Where do you get your ideas from?

Every author I know has been asked this question at some point, and I think most of them would agree with me, ideas just come to you. I really do not have to work at this. The tricky bit is recognising which ideas are pure genius (and therefore book-worthy) and which are non-starters. Sometimes I overhear a conversation on a bus and I create characters and their backgrounds from a few overheard words. Soemtimes I watch something on TV and in my head I write an alternate and (in my opinion) much better ending. I’ve even had ideas come to me in my dreams! I have an author brain that never really switches off and am always thinking “what if?” in every situation. What if the book was magic? What if her sister was actually her mother? What if she got hit by a car?

How did you get into writing?

As a child, I was a prolific reader and adored creative writing at school, but as I got older and real life got in the way, the writing side diminished. I still loved reading and there were still a billion story ideas floating around my crowded little head. It was only when I found myself home alone with four small children under the age of five that I began to write some of these ideas down. I began with short stories, but I found them frustrating, with bigger plot lines and fully formed characters shouting at me to tell their story. Eight years, four novels and an inbox of rejections later, Lucy Baker was picked up by Avon Books and a rollercoaster of a thrill ride that was my publishing journey began.

What advice would you give to new writers?

The first and most important thing I would say to anyone who wants to get published, is be realistic. It is unlikely that your first book will get published, so once you’ve got that beautiful first manuscript the best you can get it, and it’s out with agents and publishers, start writing the next one. Then the next, then the next. Be prepared for lots of rejections. Take criticism on board. Accept that the industry is slow moving and that agents and publishers are horrendously busy people. And know that with each rejection and each new book you write, you are getting better.

Secondly, don’t write for the untold riches and glamorous lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing, but the majority of authors struggle to earn a living purely from writing. Write because you have to, because your head is overflowing with ideas and because you simply couldn’t imagine yourself doing anything else.

What resources would you recommend to aspiring writers?

When I began my journey, I quickly realised I had a lot to learn (and in the case of grammar – relearn) Useful books for grammar were:

“Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss

“My Grammar and I (or should that be ‘Me’?” Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines

And for story structure:

“Love Writing – How to make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction” by Sue Moorcroft

‘Save The Cat!’ Blake Synder (it is screenwriting but the principles are the same.)

I highly recommend joining The Romantic Novelists’ Association if your writing has a romantic thread. They are incredibly supportive and I honestly don’t believe I would be published without them. They run the New Writers’ Scheme (see their website for details) which opens every January, but fills up quickly.

Other resources include writing groups and short writing courses and/or writing retreats. These are great for feedback and inspiration, and for focussed writing time. Being an author can be a solitary activity, so make as many real life author friends as you can. Look for local groups or set up your own.

Social media is a great resource. You can connect with others and join useful groups where you have access to writing articles and guidance from people who have trodden this arduous path before you. Tailor these to your genre, and get social media savvy. You will need it when you get that long-awaited publishing deal.