Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Author Q&A - Katey Lovell - The Singalong Society for Singletons

Welcome to our first author Q&A on the Sheffield Libraries blog, and who better to interview than ardent library supporter and Sheffield adoptee Katey Lovell. Katey's novel The Singalong Society for Singletons is out on December 15th, 2016, and I happily dived between the pages of her new book to find out more.

Four friends, each at a cross roads in their lives and each dealing with broken hearts, recognise the value their friendship, laughter and, most importantly, singing are to help them through hard times. So they gather for regular meet ups, to watch a musical, throw their cares away and just have a great time!

The Singalong Society for Singletons could be classed as chick lit as all the components are here: friendship, love, heartache and humour, but it's actually more unique than that. Each chapter is based around a different musical (The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Oliver! etc.), so we are taken on a theatrical journey through the book, as the single friends cope with their different challenges in life to the backdrop of songs and themes from an array of different musical shows. It is a lovely idea which adds a completely new dimension to the standard chick lit theme and allows this story to stand out from the crowd.

The Singalong Society for Singletons is full of laughter, heartwarming moments, secrets, romance, friendship, characters with bags of personality and, most wonderfully, lots of great Sheffield references! With each musical, the friends grow and the story develops at a speedy pace, with each of the friends' lives moving in a, not always predictable, direction. This is a fun, feel-good and unputdownable read!

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Katey Lovell - Author of The Singalong Society for Singletons
Now over to Katey Lovell, with thanks!

What inspired you to write The Singalong Society for Singletons?

Publishers Harper Impulse had offered me a contract for nine short stories (the e-book series The Meet Cute) in early 2015. By November of that year the first three stories had been published and were well received, which was when my editor encouraged me to try writing a novel. The title came to me before anything else, but as I've always loved musicals I soon thought of ways I could work the themes of popular musicals into a story about a group of friends who sing to cure their broken hearts.


You reference Sheffield a lot throughout your book and on your blog mentioned it as your “adopted city”. What made you come to Sheffield, and what do you love most about the city?

I moved to Sheffield in 1998 to study for an Early Childhood Studies degree at Sheffield Hallam University and by the end of my first semester was engaged to a Sheffielder!
As someone who grew up in a small market town (Monmouth, in South Wales), I never expected to stay this long, but Sheffield really doesn't feel like a city. Yes, this is where I roll out the Sheffield clich├ęs! We're so fortunate to have the Peak District on our doorstep whilst enjoying the benefits of top-class theatres and music venues, and over the past few years Sheffield has also really come into its own with a wealth of new independent shops, caf├ęs and pubs. However, the vintage clothes shops are probably my favourite way to while away a day as I love a bargain, along with a visit to the Central Library where my son and I browse the shelves looking for our next favourite reads. Whenever I'm in the city centre I'll invariably see people I know - Sheffield really is the world's largest village.

Music and musicals are the basis of your novel. How did you decide which musicals to include? How many musicals did you watch a part of your research and do you have a favourite?

Once I'd decided to write the novel the way I did (with a chapter for each musical) I knew I'd have a hard time choosing which ones to include. I started by making a list of my favourites, but also asked readers on Twitter and Facebook for suggestions. In the ten months it took me to write/edit The Singalong Society for Singletons I watched every film the group watch at least once, and also two which ended up being changed at the suggestion of my editor (Summer Holiday was substituted for Walking on Sunshine and Annie was replaced by Shrek - The Musical). Settling down to watch a film and calling it 'research' is a real perk of the job.
If pushed to choose a favourite I'd probably go with Grease. Rent, The Sound of Music, Les Mis and Chicago would be challengers too though - I like a few darker moments in my musicals. And my books too, for that matter!

I particularly enjoyed the chapter based on South Pacific, because it was a very emotionally charged section of your story. Which is your favourite chapter? Which was the most challenging to write?

My favourite to read is probably the one that was the most challenging to write - the Fame/Rent chapter. I cried as Liam's back story revealed itself to me, and that's exactly what happened - I hadn't planned it to turn out as dark as it did but before I knew it his whole character fell into place in that chapter. The Rocky Horror Show chapter has a special place in my heart too though and is probably the most 'Sheffieldy' section of the book, and was one of the easiest to write, partly because of the imagery of Frank N Furter, Magenta and co., and partly because it's set in the town centre I'm so familiar with.

The Singalong Society for Singletons contains a lovely mix of characters, all with unique personalities. Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

When I first started writing the book Hope was the protagonist. However, I soon realised that her snarky comments came across rather negatively. I'd hoped she'd have that balance of wit and cynicism that someone like Jo Brand has. When someone suggested Mon would be a better lead character I found Hope became more likeable. I'd say Hope or Liam are my favourites - they get the best one liners.

Where and when do you write, and how does this balance with your day job?

I try to write for at least an hour a day, every day, but that rarely happens. I almost always write at home in silence. Coffee shop writing sounds romantic, but I'm way too easily distracted for that to work for me.

Is there going to be a sequel to Singalong, and are you able to give any hints about this or anything else you’re working on?

There are no plans for a sequel at the moment, although I've had quite a few people who've read the book ask for one! I'd like to write more about the boys, maybe even something from Liam's point of view, so who knows? I suppose it'll partly depend on the response from readers and if Harper Impulse think there's a market for it.
I'm currently working on the edits for my second standalone novel, which is due to be released next summer. Whilst it's not set in Sheffield it's about a group of people who are all linked to the fictional Fir Tree Park (based loosely on two of my favourite places - Graves Park and Millhouses Park). It's a bit different to Singalong as it's told through the voices of four different women who all have their own unique connection to the park.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me it's about having characters that readers engage with. Most of my favourite characters in fiction are those I can relate to in some way or another - often it's the bookish ones like Hermione Granger or those who are strong-willed against the odds.

Where do you see yourself as a writer in the future?

I can't imagine a time where I'm not writing in one form or another, and I imagine I'll always write about friendships and relationships. I'd love to write an epic family saga, and a young adult book, and a whole shelf-full of heart-warming romance. Hopefully The Singalong Society for Singletons is just the beginning!

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Huge thanks again to Katey for kindly taking time to take part in our Q&A.
The Singalong Society for Singletons is released on December 15th, and copies are available to reserve now from Sheffield Libraries.

Review & Q&A written by Alexis Filby (Library and Information Assistant).