I was very kindly tagged by V.G. Lee and Sandra Moran for the Writing Process Blog Tour. Authors answer four standard questions about their work in progress and their writing process in general, and then they nominate two more authors to answer the questions the following week.
V.G. Lee has long been one of my favourite authors. Her Diary of A Provincial Lesbian from 2006 was a very refreshing comic and poignant story of an ordinary British someone at a time when there was very little like it (I would still like more). It is a much treasured book. Her last novel, Always You Edina, shows what an accomplished writer she is; it’s a beautifully observed and written novel. Please check out her work and her answers to the blog tour. Sandra Moran is a very interesting author. Her debut, Letters Never Sent, is one of the highest rated lesbian novels on Amazon and won The Rainbow Award for historical fiction. Not one to write to a formula, not even her own, she followed this up with a story of an advertising exec commissioned by God to write and market a supplement for the Bible. Have a look here to see what she’s working on now.
Now, on to the questions.
What am I working on?
When V.G. nominated me I was checking the last version of my romcom, That Certain Something, which was published last Monday. It is still my current love so I will be talking about that.
It’s quite a change from my other novels, Pennance and After Mrs Hamilton, which have been dark, twisting intrigue romances with a few surprises and uncompromising differences.
It was sparked by a conversation on the VLR discussion group where I was larking about answering questions for one of their spot-on weekends. Someone found my answers entertaining and fun and asked if my novels were the same. I had to respond that actually they were rather angst-ridden and miserable, so it had me wondering why on earth wasn’t I writing something humorous?
I had a trial run with a short story in the summer (The Dildo in the Kitchen Drawer) which I found enormous fun. And that set me up for writing a full-blown romcom.
How does my work differ to others of its genre?
I’m a sucker for British romcom films, Richard Curtis’ in particular. I love the settings, the quirky and very British characters and the wonderful lines and romances. So that is another source of inspiration for this novel: a very British romp and romance, but with an awful lot more lesbians in.
The two main characters appear poles apart. Young, fiesty Pia Benitez-Smith is a photographer and one of those amazing people who sees the essence of what is good in others, life, everything. She definitely follows her heart. She is drawn to the more reserved and thoughtful Cate, who is beautiful and refined, but who also has a naughty streak and a wry sense of humour. The two disagree about the importance of love and money and when Cate claims that her perfect night could only be expensive, Pia can’t resist the challenge and sets out to prove otherwise.
She does so with the aid of a beguiling summer night in London. This novel has a massive sense of place. I’ve loved living through the scenes in some of my favourite hidden parts of London and also researching the more exclusive settings (I would love a tour of a penthouse in the Shard).
Then there are a host of esoteric and very British characters (some forceful older women appear) and a great deal of the humour comes in their scenes. Actually, I found getting the balance of humour and romance right in this novel very interesting. Although I relished the comic scenes, they needed to be held back at times to allow the full ebb and flow of the love story.
I think that’s what has possibly become a bit of a trademark for me: the emotional intensity of my novels. People have found my previous novels harrowing at times, whereas this one really hits those highs, and tickles your funny bone too.
I think all of those aspects above give this novel a lot of flavour.
Why do I write what I do?
For that buzz from the emotional rollercoaster! Doesn’t matter if it’s the suspense of Pennance, the erotic mystery of After Mrs Hamilton or the romantic capers in That Certain Something, daydreaming of the scenes and experiencing the turmoil and ecstasy of the characters is why I write.
How does my writing process work?
A lot of that daydreaming at first. Playing with the glimmerings of a plot, characters and themes. I start jotting down bits of dialogue that I keep hearing in my head and ideas for scenes in a new Moleskin notepad for each book (I love looking back at these and finding scenes and characters that I never used and realising how different the book was when I first conceived it).
At some point I decide to write down an outline. For That Certain Something, I lived through the whole story several times from Pia’s point of view and then from Cate’s. Even though it’s predominantly from Pia’s perspective, I had to make sure that Cate’s emotional arc was right. I made other passes through to look at setting and the comic balance and when I was finally ready with all those notes, as usual, I put them aside and started writing the first draft as quickly as possible.
My main beta-readers then pull that first draft apart and I set about putting it back together again. More refined later drafts go to different beta-readers. Then after a good bit of spit and polish, reading aloud and tweaks, it goes off for a very patient last read from the first beta-readers and for copyediting and formatting.
Then I have a bloody good rest.
I’ve nominated two wonderful authors to answer these questions:
Cari Hunter is a phenomenal writer of thrillers and adventure romances. Hers are gutsy stories that will leave you tense with fear for her much-abused heroines, written in perfectly crafted prose (Tumbledown, the sequel to Goldie finalist Desolation Point, being my personal favourite so far.) I’m very interested to hear what she’s been up to.
Chris Paynter is the author of the Playing for First series and Survived by her Longtime Companion – Goldie award winner, Lambda finalist and one of my favourite romances. I’d love to know who she was channelling for Eleanor and Daphne. Chris has a wonderful feel for romance and definitely knows how to deliver those gotcha moments – whether tender, heartbreaking or uplifting. She is an author and editor for Blue Feather books and is in the throws of giving birth to a new novel at this very moment – I hope she doesn’t mind stopping between breaths to answer the questions.