In the hot seat today I would like to welcome:
HelloJoanna, thank you for letting us have a peek behind the scenes. Your sun sign is TAURUS.
Q. Taureans are well known for being persistent and determined once they are motivated. Is this a trait you access while writing? Do these energies see you through to the end of a writing project when others may give up?
Yes we are a persistent and determined lot! And certainly that persistence carried me through with the trilogy. When I was told by my publisher that the finished manuscript was too big and that I’d have to split it I felt I was faced with an impossible task. I had to not only split up the book, I had to make sure they could read as three stand alone novels. However, I think the time I had spent on the project, plus the desire to be able to hold a book and say ‘This is mine – I’ve done this.’ overrode the enormity of the task. And I’m delighted to say that the rewriting process actually produced three better books than the one I had started with.
Q. The negative side of being persistent and determined is being inflexible. Have there been times when you should really have given up on that character that isn’t working but have persisted and then been frustrated?
Not so far in my writing. All my characters are essential to the plot. When a character hasn’t been working, I’ve looked at them indepth to see if changing anything about them might make them work better. In the Behind Blue Eyes trilogy, Mel’s husband Liam started out as a weak man, totally under the thumb and quite spineless. As the book progressed I realised that his character wasn’t working, so I tried to make him more balanced. He’s not weak, he’s a good caring man whose love for his wife blinds him to the kind of woman she really is. However Ella’s arrival changes that and slowly opens his eyes. So through the book there is this gradual process where he begins to stand up to her. That made the character more likeable and gave the reader the ability to understand and sympathise with his situation. If he’d been a complete doormat they wouldn’t have and it could have made him seem rather one dimensional.
Q. Stability and predictability make a Taurean very happy. A writing career doesn’t hold any of those things. Do you ever worry about the practical side of your chosen career? What strategies do you use to overcome any fears you may have?
Currently I’m balancing fulltime work with writing, so I have a financial safety net. However, I hope to go part time in the near future, which will give me a good balance of work and writing and still give me that regular income. If I do have any current fears, it’s not meeting the writing targets I’ve set myself because sometimes my current job and home commitments can interfere with the writing time I allocate myself. I therefore have to be very organised – and here comes the Taurean in me – determined to preserve that time at all costs!
Q. Taureans like comfort but not clutter around them. Where do you do your writing? Do you surround yourself with things that make you feel comfortable and bring you pleasure? What does your workspace look like?
I write in the room in our house we use as the office as it’s quiet and I get no interruptions (except when my two cats Max and Mollie feel they need feeding!) I have a long wide desk and PC which face a wall of shelves and to my right is a window which looks down the valley towards Bath’s American Museum – it‘s wonderful to watch the changes in the seasons. Spring and Autumn are fantastic times of year and when we had snow in late 2010 the woods looked as if they had been dusted with icing sugar! The shelves contain files and books that I use for reference, although the internet is a great place for gathering information. I also have a dictionary, a thesaurus and a copy of The Creative Writing Course Book. The most important item (besides my PC), however is my music. It plays a huge part in my writing and for me is a creative ‘must have’. I have a very large library of music on the computer, some downloaded from personal CDs, some from iTunes. The right song will really bring a scene to life. It sounds crazy I know, but that’s the way I write!
Q. Venus is the planetary ruler of Taurus. Venus represents love and relationships (amongst other things). Is love an important theme in your writing? Is romance the genre you feel most comfortable with?
Yes, love is an emotion which is very central to my writing. Although a saga, the trilogy is also a love story – several love stories in fact, as Issy, Rachel and Jenny have their own romantic problems. However, it’s Matt and Ella’s relationship which is central to the book. Left alone their friendship would have most probably blossomed into love and you would have had quite an ordinary story. However, if you throw other people into the mix as I did, all sorts of interesting things happen. I loved the whole journey; it is currently a genre I’m happy with although I’m not sure just where my writing will take me in the future!
Q. We all need something in our lives that is our outlet from the stresses and strains of daily living. Taureans are very practical people with a love of the earth. How do you relax away from your writing? Do you enjoy gardening/spending time with nature as a form of stress therapy?
Getting out in the fresh air, even if it’s raining. We are right on the edge of the city and within five minutes you can be walking in open countryside. I also go out with friends some Sundays and exercise dogs for Bath Cats and Dogs Home. Curling up with a good book is another relaxing way to unwind, especially if accompanied by a large glass of wine! Films too, – I enjoy fantasy like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia or a good weepie!
Q. Charlotte Bronte and supposedly William Shakespeare were also born under a Taurean sun. Which authors have inspired you onyour path?
Two come instantly to mind – Catherine Cookson because her heroines were very real and faced a lot of hardship and Lesley Pearse whose strong women characters go through really difficult times before they eventually find happiness. So one of main themes that inspired me is this tough journey the heroine has to make. The other theme which interested me was stories about families, that wonderful weave of characters and the way they interact with each other -authors like Penny Vincenzi and Joanna Trollope do this so well.
Thank you for spending time with us today Joanne.
Joanne is a showcased author with Loveahappyending which is an interactive reader/author website. Visit Loveahappyending to find out more about this brilliant project and how you, as a reader, can support them.
Audrey Hawkins writes as Joanna Lambert and is the author of The Behind Blue Eyes Trilogy set in the1960s. She lives on the outskirts of Bath with her husband and two cats Max and Mollie. She juggles full time working with writing. Born at the end of the 1940s, she spent her childhood in a small Wiltshire village on the edge of Salisbury Plain. It was straight out of a Miss Marple drama, she says – very idyllic in the Spring and Summer but quite different during the winter where a heavy fall of snow could cut us off for days.
Audrey was educated at Fitzmaurice Grammar School, Bradford on Avon and left at 16 to take a two year OND in Business Studies with secretarial training. Since then her career has taken her from small family businesses to large multi-national companies where she has worked as a PA at Director level. She is a saga writer and loves complex stories and working with the different characters. She loves good food, wine, has a thing about shoes and Radley handbags. Her favourite authors are numerous and include Lesley Pearse, Judith Lennox, Phillipa Gregory and Penny Vincenzi.