Locations have always been important to me both in my writing
and in my personal life. I grew up in Norfolk and have used the gentle East Anglian countryside in many of my stories now including my new rom com Wish You Were Here
. In fact, inspiration for a new story often comes from locations. Three Graces
was inspired by my love of old country houses and The Runaway Actress
was born out of my passion for the Scottish Highlands.
Since moving from the London suburbs in 2011, I have found that I can’t stop writing about my new life here in rural Suffolk. Each time I look out of the windows of Mulberry Cottage or walk in the lanes by the thatched cottages or along the myriad footpaths, I find words tumbling around my head in a way that they never did when I walked down the litter-strewn alleys of the suburbs and there’s only one way for an author to deal with such an affliction and that’s to write it all down. The only trouble is, I’m meant to be writing my next novel!
That’s the problem with inspiration – you can’t control it; it can’t be turned on and off like a tap and, sometimes, it engulfs you in huge torrents at really inconvenient times. Still, I feel lucky to have so much that inspires me.
I remember a visit to the lovely village of Chawton in Hampshire where the writer Jane Austen had lived and written her books. Walking around the
village, I came up with the idea of not just one book but a trilogy about Jane
Austen addicts – each book set in an Austen location so A Weekend with Mr Darcy
is set in the Hampshire countryside, The Perfect Hero
is set in the beautiful seaside town of Lyme Regis in Dorset and Mr Darcy Forever
is set in Devon and Bath. Of course, it meant visiting and researching each of these beautiful places which was an absolute joy particularly when I got to stay in the rambling Georgian house on the Devon coast which was used in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility
With my new novel, Wish You Were Here
, I ventured a little further afield for one of the locations – in my mind, that is - and created the fictional island of Kethos in Greece. It was so lovely to imagine the crystal-clear waters and the gardens of the Villa Argenti which were partly inspired by the gardens at the Villa Cimbrone in Italy which I once visited and fell in love with, knowing that I would love to write about it one day.
And now? Sitting in my little cottage in the Stour Valley, surrounded by apple and cherry orchards and fields full of horses, I know I’ll have to write about it all some day and a couple of ideas have occurred to me already. But one has to be very careful not to let research take over from the actual writing and it would be very easy for me to leave my desk and go off on some jaunt or other, losing myself in the countryside, pretending that I’m working.
One has to be very disciplined as a writer. It’s all too easy to get distracted. Readers of my blog and friends on Facebook will know that I have a little flock of ex-battery hens which are a huge
distraction for this writer working from home. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel very lucky to be able to make up stories for a living.Victoria's latest book 'Wish You Were Here' has just been published. For Bookwormink's review go to: http://www.bookwormink.co.uk/2/post/2013/05/review-wish-you-were-here-by-victoria-connelly.html
1: What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
I was an obsessive bookworm as a child, a classic under-the-covers-with-a-torch kind of kid. I can’t
remember what I wanted to be when I was a child but by the time I was a teenager I wanted to be a music journalist. Quite obviously, that didn't happen and it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I started thinking about the possibility of writing a book. The thing that kick-started me was being made redundant when I was twenty-six. Suddenly I had some time on my hands and a little pot of money in the bank to tide me over.
2: Describe your typical writing day.
I drop my girls at school at 9.00am then walk home via Waitrose and do a shop. When I get home I tidy up, put on a wash, make a coffee and am allowed until 11.45 to do what I like on the internet. So I reply to emails, buy stuff, chat on Twitter, read articles and plan holidays. Then I have a sandwich and head for the gym. I spend 45 minutes working out, before settling down in a café to write until 3.30. This might not sound like much writing time, but because I compartmentalise my day and don't use the internet while I’m working, I get as much done in that two or three hours as I would if I spent all day at home being distracted by things. On an average day I’ll write 1000 words. On a great day I’ll write 2000.
3: What inspires you?
Oh, all the usual stuff. Other people’s stories. Things I read in newspapers. Music. The genius of other writers. Houses. London. Strangers. My own history. The strangeness of families. The weather. Life.
4: Which of your books are you most proud of?
