A warm welcome today, to Gina Rossi, who is a contender for the 2012 Joan Hessayon New Writers' Award. Gina was born and grew up in South Africa. She now lives on the French Riviera.
Many congratulations on being short listed for the award, Gina. Tell us about your journey as a writer, how you got started. How did the NWS help you get published?
It’s been said that life begins when the kids leave home and the dog goes to that big basket in the sky. I’m not sure I entirely agree but, at this stage of life, you certainly have more time to yourself. I started writing properly in 2008, submitting as much as I possibly could with great determination, while devouring books on the craft of writing along the way. I developed a thick skin pronto and took all criticism on board, always aiming to make each submission better than the last. When I’d finished writing my historical romance ‘The Wild Heart’ I submitted it to several agents / publishers and was delighted when The Wild Rose Press approached me with a contract. The New Writers’ Scheme has been indispensible. The biggest advantage is that – when you submit your full manuscript as an unpublished writer – you are told what you are doing wrong but, crucially, also what you are doing right. If you build on that, believe me, you will be published!
Where do you find inspiration for your characters?
All over the place. For my WIP I had an idea in my head for about a year, then suddenly I saw a photo of a Georgian rugby player in a French newspaper (yes, really) and I thought that’s him! He’s divine! That’s my new hero! I cut out the picture and started writing. For me, the heroes are always easier than the heroines. The heroes come at me, fully formed (!), always tall, dark and handsome, though not necessarily rich. The heroines are more complex and I often resort to a character questionnaire to make sure I really know who they are and what they want out of life, and love, before I start writing.
Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
I am so, so fortunate - at the moment - to be able to write full time. While the interest has always been there, I started writing properly late in life, so I need to catch up. I always mean to get up at the crack of dawn and plunge into writing but my brain just won’t work creatively first thing in the morning. So, I spend the early part of the day on my ‘social networking’, such as it is, chores and admin then force myself to write. From 1pm, I’m at my best. 2000 words an afternoon seems to be my comfort zone but I can push it up to 4000 when I’m on a roll, though quality suffers!
Can you share with us the craft tip that has helped you the most?
Absolutely. In Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’ he talks about the relationship between the writer and the reader and how writing is telepathy. That was a real light bulb moment for me. That was the ‘show don’t tell’ part of the craft sorted, at last. I also loved what he said about stories being ‘found things’ like a fossil you have to get out of the ground, intact. Sometimes it’s small, like a seashell (short story) and sometimes it’s enormous like a dinosaur (1000 page novel), but the excavation technique is the same. And no matter how good you are, it’s probably impossible to retrieve the entire fossil without breaking and losing bits. You need delicate tools and time to get the best result, and don’t use plot like a jackhammer. That made a lot of sense to me.
Are you a plotter or pantster?
A bit of both, to be honest. I plan the scenes of a new story in a series of large squares on A4 paper. Then I use post-its (mainly because I love post-its and have all the sizes and colours) to add bits that jump into my mind, usually at the most unsuitable moments. Once I get going and the story has momentum I leave the paper and post-its and ‘pants’ it. If I get stuck, I go back to my plan for direction. I use a year planner for the year in which my story is set because it helps me balance the pace and keep the timeline consistent.
Left - The view from Gina's writing desk on a winter's morning.
Does your cat or dog help with the writing?
Unfortunately, I don’t have pets at present but dogs feature in my books. ‘The Wild Heart’ has two farmyard specials, Tinker and Tailor, and ‘To Hear you Smile’, currently under consideration by The Wild Rose Press, features a Welsh terrier called Muffin in a starring role.
Do you work with the door locked?
Seldom. I believe if you can write alongside life’s little distractions, you can write anywhere.
How does chocolate help you in your writing?
Too much, so it is banned from the house or I eat the whole bar, box or both. And it’s the same with biscuits.
What is most likely to stop you from writing?
My gorgeous 18 month old grandson, Samuel. He can make me do (or not do) anything!
What would represent a romantic gesture to you?
Oh dear. The big, grand gestures, I’m afraid. I’m rejuvenated by wet weather, and one of those strange people who prefer winter, so I’d love to be whizzed off to drizzly Venice or snowbound St. Moritz (chalet with a huge log fire, please!).
Thank you for talking to us, Gina. We wish you every success with The Wild Heart . Good luck with the Joan Hessayon award.
Gina can be contacted by at email@example.com and followed on Twitter and Facebook.