Charlotte Betts recently answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers. Charlotte's debut novel, The Apothecary's Daughter, won the RoNA for Historical Romantic Novel presented by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan at the Romantic Novelists' Association RoNA Awards on Tuesday evening. Our review for her latest novel, The Painter's Apprentice, will be coming soon.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I have two kinds of writing day. During the week and on alternate Saturdays I have a busy day job and I start writing very early in the morning so that I can complete a few paragraphs of the WIP before heading for the office just before eight. When I can, lunchtimes are spent in the C17th with my laptop and a cappucchino in the bar of the Chequer’s Hotel near the office. Sometimes I’ll only write a paragraph or two but I’ve been known to write 500 words before rushing back to my desk. When I reach home at about 7pm I write a few sentences as I prepare dinner and then settle down to three hours writing for three or four evenings a week.
At the weekends I write when I can to fit around household chores and on Sundays I generally write for ‘office hours’ unless I’m meeting with friends or family.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Not really because I’m usually too immersed in my writing to stop and think of anything or anybody else! Sometimes I imagine how lovely it would be if I was as famous as Joanna Trollope or Stephen King and that I earned enough from my novels to write full time.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I thought long and hard about this but found it impossible to answer. Two particular favourite books of mine are Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I love the historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Over the years I’ve learned that, for me, it’s better to plan. I write a detailed outline with historical dates and events in one colour and weave my story through this in another colour. I find this avoids becoming blocked as you always know what time of year it is and what’s coming next. The plan isn’t rigid however and I will change it as the story unfolds if a brilliant idea occurs to me. It’s hard to say how many drafts I do because I always edit yesterday’s work before moving on. Once the first draft is finished there will be at least three further drafts looking at strengthening the plot and characters and cutting away dead wood.
What was your journey to being a published author?
My first real break was having a story published in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Fiftieth Anniversary anthology, Loves Me, Loves Me Not in 2009. I’d been writing for eleven years when I uploaded the first chapters of my seventh novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, onto the YouWriteOn website. I could hardly believe it when Annette Green emailed me to say she’d like to read the whole manuscript and subsequently agreed to be my agent. The Apothecary’s Daughter won the YouWriteOn Book of the Year Award 2010 and shortly after that Piatkus offered me a two-book deal. Then The Apothecary’s Daughter won the Joan Hessayon Award and went on to be shortlisted for the Choc Lit Best Historical Read award and now for the RoNA’s in the historical section. The Painter’s Apprentice was published last week and I’ve just delivered The Spice Merchant’s Wife to Piatkus. It was, and still is, an incredibly exciting time for me.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That you earn shedloads of money for wearing pink chiffon and lying on a chaise longue dictating your fantasies. Writing is a craft and you have to learn it and then work very hard. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it isn’t very satisfying.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just do it! Of course, writing a novel may be very different from writing a publishable novel. It’s a huge achievement to complete a novel but it may still need a great deal of work. Put it aside for a few weeks and read it with fresh eyes. If you’re really serious about it, employ the services of a professional editor.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing an e-book novelette, which is a new venture for me. This will focus on a character who appears in my other novels, allowing readers a glimpse of a another side to her character. It interests me that the same story can appear very different from another’s point of view.
Charlotte Betts' Website