This would be like asking which of my children I’m most proud of! Impossible to answer! I am proud of them all for differing reasons. The first because it was such a leap of faith. The second because it proved the first wasn't fluke. The third because I went a bit darker. The fourth because I wrote well about men. The fifth because it was the first book I wrote after becoming a mother when I’d been worried I might not be able to write with a baby in the house. The sixth because it all came together in the end. The seventh because it was quite taut and atmospheric. The eighth because … actually, scrap that, I hated the eighth. Anyway, you get my drift.
5: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Well, the first thing I would say is GET OFF THE INTERNET! After that, do whatever it takes to make the time. As I have proved, if you can walk away from things you know distract you (the kettle, the biscuit tin, the telly, the garden, whatever) then you can achieve quite a lot in a couple of hours. I would also say feel the fear and do it anyway. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking and feeling terrified is quite normal. Pace yourself. If you write too much too quickly, you’ll go off at tangents and lose your way and if you write infrequently you’ll lose your momentum. A thousand words a day is a good ticking over amount. Try to keep your whole life reasonably dull and routine. This helps. As for the other stuff, whiteboards, and planning and notebooks and post-its, well, that’s personal to each individual.
6: Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
Again, this is a ‘which is your favourite child’ type of question. I am incapable of choosing a definitive favourite of anything, be it food or country or colour
or song. I need at least ten choices, ideally twenty and even then I'd want to
add more. But the book I have read most recently that I was most impressed by was Sleep With Me by Joanna Briscoe. I was consumed by it, sucked into it,
gripped and awed. Oddly it has a low rating on Amazon, so clearly a book without universal appeal, but one that felt like it could have been written just for me.
7: Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
I know I did stuff when I was a child but I don't really remember what I was thinking or feeling or what I wanted to do or to be and I know I read a lot but I can’t remember feeling particularly ‘influenced’. I read everything Enid Blyton ever wrote and I read E Nesbitt and Frances Hodgson Burnett and when I got older I read Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens and maybe all of that was going in there and forming me as a person but I wouldn't be able to say in which way or who in particular. I was also watching the Brady Bunch and the Clangers and The Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons and Rentaghost and reading Bunty and Tammy and Just Seventeen. I guess it’s all in there somewhere, in varying degrees.
8: Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Miss Marple. I don't know why. I think maybe she’s slightly more down to earth than the diminutive Belgian!
Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell is out now (Arrow,
I never intended to write a sequel to my number one bestseller The Bad Mother’s Handbook
. The story, which covered a year in the life of a dysfunctional northern family, was meant to be a one-off, each member’s journey complete as far as it went, each character’s lessons learnt. The ending, if not straightforwardly happy, was upbeat and decisive.
My readers had other ideas. Just a few months after the book came out I began to receive emails from people wanting to know what happened next. How did awkward teenage mother Charlotte Cooper manage with her new baby? Which suitor did her mum Karen finally choose, her roguish ex husband or her too-shy boss? What were the long-term repercussions of Karen investigating her own adoption?
To each of these questions I replied with a brief sketch of where I imagined the Coopers heading. It wasn’t difficult; I had timelines in place, family trees and pages of notes on personality traits and individual histories. My characters genuinely felt as if they were real people with an independent existence and a future beyond the pages – a feeling underlined when I discovered one of them had his own Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/MrDanielGale?fref=ts
But the more of these replies I sent out, the more I began to think, ‘This is a synopsis I’m writing here. Why not carry on and deliver the whole book?’
So I set to work, assuming that the hard part – the plotting and characterization – was already in place and therefore the novel would roll out pretty easily. Some hope. Almost immediately I was gripped by a crisis of confidence. It turns out writing a sequel is fraught with practical problems. Had I known, for instance, that the Coopers would ride again, I’d have sent teen mum Charlotte to university in a place I knew well – not York, a city I’d visited on just two occasions. I’d probably also have made that first book
more contemporary and not set the action in 1997.
The main issue, though, was to do with background. How do you give readers coming first to Bad Mothers United
all the context and reference points they need without at the same time boring an audience already familiar with The
Bad Mothers Handbook
? That’s the balancing act, and initially it felt outfacing.
In the end my characters themselves took charge and told me to stop dithering and get on with it. They began reminiscing where a little filling-in was needed, recalling jokes and themes and motifs from The Bad Mother’s Handbook
and helpfully reworking them for me. Because I knew these people so well, there were moments where it felt as if they were dictating scenes to me. And the more I wrote, the more I found out the specific questions they wanted answering, the issues they needed resolving. They were very clear about it in the end.
