We're delighted to welcome Mills and Boon Modern author, Chantelle Shaw, to the minx blog today. Here are Chantelle's answers to the minx inquisition! (I must just add that I'm totally with her on the ironing...)
What is your writing process?
I aim to be in my office by 9 a.m. five days a week. My office is actually a glorified garden shed – with carpet! I used to have my desk in a corner of the bedroom which wasn’t great, especially as my youngest son used to sit on my bed and watch TV while I was trying to work.
After checking emails I write until lunchtime, which sounds good but I get up and make endless cups of coffee. I’d like to say that lunch is something healthy involving lettuce, but I’d be lying! In the afternoon I write until 3 when I pick my son up from school. At the beginning of a book I then go back and write until 5 or 6, but as a deadline approaches I often keep going until 8pm with a brief break to serve something burnt and inedible to husband and kids. It sounds like I spend a huge amount of time writing, but actually I stare out of the window a lot!
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?
It’s my job, and apart from the odd day when I want to throw a brick through my computer screen it’s a job I love and feel very lucky to have. The way I see it is that my husband can’t decide to give work a miss one morning so why should I? Having said that, some days are much more productive than others, but if I’m not writing my conscience says I should be doing housework or dare I mention the ironing word! Trying to force a story out of my head is better than that!
Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Hysterical laughter! I really wish I did. I don’t like the gym but love walking and I do try to go for a brisk 30 min walk every day – but it doesn’t always happen. Life, kids and deadlines mean that some days I don’t do any exercise, hence spreading bottom!
Do you believe in writer's block?
Not exactly writer’s block, but there’s no doubt that some days the words and ideas flow and on others writing feels like wading through treacle and I’m lucky if I manage to produce a couple of hundred words. I think the best thing is to write something, even if you know it’s rubbish, just to keep things moving along. And try not to panic!
Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
No – I write about sexy Alpha-male billionaires and sadly there aren’t any in the tiny Kent village where I live. Everything I write is from my imagination, but sometimes a newspaper or magazine article will trigger an idea.
In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
It’s even harder work than I imagined. I write 3 books a year for Harlequin M&B. So far I’ve always met my deadline, but usually there are revisions and the process of the book being accepted can take up to a month, which leaves 3 months to come up with a proposal for the next book, convince my editor it’s a great idea and then get the book written. The shortest time I’ve had to write a 50k word book is 6 weeks and I felt pressurised, but actually it turned out to be a great book – maybe because the story was constantly in my head and there was no time to faff about!
Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I have a website – www.chantelleshaw.com and I’m in the process of setting up a blog on the site so that I can update my news more regularly. But this is the difficult bit – nothing ever happens to me! I don’t live a jet-setting lifestyle; I write, wash football kit and cook very badly. So far I’m not on Facebook or Twitter because to be honest I’m not the most sociable person and I’m quite happy living inside my head, with occasional forays into the real world! I think I should come out of my cave and promote myself more, but I’m worried that more distractions could lead to less writing getting done, and if I don’t produce books there’s no point in promotion. I guess it’s all a balance.
What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Do more than I do! Setting up a website seems a good start.
What did you learn while writing this book?
BEHIND THE CASTELLO DOORS is set in Sardinia, so I learned a lot about the island. I always do more research than goes into the books, but I need to be able to see in my head the country or place a story is set in and Google images is great for that. I think with this book I also learned (or am trying to learn) that my plots don’t need to be so complicated and to focus even more on my characters and delve deeper into their emotions.
What was the most fun part of writing this book?
It’s slightly gothic, set in a castle and I just let my imagination fly. (Had to curb it slightly at the revisions stage)! My excuse is that I wrote it shortly after watching all three Lord of the Rings films and I was (am) totally in love with Aragorn, played by gorgeous hunk Viggo Mortensen.