What is your writing process?
I suppose it’s best summed up as long periods of procrastination followed by intense bursts of obsessive reclusedom (if that’s a proper word). I’ve realised recently that I pretty much hate the prospect of writing and will do almost anything to put it off, but once I’ve tidied the airing cupboard/filed my nails/searched the internet for hero inspiration and have run out of work-avoidance strategies, it only takes about five minutes before I’m lost in the story again and loving it. My dream is to be able to do a quick first draft, but alas I seem to be doomed to a slow and painstaking process in which I need to feel I’ve got one bit right before I can move on. The upside of this is that I don’t tend to have big revisions; the downside is I don’t sleep much as deadlines loom.
Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
The methods I use depend on the nearness of the deadline. If it’s getting close, sheer panic keeps me chained to my desk, but when there’s a bit more breathing space I guess it’s reminding myself how lucky I am to be doing a job I love. And that No Words = No More Shopping. (Although I’m definitely guilty of the odd online splurge to keep morale up when I’m flagging!)
Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Oooh, I’m so tempted to say I do Zumba three times a week and swim every morning, but sadly one look at the size of my behind would reveal that to be a Great Big Lie. For about a year I went running with a friend twice a week, but used to wake up with a horrible sinking feeling on running mornings that really wasn’t worth the two millimetres I lost on my waist. The only forms of exercise I actually enjoy are walking and dancing, so I do both whenever the opportunity presents itself – often to the embarrassment of my children.
Do you believe in writer's block?
I think it’s a convenient catch-all term for a problem that can stem from a wide variety of causes and manifest itself in a number of ways. At one end of the spectrum it’s what happens when your story grinds to a halt, when the words dry up, you’re absolutely at a loss as to how to take it forward and days or weeks pass without any progress being made. At the other end of the scale it’s when outside forces sap your time, your self-confidence, your ability to focus and writing a sentence seems as likely as drawing down the moon. I think this is a particular issue for women, who tend to shoulder more responsibility for caring for sick children and elderly parents, remembering birthdays, putting the bins out, making sure the fridge is full, cleaning the bath and paying the milkman. Sometimes writing can be a blessed escape from Real Life, but there’s also a great danger that Real Life can take up so much headspace that there’s not enough room for fiction to flourish.
Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I use all sorts of random snippets from my life in my books, but sadly they’re mostly just mildly embarrassing – putting pizza in the oven with the plastic disc still on, forgetting which side of the road to drive on in France, neglecting to pack underwear for a weekend away - rather than salacious enough to get me into trouble.
In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I think I assumed that if I ever got published it would all become suddenly easier; that stories would organise themselves more efficiently in my head, my desk would look more professional (instead of like the Lost Property Department of the local bus depot) and I’d suddenly master the art of Time Management. In reality it’s just as chaotic and messy as before, but with deadlines.
Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I have to admit that I feel the same way about promotion as I do about exercise: I know it’s necessary but I’d do absolutely anything to avoid it. Maybe it’s something to do with being British, or having my infant teacher’s voice in my head saying ‘nobody likes a show off’, but the principle of promotion is something that makes me squirm inside. However, reaching out to readers individually is something that I love, and it’s always wonderful to receive emails and comments on my blog, and meet people at library events and things.
What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Don’t do any. At all. Ever. (And then my pitiful efforts will look energetic and innovative.) (Haha - cunning, eh?)
What did you learn while writing this book?
The brilliant thing about writing for M&B is that through researching the setting and the characters’ background you learn something new for every book. Writing The Fitzroy Legacy (which is actually two books, the second one a continuation of the first story) I learned about life on the front line in modern conflict and the psychological aftermath. I guess like everyone I’m used to seeing bits of footage on the news and seeing the photographs of servicemen and women who’ve lost their lives, but writing these books gave me a reason to look beyond the headlines. It was eye-opening, inspiring and frightening.
What was the most fun part of writing this book?
Staying with the characters for twice as long, getting to know them really well and seeing where the story would take them. I really had no clue where the second book would go when I came up with the idea for the first, so it really was a like travelling with Kit and Sophie (in the manner of a great big invisible gooseberry.)
And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Good question… I think that as Kit and Sophie get married in the depths of an English winter, and live on the windswept North East coast, he’d probably want to whisk her off somewhere warm. However, he’d definitely be in no hurry to go back to anywhere remotely desert-like, so I’m thinking he’d choose a villa on the beach in Thailand. As long as there were no spiders. Sophie hates spiders.
The FITZROY LEGACY Wedlocked to the aristocratic Fitzroy family – where shocking secrets lead to scandalous seduction
Craving the Forbidden
The wrong Fitzroy brother?
Ticket-dodging in a First Class train carriage is not how bubbly Sophie Greenham envisaged meeting Kit Fitzroy, fearless army hero and brother of her friend Jasper. The smouldering
heat between her and Kit is an unwelcome shock – especially as Sophie’s masquerading as Jasper’s girlfriend all holiday! Although Kit’s bravery is legendary, he’s dreading the return to his bleak ancestral home. But Sophie’s vibrancy dispels the shadows in his tortured soul, consuming Kit with a potent desire for the one woman he’s forbidden to touch…
In Bed with a Stranger
The ticking time bomb of their marriage
Sophie Greenham whirled into army officer Kit Fitzroy’s life like a red-headed tornado, smashing through the walls surrounding his heart and changing his life for ever. Leaving his bubbly fiancée to return to the front line disposing of bombs was the hardest thing Kit had ever done… When he returns home, their reunion is raw and intoxicating. But the man Sophie loves is now a virtual stranger. Tormented, and determined to keep his distance, he can only truly connect with her in the bedroom… But they’ll need more than passion to survive the challenges ahead unscathed…
The first book will be out in the US later this month, followed by the second one in December.
By freaky co-incidence I’ve just had a box of advance copies of In Bed with a Stranger delivered, so can now offer both books together as a giveaway to one commenter. Thanks for having me, Minxes!