Welcome to the next instalment of our ‘About Us’ series. This week it’s me squinting under the interrogatory Hot Seat light. Deep breath and here we go…
How and why did you get involved with The Hot Pink Typewriter?
I received an invitation from Natalie Charles. She and Olivia had come up with the idea of doing a group blog and they wanted to represent a range of romance writers and sub-genres. I got to know Natalie after New Voices closed and we stayed in touch. Becoming part of a group blog was the perfect opportunity for me to make a commitment to ensure I kept myself ‘out there’. It’s also a great forum to promote other writers, share writing experiences and stay connected with the wider romance community.
What sub-genre of romance do you write and why?
I write under the broad sub-genre of paranormal romance. The current series of books I’ve written (the Blackthorn series) are dark and intense urban vampire thrillers. I love the creativity the paranormal genre allows. You make your own rules and your own possibilities. I’ve always been a huge fan of paranormal/sci-fi/horror so it was inevitable I’d write for the genre.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What prompted this interest?
Absolutely. I’ve always had a need to write. It was never an active decision. I think if you’re instinctively a writer, you automatically find yourself spending more of your free time on that than anything else. I resolved I wanted to be a professional author when I was 11 or 12 years old and
subsequently requested a typewriter for my 13th birthday. I was 19 when I started thumbing through The Writers’ Handbook. I experimented for several years with everything from scriptwriting to children’s stories to adult horror. I wrote my first paranormal romance when I was 17 because I couldn’t find those stories on shelves back then. I guess I always knew the direction I was going to take, even if it didn’t widely exist at the time.
Did contests play a role in your writing journey? If so, in what ways did you find them beneficial? And what if any were the drawbacks?
Apart from a couple of generic short story competitions a few years ago, New Voices is the only writing competition I’ve entered. I was fortunate to get into the Top 4 in 2010 and then repeat it in 2011.
I entered the first time to test if I had what it took to write romance. I’d been working on developing ideas for my Blackthorn series for several years in between writing outside of the romance genre. I was seriously worried my writing would be too dark and, as the competition editors described it, “edgy and quirky” to appeal to enough people to get the votes I needed in a competition like New Voices, but I was hoping I’d at least get some feedback. I was blown away by the response I got – not only the first time around but also to repeat it the second time. Doing well confirmed there was a place for me in the romance genre.
The other benefit was gaining the confidence to talk to other writers. Until then, I’d always felt really isolated because I didn’t belong to a writing group or forum or have critique partners etc. I was overwhelmed by how supportive the romance community is. I can’t imagine being without my writing friends now.
What point are you currently at in your writing journey?
With my voice not right for Nocturne, who I’d targeted through New Voices, I polished Blood Roses and Beguiling The Enemy (though it now has a new title!) and started subbing elsewhere. While waiting for responses from the two publishers I’d subbed to, I was contacted by another publisher who requested to see both manuscripts (which shows how important it is to get yourself out there and make yourself contactable). I was subsequently offered a three-book deal. There’s been a huge amount happening in the background but, all being well, I’m due to sign any day now. I’m incredibly excited and thrilled that this fantastic publisher not only wants my stories, but also wants to develop me as an author.
Describe what makes a perfect hero for you. And what makes a perfect heroine?
I like heroes in dire need of redemption. I like them to have their goodness buried deep under a mass of darkness that the heroine has to work her way through. I like it when doing the right thing doesn’t come easy, especially when it involves self-sacrifice that will make them vulnerable. I like a hero who has travelled a hard road and survived. Love doesn’t come easy to them so it makes it all the more intense when it happens. When my heroes fall in love, they fall deep.
I like my heroine’s traits to complement and also conflict with those of the hero. I like her to be able to hold her own despite her vulnerability. I like her to know her own mind. She’s empathetic, intelligent and resilient. She has to be the latter because I have a habit of putting my heroines in the middle of their worst nightmare and they have to be able to come out fighting!
I enjoy creating a set-up of forbidden love, so I know I’ve got the perfect match if, against the odds, my hero and heroine develop a respect for each other. The physical attraction should be natural and unavoidable, but I think love should be earned and the best thing about writing romance is taking the hero and heroine on that journey.
What does HEA mean to you?
HEA means being tried and tested, to have struggled and found every reason not to be together and have emerged from that deeply in love. From then on, whatever happens along the way, that path has been forged and it’ll always be there for the hero and heroine to find their way back to it if they ever get tested again.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
All over the place. I’m a human sponge. Quite often though I just sit down with a pencil and paper and have a line of thought that starts with: How can I make this really, really bad for my hero and heroine…
Name your five favourite movies/books, or those that have influenced you the most and how.
Only five? Heck…
- The Lost Boys – This is still my favourite vampire film ever (closely followed by Daybreakers). When those urban vampires hit my screen, I was hooked. It got me seeing the potential of the genre in a whole new way.
- The Alien Quadrilogy – Ellen Ripley is the ultimate omega female for me (I’m not sure that’s a real term). What I love about her is that she doesn’t start as the heroine but grows and becomes it – albeit involuntarily. And the whole time she never loses sight of who she is. She’s strong, determined and never loses her compassion. She’s out to survive against all the odds.
- Wuthering Heights – Of all the classics, this is my favourite. Emily Bronte is right up there with Mary Shelley for me. I loved the fact Heathcliff wasn’t a traditional hero, almost an anti-hero, but how Emily justified the heroine falling for him to the point where the reader is rooting for their relationship is just incredible. His love for Catherine was intense, albeit destructive, and I adored their passion.
- Romancing The Stone – It’s my guilty pleasure. It’s just a great mix of adventure, comedy and romance.
- Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life - If you’ve never read it, you must. It’s a fantastically candid and funny view of writing life. I often flick when I feel down or frustrated. I love Snoopy anyway and always have. A cuddly Snoopy sits on my desk typing ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’ Says it all, I guess.
Tell us about your greatest writing challenges and how you work through them.
I really wish I didn’t lack so much confidence. I end up irritating myself. But I guess that comes from years of never asking anyone to read what I’ve written and instead filling my head with perfectionist ideals. My confidence nearly stopped me entering New Voices on both occasions. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and deal with the fall-out – by that I mean rejection. You have to thrive on what you do and love your stories because sometimes that’s the only reward you get. I also think it’s important to measure your success as a writer by how many times you get up, not how many times you fall.
People’s perceptions of me through my writing worried me for a very long time and really hindered my creativity. I didn’t work through that challenge on my own though. One of the last things my dad said to me before he passed away was to be who I want to be, not who everyone else wants me to be. Seeing how short and fragile life can be can be a heck of a wake-up call to stop trying to please everyone and accept who you are.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Apart from the one I’ve already mentioned (oops), it’s to write what you want to read. Be passionate about your story and write it the way only you can.
What are your hopes and aspirations for your writing career?
To be given the freedom to develop as an author by writing the books I want to write. I’d like to maintain my supporters as well as keeping the next generation of paranormal romance fans interested in the genre. In essence, I’d like to keep writing publishable paranormal romance for many years to come and encourage more British paranormal romance writers to get themselves out there.