Author Spotlight with Cleo James
Get to know Cleo James in this exclusive Interview.
Cleo James, author of the debut novel 'The Swedish Secret' published in 2020, is here for me of course to GRILL her with all the questions I have regarding her novel.
Cleo James survived a turbulent time in her life, and indeed wrote a book about it. She said she is extremely happy to say that she is actually living her best life. Cleo currently works for the NHS taking blood donations to save or improve patients lives, which brings her great joy. When she isn't working, she enjoys going on long walks, swimming and also yoga. Cleo has recently rediscovered her joy for roller-skating which she said is great fun, yet rather painful. When she isn't on her skates, she loves to knit, crochet and also read. Cleo currently resides happy in surrey, (happily expressing, with her partner, her five dogs, three cats and a micro-pig) but it's just her partner! When Cleo and her partner retires they want to move to Norfolk to surround themselves with animals (I must say, this sounds incredible!)
Hello there Cleo! Thank you for agreeing to an interview with me around your debut novel 'The Swedish Secret', you also messaged me telling me to be gentle with your questions, so I PROMISE to go easy on you! For those who haven't yet read 'The Swedish Secret' could you please explain to the readers of my blog what exactly this novel is about?
It's the story of my life with a man that caused me an unbelievable amount of heartache in one way or another. How we lived through an abusive toxic relationship and came out the other side. You really need to read it to believe it.
So! The first question I have for you, regards to the time frame of your book. After reading this novel myself, and I think everyone is aware from my review, how heart-breaking, yet lovely, yet confusing and quite turbulent this book is, what made you write it to be published in 2020, after nearly twenty years later? Believe it or not, writing my book had a lot to do with Covid. During the first lockdown and the proceeding months when life was so far from normal I needed something to occupy my mind. I've always enjoyed writing so I thought, why not?
Was this book hard for you to write, considering all the circumstances that you lived through? Did it trigger any bad feelings, or did you glide through it quite pleasantly knowing it was all in the past?
Bearing in mind several years had passed since the 'main event' of my story. Enough time had gone by for the shock to have well and truly worn off. I wouldn't say it was easy but it certainly didn't upset me to write about the past. I'm very much a 'Sh** happens kinda gal' You just have to get on with it......
To sit down and write your book, what would you say relaxes you, and what sort of environment do you like to be in to grab all your inspiration and put them down into words? I typed every word of The Swedish Secret on my Apple Mac sitting at the breakfast bar in my kitchen. No TV. No radio. No phone. Alone. I like to write with no distractions. There is some very heavy themes in this novel, which I love how you warn readers before they delve in, you said you wanted to portray that not all toxic relationships end badly, and in fact, you can have a very happy life (which you clearly have, which I think is incredible, and I'm so happy for you), what do you wish to achieve to readers in writing these heavy topics? I didn't embark on my writing to address heavy topics. It just so happened that my life with Mark covered most of them! To me it's simple. If you're in a relationship and you fear for your life or you're really miserable every day then you must get out. But if the love is there and strong and you're up for the fight then it's worth fighting for. Bad relationships can become good with hard work. But not if you are fearful. After writing this debut novel, and having such fantastic reviews, have you got any plans for releasing another in the series, or another book entirely? If I wrote a sequel it wouldn't be anywhere near as gripping. My life now is calm, settled, happy and blessed. However I absolutely love psychological thrillers. To write a book like Alice Feeney would be the dream. Tell us something none of your readers or followers know about you! (We like secrets!) I have several tattoos but only the small one on my inner wrist is visible. I'd have to be naked for the rest to be seen!! You said your partner hasn't yet read your book, and most of it is based around him. Did you read snippets to him, or have you just left him alone about it all? My partner has zero interest in reading my book. He knows what it's about and that I've been brutally honest and he accepts that. He says as long as I'm happy he's not bothered by what people say or think. Have you read all your life? Who was your favourite author as a child, and who is your favourite author now? I've been reading since I could hold a book. The library was my church. My youth club. My sanctuary. Enid Blyton was my first love. Then came Judy Blume, closely followed by Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins. Nowadays my tastes are somewhat darker. Lisa Jewell and Louise Candlish are amongst my faves. You are such a laid back, strong, and inspiring woman, who has dealt with a hell of a lot in your life, obviously to relax, and be yourself, you say you love to crochet and knit, what's the best thing you have ever knitted?
A sage green cashmere jumper. The wool was £15.00 per ball and I needed 12 balls. I knitted it. I loved it. People commented how gorgeous it was. Until I put it in the washing machine. When it came out it had shrank so much it would have been tight on a Barbie doll. GUTTED!
Do you worry about people judging you after reading about your character in your novel, and the decisions that you made?
Not being flippant, but I don't give a thought to what people think of me. I may have done in my younger years but I'm older. I'm wiser. I'm happier. And I couldn't care less. Who am I to judge and who is anyone to judge me? Have you ever googled yourself? If so, did you find anything interesting from the results?
Nooooooooo! Who Google's themselves? Why would you? Maybe when Netflix have made a series based on my book I might. But until then I will remain ungoogled!!
If you could sit down with an author, alive or dead, what is it you would ask them, and where would you go to meet them? Lisa Taddeo. Author of Animal and Three Women. I'd meet her anywhere in California and ask her how the hell she came up with the character of Joan in Animal? You lived many years without a phone, and most people can't live without them being stuck to their sides and checking it every five minutes, what made you change your mind and entering the world of social media?
Unfortunately I had to be dragged into the 21st century. I'm a complete technophobe and would have been quite happy living the life of a rich Edwardian lady..... One of the first pieces of advice you get when you self publish is to make yourself visible on the big three
I couldn't cope with three so I chose Instagram. And I'm so glad I did. It's a space where lovely bookstagrammers and bloggers like you help unknown authors like me. As an author, what marketing strategies work best for you? Do you have any advice for those who are starting out? If you are self publishing, bookstagram is quite possibly the friendliest part of Instagram. Reach out to people and offer them a copy of your book/ebook in return for an honest review. You'd be surprised at how many people want to help.
What would you say is the best book you have read so far in 2022? The Dinner Guest by BP Walter. A thriller set in Chelsea (where I was born) Was hooked from the first page. Loved it!!
What can we expect from you in the future with your writing? Hopefully nothing as traumatic as my first book....... xxx
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview, I am extremely grateful for your time, your magical selfie you sent me, (which you look beautiful in by the way!) and my gifted copy of your book, which I will of course, recommend to everyone!
To follow Cleo on social media: Instagram: @bycleojames