What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
When I was about 12 years old I would furtively read my grandmother’s Harlequin romances. I became addicted to the boy-meets-girl-girl-hates-boy-boy-gets-girl storylines, and noticed how they all followed virtually the same format. I thought, I could write one of those! Then when I was 25, I did write 2 Harlequin romances. I had an idea they’d be easy to get published. But then they didn’t get published, my computer got stolen from my apartment, and I hadn’t backed up my work, so the novels were stolen with the rest of my entire worldly possessions. I took that as a sign to give up and get a real job. Which I did. But I still had the writing bug so eventually I came back to it, I left my job as an advertising copywriter and set about trying to get published with a more contemporary women’s fiction story. After three books and three years, my agent sold The Secrets of Married Women to Hodder & Stoughton in the UK.
Do you write full-time or do you have another career?
I write full time. But because I work from home I sometimes feel I am a full-time housewife too! Everyone assumes that because you are in the house all day, you can write books while you vacuum, make dinner and run all the errands!
Describe your typical writing day.
I walk the dog in the morning – otherwise I’d probably never leave the house. Then I try to get 2 hours of solid productive writing done before lunch. Somehow I am always a little tired in the afternoons, so my productivity slackens off. Then I come alive again at 4pm. It’s weird but I can solve all my plot problems and do some great writing at 4pm, yet at 3:30 I am virtually brain dead. Then I make dinner, have a glass of wine, and then go back up to tweak what I’ve got written that day.
What inspired you to write your latest book ‘The Art of Letting Go’, which is due out this year?
I find a lot of inspiration in things I read. Sometimes random articles I come across on the Internet – like the article about Vietnam’s real Love Market in the mountain village of Sapa where young people go to find their future mates, and older people go to reunite with their lovers. This became the inspiration for my third novel The Love Market – about a woman who recently divorces and isn’t sure she’s done the right thing. Then to complicate things, someone from her past gets in touch with her quite mysteriously - her first love, a Canadian foreign journalist whom she met 20 years ago while backpacking in Asia. She met him in Vietnam, in the Love Market… With The Art of Letting Go, it was an article I read on how dementia patients often respond positively to visual art and it can help them remember details of their life. This made me think of two love stories that interconnect – one in the past and one in the present, and how they are revealed due to an elderly lady’s response to a painting in a Seattle art gallery.
What projects are you working on now?
I started a new novel in October. I wrote quite a bit of it but something about it felt wrong. I left it alone and wondered why I wasn’t excited to get back writing it. Then I read an article that inspired another idea that I thought, Wow! I LOVE this one! THIS is the book I must write. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m changing course and starting to plot out and take the first tentative steps to writing this new idea. It feels so good to be working on something I am passionate about!
How do you publicise your work?
When a big publishing house takes on your novel they do a lot of publicity for you. But of course social media – Facebook, Twitter - helps writers connect with their readers and I love hearing from readers of my books and being in touch with them. I have done the odd TV appearance and radio interviews etc. But I’m not good at selling myself. I find it a little embarrassing to self-promote. I always feel that my job is as a writer, and that tends to be a more introverted career choice, and while it’s fun to attend publicity events, I prefer it when my publicist has arranged them!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Really ask yourself why you want to be a writer. If it’s because it brings you the kind of happiness that virtually nothing else can, then you probably will write no matter what. If it’s because you think it’s a)glamorous, b)highly paid, c) easy to succeed at, d)cool to see your own work in a book store…. Then you might want to pack the whole thing in! The publishing industry is quite a brutal business. It is insanely hard to get published, and even harder to stay published. I only recommend it for people who are very thick-skinned, realistic about their chances, and passionate about writing.
Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
There are so many. Lately I’ve read a bunch of great books. The Lost Wife, by Alyson Richman, anything by Jonathan Tropper, Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been…. I also love The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer, anything by Tony Parsons, Girl with the Pearl Earring... I could go on but I’d be answering this question all day!
Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
I suppose Jane Austen – though I don’t know if that’s because we studied her so much in school! But she really made me think about characterization and human nature and how it comes to play in fiction. I never got into Dickens. Don’t know why. I loved a lot of poetry when I was a kid – especially the war poet, Wilfred Owen, and Keats, Dylan Thomas…
Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Poirot. But only because, after retrieving it, I’d help him solve a murder on the Orient Express! There are no lengths I won’t go to for a free vacation.
Carol can be found on Twitter [@carolmasonbooks] and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562571492