Sunday, 19 February 2012
Interview with The Wild Rose Press
Growing up in a tiny Lancashire village where the only other children were two boys, I relied on books for companionship. Once I discovered Jane Austen's stories, I always had somewhere to go. It was fun to pretend I was one of the Bennet sisters in 'Pride and Prejudice'. I enjoy many different periods of history but find it easiest to visualize the Regency era and there are so many reminders of that time still in existence to help with accuracy. I visit the places I put in my novels, check on the time it takes to walk the distances, look at the fashions and the objects of daily life.
Books were such a large part of my life as a child that I simply thought writing and reading were the things you did. I told stories to my little brother, and to my friends. At school I wrote long essays and edited the school magazine. A teaching career meant that life was always hectic. It seemed there would never be time to write novels. Then my husband became too ill to work, so to keep him busy I set him to write a quest story that we had been discussing for several years. Each evening I would read his efforts and edit. We laughed a lot over our characters and their adventures. Sadly, my husband died but over that year I had found time for writing in my day and I just kept going. I wrote 'The Wild Card' and sent it to the Romantic Novelists' Association for a critique. Following their advice I edited it, then sent it to Robert Hale, who took it at once. It was shortlisted for the RNA Romance Prize. Robert Hale has just published my fourth Regency tale, 'The Rake's Challenge'.
2 - What is the best and worst thing you have learned from an editor/agent?
When I sent out the quest story, one agent took the trouble to write a helpful rejection letter. She advised me to use more emotion so that my characters would sweep the reader along. It sounds so obvious but I needed that push not to be so buttoned up. Later, another agent warned me that stories must not be just publishable but marketable. She also advised me that Regencies don't sell well in the UK. I have a couple of ideas for stories in different time periods but they are on the back burner for now. I still have plenty of Regency adventures to write. My editors at Robert Hale are very helpful, but I had to learn 'house style'. I only ever argue over historical accuracy.
3 - Favourite authors?
I have been reading and rereading Jane Austen's novels since I was twelve. I always find something new in them. Wilkie Collins and George Eliot are also favourites. Georgette Heyer gave me the idea that the Regency period was elegant and full of adventure, so she has been a big inspiration. Then there's Loretta Chase and Nicola Cornick. And I must mention R D Blackmore and 'Lorna Doone'. Was there ever such a love story? *sigh*
4 - What is your typical day?
It starts when the cat pulls on the back door handle to call me because he's hungry. When Sir is fed I make a cup of tea and go back to bed to read what I wrote the night before. I add and alter and often get carried away by new ideas and rush down to the study to rewrite or develop something.
During the day I deal with general tasks, otherwise I'd disappear under a sea of papers and the hedge would reach the moon. I settle down to write in the evenings. What with background reading and checking details on the internet, it often gets to the wee small hours before I realise that the time has gone. Writing is like going away on holiday - and I don't want to come back.
I also travel a lot, which disrupts my writing, even though there is usually a research element to my journeys. For example, in July I visited a marvellous little palace in Istanbul; and in October I'll be hunting in the Pyrenees for a suitable castle for my hero's family home. They are both for the hero of my wip, an Ottoman Regency. It takes place in 1811 as that is when Lady Hester Stanhope was in Constantinople [Istanbul] and she plays a vital role in the story.
5 - Do you plan your books? Or write it as the dialogue/action comes to you?
Each story starts when I've collected enough faces and places. They come from all over, maybe an inflight magazine, a newspaper or a postcard from a museum. I spread the pictures out on the table and pair them off, adding friends, families and villains. Then I select homes for them all. The story sparks from something in one of those faces. Within an hour or so I'll have an outline plot. Over a few days it develops into a story and some episodes are vivid in my mind. I write this outline down as a guide - but it will only become a detailed plan when I know my characters better. It always seems to happen when I reach chapter 9. So the characters lead me along, really.
6 - What surprised you the most when you became published?
The thrill of holding my first book will remain with me always. Perhaps the greatest surprise was the amount of time and effort that is needed to publicise your books.
7 - Do you have a dedicated writing space? What does it look like?
We have a small study [my husband and I were modern languages teachers] with lots of bookshelves and a big desk that is crowded with papers and pots of pens. I work on a desktop computer. If inspiration fails I look up at the books, photos and pictures to get ideas moving again. To my right is the window, and just outside is a rambling rose bush - with thimble-sized pink flowers, which adds a romantic note. There is also an exercise bike that I use while reading bits of research or the pages I've just printed off.
8 - What’s next for you?
My wip is another Ottoman Regency, with more focus on the oriental way of life this time. My husband was Turkish [and a poet] and we lived in eastern Turkey for some years, so I have plenty of material for the background for my Ottoman stories. Robert Hale has just brought out a Kindle edition of my second story 'In All Honour'. It's exciting to join the ebook world. Then I want to write the next of my Byron books. My heroine in 'The Rake's Challenge' is a devoted Byron fan, like her three schoolfriends. I think they deserve a story as well.