Christina is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Historic Novel Society and has been awarded both the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for a historical short story and the Katie Fforde Bursary (2006).
Author photo by Helen Bartlett
What was the first thing you had published?
A Regency novella called “Marry in Haste” – it was published by D C Thomson’s My Weekly Pocket Novel series.
Tell us about your proudest writing achievement.
Being shortlisted for the RNA’s Pure Passion Awards this year in the Historical Prize category was great! But just getting a full-length novel published at all was wonderful too, especially since I’d been trying for so long (20 years!).
What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
I don’t really know what my strengths are, that’s for other people to say, if any, but I do write quite fast which is good I think. My weaknesses are probably that I can be too impatient and prefer to write ‘by the seat of my pants’ rather than plot the story out properly beforehand.
Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
I don’t have a routine as such, I write whenever I feel inspired – sometimes all day, every day for a while, sometimes not for days. Although obviously if I’m working on edits or rewrites I have to do it every day until they’re done.
Writing quirks – I write whichever scenes first come into my mind in no particular order, then I have to try and join them up afterwards with the bits that should come in between. I find that works for me because some scenes come into your head and they’re really vivid, and if I don’t write them down then and there, they disappear or they won’t be as good if I try and recreate them later.
Is there a special place you like to write?
I have a little desk in what is jokingly called ‘my office’ (a cluttered corner really) and I prefer to sit there and write because I have a proper keyboard hooked up to my laptop there. I find laptop keyboards really hard to type on, although I do sometimes sit on my bed or on the sofa to write.
How important is it to you to plot your novels?
As I write historical novels, obviously I have to have a time line for actual happenings during that period, but as I said, I don’t do much plotting and only follow that loosely. I start with a scene and some characters and just sort of go with the flow for as long as I can. If I grind to a halt or the story doesn’t seem to be working, I might sit down and try and do an outline for the rest of it, but only if I have to.
Who is your favourite author and why?
I don’t have just one favourite, sorry – it’s impossible to choose because there are so many wonderful ones! Some of the ones I like are Georgette Heyer (wonderful characters and dialogue), Barbara Erskine (love the combination of ghost stories and romance), Susanna Kearsley (fabulous writer of romantic time slips), Elizabeth Chadwick (ditto of historicals), Ellis Peters (who could fail to like Brother Cadfael and the romantic sub-plots are brilliant), Johanna Lindsey (early favourite with larger than life heroes) and Steve Berry (love the thriller/historical mystery combo).
What qualities do you think writers should have?
Great story-telling is the most important one for me. If an author can transport me into the world they’ve created, then I don’t care how it’s done, as long as I’m carried away. I’ve read some badly written books that had me hooked from page one, but also some beautifully written ones that leave me cold because the story didn’t engage me.
What are you working on at the moment?
The copy edits/rewrites of Highland Storms, the sequel to my first novel Trade Winds. It’s due out in November this year so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also working on a sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, my second book.
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Don’t give up, listen to critique (even if it hurts!), believe in yourself and find a writing buddy, someone you can swap critiques with and who’ll support you when it feels like a struggle.
Christina Courtenay was talking to Maureen Vincent-Northam, co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist