Like many writers, I draw on my experiences to create the worlds in my books, but never so deeply or personally as I did with my latest book, The Sweet Shop of Second Chances. Not only is Bourton-on-the-Water, the village where the story takes place, a real location, but it’s also where I had my first ever Saturday job in a sweet shop on the High Street.
Now, having your first job in a sweet shop ruins you. Until I became a full-time writer, no other job could compare to the years I spent weighing out bags of sherbet, lemons, and marshmallow tea cakes, packing chocolates into small golden boxes with curled ribbons, and chatting with customers.
I spent every spare day I could working in the sweet shop, including weekends and holidays. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the sweet shop was the most important thing in my life during that time. I even linked all my GCSE coursework to the theme of the sweet shop, whether it was creating spreadsheets for the stock list in my IT classes or basing English stories on my time there. When asked about my career plans in meetings, my answer was always the same: I wanted to run a sweet shop. I even dreamed about sweets and was an excellent friend to take to the cinema as I was a dab hand at judging the weight of pick and mix!
Of course, the sweets were amazing, but it was the people who made that time in the sweet shop really special. The owner had only had the shop for around six months when I started working there, so there was something incredibly unique about starting at that time. All these years later, we’re still friends, and she even flew out to Thailand to read at my wedding. As soon as I started writing romantic comedies, I knew that the sweet shop would be at the centre of one of my stories. I just hope that I have done it justice.