Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Author Spotlight - Annie Burrows

Today we welcome Harlequin Historical author Annie Burrows into the Minxy spotlight.

What is your writing process?
Well, first of all comes the daydreaming. I "see" my stories, like a film running through my head. Except I am the director, so if I don't like the way a scene is going, I can rewind, and make the actors go through it again, a slightly different way. If one of my stories grips me so much I get to the point where I'm weeping into the washing up because the hero and heroine look like they're not going to make it, I jot the outline down in a notebook.

When the time comes round for me to try to get a new contract, I get out my notebooks and skim through. Some of the heroes and heroines then get very vocal about having their stories heard. They take up residence in my head, and won't stop nagging me until I've pleaded their case with my editor!
When I get the go-ahead to start writing, the first thing I do is get the whole plot typed into my computer, as fast as I can, with my basic outline at my side. (Usually, during this stage, my characters decide they don't like my direction all that much, and try and veer off at a tangent. Sometimes it's a struggle to keep them in line, but at others, I kind of sit back, and let them go because what they want to do is much more interesting than what I wanted them to do). Then I print it out, to see what I've got because things always look different on paper to what they do on a computer screen, and the revisions process begins. Usually the story isn't too bad, but I still need to tweak the language so that it is fit for someone else to read. And I keep on tweaking until I get to the stage where all I'm doing is taking out or putting in commas. Then I send it to my editor, and she very tactfully (usually!) points out all the things I could do to make it better.

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?
I remind myself of all the jobs I used to do that were so much harder - and so much more draining - and so much less fulfilling. And how I yearned to be a writer for years, and that I am finally living my dream. And anyway, there's not that much room left in my cupboard for yet another pair of shoes!

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Yes. It's absolutely essential if I don't want to spend all my royalties at the chiropractor. He gave me all sorts of stretching exercises to do to help prevent my back seizing up, the first time I went to him and he had to perform that manoeuvre that you always see on comedy shows - you know, where they grab your head and twist it to that sound effect of something ripping - though it wasn't quite so funny when he was doing it to me! He also recommended getting up and moving about frequently. So I start my day by stretching out for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then when I do get to the computer, I set a kitchen timer to go off after one hour. (It means I don't have to keep looking at the clock to see how time's going, which leaves my mind free to concentrate on the writing). And so it goes - an hour's writing, then getting up and moving about. Even if it's only making a cup of tea, and getting straight back to it. At the end of my writing day, I spend 10 - 15 mins on a stationary exercise bike, to combat that other occupational hazard...writer's bottom! And then once a week I drag my husband to a ballroom dance class. It's supposed to be a way to keep fit together, and keep some romance in our marriage. I don't know about the romance, but we certainly have a lot of laughs. Ballroom dancing is trickier than it looks!

Do you believe in writer's block?
I daren't. If I believe in it, then I might catch it.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I've never consciously used an incident from real life in a book...because it just might get me into trouble!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I thought that with each book my writing skills would improve, until it became easy - because that does happen with most jobs. You settle in, and the process becomes routine. But not with writing. Every book seems harder than the last. Oh, not the dreaming up ideas part, but the actual getting the words on the page to paint the picture I want readers to see in their heads. And then there's the next question...

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
Ah, yes, promotion! I have to admit, that came as a major shock to me. I hoped all I would have to do is hand in brilliant (ahem) manuscripts, and the publisher's marketing department would handle all the rest. Because, like a lot of writers, I'm not all that outgoing. I am far more used to sitting indoors, describing the adventures of my imaginary friends, than interacting with real people. But fortunately Harlequin offers seminars to gently encourage us to venture out of our comfort zone. They persuaded me onto facebook, and I haven't looked back. I'm supposed to use my page ( to share news about upcoming books, foreign translation, and gorgeous covers. But I have to confess I have been totally sucked into the chatting, and sharing pictures of startled kittens part. I also signed up for Goodreads, where I've done a couple of giveaways of my books. I blog most regularly on the Harlequin Historical authors blog:

For my last book,"An Escapade and an Engagement" released in July, I joined in a "round robin" event, where several harlequin authors collaborated to put up a story, which evolved over several weeks. You can still see "Lady Ambleforth's Afternoon Adventure" on the HH blog site.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Write a brilliant book. Simple, huh!

What did you learn while writing this book?
By "this book" I'm going to talk about my October release, "His Wicked Christmas Wager". I wanted to have my hero and heroine involved in a wager, which I hoped could be based on a card game. But then I suddenly realized I had no idea what cards would have looked like in the Regency era. And since I need to "see" what my characters are doing, so that I can describe it to my readers, I just had to find out. And now I know, whenever I read a card-playing scene in another regency set story, that they would have looked like this:

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
For once, it was reading my editor's revisions letter - where she described both her and her colleague fanning themselves with their kindle covers because my final scene was so hot! That is some kind of compliment!

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Well, since the story is set in the depths of winter, in Regency England, I think my hero is going to keep the heroine indoors in front of a crackling log fire. He's waited a long time to get his ring on her finger, so he isn't going to be in any hurry to leave the bedroom. And since he's wealthy, he can ring for refreshments when necessary, to keep up his stamina!

The blurb:

The last person Lord Crispin Sinclair expects to see in a disreputable inn is the woman he's there to forget: Lady Caroline Fallowfield. He hasn't forgiven her for marrying another man--or forgotten their mutual passion. When she implores him to come home for his brother's Christmas nuptials, he agrees--if the now-widowed Caroline is willing to share his bed and take another gamble on love...

You can find out more about Annie at her website:

His Wicked Christmas Wager is available as anebook only from Harlequin, and from Amazon.

Keep an eye out for Annie's next novella, From Governess to Christmas Bride, which will be part of a Christmas anthology "Gift Wrapped Governesses", which also contains stories by Marguerite Kaye and Sophie James.


Marguerite Kaye said...

I love the cover of your Christmas story, and I love the fact that your editors had to fan themselves - serious complement. Have to say, your stretching regime made me feel very guilty, I'm full of good intentions that I almost always fail to meet.

Caroline said...

Great blog Annie. Lovely cover too. I'm off to download it. DH just said to order a book as he wants to watch some action film - sounds good to me! Caroline x

annie burrows said...

Marguerite - I really don't have much choice over the stretching regime. If I neglect it, I seize up, and end up in dreadful pain. One visit to the chiropractor where he tried to twist my head off was enough, thanks!

annie burrows said...

thanks Caroline! I hope you enjoy the story. It sounds just like in our on the sofa reading a book, while hubby...well, if he was watching an action film, I might watch it with him. But he plays computer games!

Sri Pammi said...

I love your motivation to be fit, Annie...
And I love the blurb for your Undone...


Sally Clements said...

That's a really good point, Annie, about remembering the jobs we used to do. I often moan to myself when it is difficult to write, and then remember my previous jobs...writing is so much better and more fulfilling!