About Debbie Johnson
Debbie Johnson lives and works in Liverpool, England, where she divides her time between writing, caring for a small tribe of children and animals, and not doing the housework.She writes romance, fantasy and crime - which is as confusing as it sounds!
Her first humorous contemporary romance, Cold Feet At Christmas, a seasonal tale of snow-bound fun, was released by HarperImpulse last year, and became an Amazon top ten best-seller. Her latest, Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper, is out now.
You can also find her supernatural crime thriller, Fear No Evil, featuring Liverpool PI Jayne McCartney, on Amazon, published by Maze/Avon Books.
Debbie also writes urban fantasy, set in modern day Liverpool. Dark Vision and the follow-up Dark Touch are published by Del Rey UK, and earned her the title 'a Liverpudlian Charlaine Harris' from The Guardian.
You can find out more at www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com, or at www.facebook.com/debbiejohnsonauthor
1) Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I always wish I was more interesting when I get asked this – like I’d had a previous career as an international aid worker, or recently left MI5! In reality, I’m in my 40s, live near the beach in Liverpool, and spend my days writing in between the school runs. I have three kids, two dogs, and am permanently skint.
2) When reading your books I often have to laugh really hard, but I also shed some tears. How do you find a good balance between happiness and sadness and what inspires you to write about both in such an explicit way?
I think the balance is still something I’m working on, to be honest – but thanks for your kind words! I think sad things happen to everyone, don’t they? They might not be spectacular, to the outside world, but we have all experienced times of grief, or loss, or sorrow. That might be something huge and life changing, like bereavement or the breakdown of a relationship or illness, or it might be something small – something that other people might not even see. Sometimes there are fireworks and the whole world knows about it, but sometimes it’s private and painful. It’s all about how you feel inside – and how you cope. For me, when life just feels like it’s all going to shit (excuse my French), the only way I stay sane is through humour. I have to laugh. I have to feel that even the worst of times will, one day, make an amusing anecdote in the pub! So that’s perhaps where it comes from – that apparent conflict between laughter and tears, whereas in real life, they are often flip sides of the same emotional coin.
3) The covers of your books are stunning. Do you have a say in them and how does the creative process work?
The covers are the work of Alex Allden, who works for HarperCollins,and she is just unbelievably good at what she does. She’s young, fun, and full of ideas – I love her designs. I always have the opportunity to give feedback, and unless I’m talking garbage they do make tweaks I might ask for, but on the whole by the time I see them Alex has already done a great job. She is given an outline of the book, or a brief, that will clue her in to important things like location, and what the characters look like. You know, ‘woman, red hair, wedding dress designer’ etc. And from that, she creates magic!
4) You write about extraordinary situations in normal daily life. How do you come up with these ideas?
Gosh, I don’t believe there is any such thing as normal life! Even the most boring and mundane of situations have potential to be dramatic – good or bad. I have such a vivid imagination, I see that potential everywhere. It’s about looking at ‘normal’, and throwing in the ‘what ifs’. Sometimes this might simply be ‘okay, take a blissfully happy marriage, and look at what happens to one half of that partnership when the other isn’t there any more?’, as with Laura in Comfort Food Cafe; or taking someone who has an organised, if slightly lonely, existence, and chucking in a larger-than-life love interest who messes up all her routines, like with Maggie in Never Kiss A Man In A Christmas Jumper. Sometimes, it can be darker – I have been known to walk round Centre Parcs looking for great places to hide a body...
5) You write about delicious food and cakes. What’s your favourite food and favourite kind of cake and can you cook/bake?
I can cook, but am better at savouries than baking. I’m good at old-fashioned stuff like stews and roasts, and I’m pretty all right at Japanese and Italian too. I bake with the kids, but never anything too fancy – sponges and muffins and biscuits. Nothing with layers or decoration, I’m not accomplished enough. I always feel very inadequate when I see pictures of tremendous birthday cakes other mums have made for their kids birthdays on Facebook! I love anything with lemon – meringue, tart, sponge.
6) What’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you or what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever seen?
