Q&A with Katie Fforde
To celebrate the publication of Katie Fforde's new book, Recipe for Love, we invited you to send the bestselling romance novelist your questions in March 2012. The queen of romantic fiction answered your burning queries on everything from writing technique, to the perfect heroine and the value of escapist literature.
Katie is the author of 17 novels and President of the Romantic Novelists' Association. Recipe for Love tells the story of Zoe Harper, an aspiring cook who wins a place on a televised cookery competition. She soon finds herself crossing ladles with a devious competitor and struggling to quell a crush on a delicious judge.
Q. Vogonmothership: I bought Living Dangerously when it first came out and have read every one since. Could you tell us in a few simple steps how to go about becoming the next big thing in romantic fiction?
A. Katie: It's probably a good idea to write the whole of your first novel, just to prove you have the staying power. Then, once you're happy with it, try and find an agent. I think Harlequin Mills and Boon are the only publishers who'll look at unagented work.
It's probably a good idea to track down some writing courses. It's well worth subscribing to Mslexia as they advertise most courses in the back, as well as for all the other writing tips. Also, Writing Magazine. If you can get on the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' scheme, that is brilliant but they are always very oversubscribed. Check out the website. But do persevere!
Q. LottieJenkins: Are you going to release The Undercover Cook in book form eventually or will it just remain an e-book?
A. Katie: Alas I'm not aware of The Undercover Cook coming out in print form at the moment, but you never know.
Q. Aristocat: I must admit I have not read any of your books. I am a passionate reader but not of romantic novels. How would you persuade me to try one of your books?
A. Katie: I'm not good at selling myself but quite a lot of people tell me – some of them men – that they don't usually read romantic fiction but they make an exception for me. I like to have something going on apart from the romance. Try The Undercover Cook, which is a digital short story that's not too long. It would be a good way to see if you enjoy my work.
Q. Nappymaestro: I like the fact that (as I perceive it) the heroines in your books don't set out to do down others and aren't hugely acquisitive. It's nice to see an ethical moral universe that doesn't seem to involve obsessing about designer handbags, appearance and money. Is that deliberate?
A. Katie: I do write from the heart and although I do buy clothes and handbags they are not my main reason for living. I have to be with my characters for a long time so it's better if I like them. I wouldn't enjoy being with a gold-digger – not for a whole book anyway.
Q. Doilooklikeatourist: I've read most of your books, and have liked them a lot. My only criticism is that I find your heroines are just a teeny bit too nice, with their tiny flats and badly paid but lovely creative jobs.
A. Katie: I'm glad you like my books in spite of the heroines. I suppose being a creative person who has been very hard up I naturally relate to people like I was. (Less hard up now, thank goodness!)
Q. Socialdilemma: What are you best tips for actually writing?
A. Katie: Read a lot, try and write at the same time each day. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't come out brilliant the first time. No one sits down at the piano and plays the Moonlight Sonata first time. I started writing just an hour a day, which was all the time I could manage. I did stretch it quite quickly though.
Q. SaggyOldClothCatPuss: I love your books, they always make me smile, and imagine that my Prince Charming is out there somewhere. Could you perhaps make one of your heroines short, speccy and dumpy, but with a kind and loving heart, who finds the man of her dreams despite being middle aged, unattractive and tied to two kids and a long term and exceptionally unromantic boyfriend?
A. Katie: I think it is the boyfriend part that is holding you back. I have had several heroines who have slight weight problems and are 'under tall'. I do genuinely believe there is someone out there for everyone, and a kind and loving heart is the most important thing.
Q. SexyDragonStarlet: I imagine that some of your inspiration is drawn from real life situations you see/experience or hear about, but have you ever seen something that is so crazy/preposterous/soap opera-ish that you haven't used it because you think it's too extreme?
A. Katie: I recently wrote a short story for a magazine that was based closely on something that happened to my daughter. The protagonist managed to lock her keys and her children into the car. I had to tone down the unhelpfulness of the police and the locksmith before the magazine would accept it. Real life is often too extreme for fiction.
Q. Rianoceros: Why are your 'unsuitable' boyfriends either lazy, unwashed hippies, or sexist pigs similar in appearance to Hugh Grant? And when you mention Women's Tea, what is it?
A. Katie: I don't think all my unsuitable boyfriends are like this, are they? I seem to remember some very nice men my heroine just doesn't fancy. And some of my heroes are a bit hippyish. But I'm glad you're not put off. Women's Tea is available in health food shops. A friend introduced me to it and it is quite peppery. Men's Tea is also available but I haven't tried that.
Q. Pinkforboys: Your books for me sit alongside Jilly Cooper's as my treat when I'm in need of some escapism. You've seen me through some pretty miserable days when I've really needed to take my mind off reality. I really enjoyed Summer of Love, great to see romance for all generations told with your winning humour.
A. Katie: I'm so glad my books take you out of yourself. I use fiction like that too sometimes. Can I recommend the books of Christina Jones, Milly Johnson, Judy Astley and Polly Williams? I only write one book a year, and you may need some other names. These are the people I turn to when I need a lift. They may work for you too!
Last updated: 9 months ago