Today, Writers’ Checklist welcomes successful romance author, Debbie Viggiano, who has kindly agreed to share some of her writing secrets with us. Debbie's latest book is The Ex Factor.
It simply has to be when my first novel, Stockings and Cellulite, rejected by every agent in the land, ended up rattling around the Top 100 Paid Kindle Store Chart for several weeks. Its highest point was Number 38 which just blew me away. I kept every single email sent by people asking me to write more about the characters. The sequel, Lipstick and Lies, was dedicated to all those lovely readers by way of thanks.
What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
Gosh, that’s quite a difficult question. I find it very easy to produce light-hearted writing laced with humour, but much harder to be serious. However, not everybody wants to read frivolous stuff, so I had a crack at writing a drama to see if I could broaden my audience. The result is The Ex Factor, which is quite gritty.
Sam Worthington is married to Annie. He’s also a loving, hands-on dad to daughter Ruby. Then Sam discovers Annie is having an affair. Even worse, she wants a divorce. Devastated, Sam has to cope not just with the dismantling of a relationship, but being parted from the daughter he adores. When Annie’s new relationship breaks down, she wants Sam back. But Sam has now met Josie and re-discovered love. Annie hatches a plan to seduce Sam and win him over. But her plan fails. Sam hadn’t counted on his rejection of Annie backfiring on him so spectacularly – for Annie vows to use Ruby to destroy her ex-husband. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And for Sam Worthington, his journey to hell is just beginning...
Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
Yes, definitely a routine. Once I start a novel, I have a target of 1,000 words per day so that in 100 days I have a first working draft. I also need total silence to write – no chattering radios or background music and definitely no televisions!
I don’t have a laptop, so can’t move around as the mood takes me. My computer is in the study, so that is where I write. I shut the door on this world and move swiftly into a fictional one.
How important is it to you to plot your novels?
The only novel I ever wrote without a plot was Stockings and Cellulite. As a result, I ended up with a 250,000 word count which was comparable to a long straggly scarf with loads of dropped stitches. It took several re-writes over six years to perfect, and was a huge learning curve. Every subsequent novel or short story written since has been thoroughly mapped out prior to typing ‘Chapter One’. Whilst writing, I also have a second Word document open which contains the cast of characters, where they live, what they do, likes and dislikes and so on.
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
All characters are fictional. However, where The Ex Factor is concerned, I was definitely influenced by one or two real life Annie types. I ended up on a step-parent forum for research and listened to a string of women complaining bitterly about their husband’s ex-wives in order to make sure that Annie was thoroughly blended with other characters.
What qualities do you think writers should have?
When I read a book I expect to be not just entertained but captivated. You know a thriller is good if you’re chewing your nails, or if a novel is moving when you’re reaching for the tissues. Pace is important, too, otherwise you risk the reader losing interest.
What are you working on at the moment?
I felt emotionally drained after writing The Ex Factor so I’ve returned to my normal chick-lit genre. The Perfect Marriage is about Rosie Perfect, for whom life is anything but perfect.
With a bullying mother, an unemployed and unemployable husband, and an exhausting toddler, her days are spent cleaning other people’s houses, worrying about putting food on the table and whether to go mad and splurge on that coat in Oxfam. And then Rosie has one night off from domestic drudgery. She goes to best friend Lucy’s hen night. But when she opens her eyes the following morning, it isn’t to husband Dave. Waking up with Matt Palmer by her side is a horrible shock. But sometimes it takes a shock to make sense of things. As spring turns to summer, Rosie goes on a journey of self-awakening and discovery and realises that sometimes in order to be loyal to others, you have to be loyal to yourself first.
The opening chapter to The Perfect Marriage can be found in my little book of short stories, Mixed Emotions.
Which three words best describe you?
Blonde (in every sense of the word), outgoing and sincere.
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
I think writing is like a drug so I would assume an aspiring novelist would be writing every day – which in my book (no pun intended) is essential. So, based on that, I’d say never give up in which case you will definitely achieve your goal.