1. Why did you want to become a writer?
My grandmother is the best storyteller I know and so I grew up listening to her fantastical stories, enthralled by the adventures of the characters she made up off the top of her head. I also developed a love for books at an early age and so it was a natural progression for me to try my hand at writing stories when I was a kid. I would often be found with a pen in hand or my head in a book. I spent most of my twenties travelling the world and working as a mountain guide so I didn’t have much time to write stories, but I kept very detailed travel diaries. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties, when a radio journalist interviewed me about my travels that I started thinking about trying my hand at writing once more. I saw a travel writing competition, entered it, and won and I got such a thrill that I decided to enroll in a creative writing course.
Fast forward to ten years and four manuscripts later and my first book was published. That was in 2014 and since then I have been contracted for many more books with publishers around the world. It is now my full time job and I absolutely love and appreciate the fact that I get to write books for a living and I can share these with readers from all over the world. The readers, I must say, are the highlight for me. It is so lovely to know when a story touches someone, makes them laugh or cry, or helps them escape their troubles. That, above all, is the main reason I became a writer—to take people on a journey into another world.
2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?
The first draft by far is the toughest part for me. I am a planner, so I have very detailed outlines but sometimes I do stray if an idea pops into my head. And even though I am meticulous in figuring out who my characters are and what they want before I start the first draft, I often find I don’t really know them properly until my second, third, or even fourth draft. For me a first draft equals the pain of pulling teeth!
3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
The readers! I love interacting with people who have enjoyed my books. The reading community is so diverse and I have met and spoken with people from from various parts of the world. I just love it!
4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
I would love to have written A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It’s such a beautiful, culturally rich story set in India that spans generations and takes in a lot of India’s history. The storyline is so complicated that there is an “event” timeline and family tree at the beginning of the book so the reader doesn’t get lost! I am in awe of how this book is written and no matter how many times I read it, I’m still drawn into this gorgeous world and the wonderful characters.
5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
Why would I save them when their calamity is what makes a reader turn the page or burst into tears? Ha! Joking! Hmmm … Without giving the story away, there is one character in Under the Spanish Stars who has a very sad life and loses their only chance at happiness. They spend a lot of time questioning decisions they’ve made and trying to figure out where they went wrong. By the time they realise what to do and how to change things, it’s way too late. It breaks my heart!
6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do?
I would love to hang out with Delilah Drummond in Deanna Raybourn’s book, A Spear of Summer Grass. Set in Africa in 1923, Delilah is outspoken, non-traditional, and an absolute rebel. She brings disgrace on her family and is sent to Africa while things quiet down in Paris. When she gets there, she discovers a whole new world and the wildness of Africa actually tames her and starts her on a journey of self-discovery. I would love to sit on the deck of Delilah’s house and drink gin with her as we gaze out on the oranges and red of the sunset, talking about love, life, and the universe. I also wouldn’t mind spending some time in the company of Delilah’s neighbor Ryder White, but he only has eyes for Delilah!
7. What can we expect next from you?
I have a new book coming out with Kensington Books in July 2017 called Under the Parisian Sky. Like Under the Spanish Stars, my next book will have a contemporary and historical storyline and will involve a family saga, decades old mystery, and have a rich and colourful setting that will take the reader on an adventure into a gorgeous land.
8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
There is so much great advice out there but it is often conflicting and what works for one person may not work for another. My suggestion is to take what you feel is right for you and give it a try. If it doesn’t work, there are plenty more ways for you to try again. Publishing is a landscape that is forever changing, so it really helps if you are able to be flexible, willing to give things a shot and pick yourself up if it doesn’t work out. The next time may be the time you hit the mark and get a bullseye. In other words, don’t ever give up if this is your dream. Oh, and I will add, read, read, read and write, write, write! Everything helps you hone your skills and you will find that each book your write, you will improve. Time is a very good friend when it comes to developing your writing skills.
9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.
I live in Australia and my agent is in the USA so she’s working while I’m asleep! I often wake up, check emails (and pray that there’s good news if I have any submissions out!), then get ready for the day. I take the kids to school (they are still quite young) then it’s into my home office where I’ll work on my book for six hours (if I stay off Facebook!). In between I’ll wash and dry clothes or cook dinner (it’s such a glamorous life!), answer emails and do any general admin work. Then it’s off to pick up the kids and take them to any extra-curricular activities they might have. Dinner and homework for the kids then if I’m on deadline it’s back to the desk. Of course, there is always time to chat to hubby and friends and the odd glass of wine! I try to take weekends off but sometimes it’s impossible if there’s a deadline or an idea comes into my head and I need to get it down before I forget!
10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just started reading The Three Miss Allens by Australian author Victoria Purman. She normally writes coastal romances and this is her first foray into historical fiction and she’s absolutely nailed it. I’m really loving the story and characters and I’m looking forward to delving into as soon as I get a chance!
When her beloved grandmother falls ill, Charlotte Kavanagh will do whatever she asks of her-- even if it means travelling to a country that broke her abuela's heart. Can an unsigned painting of a flamenco dancer unlock the secrets of her grandmother's youth in Spain? To find the answers she needs, Charlotte must convince the charismatic and gifted musician, Mateo Vives to introduce her to a secluded gypsy clan.
The enigmatic Mateo speaks the true language of flamenco, a culture Charlotte must learn to appreciate if she wants to understand her grandmother's past-- and the flamenco legend that has moved souls to beauty, and bodies to the heights of passion. As Mateo leads her into the captivating world of the music and the dance, Charlotte embraces her own long-denied creative gift and the possibility of a future rich with joy...