Well this week it’s a complete departure from the norm as I’m taking part in the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour. My thanks to the lovely Gilli Allan for inviting me. I will be trying to answer the following 4 questions: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work?
Sadly as I was unable to find other writers to take up the torch as far as I am concerned my input to the blog tour ends here. However, I am sure if you take a look at Gilli’s other two nominees, http://sandranachlinger.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenny-Twist-Author/291166404240446 you will find the journey continues. It appears I live in a fairly tight circle of colleagues who were either already ‘bagged’ by someone else or were unfortunately too busy to join in. However, I do hope you enjoy my offering and please do take a look at Sandra and Jenny’s blogs as I’m sure you will find them most entertaining.
What am I working on?
Currently I’m around 70,000 words into my sixth book. This time I’m working with new characters as my Little Court series ended with The Other Side of Morning, due to be published shortly. It was a little daunting to begin all over again with a blank canvas but it’s surprising how once an idea strikes it can be developed into something quite exciting.
The title for the new book has been finalised – Summer Moved On – and I have commissioned the cover although it’s under wraps at the moment. I find it provides me with a great incentive to get on with the writing – if I have the cover then the book has to be written, it’s as simple as that. What’s it about? Well it’s a love story in two parts. In the first part which takes place in 2007 my two main characters meet and fall in love, even though everything about who they are and where they come from is loaded against their relationship. However, the events of one September evening bring about a very painful ending to that love affair, leaving both of them feeling hurt and betrayed. They go their separate ways, one to university and the other on a journey to discover their true identity. Six years later fate brings them back together again. They are now very different people whose changes in fortune mean they might have a chance together. Unfortunately the individual who was instrumental in ending their relationship is also back and determined to stop that happening.
So far, apart from a becalmed moment over the Christmas period – probably due to too much alcohol – this whole book, I am pleased to say, is progressing quite nicely.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Firstly what am I – a saga writer or a romantic novelist? Well I tend to straddle both genres. However the tag ‘saga’ always brings to mind authors like Catherine Cookson and Barbara Taylor Bradford and my books are nothing like theirs. Again the word ‘romance’ gives us huge food for thought – Mills and Boon, Chick lit, Hen lit, Rom Com, Contemporary. Well I guess if anything I’ve been gradually moving in the contemporary direction, certainly if reviews of Between Today and Yesterday are anything to go by.
Now how does my work differ? Well someone once said my Little Court books were like soaps and was quick to explain she didn’t mean my work resembled that of Coronation Street or East Enders, no it was all about the structure of my stories which created the need for big casts – and yes there are rather a lot of people who have prominent parts in the five novels. In fact in the Behind Blue Eyes trilogy which started the series I actually put a cast list in the front of each of the three books to help the reader. However, the Little Court series which did need that huge cast of characters and identified me as someone who had wandered away from the traditional romance/saga format, has now come to an end. So what to do next? A similar series with a new family? It would have been safe to do that wouldn’t it? Okay different family and setting but a familiar template with no real surprises. But writing for me is all about developing and growing and taking chances. I’m not saying more of the same isn’t good if that is what you are truly happy with, but I wanted to move on into something completely different. Since Between Today and Yesterday there had been a definite move towards more contemporary romance so it seemed natural to complete the journey and produce a stand alone twenty first century story with the focus very much on the two central characters. And after that? Well who knows, that’s the exciting part of being a writer, the unexpected. All I do know is that I will never stray from romantic fiction, it’s what I do best. The stories may vary, but it will always be about love.
Why do I write what I do?
When I came to start writing commercially I guess I wanted to create something that was unique and not like other novels I had read. I wanted to write romance, that was a definite but my kind of romance with my ‘must have’ – a strong female lead. It’s the kind of genre I’m most comfortable with. Recently I was chatting to a friend who happened to have her mother with her. ‘Why don’t you write a good thriller? I like thrillers.’ Her mother said. Yes, well it would be great to do that, but for me writing is not only a craft, it’s an emotive thing. You have to gravitate towards what inspires you most and for me romance does just that.
I also have to thank those long gone American soaps Dallas and Dynasty for giving me one very important element to my writing. Yes, okay, they were pretty superficial but they had the brilliantly ‘bad’ characters – J R Ewing and Alexis Carrington. Every week you could guarantee these two were involved in some devious plan to upset the tranquillity of others’ lives. Step forward Melissa Carpenter, Marcie Maguire and in my soon to be published The Other Side of Morning Thérèse D’Alesandro and Kayte O’Farrell -yes a double dose in the new book! For me these women – and they always have to be women as bad guys simply don’t work for me – are an essential member of the cast; the love-to-hate characters hell bent on disruption or destruction. I reel them out, let them have their moment in the sun and then haul them back in because – ah I forgot to mention that in my books the good guys always win.
How does my writing process work?
I have an office with a desk, a PC (thank heavens for Sticky Notes the electronic version of Post Its), a card index where I have created details of both my current cast and their environment – and of course music. I have extensive playlists which I use regularly as music is an absolute must have when I write. It’s works on two levels, either creating a place in my mind or inspiring the interaction of characters in a particular scene. On rare occasions I do have days when silence is preferable, but this very much depends on the scene I’m writing.
Yes I do write every day, sometimes the ‘force’ is with me and I can have an amazingly successful run, other days not so good so if the inspiration dries up I simply go back to revision work. Although I do not have a writing plan as such, I do keep a card index of descriptions of locations and characters for each book I write which is a handy reference.
With every single book I’ve started with a beginning and an end and a vague idea of what happens on the journey from one to the other. However, my initial thoughts and scribbled notes before I start are very often merely the guiding beacons along the way. None of my published novels have ended up the way they first came into my head. I think for me it’s a good way to write. Personally, tying myself in to a writing plan from start to finish is not for me. There is always a danger that some scenes work well in my head but when typed up for whatever reason do not. Of course we writers are all different and we use our own individual sat navs to get us from the beginning to the end of our novel. However for me personally it’s an open journey with the horizon ahead and a flexible approach to what comes next.