I think romance is in the small things, not the big gestures. Everyday life. Tolerance and kindness are higher on my list than being swept off my feet. This year, for Mother’s Day,my husband gave me a CD that he’d made. It had written on it ‘thanks for being such a great wife and mum’, and when I played it, the only song on there was one by Led Zeppelin called Thank You, which is one of the most lovely and romantic songs ever. One of my closest friends got married last summer, and the groom made a speech that made me cry – all about how she made him a better person, and how much of a difference loving her had made. We were all in pieces, damn him! There’s something about a man making himself vulnerable that is very appealing.
7) What is your ideal way to spend your summer and do you base your stories on real life holidays?
I love holidays – of all shapes and sizes. I love Britain,but the weather does make it a stressful holiday choice. I am currently getting ready to go away and have packed wellies, sandals, suncream and raincoats! I definitely take inspiration from my holidays, though. The Birthday That Changed Everything is set in the same Turkish resort over a four-year period, with the same group of people each time. We went on two wonderful family holidays to Turkey for two years, and found that people really did that – they’d known each other for ages, seen their kids grow up, etc etc. So that gave me that idea. And Pippa’s Cornish Dream was inspired by a trip to Cornwall, and Comfort Food by Dorset.
8) Which 3 things do you like best about Laura’s character?
Her self-deprecating sense of humour. Her innate kindness. The fact that she can see and accept people’s flaws, and love them anyway.
9) Who/what inspired you to become a writer?
I wrote from being tiny. I was always making up stories, and either reading or scribbling. I once copied out the whole of 101 Dalmations into exercise books, because I loved it so much. When I was a teenager I used to write love stories on notepads, all featuring people I fancied at the time – like pop stars and actors and tennis players! It was always an escape, an outlet, a way of expressing myself. I ended up working in journalism, which was a different kind of writing, before becoming an author.
10) What are your plans for the future?
Short term, finish both my packing and watching the end of season 2 of Catastrophe – possibly both at the same time. Medium term, finish my next book, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe, and get through my middle child leaving primary school without crying so much I dehydrate. Longer term, write lots more books, stay happy and healthy, look after my family, and hopefully try to become a bit less skint!
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Review by Suze
Laura lost her husband who was also her best friend. They were childhood sweethearts and he died way too young. Laura thinks she and the children, Lizzy and Nate, need a change of scenery after a long time of being sad, so she takes a job for the summer that will enable them to stay in Dorset at the beach. At first Nate and Lizzie aren't very happy with their mother's decision, but their complaints are soon forgotten when they're there for a few days. The Comfort Food Café is a wonderful friendly location and the owner, Cherie makes sure Laura feels right at home cooking and serving the customers.
Laura slowly becomes herself again. Cherie tries to make her as happy as possible, which is exactly what she needs. She enjoys working at the café with the customers and loves preparing the food. She also spends a lot of time with Matt, the local vet and her neighbor. He's handsome and Laura likes him very much, but she's still not over the death of her husband. Maybe time will change things for them though. Will their summer at the Comfort Food Café make Laura and her children feel whole again?
The Comfort Food Café is such a wonderful place. I loved the idea of food that's being served to make someone's life a little better. The regular customers all need someone who listens to their stories and they are there for a special kind of food they can't get anywhere else any longer. It's such a touching subject and it's what I loved most about this book. It's a place where people are heartwarming, where they are generous and where someone has the chance to heal. It's the perfect environment for Laura to come out of her depression. She's there to receive some extra kindness and care and to be there for others, which is a perfect combination.
Summer at the Comfort Food Café is a great uplifting summer read. Laura is a sweet woman who stumbles through life. Some of the things she does, especially by accident, are really funny. Nate and Lizzy are perceptive kids and they made me smile. Matt is cute and very nice, which is a good combination. Cherie is eccentric and has such a kind heart, she's fabulous. I loved all the customers of the café and enjoyed reading about their lives. The setting is fantastic and I wish I could actually go there. I loved Debbie Johnson's dreamy descriptions of the place. Her vivid writing about food is mouthwatering and I can't wait to try some of Laura's recipes. Summer at the Comfort Food Café is such an original story and it has a lovely romantic ending.
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