Friday, June 3, 2011
Interview with Fenella Miller
So tell us how you got started, Fenella.
"Writing is my life, I write because I have to and would continue even if I were no longer fortunate enough to be published. However, the fact that my stories are bought and read is the best thing about my profession. It’s a privilege to know that my books are taken into people's homes and give pleasure to those who read them.
To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
Initially I planned every chapter in detail, wrote biographies of the main characters and had complicated timelines. However nowadays when I'm writing a Regency romantic adventure I start with an idea, work the story through in my head, and then just get on with it. When I'm writing a longer book, a World War II romantic suspense or a Victorian family saga, I go back to fairly detailed planning. There is also far more research involved which can take three or four weeks.
What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Story, first, last and always; if the story is compelling and the characters grip from the opening page than a few technical difficulties will not put an editor or agent off. To be a story teller, is a rare gift – most of us have to work at it
Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
Yes I work every day, I don't always right anything new, but I spend four or five hours working on something related to my writing seven days a week. The only time I don't is when I'm away from my study.
How do you develop your characters?
I have a good idea in my head who these people are but I let the characters develop themselves. Sometimes I have to go back and tweak things because the motivation is not clear. Usually in the kind of light-hearted books I'm doing at the moment my characters appear fully fledged on the page without too much interference from me.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Starting a new book is always difficult. You hear so much about the crucial opening page, opening chapter, sometimes it is almost impossible to begin. I overcome this by writing whatever comes into my head even though I know it will almost certainly be cut. It gets easier after the first chapter and then more difficult again in the middle. The last 20,000 words always the easiest.
What advice would you give a new writer?
Write. Like anything else the more you do it the better you get. However busy you are if you really want to write then you'll find a space somewhere in your day to do it.
I was told by Katie Fforde six or seven years ago the reason I wasn't enjoying what I did was because I needed to write what I read. Twenty years ago I read a lot of contemporary romance, now I read none at all unless it's been written by someone I know. My preference is for thrillers and historical, therefore it makes sense to write in one of these genres.
Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so what is the special appeal for you?
My Victorian family saga, For Want of a Penny, is a stand-alone book that has two more books to complete the series. I should love to write them, but unless I sell the first in a series I don't suppose I shall.
How do you promote your books?
I'm writing mainly for e-publishers at the moment and that involves an hour or two every day twittering, blogging, facebooking, and joining in live chat rooms and doing interviews like this. I certainly spend as much time promoting as I do writing; I need to adjust this as it's not an efficient use of my time.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so how do you cope with it?
The only way round this is to find some point in your story that you can continue and just write that – then go back to the part you were stuck on. Sometimes it's better to put the book on one side and do something else that day and go back to it fresh. Of course, if you're writing to a deadline with editors etc., waiting for the manuscript then you have no choice. You don't have time to have a block of any sort
In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
I think the NWS scheme is excellent; although it didn't lead to publication for me as I achieved that on my own. However what the RNA has done is introduce me to other writers who have become dear friends. I've learnt so much from the expertise of others who are so generous with their time and knowledge. I now try to do the same thing and any new writer who wants advice and support will always find me ready to help.
At the moment I'm editing the fourth of six books sold to Aurora Regency/Aspen Mountain Press. I'm also writing a long novella for People's Friend called Wed for a Wager. I usually write five books a year - one 100K historical and four shorter Regency romances. This year I don't think I shall be writing any long books - far too much going on with my new publisher. Wed for a Wager is likely to be my only new work - but with three Linford romances, one People's Friend and six Regencies with Aurora it will still be a successful year.
Fenella has been writing on and off for most of her life but only in the last six years has had time to polish a manuscript so that it was ready for publication.
There are now more than twenty three titles available, all of them Regency romantic adventures, and several more waiting to be released. To find out more, please visit her website - http://www.fenellajmiller.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: firstname.lastname@example.org