A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
First of all, then, tell us about Wedding Season…
I wrote Wedding Season for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to write about a girl who made corsets. I’d met one, she used to own our old narrow boat. Originally I was going to write about someone who made corsets for films but when she told me she mostly made wedding dresses, I realised that would be much easier to research.
Then I was talking to my hairdresser who is also my neighbour and friend and she was full of stories about wedding catastrophies, so then I wanted a hairdresser. Sarah, the wedding planner, was the link between them.
Corsets and wedding catastrophes! This sounds fascinating…
The corset thing was fun. My daughter and I went on a corset making course with Jema, who was my corset maker. We were rubbish, not being practised sewers, but it was lovely being in Jema’s workroom, surrounded by lovely fabrics, with three other women, all sewing away, drinking tea and eating chocolate biscuits. Sadly, I never did finish mine so I had to order one from Jema. I can’t quite decide if it’s a tax-deductible expense.
It does sound lovely! But then your main characters always do have some great and fascinating enthusiasm, either as a career or a hobby. What is your particular enthusiasm?
Flamenco! The trouble is, it’s too difficult for it just to be a once-a-week hobby and I don’t really have time to do it more often. We keep trying to entice our flamenco teacher to live in our town so we could do more. I am so bad at it but I love it. It’s very passionate but very challenging.
Speaking of passionate but challenging, what would you say is the key to writing a good (and believable) romantic interest?
For me, the romantic interest is key but I always like my characters to improve their lives in other ways as well. I wouldn’t be happy with a Cinderella who was only ‘made complete’ by her Prince Charming. She’d have to be running a small business as well.
So your heroine has to be independent minded… what about your hero? What makes a good leading man?
Sex appeal and humour, but maybe those two are part of the same thing. He also has to be kind – and I don’t think I could have a hero who didn’t like dogs.
Sounds like a winning combination to me! Now, how about your path to publication? Was it rough, smooth, winding?
My path to publication was smooth in that nothing but rejection happened for seven years. I was trying to write for Mills and Boon and did it with my heart and soul. I got lots of encouragement but when the rejection letter said, ‘lacks sparkle’ I accepted defeat.
Then, courtesy of the Romantic Novelists Association and it’s New Writers scheme, one of my unpublishable efforts got to an agent who was looking for clients. We met, I started a book and she found a publisher before it was finished. That was Living Dangerously.
Tell us more about your involvement with the RNA. And what exactly is a romance novel, anyway? I have to admit, “romance novel” does make me think of Mills and Boon…
I’ve been a member of the RNA for many years – not sure how many. It is a really supportive organisation and is for published and unpublished novelists, although we have more published ones. Romantic fiction is a very broad church. We have writers of chic lit, sagas, paranormals, and almost any thing else you can think of. ‘Romance’ novels do tend to be short fiction where the romance is the plot, rather than adjacent to the plot. (Does that make sense?)
Yes it does! I think our readers would love to hear about the Katie Fforde Bursary…
The KFB (as it’s known to some) is awarded within the Romantic Novelists Association. It is very arbitrary and is for a writer who’s been bubbling under publication for some time and is possibly struggling to pay their sub. With the organiser of the New Writers’ Scheme, we choose someone we think is suitable. They get a year’s sub to the RNA and a place at the conference. They also get a piece of slightly dubious artwork with their name on it. I was bubbling under for years so felt I wanted to do something for those people in the same position that I had been in.
Finally, and we always ask this: tell us your five favourite books, and give us a little background on each.
Five Favourite Books? Tricky!
1. The Devil’s Cub, Georgette Heyer. Really hard to choose a favourite GH but this one has a very independent heroine and seeing the gorgeous but arrogant hero succumb to her charms is lovely.
2. The Vizard Mask by Diana Norman. Another historical. This is the most romantic, most terrifyingly realistic book. It opens with a mute girl arriving in London to look for her aunt. She’s come from the Colonies and the plague is soon to come. Gripping.
3. One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens. I heard recently that this was one of Judy Astley’s favourite books. I also loved her One Pair of Feet about her nursing experience during the war and My Turn to Make the Tea, which was about her time as a cub reporter. (Is that cheating?)
4. A book I used to read a lot when I yearned for a house when I only had a boat, or worse, a ship’s cabin was The Pauper’s Guide to Homemaking by Jocasta Innes. I was pregnant and unable to nest. Loved it!
5. The Diary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kauffman. I bought this in Rome when I was studying there (modern dance and singing) when I was 16. I loved it and related to it although I was far too young really. It was made into a horrible film but when I bought it again and read it as an adult, it still resonated.
Many thanks to Katie for taking the time to chat with us! You can find more information about Katie and her books at www.katiefforde.com
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