Here is a blog chain contribution by Carol Mason. Carol’s website is being stubborn, so we’re posting her responses here. 🙂
Thanks to author Shawn Bird for inviting me to participate here. You have asked some really great questions!
1. What inspired you to begin writing?
When I was graduating university, a fellow student was about to start writing Harlequin Romances. She believed she could write one easily, and that it would be a fast way to making money. Of course, she was deluded, as I’m sure she later learned. Writing is not easy, be it literary fiction or a Harlequin bodice-ripper! And getting published is even harder. But it planted the seed. I’d always wanted to write. So I thought, Ok, if she’s going to try it, maybe I will too…. (I started to try to write Harlequins then wondered what on earth was I doing! I didn’t even enjoy reading these books. But it gave me a starting point until I found my feet so to speak and discovered that it was women’s contemporary fiction that was my calling, not necessarily romances.
2. How does being a British ex-pat living in Canada impact your writing?
My voice is very British. Despite living in fabulous BC for many years, I still feel very British. But I want my books to be sold in more countries than just the UK so I have to remind myself not to use words that are too regional. Sometimes I try to sound more North American but it feels wrong. We have to be who we are at the end of the day, don’t we? That is never more true than when it comes to writing…
3. In your own books, who is your favourite character? Why?
I loved Leigh in The Secrets of Married Women, my first novel. Leigh is a bit of a dark, complicated woman, capable of having great fun and being a great friend, yet equally capable of deceit at the worst level. This makes her fascinating to me. Writing her, I was intrigued by what she was going to do next and how her friends seemed to underestimate her until there was an eye-opening event that changed everything… As far as my male characters go, then Mike in The Love Market. Mike is not your typical hero. He’s not tall. He’s not especially good-looking, or successful or ambitious, and he’s got strange dress sense. But no one could love their wife as much as Mike loves his wife – or, now, ex-wife. He’s the kind of guy we all want in our life – as a 100% reliable friend, definitely. As a romantic interest… well, you would have to decide. Yet as we discover, Mike might be a nice guy, but he’s not a door mat. Mike has a breaking point that gave me as an objective reader of my own novel, tremendous respect for him.
4. What author has inspired you?
So many! Rosie Thomas, initially. I remember reading her novel Other People’s Marriages and thinking Whoo! This is the kind of book I want to write! Then I read all of hers and didn’t dislike any of them. I have read so many novels yet this one always sticks in my mind for some reason. Then chicklit came along and some of it was good and so much of it was bad… I never totally latched onto a great, great chicklit author, preferring the more complex stories of the type Rosie writes.
5. You frequently write about your travels on your Facebook page. What is your most memorable travel story?
Just the other day my husband and I were recalling our visit to Tuscany 2 years ago, and laughing about this. We were in the very charming Montepulciano, and it was April and not especially warm. There were few tourists around and we were looking for a place to eat dinner. A charming young Italian lured us into his restaurant with a very long and engaging speech about the purity of his ingredients, his wife’s skill as a chef, and a certain kind of local and rare wild boar that his wife specialized in cooking. (my husband speaks Italian). Anyway, we love our food and his restaurant sounded amazing, so we dutifully trotted back there at 7pm when he opened for dinner. Basically it was a small place of about 10 tables, and his wife worked the kitchen and he worked the floor. There was no other staff. We were to receive a 5 course meal he told us, but little did we know that each course would be introduced with a lengthy description of the origins of the food, his wife’s rationale for pairing ingredients, the history of the various condiments that were served with each course…..a twenty minute lecture on the various types of wine that would accompany each dish… It was a bit like going to cooking school, only instead of the teacher addressing a classroom, this young man addressed each table individually, repeating the same story with everyone who walked in the door, which left him little time to actually serve food. By the time all 10 tables were occupied and he’d repeated his spiel 10 times, we had been in there two hours before we’d even seen the first course – a rather disappointing pasta with dry bits of beef in it. The build-up to his famous wild boar main course was almost more than any of us could stand. Wasn’t that the real reason why we were all here? We had certainly worked up an appetite. My husband and I were salivating with anticipation, as were the two Americans at the table next to us. I had a feeling we were in for something fabulous that would live in our memory for years to come as our truly authentic gourmet experience of Italy. I even had my camera at the ready. When the boar finally arrived, my husband and I looked down at our plates just as we heard the American woman say, “It’s a slice of ham!’ And it truly was. No adornment. No accompaniment. Just one, thin, flat, pink slice of pleasant-enough but highly boring old ham. We suffered through the courses that followed – each one more underwhelming than the one that had gone before. Then the chef came out to take a bow! Yes. And we applaud her because we felt so bad for her, plus we were just glad the whole thing was finally over. I could have gone to the theatre and had dinner and after-theatre drinks in the time we sat there. We weren’t let out until nearly midnight. I suppose I should have known – you know, Boar=Ham. But somehow, being in Italy, and being wooed by a handsome young restaurateur who seemed so passionate about food, I had hoped for a fabulous experience. Well, an experience it was, but fabulous, not so much!
