What prompted you to first start writing?
As soon as I could talk I was making up stories to tell my younger sister. Learning to read got me hooked on books. At school I loved writing essays. It just evolved from there.
Can you summarise
your latest work in just a few words?
A young woman flees Cornwall for China, faces death and finds love.
Did you do any research for this book?
learned about pearl diving in the South China Sea; jade carving; well-intentioned but inept missionaries; opium and the two wars it caused; Yangtze pirates; and trade in Shanghai.
What does a typical writing
day involve for you?
Afternoons are my creative time so I try to keep them free for work on the current book. Mornings are usually hectic as I juggle housework, dealing with email, drafting posts for my website blog, and promo work
for backlist titles newly released as paperback and ebooks. I also try to fit in a walk every day even if it's just the half-mile to the village for shopping. Fresh air and a change of scene often produce solutions to story problems.
With two more paperbacks out between now and May and a brand new historical romance out in June I'm never without one! I'm at the beginning of an exciting new project –
a 'cosy' contemporary Cornwall-based book about a widowed genealogist. My publisher and I hope this will be the first of a series.
What has been the best part
of the writing process...and the worst?
I love research because it opens doors into worlds I knew little or nothing about. I enjoy planning the book: choosing situations and events that create the most emotionally
engaging and dramatic story from among all the possible 'what ifs?' I interview the characters, learning who they are and how they feel from not simply from what they tell me, but their tone of voice, body language,
and what they refuse to reveal. I know the book is going well when they take over and leave me trying to keep up with what's happening.
I'm not so keen on all the promo expected of authors. I
would prefer my books to speak for themselves. But it's a necessary part of the job now. Letting people know about a new book while not irritating them by pushing it too hard is like walking a tightrope –
balance is everything.
Do you plot your novels or allow them to develop as you write?
When I first started writing novels I was a 'pantster.' I'd done my research,
knew the period, background, characters and a starting point, and launched into the story from there. It worked. My books were accepted and published with rarely more than a single page of edits. But life became complicated and after
being away from the story for days or weeks at a time trying to pick up the threads was really difficult. So I started planning. I know authors who fear they'll get bored if they know where the story is going. I found the opposite:
that it gives me scope for a more complex plot. Besides, if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you've got there? You might stop too soon and miss something amazing. I think of my plan as a road map of my story.
It shows my intended route from starting point to destination with 4-6 major events along the way that build to the climax. What it doesn't show is the state of the road – is it smooth or rocky; expected events that might force
detours, or weather creating drama, danger and delay. Best of all, it's not written in stone. If your characters suddenly take off in a direction you hadn't foreseen you can follow them, safe in the knowledge that
if it proves to be a dead end you can easily retrace your steps and rejoin the planned route. If this new direction is better for your story you can adapt your plan accordingly.
What book/s are you reading
at the moment?
I read voraciously in many genres. I've just finished reading Ranulph Feinnes' 'Cold.' His power to drive himself on in circumstances that would kill most of us is simply awesome; as is the fact
that he has raised over £10 million for charity. I'm currently switching between Jane Austen, Lesley Horton, Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Georgette Heyer, Lesley Cookman's cosy crime series
'Murder In...' CJ Box's Joe Pickett series about a game warden in Wyoming is another favourite, as is Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series set in Canada. I adore Terry Pratchett's Discworld series; Kate Hardy's medical romances,
and Jodi Taylor's Chronicles of St Mary's, 'Just One Damned Thing After Another' and 'A Symphony of Echoes.' I'm currently reading 'The Semi-Detached Marriage' written in 1830 by Emily Eden, and it's superb: hilarious, and a wonderful
study of human nature.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Read – as much and as widely as you can. You won't write well unless you do. Worried about
absorbing someone else's style? Don't be. It's not that easy. (If it were, everyone would be doing it) Write about what moves you deeply. If you are not passionate about your characters and their story, how can you expect to grab and
hold readers? If you are planning to self-publish, employ a first-rate editor. It will be worth every penny to have an expert and unbiased eye help shape your story into one that will hook readers on the first page, keep them riveted
until the last, then immediately search for your other titles.
Thanks so much for inviting me onto allthingsbookie, Julie.