01 January 2001

The Intel: Shari Low

Shari LowSo you’re probably hard at work thinking about what books to pack when you go on holiday. You’re thinking, glamour! You’re thinking, gossip! You’re thinking, dark secrets!

Author Shari Low and showbiz presenter Ross King have teamed up - becoming Shari King in the process - to write Taking Hollywood, a tale of scandal and secrets in modern-day LA. In the novel, three Glaswegian friends become major Hollywood players - but the events of a fateful night many years ago threatens to tear their lives apart, and a nosy investigative journalist is on the case.

Taking Hollywood is released on August 14th, so you’ve got plenty of time to pre-order it right here!

In the meantime, Shari Low has kindly taken time out to answer questions about her sizzling summer read, about the joys of writing with someone else, and working in the dead of night…

Where did the inspiration for Taking Hollywood come from?

Ross and I had talked about writing a book for years, but we thought it would probably be a biography of his extraordinary life. It was only last year that we decided it should be a novel. We met to have a chat about it and many hours (and many cups of tea) later, we had the concept, characters and storyline mapped out. We realised early in the conversation that we wanted it to be a dark blend of Hollywood drama and Glasgow crime. The book we ended up with is exactly the one we envisaged that day.

Are the characters secretly based on any real-life Hollywood stars?

Absolutely not – although we’ve taken many of the elements of Hollywood life and celebrity scandals and woven them into the story. No actual A-listers were harmed in the making of this book.

Why are we so fascinated by Hollywood scandals and secrets?

I think it’s human nature to be curious. I can sit in a café and people watch all day (in a non-stalker, non-restraining order kind of way). A fascination with celebrity just takes that a step further. It’s intriguing to see the risks and dramas that the famous indulge in and just like we all love to watch a great movie, it’s sometimes captivating to watch a scandal play out. And of course, many big names make it so easy for us to be astonished by their antics. Thank you, Charlie Sheen.

How do you write in a partnership – and avoid tears and tantrums?

Ah, pass the tissues! Actually, there was never a moment that came even close to either tears or tantrums. Ross and I have been friends for over 25 years and we are both pretty straight-talking. We also work in industries where you have to be able to take criticism and listen to the opinions of others without flouting off in a diva strop. There were a couple of lively debates, but it helped that we had exactly the same vision from day one. I’ll keep my diva strops for book 2.

What rules did you set yourself about working together?

No egos, total honesty, and we wouldn’t stop until we’d created a novel that we were both proud of. Other than that, we pretty much just took it day by day.

Taking HollywoodTake us through a typical writing day for you?

The writing content varies, depending on whether I have deadlines for my two newspaper columns (an opinion page and a literary page). However the hours remain fairly consistent. And long. I work from around 9am until 4pm, then the next few hours are dedicated to the usual chaos of family stuff. I’m usually back at my desk at around 9pm and work until some time pre-dawn. I’m lucky not to need much sleep and I’m very nocturnal so I work best at 3am when everything around me is silent. However, it’s a schedule that’s depressingly conducive to bloodshot eyes and wrinkles.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

That’s such a good question and it took me a while to come up with an answer because 15 books down the line, I’m still not sure I have it sussed. Or ever will. I suppose the most significant thing I’ve learned is that I need to start trusting that it will all come together. When I’m mid-book, I’m invariably a hot mess of panic, doubt and anxiety, yet somehow, every single time it all falls into place. I’ve no idea how that happens, but my blood pressure would be a lot lower if I just had faith and confidence in the process.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

So, so many, for lots of different reasons. I grew up on the work of Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran. Later, I became a huge fan of Martina Cole, Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney, Iain Banks.

I never miss a new release from Marian Keyes or Tasmina Perry. I’ll stop, because I could honestly go on for pages, but not before mentioning that my favourite book of all time is Nobel House by James Clavell.

Give me some advice about writing…

There’s no set way to do it, just find a method that works for you, start typing and have faith. See, I’m absolutely trying to learn that whole trust thing.

What’s next for you – will you and Ross be working together again?

Definitely! We envisage this as a five book series and we’re currently in the midst of book two. I’m due a diva strop any day now.