A couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of a story written by Lucy Ashford. I have had the great pleasure of asking her a few questions. A link to the book review is here:- http://debrasbookcafe.blogspot.com/2011/04/book-review-problem-with-josephine-by.html
So, on with the questions:
If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why? Charles Dickens – a) because he's marvellous, and b) because he wrote his novels in instalments for periodicals, so he couldn't even go back to revise what he'd written – i.e. he got it right first time. Incredible!
What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write? I've got my own study at the top of the house, with my desk facing the wall so I'm not tempted to stare out of the window. I write as often as I can, and the morning's a good time. When I'm in the middle of a book, my room is a mess. Papers and research books strewn everywhere. But I have a good tidy-up when the book is finished, honest!
What is the hardest part of the art of writing for you? Getting started. That first blank page is daunting.
When and why did you first start writing? I think I was about six, to be truthful – I've always written, and always read masses of novels and history. I studied English Lit at university. My first serious venture into writing was a Mills and Boon competition – they were looking for new writers. I was a runner-up, and that gave me the confidence to keep trying.
How did you come up with the idea for the story 'The Problem with Josephine'? I was working on my latest historical novel for Mills and Boon, 'The Return of Lord Conistone,' in which my hero is in the thick of it fighting the French. I needed to find out what Napoleon was doing at that time - spring 1810 – and the answer was that he was getting married for the second time, in Paris, a truly sumptuous affair. Intrigued, I read more, and discovered that Napoleon's first wife, Josephine, was causing rather a problem...
The characters Sophie and Jacques play a key part in your story, are they based on any one you know? Afraid not. Pure fantasy, especially Jacques.
How much of your story is based on historic events, people and places? All the strands in the story - for example, Napoleon's whirlwind courtship of his shy young bride, the celebrations in Paris, and the fact that the portraits of Josephine in the Louvre had to be removed or painted out - are true.
How much research did you have to do for this story? I'm always pretty meticulous about my research. The editors at Mills & Boon as well as our readers require this, and I can only write when I feel secure about the background detail, even though most of it won't appear in the story.
You have also written longer historical novels under your real name Elizabeth Redfern, what was the motivation behind making the change to Mills & Boon? I've always loved historical romances (Georgette Heyer was a huge favourite of mine when I was a teenager) so my first attempt at writing was the historical romance for Mills & Boon that I've already mentioned. I remember also going to an all-day writers' conference run by Mills & Boon and coming away quite inspired. (And also in possession of a Mills & Boon tea towel, which was our somewhat non-pc parting gift!) My two longer historical novels were thrillers, and rather dark. I might write another one some day, but in the meantime I'm very happy with the world of romance.
Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now? I read masses of novels still, both old and new, because I think it's really important to keep up with publishing trends. I'm reading 'The Mathematics of Love' by Emma Darwin at the moment.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers? Decide on a genre, because you have to be able to pitch your book as a thriller, romance, or whatever you've chosen. Read and study the best authors in that genre. When you think you've finished your book, then's the time to revise, and revise again. Be utterly ruthless with the boring bits.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question? 'How does it feel to win the Booker Prize, Lucy?' 'Well, I'm absolutely thrilled...'