1. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?
I’m Fanny Blake, novelist and books editor of Woman & Home magazine. I worked in publishing, acquiring and editing fiction and general non-fiction, for many years before becoming a journalist. To begin with I wrote book-related pieces and reviews then added interiors and travel. As a result, I was asked to write various books that tied in with TV shows such as Grand Designs, A Place in the Sun, House Doctor and more. From those I moved on to ghost a number of celebrity memoirs. Eventually I felt it was time to try and write something for myself. I was dying to write a novel, so wrote What Woman Want. Here I am, five books later …
2. With a Friend Like You is a book about two women who are falling out because of a pregnancy. Why have you chosen this topic?
I wanted to write about friendship between women of a certain age. I wanted to see what would happen if two women who had been the closest of friends for years, whose families were closely intertwined as a result, fell out. If the falling out was serious enough, would they be able to find a way back and repair the friendship? Could things between them and their families ever be the same again? It’s not really the pregnancy that’s important, it’s the fact that Beth feels her friend Megan has betrayed her by not telling her what she knows. Things then begin to escalate …
3. Beth versus Megan, what are the two biggest differences and similarities in their personalities?
Beth is both ordered and organised. She hates mess and clutter. Her daughters can be as untidy as they like in their rooms, but otherwise she likes a neat and tidy home. That’s what calms her when she comes home from a hard day’s work at her lawyer’s practice. She’s ambitious for herself and her two daughters and is finding hard to let go. Megan has a much more laidback attitude to life. What comes around goes around. She believes that you have to stop trying to control your children once they reach a certain age. Her house is untidy, full of stuff she and her husband Pete have collected over the years. She became a primary school teacher so she could be at home with her children. What the two women have in common is that they both love their husbands and their children and would go to the ends of the earth for them. They’ve married Jon and Pete, whose friendship goes back a long way, and their children have virtually grown up together. These are two women who want the best for their families but set about achieving that in rather different ways.
4. Do you like Beth and if so what do you like about her? And what about Megan?
Perhaps Beth’s quite a difficult person to like but yes, I do like her. She loves her family and has spent her life trying to give them everything she never had. I’m a bit of a workaholic myself so I also like her work ethic and I like the fact that, as a family lawyer, she has chosen a job that benefits other people. It’s ironic that although she so often sees how other people’s marriages and families break up, she can’t distance herself enough to be able to stop the same thing happening to her. Megan is a much easier character to like. She’s relaxed, less complicated, loves her family to bits, loves children and is a fine deputy head of a primary school. She’s would help anyone if she could.
5. Ella is the person who’s unintentionally causing the rift between the two families. Do you think she’s handled things the right way?
I think she’s handled it the right way for her. Most teenagers don’t think far beyond themselves, and she’s not an exception. But she knows Beth, her mother, expects a lot of her and does think through how she can make her life work in a way that should please both of them. All she has to do is convince Beth that she’s right!
6. What was the most fun part of writing this novel?
I enjoyed writing the whole thing, but perhaps I had most fun with the scenes in Beth and Megan’s book group and at the spa when Megan takes Ella away for the weekend. And most of all I enjoyed when Beth lets rip about halfway through the book and reveals a family secret that she has vowed never to mention, and the scenes immediately after that.
7. A big theme in your story is being unreasonable, how was it to write a story like that?
Not difficult inasmuch that each of the characters believes they’re being nothing but reasonable - whatever anyone else thinks. Beth can’t understand why the others don’t share her point of view. Once I’d put myself into all their heads, I could see exactly why they behave the way they do and why, to them at least, their behaviour is completely reasonable. Most of us are like that really, aren’t we?!
8. Two families who used to be amazing friends are fighting, how would you handle a situation like this? Would you be like Beth or Megan or would you behave differently?
That’s such a difficult question to answer because it depends so much on the personalities involved and the situation. Of course, I like to imagine that I’d remain calm and be the voice of reason and sort it all out quickly. In fact, I’d probably say or do all the wrong things and make things worse before they got better. If I have to choose I hope I’d be like Megan, but I do have a lot of sympathy with Beth.
9. There’s a lot of anger and resentment, how was it to play with these emotions in your story?
Huge fun, and probably a bit cathartic (though I probably shouldn’t admit that). I don’t get many opportunities to let rip in real life, so doing it through my characters is pretty exciting.
10. There are so many secrets in this book, do you like reading about them as well? And if so, what are your 3 favourite books about family secrets?
Yes, I love reading about secrets. My three favourite books about family secrets? Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – there can’t be a much bigger secret than a mad ex-wife in the attic! Though Emily Bronte’s Rebecca comes close. What did really happen to Rebecca, Maxim de Winter’s first wife? And lastly, on a more recent note, I loved Liane Morarty’s The Husband’s Secret. And can I have Penny Vincenzi’s erfect Heritage as well?
11. What can we expect from you in the future?
My new novel, House of Dreams, is being published on November 5th. A brother and two sisters journey to their family home in southern Spain to celebrate their late mother’s life. Over one long, hot week weekend, past secrets spill out, telling them the truth about their mother’s early life and making them question themselves, the choices they’ve made and where their future lies.
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Review by Suze
Beth's career has always been important to her. She aims for perfection in both her professional and her personal life. Her family seems ideal. She has a devoted husband and two beautiful and smart daughters. She also has a wonderful friendship, Megan is Beth's best friend and their families often spend time together. Unfortunately Beth's life is starting to fall apart when her teenage daughter Ella is pregnant. All of a sudden anger, chaos and resentment are starting to dominate Beth's life and her friendship with Megan is under a lot of pressure. What will happen to the two friends who were once so close?
The blurb of With A Friend Like You intrigued me. Even before I started reading this book it managed to captivate me. Friendship is an interesting theme for a novel and Fanny Blake has used it to write a brilliant story. Beth and Megan are very different. Where Megan is laid back and easygoing Beth is strict and stern. The goals she's set for herself and her daughter are important to her. I kept wishing she'd loosen up a little, but I also understood where she was coming from. I felt ambivalent towards the whole situation which was fantastic to experience.
There's no right or wrong side in this book. It's easy for the reader to choose either Beth or Megan, but things are happening, so opinions can change. I liked this manipulation of the perspective of the reader very much. Fanny Blake has told this story in such a clever way. Things are spinning out of control, but there's nothing that can be done to stop it once the whole thing has been set into motion. It's like a train that keeps going faster and faster. I loved that feeling and enjoyed the ride very much.
One very lucky reader of my blog will receive a paperback copy of With A Friend Like You. Good luck!
I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.