1. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Well, I’m a twenty-eight-year-old writer from Derby, and I live in Hertfordshire with my husband. We finally got married last November after being engaged for four years – two years and eight months of which we spent in his childhood bedroom! We’re now renting a two-bedroom flat with a kitchen in the living room while we save up the deposit for a house.
2. What number book is this? First? 100th? 200th?(Nora only!)
This is my first published book! I’m so excited! I have no idea what to expect, but I’ve worked really hard so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!
3. What inspired this book?
It was a mixture of planning our wedding, chatting to my friends and the jobs I’ve had: I’ve worked in-house at You & Your Wedding and Cosmopolitan Bride and freelanced for Brides. One day I gave a work colleague advice on her wedding and she told me I should write a book, which I took a bit literally! I realised me and my now-husband weren’t the only ones struggling to save up for our wedding and really wanting it to be as beautiful as our better-off friends’ big days. I wrote down all the ways we could make it happen for less, I did a lot of research into the most affordable brands and I put it all together into The High-Street Bride’s Guide.
4. Have you any burning ambitions to write a story in a different genre?
Funny you should mention that; I’m actually writing a novel at the moment. Writing fiction has always been a dream of mine, and I’ve finished two manuscripts in the past, but I wrote them both when I was a teenager and they lacked the maturity of my old age! The book I’m writing now is a steampunk fantasy, so a bit of a switch from a non-fiction guidebook, but I love the change of pace, and it appeals to my nerdy side.
5. What was the most fun part of writing this book?
The intros to each section; I could just have fun with them. I decided not to hold back, but just to write what I thought was funny, even if it wasn’t all cakes and flowers. After all, my readers aren’t only brides, they’re people; they have a whole life going on besides their wedding, same as I did. So I threw in bits like Dylan Moran’s wisdom on women and shoes and a parody of those White Fang-type movies, you know where the kid tells the wolf or whatever that he hates it so it’ll go off and be free…
6. Do you have a writing routine? Do you write every day, and is there a time of day that works best for you in terms of being productive?
Yes, I write every day, but not always on my work in progress. Having spent four years commuting in and out of London I’m now a freelance writer for titles like GLAMOUR, so I write articles as well as books. I’ll at least look at the book I’m working on every day – preferably in the morning, which tends to be my best time for inspiration – and I’ll play with some ideas and mull it over, but some days I’ll toy with new words and they just won’t feel right. I know that sounds crazy and I wish I had more control over it, but I’ve realised those days are more about thinking, letting my brain work on the story in the back of my mind or maybe working on a character board or something. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I’m okay with counting that as work; I can be impatient and I used to think words on the page were the only thing that mattered, but now I know sometimes they don’t come if you haven’t given yourself the headspace find them.
7. How long does it take you to complete a book?
Non-fiction is quicker than fiction for me. The first edition of The High-Street Bride’s Guide took a month flat, then I spent a week or two revising and extending it for Harper Impulse. Fiction tends to take more like a year, and because of the complexity of the novel I’m writing at the moment, I think it could take closer to a year and a half.
8. Are your family and real-life friends supportive? If so, in what ways? If not, do you have another support network for your writing?
Yes, my husband, my family and my friends have always been really supportive of my writing; I’m so lucky to be surrounded by so many encouraging people. My poor husband has to listen to excerpts of whatever I’m working on at random intervals; I’ll just run into the living room with my laptop and go: “Read this please!” then make him a coffee and disappear so I don’t have to be in the room while he does. Sometimes I want his feedback on where a scene is going wrong or whether it feels truthful, or I’ll be having an attack of self-doubt and I need him to tell me whether it’s founded. Others I’ll just be really excited that it feels like a scene has gone well and I’ll want to show it to him in the hope that he thinks it’s as funny as I do!
Recently I’ve found another support network for my writing too: the lovely authors at Harper Impulse! I hit a writer’s block in my current novel that made me nervous about going back to the manuscript, but they were quick to reassure me that I hadn’t gone mad and that most writers feel the same sometimes, and to fill me in on lots of tried and tested tips that got me back on the page again. At times like that it’s good to have people in the same industry to make you feel like you’re not alone; I’m now back on track and heading for the 20,000-word mark!
Brides-to-be, this one’s for you!
You can say your vows in a catwalk gown so beautiful it reduces your mum to tears (and not because she paid for it).
You can style a reception so stunning your guests won’t believe you didn’t hire an A-list planner.
And you can sprinkle the day with personal touches that make everyone feel like you gave them special attention before they even got there. Without spending a house deposit on it. Honest.
Samantha Birch has written for GLAMOUR, Brides, You & Your Wedding and Cosmopolitan Bride. She knows a thing or two about planning a wedding on a budget, how much you can expect to pay for everything and where to go to get it for less. And she’s put it all down here.
The High-Street Bride's Guide is available from Amazon, Amazon UK, and iTunes.
You can chat to Samantha on Twitter or on Facebook.