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>> So how do you write a romance?

So how do you write a romance?

So how do you write a romance?

In HOW TO WRITE A LOVE STORY, author KATY CANNON explores what are the ingredients of a perfect match - and a bestselling novel!

Tilly's grandmother is a famous romantic writer and Tilly has become indispensable to her, helping her edit drafts and disentangle plot lines. But what does it take to write a bestselling romantic novel? And can you even do that if you've never been in love...?

Here, author KATY CANNON tells us more about her latest novel, HOW TO WRITE A LOVE STORY!

Q: How to Write a Love Story is about a teenager, Tilly, trying to write a romance - while also still trying to experience it. What gave you the idea to write your novel this way?

A: I think the teenage years can sometimes feel like you're constantly pretending to know more than you do - about the world, about yourself, and definitely about love. I know it was that way for me, anyway. And after writing love stories for so many years, I wondered what it would be like to try to do that when your only real knowledge of love was what you'd read in other books.

Q: Are you a fan of romantic fiction?

A: I'm a huge fan of romantic fiction, and have been since I was a teenager myself. In fact, I also write romances and women's fiction, under the penname Sophie Pembroke, so I already knew a lot about the conventions, hooks and tropes involved - which made the research a lot easier!

I love all kinds of romance, from historical to paranormal, but I write contemporary, and I think that's probably my favourite. Plus, I find that most stories have a hint of romance in them, if you look hard enough...

Q: Would you advise young writers, as Tilly is advised, to 'write what you know about'?

A: This is a tricky one because, if I only ever wrote what I knew, I'd have a very limited selection of stories to tell! That said, I think writing from your own experience can be a great way to build up your skills as an author.

But mostly, I'd say to write what fascinates you, and what you can research or imagine thoroughly. You don't have to have been to Ancient Rome to set a book there, but you're going to want to read a lot of history and accounts of people who were there, and study a lot of maps and archaeological digs before you get started. And if you're able to get some experience - say, visiting Roman site in this country, or speaking to an expert in the field - why wouldn't you? It'll make your story stronger, and probably spark all sorts of new ideas.

So basically, it comes down to 'do your research'. And anyone can do that. I think this is especially important if you're telling someone else's story - the story of a person from a different background or religion or whatever. And in those cases, it's really vital to consider if you're the right person to tell that story, or whether there's someone living it right now who could tell it better.

Q: Tilly turns out to be a bit of an unreliable narrator, so how difficult was it to flesh out the others' characters since we see them all through Tilly's eyes?

A: I think that was probably one of the hardest things about writing the book! Tilly sees the world very clearly through her own eyes and mindset - but that isn't always the most accurate or empathetic view. Finding ways to hint to the reader that there was more to the story than Tilly was reading or telling, without giving everything away too early, was definitely a challenge.

Q: Is Tilly's wonderful grandmother - the author Beatrix Frost - based on anyone you know?

A: Yes. There's a lot of my late Grandma Cannon in Bea Frost, especially when it comes to hats and, sadly, dementia. And the close relationship between Tilly and her Gran is definitely based on my own relationship with all my grandparents.

Q: Both Tilly and her grandmother, for different reasons, experience writer's block. How do you get yourself out of that fear of the 'blank page'?

A: Mostly I tend to give myself far too much to do, so I can't afford writer's block or I'll miss deadlines and let people down! But working on multiple projects at once also means that if I'm struggling with one book I can switch to another, so I'm still making progress somewhere. And when I come back to the first one, I tend to be inspired by it all over again.

My other trick, on days when the words really won't come, is to use a timer. I tell myself I only need to write for one minute, and then I can stop. That's always so easy, I set the timer for two minutes. Then five, then ten, then fifteen... and by then, the words are flying.

If all else fails, I go for a walk. I get some of my best ideas when I'm walking.

Q: Tilly's experiences also remind us to be true to ourselves in what we want to achieve. Is that a personal quest for you in your writing?

A: Absolutely. I write a lot of books, between my YA and my romances, but I couldn't do it if I didn't believe in them, and find something to love and something I want to say that matters to me in every book I write. A lot of my YA is about the importance of figuring out your own identity, rather than being what others expect you to be, and about asking for help when you need it. Which is exactly what I needed to hear as a teenager!

Q: Who are your current favourite YA writers?

A: There are so many fantastic authors out there telling stories that matter, it's almost impossible to choose just a few! But I always love anything by Sarah Dessen, and in the UK I adore Non Pratt and Holly Bourne.

Q: What are your top tips for aspiring writers?

A: I always had a notebook with me as a child, and a teen, and now! But that's at least partly because I just love notebooks. I also jot down ideas and notes in my phone in the Evernote app. Sometimes these ideas never come to anything, but if ever I'm waiting for a new book to show up, ready to be written, flicking through my notes and memories - paper or electronic - always jumpstarts the process.

My top tip for aspiring writers is always to read more. The best way to get an innate feel for story, dialogue and character is to read great ones. Also, pay attention - to the world around you, the people you meet, the funny things you hear someone say, the headlines, everything. Jot down the ones that resonate with you.

Remember, writing a book is creating a whole world - and the research you need to do for that is around you every day. Even most fantasy novels steal from the real world in some ways.

Q: Where do you write and how does your writing day go? What are you writing now?

A: Most days, I write in my study at home - which is the converted garage, and also the spare room, so I share the space with a lot of other stuff! I like to write out and about too - in coffee shops, museums, libraries, the garden... anywhere!

I aim to get the bulk of my writing done in the mornings, leaving my afternoons free for editing, proofreading, admin, accounts, website updates, blog posts, emails, promo... all the other stuff that makes up the job of a writer these days.

Q: Describe your dream 'writer's shed'?

A: Just somewhere I didn't have to share space with the hoover! Um, I'd love a nice, big, old desk. Lots of bookshelves, of course. A comfy armchair to read in. A fantastic view out of the window - maybe of the sea. Plenty of space for all my files and notebooks (there are a lot). My favourite pictures and photos on the wall. And close to my house so my family can come and hang out with me whenever they wanted!

Q: What are your favourite escapes from writing?

A: I think, in some ways, a writer is always writing. There's always a story playing in my head, or a new idea taking shape. But when I'm not physically at my desk working, I like to read (of course), spend time with friends, catch up on my favourite TV shows... And I love to get out with my family, visiting castles or other historic places. And the seaside! The seaside is my absolute favourite.


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