Friday, July 8, 2011

Interview with Anne Whitfield

Today we are talking to Anne Whitfield, who was born in a small town in N.S.W. Australia, the youngest of five children to English parents. She says her great love of history sprang from a period of three years spent in England when she visited old castles and museums, walked around huge manor homes of the wealthy and would imagine herself in Victorian times wearing a beautiful crinolines. She has a particular fondness for exploring centuries-old graveyards. So tell us Anne, how did you get started as a writer?

It took two years to write my first historical. Once I’d finished it in 1999, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I started to send it off to publishers but I didn’t realise most preferred submissions sent via literary agents. It took me a while to realise that. I had a close call with a vanity publisher, again being so naive I had no idea what a vanity publisher was. Thankfully, the pricing was so expensive I couldn’t do it and I kept submitting elsewhere. I did manage to get an agent, but he wasn’t very good. Then I got another agent and he wasn’t much better. On my own again, I read a lot of articles on becoming published. I learned a LOT very quickly.

While learning about publishing, I kept writing. Without an agent I knew the big publishers wouldn’t be interested, so I aimed towards the smaller publishers. After the odd false start with one or two small publishers that weren’t right for me, I finally signed with Samhain Publishing in America in 2005. They ended up releasing three of my books, which are still available in paperback and ebook. In 2007 I signed with a London agent and he sold three more of my books to Robert Hale Ltd in London. Sadly my agent died in 2008 and the agency closed. Once more on my own, I’ve sold several books to small independent publishers in the USA. Apart from writing new books, I’m also interested in getting my older out-of-print books back into the market, which I’ve managed to do and have a new re-release in June 2011 with The House of Women. Next year, my Australian historical, A Noble Place, will be re-released too.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
No, it’s impossible to write every day, what with work and family. But thankfully my job is only part time, so I have four days a week to write. I like to write when it is quiet, the house is peaceful and everyone is out. I have from 9-3 and then the peace is gone as teenagers fill the house.

Which authors have most influenced your work?
Catherine Cookson was the author I adored from age of 14. Then in my twenties I started reading another UK author, Audrey Howard, and her stories made me laugh and cry.I can’t put them down once I start reading them. I think reading those authors for years before I started writing helped me enormously.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The least part I like is editing when the book is finished and I have ideas for a new story that are begging to get out. Once a book is written I’m eager to start something new, but I know editing is important!

Do you find time to have interests other than writing?
Not many! I do enjoy researching family history, but aside from that most of my time is spent with family and working part time.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Advice can be tricky, because so much depends on the writer and what they write, but first I would say, never give up! This is a hard and, at times, very frustrating business, so be prepared to wait for results. Learn everything you can about the publishing business, not just writing. Also write from the heart. Learn the craft of writing fiction, but don’t spend too much time at the start wondering if you’re writing a masterpiece. It’s the story that counts. Once you’ve finished the book, put it aside for a while and let it rest for a few weeks or a couple of months. Then, you can edit it again with fresh eyes or put it through a critique group.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so what do you do about it?
I rarely suffer from writer’s block. If I’ve written myself into a corner, I’ll go back and re-read previous chapters to see where I went wrong, and then I’ll start editing and deleting until I’m back on track again.

Do you enjoy research and how do you set about it?
I love research. I use many reference books, but I also like reading personal diaries or letters of the era, if I can. The internet is a huge help now for locating information and checking for unique facts, or for buying hard-to-find books and maps. I can happily spend hours researching. I find it very enjoyable.

Tell us about your latest book and how you got the idea for it.
I loved the idea of a large family all pulling different ways. With a selfish mother, a tyrannical father and seven daughters, the family was complex, but add to that a lost love, a heroic butler and a handsome stranger, well, the real fun began then! The House of Women was a great book to write.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I’ve just started writing my next historical. As yet it doesn’t have a title, but the main characters, Charlotte and Harry, are demanding to be heard. It’s set in Yorkshire, England again, about 1874. Aside of this new story, I have plenty of finished books waiting to be published. Stay tuned!

For more information about Anne visit her website:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at:


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

What a gorgeous cover of your book, I hope it does well for you and will be putting it on my wishlist of books to buy.

AnneMarie Brear said...

Thanks so much, Debs!

Maggi Andersen said...

Hi Anne, good luck with book. Looking forward to those new books coming.

C.J. Archer said...

Hi Anne, from one Aussie to another :) Great interview. Hope to see you at the RWAus conference??

I just adore that cover! I keep seeing it everywhere which must be a sign. I'll order it ASAP.

AnneMarie Brear said...

Thanks Maggi! You're the best.

C.J. I'm not going to the RWAust conference I'm running the Claytons conference online that same weekend. Hope you have a lovely time!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great interview, Anne - I too keep seeing that lovely cover and it sounds like a good story. Will need to find out!

Noelene said...

Anne, just finished reading your book on my Kindle and loved it. Authentic, well written, pacy read. Well done. Congratulations on your second sale to KnoxRobinson and I look forward to reading it when it's released.

AnneMarie Brear said...

Thank you Rosemary and Noelene!

Noelene, I'm so happy you enjoyed the story. Thanks for letting me know. it means a lot!