What was the inspiration for your latest book, Wed for His Secret Heir?
I normally see a scene in my head. The book I’m writing now, I just had an image in my head of the heroine standing in a church, and she thinks her ex-husband is about to get married again. Something happens and she ends up inside the church and it’s breaking her heart. The bride comes in and he turns around and their eyes meet – and he’s the best man. Then we see the local paper where the heroine has seen the marriage announcement, and the paper has muddled up the names. The idea for the story started from a picture in my head that was so strong, then I had to work a whole book around it.
I suppose sometimes you read another book and it will trigger something in you. In-between books I read magazines and newspapers. I also think things like wills are really interesting, they throw up lots of different things.
Explain your writing process – where do you enjoy writing and how do you get started?
I write from start to end and I can’t write if I’m stuck. I have to write chronologically. I have a synopsis at the beginning and a plan of where I’m going and about two thirds of the way, I see the end and I see it as a film and hear their voices. There’s always a scary moment when I can’t see the end – when I think this isn’t going to work – but so far it always has worked.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
All of it. It doesn’t get easier. I question myself more as it goes on. My first three books I wrote for Mills & Boon didn’t even have a synopsis and I had no idea what would happen in the end, or how I’d get to the end. It was really exciting to write but also really terrifying because you can write yourself to a dead end.
What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers?
I was an aspiring reader – I read an interview by Penny Jordan and how she got into writing; she was my heroine.
I think you just have to write from your heart. You can’t write to please anyone or just write to fit a genre. I write Modern because I love the series and I read the books. I wouldn’t write for another genre as they’re not my particular thing. I would also say always go deeper to get to the emotional heart of the story.
Also, it should always be about the characters. The storyline must be good, but the characters should be the most important.
What genre do you enjoy reading the most?
I enjoy reading contemporary romance. I also read Hilary Mantel and Agatha Christie. The book I’ve just finished is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
How would you describe your ideal romantic hero?
Most of my heroes are like Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. I love Lord of the Rings and the total, epic sweeping fantasy character. The other thing I have in my head is Van Halen – the song is called ‘Jump’ – an American band in the 80s. There’s a video and he’s the most arrogant person, so outrageous and I just love him. It’s the hero’s total belief in himself that I love. Then it’s bringing him down and finding his weak point, but only the heroine ever discovers it and they only ever show it to her.
Who is your favourite fictional heroine?
The heroine in the book I am writing now is Emily Blunt. She’s got that vulnerable but trying to be strong look. I tend to find a photo of an actress or somebody relatable. They’re attractive, pretty, and also interesting, a little bit kooky. I’ve done a heroine who’s an ex-army helicopter pilot, a deaf heroine. I do like strong women, but sometimes they haven’t always been – it’s the journey that I’m interested in.
With both the hero and heroine I think it’s essentially about two people lowering their barricades and allowing someone to see the real person.
What do you like about writing romance?
I always read them and loved them and liked a happy ending. I seriously got into writing after my mum died which was a very bad point for me. One of the things that always stuck in my mind was when she was going through chemotherapy, she said ‘I only ever read books with happy ending.’ And I thought, I will only ever write a book with a happy ending. I always want my readers to feel happy after reading my books. It’s escapism.