So excited to share this Q&A with Author Phaedra Patrick for The Secrets of Love Story Bridge + Excerpt

I'm thrilled to be sharing an interview and excerpt with you today. Check them out below...

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
By Phaedra Patrick
Women's Fiction
Hardcover, Audiobook & ebook, 336 Pages
April 28th 2020 by Park Row Books


Fredrik Backman meets The Cactus in THE SECRETS OF LOVE STORY BRIDGE (Park Row Books; April 28, 2020; $25.99 US/$32.50 CAN), in which a cynical single father has a surprise encounter on the famous love lock bridge, sparking a journey of self-discovery that may lead him to a second chance at love.

Single father Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He enjoys his job removing padlocks fastened to the famous "love lock" bridges of Upchester city. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his disciplined veneer, Mitchell grieves the loss of her mother, Anita.

One fateful day, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as "The Hero on the Bridge." He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year. However, the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places...

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Would you tell us what inspired you to write about "love story” bridge?
The idea came to me after I noticed padlocks hanging on bridges, everywhere from my home city of Manchester, England, to Gran Canaria. I was aware of the famous Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris that collapsed under the weight of ‘love locks’ several years ago, and it made me wonder about who hung them there and what the stories were behind them. I had a picture in my head of a man whose job it was to remove the locks, and that he’d probably had his heart broken in the past. I called him Mitchell Fisher after the street my grandparents used to live on, Mitchell Street.
Which character do you most relate to and why?
I have a real soft spot for a minor character in the book, Carl. He’s the concierge of the apartment block that Mitchell lives in. Carl is a real trier in life and never gives up. He’s amiable, eager to better himself and can often be found making origami shapes out of paper. He was a joy to spend time with.
What challenged you the most while writing this story?
Sometimes, when I start a book, I have a small idea in my mind but don’t know the entire story. With The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, I had an image of a man on a bridge who saves a lady in a yellow dress from drowning in a river. But that was all! In the book, the lady in yellow subsequently vanishes, but I had no idea why and where she went to! It was a real challenge to try and work out her story, and I only found out her secret at the same time Mitchell does.
What was something interesting you learned while compiling research for the book?
I was amazed at how widely spread across the world hanging love locks is.  Research taught me that some people believe it’s a ritual that stems from ancient Chinese tradition, whereas others believe it started in a small Serbian town during the First World War. Wherever it originated, it’s something that’s still going strong today.
What’s one of your hobbies or something we might not know about you?
I sometimes make my own dresses. I made a floaty cornflower blue one to wear on my birthday last August, and am currently making a bright coral one as a quarantine project. When the coronavirus lockdown ends, I’m going to wear it when I meet my friends for pizza and cider. I studied art at college and was brought up by creative parents, so I dabbled with sewing, mosaics, painting, etc. at an early age. I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant at dress making but it’s a nice way to relax after writing all day.
Where do you get your ideas?
I usually just think about things I’m passionate about, am interested in, or have experience with - places, objects, professions, etc. Then I see what will fit nicely together. For The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, I wanted to write about an English city, and my favourite season is summertime. I used to work for a locksmith company and so had an interest in padlocks. My teenage son is learning how to play the guitar, so one of the female characters in the book became a music teacher. Each of my books takes influences from my own life and mixes them together to form something unique. 
What is your writing process like?
I write full time, but do try to pencil in a weekly lunch with my parents, and catch ups with friends. Writing can be a solitary profession so it’s essential to keep in touch with people, even if that’s only online. I’m fortunate to be still in touch with ex-colleagues from my previous jobs, and also with fellow writers. After walking my dog, I’m usually at my writing desk by 8.30am. I work from a small shed in my garden with a lovely view of the countryside. I try to get my admin out of the way first, which can sometimes take all morning. And then I start writing.
What advice do you have for writers?
Keep going. Often the difference between an unpublished writer and a published one isn’t the quality of writing, it’s determination and not giving up. I had lots of rejections and tried to see them as hurdles rather than roadblocks. If agents gave me advice, no matter how small, I listened and strengthened my submission accordingly. Then I kept on going. I wrote six or seven books, all rejected, before I signed with my agency. They even turned me down twice, but I didn’t take it personally. I joke that ‘I wore them down eventually’ but, really, I worked hard and wrote the story I wanted to tell. I like to pass on what I’ve learned to other writers, so have published a free A-Z of writing tips on my website
What is the first book that made you cry?
I honestly can’t think of the first book that made me cry, but I do remember sitting down on my kitchen floor crying about my own writing! I’d written six or seven books which received good feedback from agents, but I was told repeatedly that the market was saturated. My tears were ones of frustration, that I wanted to write but couldn’t pick the right story that would get me a publishing deal.
I’d read the book Q & A by Vikas Swarup, which was made into the film Slumdog Millionaire. The idea was so simple and absolute genius, about an orphaned, illiterate boy who is arrested for winning the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The story tells of how he knows the answers to each of the questions one-by-one. I took inspiration from the idea and eventually wrote The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which became my debut published novel.
Do you find it easier to write character and dialogue for the opposite sex because you are the opposite sex? (A woman writing a man’s part and dialogue for example).
My first two books, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, and Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone feature male characters, mainly because I’d written about female characters several times before without getting published. So, I decided to try something different and to challenge myself by writing about the opposite sex. I think men are more private with their emotions and so you can peel back the layers of their character like an onion, exposing more layers. They tend to use less words. With regard to female characters, I want to write about ones that other women can relate to and cheer on, as was the case in my third book, The Library of Lost and Found.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My iPhone! On those days when I’m not in the mood to write, or the words won’t come through freely, it’s so tempting to reach out for my phone and procrastinate. Social media, answering emails, and even doing my accounts can take a huge chunk of time out of my day. Sometimes I put my phone on a high shelf so I can’t reach it, and I’ve also been known to leave it inside my house while I work in my shed.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Yes, all the time. I read best while I’m relaxing around a nice hotel swimming pool while on holiday, but that only happens once or twice a year, if I’m lucky. I try to read each night before going to sleep, but my teenage son likes to chat about his day, so I often end up putting my book away. I read quite a few novels that I admire and enjoy the writing but the story doesn’t grab me. However, I always love reading non-fiction books about the art of writing, structure, storytelling, plotting and dialogue. I have around 40-50 of them in total and they’re always inspirational to dip into. I’ve even been known to take them on holiday with me, too.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing, if at all?
I was working for a large UK co-operative in marketing and communications when I wrote The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. I used to think of ideas for the book as I walked to the train station, and I jotted them down on my commute into work. When I found time to write, it meant I wasn’t staring at a blank computer screen and had lots of notes and ideas to work from. The novel took me eighteen months to write in total. Now, I’m in the fortunate position to be a full-time author, and I treat it very much as a full-time job, working five days a week.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I usually focus on what I know, so don’t conduct much research before starting to write. My second novel required the most exploration. Each chapter of Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone started with the name of a gemstone and its properties, for example, white opals are supposed to help with hope, desire and fidelity. The book has thirty-seven chapters, so I had to find out rather a lot about gems!


