About author, Laura Barnard: My name is Laura Barnard and I am an author from Hertfordshire, UK. I have just published my first chick-lit novel, The Debt & the Doormat, available via Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository and many more. I am also Co-Editor and writer of NCT’s Watford branch magazine Watbaby.
In my spare time I enjoy drinking my body weight in tea, indulging in cupcakes the size of my face, drooling over hunks like Ryan Gosling, Matthew Bomer and Leo Dicaprio…oh and my husband of course! I like getting flexible in yoga (I can finally touch my toes), am a real fan of the power nap and of course, READING!
I dream of one day being a best-selling author but in truth if only a handful of people like my books I will be just as happy.
Describe yourself in five words: Loud, friendly, animated, accident-prone and organized.
Congratulations on the publication of “The Debt and the Doormat”! How does it feel to be an author? Amazing! Seeing my name online still gives me such a rush. I’ve kept the first ever paperback too – I occasionally stroke it and give it a little kiss before bed. Having people enjoy it too is such a magical feeling. It really makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Yes. Since I was a young child I was always writing stories. I originally dreamed of being a journalist but when I looked into it properly it sounded like a very competitive world. As a lazy 18 year old that sounded like too much hard work for me. If only I could go back to my young self and have a word! But I love being an author; I can do it from my sofa, eating Jaffa cakes in my PJ’s.
Who or what inspires you? Everything! I over-think most things so I can listen to a pop song and really imagine those emotions. I also get ideas from stories I hear from friends and family. I even have very vivid dreams that give me ideas. Apparently I talk in my sleep and have been known to have full blown conversations with people that I have no recollection of. People joke that I never shut up, even when sleeping!
What was the writing/editing/publishing process like for you? This time around my writing process was a bit all over the place. I didn’t really have a plan or know what I wanted to write. I sort of learnt while I went along. Writing my second book should be a lot more constructed (hopefully). I found it hard to edit my own work, but luckily my friend Karis Staniforth edited it for me. She’s got such a good eye for detail. Self-publishing was actually a lot easier than I imagined. It’s the book awareness part that I find tricky and sometimes frustrating. But I’ve always said that if only a handful of people enjoy it I’ll be happy and I’ve already had more positive comments than that. My husband can tell as I have a big stupid grin on my face.
Hard/paperbacks or eBooks? I was always the one that said ‘I’ll never convert to a Kindle!’ I just love physical books so much. The paper, even the smell of them is blissful. I also hated the idea of using technology to relax. I used to whine on about how it was my time to get away from technology. But…I ordered a kindle when I published my e-book, as I thought I must know how easy it is for everyone else. Now I’ve done a complete one-eighty and I love it! It’s just so easy and instant. Plus it stops my husband moaning about the light being on until the early hours of the morning as I’ve got the paper white. I also think it will save me so much storage as I just don’t have the room for all of my books. Maybe one day when I can build my own library, but for now its digital for me.
Describe what a typical day is like for you: Drag myself out of bed when my daughter wakes up, breakfast, out the door for a baby activity class (having forgotten most things I need). Have a gossip with the other mums while trying to stop her from harming herself (the baby’s got a suicide mission, I swear!). Then back for lunch, she goes down for a nap. I power up the laptop and do some work on the book. It’s very frustrating as most of the time I’m in the middle of something great when she wakes up. I type frantically like a mad woman as I know once she’s up its game over. She refuses to let me work with her around; trying to sit on the laptop/keyboard or strangling herself with the charger lead. Its better actually as then I can dedicate myself to her and make it more quality time. By the time we make it to her dinner time at 5pm I’m exhausted and desperate for Daddy to get home. He’s barely in the door before I’m barking at him to run the bath so we can get her to bed. I’m sometimes so tired that I’ll have a two hour nap once she goes down (I could seriously sleep for 20 hours a day if allowed) and then I’m back up doing book work until at least midnight or until my eyes literally glaze over.