Of course they’ve all grown older and wiser over the intervening period. Charlotte is now in her twenties, and a mother in her own right; Karen is no longer a carer for her disabled mum but instead looks after her grandson while Charlotte finishes her degree course.Nan is with us in spirit, if not in body. The place is still Bank Top, Wigan, and the time is January 2000.
The stage is set for more family conflict, more revelation, risk, romance and self-discovery. Yes, the Coopers are back, and they have a few things they want to get off their chest...Kate Long is the author of seven very successful books. Her latest novel, 'Bad Mothers United', is published by Simon and Schuster and is available now.For more information about Kate or her writing, visit her website at: http://www.katelongbooks.com/
I’ve always enjoyed reading and in my teens I even tried writing novels but rarely made it past the first 10 pages. At school I seemed to do well in creative writing and when I finished my GCSEs an English teacher told me to never stop writing prose and poetry as he believed I had talent. I didn’t believe him and am not fully convinced now. That was in 1998. In 1999 I began to
I remember going to college and the weeks being relatively pleasant with a handful of lessons and a reasonable amount of
homework. In my spare time I was glued to the Playstation my brother had recently bought. Having completed the few games he owned, I made an impulsive purchase of an RPG known as Final Fantasy VII
and after an uncertain couple of hours I was blown away by the whole experience – the visuals, the characters, the battles, the storyline, everything. When fighting battles your characters can summon gods to aid them and I noticed some of these gods were based on ones from real myths and legends. One, in particular, had me curious. It was a horned warrior bestride an eight-legged steed. His name was Odin. I started to do some research and it changed my life.
Odin is the principal god in Norse mythology which I soon found infinitely more fascinating than the Greek legends I had known growing up. From Norse mythology I moved onto the Icelandic Sagas and then read Beowulf.
Those works, along with both Final Fantasy VII
& Final Fantasy VIII
that I had now moved onto, all of them gave me the desire to pick up a piece of paper and not write but draw. One afternoon I drew a world map, shaping individual lands until the paper was full. I looked down and realised I’d just taken the first step on the road to the world of Elenchera.
For the next ten years I built Elenchera, working from a main map as well as supplement maps. In that decade I drew more than 500 maps, crafted
47,000+ years of history and drank a lot of whisky! Although the world building was my main motivation I couldn’t resist having a go at writing a novel. I wrote three of them (2000-2004) but they generated no interest with agents or publishers. A fourth novel came in 2006 but I edited it so much I simply put it away and forgot all about it. I learned the hard way that you can edit a book too much. I realised that because my world history wasn’t finished, I couldn’t write about Elenchera with the comfort and confidence I needed so I buried myself in world building once more.
In 2008 I met my wife, Donna, who inspired me to start a new novel. The history was in a good position by this point so I tried my first new novel for two years. Fezariu’s Epiphany
was the result and reading it through I was finally confident that it was time to share Elenchera with the rest of the world.
After much deliberation, my wife and I decided to self-publish this first book. Our reasoning was that from the start I have intended to do something different with the fantasy genre. I didn’t want to be another Tolkien, I wanted to create something unique that would stand out. My main ambition had
always been to try and make fantasy more accessible as a genre. Many readers love sci-fi and fantasy but I wanted to write books that were on the periphery of the genre, still embraced by the ardent fans but also of interest to those readers that wouldn’t necessarily read this genre. For those reasons I felt self-publishing was the best way to test the water and see how viable my work was. Fezariu’s Epiphany
was published in May 2011 and received some positive feedback from both fantasy fans and readers that didn’t normally favour this genre. That was the most pleasing part for me. With four books to my name now and a further four being worked on this year, I often look back and think this all began with an RPG on the Playstation. Had it not been Final Fantasy VII
it could have been something else that started me on this path but maybe not. One thing that would keep me awake at night is the thought of never making this journey at all. David M.Brown has published the first two books in his Elencheran Chronicles series, a series built on self-contained novels set in different time periods in the fantasty world of Elenchera. For more information on David, visit his website at: http://elenchera.com or his blog: http://tweedling.com He can also be found on bothTwitter
: https://twitter.com/elencheraand Facebook
I wrote my first 2 novels, RSVP and Stay Close To Me, on the train to work. I found it easy to be disciplined on the train as there were no distractions and I could plug in my headphones, open my laptop and lose myself for an hour or so. I don’t plan my books in advance, so I would get on the train each morning wondering what might happen to my characters that day. I love it when people
say that my books aren’t predictable - after all, if I didn’t know what was going to happen, how could the reader?
