This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Could the Pudding Lake Bakery reveal the recipe for true love? It did for us. From the author of the 5:2 Diet, A Batch Made in Heaven has been a delightful addition to our bookshelves this month. Today, we’re joined by author Kate Harrison, to talk writing fiction and non-fiction, writer’s bottom and following your heart when creating stories.
A Batch Made in Heaven is a novel about love, London and some very fine loaves … I’m fascinated by match-making versus meeting your partner at random (I met Richard in a bar I’d never been to before and we’re together 12 years later). So, I wrote about Becca, who uses the psychology of love to find and plan perfect dates for her clients – from injecting an element of danger to make the heart beat faster, to using all five senses to make your date super-memorable. But when she sets up a client with a young baker whose bread and cakes are heavenly, fate intervenes. I actually wrote the book a few years ago and published it under another name and title (The Bride Hunter) because it was a bit more romantic than some of my other women’s fiction novels, and as it was a ‘debut’ it didn’t have much impact. But last year a store opened round the corner from me looking EXACTLY as I imagined Pudding Lane Bakery – with delicious bread too – and I saw it as a sign that the book could be published again.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
I’m a collector of shiny moments and things: snippets of conversations, new social trends, old books, magazines, pictures, people I see. I live in Brighton and it’s such a crazy, creative place. I also love researching new topics, from the psychology of love, to the history of the Girl Guide movement (for Brown Owl’s Guide to Life) or the secrets of fitness instructors (The Boot Camp).And for the last two years, I’ve been writing non-fiction as well, about the 5:2 diet and positive thinking, after I lost over two stone following those two ideas – and finally got rid of my writer’s bottom!
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
It depends a lot what I’m working on. At the moment, I’m in the dreamy early stages of a novel, so I try to write the instant I wake up and BEFORE checking Facebook, as it helps silence my inner critic to be half-asleep … we got a puppy last summer so as soon as I’m downstairs, it’s all tail-wagging and licks! Then a walk on the beach or the local park, and more writing. I tend to do the other stuff – planning courses, running our huge Facebook 5:2 group (38,000 members at last count), and recording podcasts – in the afternoon. Or if I’m writing a cookbook, I tend to test all day long, I love pottering in the kitchen!
Yes, looks-wise, anyway. I often have a secret Pinterest board of actors I find intriguing or appealing to help remind me what the characters look like, as it avoids confusion. My current board has Timothy and Rafe Spall, Maxine Peake and Sheridan Smith on there! I am also ‘auditioning’ Cillian Murphy in my head … But the characteristics are totally made up.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’d probably give you a different answer every single day – there are so many. Maybe my favourite hasn’t yet been written?
What female writer has inspired you?
I was inspired early on by three brilliant writers: the first is Helen Fielding whose books Cause Celeb and then Bridget Jones’ Diary are the most amazing satire (not everyone gets that they’re meant to be satirical as well as recognisable). The second and third are Lisa Jewell and Marian Keyes – they both write with such wit and intelligence about life and relationships. All three made me feel that contemporary women’s lives could be turned into stories that are entertaining and wise, and that’s what gave me the confidence to begin.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
Like the rest of the world, I was absolutely gripped by The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – a book that sucks you in if you’ve ever commuted or travelled by train. On holiday, I lost myself in Julie Cohen’s phenomenal Where Love Lies, which is so beautifully written and sensory in every way. And the book that made me cry the most in the last year – but bittersweet tears – was Rowan Coleman’s The Memory Book. PS: can I also recommend two books by two Lucys I haven’t read yet? I just know I’m going to love Lucy Dillon’s latest, One Small Act of Kindness, and Lucy Diamond’s The Year of Taking Chances – once I’ve hit my own latest deadline.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I do it a little differently each time. I do usually have a plan, sometimes a really detailed one, as it makes me feel a bit less scared: starting a new book is like stepping into a dark, cobweb filled cellar without knowing where the exit is, and a plan is like a lit match: it helps me see just a little way ahead … but I try to let my instincts take me off plan, too. And the number of drafts varies too – I’ll do at least two before sending it to my editor and agent, and by the end it could be three or it might – occasionally – be as many as nine, by which time my head is exploding.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I loved writing as a child, but didn’t think ‘novelist’ was a real job done by ordinary people, and neither did the careers officer. So I became a journalist, which was a great move as I was very shy as a teen and it meant I had to go out and meet lots of fascinating people. Then in the 1990s, when I was working in TV, I was inspired by the new wave of female fiction writers and started quite a few books before deciding that the Friends Reunited craze could be a great topic, creating an extremely toxic ‘heroine’ and a very dramatic school reunion. I had lots of rejections – even back in 2001, they were saying that chick lit was dead, and I didn’t even think I was writing chick lit, exactly. Then I went to a writers’ conference, entered my first pages anonymously in a competition, and a month later I had a book deal and an agent for Old School Ties!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
I have two. One is, alas, most of us are not millionaires. And the other one is that everyone thinks other female authors are bitchy (a bit like the Little Britain romantic novelist character). It couldn’t be further from the truth: I’ve never met such a supportive, funny bunch of people. Take Miranda Dickinson, for example – as well as writing amazing books, she’s so generous in her support for new writers, mentoring them and advising via miranda-dickinson.com.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Follow your heart to see where it takes you – write about what fascinates you, the big questions, the topics that intrigue or delight you. Then take some time to see if you can work out themes that might make your idea universal: justice, true love, freedom, family conflict. The very best books – and TV too – combine the specific – a great setting, a new place or topic – with the highs and lows we all experience. If you can crack that, you’re onto something good.
What are you working on at the moment?
Oooh, it’s such early days that I don’t want to jinx it, but I am definitely in the honeymoon period of writing and getting to know my characters. The idea combines lots of my own big passions – food, drink, justice and some pretty immersive research – with the stories of two women who will never meet … watch this space.