How did you come up with the title of “The Debt and the Doormat?”: It was originally called Two Friends but I knew I wanted something more memorable. My brother’s in a band and so is used to writing lyrics. He read the first three chapters and started making suggestions. It was while we were coming up with names that I shouted out ‘The Debt & the Doormat?’ I liked the ring to it and so The Debt & the Doormat was born.
Where is your favorite place to write? Before my baby was born I had her room as an office. It was my favorite place. I could hole up in there for days, listening to loud music and covering the walls with ideas while my husband was my tea boy. Now I’m forced to write on my sofa with my dog cuddled up to me. But the husband still brings me tea so it’s not all bad and I’m still doing what I love, just with less back support!
On your website I saw you like tea, what is your favorite kind? That’s funny as I now realize how many times I’m mentioned it just in this interview! I love English breakfast tea with milk and one sugar (true Brit that I am!) But I also drink lemon and ginger when I feel like I need a bit of a detox or to put it frankly, too many cupcakes!
What is the best advice you’d like to give to a new author? Just keep writing. It can be overwhelming when you think of writing an entire book so just write something; anything. Once you get going it’s easier for ideas to flow and before you know it you’ve got something.
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? I was actually working on another stand-alone book, but due to popular demand I’m now writing the sequel for The Debt & the Doormat. It makes me happy as I feel so invested in the characters all ready and love that I can give them a happy ever after.
“The Debt & The Doormat”
Poppy and Jazz have been best friends from the first week of university. Whenever these two get together trouble isn’t far away and things haven’t changed much. When Jazz gets herself into financial trouble Poppy, being a good friend, offers to help. She instead ends up being talked into swapping lives, with Jazz insisting it will be good and help her get over her broken heart.
Poppy is thrown into a new life, full of crazy housemates. There’s fitness freak Izzy, horrendously beautiful bitch Grace and the slightly gorgeous, if not incredibly grumpy Ryan. Quickly, with the help of Jazz, her life is thrown upside down. Madness ensues and her need to please everyone gets her in more trouble than she could ever imagine.
Before she knows it she’s got a fake boyfriend and is hiding so many secrets she’s scared they’ll spill out any minute. With a bullying boss, a sex crazed colleague, a mental mother and three brothers each with their own dramas, life has gotten pretty difficult for Poppy. And all of this would be much easier, if she could just stop falling over.
Will she get her life back to normal before her brother’s upcoming wedding? And will she want to?
Chapter 1 tease
‘You’re how much in debt?!’ I squeal looking into my best friend’s face.
‘Please,’ she says, throwing her hands up in defence. ‘Don’t over-react. It’s…totally manageable.’
I roll my eyes and breathe out harshly. If I know Jazz it will be anything but manageable, or reasonable or ordinary for that matter.
‘Exactly how much?’ I demand, crossing my arms and trying my best to come across as intimidating.
‘Well I’m not going to tell you if you’re just going to scream at me!’ she shouts, flicking her long blonde curls behind her and collapsing back onto the sofa.
I take a deep breath and try not to over-react. It can’t be that bad. It can’t be as bad as when she nearly married that Scandinavian waiter because she claimed he was the best sex she ever had even though he couldn’t speak a word of English and supposedly proposed with an onion ring. I mean, how much money could she have spent? It’s not like she buys that many clothes, is it? Then I notice her purple knee high boots. Are they new? I try so desperately to ignore her ridiculous wardrobe that maybe I’ve been blind to it. Was she really getting herself into this mess before my eyes and I was too dumb to notice?
‘Ok,’ I say slowly, taking a deep breath to calm myself. ‘How much debt are you in?’
I do my best to smile sweetly, trying to show how reasonable I’m now feeling, pushing the strong feelings of wanting to throttle her to the back of my mind.
‘Well, the truth…’ she begins, her small grey eyes staring up at me sadly, ‘is I don’t really know. I just know that I keep getting letters and…And…’ She stops to wipe a tear that’s escaped from her eye. ‘There’s red print on them saying final demand and I thought I could handle it, but now I just seem to be drowning in red letters!’ Her voice finally breaks with emotion and she grabs my silk cushion, cradling it tightly to her chest.
