I’m delighted today to welcome Margaret Blake to the RNA Blog who I see from her website loves history and travel, having back-packed her way around Australia and New Zealand following retirement. So tell us, Margaret, how did you sell your first book, and did you have any rejections before getting that exciting call?
I sold my first book in l978 and that was to Robert Hale. I had sent them a previous book that was not right for them. They asked for anything else that I had, so taking a different tack, I wrote an historical, A SPRIG OF BROOM. Actually, this novel will be coming out later in the year via Whiskey Creek Press. I had spent a lot of time in the local library studying various published books, so I was aware of the kind of books Robert Hale published. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing this. I had always written but it was only with John, my late husband, nagging me to send something off that I gave in and did so.
To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
Funnily enough, I was giving a talk last Thursday and this question came up. I never plan, I just do not have that kind of mind. I love the risk of not knowing where I will be going.
For instance in one novel I completely changed the ending. This strange feeling came to me – this is not right, look at such and such – and I did something that some people have found quite shocking! The novel is SHADOWS OF THE PAST published by Robert Hale, it was such an odd thing to happen but I am sure it works!
How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
One of my great pleasures is walking in the Lakes or Dales. I go with a group of people three times a month; it really chases the cobwebs away. It’s good to talk to different people too and this can be so inspiring. I love to travel but recently I have been going to Florida twice a year, so that has curtailed my trips to the European mainland.
What advice would you give a new writer?
I meet quite a few aspiring writers, it’s always a pleasure to talk with them and to look at their work. Sometimes it is difficult to offer constructive criticism as writing is so personal and it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings. But although positive, I do try to be reasonably truthful. I always advise them to study the market, use The Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book to find the right publisher for them, never to lose heart at the rejection letters but to try and try again. They have nothing to lose but the postage!
What draws you to your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I enjoyed reading romance and historical novels, that was my inspiration for writing these. It was only recently, seeking a fresh challenge, when I started to add suspense to the romance. First with Robert Hale and then with my latest book for Whiskey Creek Press. If you enjoy writing in a particular genre, I think this will shine through. For instance I could never write a science fiction novel as I am not interested in that particular genre. I would not consider myself a specialist in any field. I did study history at college but I’m not an historian.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
I had not suffered from writer’s block until recently. I lost my husband eighteen months ago and it has been so hard for me to write about falling in love, lovely places ad being happy. I am slowly getting back but it is a painful process. I saw online advice for writer’s block, this was to just keep writing, no matter what it was or if it didn’t eventually work.
I have found that doing that is of help.
In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
It was great to discover the RNA. I don’t get the opportunity to go to meetings but I did go to the very first conference at Stonyhurst college. I made friends and had lots of good advice. I find that anyone in the RNA is happy to help. It really is a very supportive organization.
Is there a particular period of history that you enjoy writing about? Why is that?
My favourite historical period is the l480’s. I have written three books in that period. Originally I wrote A SPRIG OF BROOM to promote the idea that King Richard the Third was not a monster. The period is fascinating and I had done so much research it seemed a good idea to keep using it. Every one of these books is very different but I do generally try to get a plug in about Richard, who is one of my all time heroes.
Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
My latest book available is A FATAL FLAW. This is a contemporary romantic suspense. I was inspired to write it by my many trips to Florida. It tells the story of a Cornish girl, Kerensa, who discovers that her mother was not quite the person she had imagined. She travels to Florida to find the truth about her mother. Here she meets Ned Rochester, a cop, who offers to help her. They both uncover something that leads them into danger. I really enjoyed writing this book. It just ran away with me.
Can you reveal something of your work in progress?
I have three books coming out between December and June (2012). A SPRIG OF BROOM from Whiskey Press, as I mentioned, and then two new books – a romantic suspense and a contemporary romance. I was half way through these books when John died, so it took me all my time to complete them. However, it was a very cathartic thing to do. Currently I am writing a romantic suspense but it is very early days. I have just managed 5,000 words but am optimistic!
Thank you for sharing that with us Margaret, it was quite inspiring. To find out more, please do visit Margaret’s website: http://www.margaretblake.co.uk
Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org