To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
With my regencies I don’t plot at all. I’m a great ‘what-if’ person. I started one book with a sentence, with no clear idea where it was going. My what-ifs took over and turned it into 75,000 words. I rely heavily on my characters to get me in and out of scrapes. They hardly ever act sensibly but fiction would be pretty boring if everyone we read about was level-headed!
However, with my crime books I’m finding it necessary to do pretty detailed outlines before putting fingers to keyboard. Old habits dies hard and I tend to deviate quite a lot from those outlines but at least I have a pretty good idea where the story’s going and how it will end. I’m still getting used to not being surprised!
Where is your favourite place to work?
In an ideal world I’d be at my desk, surrounded by my research books, with shelves of my all time favourite reads lining the wall, offering comfort and inspiration. But we’re nomads so that seldom happens. Right now I’m in Florida, in a rented condo, sitting at a glass-topped table with my laptop, feeling naked without just a few research books close at hand to reassure when my mind stalls. On the plus side, I’m looking straight out onto the inter-coastal waterway so it’s not all bad! Besides, we’re buying a house here, all my things are in a container ploughing its way through the high seas as I type and I fully intend to nab the best room in the new house as my domain when the time finally comes.
Do you find time to have interests other than writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m reading. I have a three-book a week habit to feed and that’s where my ebook reader comes into its own. I no longer have to panic if my supply of print books runs low. I also walk for miles every day with my dog, plotting my next scene in my head and generally enjoying the exercise. I love all animals, especially dogs and horses but my riding days are over now that we travel about so much.
What drew you to your particular genre?
I guess growing up on the Isle of Wight has a lot to do with my love of history. We lived a few minutes from Osbourne House, Queen Victoria’s Island retreat. Carisbrooke Castle was a stone’s throw away and castles, grand Georgian houses and Roman villas abound. I reckon I must have absorbed the vibes for bygone days like osmosis without being aware of it. Anyway, historical romance was a natural gravitation for me. For a long time it was the only genre that interested me but nowadays I’ve got enough confidence to spread my wings.
How do you promote your books?
Having decided, partly because of my lifestyle and also because the way the market’s going, to dedicate myself to ebooks, that’s easy. On-line promotion can be done from anywhere in the world. Blogs, tweets, Facebook, interviews, on-line reviews...whatever it takes to get your name out there. Having said that, I don’t actually have my own blog, which might sound kinda contradictory but there has to be a line drawn somewhere, otherwise they’d be no time left for writing. I participate in joint blogs, use publishers’ blogs on or around publication dates and shamelessly hijack other people’s. That’s not as selfish as you might think because I only do so if authors are actively seeking guest bloggers.
In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
Without them I’d probably still be floundering. Nicola Cornick was running the NWS the year I joined and went above and beyond helping me to get my very first novel published with Hale. I’ll never forget how much time and effort she put in on my behalf. As well as that, I think it’s a case of the camaraderie that I appreciate. Living abroad I seldom get to any of the organised events but I always know what’s going on thanks to ROMNA and the friends I’ve made in the RNA. Only other writers truly understand the agonies and ecstasies associated with the business. And if you need help, even about something obscure, someone always knows.
Are you a specialist of one genre or do you have another identity?
My crime novels are being written by W. Soliman. I don’t want to hide my identity and there are links to both my persona’s on my website. It’s just that I don’t want people who read my historicals to buy the crime books thinking they’re going to get a Regency.
The crime novels feature Charlie Hunter, a live-board ex-policeman. We’ve had boats for years and I’m a great believer in writing about what you know. Saves on the dreaded research. Anyway, Charlie’s all for a quiet life but his old cases keep coming back to haunt him and he can’t seem to break away from sleuthing. The first one in the series, Unfinished Business, will be published by Carina Press on October 17.
Do you enjoy research and how do you set about it?
No, I look upon it as a necessary evil. I learned a hard lesson with my first book with Hale. Part of it was set in Alexandria two hundred years ago and I diligently researched the period, making sure I got absolutely everything spot on. I was very proud of the results, until my editor told me to get rid of it. ‘This is a novel, Wendy, not a history lesson!’ Yeah, okay, point taken. I’ve never forgotten that and now I do only enough research to add authenticity and drive the story forward.
But I do think it’s important to get whatever facts you do include absolutely right. I was reading a book recently by a very well known author, not a member of the RNA, who made an assertion that was just plain wrong. She hadn’t done her research and that one tiny error put me off the entire book. Moral of the story, if you’re gonna say something, make sure you know what you’re talking about!
Tell us about your latest book and how you got the idea for it.
My historical persona is writing about two childhood friends – one’s a titled lady and the other a seamstress. I saw something about identical twins on TV which inevitably got me asking, ‘what if…?’ My friends look alike and change places for a week, the seamstress attending a house party where, she’s assured, no one will know she’s not kosher. Naturally, the real lady’s husband unexpectedly turns up and the imposter has to avoid sharing a bed with him. Oh, and the lady’s former beau is there as well and knows immediately that she isn’t who she claims to be.
W. Soliman is writing about a betting scam. A man is in prison for murder but his daughter’s convinced he didn’t do it. Charlie had his doubts at the time as well and gets dragged into the murky world of rigged betting rings. And don’t ask me how I dreamed that one up because I haven’t a clue. All I can tell you is that it’s definitely not from personal experience!
Visit her website at http://www.wendysoliman.com She also hangs out on Facebook and can be found on twitter as wendyswriter.
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