‘Oh Hun.’ I move to sit on the coffee table in front of her.
I hover my hands over her, trying to think of the best way to hug her. I’ve never been very good with showing physical affection to friends. Don’t get me wrong – I feel like I should hug someone in these situations – but I’ve never been much of a hugger, having grown up with three brothers. If they wanted to show affection they’d punch me in the stomach, and I don’t think that would be very helpful.
I settle with patting her on the shoulder instead. God I really hope she doesn’t get any tears on my pillow. I can see them dripping down her sculptured cheeks, so close to the cushion that it’s almost touching. Please not my beautiful cushion. My Grandma gave it to me when I moved out and sewed in a message in silver thread. Now she’s gone, I love it all the more. I don’t want Jazz’s glitter mascara all over it.
‘Here,’ I say, passing her a tissue from the coffee table.
‘I’m fine,’ she sobs, pushing it away dramatically.
The tears are coming thick and fast now and now there’s snot trickling down her chin towards my beautiful purple sequinned cushion. She’s never been much of a pretty crier. Please, just give me the pillow. Step away from the pillow.
‘I know!’ I shout, surprising Jazz with my sudden enthusiasm. ‘If you leave now and go and get the letters then I can add it all up for you and we can work out how to get you out of this mess. Yeah?’
I lightly grip the edge of the pillow. If she’d just loosen her grip slightly I could whip it away from her.
‘They’re in my bag,’ she sniffs. ‘Oh, but I can’t face them!’
She turns over and presses her teary face into the pillow. Well, there goes my beautiful cushion. That’s another one for the wash. I should really hide nice things when Jazz comes round. Maybe I’ll turn into one of those crazy women with plastic covers for the sofas. It doesn’t really sound that crazy to me, just practical. I do seem to drop a lot of stuff.
I try to pull myself together and think like a good friend. Where was I? Oh that’s right – the letters. I run over to her giant pink patent bag and rummage in it to find her post. God, she’s got all sorts of crap in here. A DVD, a plastic baby spoon, a miniature Hindu elephant headed God, a big pink sort of rock or stone, a banana, a pair of 3D glasses, chopsticks, some rizlas and a Swiss army knife. Jesus, she’s a kook. I finally locate a stack of letters at the bottom.
‘Found them,’ I say, trying to sound cheery. I walk back over to her and prise her away from the sofa before she can do any more damage. ‘Come on,’ I say impatiently. ‘We need to do this.’
‘Ok, ok.’ She wipes the tears from her face, smudging mascara all over her cheeks before sitting bolt upright; a sudden determined look on her face. ‘But first we need some wine.’ She runs out of the room, coming back two seconds later with a bottle of Pinot and two glasses.
‘I still can’t believe you have all of this crap in your bag,’ I say, picking up the plastic baby spoon.
‘It’s useful actually.’ she says defiantly, snatching it from my hand.
‘Yeah I’m sure a baby spoon is real useful.’ I snort, rolling my eyes.
‘It’s for really small yoghurt pots actually.’ she says, herself like a petulant toddler.
‘Ok, so explain the rest,’ I challenge.
‘Fine, I’ll show you.’ She picks up her Swiss army knife and stabs the top of the bottle with it, managing to eventually prise the cork out. ‘Tah dah,’ she smiles, looking very proud of herself.
‘And the rest?’ I ask, as she pours wine into my glass with little bits of cork floating in it.
‘Easy,’ she smiles. ‘The DVD is one someone at work lent me, the banana for potassium, obviously. The chopsticks in case I have Chinese, duh. And the glasses are from a 3D movie I saw the other day.’
‘And these?’ I ask holding up the mini statue and rock.
‘For my inner peace and wellbeing. Obviously.’
‘Oh, of course, obviously.’
I laugh to myself as I root around for my calculator. When I eventually find it in the oven, which I use for storage as I have an aversion to cooking, I start adding up the totals. Jazz flicks through a magazine, seeming to have already gotten over the stress. There are at least five letters but their totals don’t seem that high. She must just be being a drama queen. I’m sure it’s totally fine.
