Q & A with Fiona Harper introducing her new book The Doris Day Vintage Film Club

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Today you are in for a bookworm treat. A great Q & A with author Fiona Harper, my thoughts on her new book The Doris Day Vintage Film Club and to top it all off you can win a vintage makeover by stylists Lipstick and Curls, all courtesy of Mills & Boon. Without further ado let’s welcome Fiona Harper to the blog.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty I would like to do a set of questions called ‘Break the Ice’

Last book you read?
One Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

Did you watch the infamous 50 Shades of Grey?
No. Haven’t read the books either!

A group, singer or song your readers would be surprised to hear you listen to? (I caught that sneaky Sisters of Mercy reference in the book!)
Well, I do have to admit to being a goth when I was a teenager, and I do still love a bit of All About Eve or The Cult.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
I think I’m going to have to say Doris Day – who’s just celebrated her 91st birthday. I spent so long watching her films and reading books about her when I was researching The Doris Day Vintage Film Club and I’m totally intrigued by her.

Something you treat yourself to now and again?
A good session playing Tomb Raider – any of them, from the 1997 original to the recent reboot. I love Lara Croft, and exploring booby trap-ridden temples (virtually, of course).

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk The Doris Day Vintage Film Club.

On a previous occasion you said you chose Doris Day because she ‘had been through a lot and come out smiling.’ What is it about Doris you think women of today might relate to?
Firstly, I think it’s her personality, which is partly what made her a huge star in the first place. There’s just something inescapably likeable about Doris. You see her on the screen and you think to yourself, “I’d love to be her friend.” Secondly, I think it’s the fact that although she might have seemed to have what we all want – the glamorous life, money, wonderful men and a stellar career – that everything wasn’t quite as rosy as it seemed on under the surface and she had the same sort of troubles a lot of the rest of us do, especially when it came to the men in her life.

The screen icons of the Golden Hollywood era have become, aside from handful such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall ect., a thing of the past. Nowadays women and girls look up to idols like Madonna, Beyonce, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow instead. What does Doris Day give your vintage film club (other than the fantastic films) that modern-day stars or celebrities don’t or can’t give them?
I think, despite her openness and warmth, there’s still an aura of mystery about Doris. In these days when celebrities are endlessly tweeting their every thought and bombarding us with selfies, that’s quite an attractive thing!

How important is it to you that your characters retain a sense of normality in an otherwise fairytale romance scenario? To be more specific: Is it important that real life dysfunctional families, traumatic events and personality flaws go hand in hand with your characters?
Definitely. Although I write escapist fiction, if everything’s too perfect in my fictional world then readers have nothing to relate to. I think it’s important, even when a story has that ‘how I’d like my life to be’ feel about it, that the characters struggle with the same everyday issues we deal with.

How much of yourself and your own emotions do you let flow into your stories?
Erm…quite a lot. I have been known to cry when writing certain scenes, as I get caught up in the emotion of the characters. I think if I don’t emotionally connect with the story then that’s not going to come through in the writing, and then readers won’t experience the emotional roller coaster as they read either.

Taking a closer look at DDVFC (yes it is totally an acronym now) do you think it is important for children or adults to have closure with an absentee parent?
I think we all have a very basic need to know who we are, and that can be very closely linked to where we came from and who made us. Having watched a lot of Long Lost Family (lovingly renamed “Sob fest” in my household), I’d say that many people experience a sense of incompleteness if they haven’t known one of their parents.

In Claire’s case, which is the bigger betrayal? The fact Dominic lied about his identity or where he was doing it from?
I think it just set all her alarm bells ringing. She felt she’d been duped by men who pretended they were something they weren’t before and hated that feeling of being taken for a ride again. Once she calmed down a bit, she started to be able to see that maybe she wasn’t just reacting to Dominic’s betrayal, but all the other betrayals that had gone before too.
I’m trying really hard not to let too many details of the story flow into the questions (spoilers), so instead let me ask you this:

The DDVFC is a band of women + George, who befriend and support each other, which is an incredibly important theme throughout the book. Is that something you think our society lacks in general? Women coming together and supporting each other in a way only women can?
I think we all want good friends around us, people who will stick by us through thick and thin. Some women have that, and some would like more of those connections in their lives. I do think we’re becoming more insular as a society – connected to our smart phones and tablets instead of to other people – and it’s not a bad thing to remember how much joy interacting with another human being (or two, or even eight!) can be.

Finally I would like to say thank you for answering my questions, including the stranger ones!
Thanks, Cheryl! They were great questions! Really made me think.

Now for my thoughts on The Doris Day Vintage film Club aka my review:

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The Doris Day Vintage Film Club is a mixture of a comedy of errors, strong female friendships, solace in companionship and the accidental collision of two people, who are meant to be together.The story features an amusing twist much like a Shakespearean comedy of errors. It is actually done in a very realistic way, and I can certainly see something like that happening in a real life setting.

It is more than ironic that Claire finds herself in a ‘Pillow Talk’ situation, echoing a Doris Day classic film. Not that she is aware of it, because as far as Claire is concerned Nic is a possible Mr Right under a completely different set of circumstances than she is aware of.

A funny war of written words leads to a huge lie, which starts out small and grows so large that a disaster is unavoidable. The perfect romance turns into a tale of disappointment and perceived betrayal.

Harper places an emphasis on romances set in a realistic scenario. No person or life is perfect, and everyone has problems. That is exactly the type of story Harper excels at, the kind of story that gives the reader the flair of romance without being left with a sense of disbelief.

At the same time throughout the book there is a strong theme of women supporting other women. Essentially the film club provides a place of comfort, a place for conversation or advice and a place where women can make other women stronger.The women take a young girl under their wings and help strengthen her self-image and teach her to discover her personality, femininity and teach her to deal with her overbearing abusive mother.

I think that sub-plot in particular is quite important in our day and age, because we live in a time of virtual contact, online friendships and no longer get together they way we used to. It makes clubs like the Vintage Film Club even more important, both in this fictitious setting and real life settings.

Overall this is a lively, witty romantic story with some serious undertones and sub-plots. Harper has let those serious points flow into the story without disrupting the fun, the humour or the budding relationship between Claire and Nic. The are so close, and yet so far apart at the same time.

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Mills & Boon is also running a Pinterest competition #VintageFilmClub Pin it to Win it for The Doris Day Vintage Film Club, giving one reader the chance to win a Vintage makeover with stylists Lipstick & Curls for themselves and a friend.

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