I started writing my first novel when I was fourteen—typing it on an old manual typewriter and taking it into school for my friends to read (usually under the desk during Math lessons—I used to get into awful trouble!)
I’ve been writing ever since. I simply can’t stop!
Where do you get your story ideas?
Everywhere! From junk mail, which inspired Molly’s Millions, to films I watch and places I visit. Many of my ideas come from my own obsessions like my Jane Austen Addicts series, and my love of the English countryside and historic houses which always seem to feature in my books. I also love the British Museum—several of my stories have scenes set there and I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Egyptian basements by one of the curators who let me sniff mummy wrappings and hold a 2,000-year old shabti.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Never give up. You can’t fail unless you’ve given up.
Where do you usually write?
At long last, I have my own study, which looks out over fields of horses here in rural Suffolk. But I can write anywhere if I’m inspired.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
No! I believe in hard work and getting the story told. You don’t always have to write in chronological order—there is always something you can write whether it’s a scene further on in your plot or a character description. Just keep writing! Or, if you’re really stuck, go for a good long walk and then come back and get on with it.
If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?
H.E. Bates—I adore his Larkin novellas and I love the way he was never pigeonholed by publishers. He wrote serious novels, novellas, short stories, autobiography and non-fiction. I’d also like to meet Jane Austen and ask her if she ever met a Mr. Darcy. And I’d love to meet Thomas Hardy and give him a hug. I don’t think he had enough hugs!
What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
It would have to be romance—from the light-hearted novels of Sophie Kinsella to the heart-wrenching stories of Rosamunde Pilcher. Romance has everything.
What made you decide to self-publish?
My first three books were published in Germany and nowhere else. The first was made into a film in Berlin, yet no UK or US publisher was interested in the book. This was frustrating. I also had written a trilogy but my UK publisher only published the first two books. So I retained rights to many of my books and was delighted to be able to publish these myself when indie publishing took off. I’ve also been writing non-fiction and novellas which traditional publishers wouldn’t be interested in. They’ve all done very well for me as eBooks, and I love the independence of being able to write exactly what I want and oversee absolutely everything from editing to cover design.
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
Write what you love. A writer spends a lot of hours at the keyboard away from friends and family with no guarantee that a book will be published or discovered by readers. So you have to love the process and get excited by what you’re writing. I don’t believe that there are any tricks or short cuts; there is only hard work over a number of years. But I do believe that the more you write, the more you can write. Since I’ve been indie publishing and not been told to just write one book a year by agents and publishers, my output has increased so much. Last year, I published six books, and I’m planning the same for this year. I believe the more books you have out there, the easier it is for readers to find you and build a relationship with you. I also think that series writing is hot. I have two series on the go at present with a new one planned for late 2015. Books promote books and the more you have out there—the better.
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