We catch up with the incredible Clare Connelly who writes for our Modern series.
Clare’s new book Vows on the Virgin’s Terms is out now!
You write for the Mills and Boon Modern series, which whisks readers away to a world of glamour and luxury with lots of sexy, seductive heroes. What’s your favourite thing about writing Modern romances?
The thing I love about writing Modern romances is what I love about reading them: the glamorous, passionate escapism, the deep emotional journey of the characters, and the guaranteed happy ending. These are such heartfelt stories but they’re also very safe—I love knowing that no matter what hardships the couple endures throughout the romance, they’re going to find their way to each other.
Can you tell us a bit about how you started writing for Mills & Boon?
I started reading Mills & Boons when I was twelve, and I fell in love with them immediately. It was only a few years later that I wrote my first manuscript (it was wisely rejected!), and ever since then, I’ve been writing. The pathway to publication wasn’t easy though! I faced several more rejections, and ended up self-publishing, before opportunity put me in touch with Joanne Grant at a conference and I was able to pitch a story to her. Within a few short weeks, I had a book contract and I’ve never looked back. I absolutely love writing for Mills & Boon. These books are such powerful, addictive, satisfying stories, and I consider myself lucky every day that I get to immerse myself in storytelling.
What was the inspiration behind your new book, Vows on the Virgin’s Terms?
Vows on the Virgin’s Terms is dedicated to ‘every girl who’s ever been told she’s ‘bossy’ but really just knows what she wants in life and isn’t afraid to reach out and grab it’. All of my heroines are strong, independent, fiercely determined women, even when their backs are against the proverbial wall, but there’s something intrinsically powerful about the way Olivia propositions Luca. She knows exactly what she needs and how to achieve it: she just has to convince him! This is a love story but not just between Olivia and Luca—it’s also the tale of what one sister will do for the sake of another, and how fighting for your own happy ending will always be worth it.
What is your writing process like?
Once I have an idea for a story and know what I want to write, I feel as though the characters and story are burning me alive. I have to sit at the keyboard as much as possible until the story takes shape, and only then can I relax. I like to immerse myself in my characters’ world completely. I generally do an inspiration board before I start writing, with pictures of my main characters and the story locations, just to set the tone. This gets pinned above my computer, so I can look at it as I write. I don’t really plot. I know my characters’ conflicts inside and out, and how this causes a reason for them not to be together. Once I have that pinned down, I find the story just comes together.
What helps you get into the ‘zone’?
The main thing is to be invested in what I’m writing. If the story I’m writing is compelling enough, I can sink into the zone anywhere. But there are definitely some small things that help me to focus. I have a playlist I listen to while I’m writing, and a candle I burn that smells like gardenias and jasmine (so yummy!). As soon as I light it, it gets me into the headspace to write. I also like to clear my desk as much as possible before writing—so I take care of any emails or bill paying etc I have on my mind before I start writing. I switch off the Wi-Fi on my computer. Generally, I find my most productive time is first thing in the morning, so I like to wake up, make a coffee and sit straight down to work. I read some of what I’ve written right before I fall asleep, and that helps my unconscious brain cogitate the story overnight, so I wake up champing at the bit to get writing.
What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
One of the biggest hurdles new writers face is that of confidence. It’s hard to believe you can write a book when you never have. Try to drown out your self-doubt. If you’re struggling to write, go back to your core conflict and reconnect with the difficulties in your characters’ lives. Try writing a scene with just dialogue (you can insert the rest later!). Conversation is a great way to get to know your characters better and to showcase their chemistry. Accountability is also very motivating. Tell someone in your life what your goal is for the day/week/month—this might be a certain number of words or chapters, or to edit a certain number of pages—and then get them to hold you to it! Set a realistic timeline for when you want to be finished by.
What are some of your favourite romantic films/tv shows? Any recommendations?
Oh, I’m a sucker for romantic movies. My prerequisite is a happy ending and likeable characters. If I’m in the historical mood, it’s anything Jane Austen, as well as North & South (Richard Armitage, swoon) and The Bridgertons. My absolute go-to movies at any time include Safe Haven, The Lucky One, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sweet Home Alabama and Wimbledon. I also love Something Borrowed. It deals with infidelity and it’s not always easy to like Dex, but the chemistry is sooo good.
Last question! Flowers or chocolate?
Both! Because just like the heroines in my books, I want every good thing in life… Nothing makes me happier than fresh cut flowers, and I love a little piece of chocolate after dinner each night. I refuse to choose just one, ha!
Vows on the Virgin’s Terms
A four-week paper marriage to Luca to save her family from destitution seems like an impossible ask for innocent Olivia… Until he says yes! And then, on their honeymoon, the most challenging thing becomes resisting her irresistible new husband…
Vows on the Virgin’s Terms by Clare Connelly is out now!