Yay, we’re back with another interview from one of my all time favourite authors, Zoe May, and I’m so very happy that she said yes to joining my blog! I fell in love with Zoe’s stories when she released her second novel ‘How (NOT) To Date A Prince’ – the royal story-line, the love story, the bad-ass heroine, Zoe’s style of writing… I just loved it all and it matched everything that I look for when choosing my next read. Soon after I read that, I was on it with the rest and now consistently look forward to Zoe’s future releases.
As soon as I had read ‘When Polly Met Olly’, I knew that I wanted to talk about it some more in depth with Zoe herself and luckily for me, she accepted! So, without further ado, let’s get in to the interview:
Read my full review on ‘When Polly Met Olly’ here.
Welcome to BreakfastAtShelbys, I’m so honoured to have you on here! Why don’t we kick start this interview off with you telling us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me! Well, I’m a novelist writing romantic comedies for HQ Digital – an imprint of HarperCollins. I live in Oxford – although I only recently moved here after a long time living in London. I used to work in journalism and copywriting, but writing novels has always been what I’ve truly wanted to do, so I’m living my dream now that I get to do that!
Aside from writing, I enjoy painting – mainly oil paintings. I’m an animal lover and I’m really into animal rights activism and veganism. I also have a chihuahua who is by my side most of the time, especially when I’m writing. I’ve recently been trying to get into health and fitness, and I’ve started swimming regularly. Oh, and I read a lot!
What or who inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always been quite an introverted person and as a kid, I used to sit in bed and read and I felt like I was going on all these adventures and experiencing all these amazing things from the comfort of my bedroom! Books felt so surprising, entertaining and exciting, and also so accessible. You could just walk into a library and get a book! I realised how powerful books are and I decided at quite a young age that I wanted to be an author and be able to entertain other people the way my favourite authors had entertained me.
Your very first published novel ‘Perfect Match’ only came out last year and already you have two more out and another on the way – what keeps you motivated and your brain stirring with ideas?
I’m a very motivated person! I’m not really sure what exactly motivates me, I suppose I’m just very aware that you only get one life and I want to make the most of mine, which includes making the most of my creativity and talents and pushing myself. Like you said, it wasn’t long ago that Perfect Match came out and for a long time before that, I was an aspiring author dreaming of my big break, so to have got published and then to have been offered more book contracts has been a dream come true. I suppose I’ve just been grabbing the opportunity with both hands and going for it!
In terms of ideas, sometimes what’s going on in the world will inspire me – so for example, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle inspired How (Not) To Date A Prince. But sometimes, it will be a personal experience that turns into a daydream – in the case of When Polly Met Olly, I had the idea to write about a matchmaker after applying to be one!
‘When Polly Met Olly’ is your latest release, which I absolutely loved! Can you tell my readers – who may not have had the opportunity to hear about it yet – what it’s about?
I’m so glad you loved it! It’s about a single girl called Polly who gets a job at a dating agency because she’s struggling to pay the bills. Polly wants to be a photographer, but that’s not exactly been working out so being a matchmaker will have to do! However, Polly’s never been in a serious relationship and her dating track record is pretty poor so playing Cupid doesn’t exactly come naturally to her. She learns a few things along the way about relationships and compatibility and manages to find her own match.
The way you described Olly in this book had me literally drooling! Who was the inspiration behind that character?
The inspiration is Eden Blackman! I saw him on Celebs Go Dating and developed a bit of a crush on him!
What inspired you to give your main characters quite a large age gap? Had it been something you’d experienced yourself before?
I’ve dated a few guys who have been quite significantly older than me, but I’ve never really fallen for someone much older. I do like the idea of going for someone older as I’d imagine they might be a bit more interesting with more life experience under their belt, but I’ve also found that older guys can be a bit hit and miss. Some of the older single ones are single because they have hearts of stone! Fortunately, Olly in When Polly Met Olly is loveable and means well, even if he does seem like damaged goods at first.
