Yesterday I was chatting in the LoveRomancesCafe Yahoo! group. I took part in an ‘author interview’. Here are the questions asked and my answers.
Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
I think that deep down I’ve always been a writer. It’s in my soul. I’m a great reader and a lover of good storytelling. When I was in both primary and secondary school I always got my best marks in English for what they called “creative writing”and by the time I was sixteen I’d set out to write a novel. I never finished it – although the story is still locked in my head and I might give it a bash one day. It wasn’t until I’d finished university and got my home and work life settled that I took up writing as a serious hobby. I set about learning my craft and viola… A few years later I’m a published author selling books worldwide.
Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer?
Biggest influence? I don’t know. It’s odd, but what I write isn’t anything like the stuff I mostly read.
I sort of ‘fell’ into writing erotic romance. I discovered the huge number of ‘sex stories’ on the internet when I was a young man and used them for the sort of ‘entertainment’ you’d expect from a young man – if you take my meaning. Naturally, as someone with a writer’s soul, I figured I could do as well if not better and gave it a shot. But the ‘pure’ sex stories that I wrote felt hollow to me. The plots and the characters lacked depth. I mean, how much depth can you get out of five thousand words describing how rod A fits into slot B?
So the next logical step was to explore what happened to the characters to put them in the position to be thinking about inserting rods into slots – to explore their relationships. And stories about relationships are all that romance stories really are. And because I enjoyed the sex part, it got left in.
So, to that end, I guess my biggest influence would be The Fishtank – which is where I learnt about plot structure and character development and is where I learnt all the technicalities of writing. The Fishtank is the reason my editor referred to “Kissed by a Rose” as a ‘wonderful piece of craft”.
Your work is very popular with readers and reviewers; how does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
I found out about the latest review of “Kissed by a Rose”, by the San Diego Examiner, just this morning. And I tell you, I’m walking around the office today with such a goofy smile on my face that everyone thinks I got laid this morning. Seriously, I’m not used to the sort of praise that has been heaped on this book and, honestly, I think I like it. It gives me a warm fuzzy glow inside – like the first time you realize you’re in love.
What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
Character and conflict. You can’t have a great story if everything works out just perfectly all the way through. You need some element of conflict in there. Take “Kissed by a Rose” as an example. The conflict is internal to the central relationship between Adam and Chloe because, as one reader put it to me, “you toy with the reader's feelings about Chloe, is she using him, or is she not? It's all very subtle and one is never completely sure.” But there is also external conflict in the barriers put up to the relationship by friends – well, one of Adam’s friends – and by an intrusive media.
So, yes, you need conflict. I’m working on a piece right now where the conflict is even more obvious and even bigger. But conflict is nothing if you don’t care about the characters. One reader told me that “Adam is a brilliant character, I am half in love with him.” And because of that she cares about him and what happens to his relationship with Chloe. If he was just a… blah… character, then you wouldn’t care and the story wouldn’t work.
Conflict. Character. Not in any particular order – you need both in equal measure.
Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
This is going to sound strange, but the characters tend to develop themselves. They are the ones that tell me what they want to say – I just write it down and try not to make it sound terrible when I do. I can’t say that I’ve ever consciously tried to ‘force’ a character to be a particular way. It just sort of happens. That’s a really lame answer isn’t it? Sorry.
I do often sit and try and work out a character’s history – but only once I’ve been writing that character for a while and I know who they are. Once I know who they are I have to work out why they are they way they are and that comes from knowing their history. That history then feeds back into the story going forwards and in subsequent drafts.
Most challenging? Chloe from “Kissed by a Rose”. Because the story was told from Adam’s point of view, I needed the reader to see Chloe certain ways at certain times in the book – but her ‘character’ had to remain the same. I needed the reader to be unsure about her until the very end. I think I pulled it off. At least, I’m told I have.
Please tell us about the projects you are currently working on; what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
I don’t know how long it will be before it’s finished, but my current WIP is laughing titled “Amy and Will.” Okay, I know, but it’s a work in progress and so is the title. I’ll come up with something better. I will, I promise. I quite like “Worth the Risk” but we’ll have to see how it goes.
The story has two parts. The first part is the tale of how Will and Amy get together as kids (well, 18 year olds). Childhood sweethearts – that sort of thing. They promise to be together forever even though they are both going to be studying at different universities.
In the second part of the book, we find that time and distance was too much for them. We join Will twenty years later when he has a successful career, a failed marriage and a daughter he only sees at weekends. He gets invited to a school reunion where he meets up with Amy again. And we eventually find out that Amy’s had a tough twenty years without Will. Can he be her shining knight? Or is he the harbinger of even more suffering for poor Amy? We’ll when I’ve finished writing the book, I might even find out myself.
“Kissed by a Rose” took me two years from start to publication. This new piece has been going for six months and ‘seems’ to be coming along a bit quicker. But I’m not setting any deadlines on myself. I’ll keep you posted.
Where can readers find out what's new and how can they contact you?
You want the list? Oh, you do. Okay.
Do you have a strict writing schedule? How do you balance your personal and writing time?
Schedule? No. I’m not that organised. If I was, “Kissed by a Rose” might not have taken 2 years to write. I just have to grab moments when I can – most often late at night when the little one is in bed. Writing is a hobby and it must come third to the family and the job. It’s just the way it has to be.
Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
My characters drive the plot but the events of the plot influence my characters. You can’t separate the two. Characters react to events in the plot dependant on who they are, but who they are is affected by the events in the plot.