The Lilac Envelope

The night before

As he did often, over the past three years, Mitchell Fisher wrote a letter he would never send.

He sat up in bed at midnight and kicked off his sheets. Even though all the internal doors in his apartment were open, the sticky July heat still felt like a shroud clinging to his body. His nine-year-old daughter Poppy thrashed restlessly in her sleep, in the bedroom opposite.

Mitchell turned on his bedside lamp, squinting against the yellow light, and took out a pad of Basildon Bond notepaper from underneath his bed. He always used a fountain pen to write—old-fashioned he supposed, but he was a man who valued things that were well-constructed and long-lasting.

Mitchell tapped the pen against his bottom lip. He knew what he wanted to say, but by the time his words of sorrow and regret travelled from his brain to his fingertips, they were only fragments of what he longed to express.

As he started to write, the sound of the metal nib scratching against paper helped him block out the city street noise that hummed below his apartment.

Dearest Anita

Another letter from me. Everything here is fine, ticking along. Poppy is doing well. The school holidays start soon and I thought she’d be more excited. It’s probably because you’re not here to enjoy them with us.

I’ve taken two weeks off work to spend with her, and have a full itinerary planned for us—badminton, tennis, library visits, cooking, walking, the park, swimming, museums, cooking, a tour of the city bridges, and more. It will keep us busy. Keep our minds off you.

You’ll be amazed how much she’s grown, must be almost your height by now. I tell her how proud I am of her, but it always means more coming from you.

Mitchell paused, resting his hand against the pad of paper. He had to tell her how he felt.

Every time I look at our daughter, I think of you. I wish I could hold you again, and tell you I’m truly sorry.

Yours, always

Mitchell x

He read his words, always dissatisfied with them, never able to convey the magnitude of grief and guilt he felt. After folding the piece of paper once, he sealed it into a crisp, cream envelope, then squeezed it into the almost-full drawer of his nightstand, amongst all the other letters he’d written. His eyes fell upon the slim lilac envelope he kept on top, the one addressed to him from Anita, that he’d not yet been able to bring himself to open.

Taking that envelope out, he held it under his nose and inhaled. There was still a slight scent of her on the paper, he thought, of violet soap. His finger followed the angle of the gummed flap and then stopped. He closed his eyes and willed himself to open the letter, but his fingernails dented crescents into the paper.

Once more, he placed it back into his drawer.

Mitchell lay down and hugged himself, imagining Anita’s arms were wrapped around him. But, when he closed his eyes, the words from all the letters weighed down upon him like a bulldozer. As he turned and tried to sleep, he pulled the pillow over his head to force them away.

1. A Locked Heart

The lovers who attached their padlocks to the bridges of Upchester might see it as a fun or romantic gesture but, to Mitchell, it was an act of vandalism.

It was the hottest year on record in the city and the morning sun was already beating down on the back of his neck. His biceps flexed as he methodically opened and squeezed his bolt cutters shut, cutting the padlocks off the cast-iron filigree panels of the old Victorian bridge, one by one.