6. Do you have a favourite writing quotation to share?
“If you can’t tell stories, create characters, devise incidents and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” Somerset Maugham. Because it’s true. Being a good writer is not even close to enough.
7. What do you like about writing for ‘women’s fiction’?
I can explore issues that interest me, or ones I’ve personally had experience with, or am familiar with through my encounters with friends. I can really get into that endlessly fascinating territory of what makes women tick – the good, the bad and the entirely preposterous. I don’t have to do massive chunks of research. Nobody is going to think I’m an idiot when I wrongly interpret history. Sometimes I get to shock people because they assume I’ve experienced everything I write about! If only that were true!
8. What has been the most interesting thing that has happened to you because you are an author?
For the launch of my first novel, my publisher, Hodder, invited me to The Grove (a very posh destination spa/resort in England) for a media event. It was attended by 10 other authors – many of whom I admire, and whose novels I have read. It was a fancy event with many of the country’s major media present, complete with an overnight stay and fabulous meals with ever-flowing champagne. I felt so privileged to be included among so many successful novelists. I could never have afforded to stay there if the publisher hadn’t been paying. I got to dress up. I wrongly assumed a writer’s life would be glamorous like this everyday. It isn’t. But I still wouldn’t change a thing about it.
9. Which of your books was the easiest to write? Why?
Send Me A Lover. For some reason I really related to the young widow who wanted so badly to believe her husband was up there looking after her and helping her find new love. Plus it includes a lovely trip to Greece where I had recently been. And the young widow’s mother is a lot like my own – so I felt I could write their quirky dynamics so easily! It was a funny and sad book that somehow just flowed for me.
10. Which of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?
I think my first one. Or at least, the first one to get published (The Secrets of Married Women). Mainly because I had what I thought was a structure, then it had to change as my editor at my literary agency thought it wasn’t working. Then it went through so many edits when my agent found me a publisher. I constantly felt like it was 100% good enough, only to be told that I still had far to go before it was up to the standard it needed to be at. It really showed me how you can write a good book, in fact a knockout book, but there are lots of other published writers out there writing knockout novels, and the competition is very very stiff. If you’re not as good as the best, then you simply aren’t going to compete. You won’t get published. Then you won’t stay published.
11. I remember you telling me that someone broke into your house and stole your computer, and the two completed novels on it. Was losing those works a blessing or a curse in the long run?
Those were the two Harlequin novels I wrote in the very beginning! I was really just cutting my teeth on them. I learned how to start a book, finish a book and give a book a middle. So that was valuable, of course. At the time it felt like a huge trauma to have them stolen. But really, it was probably a blessing. I really don’t think they were all that great anyway!
Next in the chain!
I am going to ask 11 questions of Kim Hornsby, author of The Dream Jumper’s Promise and Necessary Detour, to name two. http://www.kimhornsbyauthor.net/ Kim, here goes…
1. Describe the type of books you write, as I believe you also write under a pen name.
2. You were once photographed with Sylvester Stallone. Is there something about you that we need to know?
3. What is your ultimate dream as a writer if you could map the course of your writer’s career?
4. What is the best novel you have read recently and the one that disappointed you the most, and why?
5. Describe your writing process – to plot or not to plot, before you begin?
6. Since you first started writing, up until now, how would you say you have grown as a writer?
7. How do you come up with a book idea?
8. How secure are you as a writer (given that creative people are thought to be quite insecure about their art)? If you had a great book idea and 5 of your writer friends shot it down, would you write it anyway?
9. Without giving away any plot, what is your favourite scene in a book you’ve written?
10. If you were forbidden from writing novels, what would you do that might come close to satisfying you?
11. Tell me about Beach Read Authors. What can readers hope to find there?