This week I am pleased to welcome Rhoda to my blog. I met Rhoda at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in Greenwich in July 2010 and I was really impressed that she’d made it – given that she was heavily pregnant!
Q. Hi Rhoda, lovely to have you here. So, can you start off by telling us about your writing? Are you published? What’s your most memorable success or rejection?
A. Hi Nikki, thanks for having me on your blog. I write contemporary romantic comedy. I started off being in the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme. I think joining the RNA was one of the best things I ever did. I submitted my writing to many, many agents. I didn’t find an agent in the end, although I’d still like one. My most memorable rejection came from Dorothy Lumley of the Dorian Literary Agency who told me the book wasn’t for her, but she thought it might find a home at Little Black Dress. The fact that she thought it was good enough to send to a publisher just made my day (if you’re reading, Dot – thank you!). Little Black Dress closed shop soon after, so I never got to send it to them.
Q. It’s a shame they disappeared, they had heaps of fab authors writing for them. And I couldn’t agree more about the RNA NWS – the support and advice is excellent. Can you tell us a bit more about your writing journey?
A. My break came when I answered a submission call from Uncial Press asking for contemporary romance. At the time, I’d put writing and submitting on hold for a while because I’d had a baby, moved the family to the other end of the country and started a new job all in the same six months and I was a little bit frazzled. Since Uncial accepted email submission, I sent my book in on the off-chance. They emailed back with an offer within weeks. They epublished Patently in Love in 2012. That book was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon award in 2012. My next novel, Having a Ball is will be published in 2013, also by Uncial Press.
Q. Congratulations, especially as the RNA set such high standards! I also hear that Patently in Love was a top 10 finalist in the Preditors and Editors Poll 2012 – so well done on that one too. So can you give us your top three tips for writers please?
1. Keep writing – the thing that makes a writer different from a Wannabe writer is that they actually WRITE (rather than blithering on about how they’d like to write a book ‘one day’). Don’t think of the manuscripts as unsold novels. Think of them as a backlist.
2. Listen to criticism – I have a critique partner who has a ‘gloves off’ kind of approach to ripping apart pointing out weaknesses in my manuscripts. She tells me what she thinks is wrong and why she didn’t like it. That’s very useful. You don’t have to change everything people criticise, but you do need to give it proper consideration before you decide the other person is a witch/stupid/high.
3. Never stop learning new stuff– when someone points out a weakness, work on it. I realised my plotting skills were weak, so I read and read and read about plot and structure. I didn’t think I understood any of it, but I’ve noticed that my plotting has improved suddenly. Things must have settled in somewhere in my subconscious. Clever little devil, that subconscious.
Q. It is, isn’t it? I often sit down to write and ideas pop into my head fully formed, so I know my subconscious has been working away at it whilst I’ve been busy with other things. So, can you tell us about your work? Do you have a day job? And if so, when do you find time to write?
A. I have a day job, which makes use of my science background. I get to evaluate other people’s new inventions. I love the days when someone comes in with a new idea. I’m completely blown away by the ingenuity of inventors. Some ideas are so beautiful in their elegance. (Like those vacutainers they use when taking blood samples. You stick the needle in and the blood gets pulled out by the vacuum. Zero chance of air bubbles being introduced into the veins. Genius! I always like watching them when I’m being stabbed in the arm. I think it unnerves the nurses though). There are other days where it’s just putting together reports and doing patent searches, these are less fun.
I write in the evenings, after my kids have gone to bed. I started off having a desk, but that somehow ended up buried under paperwork and broken toys, so now I write sitting in bed. I have been known to fall asleep at the keyboard. Being that tired means I sometimes write stuff without fully realising what I’m saying. When I read it back the next night, I think, ‘I don’t even remember writing that. Wow, that’s really good’. There are other nights where it’s just gone ‘a;lskdjfioubhaybnnzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’. You win some, you lose some.
Q. (Laughs) You poor thing! Lastly, tell us what your favourite wine is.
A. I don’t drink much wine <lowers voice> because I can’t hold my drink…
So can I have a hot chocolate please? One of those Hotel Chocolat caramel liquid chocolate things, if possible. Have you got a biscuit I could have with that? Shortbread? Ooh lovely, thanks.
Happy to oblige! Thanks for dropping by Rhoda and all the best with your new release Having a Ball (I LOVE the cover by the way).
You can buy Rhoda’s new book Having a Ball from all good E-book shops from 17 March 2013. You can find out more about Rhoda via her website at www.rhodabaxter.com or on Twitter @rhodabaxter
Warmest wishes and Happy Writing, Nikki x