Once I got off the train, I would forget about my writing entirely and switch my brain into work mode until the return journey, when I would repeat the whole process all over again.
Being a fast touch typist helps enormously. I temped as a secretary during my university holidays and I type at around 100 words per minute. On a
typical day when I was travelling into London I could do as much as 3,000
words. Funnily enough, now that I am a full-time author, I don’t generally do more than that and I have the whole day to do it!
My third novel, With or Without You, was written entirely from
home and it was so much harder than I expected. I think there is a huge difference between men and women who work from home. Men seem to find it easier to cut off from the rest of the household but I find it almost impossible. If there is a basket full of washing, there is no way I could leave it and I just can’t bring myself to ignore either the doorbell or the phone.
As a result, I find that whole days have gone by and I haven’t done any
work on my novel. The internet is a huge distraction too - especially
Twitter! Working from home can make you feel a little isolated, so connecting with friends and fellow authors through social networking sites takes on a greater importance than if you have a full-time job and are seeing people on a daily basis.
Thankfully, there were enough days when I did manage to find a routine of sorts. I would get up in the morning and put my running gear straight on, before making the children’s packed lunches and seeing them off to school.
At 9 o’clock sharp I would go into my office and sit down to work. Only when I had written around 2,000 words would I finally go for my run. For me, breaking up the day like this was the key to a successful routine, as it gave me structure and made me feel as if I was doing a ‘proper’ job. Running was a huge help too, as I found that it cleared my head of any niggling problems and provided me with a much-needed burst of adrenaline! After my run, I would shower, dress and try to do another 1,000 words before the children came home from school.
It is now a year since I gave up my job to write full-time and although I have
loved every minute, I am probably going to go back to work in the next few
months. I think that when I do, I will have a new-found appreciation of those commuting hours, when I can write undisturbed by the minutiae of daily life.Helen's second novel will be published in paperback on January 31st by Simon and Schuster. For more information about Helen, visit her website at: http://helenwarner.net/
How to get your novel to bestseller status
So you’ve written what you hope is your next bestseller and pressed publish on Amazon. Now what do you do ? Sit and wait for the magic to happen? No chance!
The first thing an aspiring novelist needs to know is that unless you have an incredibly lucky break you aren’t going to get rich quick. This is when the hard work starts.
After getting 4 novels out there I am still learning how to bump them up the Amazon charts. It’s not easy and there is no step by step by step guide. All that is obvious is the higher in the chart you get, more books you sell. Hints and tips for marketing your novelWebsite -
Your own website is easy reference point for anyone searching for you. Even if you haven’t finished your book buy the domain name - ideally your author name as it is. The site doesn’t have to be fancy just informative & pleasing to the eye. Also link your Twitter feed to it. You can search online for build your own websites sites. You don’t need an expert just maybe a friend who is good at IT or just follow instructions & do it yourself. You can see mine at www.nicolamay.com.
I also sell my books via my own website. Easy to set up and payments are via PayPal so all very secure. Social Media -
is your friend. Set up a Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook Account. As soon as you have some news tell everyone. Whether it be a new review, a price change or offer. I would say that 75% of my sales come through my networking on Twitter. Blogs
- your own genre bloggers are your friends too. Ask if they would like to review before the book is due to hit the shelves. When the reviews come out you can shout about them.Local newspapers/radio -
A new author on the block is a good little story for
your local newspaper. Find out the correct contact and just pick up the phone. Helps if you can maybe write a bit of blurb about you/book etc and if you have news like a local signing all the better. If you feel your book may have a topical edge to it, i.e.: quirky love story on Valentine’s Day then contact your local radio station.School Fetes/Christmas Markets/Coffee Mornings –
Check out what’s happening in your area. Fetes etc like having a local author there, gains general interest. I also sold a lot of books when I first started by attending Ladies who Latte meetings!
And my last tip for today is always carry a book or two in your handbag you never know who you may bump into!
