Thursday, 3 November 2011

Interview with Christina Hollis

Bestselling author, Christina Hollis, writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which appear in the US as Harlequin Presents/Extra. You can catch up with her here...

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Christina's book page HERE

What was the first thing you had published? 
That would have been in various school newspapers, but I first went ‘public’ as you might say with a technical piece about growing cyclamen from seed. That was in the Royal Horticultural Society’s journal The Garden back in the 1980s! 

Tell us about your proudest writing achievement. 
I try and produce my best work every time so I’m always delighted with each new acceptance, but I think all the lovely messages I received, both in public and private, after the blog I wrote for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will stick in my mind forever. Read it HERE

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses? 
I love to try and capture the English countryside in my writing, and from the comments I get readers like my descriptive work as much as I enjoy writing it. As for weaknesses, I have to be careful not to go overboard on the drama - maybe a childhood spent reading Sherlock Holmes stories is to blame for that! Rather than being desperate to find out what my heroine would do when faced with a cobra, I’ve discovered it’s more satisfying for readers to discover why she feels she has to put herself into a dangerous situation like that in the first place.

Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks? 
I write every day, between school runs. Mornings are my best time for inspiration, then I spend the afternoons re-reading what I’ve done, typing up work and editing it. At the weekends, I catch up on paperwork and try to update my website and blog. As for quirks, I’ve got some really silly ones. Firstly, if I’m not using my beloved Alphasmart Neo I much prefer to write longhand, with a pencil. It’s a Woolworths pencil for preference, although of course they’re a vanishing breed! 

Secondly, ever since I was tiny I’ve loved the feel of writing on the very first page of a brand new exercise book or pad. I really hate turning over and using the back of it, so nowadays I write on all the right hand side pages of an exercise book first, then turn the book over and work back the other way. It works as long as I remember to number the pages, and as quirks go it may be weird, but it’s pretty harmless!

Is there a special place you like to write? 
I can write anywhere, but what makes it really special for me is the accompaniment of a mug of tea and a big slice of home-made chocolate cake. Unfortunately, the more of that I enjoy, the more I have to suffer on the treadmill...

How important is it to you to plot your novels? 
It’s extremely important, as the type of books I write have a strict word count. I want to give my readers an enjoyable heroine and irresistible hero, a roller coaster ride of emotion with plenty of sensuality, character development and a satisfying ending. Fitting all that into a mere 50,000 words takes planning!

Are your characters ever based on people you know? 
Not really - I’m like a magpie, collecting a turn of phrase here, a gesture there and putting them together with what I consider to be attractive physical features. I love men with dark hair and eyes for example, so my descriptions are heavily biased toward that type without being based on any one particular person.

How much of you is there in your heroines? 
I try and make them all different, physically and mentally, but they all do something that I enjoy. Their careers and hobbies are usually based around the countryside, and using their hands. That way I get to write about the natural world and cooking, among other things. Kira Banks in The Italian’s Blushing Gardener loved plants, while Gwen in The French Aristocrat’s Baby was a chef, for example.

Who is your favourite romantic author and why? 
I have great admiration for both Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber. They create vivid, satisfying stories and both work really hard to give their readers what they enjoy.

What qualities do you think writers should have? 
Imagination, first and foremost, but persistence is also vital. In these days of social networking and self-publishing it helps to have an enquiring mind and a sociable nature, too.

What are you working on at the moment? 
I’ve just started work on a new romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon about a woman who thinks she’s perfectly happy with her safe, boring life in an English village until a reckless foreign stranger makes her hunger for more. It has the working title “Love in a Garden”, so you could say I’ve gone back to my roots!

What advice would you give to an aspiring romantic novelist? 
Write first for your own pleasure, but if you intend to be published be prepared to listen and learn from every scrap of advice you can get.  Join the RNA, learn as much as you can from writing magazines, seminars, courses and by talking with other authors but above all - never give up. If you have a good story and you can tell it well, you’ll get there in the end. 

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to interview me, Maureen - I really enjoyed the experience.

Christina Hollis was talking to Maureen Vincent-Northam, co-author of
The Writer's ABC Checklist (Secrets to Success)


ketinka said...

Hi Christina, another great interview :-) I like the sound of "Love in a Garden" and will definitely look forward to seeing it on the shelves! You said that your weakness as a writer was drama 'overload', so is there a place in Mills and Boon romances for high drama - like finding a deadly cobra in the air vent - or is it seen as something to be kept to a minimum, so that more time is spent on the emotions of the main characters? All the best, Ketty

DW96 said...

Men with dark hair and eyes? That let's me out. I've no hair and bad eyes.

Great interview, Christina. Keep on scribbling. And thanks to Mo for sharing it.

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Ketty, thanks for commenting.
I wrote you a very detailed reply, and then my computer ate it! :(
The Modern Romance line concentrates much more on the motivations of the hero and heroine. We need to discover what emotional torment keeps them apart, when we all know they are made for each other. It's a difficult task, but that's why I love it!

Christina Hollis said...

Hi DW96, thanks for your kind words. Don't forget we're talking high fantasy here! You're Mrs 96's idea of a perfect man, and that's all that matters.

PS:I hope your tests were ok. Regarding Christmas, think how much writing you'll be able to get done during the holiday period, while everyone else is otherwise occupied.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Christina,

Lovely reading more about you! I love the idea of Love In A Garden. Sounds interesting! But the title would probably change?

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Nas - thanks for following me, and commenting.
Yes, the title will almost certainly change. At this early stage, my story is still developing so by the time it's published a new name will probably be a better fit.