Today is the start of another publisher feature week, this time for Harlequin's digital imprint Carina UK.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I drop my squidlets at school. Return home and survey the mess. And again wonder how two little people can wreak such havoc. Duly ignore said mess and begin writing. The mornings are best for me, I write for about four hours, and then stop because my ‘other’ life takes over. I spend lots of time at night on social media catching up with my book-loving friends. And then rinse and repeat.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book The Bookshop on the Corner?
Sarah Smith owns The Bookshop on the Corner in the tiny town of Ashford. She adores romance books and secretly hopes one day to find her own happy ever after. She’s a little quirky in that she believes her books come to life when she’s not in the shop, like they are magical, and have soul. But really, she just thinks books are the answer to everything; she finds them a comfort, like they’re old friends. Her ‘real’ friends want her to step out of her comfort zone and try and find a romance that’s not only on the black and white pages, but Sarah isn’t so sure. She’s an introvert, and she is holding out for the perfect book boyfriend, if he is purely fictional, well then, she’s stuck with that. That is until a reporter who looks like a cover model from a Harlequin book steps into her bookshop...
The Bookshop on the Corner is a spin-off from The Gingerbread Café series, how did it come about?
When I was writing Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café I added a scene at the bookshop to give the town more depth, so people could picture the streetscape a little more. Here’s a snippet in Chocolate Dreams of Lil describing the bookshop:
“I walk around the small shop looking for cookbooks. The small space has an otherworldly feel about it. It’s dusty and dingy with books piled on top of each other or double stacked on shelves. Old books mixed with new, a veritable treasure trove of wonder. Sarah knows instinctively where everything is, but it’s fun to mosey your way around and find something hidden, a gem for yourself.”
As soon as I wrote that paragraph I knew I wanted to write more about that shop! I love reading as much as writing, and figured I could write about all those book-ish foibles we all have and about how reading is more than just a past-time, it can really be a comfort when you most need one. So I wanted to touch on how books are more than just bound paper, how they are almost a living breathing thing, in that they’ll always be there whenever you need them. Writing Sarah was one of the most fun things I’ve done. And it amazes me that so many people have contacted me and said, Sarah is ME! I love that! I love that we all feel books are magical, and that I’ve been able to describe it adequately that people relate to her so much. I think we all have a bit of Sarah in us...
As an Australian author, where did the inspiration come from to set this book, and The Gingerbread Café series, in Ashford, Connecticut?
Great question! Originally I set Christmas at the Gingerbread Café in Alabama. CeeCee came through loud and clear when I had the idea, a quick-talking no-nonsense Southern woman. I subbed it to a Carina Christmas call and they called me the next day to say they wanted to publish it! We discussed the setting, and the accents and we all felt moving the location to somewhere else would be better. If you’ve read the books, you’ll know what I mean about the accents, it was stronger with just CeeCee having the Southern twang. I picked Ashford after spending time researching small towns. It seemed fitting, and a tiny little secret is that my partner’s name is Ashley, so it was a little gesture for him too.
We’ve met some interesting characters in these books, which was your favourite to create?
I’ll always love CeeCee. She is so real to me. I have never been to America and don’t know anyone with a Southern accent, but she seems to speak to me! I know how crazy this sounds! But when I write her it’s almost as if she’s there and telling me what to type! I just love her and want her to be real so badly!
In saying that though, Sarah has also stolen a piece of my heart! And that’s because of her quirky, sweet love of books and her ability to grow as a person.
What are you currently working on?
I’m writing the very last Gingerbread Café series book. I can’t tell you how sad I feel! I know the girls will pop up in other novels, but I really will miss them! It’s the final book and all those threads will be tied up, there’s a lot to celebrate, but like real life nothing is perfect, so it’ll be interesting to see how Lil and CeeCee deal with all that life throws at them...
How long does it usually take you to write a first draft?
It depends on the length. But I write the first draft very fast. Including with typos, and ‘****’ which means look up/research later. It’s like I have to race through it so I don’t lose the thread of the million ideas spinning through my brain. Then once that’s over I REALLY enjoy the next stage. I spend a lot longer going through and editing. I look for repetition, plot holes, and general errors. I’m also a member of a local writing group we affectionately call our ‘cult’ and we all go through each other’s’ WIPs which has been great for me.
Are you a plotter or do you just start writing and see where the writing takes you?
I’m so a panster it’s crazy! Though now that I have so many characters, I have to keep notes on who said what and all those little character details.
If you were going to look back on your career in the future, what do you hope to have achieved?
That I continued to push myself, and progress as a writer. That I tried new things, and that I looked for ways to improve. That I worked hard, and enjoyed the process, and made some great friends along the way.
Are there any authors who inspired you when you were starting out on your writing career?
I had help from an author when I first started. I’d been a huge fan of his book when I was 16. Actually, it’s kind of a thread in the Bookshop, so I’ll tell you the quick version. I found his book in a second hand bookshop when I was 16. I read it and loved it. And read it a number of times afterwards. I loaned it to someone and never got it back. About ten years later I was looking in another second hand bookshop and found his book again. I was so happy to find it again, and had this overwhelming feeling that the book ‘found’ me. It was like returning to an old friend. Cut to the future, and the advent of social media, I found this author online and told him how his book had been in and out of my life since I was 16. We emailed back and forth about books and writing until he told me I should try my hand at writing since I seemed so interested. I took a few creative writing classes and BOOM, I was hooked. And all because of that one book that kept popping in and out of my life.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Try and write every day, no matter if it’s ten minutes or a few hours. I read somewhere that writing is like using a muscle, the more often you do it, the stronger it gets and I really believe that’s true. I used to be happy with writing a decent 200 words per day when I first started. I can now write 3000 to 4000 if I’m having a good day, though most days I’m happy with 2000 words that I’ve deliberated a little more over. And then I take a lot longer with the edits.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
This is going to sound so glamorous - But when I’ve finished and I give myself a few days off before starting the next project, I clean the house! By then I’ve shoved washing into baskets in the cupboards, and piled the toys in a spare room and closed the door! Usually the pantry is empty, and I set about fixing everything I’ve ignored for the last few months!
Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
It would be in a cabin in winter, with a roaring fire, and lost deep somewhere in the forest! Somewhere where there’s no-one, and maybe a stream I could walk next to when I needed inspiration! Though I am a social person so I’d probably only last a few days! But it would be bliss!
Thanks Rebecca x
Check back later this afternoon for my review of The Bookshop on the Corner.