This week's Spotlight is on author Bella Frances and her latest release The Playboy of Argentina
@ellefran on twitter
What inspires you to write?
The richness of life. Everything I observe, feel or lust after. Capturing the beauty of the first waft of honeysuckle every summer, the truth of humanity as one person helps out another, no matter the scale or cost, the fact that love is the fuel of our lives. Love, more than anything is what makes me want to write. But I know that we all have our pain, our dark times, and that it's the lows that help us value the highs. Although romantic fiction is all about the joy of love, the characters have to battle their demons to find true love. My books are a bit darker than some for that reason. I love the darkness and drama, but only if there is a guaranteed HEA!
Tell us about your writing process…
I'm not a 'notebook' writer - I wish I was! I observe so much and think I'll remember it, and maybe I do - maybe it gets planted in my rather soupy subconscious and comes out unwittingly.
I am definitely an unstructured writer. I uncover my characters through writing about them. So far, all of them have arrived in the shadows of another story I am currently working on. Having lived - a little, I see so many similarities in people - tropes, if you will - but its the partnership, the couple, the passion between each hero and heroine that excites me. Why is it only Frankie that can tame the lion in Rocco? What was it about Georgia that broke past Danny's unstinting ambition? Why will Michael break the habit of a lifetime to save Tara? I love the concept of 'the only one who really gets me.' I love it and I believe in it.
Because I uncover my characters I take a bit longer to get to a perfect piece. I write quickly - but redrafting and revisions are a core part of the process for me. Oh the pain of it all!
Do you talk to (or listen to) your characters?
Hmmm. Interesting question. Do I listen to them? I think the answer is yes, since I don't consciously know what they're going to get up to all of the time. I do plot, but I rarely follow it exactly. Sometimes it comes as a pleasant surprise when I return to my synopsis and realise that we've all behaved ourselves and followed the instructions! They're very real to me. In my early days of writing romantic fiction I couldn't bear to part with them. There is still one manuscript I have never sent off to any publisher or agent. I couldn't bear to! Maybe they'll see print one day, but I had such an emotional, joyful journey with them that the thought of them being scrutinised and potentially rejected was too much. Ridiculous!
What advice would you give…?
My advice to anyone wanting to write is write. My advice for anyone wanting to be published is the same for anyone wanting to achieve anything in life. Set your sights, work out your path, each step of it, get your head down and go for it. Go on a course. Get genuine feedback - I sent short stories off and paid for critique. I was told I was obviously a professional writer by one - a backhanded compliment! Stop doing the housework and spend your time in your own version of a garret, your family will understand, perhaps. Read and write and write and write.
To become a better writer - open your eyes, your ears and your heart. Hang out with creative types: writers and musicians, artists and dancers talk differently, they see things differently. Indulge a little bit of your left brain tendencies or you'll never be organised or structured at all - I think commercially successful people have a lot of left brain action going on, as it happens, or keep someone close to them who has.
What is your favourite genre to read? Is it different to what you write?
I SO love romantic fiction. I always have. I get as so much pleasure from a well written novella as any piece of literature - it's just a different sort of pleasure. I intensely dislike literature that requires superhuman effort to read. I don't subscribe to the pain no gain theory and have abandoned so called 'masterpieces' because they were turgid and unpleasant. That said, I love a book that requires concentration and helps evolve my thinking or experience or offers something in the way of a novel appreciation of life, or a unique use of language. I love poetic writing and I love writing that is spare. I love it all!
Probably it comes down to things that touch the human spirit, that make me see and understand more clearly. Cordelia's duty towards Lear, and his blindness; the patience, glimmer of life, then desolation of the Lady of Shallot; the everyday, razor-sharp insights offered by Raymond Carver, the universal wisdom in the lines of Mary Oliver, the beauty of early Yeats…
Suffice to say they have a very rocky path, but a very fulfilling ending. They are about to pop up in the story of Rocco's brother, Dante. A very different character, but with his own secrets who is beginning to realise he doesn't hold all the cards! Informally titled Dante and the Duchess, you can check it out as it evolves, on my website.