I’ve been writing for about 30 years now, published for around 20. Actually, I’ve been writing much longer than that, but I started doing it with publishing in mind about 30 years back. It took me 8 years to get a contract, and then I wrote for Harlequin Mills & Boon for about 15 years, until the genre changed so much it was no longer my style. At length I decided to try historical mystery and my first two Lady Fan historical crimes were published by Berkley Books. Alongside my historicals, I write mainstream novels which revolve around supernatural subjects. Not paranormal as such, but past lives and ghosts feature. One such, Fly the Wild Echoes, was in the Booker competition in 2005, which was exciting. I also ghostwrite, assess and critique for other writers, and wrote lots of plays when I was teaching and directing drama in a local school. A mixed bag, but it’s all in the same game of writing!
What inspires you to write?
Words. I love words, the rhythm of words and how they work together to give a particular meaning to events. That’s why Shakespeare is so vivid and exciting. He made up words all the time, and I’m surprised when I sometimes find I’m doing the same. All novelists are natural storytellers, I think, and like others, I can weave a story out of almost anything: an object, a look in a face, a poem, a snatch of song, a ripple in a pond, something heard or seen on television. Writers’ imaginations work overtime, and mine is no exception. I will never live long enough – at least in this lifetime – to write all the stories I have thought up. There really isn’t any need to wait for inspiration. It strikes all the time.
Tell us about your writing process.
I used to be a plotter, but I found the plot kept changing as I got new ideas while I wrote. Now I have a general idea of a few scenes I want to include, and the main characters and where they seem to be going, and that’s it. I let the characters take over and tell me what they want to do. This does mean I sometimes write myself into a corner and have to go back and fix it. But mostly this system works and I surprise myself. I don’t do character outlines beyond age and name – I can’t start until the hero/heroine have names – because they usually jump fully-formed into my head and once they hit the paper they do the talking. I may not know who they are inside, but they do and they’ll tell me! I write best when I write fast, that much I’ve learned, and I can thoroughly recommend just slamming on with the story and ignoring everything that doesn’t sound right until you get to the editing stage. With experience, you end up able to write fast and well at the same time, so it’s not nearly such a headache editing your first draft.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
All the time. Sometimes we argue because I hadn’t wanted them to do that at this point in the story. But invariably they turn out to be right. Of course, the trick of this is that if you let the characters talk, you are really operating in your subconscious, where you aren’t “thinking” (such a slow process!) and just operating from your creative inner self. Stanislavsky talks about this in his acting manual, and so does Dorothea Brande about writing. Learning how to contact this part of you is all tied up with working in a distraction-free environment so you can immerse yourself into the world of the story.
What advice would you give other writers?
I always say “Write, don’t think!” Just get it down. Don’t get all tied up in story arcs and character outlines and inciting incidents and all the rest of the jargon that just gets in the way and stops your creative juices in their tracks. Kickstart yourself by any means you can (we are all masters of procrastination!) and just keep going. The less you think, the better you will write. Trust your inner writer. The old adage is so true: you can’t edit an empty page.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I was originally traditionally published, because when I started there really was no other way. Self-publishing was very expensive and vanity publishing was a no-no. It’s a long, hard route and very rewarding, but it’s no sinecure. With the onset of ebooks, we authors have so much more freedom of choice, and we don’t have to rely on publishers any more. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been published traditionally for years and many books, and that gives me an edge when it comes to self-editing. If you are new, I would still suggest you go for indie publishing if the traditional route isn’t working, but do get your work professionally edited to make sure you are putting out the best possible product.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it’s in a wonderful state of flux, with the power passing to authors. There is a downside to this in that many more books are getting published so the competition for readers is intense. But the new choices for authors are refreshing and empowering. I imagine there will be a good few years of change and experiment until a new norm sets in to provide writers, publishers and readers with a route that works better than others. But at the moment, it’s a brand new world for writers just begging to be explored.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
traditional historical romance, historical mystery, mainstream literary fiction, women’s fiction, supernatural
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print