With ten books under her belt, Dorothy Koomson is a leading figure in women’s fiction. Her novels are loved for their complex themes, including grief and surrogacy, and their tender and honest portrayal of modern Black British life. Dorothy Koomson has achieved sales of over 1.5 million copies in the UK alone and in 2013 her sixth novel The Ice Cream Girls was adapted by ITV for television. Prior to her appearance at Waterstones in Leeds on Thursday 29th April, The State of the Arts sits down for a chat.
TSOTA: You moved to Leeds to do your first degree and it has become a key location in your work. What is it about this city that inspires you?
DK: I generally like to write about places where I’ve lived so I know the area and can write about them authentically. Although, having said that, Leeds has changed so much since I lived there. I went there for a book launch after my first book, The Cupid Effect, also set in Leeds, was published back in 2003 and it had changed completely. I think it’s probably very different again now.
TSOTA: Some aspiring authors feel that the North is a difficult place to begin a career as a novelist. What’s your experience of the writing world in Leeds?
DK: I think email, visual communication apps, and good old transport means that you can live anywhere and write books. When I lived in Sydney, Australia, my publisher was here in the UK. Not even the time difference caused problems so I think if you want to be a writer, it doesn’t matter where you live, keep going.
TSOTA: You wrote your first novel There’s a Thin Line Between Love and Hate when you were thirteen. Would you ever consider editing and publishing this novel? It would make a lot of curious fans very happy.
DK: No way! Some things need to stay in the secret box never to see the light of day.
TSOTA: What was your experience of getting The Cupid Effect published? It must have been enthralling to see your first published book on the shelves.
DK: It was one of the best feelings ever. I still get excited when I see my books on the shelves. I’d even go as far as taking a picture of it. Ten books later it’s still a huge thrill to see a real life book with my name on it on the shelves.
TSOTA: Now you’ve had ten novels published, how do you think your writing style has changed?
DK: I don’t think my writing style has changed. Each book has been a stepping stone on the evolution of my writing life so more than my writing style, it’s the types of books I write that has changed. I do look back on my books and think I would maybe have done something differently if I was writing some of my earlier books now, but I wouldn’t change any of them.
TSOTA: Which of your books was the most pleasurable to write? Have any been particularly difficult?
DK: I’ve loved writing all my books, but they’ve all been difficult in various ways. When you talk to people who have been through the subjects I write about, it can be a huge pressure to do justice to their stories. But I love my job so everything I write is pleasurable because I’m actually writing.
TSOTA: This might seem an unfair question, but which is your favourite of your novels? If you were to recommend one Dorothy Koomson book to a new reader, which would it be?
DK: All my books mean different things to me for different reasons so I’d have to know what sort of book a person was looking for before I told them which one to read.
TSOTA: Now that That Girl From Nowhere is released, are you working on a new novel? Can you give us any hints?
DK: I have a couple of ideas that I am turning over in my head, but neither of them are fully formed yet so I can’t tell you about them.
TSOTA: What’s the last great book you read?
DK: The last two books I read were great in different ways. One was called Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty and the other was A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby. I really enjoyed them even though they were very different stories and styles of writing.
Dorothy Koomson’s new novel, That Girl From Nowhere (Century, £12.99) is on sale now.
Dorothy will be doing a signing followed by a Q&A at Waterstones Leeds from 18:30-20:00 on Wednesday 29th April.