I am pinching myself that my fourth novel The School Gates is being so well received. I even won an award for it at the Festival of Romance. This of course has helped it gain popularity and more reviews.
Time now to keep juggling the promotion balls in the air whilst writing the sequel. Hard work but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Details about Nicola and her books can be found at:
Facebook: Nicola May
I’d always been an avid reader, but I never really dreamed of being a writer. When I left school I worked as a secretary and then as a beauty therapist. It was then that I first started to write. I landed a job on Central Television presenting on a programme called Look Good, Feel Great
and I wrote my own scripts for a weekly slot on aromatherapy. I then went on to work freelance for a number of magazines Women in Golf
, Today’s Runner
and numerous others who wanted to feature articles about beauty therapy or massage.
I was also getting Writers’ News
and Writing Magazine
at the time, for market leads and decided to enter their Annual Short Story Competition.
My story was the first piece of fiction that I’d written since leaving school and was called Another Bouquet
. It was a dark little tale of adultery and deceit and off I sent it and pretty much forgot about it.
To my astonishment, I won. To my further astonishment and that of others, I spent my thousand pound prize money not on shoes and handbags, but on a writing course. Quite possibly the most sensible thing that I’ve ever done in my life!
I went to Fen Farm Arts in Norfolk, sadly a place that has since lost its funding and no longer exists. But I had a great time there, focussing for the first time on my writing. I started a novel tentatively called Hanky Panky
. The tutor, a lovely writer called Margaret Pemberton, read it and suggested that I send to an agent and very kindly gave me the name of one.
I went away, finished the novel and, during Christmas week, submitted it to Darley Anderson’s agency. At the time they were getting 150 unsolicited manuscripts every week (now they get about 450) and, by some miracle, it was the only one that landed on his desk that week. So Darley took it home with him.
He telephoned me when his office opened in the new year and took me on. Within a week he’d sold my novel to Headline and it became my first book, Let’s Meet on Platform 8
Now it’s seventeen years later and my twenty-first novel is just out, With Love at Christmas
, but I’m still as big a fan of women’s fiction as I was then and there’s no job I’d rather do.Carole's latest novel, 'With Love At Christmas' is available now. For more news from Carole visit www.carolematthews.com, or follow her on Twitter @carolematthews.
Lucie Smoker's first novel 'Distortion' is out next month.Congratulations on your debut novel! It sounds very exciting; tell us a little about it! Distortion
is a noir mystery told from the point of view of the “bombshell,” except she isn't stupid, evil or blonde. An artist, Adele Proust, paints a crime scene in reverse perspective and turns a murder investigation backwards—onto her friends. To clear them, she introduces undercover feds into her art-punk community. She betrays its secrets. Along the way, she figures out that it isn't her art that defines her, or even herself. Adele Proust is truly defined by her reflection on the people around her—the way she treats the people she loves. What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
I've always been a huge reader and wrote in my teens/early twenties. While I never saw writing as a career option, I dreamed of becoming an author and wrote fiction mostly secretly. My poetry and non-fiction were published at school and in tiny little newspapers. When I started my volunteer work and business career, I fell out of the creative habit, just kept a diary. Then I had kids and no time. As my children grew older, I looked into my wide-open future and decided to go after my dream career: to be a novelist. Describe your typical writing day.
I do write every day. Because I still teach in the daytime, my schedule varies, but typically I'm up at 5am. I like to work out first at the gym, sort of shake up my brain. Afterward, I sit down at the computer for a good hour or so. My goal is to write 500 words per day. Sometimes if I feel blocked, I take a paper notebook outside to write. For some reason I find the blank computer screen intimidating, but the blank paper page inviting. I often add in a second writing session late at night. With my husband and children asleep, I crank up the volume on my headphones and allow myself to fall into the rhythm of a scene. What projects are you working on now?
I'm currently revising a short story for Buzz Books called “Retribution.” A prequel to Distortion,
it focuses on the time period when Adele first fell in love with the activist Jack Thomas. My morning sessions are focused on the sequel to Distortion,
my Charlie Parker plumber mystery, and travel articles. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes, two things: 1) Write every day. To do that, you have to allow yourself to believe that you have a unique insight into the human condition. This messed up world needs to hear it. You cannot share your wisdom or become an author if you don't write. 2) Learn about the industry and put together the tools you need to present your work to agents and publishers in its best light. Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
(First, I just have to say that I love that “ou” in favourite. When I came home from study abroad in London, my family and friends often caught me “misspelling” words in British fashion.)
