TS: More than a treat, it’s a honor to interview this illustrious author with such a body of work!
Q. When did you begin to write seriously?
A. When I was ten years old, I was encouraged by my Mum to enter a short story contest with a magazine in England. It was about a young girl who desperately wanted a pony. Amazingly, long after I’d forgotten about it, I received a postal order with a small amount of money and a note that I was one of the winners in the competition. Seven years later, I joined the Yorkshire Evening Post as a typist. Within a year, I had become a reporter for them. I’ve been a journalist ever since.
Q. How long after that were you published?
A. My first novel, A Woman of Substance was published in 1979. I had tried to write four earlier novels that weren’t working for one reason or another. But all along, I was still a published journalist. I had a syndicated decorating column in the US throughout the 1970s. I also wrote and had published several decorating books in the 70s. Prior to that, I was a Women’s Page editor on Fleet Street with a handful of newspapers and magazines in England.
Q. What makes a writer great?
A. Great writers understand how to create memorable characters that stay fresh in the mind of their readers long after they have put down a book. They have a clear sense of storytelling, and the ability to transport their reader to times and places that they have never been to with the greatest of detail, so that they will feel as though they had visited.
Q. and the all important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?
A. For me it is usually a ten-month process from the original outline to the final edited version of the book. I spend several weeks on the outline and character development. This also will include the research for the story. Writing the book is usually eight months of 10-hour workdays in my home office. I have editors for my publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, so I get editing notes from two different perspectives. I generally spend a month working to meld both sets of requests into the final version of the novel.
Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?
with the city of Istanbul. We visited there a few times in recent years. This experience helped inspire me to use this as a setting for my recent novel, Letter From A Stranger. Back in 1989, a visit to the Berlin Wall helped to inspire my novel The Women In His Life. And of course, my upbringing in Yorkshire has had a significant impact on many of my novels including the Emma Harte series (7 books), my Ravenscar trilogy, and now my Cavendon series.
Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?
A. Every time is different. I always start out with a strong female protagonist. These women often just pop up in my imagination. I then ask myself: Who is she? What is her back story? Where is she going? What are her characteristics? And what are her obstacles? Once I have the basics, I will often compose a character outline (or several) until this character feels real to me.
Q. What inspired your story/stories ?
A. The Cavendon Women is the second book in what I believe will be a trilogy about a stately home in the North of England and multi-generations of two families who live/work there. I have always been drawn to writing the big family saga going back to my first novel, A Woman Of Substance. The Cavendon Women (and Cavendon Hall) are my return to writing these kinds of grand stories that feature a large cast of characters, set in an earlier time. In this case, the 1920s and 30s.
Q. Have you? Or do you want to write in another genre`?
A. I did have a series of decorating books published back in the late 1960s and early 70s. I have thought about the idea of writing a children’s book someday. I have also recently taken the plunge into writing a pair of novellas (short stories) which were both # 1 e-book bestsellers on Amazon in the US and the UK. I will be finishing my third novella later this year.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
A. Writing is something I’ve been doing my entire adult life. It is in many ways a solitary profession. However, once the books get into the hands of my readers, and they begin to chime in with their feedback, this is the greatest satisfaction that I experience. Nothing pleases me more than a happy message from a reader who has just picked up, or put down my latest work. So, whether it be email, via social media, or an old-fashioned letter/postcard, please keep the feedback coming.
My REVIEW of: ‘The Cavendon Women’
Click here to read Part I of this wonderful Interview!
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