On behalf of Bloggers From Down Under (Gayle and Mel ) we first want to congratulate you on your new release Off Limits (Dare Series Mills and Boon) and we would also like to thank you so much for allowing us to ask you a few questions. Some of our questions may seem a bit out there or different as we try to go outside the “norm” box and ask questions that aren’t asked everyday, or your normal generic questions. We seem to think that if readers wanted to know the “norm” they can just search the answer on trusty google!!
Hi Gayle and Mel,
Thank you so, so much for your incredible support and also for such interesting questions! I loved answering these – they were really ‘out of the box’. I hope I haven’t waffled too much.
First up can you take us through your writing procedure? Do you have vision boards? Or a note book?
First of all, I come up with the characters and conflict. The most important thing for me is to know my people inside out, and to really understand whatever issue they’re facing. For example, in OFF LIMITS, there are several conflicts – the working dynamic between Jack and Gemma (boss/employee) makes any personal relationship difficult to navigate, and beyond that, they each have important baggage that serves as a very real roadblock to their happily-ever-after. Once I really understand the motivations of my characters, I work out what they look like, and finalise details of their setting in my mind. I usually draw on places I’m familiar with, and make sure I have a few key details in mind (for example, Greek islands – I picture bougainvillea scrambling up white-washed walls, geraniums in terracotta pots, the smell of sea and salt, the sound of early morning fishing boats coming back in etc.) It’s about creating an atmosphere. I use Pinterest for some books (as Clarewriteslove), usually when I’m dealing with multiple settings.
Tell us a little about yourself? Something not many people know?
The biggest focus of my life outside my family and my writing is managing my Type 1 Diabetes. It’s an all-consuming disease that requires almost constant monitoring – everything seems to affect my sugar levels! Heatwaves, adrenalin, emotion – I went into a state of hypoglycaemia (low sugars) when my editor first emailed to say that she wanted to see more of what I’d written!! I only developed the disease at twenty six, less than a decade ago, and I’m getting better at managing it, but it has been a steep learning-curve. Diet and exercise help but I’m on an insulin pump for the rest of my life – or until a cure is discovered (everything crossed, please!).
What is the weirdest place that you have received an idea and thought yes I need that in my book? Has an idea ever popped in your head whilst doing something where you have had to stop and write it down before you forget?
All the time! The notepad app of my phone is full of hastily-tapped out sentences which I expand into full story ideas when I have the time. I get my inspiration from the weirdest places. I wrote THE SULTAN’S RELUCTANT PRINCESS after going to see an orchestral performance of Tim Burton songs. The book starts with a Sheikh watching a concert from a private box and somewhere in the crowd, his eyes are drawn to a woman whose ‘eyes shine with the light of a thousand stars’, and by the end of the show he knows he has to meet her.
After writing so many books how do you continue to find a new heroin or how do you get inspired by one? There are so many people in the world, it’s impossible to run out of individual characters. I find the circumstances of the storyline dictate the characters’ personalities, but I can honestly say I remember each of my characters because they became very real to me. I like to know as much about them as possible before I start, right down to favourite flowers, movies, bands etc.
How do you keep innovative ideas to keep your books flowing or to keep your followers following?
I write about love, and that never gets boring! I think that so long as the conflict is credible, the characters are likable (even when they’re hateable, you still want to be rooting for them on some level!) then the story will appeal to my readers.
We noticed that you have a passion for cooking…Will we see a Clare Connelly cook book in the future?
Definitely! I have written cooking blogs for over ten years and I worked for Maggie Beer in the Barossa before taking time off to have my babies. I’m passionate about food-photography and styling (as a hobby). I’d love to do a recipe book for parents of young kids, and another aimed at diabetics. I have found the general dietetic advice for people with diabetes to be quite poor; it’s taken me a decade of experimenting to find an approach that is good for my health and tastebuds!
Tell us about how you and Mills and Boon joined up?
I have always, always aspired to write for Mills & Boon. I submitted my first manuscript at fifteen, which was wisely rejected. I continued to write, and to submit to Mills & Boon. In the meantime, I self-published, and found that my books sold well in English-speaking markets. Despite my commercial success as an indie, it remained a dream of mine to write for Mills & Boon, and the fates really aligned for me. The Romance Writers of Australia, of which I was not a member, happened to be having their annual conference right here in Adelaide, about two kilometres from where I live. I joined the RWA and booked to attend. I wasn’t even planning to ‘pitch’ but when I heard Joanne Grant was coming from M&B, I knew I’d kick myself for passing up the opportunity. We met, and she was lovely, and asked me to submit a full manuscript. It was six weeks after the conference that my now-editor, Megan Haslam, called to offer me a two-book deal. I’ve since signed twelve books to M&B, and write for Mills & Boon Sexy and Mills & Boon Dare.
