And then I realised that it was nearly Valentine's Day and that there was therefore no better time to schedule such a post than today. So, this comes with love from me to you. (Of a strictly cerebral and platonic nature.)
NM: Nutshell time. Romantic fic? Can you define it in one?Thank you, Katie. Apart from that dangerous piece of advice at the end, we're really grateful to you for taking the time, especially on Valentine's Day, when you are supposed to be dreaming of sexier men and better restaurants, even if you are happily married.
KF: It's impossible to define modern romantic fiction in a nutshell. It's a very broad genre and it just won't fit! There must be a romance but it doesn't have to be absolutely central. It can be like a golden thread that winds itself through all the other elements making sure it all ends in a satisfying conclusion.
NM: Tell us how you came to be writing it? What drew you to it?
KF: I found myself writing romantic fiction because it's what I like reading. Although I'm very happily married, I do miss the chase, the romantic moments, the 'will he, won't he' part of it. I think readers like reading it for the same reasons. I've never really wanted to write anything else although I do enjoy other genres. But for me, there has to be a bit of romance. Fortunately lots of novels that are classed as crime, for instance, do have this.
NM: What misconceptions are there about writing romantic novels?
KF: The biggest misconception people make is that it's easy. Take Mills and Boon novels, for example. They are short, about half the length of a mainstream novel, and they publish a great deal of them each month. (I made this mistake although I did love them too). People think they could knock one off in a long weekend. English teachers on holiday together think, after a few glasses of wine, 'we could write one of these, easi-peasi' and then write a pastiche. (How do you spell that, ed?) [Just like that, Katie! Not sure about "peasi", though... NM] I failed for eight years, although I did do it because I really wanted to, not because I thought I was clever, and learnt my craft through doing it.
NM: What's the biggest mistake that stops a romantic novel being accepted for publication?
KF: With mainstream romantic fiction the problems tend to be the same as with other genres, the most common being lack of narrative thrust. Page-turnability is what all novels need.
NM: How has it changed in recent years? If writers haven't read modern stuff, what mistakes might they be making? (Apart from the big mistake of not reading it in the first place.)
KF: The main difference between romantic fiction now and say 25 years ago, was that then heroines tended to be beautiful and were rescued by heroes. After Bridget Jones (and I have to say here, I came before the lovely Bridget!) heroines became more real, more like women we recognise. My heroine had to lie on the floor to do up her jeans, Bridget constantly weighed herself. Real women do these things. [Indeed they do - how very observant you are. NM] In the old days they were far too unworldly to care about such things. You still get perfect women in books but I find them a bit dull.
NM: Of all your books, which one would you most/first recommend for an aspiring romantic novelist to read?
KF: It's very hard to say which one of my books I think would be of most help to an aspiring author. However, Living Dangerously, my first published novel, does show that I tried to write for Mills and Boon for many years, I think. The hero appears on the first page (as he does in later books, but not always) and there is a bit of heroine-rescuing.
NM: What's the market like for this genre now?
KF: I don't know about the current market in the US but in the UK, romantic fiction is strong. In times of recession sales of lipstick and chocolate remain boyant. To quote Matt Bates, of WH Smith Travel, romantic fiction is chocolate. [Oooh, we relate to this, don't we, people? NM] It is an escape from the real world to somewhere with sexier men and better restaurants. [Take me to this world. NM]
NM: Tips, please, teacher.
KF: My absolute top tip is hard to take up just now! It's to join the Romantic Novelists Association of which I'm currently the chair. The trouble is, our wonderful New Writers' scheme is always oversubscribed. You have to get your application in on the 1st of January. Check out the website!
Other tips: get together with other writers. Talk about your craft, read books on writing, read novels in your chosen genres, but most of all, WRITE!!!Do edit, cut and fiddle about if you want. [Ignore that answer, pupils. You have to edit, cut and fiddle. A lot. It's a rule. Katie is far too successful to need to do things like this but we all do. OK?]
BTW - there's another interesting interview with romantic novelist, Christina Jones, on the Literary Project here.
As a little thank you to Katie, I am delighted to give a loud plug for two books: Living Dangerously and Loves Me, Loves Me Not, the anthology which Katie edited and which includes great names to learn from, including Joanna Trollope, Katie Flynn, Rosie Harris and many more.
As for me, I'm away to flutter my eyelashes, and fall at the feet of any man who will arrive at my house with arms full of red roses, sparkly wine, chocoolate and a voucher for LK Bennet.
Meanwhile, the main message I took from Katie's words was the one about narrative thrust...