In honour of Romance Reading Month Annette Hannah interviews Katie Fforde, Best Selling Author and President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Hi Katie, thank you for joining us on the blog for Romance Reading Month.
Can you tell us how many books have you written now, and do you have a favourite?
I have written 26 books and I don’t really have a favourite. That said, if ever anyone is talking to me about a book and I remember it, there’s always something about it that made it special to me. Otherwise, I’m just obsessed with the book I’m writing. (Currently I’m living in a chateau in Provence and it’s in the 60’s.)
Do you have a set writing routine? And if so, has it changed over the course of your writing career?
My writing routine has changed because I have more time to do it. When I first started my children were young and I had to use every stolen minute to the maximum. Now when they’re grown up and writing is my proper job, I waste quite a lot of time playing Spider Patience or Free Cell on my phone before I start in the morning. I aim for a thousand words and I used to be very strict. Nowadays, if I’ve finished a scene and don’t know what happens until I’ve had a think, I’ll let myself stop. Although during the first lockdown I was writing two thousand words. I wish I could get like that again!
Where do you find your writing inspiration?
Book ideas are in the ether, like the wild yeast that makes sourdough bread (another lock down reference!). I’ll hear something on the radio (I’m a Radio 4 addict) or read something, or someone will say something, or something will be on telly and I get the feeling – I know my interest has been stirred and I have to find out about whatever it is. I used to worry about not getting ideas but no longer, there are millions!
You have been president of the Romantic Novelists’ Association for ten years, congratulations. How did you originally become acquainted with the organisation?
Ten years as President, Oh golly! I first heard about the Romantic Novelists Association from a book by a Mills and Boon writer called ’To Writers With Love.’ Her book was aimed at people like me who were trying to write for Mills and Boon. She talked about the RNA and also Swanwick Writers Holiday. I joined the RNA and went on another writers’ weekend and knew I’d found my tribe. I wasn’t the only mad woman in the attic living in a fantasy world. It was bliss.
Has the RNA changed much since you joined?
Superficially, the RNA has changed since I first joined. A snapshot of a meeting then (there weren’t many parties…) and a party now would look very different. Then the members were mostly more conventional looking and a bit older than I was. But I soon met a group of younger newer writers. But what is absolutely the same is the passion for writing. Also the group joy when someone found a publisher for the first time or got a good deal. This is my favourite part of being with the organisation.
You sponsor the RNA’s debut romantic novel award. How important do you think the RNA is to new writers?
I think the RNA is hugely important to new writers, it was certainly important to me! I took ages to get published (I was writing the wrong thing but didn’t know, or more truthfully, wouldn’t accept it when people told me) I kept being ’nearly there.’ But there was a group of people who wouldn’t have let me give up even if I’d wanted to. It’s easy to be down hearted by rejection. Mary Wibberly in her book said you were allowed to cry for a day when your book was sent back, I felt that was a bit of waste of time. I was always halfway through another book by then anyway, so I just ploughed on. I wrote about 8 failed attempts at a Mills and Boon novel, but I learnt from every failure. It is true that we learn more from failure than from success. So, if our books come back we should open a bottle of fizz to celebrate our ‘Learning Opportunity’!
What three components do you think makes a romance novel special for you?
For any novel we need good characters, an appealing setting and a strong plot. If we’re writing romance, we need something that makes the romance element special and if it can produce a tear without anyone dying, all to the good!
What is the best writing advice you have ever been given? And by whom?
I think it must be ‘Join the RNA’ from Mary Wibberly. I’ve heard lots of advice over the years and often I haven’t found it useful. My tip is, try it and if it works for you, crack on, otherwise find another way. There will be one to suit you but you may have to make it up for yourself.
Where do you do most of your writing? Could we please have a photo of your writing desk or view?
Here is a picture of the view from my desk.
What is the average length of time it takes you to write a book?
It takes me between 6 and 8 months although I’d like longer really, for the research and so I could take more days off.
As it’s Romance Reading Month, can you tell us what book are you reading at the moment?
I mostly read proofs that are sent to me but the moment I have a gap I’m going to read Jill Mansell’s latest, And Now You’re Back.
What does the RNA mean to you?
The RNA means friendship, support and the sharing of skills and knowledge.
Thank you much for joining us Katie and for everything you do for the RNA. We look forward to seeing you on the RNA Facebook Live panel on 26th February.
Annette Hannah is the Press Officer for the RNA and author of Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe and The Cosy Little Cupcake Van.