Friday, October 28, 2011

Author Interview with Fiona Harper

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona Harper to the author interview hot seat today. Fiona writes funny, heart-warming romances for Mills and Boon. Her first novel won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon New Writers Award and since then her books have gone on to win numerous other awards.

Fiona, please tell us how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I sold my first book through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. I joined the RNA in 2005, with one fully-polished book under my belt, and sent it off for my NWS critique, just hoping for some positive feedback. I was both amazed and delighted when not only did the manuscript get a second read, but it was then sent on to Mills & Boon and they offered me a contract a couple of weeks later.

Where is your favourite place to work?

Anywhere without interruptions (the family-related kind and the self-induced kind)! I often find I have to get out of the house and any possible displacement activities so I can hunker down and write. Most of the time I like to write longhand and then type up what I’ve written later, so coffee shops are a favourite. What's not to like? A table all of my own to write at and lattes on tap!

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?

I'm a plotter. Or I am in the sense that I like to have a good idea of where I'm going in terms omy characters and their development. I quite often know the emotional journey my hero and heroine are going to take before I start, and then I dive in and work out what plot elements are going to push them in the right direction.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?

The beginning of the second act of the story – you know, that point where you've had fabulous fun setting everything up, and then you have to decide what on earth you're going to do next.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?

I think editors are looking for the same thing as the rest of us – a gripping story, the kind we continue to think about when we put the book down and can't forget once we've read the last page. Of course, skill with words is important, but I think the ability to spin a good yarn with an engaging voice is probably more essential. We can always learn more about the craft of writing by reading books, going to workshops, attending conferences, but the unique storytelling voice is something we have to develop on our own.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?

Reading, of course, but I also enjoy cooking, dancing (when I get the time) and good films. I seem to spend a lot of my spare time reading books about writing, or listening to audio recordings of workshops. To be honest, I think I'm slightly obsessed with the subject! My family would wholeheartedly agree. They can't seem to watch anything on the television without me dissecting it and analysing it – even the adverts!

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?

I'm not sure I've ever suffered from a full-on writer’s block, but I definitely have patches where I feel as if I'm wading through treacle. I find the only thing to do is to make myself keep writing. Often it'll only take a thousand or so words before I'm back in the swing again, but sitting down to make myself write those thousand words can take a couple of weeks! If I feel completely dry creatively, I go and do something else for a bit – read a book, watch a film, go for a walk – anything that'll let my creative right brain start to buzz. The solution will often present itself, like the proverbial bolt of lightning, when I'm not actively looking for it.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?

As I mentioned earlier, the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme led directly to my first publishing contract, but since then I've met fabulous people going to RNA events and have learned more than I could ever recount attending some of the annual conferences. I certainly wouldn't be where I am today without the support and friendship of the RNA and its members.

Is there a particular period of history that you enjoy writing about? Why is that?

I love writing about the present day. We live in such a complex society, with so many demands on our time and energy, values and emotions that pull us in opposite directions. There is a wealth of rich emotional material to be found in the everyday challenges of modern life.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.

My current release, Swept off Her Stilettos, is about a vintage fashion shop owner who thinks her little finger isn't properly dressed unless it's got a man wrapped around it. The heroine, Coreen, had appeared as a secondary character in two other books of mine and I wanted to give her a story of her own. I wanted to write about a woman who was very confident in her own sexuality as it wasn't something I had done before. Coreen seemed the obvious choice, since she demanded the male of the species should fall at her feet and worship. Of course, I gave her a hero who refused to do exactly that and then stood back and watched the sparks fly!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Fiona. We wish you every success with your new book, Swept off Her Stilettos.

To find out more about Fiona visit her website at

Or follow her blog at


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Loved the interview, Fiona - your writing sparkled even in answering the questions! How lovely to get a publisher with that first NWS submission - more proof of how great the scheme is.

Fiona Harper said...

Thank you, Rosemary! And I am still a huge, huge fan of the NWS.