Q: What is your motivation for writing?
A: You might as well ask a fish about its motivation for swimming. I write because I can’t not write. I’ve written stories all of my life. It’s part of me. I have a very vivid imagination, but I simply cannot imagine a time when I don’t write.
Q: What is your writing routine?
A: One thousand words each evening after dinner, Sunday to Thursday. I sit on my sofa, feet up, with my laptop on a sofa table and cushions at my back. I like the room to be quiet so I can hear my characters talking inside my head. Liquid refreshment is essential: usually a glass of red wine with the first 500 words and a cup of tea with the second. Particularly difficult scenes may be fuelled by a finger of cognac and a few squares of dark chocolate.
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: The first draft takes about three months. Then I spend a couple of weeks editing and polishing before sending it to my publisher. After that, I have to wait until I hear whether or not they like my book. Rather than checking my emails every 15 seconds round the clock, I usually deal with my anxiety by starting work on the next book.
Q: Can you take criticism?
A: I welcome any criticism of my writing if it’s constructive. However, I wouldn’t appreciate someone just telling me they think my books are rubbish, because that doesn’t help me make them better. I have worked hard for a long time to reach the point where I write well enough to be published, but I know I can always improve. In fact, that’s one of the things that keeps me interested: trying to make each book better than the last. It’s impossible to critique your own writing, so other people’s views are invaluable. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t received, and used, a great deal of helpful criticism over the years.
Q: Who is your favourite writer, and what kind of books do you most like to read?
A: More than anything, I love writers who can tell wonderful satisfying stories, in almost any genre, such as Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Robert B Parker. I can’t read horror, though, however good the storytelling; it gives me nightmares. My favourite genre is fantasy, and I also enjoy non-fiction, particularly travel writing, and of course erotica.
Q: Do you plan what you write, or does it take you by surprise?
A: I plan ahead a little. I have to know some things about the characters before I start; in particular I need some idea of their priorities and problems. But a lot of it takes me by surprise, and I enjoy that part. I like to give my characters some say in the story’s development— after all, it’s their story— but I also like to be one step ahead of them so that I don’t let them go too far.
Q: Who is your biggest fan?
A: My sister, even though she’s never read any of my books. I don’t mind at all because I know they’re not the kind of books she prefers to read. But I can’t tell you how much I value her unswerving conviction that I’m the best writer on the planet.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: Write some more. Or read. I also love to cook, and to spend time with friends and family. And I adore taking holidays, because they give me so much time to read (and write).
Q: How can writers stay sane?
A: I don’t think you can be sane and be a writer. I have lots of people and creatures and worlds in my head, and I have a compulsion to string words together repeatedly; how can that be described as ‘sane’? We’re all somewhere on the scale from ‘eccentric’ to ‘psycho’. My psychiatrist says I score ‘loopy’ on this scale. Luckily for me, she’s not real; I made her up.
Q: Who would play you in the film of your life?
A: Catherine Zeta Jones. She looks exactly like me. Honest.
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