Today, I’m pleased to have Christina Hollis as my guest. Christina is the author of an impressive array of modern romance novels. I’m sure you’ll be as fascinated with Christina’s writing career as I am. Here goes…
How difficult or how easy was it to fulfill Mills and Boon’s requirements that first time you caught their attention?
My first contemporary romance for Mills and Boon, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin, had a rather unusual beginning. An assignment for a creative writing course I attended was to produce the first two thousand words of a novel - but it had to be a genre you’d never tried writing before. Reading our work out to the rest of the class was a regular ordeal, and when it was my turn the audience was polarised. The men (including the tutor!) hated it, the women loved it. They persuaded me to write more and read it out the next week, then urged me to complete the first three chapters and send them in to Mills and Boon. To be honest, when they wrote back requesting the rest of the manuscript, it came as a bit of a shock. There was no ‘rest’, so I had to write very fast! Their editorial input was invaluable and I found (and still find) the whole process fascinating.
How disciplined do you have to be to produce the number of novels that you do?
I have a rigid writing schedule as I’m by nature a scatterbrained butterfly-mind. My working day starts with emails, paperwork and admin before the family are up. Once the school run is over, I’m at my desk until it’s time to go out and meet the school coach again in the afternoon. Mornings are my best time for creative work, while I spend the afternoons re-reading what I’ve done and editing.
I counted ten (10) books on your website, which is a lot of characters. What comes to you first during the creative process, character or story?
I love inventing people! Mills and Boon Modern romances are strongly character driven, so I spend a lot of time mulling over ideas for family backgrounds and dynamics. Before I sit down to start writing I like to have fully fleshed out characters in my mind - their birth dates, favourite foods, height, weight, you name it. I may use only a fraction of the details I’ve dreamed up, but rounded characters work well together, and often suggest their own story.
How do you determine where each story will taker place and how much research goes into the setting?
I love Italy, so that’s my favourite place to set stories. France runs it a close second, and as I’d find it difficult to set a story somewhere I’d never visited, those are the two places I tend to write about. The exception is my latest release, Weight of the Crown, which is set in the fictional country of Rosara. I combined the best bits of all the places I love, and spiced it up with some Internet research on desert kingdoms. Surfing the net for nuggets of information like that is always fun.
I know you’re most likely always writing to deadline. How long does it take you to produce each novel from outline (if you do) or conception to the point where you’re ready to send the book to your editor?
That’s a tricky question, as every book is different. To be honest, I can’t give you a definitive timescale! I start with the characters, then develop an outline. By the time I type the words ‘Chapter One’, I’ve already got a pretty vivid picture in my mind of the big glamorous set pieces I want to write, the arguments and the romantic interludes. It’s just a matter of getting them down on the page. I write at least two thousand words a day - often many more, but of course a manuscript goes through several drafts before it’s ready to go. Whoever said ‘Books aren’t written, they’re re-written’ got it exactly right!
Considering the short shelf life of category/series romance novels, how do you keep your readers coming back for more from Christina Hollis?
I always try to write the very best story I can - the sort that can still manage to make me smile as I tweak and revise the draft for the third or fourth time. I have a website and blog, to publicise my work and I ‘chat’ online a lot, because I love it when readers tell me what they’ve enjoyed about my books. There’s nothing I like better than to make people happy! Readers’ comments help me give them more of what they like, too. That’s why I enjoy Twitter so much (I tweet as @christinabooks). It’s a great way to keep in touch with readers and writers. In particular I find the #1k1hr gang very supportive when I need to get down to a concentrated period of writing.
Harlequin & Mills & Boon novels were staples when I was a teenager. I imagine it might be the same for you. Did you ever dream that you would one day be writing these novels?
Never - and it’s an amazing privilege. I’ve written all my life, but dreaming up glamorous locations and seduction scenes must be the best part of the very best job in the world!
Ebooks have taken the publishing world by storm. Is that reflected in the number of e-books you sell versus print copies?
Yes, and I think it’s the same across all the genres. It’s so easy to load up an ebook and go. All my family are great readers, so our house is stuffed to the rafters with books. The e-revolution has come just in time to save us from disappearing under a mountain of paper! Speaking personally, though, I must say there are times when I prefer the feel of a lovely new book in my hands. Opening the cover for the first time, inhaling that lovely ‘new’ smell - mmm....
Do you see yourself writing in any other genre but romance?
I wrote and illustrated non-fiction for many years before I started writing romance, and my short story work is quite different from my Mills and Boon titles, so there’s been plenty of variety in my writing life already. I’m so delighted to be writing romance now, I don’t have any immediate plans to change.
What advice would you give those who may wish to write for Harlequin/Mills and Boon?
Each line has very specific requirements, so the first thing is to visit the websites http://bit.ly/oWKrdk and http://bit.ly/oewDpY to familiarise yourself with the writing guidelines. They’ll help you produce the best manuscript you possibly can. The New Voices competition running at the moment is a great way to try your hand - see http://www.romanceisnotdead.com for details. Make sure your manuscript is as perfect as you can make it - from characters and story to presentation.
Finally - and this last tip applies to every writer, no matter what line or publisher they are targeting Never give up. If you love writing and you have a story to tell, keep going!
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me, Joy! And there is a competition currently running on my website. I welcome you all to visit and enter for a chance of winning some Christmas Goodies and Signed Books!
Now duty is his only mistress!
For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over…Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew!
Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander’s wicked side re-emerges! Wary of his scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance – but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.
Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire, but he is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won’t refuse…
Buy links for Weight Of The Crown.
Christina Hollis on the WEB!