When did you first know you could be a writer?
I was writing stories and plays as soon as I could hold a pencil. I wrote a play that was performed in the Infant School and a pony book when I was about twelve. I didn't write anything again until in my mid-20s and was trapped in a country cottage, miles from anywhere, with a small child and no car. I decided then that one day I would be a published writer.
What inspires you to write and why?
I don't think it would be correct to say I'm inspired by anything or anyone to write. The drive comes from within, I am a writer, this is how I define myself, and published or not, I will always write as long as I can sit in front of the computer and dictate.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I write romantic fiction, mostly historical. I was told once to write what I read – I rarely read contemporary fiction but always have either a historical or thriller on the go. That said, I have written the first in a trilogy of young adult fantasy and hope one day to complete this series.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
I write Regency romantic adventures because of my love for Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I have always been a voracious reader and I'm certain that Dorothy Dunnett, Bernard Cornwall and others like them, have shown me what a good book looks like.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
An interesting question – which will produce a different answer from every writer you speak to.
Twenty years ago getting published was much easier, a writer could send directly to a publisher and there were dozens of major publishers, rather than just five. Publishers were prepared to stick with an author, build their career, which is not the case today. I know many excellent writers who have been dropped by one of the big five because their sales were not high enough or they couldn't get their books into the supermarkets. Nowadays unless you are a celebrity, or have written the book of the century, you are unlikely to get an agent to represent you. Without an agent you cannot get to a book to one of the main five publishers.
This is why I am a hybrid writer – I am traditionally published as well as indie publishing. I would never go back to writing exclusively for a mainstream publisher, I love being in control of everything from the writing and editing, proofreading and cover design. I buy these services; if I don't agree with my editor then I'm not forced to go with their suggestions. I get 70% royalties, I know exactly how much my royalties will be, and I'm paid monthly.
Writing, for me, is the easy part. When I have a story to tell, the book more or less writes itself. As I write historical fiction there is a great deal of research involved in order to get the book accurate, but that is part of the joy of writing.
Marketing has to be done whether you are traditionally published or indie published. I am ambivalent about the benefits of social media. I have a website which I update regularly, and a blog which I try and post on several times a month as well as being a guest and various other blogs. I interact with readers and friends on Twitter and Facebook, I also have a Good Read and a Linkedin account, and belong to several writing loops. I try and limit my time on these things, but I could write twice as much if I didn't participate. Although publishers insist that their authors have a strong Internet presence, I'm not sure how many extra readers and sales all this faffing about actually produces.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
When I first started I think I was reluctant to let anybody see my writing as I lacked confidence in my work . If you sell thousands of books a month you can probably be fairly sure you are writing something people want to read. I have a group of Beta readers who see my books first, if there is anything wrong with the plot or characters, they will tell me. By the time the book is published it has been professionally edited and proofread and it's the best I can make it. You can't please everybody (look at some of my reviews and you will see what I mean) as reading is a very personal thing. A good friend said that 50 Shades of Grey was the best trilogy she'd read in years and I thought it was a load of rubbish – millions of people agreed with her so the fact that I didn't like it doesn't mean it must necessarily be a bad book.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?
Yes, my family is supportive as most families are. My daughter-in-law has read all my books, my daughter is not a fan of historical fiction so I don't think she's read more than a couple. My sister-in-law is one of my Beta readers - my brother has yet to read anything I've written.
I get all the support and encouragement I need from my writer friends. We meet regularly and can be totally honest with each other. We will promote each other's books although we don't review as could seem a bit incestuous.
Do you plan to publish more books?
I'm a writer – what else would I do with my work? Apart from having a very long backlist to indie publish I also have three historical family sagas written that only need a professional edit and proofreading before being ready to go. I am also about to start writing the second part of Barbara's War, and its possible I will write the rest of my young adult fantasy trilogy as well next year.
What must you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full-time.
I am a full-time writer as well as a retired teacher. I'm earning more from my writing now than I received as a top of the scale teacher. I would certainly not need any other employment in order to live very comfortably even if I wasn't retired.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
When I was first married I worked in an office but stopped when we had children. My husband was a full-time student and so I worked as a cleaner, part-time shop assistant, fieldworker, and waitress in order to help out with his student grant. During that time my husband and I got involved in Wivenhoe Arts Club and ended up running the bistro there. Through doing this we became part owners of a hotel in Cornwall, but this was not a good move and we returned to Essex. I then trained to be a teacher and worked for ten years in secondary schools, first as a special needs teacher and then as a maths teacher, before opening a French style bistro with my husband. I worked as a chef there for five years and then returned to teaching but this time as a primary teacher. I was offered early retirement and took it eight years ago – and have since written over thirty books.
World War II brings divided loyalties and tough decisions in this page turning drama from Fenella Miller.
Hannah Austen-Bagshaw’s privileged background can’t stop her falling in love with working-class pilot, Jack, but Hannah has a secret. Torn between her duty and her humanity, she is sheltering a young German pilot knowing she risks being arrested as a traitor. Hannah’s worst fears are realised when Jack finds out what she has done and their love begins to unravel.
Will her betrayal be too much for Jack to forgive?
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Genre – Historical fiction
Rating – PG
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