As the new Writer in Residence at the SA Writers Centre, I recently did a fun Q & A for their blog and newsletter. I thought I'd share it with you here.
What attracted you to the romance genre?
What’s not to love about romance? To be honest I didn’t start out writing in this genre. I wrote a YA novel and then I was working on a conspiracy type thriller before I jumped ship and set my sights on Romance. The catalyst to that shift was attending a Masterclass with the amazingly talented Fiona McIntosh who, when I wrote a funny story scene in class,told me quite sternly that I ‘NEEDED’ to be writing Women’s Fiction. I took her advice and have never looked back.
You and the protagonist, Viv, of your first novel, Confetti Confidential: They Do, I Don’t, both work as marriage celebrants. Did the shared vocational experience make it easier for you to construct Viv, or more challenging? If so, in what ways?
It definitely made it much easier to construct Viv. I’ve spent the last nine years as a celebrant, officiating weddings and working with couples and in that time I’ve seen the extremes of life, love and stress! Having that experience made it a fantastic opportunity to create a character who could use all of that knowledge in some way to craft a funny, but ultimately relationship based story. I love my work and I love to tell a story, so they went together perfectly.
Your first novel is a contemporary romance and your current project is more of a historical romance: how challenging is the shift between the two? Are you approaching this project the same way you approached your other works, or does it require an entirely different headspace?
Wow, I love this question because it made me sit back in my chair and really give it some thought. This is a completely different head space for me in the approach to writing this story. Research?? Oh my goodness, what is that? Confetti Confidential was about writing from what I know, see, hear, touch in my daily life and this new project requires me to somehow do that authentically in a time I didn’t live. I am so eternally grateful to have been lucky enough to have this position at the Writers Centre to have the resources at hand and space to get stuck into it. I feel that it’s going to be a great challenge, but I love a good challenge. Why do something that’s easy, right? I intend to approach this book with a lot of research, lots of chocolate and probably some wine.
What inspired you to move into historical romance? Do you think historical romance novels offer something that contemporary romances lack, or do you find all romance, at heart, the same?
The inspiration for this story came from real life. I didn’t intend to make this shift as I’ve really been enjoying writing the Confetti Confidential series, but when the opportunity presented I almost felt that it was meant for me. My grandfather is 98 years old and loved to tell stories of his life. When he moved into a nursing home recently my Mum came across a box of letters, mostly from the 1940s, as well as Army records, photographs and many more beautifully preserved items. The voices in the letters and the faces in the pictures stirred an excitement in me that I hadn’t felt before. I wanted to lock myself in an office and just read all of the words and feel the paper. The voices in the letters were strong and already conjuring images and a story in my head. My grandmother’s story was just as wonderful and the boxes provided stories and letters from the convent she was brought up in in Scotland as well as her life and loves.
I think that at its very core, romance is the same, but the point in time certainly offers something different. I love contemporary romance that lets me recognise myself in the scene and the characters, but I also adore being able to read about a time I didn’t live because it offers a perfect escape to a different existence and there’s something magical about that..
Do you have any advice for budding romance writers? Any tips given to you that you found useful when you started down the path of writing your novels?
The best advice I had was to start and keep writing until you’re finished. Don’t re-read, don’t go back, even if you decide to make a change, keep writing as if you already made it and then fix it on your first edit. Prior to this advice I always got caught up going back over work and never finished anything! Also don’t overthink it. Persist and finish. Writing ‘The End’, feels amazing.
Hasliving in South Australia influenced any of your work?
Living in South Australia has definitely influenced my work. Both Confetti Confidential; They Do, I don’t and Annabel’s Wedding are both set in SA. Annabel’s actual wedding in book 2 takes place in our beautiful Botanical Gardens on a perfect May day.
Finally, can you recommend any other Australian romance writers, or novels?
Where do I begin? Of course, the most talented Fiona McIntosh who I would unreservedly say has been my mentor and has also published so many acclaimed romance novels. Then there are a small group of really talented new authors whose work I love. Samantha Napier’s, ‘Dating the Alphabet’ was a great, funny read and Dianne Maguire’s ‘What Matters Most’ had me in tears. I recently read Tess Woods’ ‘Love at First Flight’ which explored some difficult topics, but was marvellous and I love Carla Caruso’s stories – all of them! There’s a lot of talent in Australia.