What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and now live in Torquay on the Surf Coast, which back in the days of the colonizers was known as the Shipwreck Coast.
I was a dancer for most of my working life. Ten years ago, I began writing. After having devoted a lifetime to reading, I always knew I’d write something one day. Books have always been such a vital part of my life, and the thought of not having anything to read sends a cold shiver through me.
I chose to write in the erotic romance genre because it’s popular, and fun to write.
Thornhill trilogy was my first and, to date, my most popular story. I took a little inspiration from Jane Eyre. Not just in the storyline, but by imbuing Aidan Thornhill with some of Rochester’s brooding presence, and the female lead, Clarissa Moone with Jane’s smart but gentle nature, and love of drawing.
My second novel The Importance of Being Wild came to me after I imagined a story about a woman, who in self-defense, hits her husband over the head with a hardcover of Oscar Wilde’s complete works. When he rouses from his coma, he is no longer that same belligerent man, instead, he is gentle, effete and loves poetry, just like Oscar Wilde himself.
The idea for my romantic suspense novel, Take My Heart, arrived after I read about the sad fate of the Romantic poet, Percy Shelley. Following his drowning, Lord Byron, and friend Edward Trelawny built a funeral pyre. As his body burned, Trelawny reached into the flames and pulled out Shelley’s heart. That rather gruesome image of a ripped-out heart informed the premise for this story, which has whispers of the gothic, as its theme revolves around the haunting nature of obsessive love.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Strange but true stories about people and their relationships.
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t have too many thankfully. But when I do, I don’t force it. I move on to revising, or more menial tasks. I have so many stories banking up, dying to be given air, that I can’t imagine too many creative blocks in my lifetime.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
To not have a self-published book professionally edited and proofread.
In romance, the characters shouldn’t espouse political views. The main characters should never cheat. And today, a “happy for now” ending, which was once tolerated in romance, has become the much-maligned cliffhanger. Big words are a no-no. I’ve been accused of using a Thesaurus. Guilty as charged. Am I the only writer who uses one?
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Look for a poetic line that connects to the story. Single-word titles work really well. I’m in love with alliteration. Show me a writer who isn’t. With my latest project, I’ve come up with a title inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Finding the right cover can be a battle. It’s almost easier to write a book in many ways.
Whether it is a shirtless man, romantic couple, or even a rose dripping in honey, it’s best to stick to a cover that sings romance. Unless you’re a famous writer, like Nora Roberts. She could probably publish a story with a blank cover and still sell books!
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Writing is such a solitary art form that reviews, good or bad, are hard to ignore.
I tend to linger over the negative reviews, which is a form of masochism I suppose. I do, however, like constructive criticism. It helps me grow as a writer. Sadly, there aren’t too many of those. In the romance scene, readers can get rather incensed if the book doesn’t meet their expectations. In those cases, I remind myself, “You can’t please everyone.”
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’ve become merciless when editing. If the plot doesn’t move along, I delete it.
I’m at my most perspicacious in the mornings, so now I make sure I write during those hours. I get a lot done that way. Forcing myself to write when my mind is dull, can be painful and unproductive. Whenever I’m incapable of stringing an intelligible sentence together, I pause and do boring but essential tasks like promotion.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best part is typing “The End.” The worst is being stuck on one sentence for far too long. The most surprising part is seeing how the story unfolds.
After chiseling out the characters, the plot, and settings, I allow myself a little improvisation. Because that’s where the magic happens.
Along the way, interesting auxiliary characters are born, or deviations that open doors to useful subplots. As the characters take shape, I learn things about them that I didn’t know in the beginning. The longer I’m with them, the more nuanced they become. Now that’s surprising.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
If one’s trying to survive from writing, aiming solely for personal satisfaction can be fraught with risks.
I like to know that readers have been moved by my stories. Nothing compares with that. And the only way to achieve that requires that I write what audiences want, which is easier said than done.
Formulas are expedient. But they can also become a little outdated and overused, especially in romance.
It’s a subtle balancing act, I suppose. Even though many readers are often on the lookout for something fresh, the romance writer must adhere to a HEA ending. She must also ensure that the male lead is hot, strong and sensitive and that there’s a smart, sassy female lead, who not only steals his heart but takes him by the hand and leads him onto that elusive path of self-discovery.
In my books, I offer all of the above, however, I like to have a bit of fun while I’m at it, by inventing quirky, flawed characters, who are often creative.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Emotions play an essential role when drafting the story. However, at the revising stage, it pays to be pragmatic in order to avoid attaching oneself to frivolous passages that might be excitingly poetic but offer little to the story.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Daydreaming is not only enjoyable but can be very constructive. I find ideas arrive when I’m least expecting it. I make sure I have a notepad handy and fill it with everything and anything I consider interesting. Discipline is a creative’s best friend. The trick is to be consistent. A writer once said to me, even if you’re blocked, write anything and see where it goes. A very useful technique that is tantamount to warming up before a dance performance.
What are your plans for future books?
I plan on writing a sequel to the story I’m working on. Two characters have emerged, who I believe are too fascinating for their story to remain untold.
Then I plan to write a series about the children of the Thornhills as grownups. I loved how the same families reappear in those novels by Balzac, collectively known as the Human Comedy.
One day I’d love to have my own Gabriel Garcia Marquez moment and journey through three or four generations of my Sicilian family. The stories I’ve heard over the years have that streak of magical realism about them and have been percolating in my imagination for as long as I can recall.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
For my first ever dance audition, I had to improvise to Pink Floyd’s Money. Just being at that audition was strange enough, in that, I never expected to earn a living from dance. At the age of sixteen, I got the gig and continued to make a living from dance for three decades.