Since local boyband Word Up filmed the video for their international smash hit “Lock Me Up with Your Love” on this bridge, thousands of people were flocking to the small city in the North West of England. They brought and attached locks marked with initials, names, messages, to demonstrate their love for the band and each other, on the city’s five bridges.

Large red and white signs that read NO PADLOCKS studded the pavement. But as far as Mitchell could see, the locks still hung on the railings like bees swarming across frames of honeycomb. The constant reminder of love surrounding him, other people’s, made him feel like he was fighting for breath.

As he cut off the locks, he wanted to yell, ‘Why can’t you just keep your feelings to yourselves?’

After several hours of hard work, Mitchell’s trail of broken locks glinted on the pavement like a metal snake. He stopped for a moment and narrowed his eyes as a young couple strolled toward him. The woman glided in a white floaty dress and tan cowboy boots. The man wore shorts and had the physique of an American football player. With his experience of carrying out maintenance across the city’s public areas, Mitchell instinctively knew they were up to something.

After breaking away from his girlfriend, the man walked to the side of the bridge while nonchalantly pulling out a large silver padlock from his pocket.

Mitchell tightened his grip on his cutters. He was once so easy and in love with Anita, but rules were rules. ‘Excuse me,’ he called out. ‘You can’t hang that lock.’

The man frowned and crossed his bulging arms. ‘Oh yeah? And who’s going to stop me?’

Mitchell had the sinewy physique of a sprinter. He was angular all over with dark hair and eyes, and a handsome dorsal hump on his nose. ‘I am,’ he said and put his cutters down on the pavement. He held out his hand for the lock. ‘It’s my job to clear the bridges. You could get a fine.’

Anger flashed across the blond man’s face and he batted Mitchell’s hand away, swiping off his work glove. Mitchell watched as it tumbled down into the river below. Sometimes the water flowed prettily, but today it gushed and gurgled, a bruise-grey hue. A young man had drowned here in a strong current last summer.

The man’s girlfriend wrapped her arms around her boyfriend’s waist and tugged him away. ‘Come on. Leave him alone.’ She cast Mitchell an apologetic smile. ‘Sorry, but we’re so in love. It took us two hours and three buses to get here. We’ll be working miles away from each other soon. Please let us do this.’

The man looked into her eyes and softened. ‘Yeah, um, sorry, mate,’ he said sheepishly. ‘The heat got the better of me. All we want to do is fasten our lock.’

Mitchell gestured at the sign again. ‘Just think about what you’re doing, guys,’ he said with a weary sigh. ‘Padlocks are just cheap chunks of metal and they’re weighing down the bridges. Can’t you get a nice ring or tattoo instead? Or write letters to each other? There are better ways to say I lov– Well, you know. . .’

The man and the woman shared an incredulous look.

‘Whatever,’ the man glowered, and he shoved his padlock back into the pocket of his shorts. ‘We’ll go to another bridge instead.’

‘I work on those too . . .’

The couple laughed at him and sauntered away.

Mitchell rubbed his nose. He knew his job wasn’t a glamorous one. It wasn’t the one in architecture he’d studied hard and trained for. However, it meant he could pay the rent on his apartment and buy Poppy hot lunch at school each day. Whatever daily hassle he put up with, he needed the work.

His workmate Barry had watched the incident from the other side of the road. Sweat circled under his arms and his forehead shone like a mirror as he crossed over. ‘The padlocks keep multiplying,’ he groaned.

‘We need to keep on going.’

‘But it’s too damn hot.’ Barry undid a button on his polo shirt, showing off unruly chest curls that matched the ones on his head. ‘It’s a violation of our human rights, and no one can tell if we cut off twenty or two hundred.’

Mitchell held his hand up against the glare of the sun. ‘We can tell, and Russ wants the bridges cleared in time for the city centenary celebrations.’

Barry rolled his eyes. ‘There’s only three weeks to go until then. Our boss should come down here and get his hands dirty, too. At least join me for a pint after work.’

Mitchell’s mouth felt parched, and he suddenly longed for an ice-cold beer. A vision of peeling off his polo-shirt and socks and relaxing in a beer garden appeared like a dreamy mirage in his head.

However, he had to pick Poppy up from the after-school club to take her for a guitar lesson, an additional one to her music class in school. Her headteacher, Miss Heathcliff, was a stickler for the school closing promptly at 5.30pm, and it was a rush to get there on time. He lowered his eyes and said, ‘I’d love to, but I have to dash.’

Then he selected his next padlock to attack.

Excerpted from The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick, Copyright © 2020 by Phaedra Patrick.
Published by Park Row Books

About the Author

Phaedra Patrick is the author of The Library of Lost and Found, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which has been published in over twenty countries around the world. She studied art and marketing, and has worked as a stained-glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. An award-winning short story writer, she now writes full-time. She lives in Saddleworth, UK, with her husband and son.

What did you connect with in the interview or excerpt? Will you be reading this one? I know I plan to!

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