We loved Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan (£7.99; Sphere) so much, we had to include it in our new goodtoknow Book Club. It's the hilarious and moving story of London nurse Rosie, who moves to the country to look after her elderly aunt Lilian and help sell her old-fashioned sweet shop. Rosie's expecting rural life to be dull, but in reality it's anything but...
Rosie Hopkins' is written by bestselling author Jenny Colgan. Jenny is the author of 13 novels including Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, West End Girls and Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend. She grew up in Scotland and now lives in London and France with her husband and 3 children.
How did you come up with the idea for Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams?
I live abroad now and the sweets in France (where I live for my husband's work) are all awful! It made me nostalgic for the sweetie shops of my childhood, so I decided to write about them.
The book focuses on a traditional sweet shop - what appealed to you about this setting?
Well, I grew up with a local sweet shop, then it closed, but recently I've started to notice them come back again - I'm delighted by this arrangement!
You mention your favourite childhood sweetshop in the intro to the book - what are your fondest memories of it?
When I was growing up we were only allowed to have sweets once a week, so it was a big treat to go in and choose what you were going to buy with your pocket money- the tinkle of the bell, the smell of sugar and the seemingly infinite choices.
Old-fashioned sweets like tablet and chocolate limes feature throughout the book - what are your personal favourites?
I do love a sherbet lemon. And parma violets. People either love parma violets or can't bear them.
Why did you decide to include recipes in the book? Are you a keen cook?
I do really like to cook, and a lot of sweet recipes are so fun and easy - like honeycomb, it's incredibly quick and fun to make!
After the success of your last book Meet Me at the Cupcake Café did you plan to write another book with a food theme?
Well yes, I loved writing Cupcake so much we wanted to do something similar, and I had a great time writing Sweetshop, too.
How does Rosie Hopkins compare to your other heroines?
Rosie is much more reluctant than my other heroines - she isn't looking for a boyfriend, she thinks she's happy with the one she's got, she doesn't really want to look after an old lady's shop. I like the fact that she gets surprised by joy, and re-examines her own life in the process.
In the book, Rosie is torn between her busy London life and her new life in the country - which would you choose?
Aha, I love both! France is quite quiet, but I love to come over to London too and seeing my chums here. So I will have my cake and eat it.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I would love for anyone who picks up this book not to be able to put it down until it's finished. I love a guaranteed page-turner, it's a huge compliment when people come up to me quite crossly saying: 'I couldn't get to sleep last night 'til I'd finished your book!"
Have you always wanted to become a writer?
Well, of course, who doesn't, but I didn't think it was any more likely than getting to the Olympics or being a popstar or something. Nobody was more surprised than me when it actually happened. I got into writing novels by being awful at everything else. I was a terrible stand up, a dreadful poet, I kept getting my sketches rejected by the BBC, I had a job I was awful at... it gave me the impetus to keep on going 'til I finally found the place I fitted.
How do you juggle life as mother of 3 with writing your books?
I hate it when celebrities get interviewed and say 'oh well, you know' and go a bit coy on this subject and pretend they take their children everywhere with them! I manage it like a lot of women do - I hire a lovely lady who cleans and does the laundry and looks after the children while I work. I'm so lucky to have her, and I'm very grateful we make enough money to hire her. And my other half is very supportive too, he works less when I have to work more. I couldn't do it without him.
You live mostly in France - what do you miss most about Britain?
I miss my family, of course, and I miss some of the food - I always head back stocked up with cheddar and bacon! But it's a lovely place to live, too.
Who are your favourite authors?
Ooh gosh, loads of people. I love Hilary Mantel, Liz Jensen, Jon Ronson, Dan Rhodes, Robertson Davies, Edith Wharton, Charles Schultz... truly, we could be here all day!
What does it mean to you to be the first ever author and book in the goodtoknow Book Club?
I am thrilled and honored, genuinely. I hope it goes great guns.
Where to next?