How much of your personal life or yourself do you put into your novels?
I put quite a lot into them actually! Perfect Match was very much inspired by my own dating life. The heroine, Sophia, has been on a ton of bad dates and all of them were inspired by my own dating history! A lot of the totally cringe-worthy creepy messages Sophia receives from men online were simply copy and pasted from my own inbox on Plenty of Fish! Like Sophia, I also worked in copywriting and lived in a flat-share in Lewisham so there is a lot of me in her. She is probably the heroine who is most like me!
The main character in How (Not) To Date A Prince – Sam – is a journalist, so I put some of my own journalism experience into that book, but otherwise Sam and I are quite different. She’s quite tough and serious and concerned with social justice issues, whereas I have my head in the clouds most of the time!
In When Polly Met Olly, Polly is a struggling photographer and I talk a lot about issues around wanting to get ahead in a creative field and what that entails, such as working for free, feeling exploited, having to get a real job, worrying that you’re neglecting your dreams, etc. – those are struggles I had when trying to make it as a writer and I feel they’re very relevant to young creatives so it was fun and quite cathartic to write about that. One reader said she found the book “healing”, so I hope it’s helped some people going through similar things to what I went through!
Have you ever written about a date or a scenario in any one of your books before that have actually happened to you? If so, can you share a couple of juicy details?
At the start of Perfect Match, my heroine Sophia is on a terrible date in Chinatown with this messy-eating noodle-slurping Warhammer-obsessed geeky guy. Sophia’s utterly bored and losing the will to live. That was completely based on real life – I hope the guy in question never reads my book!
Have you ever worked in a matchmaking service yourself or was that something that you solely researched for your novel?
No, I haven’t but I did once apply for a job as a matchmaker and the application process was the same as Polly’s! They gave you a questionnaire that had been filled in by a client and you had to put yourself in the client’s shoes and think of messages you’d send women using the client’s dating accounts. I thought it sounded like a really fun job, but my friends and family thought it was unethical – like Polly’s friends do! Unlike Polly, I didn’t actually get the job so from that point on in the book, everything that happens is made up, but I did do research into dating agencies.
You spent some time in New York for book research – How was that for you and did it help open your eyes up to the story-line more having lived in Polly’s world?
It was such a great trip! I absolutely love New York! It was so much fun going to not only the major sites like the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Times Square, but I also did some slightly weird book research things. For example, I went to Brooklyn and tried to find the type of apartment block I’d imagined Polly would live in. It was quite funny as I was hanging around outside this random apartment block and a resident was heading in, she thought I lived there so she held the door open for me and I just went in. Then I started having a look at what the inside of this amazing apartment block was like! Not your usual tourist stuff but it did help me get a feel for what Polly’s life would have been like.
I also did some Airbnb experiences, like a walking tour of Little Italy and Chinatown and a photoshoot in Grand Central Station – those activities were great as they were run by local people so I got to meet some New Yorkers and get a feel for New York life. I’d love to go back to New York soon, it’s an incredible city!
If you could describe ‘When Polly Met Olly’ in three words, what would they be?
Funny, different, heartfelt.
Lastly, your upcoming release ‘As Luck Would Have It’ will be released this coming June – are you able to tell us anything at all about that yet? I can’t wait to have you back on the blog to talk more about that one!
Yes! It’s a little different to my books so far as all three novels I’ve had published to date feature heroines in their twenties who are trying to find themselves, with romance thrown in of course! Yet, As Luck Would Have It features a slightly older heroine. She’s 32 and she’s already quite sorted. She has her own business and she’s successful and confident, she’s just been a bit unlucky in love. Then she ends up crossing paths with her first love, which stirs up all kinds of emotions!
‘As Luck Would Have It’ sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read it and I’ve already got it on pre-order!
‘When Polly Met Olly’ is now available for purchase on e-book and paperback.
‘As Luck Would Have It’ is set to be released on June 1st, 2019 – so go and pre-order now!