Do I have to pick one book? As a small girl, my favourite book was The Long Winter
, a sort of darkish sequel to The Little House on the Prairie
. By sixth grade (at about age 12 in the U.S.), I took home The Count of Monte Cristo
because it was the thickest book in the school library. That was my fave for many years. As a teen I fell in love with Doyle's “Sherlock Holmes” mysteries and Kurt Vonnegut's insane Slapstick
. More recently, I have to say I love Elizabeth George's What Came Before He Shot Her.
If I must sum up a lifetime love of books in one novel, it would have to be Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone--
and yes, I read the British edition. I picked it up in a used bookshop to read aloud with my son, completely unaware that it had a different title in the U.S. From the cat reading the map through our first encounter with Voldemort. I felt a perfect escape into the magic that IS reading. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
Laura Ingalls Wilder.Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Most definitely Miss Marple. She embodies my belief that every one of us has the wit and forbearance to rout out the bad guys. Lucie can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/LucieSmokerAuthor and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/luciesmoker
Jane Heller has been writing chick lit for nearly twenty years and all of her novels are now available as ebooks. To celebrate we invited her round for a chat!What started you writing and is it something you always wanted to do?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer – at all. I wanted to be a comedienne like Lucille Ball, but my only “acting” was doing impressions of my teachers, our family doctor, the mailman, etc. for my family at the dinner table. I also wanted to be a sports broadcaster, because I’m a baseball fan, but women weren’t hired to do sports back then. After college, I got a job at a publishing house in NYC and for the next 10 years I promoted authors from Stephen King to Judy Blume. Even then, I never thought of being a writer because I saw up close how tough a job it was. But one day I got an idea for a funny story. It was as simple as that. I started writing at night, without telling anybody what I was up to – a paragraph, then a chapter, then several chapters. By the time I had written 200 pages, I said, “Hello, you’re writing a novel.” Since I’d worked in publishing for so long, I knew I needed an agent. I found one and she got me a three-book contract for that unfinished novel, which became CHA CHA CHA (newly retitled CLEAN SWEEP for its ebook edition) and two more, THE CLUB and INFERNAL AFFAIRS. I ended up writing 13 novels in 13 years, and never expected to. Describe your typical writing day.
I get up in the morning, eat breakfast and get to work. I have an office in my house, so my “commute” is about 10 seconds. I take a break for lunch, and then I write again until about 3 when I try to move my body – either do yoga or go for a walk. If I’m nearing the end of a book, I become a little manic about getting to the finish line, so in that case I’ll work at night too. And let’s face it – being a writer is a 24/7 proposition. Your brain never shuts off. I can be sitting in front of the TV with my husband, ostensibly watching whatever’s on, but I’ll also be turning over the day’s plots and characters and lines of dialogue in my head. What projects are you working on now?
I’m in the promotion phase of my new nonfiction book that’s coming out on November 7th. It’s called YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health and Good Spirits. It’s a combination of my personal, candid, often irreverent essays about being married to a man with a chronic illness, interviews with other caregivers (some caring for an elderly parent, some caring for a sick spouse or child), and advice from experts. With over 65 million caregivers in the U.S. alone, I think the topic is timely and important and people need a book that’s entertaining as well as helpful. Once that book is out, I’ll go back to the novel I started over the summer and try to finish it. It’s another comedy with both romance and suspense. What’s your favourite of your own novels?
I’ve written thirteen. Eleven of them have just come out as ebooks for the first time. The other two were already released in ebook editions. When I was asked that question in the past, I said that THE SECRET INGREDIENT was my favourite of my novels, because the story and the characters and the twists came so easily to me. It’s about a wife who’s disgruntled that her husband has become less attentive to her, so she goes to an “herb guru,” buys an herbal potion meant to “enhance” her hubby and secretly dumps it into his orange juice – only to have him turn into a man she can’t stand. The novel was optioned for a film, as eight of my other novels were, and I was hired to write the screenplay. It was a fun, if frustrating, experience, since the movie didn’t get made. That said, after re-reading all the novels to prepare them for their ebook conversions, I decided that I really do like them equally. There’s something about each one that makes me say, “You know what? That was pretty funny.” Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My first advice is, of course, to just sit down and write. Stop thinking about how you’re going to do it. Stop talking about how you’re going to do it. Stop trying to plan a time for when you’re going to do it. Just write, even if it means one sentence at a time. That’s how I did it – in small portions. If you project too far into the future you can become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. So just keep your head down and write – something, anything – and see where it leads.
