A marine blue riding habit with Brussels lace make up this super hero’s disguise. Read on and find out more…
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
Oh, gosh… When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I had a flowered paper in my bedroom which had large squares in it. They reminded me of my News Book at school, so I duly wrote in them… I was always making up stories (I was very truthful, though, honest!), reading or drawing – thankfully none of the early works have survived! I started my first novel when I’d left school but not yet working, inspired by a series on television. I think it may still lurk in a dusty box somewhere, so I’d better get it on the fire before you find it. Excruciating would probably best describe it. The second effort actually did eventually evolve into a manuscript which I was brave enough to send out, but really, it needs more work. Perhaps, one day, I’ll get back to it.
I started my first Regency when the UK was struck by the Foot & Mouth crisis. I couldn’t work, so had plenty of time on my hands. Prior to this, I had always felt I could never write anything that could hold a candle to Georgette Heyer, so preferred not to shame myself trying. It was more like a series of unconnected scenes than a flowing novel, but it did, eventually – and after many, many rewrites – become A Sense of the Ridiculous!
All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
I don’t need one, that’s me! I hate confrontation and unpleasantness.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
I belong to an authors’ group set up for support and encouragement when the going gets tough. It is a small group, which keeps it among friends, and we meet once a month over coffee/chocolate/tea and cake. Never forget the cake! We report on where we are, what we’re working on and discuss any problems. It’s wonderful to have the support and advice of fellow authors. Morton is very good at keeping us in order (because we do get a bit chatty!) and organizing things; Georgia is very wise and practical; Sheryl makes us laugh; Alison runs writers’ courses, so is good at finding ways to unlock a plot dilemma; Jan and Elizabeth are fountains of Regency knowledge; Ellie is a beautiful person and talented with it… she’ll give you a hug and chase the gremlins away; and Lynn is a lovely Northern lady with a wonderful dry sense of humour.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
I have always been a dreamer. As a child I would go off into a fantasy world of my own for hours. When I learned to read and discovered books, that world became a universe of creation. On long car journeys, my mother always bought me a handful of books because I would just sit and read the whole way. Nowadays, inspiration can come from anywhere – frost on a cobweb in the corner of a gate; a wood rich with the colours of autumn; a snippet of an overheard conversation; a line of prose or poetry; a picture, of a person, a place or a scene; a misty morning; a stone bridge over a chattering stream; a moody sky over the hills; a memory.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
At the moment, my lair is in front of the log fire! In warmer weather, a sunny bedroom decorated in blue and white is home to my computer, printer, desk and a few of the several bookcases in the house. It is long and narrow, but a calm space in which to work and has the added advantage of a pair of French windows for summer days!
If I could, I’d love a stone cottage with antique furniture and a library of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves – full of books, of course!
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you ensure they are used only for good?
I read as much as I can, I watch costume dramas and meet with other writers. I take my dog for long walks every day – I believe fresh air and exercise are essential to refill ‘the creative well’. I also spend time with my ponies. Horses are particularly sensitive to human moods and there’s nothing like brushing out a tangled tail or grooming a muddy coat for getting rid of tensions! I also find that such ordinary tasks allow ideas to flow. If I ever got too big for my boots, my family and animals would soon knock me back down to size!
Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhuman costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
It would be the most gorgeous, marine blue riding habit, with Brussels lace around the collar and at the wrists, ice-blue detail on the bodice and pearl buttons. I would wear a small hat (because a large-brimmed one would interfere with derring-do), York tan leather gloves and carry a large crop in case of ungentlemanly conduct from any supervillains I might be called upon to deal with. The habit would have a disguised opening in the skirt to permit riding astride (breeches hidden by said skirt) for a hasty retreat or, indeed, to give chase.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
In common with most authors, rejection would sit high on my list of green minerals, along with self-doubt. I find it very hard to stay positive and keep believing in my work when submissions are continually rejected or, which is worse, just ignored. At the moment, my biggest challenges are the marketing and promotional sides to being a writer, in particular developing my profile and getting my books to potential readers.
What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
I was all ready to go with my latest book apart from the cover. The photo I planned to use turned out to be too low a resolution and therefore not suitable. Finding the right image for an historical novel has been a challenge! I have been very lucky and had help from author friends.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
Do not assume, that because a manuscript was polished when submitted, you will still feel the same when you come to publish it two years later! Don’t allow people to take advantage of your good nature and take you for a fool. Trust your instincts. Don’t sit and wait for an answer to a submission; move on to the next project.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Through social networking and writing workshops I have met some wonderful people who I can now claim as friends. I have grown as a person and although I don’t always necessarily feel confident, my self-confidence has increased, along with my knowledge in various areas.
If you did this again, what would you do differently and what would you not change?
Now I am a little less of a ‘Johnny Raw’ I would try to be more businesslike in my approach to the various stages of publication which come after all the editing etc. is complete, so that I have a schedule leading up to release date. Although the release has been delayed on this latest work, I’m glad I helped a fellow author with her Regency novel, since it showed me I can beta read/critique and that is another string to my bow!
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and why?
My good friend and mentor, Sue Johnson, has given me a lot of advice over the years, but I think the best, apart from to keep persevering and not give up, was the Christmas present she gave me – a tiny polished stone, with the word ‘Believe’ inscribed on it. There must be some magic in that stone, because ever since then, writing wise, things have begun to happen.
Tell us about the new book and why we need to drop everything and buy it now.
An Improper Marriage is set partly among the ironmasters and glass-makers of the Black Country (an industrial area of the West Midlands in England) and a Worcestershire country house. When faced with a distasteful marriage, Eleanor Honeybourne decides her only option is to run away, but then circumstances throw her into a situation which not only becomes dangerous, it could spell her ruin. It is a traditional Regency novel with sparkling, witty dialogue (I hope); elements of adventure with a mystery to be solved; engaging characters (again, I hope) who struggle against very human feelings; and a particularly nasty villain. It should make you laugh, perhaps out loud, make you cry and, above all, make you empathise with the characters and visualize the world they inhabit.
What’s in store for you in the future? Have you any other big projects on the horizon?
I have several exciting projects coming up. I’m particularly excited about an anthology I’m involved in which is celebrating the Battle of Waterloo. It is due for release on April 1st and features authors far better known than I am! I have the first of a series of Shape Shifter novels coming up, most likely to be released under my paranormal pen name, Vandalia Black. Then, as well as the next Regency, I have an author’s guide in the pipeline.
You can find Heather at: