Caroline Khoury was born in Beirut to a Lebanese mother and Welsh father, and she grew up in London. After a decade spent in Hong Kong, Japan and America, she has moved back to the UK – and talk about a small world – her favourite cafe is one of Beth and Hels’ regular coffee/hot chocolate spots!
Caroline’s debut novel, It Must Be Love, has just been published – and is popping up all over bookstagram! She has been kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about herself, her writing and future plans…
What was your journey to becoming a published author?
I started writing seven years ago when I was living in Japan. It was a love story set on a remote Japanese island that I still think of as my safe haven – an island of breathtaking beauty that I was privileged to visit many times. That book ultimately didn’t get me an agent, but I learned so much from it. Agent feedback had complimented my voice, so I began to believe that maybe it was worth continuing. I put that book to one side and began It Must Be Love in 2017 when I was living in the US. A move back to the UK stalled my writing process for a while but after many rounds of editing, I secured representation with the wonderful Kate Burke from Blake Friedmann in 2019 and the following year got a two-book deal with Century (part of Penguin). The eighteen months from the day I got the news of the deal until publication has seen many rounds of edits, a change in editor and the most thrilling moments, from seeing the book’s cover to receiving the first proof copies.
Your debut novel, It Must Be Love, is the story of Abbie and Oz. What was the inspiration behind the story?
I had a flash of inspiration for the book when I was on the Women’s March in New York City back in 2017. Like Abbie, I suffer from outdoor claustrophobia and as my friend and I were marching towards Trump tower, I was suddenly overcome with that familiar feeling of panic and thankfully my friend steered me away from the crowds before we were packed in too tight to move. I imagined what it would be like if my saviour had been a handsome stranger from another country. Around that time, I had become obsessed with watching Turkish soap operas and my muse for the character of Oz became the phenomenally talented actor – Çağatay Ulusoy. My Lebanese heritage was also a source of inspiration for the novel too.
Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment?
I am currently waiting for line edits for my second novel which is a Friends to Lovers story with some more exciting international locations: Cyprus, Mumbai and LA. I am also beginning the process of writing a synopsis for book three and idly daydreaming about where my characters will go.
When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy doing?
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that my second home is my wonderful dog friendly café in my hometown – 63 High Street. I love my morning coffees there and like to catch up on reading when I am there too – romance novels, obviously. I also enjoy trips to Bushy and Richmond Park with Biscuit (my dog). I haven’t been travelling abroad in three years and would love to go and explore more of Europe.
What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
If that first book doesn’t get you an agent, know when to put it to one side and write a new book. It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do but I am so glad I did. Also, when it comes to finding representation, really do your homework on the agent you are querying. Make that query sparkle, with a one-line hook, a brief paragraph summing up the book and the reason why you are querying that particular agent. Query in batches so you can use any feedback to polish up your opening chapters and then try again.
What five books would you recommend?
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – an incredible book with the best characterisation I have ever read.
Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton – the art of living an imperfect life perfectly. There’s something in here for everyone and it really spoke to me having lived in Japan for four years.
Freedom Seeker by Beth Kempton – this book had a profound effect on my personal life.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy – a hug in a book.
Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern – the book that began my love of romance.
Thank you so much to Caroline for chatting with us!