly, at the age of 16 I felt compelled to start a YA novel about all the things that 16 years olds are interested in – boys, friends, feuding and getting drunk at festivals. I wrote the first few chapters obsessively, furiously – and my own teenage naivety and arrogance encouraged me to send it off to some agents I looked up in a copy of the Writer and Artist’s Yearbook. In a shocking twist – one of them actually called me saying he liked it and wanted to see more. To my eternal regret (and if this was a film I would be watching this bit through the cracks in my fingers) my attentions wandered back to all the things that 16 years olds are interested in – boys, friends, feuding and getting drunk at festivals. 

So I never got around to writing, or submitting those new chapters – the flirtation was over. Shortly afterwards I got into a pretty serious relationship with fashion, and by the time I exited my teens I was doing a degree in Fashion Journalism at the London College of Fashion. Creative writing and I were not destined to meet for some time – I went straight from graduation to a job as Editorial Assistant at Arena magazine. I embraced the indie music boom of the 2000s and eventually became Music Editor, and when Arena folded in the recession I went freelance, writing entertainment and style stories for the likes of Q, Empire and Glamour. About 7 years ago I went in-house at a sweet little shopping website, a start-up that has since become one of the world’s biggest luxury fashion companies. I still work there  (I’m the Editor) and my life revolves around catwalk trends and celebrity interviews and style advice and fashion shoots. 

Which sounds pretty amazing and for the most part is, but in the winter of 2014 something unexpected happened. I started thinking about writing a novel – thinking about it all the time. The stories I dreamed up in my head when I was on the treadmill, or trying not to fall asleep in a boring meeting, were getting too crowded in there and I need to tell them before I went quite mad. So I suppose you could say that I was 28 when I finally got together with the love of my life. By which I mean, writing Other People’s Business.

Twitter @HJMoat (I’m very new to Twitter and still getting to grips with it)

Book blurb

Some cupid kills with arrows, some with traps...

Bee and Ben haven't always hated each other, but they certainly hate each other now. They hate each other so much that it threatens to derail the wedding of their best friends, Imogen and Will. 

But then something unthinkable happens and turns everything on its head. Within the wedding party, some hearts swell and others are broken, but will anyone work out that relationships are rarely quite what they seem?
This modern retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing explores the idea of whether we're ever really in control of our own romantic destiny and if true love really can conquer all.

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