1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I prefer to start work very early in the morning and like to write in my study, which is a tiny boxroom overlooking the sea. I haven’t always had a room of my own, but I have always had a pasting table to work at and a wall behind it to stick things to, relating to the work in progress. The pasting table is very important! I bought it during my first term at Art College, after arriving with a rucksack, folding easel and portable typewriter, because I needed a table to work on. I could just fold it up and take it away with me when I moved.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No, I find the characters already lurking about in my head, waiting to tell their stories.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction Book of all time and why?
I am not sure how you would define women’s fiction, unless you mean books with a strong romantic element? Most of the great novels of all time have that. I do find Pride and Prejudice one I reread over and over, but there are books that I have read once that have stayed with me for life, like The Poisonwood Bible, The Colour Purple, and Fahrenheit 451. And, more recently, The Help….
And some books were extremely important to me when I first read them, like Catch-22 and Ted Hughes’ poetry collection The Hawk in the Rain, which I still return to from time to time. I also have every novel written by American author Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels (my favourite is Naked Once More). And my favourite romantic comedy writers are Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Judy Astley. I like Marika Cobbold for her quirkiness and Leah Fleming and Margaret James for wonderfully-written historical romance…I could go on and on.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I write a rough draft first, then the final one. Since I work under contract, I have delivery dates for my novels and it’s important to keep to them, since otherwise it throws the whole publishing schedule out and causes difficulty. I love to work very early in the morning, but I usually carry on late into the day and, towards the end of the novel, sometimes through the night!
I have a wall in my study where I stick all kinds of things that interest me – cuttings and postcards, posters, poetry, snatches of dialogue, photographs of gardens…The middle section relates to the book I’m working on, the left side to ideas for the next book. The right is for tentative future ideas. I get to know my heroine, where she’s come from and what has made her the woman she is today, and then weave the various threads I’ve chosen in and out of her life. I can’t explain it, really. But while I’m writing it, the world in that book is more real than the one I’m living in, and I become my heroine. It’s always fun to slip into someone else’s skin and see how they react, what they will say.
For years now I have had a pact with two other novelist friends, Leah Fleming and Elizabeth Gill, that we will email each other as soon as we have written the first five hundred words of the day: we call ourselves the 500 Club. I’d recommend this as a motivational tool to anyone trying to write novels and three is the best number.
5. What was your journey to becoming a published author?
That’s a long story! I wrote satirical novels for years, without getting published, then wrote two light Regency Romances which were published by Hale. But after that I went back to the satire and remained unpublished again until I was taken on by top London agent Judith Murdoch. She called me down to London and during three hours tore my current novel to shreds, then told me how to put it back together again. Almost the first thing she said to me was: ‘Trisha, this romantic comedy hasn’t got any romance in it at all!’ Which of course it hadn’t, because it was satire. But I realised that by simply adding a romantic element to what I was already writing, I would fit into the romantic comedy genre: and I went straight back home and did just that. Good Husband Material was published by Piatkus, the first of my romantic comedies.
Now my fourteenth novel, Twelve Days of Christmas, has just come out! I have had novels shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Award for romantic comedy two years running, and Every Woman For Herself was recently voted one of the three best romantic novels of the last fifty years, both great honours.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Probably the assumption that all published novelists are rich!
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
This may sound very obvious, but it has to be said: writers write, it’s in the nature of the job description. You write every day and feel guilty and bereft if you have finished a novel and not started on the next. So, don’t just think about it, do it. Get in the writing habit, if only for ten or fifteen minutes a day and then build on that. However busy you are, if you really want to write, you will find the time.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
Another contemporary romantic comedy for Avon, HarperCollins. It’s set in the rural area of West Lancashire where I grew up, like several of my novels.
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