1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I write short stories, books and still do the odd bit of advertising copywriting, so I’ve usually got something on the go. I tend to drop my daughters at school and then write, with a short break for lunch and a walk, until I go and pick them up again mid afternoon. If I’m doing something that has a tight deadline, I’ll write again in the evening and into the early hours. I’m not an early riser so you’re more likely to find me creeping up the stairs at two in the morning than creeping down them at five. Just in case you think I’m a complete paragon of virtue: I have at least three days a week where unless I have a panic on, I don’t write at all.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I’m not sure I would have got into writing romantic comedies if I hadn’t been inspired by the actor Richard Armitage – I found a fan site dedicated to him, discovered fanfiction and started writing it myself. The male character in ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’ is based on a number of characters he’s played. With my second book the male lead is a bit like David Tennant, the guy in book three has a hint of Owen Wilson. I need to find the character sexy myself if I want my readers to do the same. But really, by the time I come to write the characters they’ve moved a long way from that initial inspiration – I know them so well I could tell you what items they’d pick off the shelf in the supermarket. I couldn’t do that with Richard Armitage, more’s the pity.
There are a couple of people I know personally who have inspired characters in my books – they’re both life enhancers.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Ooh, that is such a hard question. So hard I’m going to cheat… loved the Jilly Cooper books like Prudence, Emily etc. as I read them when I was a teenager and they set me dreaming. Any of Dorothy Parker’s short stories – funny and heartbreaking. Jane Eyre because she’s plain and he’s far from perfect and The Night Watch by Sarah Waters – such a painful, true look at how love changes
4. What is your writing process?
My writing process is like my life – sometimes well organised, other times seat of the pants stuff. I tend to do a loose plan which is a bit like a safety net for me, but if I veer off it, I’ll let myself go just to see where it takes me. I find if I plan too much, all my enthusiasm goes into the plan and by the time I come to write that chapter, I’m a little bored by it.
I do a first draft which is just ‘head down get it on the page with enthusiasm’, then a second one which ties up all the continuity and timelines and psychological arcs as well as polishing the style. If I have time I’ll then read it out loud, chapter by chapter – it’s something I learned from writing radio ads – repetitions leap out at you and a sentence that’s tricky to say will make the reader stumble too.
5. What was your journey to being a published author?
I started off writing fanfiction on a Richard Armitage site and got completely hooked… I also discovered that I had a writing style that veered naturally towards comedy. A few people on the site suggested that I try my hand at a contemporary romance and I thought, why not?
While I was writing what became my first book, I also entered the Woman & Home short story competition and won it. That gave me the confidence I needed to approach a few agents and I got picked up very quickly by Broo Doherty. I then had about a year and a fair few rejections before Quercus offered me a two book contract. (I’ve now got a contract for a further two.)
I consider myself really fortunate – not just to find an agent and a publisher who ‘get’ me and what I write, but also to be able to experiment with different voices and genres in my short stories.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That all you need is inspiration and your writing will flow from your head to the page and not need the teeniest bit of tweaking. My first draft often looks like a very mean school teacher has run amok on it with a thick red pen and sometimes my second draft doesn’t look much better. Being a novelist isn’t so much about writing as re-writing … graft and craft – not waiting for the muse to strike.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Read lots from all kinds of genres and pay attention to what keeps you reading and what doesn’t; write about what excites you (you’re going to be spending a lot of time with this book so you have to love it) and in the face of anything other than objective, kind criticism, keep going.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
My third book ‘Grace Under Pressure’. It’s set in London in a company that runs art tours in the big galleries and is about a woman called Grace who is eminently calm, sensible and controlled. Or is she?
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