Roxie Cooper is my new favourite person (apologies to my old favourite person, I have no idea who that actually is). BUT I LOVE ROXIE COOPER. Not only has she written a fabulously funny and feisty read, The Law of Attraction (PRE-ORDER NOW! YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!), but she’s a Northerner and they are my very favourite people, because I am a Northerner too and it’s about time we got represented, yo. My review will be up Friday (so come back to see that, please) and here’s my interview with the fabulous lady herself (can I be her when I grow up?!?!)
Roxie! Welcome to Girl vs Books, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Leah! Thanks so much for having me! Well, I’m 38 years old and live in Yarm, which is a little market town by the River Tees in the North-East. I’m originally from Middlesbrough and studied Classics at Newcastle University. After that I was a dancer at the infamous Baja Beach Club for 2 years (literally the best job I EVER had!). I’m a Criminal Barrister by profession and practised at the Bar for 7 years before leaving to have a bit of a breather…then I wrote this book!
2. Can you tell us about The Law of Attraction?
Yep! The Law of Attraction is about a girl called Amanda Bentley who comes from a council estate in Teesside. She’s smart, sassy and doesn’t take any nonsense, but when she wins a prestigious pupillage at a barristers’ set of Chambers she realises it’s going to take more than intellect to win the top job at the end of the year. She’s up against a proper slimy guy she knew at law school. To make matters worse, she has to try and resist the well sexy Sid Ryder, another barrister she works with. But she’s also hiding a big secret, which could ruin everything she’s worked so hard for if anyone finds out about it…
3. Why did you set The Law of Attraction up North? There are so few books set up here, and a lot of authors would have set it in London (boo, London!) so why did you take a punt with setting the book in Newcastle?
So pleased you asked me this! Virtually every single book I read is set in London or down South somewhere. While there’s nothing wrong with this, I didn’t feel that our wonderful region is represented enough (or at all) in women’s fiction. Amanda is a very Northern girl and this part of her character is a big part of who she is, so it was important the book was set up North to bring that out. I know Newcastle really well and have done many cases at the crown court there. The book is set between Newcastle and Teesside and various landmarks feature from both of these wonderful places, which I’m very proud of. I’ve actually been really thrilled with the reaction so far – people have commented that it’s refreshing and different to have a novel set up here.
4. There’s a new trend of lawyers writing books – yourself, the wonderful Gillian McAllister, what is it about being a lawyer or barrister that lends itself to writing books?
Ultimately, I think we like plotting things out and creating twists and turns. Barristers are good storytellers. We spend our time writing closing speeches in an attempt to lure a jury into hanging on our every word. We enjoy creating suspense and drama, regardless of whichever genre we write in. You also wouldn’t believe some of the people, situations and cases we have seen…that, combined with an over-active imagination – we are very well-placed to write novels!
5. Amanda Bentley kicks arse. There’s no other way to describe her – she doesn’t let anyone get in her way, even when people are actively trying to take her down, how much like Amanda are you? Have you embellished bits of yourself when writing Amanda or is she completely different to you?
Amanda is very much like me! The inspiration for this novel came off the back of constantly being told “Oh! You don’t look or act like a barrister!” Seriously, what does that even mean?! I definitely have that council estate grit that she does and I was never particularly desperate to fit in with all the ‘stuff’ which comes with being a barrister – the traditions, cliques, formal dinners and all that. However, Amanda does get herself into some particularly terrible situations, and I think I’m more self-controlled than her. Then again, I’m not hiding the secrets she is…
6. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Do the rich snobs really look down on someone like Amanda? Someone who instead of relying on daddy for getting through law school, does it herself, who’s come from a council estate (LIKE THAT’S A BAD THING) and got herself the career she wants, the hell to everyone else? (It made me rage in the book so if it’s real, it’ll make me even more ragey)
Good question! The Bar is now accessible to candidates from all backgrounds, and there are more female barristers than ever before. However, I do believe that if you are an ‘Amanda’, you are treated differently and you’re expected to change if you want to fit in. The Bar is a very old profession and they have their ways about them. You are a bit of a novelty if you’re the council estate kid. Many people from working-class backgrounds at the Bar change their accents to fit in, which is always sad. I suppose I’m just the ultimate working-class hero…but i’ll never apologise for that!
7. Sid Ryder! Who was your inspiration and is he real? *Swoons*
Haha! He’s not real, I’m afraid. It would be good if he was, wouldn’t it?
8. Did you have to fight to keep the Geordie bits in the book? Mam, alreet, howay, etc? It made me so happy, you have no idea, so I thank your publishers for keeping it real! You can’t set a book in Newcastle and not call your mam, mam.
No, my publishers were brilliant about it! They totally embraced the Geordie-isms! It helped that my editor had family in Newcastle so she got it all. It was important to me that the Northern words made the cut – especially ‘Mam’…Amanda would never say ‘Mum’.
9. Have you seen this YouTube clip of American show Castle attempting to have a Geordie character (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei1DnFdJrww&t=60s)? How do you feel about it, because it makes me want to kill someone, it’s that horrific. I’ve never cringed so hard in my life.
Oh my DEAR GOD. He sounds South African! That is literally the worst Geordie accent I’ve ever heard in my life. I need a stiff drink to cope with this.
10. Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication, with HQ Digital?
I wrote The Law Of Attraction in about 16 months and it is the first novel I’ve written. I sent the first 3 chapters off to four agents, and my wonderful agent, Sarah Manning at The Bent Agency, replied within hours wanting the rest of the book. She read the whole thing in 2 days and we spoke on the phone about it. She just ‘got it’ and me, saying she wanted me to work on the sub-plot some more and if I did, she’d love to represent me. I completely wrote the other agents off at that point – she was the agent I wanted to impress. Six weeks later, I nervously submitted the revisions to her and she loved them, so she was my agent! Yey! After a few more revisions we submitted to publishers and in the end, two houses pitched for it. So, one really hot September day in 2016, I went to London and both publishing houses pitched to me about why they wanted my book! It was like a dream! HQ were bubbling with enthusiasm about this novel and I loved their vision for both the novel and my career, so I decided to go with them and I haven’t regretted that decision. The day of my cover reveal was honestly one of the best days I’ve ever had – the response was incredible.
11. Roxie Cooper sounds like a pseudonym. Is Roxie your real name?!? (Sorry, I’m so nosey)
Oh, I wish it was my real name! Nope – it’s a pen name. It’s a mixture of two of my favourite things; the musical Chicago and Twin Peaks.
12. How do you juggle the day job with your writing, if the book taught my anything it’s that barristers do not have an easy job to do?! (And that doesn’t even include the extra-curriculars!)
Well I’m taking a bit of a career break right now so I’m not juggling it at the moment. I do have two kids though, which is basically like a job in itself! I currently write when they’re at school and on evenings and weekends when I can.
13. Finally, can you tell us anything about book two? I know The Law of Attraction is only just about to come out but I read it in April, so I’m dying for news of book two…?
Oh, thanks so much! I’m just in the final stages of editing Book 2. It’s a bit different to The Law Of Attraction in that it’s less rom-com and a bit more ‘book club’. It’s a love story with a twist. I think it’s important to challenge yourself as a writer and this was the book I really wanted to write next. I love creating real, raw, flawed characters and Book 2 has many of these. I can’t wait for you to meet them!