1. Congratulations on your debut, The Authenticity Project, which has been getting a lot of (fully deserved) positive feedback, how scary was it to have your debut novel out in the world, but also how pleasing for it to have been received so well?
Launching a debut is terrifying! You spend months – years even – hugging your baby close to your chest, the it feels like you have to push it over a cliff and hope it can fly! The best thing about it has been the number of people who’ve said that The Authenticity Project has given them hope at this time of such great uncertainty.

2. I loved the title The Authenticity Project, could you tell us about choosing authenticity as the mainstay of the novel, rather than say honesty or similar?
Oh, we debated the title for months! Authenticity is a ‘tricky’ word for a title, but it has so many more layers than ‘honesty’. Honesty is what you say. Authenticity is who you are.

3. Julian Jessop is the catalyst for the Authenticity Project, was he always the starting point in your mind for the novel and how did his character come about?
Yes, Julian was absolutely the starting point, and the other characters evolved around him. I used to take the number 14 bus down the Fulham Road, and would look over the wall into Chelsea Studios, near Stamford Bridge Stadium. I became obsessed by those gorgeous artist’s houses, and wondered what would happen if someone had lived there since the
sixties, staying just the same while the world around them changed. That thought became Julian.

4. Where did the idea of the notebook itself and The Authenticity Project come from?
When I quit drinking (after years of addiction) five years ago, I started blogging as therapy. Telling my truth in a blog not only transformed my life, but the lives of thousands of people who read it. That got me thinking what would happen if other people told the truth about their lives. Not in a blog, but in an actual notebook – old school….

5. There is a wonderful cast of characters that fill the pages of the book, how did each of them come to you? Did they come about as a result of the previous character in The Authenticity Project chain or did you come up with the characters and then find a way to connect them through the notebook?
A bit of both, really. Monica, Julian and Hazard were my starting point, but I didn’t want to plan much further ahead than that, as I wanted to be surprised by the journey the notebook took. I think that if the writer isn’t surprised, the readers won’t be!

6. How easy was it to slip into each character’s shoes? Were there any particular challenges?
The only character I found difficult was Riley! He’s too perfect. I find people’s flaws the most interesting thing about them.

7. The characters are all so different, was it important to you that you included a lot of different perspectives and realities?
Totally. It struck me that all of us surround ourselves with people just like ourselves – both in real life and online. We live in little echo chambers. I really wanted to create a community of people of different ages, races, backgrounds, sexuality etc – just like real life…

8. As well as the characters that feature in The Authenticity Project notebook, there are lovely cameos from characters like Benji, Baz, Betty, Sophie and Caroline. How did you decide on which characters to include centrally and how to limit these? And were you ever tempted to have any of these other characters involved more directly in The Authenticity Project?
There were a few additional characters who hit the cutting room floor! The real surprise for me was Betty Wu, who was totally unplanned, and became a bigger and bigger force as I was writing. She just snuck her way in and demanded to be heard.

9. I love the idea that potentially the notebook could find its way to anyone, anywhere, and have visions of it ending up in the possession of someone famous, revealing all of their secrets. If you could insert one real life person in the story to be involved with the Authenticity Project, who would you choose?
Vivienne Westwood is mentioned a few times in the book as one of Julian’s favourite designers. I think she’d be a rather fabulous person to find the book. I bet she has a whole host of wonderful secrets!

10. I was desperate to see the characters further down the line, especially given what happens in the final chapter, have you finished with these characters entirely do you think and if so how easy was it to let them go when you did?
Oh no – they all still live on in my head! I often find myself thinking how fabulous Monica would be in a pandemic!
The epilogue seems to leave the door open on the story, would you ever consider a second Authenticity Project with Dave as a starting point perhaps?

I’ve totally written a sequel in my imagination, but I don’t know if it’ll ever end up on paper! I quite like the idea of writing a completely different story, but set in the same area, with some of the characters from Authenticity reappearing as minor characters.
11. For me, the book really had a feel of a classic British Richard Curtis-esque film, did you ever envision the story in terms of this sort of cinematic view?
Yes! I have to ‘see’ a scene before I write it, and I construct a story as a series of scenes. There are some scenes in the book which were really cinematic in my head, like the moment that Alice and Monica first see each other on opposite sides of the café window.

12. If you found the Authenticity Project notebook in real life, what would you do?
I’d definitely read it, because (like Lizzie) I’m nosey. I’d also probably try to track down the author. Whether I’d write my own truth… I don’t know. I feel like I’ve exposed most, if not all, of my secrets already!

13. Many readers will be huge fans after this debut, are there plans in place for Book 2?
Yes! I’m on the second draft of a book called Seven Messengers. No-one has read it yet apart from me. I’m hoping that I’m not the only one who’ll like it!
14. And, finally, at the heart of the novel is the idea of people being connected as a result of the Authenticity Project notebook. In the current climate, that need for connection is stronger than ever, so if you could suggest one book that could help people feel connected what would you choose?
One of the inspirations for The Authenticity Project was Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. Like my novel, the stories revolve around an unlikely, rather quirky, community of people living in a big city – in this case, San Francisco in the 1970’s. If you’ve not read them yet, you have a treat in store!