I’m not sure how much you can ever get to know a writer through their blog, website or other social media – or indeed, how much you should want to (writers who have put me off their work, or captivated me with their online persona is a whole other blog post). But I have always enjoyed reading the Q&As that Mills & Boon and Harlequin have asked new authors to complete and I’ve also often pondered my answers to those questions in preparation for when I get published… However it’s taken me so long that Harlequin now have a completely different Q&A that they use on their SOLD blog at their So You Think You Can Write site.
Here are my answers to their old Q&A as far as I can remember them, I do hope I’m not infringing anyone’s rights in using them.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Creating complex character in perfect places – and then messing them all up as much as possible.
And being able to work from bed.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE LOCALE OR SETTING FOR YOUR NOVELS? WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT YOUR FAVOURITE ?
As a reader my first “autobuy” books were those set in Greece and I still long to set one there. The countryside always featured strongly in my manuscripts, I love describing nature, sometimes too much (does a love scene need three paragraphs on the colours in the autumn trees?) Then my enjoyment of small town American books with cowboy heroes was combined with frequent trips to the mountains and castles of Wales. It fired a desire to create stories set against breath taking mountains, hidden valleys and secret ruins with close-knit communities of men and women as rugged, resourceful and romantic as the landscape.
WHAT ARE YOUR FIVE ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BOOKS?
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- The Magus by John Fowles
- These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
- A Perfect Spy by John Le Carré, or maybe The Honourable Schoolboy
- The Morning Gift by Diana Norman
DESCRIBE THE ULTIMATE ROMANTIC MEAL.
The most romantic “meal” was with a friend in Cuba. We arrived in Havana after a troublesome internal flight, my friend was poorly, the hotel wasn’t quite as we had hoped – and then we stepped out into Havana and found a tiny restaurant serving the most basic meal of the entire holiday. We sat in an historic square by the light of a full moon, beautiful architecture and history all around us, cheap rough local wine, black beans and rice, and lobster. My friend had to ask me to tone it down as I was moaning in ecstasy after every mouthful and gesturing around me at the perfect setting, lighting and food. Basically I made Meg Ryan look restrained in the restaurant scene from When Harry Met Sally.
But the most “romantic” meal was cold roast chicken and salad sandwiches eaten inside a plastic orange bothy during a hailstorm in the Black Mountains in Wales. The sandwiches tasted amazing, as does pretty much anything when you’ve just climbed a 2,500 ft. high mountain, so did the thermos of warm coffee and the Green and Black chocolate. What made it so perfect was partly the location and the exertion, but mostly the person I was with whom I had loved on and off for years and never expected to be climbing a mountain with again. But there I was. And we’re still climbing mountains together, and occasionally building snowmen.
One day I hope to combine the two and go back to Cuba, such a romantic place, with my partner. Although as he’s allergic to shell fish I guess a different menu wold be a good idea.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ROMANTIC MOVIE?
Bride and Prejudice, or The Philadelphia Story. And Romancing The Stone. Oh and Persuasion.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ROMANTIC SONG OR COMPOSITION?
Fantasy by Earth Wind and Fire or Could It Be Magic by Barry Manilow, or even the Take That Version as it takes me back to a time when I was falling in love for the first time without even realising it.
Or Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations in a lush, over the top, tears to your eyes romantic sense.
WHAT IS THE MOST ROMANTIC GESTURE OR GIFT YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
My partner giving up his dream house so that together we could buy the countryside one I’d fallen in love with.
WHERE IS THE MOST ROMANTIC PLACE YOU’VE EVER TRAVELLED?
See the meal answer – Cuba was amazing, but my spirit soars whenever I see Welsh mountains in the distance (as long as I’m travelling towards them!) And Greece, it’s impossible not to fall in love there
WHAT IS THE SECRET OF ROMANCE
Lust, trust and respect. And keeping those alive by knowing when to give each other space and when to be there for them whilst never taking them for granted.
When my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary we asked them the secret and my mum said it was having separate interests or hobbies so that you always have something to talk about in the evening. They’ve just celebrated 56 years of marriage so something is working.
BESIDE WRITING, WHAT OTHER TALENT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE?
Anything musical, I seem to have dated many talented musicians and have no skill myself at all
WHO IS SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?
Sir David Attenborough for so many years of educating and entertaining the world.
I wrote that instinctively a couple of weeks ago, and then recently the comedian, writer, actress, songwriter and all round genius Victoria Wood died. I’m still processing the fact she was taken too young and so suddenly, grief for her and her family is combined with the selfish feeling of having been robbed of all the work she had yet to share. Her ability to make you laugh and cry, often at the same time in comic sketches, dramas and brilliant songs was peerless.
SHARE ONE OF YOUR FAVOURTIE INDULGENCES WITH US.
Just one? After years of living happily alone I do sometimes find family life overwhelming so any alone time is precious and I love every minute of it – and it does make me appreciate the family when they return, mostly… Long baths with a good book and an occasional glass of chilled wine are heaven too.
Oh, and theatre trips to London to see my best friend are indulgent and expensive but essential at least twice a year.
WHAT QUALITY DO YOU MOST ADMIRE IN A MAN?
Broad shoulders and a sexy back are hard to beat.
But more seriously – honesty, integrity and knowing you can trust him with your heart. And a similar sense of humour is essential.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO, BUT NEVER HAD THE COURAGE TO TRY?
I’d love to have the nerve and talent to sing in public. But would prefer to try hang gliding or parachuting, less scary.
IF YOU WERENT A WRITER WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
Even more frustrated than I am now.
I guess in reality I’d be what I was, a University Administrator. Ideally I’d be an archive conservationist or a dry stone waller.
WHAT QUOTE DO YOU LIVE BY? WHO SAID IT?
A day without laughter is a day wasted.
Charlie Chaplin gets the credit a lot, and occasionally Groucho Marx, but an 18th Century French Writer Nicolas Chamfort expressed it first (& possibly better, my French isn’t that great) La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.