First up is Rachel Lyndhurst, whose book Storm's Heart released this week.
Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Five years ago? Nowhere is the answer! That would have been 2006 – the year my writing career started. It was almost exactly five years ago that we got our first computer and my youngest child started preschool.
In the couple of childfree hours I had, I began bashing out ranty letters to The Telegraph, which were never published. Then short anecdotal stuff to weekly magazines, I made a tenner on that as I recall. In the summer of that year I found a pristine set of the Writer’s Bureau course down the dump and bought it for a pound. Following its advice, I wrestled with short stories and competitions for a while, and made a bit of money, but it never really felt ‘right’. Then I discovered the joy of short contemporary romance – lovely pocket-sized paperbacks – how hard could it be?
I wrote my first novel in notebooks at all hours of the day and typed it up when my son was at preschool. It took me a year, but I finally submitted it to Mills & Boon in September 2007, the same day as my youngest started proper school. An emotional day!
Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
I’m sure it’s against one of those ‘rules’ you read about when you’re starting to learn your craft, but location is very often my starting point. In Storm’s Heart, the action begins in London, on the London Eye in particular. I was lucky enough to be invited to a champagne reception on it and the same year, I went on holiday to the main location of the book, historic Lindos, Rhodes.
I wasn’t just inspired by the age and architecture of Lindos, but also by the Greek Legends associated with it; particularly Helios the sun god and his demi-god son, Phaeton. A salutary tale of what can happen if you don’t do as your father tells you. A fiery battle of disobedience and death. This sowed the seed for my character Andreas Lazarides and gave me two different worlds to smash together for an initial conflict.
Layered into this, I came across a poignant newspaper article about General Sir Mike Jackson’s son Mark Jackson, who reinvented himself after injury forced him to leave the army. He gave his sculpture of a lifeless Icarus his own scars. Without giving out any spoilers, this inspired me towards Andreas Lazarides’ dark secret.
I’ve also been a member of Amnesty International for many years which has raised my awareness of many issues and problems that rarely make the daily news. Storm’s Heart scrapes the surface of one of these and forms some of the back-story for Kizzy Dean and Andreas.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
On lots of bookshelves! And spending a considerable amount of time writing in my royalty- funded Tuscan villa. Failing that, a decent shed will do.
Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. I studied his first book Coming From Behind at A level and have followed him ever since. I’m so pleased he won the Man Booker Prize with this; it’s witty, poignant, and utterly brilliant. To quote the Guardian: ‘A terrifying and ambitious novel, full of dangerous shadows and dark, deep water’. I do wish I’d written this one.
Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
Not that I can think of. I enjoy so many different types of authors and books that it would be difficult to pick any particular one. I admire, and have been hugely influenced by so many, take 1984 by George Orwell for example. Reading it as a teenager changed the whole way I looked at the world for good. Is that the same? In the long run I suppose it could be.
I’d like to have been Ernest Hemingway though …
Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Neither, writing them gives me quite a thrill. So does reading them back again. But don’t tell my mother …
What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
There are so many (with The One, naturally!) that it’s hard to choose, so here’s one of the top five.
I wasn’t easy to woo, so he insisted on lending me a particularly important CD – the lyrics were so right. Smugly, I informed him that I didn’t have a CD player, so he brought round one of those too. It worked, and Storm’s Heart is dedicated to him.
What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
That writing the book is just the beginning. Yep, I read it loads of times and took no notice. Being part of the process of turning your ‘baby’ manuscript into a book is hard (and most likely unpaid) work. And as for the promotion and selling of it? Ask me back in a few months and I’ll let you know!
Oh yeah, and be under no illusions – the housework and children will not suddenly disappear. Neither will the fox poo on your front doorstep. Be prepared to do a full time job in part time hours, or worse than that if you don’t turn your smartphone off.
What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
Leave your ego at the door.
Tell us about your latest release.
Storm’s Heart is my debut novel and is one of the launch titles for Embrace Books, the dazzling new imprint of Salt Publishing. It was also Embrace’s first acquisition.
Hopelessly out of her depth and penniless, can innocent Kizzy resist the treacherous sexual attraction that draws her powerfully into Andreas’ orbit? Dangerously appealing and darkly charismatic, he’s made it quite clear that he wants her in her bed. It would be to her advantage, he’d make it worth her while …
She’s an independent woman, born illegitimately into a brutal world, so is Kizzy tough enough to handle this millionaire Adonis? Can she keep the ironclad fortress around her heart intact? The stakes are high if she is to prevent history repeating itself. No man on earth will leave her as heartbroken and destitute as her mother.
An explosive meeting of two different worlds results in a mirror image of cruelty, betrayal, guilt and shame that only their passion for each other can possibly overcome. But is it enough?
Kizzy wants answers and her turbulent past and shadowy revelations kick up a storm in Andreas’s heart that will not abate until his own explosive secrets are forced out into the open.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on another contemporary romance, and have another one after that's smouldering away. That’s in the short term. Longer term anything could happen, but I’ll never stop writing!
You can buy Storm’s Heart in paperback or in digital form here:
And I’ll be running some competitions for free, signed copies over on my blog: http://rachellyndhurst.blogspot.com/. I’d love you to visit and say hello!