The total finally flashes up on the screen and I do a double take. Oh Jesus, this can’t be right.
‘What? How much is it?’ Jazz asks, pouting her lips from behind the magazine; still barely showing any concern.
I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. What can I say? This is definitely not going to make her feel better.
‘Chick, you’re worrying me now. Please just tell me. How much?’ She stares at me for a moment and her expression quickly changes when I can’t meet her eye. She takes a large gulp of wine, her hands trembling.
‘I must have added up wrong.’ I touch my temples, which have started to throb. I press clear and start to add them up again.
‘How fucking much?’ she demands impatiently.
I take a gulp of wine myself for courage. ‘Five thousand.’
Jazz sits silently for a moment, her pretty features contorted in shock and horror. She slowly puts her glass down onto the coffee table, still completely bewildered. She grabs the bottle of wine and begins urgently chugging on it. She stops when she’s out of breath and looks up at me, her eyes scared and vulnerable.
‘Yeah, fuck indeed.’
There’s an awkward silence while I desperately try to think of something to do or say to make her feel better. There must be something, right? I’m sure if I watched more Jeremy Kyle I’d be better equipped to deal with situations like this.
‘There’s only one thing we can do in a situation like this,’ she announces, standing up.
I don’t believe it. In this moment of madness she has a plan. For once, my ‘go with the flow’ friend has a plan. Everything is going to be ok, thank God.
‘Yes?’ I ask, trying to hide how impressed I am. The feeling of sickening panic starts to drain out of my stomach.
‘Get totally fucked.’ she nods.
She grabs hold of my arm and drags me into my kitchen before I can show my disapproval. The tequila bottle is grabbed out of the cupboard and before I can protest she’s forced me to do five shots. The picture on my fridge of the two of us in Ibiza with traffic cones on our heads reminds me of the last time I drank tequila. She helps me out of the kitchen with another bottle of wine in her hand, turning the stereo on full blast.
‘Get serious for a second!’ I shout over my Abba CD. It’s this carefree attitude that’s got her into this mess.
‘Ok,’ she says, sighing heavily as she begrudgingly turns the music down slightly.
‘You need to start paying this off. How did you even get yourself in this mess anyway? I thought your Mum paid your credit card bill?’ The tequila fog is starting to cloud over me. I fight it, desperate to sort this out.
‘She’s cut me off. Edward’s persuaded her that I should grow up and act my age. Can you believe that prick?’
‘He’s probably right,’ I reason, already slurring my words.
‘How can you say that? She already gave me the budget of a poor person! You know how I hate him.’ She juts her jaw out, beginning to sulk.
Edward is her Mum’s current husband. I say current because he’s her fourth. She first married Jazz’s Dad when she was 22 and he was 80 with a heart complaint. He owned a porn empire and was worth an absolute mint. She obviously thought he’d die very quickly, but the old bastard ended up living for another ten years to the grand old age of 90. When he died he left them very rich. Very rich.
Carol didn’t need to marry again. She could have quite happily lived off that money for the rest of her life, but she was quick to give her heart away again. She fell in love with Harry, a playboy that she travelled the world with while Jazz was expelled from several boarding schools. That quickly ended when she discovered his affair with the maid.
Then came Raul, their Spanish villa’s pool boy. She was completely convinced that it was the true thing and insisted he wasn’t after her money. She moved over there and lived happily for a while, drinking Sangria and dancing to Salsa. It only took her a year to realise it was pure lust and he was in fact after her money. She agreed a settlement; small compared to the money she still possessed, and he was on his way.
And now she has Edward. A stern skinny man, who never smiles and lives in a suit. I actually like his dry sense of humour and the way that he makes Carol happy. Since meeting him they’d moved from Chelsea to the Sussex countryside where they bought a fabulous Grade II listed farmhouse. They now spend their days looking after horses and protecting chickens from fox attacks.
‘Look, I’m sorry. But if you ever want to start paying this off you’ll have to start living frugally for a while. A long while actually. I need to just totally take over your life and sort you out.’