My second piece of advice is to read a lot. Read everything by authors you enjoy. Learn how fiction flows, has a structure. Reading books by others is a great education for a writer.
And third, find your own voice. Are you funny? Ironic? Serious? Do you like to tell stories in the first or third person? Are you someone with an ear for dialogue or do you prefer the narrative style? Other than your own, what’s your favourite work of fiction?
That’s a tough one. I’ll always love Susan Isaacs’s novel COMPROMISING POSITIONS because it was the first novel I read that combined elements of romance, mystery and contemporary pop culture. I loved Isaacs’s SHINING THROUGH too. And Nora Ephron’s HEARTBURN will always be a touchstone for me, because it proved that funny women really do succeed. Which author had the greatest influence on you as a child?
It’s shocking, I know, but I was more interested in movies and television as a child than I was in books. Maybe it was because I was left to my own devices a lot growing up – i.e. neither of my parents stood over me and told me to read books. Finally, and most importantly, you’ve lost your wallet, who do you enlist to help you find it, Poirot or Miss Marple?
Miss Marple, for sure. In my books it’s always the woman who solves the mystery. Miss Marple would not only find my wallet but also spin a great tale doing it.For more information about Jane visit her website at: http://www.janeheller.com/
So, there I was just poddling along when I saw this cravat… For years I’ve been an advertising copywriter – writing the words for newspaper, radio and TV ads, posters and leaflets – but I’d never written anything more creative. What changed that was the actor Richard Armitage. He didn’t actually sit me down and make me write something, but after seeing him in a cravat in the BBC’s adaptation of Mrs Gaskell’s ‘North and South’ I googled him (as you do), and that led me to a website. There, alongside the chat about Richard, was something called fan fiction. Fan fiction, for those who have never heard of it (and I certainly hadn’t and might have thought ‘anorak’ if I had) takes existing characters from a book, film, TV show or play and uses them as a basis for a new story that can go in any direction. My understanding is that there is never any intention to publish the work or make money from it - it’s purely for the entertainment of other fans, hence the name. That was it… As I read these fan fictions, something clicked over in my brain and I had the urge to write my own. Off I went and what came out was a romance featuring Armitage’s take on Guy of Gisborne. As I wrote, I found my style – humour, intense emotion and plenty of plot twists. I picked up a lot of readers and lovely feedback and real life began to seem like an irritation – something to be got through before I could get back to the writing. When someone suggested I try a contemporary romance, I thought ‘why not?’ Particularly as six other members of the site had gone on to write their own original works of fiction and be published. The result was the book that started off being called ‘Mr Wolfe and the Singing Knickers’ and ended up as ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’. This time it was all my own story, albeit with an affectionate nod towards John Thornton (North and South), Guy of Gisborne and Armitage himself in Jack Wolfe. The route to publication How did I find an agent? From ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’. I picked out the smaller, more informal organisations who represented romance writers. One large glass of red wine later, I emailed out the first three chapters and synopsis and was fairly stunned, within the same week, to be asked to send the full book to Broo Doherty of Wade Doherty. Within another few days, Broo offered to be my agent and I tried to wait at least a millisecond before screaming ‘Yesssssss.’ Then, after working with Broo to get the book into the best possible shape to send out to suitable publishers, I had to learn patience. Twelve months rolled by along with at least eleven rejections – and I’d be lying if I said that I never had days when I doubted myself and my writing. Looking back though, and listening to other people’s stories, I realise I had an easy time of it. Finally, in November 2009, Quercus offered me a two book deal. I got the news while I was stirring some pasta sauce and I remember leaping around the kitchen with my daughters whooping and hollering. Inside I still am.Hazel Osmond is the author of 'Who's Afraid of Mr Wolfe' (http://bookwormink.co.uk/2/post/2012/03/review-whos-afraid-of-mr-wolfe-by-hazel-osmond.html) and 'The First Time I Saw Your Face', both published by Quercus Books.