Do you have a writing routine? Do you write in a special place of a certain time of the day? Do you need music, coffee or just peace and silence to write?
I’m a full time writer, and routine is very important to me. As soon as the children are on their way to school, I take my dog (a small black pug called Plato) out for a walk. While I’m outside in the fresh air I think about what I’m going to write that day, picturing scenes in my mind, working out the dialogue so that as soon as I’m back in the office I can open my laptop and begin to write.
I can’t write with music, but when I edit I use an app called Brain FM, which plays white noise music so that I can concentrate and block out the outside world. And of course, I’m never without a cup of coffee. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that coffee is always the first thing I think about in the morning. I couldn’t function without it!
How long have you been writing romance novels? How did you get into it?
I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a child. From the earliest age I was an avid reader, and when I finished a book I’d continue to dream about the characters, making up stories for them in my head, and then on the page. However, I only seriously began writing back in 2012, when I discovered Twilight fanfiction, and started to write stories and post them online. From there I found a fantastic group of readers, editors, and so many friends, so when I made the transition to writing novels, I already had a great team of people surrounding me.
I love writing romance – there’s something wonderful about two people falling in love, and I think it’s a privelege to be able to bring these stories to my readers. I feel very priveleged to be a writer, and to have my books in ebook and print.
How do you manage to fit your writing time in your daily schedule next to other obligations?
I plan a lot! I have a yearly plan, which I break up into monthly targets and weekly tasks. I carry my diary around everywhere. It’s a large, blue hardback book. I haven’t been able to get into using my phone schedule at all – I like to see all my plans written in ink on a white page!
My first task on Monday mornings is to make a list of everything I need to achieve that week, and then fit those tasks around the children’s appointments and activities, as well as cooking, cleaning, and occasionally reading a book! If I didn’t use diaries and lists, I’m sure I’d forget everything, so they’re very important to me.
Your stories are very emotional and always deal with serious life issues. Combined with the steamy scenes, it’s the perfect combination. Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
I find insipiration everywhere I look. I like to watch people (in a non-stalkerish way!) and make stories up about them in my mind. A couple having an argument over dinner can spark something in my imagination where I wonder why they’re arguing and what led them to this, and whether they’ll kiss and make up when they get home!
A few years ago I trained as a counsellor, and from that I learned how to really empathise with somebody else, and put myself in their shoes. Nowadays I find it easy to describe a character’s emotions and really get under their skin to understand their motivation.
And as for the steamy scenes, well, in life as well as in novels it’s nice to have a little fun after a long, emotional day!
How much of your own experiences go into your books?
They say that a writer’s first novel is autobiographical, and with all my stories I certainly put in elements of my experiences. In Fix You, for example, I describe the change in technology and the music scene of the early 2000s, which was something I definitely experienced for myself. In the Love in London series, all the locations are places I’ve visited. I live very close to London and spend a lot of time there – Shoreditch and Hoxton are two of my favourite locations, and I write about them a lot!
How do you integrate social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest?!?) in your work? How important is it to do so as an author today? And do readers reward the effort?
If writing a book is like being at school, then social media is my playground. It’s my happy place. I love connecting with readers, bloggers and other authors. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I do have Pinterest as well, but tend to use it to save ideas, rather than interacting on there.
In today’s market, it’s almost essential to be on social media. I get a lot of messages from fans on Facebook, and whenever possible I’ll reply straight away. I love hearing what readers think of my books. Facebook is also a great place to share news – about books, sales and upcoming releases.
Nowadays authors and readers are more like friends. I chat with my readers about every day things – how to deal with my teenagers, what movies are worth watching on Netflix, and of course we talk books. Not just mine, but other ones they’ve read and that they recommend. Because after all, I’m a reader, too!
Do you think one can really learn how to write a book (say in creative writing courses), or is it simply talent?
Learning how to craft a story is definitely possible. I’m a big supporter of continuous learning, and I’m always reading books and taking courses that help me shape my stories. There are certain important things that each romantic story needs to include – compelling leading characters (in my case a hero and a heroine) who have something missing (each other!), a conflict that prevents them being together, and of course, a happily ever after. But I do believe that writing takes talent, too. It takes a spark of inspiration, an insight into human nature and the ability to use words to shape a story. Plus a whole lot of hard work of course!
What are things that you learned over the years of writing? Are there things you did wrong with your first novels, that you would now do completely different?
I started out writing fanfiction and posting it online. It was like going through an apprenticeship for me. I learned more about grammar than I ever did at school, and this was really important for my future work. I also learned about reader’s expectations, and how important it is to meet them.
Looking back at some of those old stories can be embarrassing sometimes. They are over-wordy and too descriptive, with too much emphasis on pretty adjectives and not enough emphasis on character and plot.
Nowadays my stories are all about my characters. The plot comes from them. The romance comes from them. Creating memorable characters that pull you into a story is the most important job of a romance author.
What other genre would you to try writing other than romance? Why?
I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers and suspense books. Stories like ‘Girl on a Train’ and ‘Gone Girl’ spring to mind. I love the way they keep you guessing, and have anti-heroines that the reader loves to hate.
If I ever had to write a book outside of the romance genre, I think I’d try one of these. But in the meantime I’ll just keep reading them.
Die Love in London-Reihe von Carrie Elks ist im November 2016 bei Forever by Ullstein erschienen: