The Minxes are happy to welcome lovely author Nina Harrington to the blog today. Several Minxes had the opportunity to meet Nina at the RNA Conference in London and she is as warm and wonderful as her books! WARNING: These answers contain some seriously fab, not to be missed advice. Here's Nina:
What is your writing process?
Since I am under contract with Harlequin my editor needs to see a proposal for any new story idea before I launch in to the writing.
For me, this starts with a story idea and usually, a strong impression of who my heroine is and what she needs and wants.
As a reader I like to step into the heroine’s shoes – whether she is a pole dancer or baker or detective – and see the story world through her eyes. So I do spend quite a lot of time brainstorming aspects of her backstory and how and why she came to be standing here in chapter one, with her life in turmoil.
What are the rules she lives by? Who or what is her passion? And what will she do to protect it? For example, in my first book, ‘Always the Bridesmaid’ my heroine Amy Edler is running her bakery single handed while trying to adopt and making sure that her best friend’s wedding goes smoothly. And then the “Inciting Incident” that brings the heroine and the bride’s brother together – the wedding planner runs off with one of her grooms.
Story situation, linked to her passion, combined with her short and long term goals and dreams.
From this I build up a picture of how she will react when challenged and the emotional barriers she has created to having a love with my hero.
Then the lovely hero sweeps in. And does not know what hit him.
Ah. My hero. Much time is spent looking at pictures of hunky actors and models - purely for research purposes. But the hard work is all about what rocks his world and I ask exactly the same questions I asked my heroine.
If you put these two people into a white room together – they still need to have internal barriers which they believe will prevent them from being together.
What are they?
Since I am a scientist by training, I love reading craft books and have studied story structure for years, so I do try and plan the rough shape of the book in terms of the major emotional turning points in the love story. But at the proposal stage, I leave lots of room for change following that initial set-up and my editor seems to trust me.
I am a great believer in the idea that the first draft of any book is a ‘discovery draft’ where you are working through how the characters react to the rocks that are being thrown at them and, most importantly, how they change and grow on their journey to love and a life together after the book is ended.
Once I have a working draft, then I can start tracking the character arcs, scene by scene. Making sure that the motivation and internal conflicts of both hero and heroine are crystal clear to the reader.
And of course – a happy ending. I love my happy endings.
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?
You are quite right – this is not a business for those who lack self-discipline. You have to be able to find the joy in what you are writing each and every day and be a total self-starter, because nobody else is going to do this for you.
I believe that every writer, published or pre-published, should take some pride in what they have achieved. We are surrounded by every possible form of entertainment, diversion and distraction. Writing for publication is hard. So you have to want it more than the TV or the siren call of the Internet.
The methods I use are to treat my writing as a job just like any other. So I have to work out when the best times of the day are for me to write, and put the hours in. I find working in 30 to 40 minute slots can achieve more than you think.
Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I try and get out for a walk every day and usually have at least one family walking holiday in a sunny climate each year. But I never sit at my desk for more than an hour without getting up and moving.
Do you believe in writer's block?
No I don’t. But I do think that you can get disillusioned and down, and come to see your writing either as a terrible chore which has to be endured like the dentist [sorry dentists] or just one more thing that other people use to beat you up with through rejection or criticism or disrespect of your talent. It is tough to come back to writing with a fire in your belly and love it.
Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
Yes I have. I saw an advert in a jobs wanted column which kicked off a story idea for the unusual occupation of the heroine I am writing at the moment. And no, I don’t think I will get into trouble. I have disguised it well.
In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
Oh, in so many ways.
Probably the biggest for me, is that I had no idea how time consuming and challenging revising your work following editorial feedback can be.
On the other hand, nothing can prepare you for the once in a lifetime thrill of seeing your book on the shelves for the first time. Magic.
Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
Well I have tried standing on the table in the local public library and waving my books around, but they just called security.
Luckily I enjoy blogging and started a blog well before I was published. I am also on Facebook, find Twitter hilarious and am just starting to appreciate Good Reads – and of course I visit the blogs of my many writer pals daily.
What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Be yourself. Always.
What did you learn while writing this book?
Oh, I loved the research for this book. Did you know that there are four main types of cocoa fruit and that each variety has a very different flavour?
Just like a fine wine, the delicious chocolate we find in the shops is the end product of months of careful handling and processing and blending where anything can go wrong. It was totally fascinating.
What was the most fun part of writing this book?
I considered it my duty to my readers to track down single estate organic plain chocolate from St Lucia and carry out extensive taste testing so that I could describe the flavour accurately. It was tough but I was willing to make the sacrifice.
And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Max Trevelyn lives and works on the Caribbean island of St Lucia where he grows organic cocoa beans, and after a beach wedding he sweeps his new bride Daisy onto a luxury private yacht for a tour of the islands.
What have the changes to the current Harlequin lines and branding meant to you? Have they affected your writing process?
Since my first book was released in July 2009 there have been many changes to the Harlequin publishing schedule and branding, but I am particularly excited about the RIVA line in the UK and the promotion of digital e-books which make our books instantly available to readers around the world.
My writing process has not changed very much. I have always written warm and witty romantic fiction with lots of dialogue which fits the RIVA and Harlequin Romance lines well.
What do you think makes a Riva book Riva?
A modern contemporary setting, probably urban, and a theme which will resonate with the readers. Upbeat and intense, with plenty of emotional and sexual tension.
Plus that elusive quality called “voice” or style which some people call chick lit but I prefer to call witty.
When Chocolate Is Not Enough by Nina Harrington
Riva: March 2012
A shared passion for...chocolate! One taste of Daisy Flynn’s delicious confectionery and Max Trevelyan is hooked! This quirky chocolatier is just the person to showcase the cocoa from his plantation. Daisy jumps on the idea – she’s always dreamed of having her own chocolate shop, and with Max’s offer that dream can become a reality! But Daisy finds Max very distracting: the sexy single dad should come with a health warning! Keeping her eyes on the prize (and off Max’s chiselled features) isn’t easy. But Daisy has learned the hard way that she’s safer indulging in chocolate than in relationships – and her dream is too important to mess up! She mustn’t be tempted by something even sweeter…
Mills & Boon UK