Alexandra Brown, author of CUPCAKES AT CARRINGTON'S, spoke to us recently and answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I’m always at my desk by 10am and as I’m very superstitious I have to go through a little ritual before I actually start writing. I light a candle and spray the ‘book’s’ perfume on my wrists. Each book has it’s own fragrance and Cupcakes At Carrington’s is Jean Paul Gaultier’s Classique, so whenever I catch a whiff of it, I’m immediately transported into the story. I start by editing the previous day’s writing and then write on until about fiveish with a short break for lunch and a catch up on Twitter and Facebook.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Yes, I have a picture of the utterly gorgeous Tom Ford on the wall of my office as inspiration for Tom Rossi, one of the love interests in the Carrington’s series.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Chances by Jackie Collins. I first read this in my teens, in secret – I used to keep it hidden to read when I was supposed to be doing my homework, and it just seemed so exciting and glamorous and escapist and, well, a bit naughty. It made me want to be a writer. I’m a huge Jackie fan, I collect signed first editions of her books, and I even have a personalised photo from her on my desk. And did I mention that she actually tweeted me? That was a very exciting day….
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I’m the queen of displacement activity, you know I spent a whole twenty minutes once, sniffing the hyacinths on my desk, and musing over whether they needed replanting… crazeee! When I eventually get down to write, I tend to do a bit of both, although with my Carrington’s series, I’ve been much more organised, I’ve had to be as I’m writing two books per year, so I planned out the entire series and did a detailed synopsis with continuation threads for each book before diving in. I edit as I write, so the first draft my editor sees has probably been fiddled with at least a trillion times already.
What was your journey to being a published author?
A looooong one with a few exquisite highs but far more devastating lows. Soon after I started writing seriously, about seven years ago, I was extremely lucky to win a competition run by a newspaper looking for a new columnist, this really spurred me on as I was actually getting paid to write a fictionalised diary column every week. I think when you first start writing seriously, there’s a real desire for validation of your work, and the column gave me that. I found my first agent relatively easily, her boyfriend was a fan of the column so she signed me right away, but she left the agency soon after to change career. My second agent sent my first novel to practically every editor in the UK and every single one rejected it, I have a spreadsheet with over thirty names on it, but then it was set in the world of finance and it went out on the cusp of the credit crunch so nobody wanted to read about a bunch of bankers. A few years later, having parted with my agent, I went to a party organised by the RNA and mustered up enough courage to approach my now editor. We worked together on what was to become the Carrington’s series for nearly a year before she made me an offer for a three-book deal, which I pondered on for weeks and weeks before saying ‘oh go on then, if you insist!’ Only joking - I cried big heaving sobs of relief as I was on the verge of giving up, having had a particularly sniffy rejection from an agent just a few weeks earlier, who incidentally contacted me recently saying that maybe my work was right for them after all…
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s easy to write a novel. It isn’t. I’ve had people ask me how I do it and it’s simple… bum on seat, every single day, even if only for an hour at a time, until you write ‘The End’ or in my case ‘To Be Continued’.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Go for it, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world when you’ve completed a novel of your very own and even if it never gets published, it’s still real and something tangible to leave behind. If you’re serious about being a published author then these days there are lots of options, you can self publish, and you don’t necessarily have to have an agent to get a deal, I didn’t.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m actually taking a few weeks off, having just delivered Christmas At Carrington’s, the second in the Carrington’s series, to my editor. I’ll be starting the third Carrington’s book soon so I’m using my time off to ponder and plan out the next installment for Georgie.