This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Fiona Harper, has written many books for Mills & Boon and some of them have won awards, such as, Always The Best Man, which won the RNA's RoNA Rose Award 2013. Fiona's latest book, Make My Wish Come True, will be out this month and reviewed here soon, but in the meantime, Fiona has answered a few questions for us.
It would be lovely to have a schedule, but being a busy mum as well as an author means I often have to fit writing around family stuff. I’m at my most creative in the mornings (don’t hate me!), so I often try to start work as soon as the kids have left for school and the house is quiet. I tend to work in 45 minute to an hour bursts. I first started doing this when I had repetitive strain injury and needed to rest my wrists and neck, but it seems to suit my working style. I keep a kitchen timer on my desk and when it goes off I get up, do something else for a bit, all the while mulling the next scene over in my head, and then I sit down to write again.
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When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I must be the only writer I know who doesn’t do this! Even if I try to base a character on an actor or celebrity, they change in my mind as I’m writing and end up morphing into someone else. I find it much easier to tailor my characters to my story rather than to borrow them from elsewhere and make them fit.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?Wow. That’s a big question! It’s so difficult to choose. I think the book that has stayed with me most in the last few years is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I don’t tend to plan out the plot as much as I chart the inner journeys of my characters. I need to know how my characters need to grow and change before I start writing, and then I try to come up with plot events that are going to push them out of their comfort zone.
I write until I get stuck and then I get my character notes out and have a rethink using my corkboard filled with coloured Post-its (yes, I have a stationery addiction), to help me work out what happens next. Then I start writing again. I tend to go back and edit what I’ve already written at this point to tighten the story up before I head off into the next section. So I’ll have a few partial drafts before I write ‘The End’, but I may do another couple of drafts after that before I send it to my editor.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I started writing when my youngest daughter started pre-school. I completed a first draft of one story, knew it wasn’t working and ditched it to start something fresh. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Associaton to take advantage of their New Writers’ Scheme – each year members can send in a full manuscript for a critique by a published author. I sent my second completed book to them (the first thing I’d ever sent anywhere!), and they liked it so much they sent it on to Mills & Boon on my behalf and, hey presto, a few weeks later I was offered a publishing contract. It was an amazing way to start, but I was slightly terrified too! Talk about being in at the deep end.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That we’re all rolling in money and live in big mansions. I’d kill just to have an extra room in my tiny little Victorian terraced house so I could have a dedicated space for writing. At the moment my bedroom also doubles as my workspace. Great for days when I roll out of bed and stumble the few steps to work in my pyjamas. However, I have a husband who works shifts, so sometimes when I want to start work there is a man snoring in my office!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Writing a novel is hard. Writing a first novel is a bit like scaling a mountain with no equipment – at least that’s how it felt to me! However, while it’s scary and the learning curve is huge, it is possible. Don’t sabotage yourself by telling yourself you’re not good enough and what you’re writing is rubbish. Every published author I know has moments like that during the writing of each and every book. Don’t lose faith and don’t give up!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just about to start my second single title book for Mills & Boon. I can’t say too much, because I really love my idea and I don’t want anyone to nick it! (Come back in six months when I’m stuck on chapter twenty-three and I may not love the idea quite so much…).