Eloisa James, is a successful writer with twenty of her bestselling books reaching as high as #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List. She recently answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I get my children off to school and then start writing. I aim for 20 pages a day and then the next morning I cut 5-10 pages. This is painful, but it works for me.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Occasionally. Dr. House, in House, M.D., was an inspiration for the hero of When Beauty Tamed the Beast. But most of the time I just dream up my characters without that sort of direct source.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I don’t have just one. Favorite novels are littered throughout my life: my favorite novel at 15 (To Kill a Mockingbird) is still beloved. Right now, it’s probably the collection of short stories I’m reading by David Foster Wallace. Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels was one year’s favorite, as was Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s It Had To Be You.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I tend to just jump in, perhaps with one scene in mind, and work from there. I find that if I write a detailed synopsis, I kill off my own creativity—most of the better stuff I write, plotwise, occurred to me half way through a book. This is not a process I recommend, because it occasionally leads to throwing out 175 pages and starting over. But it’s the only one that seems to work for me.
What was your journey to being a published author?
Well, I really started writing romance so that I could pay off my student loans. My husband (being a frugal Italian) was convinced that we couldn't have a second child because I had outstanding student loans, as isn't uncommon in the United States. I had to pay them off, so I wrote a romance. An agent took it on, and put it up for auction (much to my chagrin — I'd never heard of such a thing, and thought that maybe the editors would be annoyed). When my agent called and said that someone had bid on it, I could hardly believe it. Then the next day another publishing house bid a bit more—but they wanted two books. Then the first house bid again—and now they wanted three books! In the end, the advance was just slightly over my student loans…but I had to write three books. It was the beginning of a career for me. By the end of three books, I was hooked. And in a very nice turn of events, my daughter Anna was born between the publication of book one (Potent Pleasures) and book two (Midnight Pleasures).
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it gets easier. Writing is hard work and the career involves an enormous thickening of skin and weathering of rejection. I think that’s the hardest thing to realize. Heck, I don’t understand it myself. I keep thinking, “But surely it’s supposed to be easier after publishing twenty books.” Well, no, it isn’t. Reviewers are perhaps even tougher on a multi-published author. Publishers have a lot more money riding on a book, and thus they have more fear about its bottom line, and thus they put more pressure on the author. Frankly, I look back at the days when I was low on the totem pole with distinct nostalgia. At the same time, I do absolutely love the good parts: all the wonderful readers I’ve met, the way they sustain me with their kindness in email and on Facebook, the incredible satisfaction of hearing that one of my books helped someone going through a tough time. As Dickens said: it’s the best of times, and the worst of times.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just jump in, perhaps with one scene in mind, and work from there. Beginning writers spend far too much time making up detailed plot descriptions and killing off their own creativity in the process. Most of the better stuff I write, plotwise, has occurred to me half way through a book. Let yourself be creative and come up with new ideas for characters and your plot, even if you’ve already written most of the book. Revision is the most important tool for a writer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am beginning a new novel with no title and so far, no heroine (though I have two possibilities). In the beginning of the writing process, a book is all potential, with no limitations. It's fun.