After writing fifty books, where do you find new and fresh ideas?
The ideas are easy enough. The world is full of ideas patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharp enough to notice them. Unfortunately the ideas in my head seem to get more and more complicated, not very useful when the contract you signed requires the delivery of three short romances by the next January…
The secret, I think, is to keep it simple, not to get too wound up in complex ideas. To concentrate on the interaction between the hero and heroine. – the internal conflicts.
I read magazines, newspapers, listen to the radio and people watch, filling the well. Then I have to rely on the “girls in the basement” to sift through it all and come up with the goods.
Writers often use photos of celebrities as “casting”. Do you do this, and who has inspired some of your characters?
I don’t “look” for casting pictures as a rule, but sometimes a face, or an actor I’ve seen on film or television will seem just right and then I’ll go looking for photographs to stick on the whiteboard in my office.
Christian Bale seemed an almost perfect likeness for Max Valentine in The Valentine Bride, and Heidi Klum stood in for Louise, but I found them long after I’d started writing the book. I tend to find photographs to match the image in my head, rather than the other way around.
This photograph I found of Hugh Jackman seemed to portray the spirit of Ivo Grenville, the hero of Reunited: Marriage in a Million. He’s still, totally controlled, giving nothing away, especially not his feelings. Ivo to the core. Having a picture on my website and blog does, I think, help the readers to see the kind of man he is, too. It was much more difficult to find a picture that matched my idea of Belle. She is upfront sexy but, like Ivo, she’s hiding a lot and the bombshell image is no more than a veneer. The photograph I eventually found seems just about perfect – although I have no idea of my model’s true identity. Of course, the fact that the art department muddled up my heroine with Jackie Braun’s Claire in the third book in the “Secrets We Keep” trilogy, Found: Her Long Lost Husband, will now confuse the reader totally!
I’ve recently seen Alexander Niddiq in a couple of films and he has become the face of the Sheikh in the novella I’m writing at the moment.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of writing a novel? Is there a particular section that you struggle with?
The favourite bit is where my editor says she likes it. It’s even better if she says there are no revisions -- rare enough to be a deeply cherished moment.
The truth is, that writing is hard and, like all creative work, it gets harder as you dig deeper each time. The need to lift yourself to write something new and fresh, within the confines of the romance genre, something that isn’t like anything you’ve ever written before, is akin to reinventing the wheel. It has to the do the same job, but not in the same way.
Fortunately all characters are different. They react differently to pressure and that’s the great part -- creating characters that live and breath so they carry my story forward is the most rewarding thing about writing.
The bits I hate are those moments when the characters hit a blank wall. They want to do something and you can’t see any way to make that happen.
When you are not writing, what do you do? How do you pamper yourself?
I pamper myself with books. My idea of the perfect break is sitting in some shady spot overlooking the sea, with a good book, a glass of something interesting and a few olives within reach. No music, no television, no interruptions of any kind. One day of that is probably all I could stand, but it remains the ideal!
What I actually do is catch up on all the stuff that goes by the wayside when I’m writing. Ironing. Dusting. Getting my eyes tested. Stripping wallpaper…
Imagine you’re stranded…where are you and who are you with?
Briefly, in a lift?
With the Prime Minister so that could tell him exactly where he’s going wrong. :)
In trouble, on a mountain?
With mountaineer hunk, Chris Bonnington.
Long term, on a desert island?
Can I have my own version of “Desert Island Discs”, here? In lieu of gramophone records, the question is, which eight men would you take with you…
Just to look at, obviously, as, stripped to the waist they gather firewood, built me a hut, caught fish, shinned up palm trees to pick coconuts…
And for fabulous conversation (and because he’s sexy, too) …
Finally, Liz, please tell us what’s up and coming for you in the months ahead!
Coming up in September in the UK, is BRINGING UP BABY, a three-in-one By Request, with Marion Lennox and Jessica Hart.
Then January 2008 sees the publication of my fiftieth book, THE SHEIKH’S UNSUITABLE BRIDE.
It was only when I’d agreed the title with my editor and was entering it in my log (vital to keep a note of the names of heroes and heroines – it’s so easy to think you’ve found a fabulous hero name only to discover you’ve already used it) that I realized that I’d hit the big five-o. It’s not that I can’t count, it’s that not all of them are “Romance” titles, so there are two logs.
In this book, Sheikh Zahir, who made an appearance last year in THE SHEIKH’S GUARDED HEART, knows that he can’t put off marriage any longer. His father wants a grandson and, since arranged marriages are the way they do it in his part of the world, he heads off to London for the biggest business venture of his life, leaving his mother to search for a suitable “mother of his sons”. And then, on his arrival in London, he’s met not by his usual chauffeur, but by Diane Metcalfe, a woman who has opinions by the bucketful and isn’t afraid to share them. Who talks non-stop, has a smile to melt perma-frost and red-gold hair that unfurls in tiny curls against her creamy neck. His head knows that any kind of relationship between them is impossible. His heart – and several other parts of his anatomy – are not listening.