You’ll know we’re huge books fans at Martha Brook and there’s nothing we love more than hunkering down with a brilliant book we cannot put down. As we celebrate a whole year of our bestselling Book Journal, we were delighted to catch up with The Sunday Times Bestselling Author (and fellow stationery lover) Josie Silver on what inspired her brand-new festive feel-good novel, A Winter in New York, where she gets her inspiration for her swoon-worthy characters and where she puts pen to paper.
1. Introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about who you are, what it is you do and how you came to do it.
I’m Josie Silver, a full-time author from the Midlands. I’m a love story junkie – I love to read them, watch them, and most of all, to write them. I’ve been writing professionally for the last decade, after placing second in the annual Mills and Boon writing competition. I wasn’t the right fit for their style in the end, but winning gave me the push to complete my first manuscript and I haven’t looked back since.
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
It depends which stage of the writing process I’m at. My favourite part is definitely the first pass through, freely writing the bones story before the whole editing process kicks in. I generally aim to be at my desk as close to nine as possible, coffee in hand and ready to work. The first half hour is always settling in – checking emails and messages, clearing any urgent stuff, mentally preparing before I open the manuscript. I usually begin work by reading through the previous day’s words to get my head back into the story, and then I make very brief handwritten planning notes for the next couple of scenes. It’s usually just a few sentences, but I find it really helps focus the day’s session.
3. What is the one thing you do every day for yourself?
Candles are my guilty pleasure. I buy far too many, I have had to dedicate a cupboard in my office for them! I like the ritual of choosing a scent to set the mood for the day, or sometimes to suit the day’s writing. I wrote much of A Winter in New York in summertime, festive candles lit and Christmas music on in my office!
4. What makes you happiest?
Oh, family holidays for sure! My kids are older now, nineteen and seventeen, so finding the time to all get away together is more precious than ever. They’ve started to go on holidays with friends already, but so far they’re happy to come with us too – I’m sure that will change in the future, so I’m making the most of them while I can. I love the whole process – finding the perfect villa and counting down to those long, relaxed warm pool days, to reading on shady loungers, to bbq’s and glasses of cold white wine.
5. We loved A Winter In New York, the ultimate feel-good festive read! Where you find inspiration for your characters and storylines?
The initial spark of inspiration for A Winter In New York actually came from watching a cookery show on TV, which is odd I know! It featured a long-established family ice-cream shop up in the north of England, they actually have a secret recipe that’s only ever known by two people at any one time. Their story set off all kinds of what-if questions in my head, and Iris and Gio materialised from there. I originally set the story in the UK and it wasn’t quite coming together, and it was my US editor who suggested relocating the whole thing to New York. Little Italy turned out to be the perfect location for the gelateria and the Belotti clan – it was the missing piece, things slotted together much more naturally once I’d made that overall shift.
6. As an author, we picture your workspace being utterly dreamy! We’re itching to know what items you cannot live without on your desk and why.
I’m a complete stationery addict and I’m not even a tiny bit sorry! I think it kind of goes with the territory of being a writer. I have bottles of pretty coloured inks lined up for the fountain pen I love but barely use, and a pile of fresh notebooks ready to go. I mostly choose softback notebooks, Martha Brook personalised ones are especially lovely. The only other thing always on my desk is Miss Potts, a Bjørn Wiinblad flowerpot. She’s my trusty assistant and secret keeper, usually full of tealights and the occasional packet of wine gums.
7. We’ve heard your studio is at the bottom of your garden (idyllic!), what’s your favourite thing about your workspace and why is it important to your writing process?
I love my garden office so much! I live in a house full of males, so it’s is the only space where I can get away with a full-on feminine décor, it’s a temple of prettiness.
I really benefit from the disconnect of working outside the house, I like to pack my bag for the day and head down there with a cup of coffee. It’s my sanctuary away from the usual noise of family life – no TV and no one asking me what’s for dinner! Just unlocking the door and stepping inside destresses me, it always smells of candles and books. It’s the peace that matters most really, it gives me the mental space to be creative.
8. If you could give one tip to someone else when it comes to creating a workspace that welcomes creativity, what would it be and why?
Less is definitely more when it comes to clutter. It’s all too easy to let things build up on your desk, but it really does help to keep things pared back as much as possible without it feeling spartan. Choose a few things you love, and always have a candle on the go, of course!
9. Do you have a life mantra or favourite saying that you live by?
I read and loved Glennon Doyle’s Untamed a couple of years ago, and she mentions the mantra ‘we can do hard things’, which resonated deeply with me – so much so that I have it on my office wall. It’s so simple and clear, a hopeful reminder to keep going on tough days.
A pretty garden office to escape away and write the most beautiful of books in…is there anything better?! Make sure you get your hands on A Winter in New York for a cosy winter’s read.