Growing up on the east coast of Australia, I didn’t get to ride a kangaroo to school but I did acquire some valuable survival skills like what to do when faced with a venomous snake or when caught in a dangerous rip while surfing. As the dangers of ocean swimming involved close observation of tall, burnished surf life savers, you could say I began researching early to become a romance writer.
I’ve been a reader almost as long as I can remember and the idea of being without a book sends a chill down my spine. In my teens I got hooked on romance and never looked back. The boys at school just didn’t make the grade when compared with all those strong silent types, flashing-eyed Italians, haughty Spanish aristocrats and the rest. No wonder the boys at school just didn’t make the grade!
Fortunately I found my own tall, dark romantic hero while at university, where despite the distraction I completed an honours degree in Classics. After a surprisingly interesting career in the public service I found myself with young children and a burning desire to do what I’d always secretly dreamed – to write romance rather than government reports. I had early success selling short stories to some well-known magazines, and with a romance released by a small Australian press. Late in 2005 I sold a book to Harlequin Mills and Boon and began writing for the series I’d enjoyed reading so much over the years.
Now I live with my hero and family at Lake Macquarie, on the coast north of Sydney. We’re close to the Hunter Valley’s marvellous wine country, some of the State’s most superb beaches and the beautiful lake.
My favourite things are books, travel, long walks, good company and great food. I get to spend my days fantasising about gorgeous men and their love lives, which can be hard work, but I have no regrets. There’s nothing better than that sigh-worthy moment when your hero and heroine finally get their happy ending, or when a reader contacts you to say they loved your story too.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where do you get your ideas from?
I rarely know till after I’ve written the book and even then it’s often still a mystery. All writers draw on their subconscious so I’m sure there are all sorts of impressions and memories in mine, just waiting to influence a story. Here are some of the ways I’ve got an idea for a story:
A title that popped into my head out of nowhere – The Liakos Legacy (which my publisher released as ‘The Greek’s Convenient Mistress’).
A dare – not quite, but my critique partner nagged me and nagged me to try my hand at a sheikh romance. Finally I gave in and found I loved writing my first desert romance ‘The Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride’.
My editor’s suggestion I try a story with a high profile scandal. Within an hour I had the basis of ‘Captive in the Spotlight’. What could be more scandalous than a woman, just out of gaol, falling for the rich tycoon brother of the man she went to prison for killing?
An opening scene that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Dip into ‘Rafe’s Redemption’ aka ‘The Billionaire’s Bought Mistress’ and you’ll discover the snowy funeral scene I just had to write.
Realising I could write my own Cinderella! – ‘Protected by the Prince’ aka ‘Passion, Purity and the Prince’.
A place – ‘The Desert King’s Pregnant Bride’ evolved from regularly driving past an Arab-owned horse stud and wondering ’what if…?’.
Reader correspondence. A reader query about a character I’d mentioned in a story, combined with a corker of an idea for a premise, led to‘Girl in the Bedouin Tent’.
What’s your writing routine?
I wish I could say that I wrote for a strict number of hours each day, between the same hours, always producing an impressive number of pages. The fact is that while I work hard to achieve my writing goals each week (yes, I do set goals for each week and usually each day), I’m not quite so regimented.
I usually start the day with a quick check of emails to be sure there’s nothing urgent lurking there. If I’m approaching deadline though, I might just head straight to my manuscript and ignore emails. Then it’s off for some exercise: a long walk or a session of pilates. Then work. “Work” can be writing the current story but could also involve reading publisher’s edits of a previous story, or plotting a future one, or even all three on the same day. I could also spend time preparing workshop notes or a newsletter to readers, or one of the many other tasks that appear on my ‘must do’ list. I work through (with pauses for lunch, hot drinks and occasional chores) till early evening. There are times, though, when inspiration strikes just about the time I planned to prepare a meal. Fortunately I’m not the only one in the house who can cook and when the words are flowing I usually keep writing.
There are often days when non-writing responsibilities eat into that neat schedule so instead of writing for a whole day it may be just for a morning or an afternoon or less. As a result you’ll usually find me writing on weekends as well as weekdays, making sure I make progress on my stories.
Do you plot all your stories in detail before you begin to write?
No. I have done sometimes but generally I’m an ‘organic writer’. That means the story unfolds for me as I write. One of the reasons it’s so exciting! However, before I begin I always have two characters I know very well and a problem that will be at the heart of their story. There will be a conflict of some sort that ensures there will be trouble ahead for them even though they’re drawn together. It’s not unusual for me to begin writing a book when all I have in my head is the first scene, the characters and the core conflict that they will have to resolve. If that’s the case I learn a lot in the first few chapters. On the other hand, for some stories I already have a rough outline in mind.
What is the best part of writing?
There are several:
Beginning a new story. Also the buzz of getting an idea that just keeps getting better and better till I can’t wait to write it.
When a scene comes together and moves me, not just when I write it but when I reread it later and experience that punch of deep emotion as I empathise with the characters.
When a reader contacts me about a book that moved them too.
Do you have any advice for unpublished romance writers?
There are quite a few things I’ve found helpful:
-> Read a lot.
-> Write what you love because if you don’t love it the chances are that will show on the page.
Keep writing even if you aren’t completely happy with what you’ve written, because you can always return and improve a page of text. You can’t go back and improve an empty one!
Make sure you’ve got a really, really strong conflict at the core of your story – one that will make things incredibly tough for your hero and heroine to work through. Without that conflict you’re guaranteed to run into trouble.
When you’ve written something put it away and leave it for as long as you can (months if possible) and work on something else. When you come back to polish what you’ve written, you’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes instead of seeing what you want to believe is there.
Keep an eye out for my occasional blogs for aspiring writers. There are also some short articles in my ‘On Writing’ page that you may find helpful.