The Holiday Swap is the new novel by Zara Stoneley, in which two women are led to spend the festive season away from their very different lives. Zara joins us for the weekly Q&A to share more about her writing.

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Buzzy Barcelona or cosy Cheshire? Plan your perfect escape this Christmas!

What inspired you to write The Holiday Swap? 
I was initially inspired by one of my favourite Christmas films - 'The Holiday'. I love the idea of swapping homes (and lives) with somebody. There are two places that are very special to me - the UK countryside, and glamorous Barcelona - they're very different places at Christmas, both magical in their own way, and so I couldn't resist the idea of writing a book set in both locations.

Where do you do most of your writing? 
If I'm in the UK I love to sit at my kitchen table (unless it's nice enough to sit outside) as it's lovely and light and I can gaze at the garden when I need inspiration. If I'm in Barcelona I do lots of scribbling ideas down on the beach, but I do the actual writing in the apartment with the doors open - I can hear the gentle buzz of chatter outside, and quite often there are buskers to listen to which I love.

What is your favourite book? 
There are so many brilliant books it's hard to name a favourite. The best book I've read recently has to be 'Me Before You' - it's quite different to the type of book I normally read these days, because I like something light and funny, but I really enjoyed it. It's impossible to name an all time favourite though - I'd need to give you a top ten!

Which part of The Holiday Swap did you enjoy writing the most?
Now that is a really difficult question to answer! I loved writing about the really cosy side of Christmas in the UK, snow and roaring fires, but I also really enjoyed writing about buzzy Barcelona! I suppose if I really had to single one bit out, it has to be the very last chapter, in Barcelona on New Year's eve... and a very special ending that caught even me by surprise!

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
Bridget Jones. Does she qualify as 'literary'? She might not be a role model in the way somebody like Elizabeth Bennet might be (is she the modern day equivalent?), but I can relate to her, and she makes me laugh, cry and hope that things will work out.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
Find your voice - once you find your writing style, and the stories you really love writing then things will start to fall into place. I think the hardest part of writing is patience, and not expecting too much too soon - take your time, read lots of different authors and keep writing until you hit your stride. And write the story that you want to tell, in your own way - publishers aren't looking for copycats, they want unique voices that can put a new spin on old themes.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I can't say much at the moment, but it does involve an absolutely gorgeous little village (even more lovely than Tippermere - I never, ever thought I'd say that!), a hunky vet, and a school teacher who thinks she's a city girl at heart but might be about to find out she's wrong!

Thanks, Zara!

You can find out more about Zara at her website, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon.

The Holiday Swap by Zara Stoneley

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to a Christmas holiday fraught with potential pitfalls.

Florence Cortes has the perfect life – an apartment in the trendiest district of Barcelona, a job she loves and a boyfriend who’s whisking her away on a romantic break to Paris to no doubt propose.
Only, he’s planning something far different, and Flo soon realises her life isn’t so perfect after all.
Home loving Daisy Fischer is perfectly happy in her idyllic home in the Cheshire countryside, with an on-off boyfriend who might be slightly dull but is totally dependable. Until he issues an ultimatum, and Daisy suddenly realises that there might be a whole different world out there that she’s missing out on.

Have Flo and Daisy come up with the perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak?

Can a snowbound Christmas in Cheshire – with aristocratic, handsome Hugo as her neighbour, a house full of animals and a leaking roof – help Flo mend her broken heart, and remind her of what she really wants in life?

Can a sunny break in beautiful Barcelona – with the dishy but brooding Javier, a never ending supply of cava, and a sea view to die for – prove to Daisy that playing safe isn’t always the answer?
Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas – and in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it, but where will they be for New Year?

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