`My Books Aren't Chick Lit' Nothing's Ordinary for Anita Anderson, Who Waited 30 Years for Her Comedy Crime with Romance Novels to Take off. Now, She Tells Catherine Jones, She Has Her Eye on Hugh Grant to Star in Them

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Byline: Catherine Jones

ANITA Anderson lives in Cheltenham, home to beautiful Regency buildings as well as Peppers, a cafe bar which serves cappuccinos and chips, the location she suggests for the interview.

``I love cafes,'' she says. ``I can sit in a cafe for hours. You have to look at it this way. Nobody is ordinary and there is always something going on. I wouldn't be surprised if a truck drove through the window or someone came up and asked us to go to Hollywood.''

If Anderson - who describes herself as currently forever 50 - sounds dramatic, it's because her life has been too eventful for her to think cafes are about having a cup of tea. She has dodged bullets in a shopping mall murder, crash landed in Frankfurt, guided a group of holiday tourists through a Greek army of troops and tanks and entertained the Ballet Rambert at her North Wales restaurant.

Who would look at this woman and think she is the author of novels for young women? She says the books are not chick lit but the latest is saucy enough to have a front cover vaguely reminiscent of the famous Athena poster in which a woman has tucked up her tennis dress.

Anderson, who waited 30 years of rejections to be published, is all cheekbones and flashing blue-green eyes, a kind of cross between EastEnders character Dot Cotton and novelist Margaret Atwood. She smokes, rarely eats during the day - she is as petite as Kylie Minogue - and has just published her second novel.

In the old days, before the hefty book advance for a series of romantic paperbacks, Anderson would sit in cafes writing yet another book. ``You can make a coffee last a long time and you're also letting someone else pay your light and heating bills,'' she says.

A Texan by birth and the mother of a grown up son, she spent almost half her life living near Bangor. She is full of praise for Wales and the Welsh. ``I think,'' she says, ``that the Texans and the Welsh are quite s i m i

a r. There's a kind of shrewdness about both that means I get on very well with them .''

The move from America to Wales came about after she came to visit a friend and fell in love with the place. Her parents died young, and with one brother and sister, she regards the friends she made in Wales as her family. ``I can remember one occasion sitting in a cafe in North Wales when after ages of trying, I discovered I had got my first book published. The girl in the cafe came up to me - they'd obviously seen how thin and small I was and thought I couldn't afford to eat, but honestly I eat like a horse - and said into my ear, `We've got some eggs past their sell-by date, would you like a sandwich?' It was a very clever way of saying I wouldn't have to pay for it. I really like that kind of way of behaving.''

In her time, Anderson, who is divorced, has taken many jobs to fund her peripatetic existence. When her son was young, he attended a boarding school in Llandudno which meant his mother was free to up sticks in search of work.

She describes being told she was being awarded an impressive publishing contract as ``overwhelming''. Her first book, Somebody, won three romance awards - the Readers Digest New Writer Award, the Romantic Novelists' Association Award and the Katie Fforde Most Promising Writer Award. Both the first and second blend crime with romance - the closest in style, says Anderson, is Janet Evanovich.

Like of a breath of fresh air in a publishing world that generally seems stagnant with chick-lit, Anderson is scathing of the kind of novel that obsesses about weight, men, drinking and highlights.

``I can't write 100,000 words on whether my heroine will get a man - that doesn't seem to me to be especially interesting, especially when she is drunk every night.

``My books aren't chick lit. I'm not knocking those romance awards - the cheques were nice - but because of that my first novel was reviewed as chick lit but it's comedy crime with romance. …