‘Oh thanks! If you had your way I’d be living like you, bored and lonely in a flat all on my own.’
‘Hey!’ I say, hurt by her sudden outburst. ‘I’m not bored and lonely. I’m totally happy with my life, thank you very much!’
Since when did she think I was such a loser?
‘Oh purlease! How can you be? You spend most evenings alone. You never want to do anything since you broke up with Stuart and that was nearly a year ago.’
I wince at the mention of his name. She knows the rules – we don’t talk about him.
‘That’s not true! I wanted to wear my dressing gown all day and eat Jaffa cakes for lunch. I wanted to start drinking in the morning. Don’t say that I don’t have goals!’
She ignores my attempt at humour and looks at me seriously.
‘You need to start being a bit free. Start living for the moment.’
‘Yeah and you need to start being a bit more trapped in for a while! Stop wasting money. I mean, how did you even get in this mess?’ I pick up one of the many statements and scan it. ‘£89 in Bar Res, £60 in Monsoon, £110 in Threshers. Jazz, most of this is just on clothes and going out getting trashed.’
‘It’s called living,’ she says, looking at me as if I were pathetic not to do this sort of thing.
Well sorry for being responsible.
‘It’s called five grand in debt,’ I snap.
We both shudder from the sound of that number again.
‘Ok, well maybe I’ll start being better with money if you start being worse with it,’ she says, a mischievous glint in her eye.
‘Why would that be of any benefit to me?’ I say smugly, feeling sorry for my clueless friend.
‘Pops, what happened last Saturday night on CSI?’
‘Ok, well Catherine and Nick found a body in an alley and……Alright, I get your point.’
‘Look, the only way I’m going to change is if you promise to as well,’ she says, running her hands through her knotted hair. I suddenly feel un-nerved. ‘You’re throwing your life away, sitting around waiting for Mr Right to come crashing through your living room on a white horse.’
White horse, how dramatic. And I’d much prefer a Porsche.
‘Ok…what would I have to do?’ I ask, my stomach fluttering with sudden fear.
‘Easy. We swap lives.’
‘We swap lives?’ I say, displeasure showing in my voice.
‘Yep. We swap houses and start living each other’s lives. Each of us can’t make a single decision without asking the other first what we should do. And we have to do what the other says, regardless of whether we like it or not.’ She leans back and smiles triumphantly as if this is the best idea she’s ever had.
‘So wait a minute. If I say that you have to stay in and watch DVD’s for a whole week you would?’
‘Absolutely,’ she nods. ‘Just like if I said you needed to go out and get drunk every night you would.’
‘Why the hell would I need to go out and get drunk every night?’
‘Chick, it’s time,’ she says, smiling sympathetically. ‘You need to get back to the old you.’
‘What do you mean, the old me? I’m the same person.’ I cross my arms.
‘Come on chick. Before…him, well you were so much fun. You were a force to be reckoned with. It’s like you were a hurricane and now you’re just a gust of wind.’
‘Thanks for the imagery,’ I say sarcastically, smiling despite myself.
‘Seriously though chick. You’ve become a shadow of yourself. Stu…I mean…he was too busy keeping you down. He took over. Before you met him you used to rule your own world and you were great at it.’
‘I’m fine,’ I snap sharply, wishing she’d just shut up. She’s the one with the problem.
Yet she starts me thinking. I mean she’s totally getting the raw end of the deal. I’m going to be so tight with her money she’ll have that debt paid off in no time and in return I just have to go on a few nights out. I can just go along with it and pretend to her it’s a project for me if it makes her happy.
And maybe I could do with a change. I think about my current evenings spent slobbing in my gravy stained velour tracksuit bottoms while I eat a family sized Dairy Milk and consume at least one bottle of wine. Some evenings I even finish it off with a shot of Night Nurse just so that I’ll be able to get to sleep through the pathetic tears.
‘Ok, it’s a deal.’
‘Deal.’ She shakes my hand with a wide smile on her face.
I shiver as I suddenly feel I may have made a big mistake….