Victoria Connelly writes lovely romantic comedies from her home in rural Suffolk, where she lives with her artist husband and ever-increasing family of animals. Here, she talks inspirations, the joy of being self-employed and what’s next now that A Summer to Remember has hit the shelves.
It can be absolutely anywhere from a piece of junk mail which inspired Molly's Millions to my own love of Jane Austen which inspired my Austen Addicts series. The joy is never knowing where your next story is going to come from but it mostly starts with things I'm really interested in or questions I ask like, 'What would happen if you ran into the family you used to babysit for and the young boys are now young men?' That's how A Summer to Remember began.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I try to write at least 1,000 words 5 – 6 days a week. I suffer from RSI so have to limit my time at the keyboard and often dictate using voice recognition software. I love writing first thing in the morning as soon as I'm out of bed. After walking the dog and taking care of our little flock of hens, I settle down to write in earnest. I do like a nice long lunch break but will write more in the afternoon and, if I haven't reach my target, I work in the evenings too. The joy with being self-employed is that you can make up your own timetable. I actually like working during public holidays and then take time off when it's nice and quiet and everybody's back work! I also work really hard during the cold wet months of winter because I know I will be horribly distracted during the summer with our garden and the beautiful countryside here in Suffolk.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Sometimes – yes! I can see the gorgeous Richard Armitage playing Warwick Lawton in my Austen Addicts books, and the handsome Tom Hiddleston has a starring role in my new novel! But I rarely use people I know – just little traits they have or things they might say. I do like to slip in names of friends, though – with their permission of course!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
It's hard to choose just one but the one I think about most is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice because the characters are so wonderful, the dialogue is sparkling and it inspired me to write my Austen Addicts, series which has been a total joy and got me my first US book deal.
What female writer has inspired you?
I'm totally going to cheat here and give a few a mention: Jane Austen, Enid Blyton, Miss Read, Rosamunde Pilcher and Jilly Cooper. Each of these fabulous writers has greatly inspired me.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
– H E Bates's The Darling Buds of May
– Miss Read's Village School
– Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I tend to think about my stories for months – even years – before I start writing them and I only have a very rough outline on paper before I start writing the first draft. I like the excitement of not knowing exactly what's going to happen. I hope that makes things more interesting for the reader too. Of course, I'm writing romantic novels so everyone knows that a happy ending is on the horizon but the journey there might be surprising.
What was your journey to being a published author?
A very slow one! I have been writing novels since I was 14 but it took me years to get a publishing deal and the first one to come along was from Germany where my book – Flights of Angels – was then turned into a film. I'm so glad I never gave up or I would never have got to be an extra in a film version of one of my books! Molly's Millions was then published in the UK and, shortly after this, I got a deal with Avon, HarperCollins and a US publisher. I also publish my own titles on Amazon like my two non–fiction titles Escape to Mulberry Cottage and A Year at Mulberry Cottage which tell of our move from the London suburbs to rural Suffolk with ex–battery hens in tow!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That anybody can do it if only they had the time! Writers hear that a lot: "I'd write a book if I had the time." It's very frustrating and rather insulting because it takes a lot more than time to do anything well. Being a published author takes commitment, passion and determination in the face of endless rejection. Oh, and a little bit of talent. I always tell people that the first 10,000 words are easy – it's the other 90,000 words that are a little more difficult. That usually gives them something to think about!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just do it. You have to burn and yearn to do it. Nothing will stop you. Don't do it because you think it's a quick way to earn a buck – it isn't. You have to absolutely love the process of imagining scenes, creating characters and telling a story – the daily task of putting one word in front of another until you have a complete book.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm finishing a new novel set in a moated manor house in Suffolk and I've just started the new Jane Austen Addicts novella – At Home with Mr Darcy – which will be out in September. I'm hoping to have a trip to Derbyshire to do some research for it (poking around Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall!) And I have a brand new series I want to start called The Book Lovers. I'm really excited about that one.