Which of your characters is your kryptonite?
That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child! I fall in love with all my characters, but I will always hold a soft-spot for Jack Grant, my hero in OFF LIMITS. He is such a troubled, misunderstood, egotistical, sweet, contradictory man. I loved him.
Which character out of all your books do you least like?
I suppose one of the luxuries of writing is that I get to create characters I will LOVE! There are definitely some side-characters I haven’t liked… Etienne Cauve (my heroine’s step-father) from IN THE HANDS OF THE SHEIKH was a real bastard, but I killed him off before the book began – thank goodness!
In terms of main characters, Sheikh Zahir Al’Eba from THE SHEIKH’S CONTRACT BRIDE was a hero that other people seemed to have issues with. I probably pushed the boundaries of bastardy-behaviour with him, but I think that it just meant he had more to learn. His arc was a really satisfying one for me -he’s broken and re-made through his love of Violet, and he comes to realise all of his arrogance and convictions are pretty silly.
If you could recommend one, just one of your books which would it be?
I can’t do just one! OFF LIMITS, the first in the Dare line for me, and INNOCENT IN THE BILLIONAIRE’S BED, the M&B Sexy title that was released in December. Tilly and Rio’s story is a very passionate one, and I adored writing them.
Favourite place to write?
My sofa. I’m experimenting with a standing-desk at the moment; it’s funny how the brain engages differently when standing versus sitting but ugh! Doctors do say that sitting as much as we do is dangerous so… let’s see how I go! So far, my feet hurt and I seem to be drinking more tea.
Laptop, PC , tablet or pen and paper? Which is your favourite to write with?
Notebook (pen and paper) when plotting. Then a latptop for writing. I have a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro. I tend to write on the Air, as it’s so portable (and when I’m writing a book, I will barely stop for breath, so I drag my Air everywhere I go, even school pickup, if it means I can grab five minutes in the car to tap out a few lines.)
Best complement you have received from a reader?
I have a lot of readers who’ve read ALL MY BOOKS and I have written A LOT OF BOOKS so that makes me smile. I received a letter about a year ago from a reader who was watching her mum lose her battle with cancer and she told me my books kept her sane, and gave her happiness in the darkness. That made me cry.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Any criticism. I can handle it if people don’t like my books – we’re all different and what one person likes, another won’t necessarily. I still don’t like to hear it though. I don’t generally read reviews. There’s a safety that comes from always, always putting the best book I possibly can into print. What more can I do than that?
Can you tell us any secret info about the DARE series?
The authors of M&B Dare have a Facebook group where we chat about what we’re up to. Some of the questions we pose would make you blush – not to mention the very considered, semantic discussions that follow! It’s a lot of fun.
Did you have any goals for this collection when you wrote it?
As with any of my books, I set out to write the kind of book that I would want to read, with characters that jump into your heart and brain from the first page. I wanted it to be sexy, of course, but it was very important to me to make sure the book remained a romance, first and foremost.
That’s the great thing about Dare. Sure, they’re really hot, and that’s great, but essentially, they are love stories, with the same quality of emotion that Mills & Boon is famed for.
What book have you read that has most influenced your life?
Fiction – The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Boy oh boy, I cried for days. I loved it.
Non-Fiction – Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (stop the world, I want to get off!!)
Who is Clare Connelly and what is her typical day?
I’m a married-mum-slash-writer, and I struggle so hard with balancing work and family life, like any working parent. I think there can be a misconception out there that ‘working from home’ should be easy, because you can just work when you have time. But when there are deadlines, you have to find the time, and it can be very, very hard amongst all the other demands.
So Clare Connelly is stressed, a lot of the time, ha!
I’m getting a lot better at it, though, and my youngest has just started full-time school, so I have vowed not to work after school or on weekends, as much as possible. I feel that mum-guilt over how often I’ve had to work while my children were home, but then, it’s a blessing too, because I have been able to stay home and be with them (even when my head is in the laptop.)
I love to cook, as you know, so that’s something I do with my kids most evenings. They really love having set chores, like peeling vegetables or spiralising and they’re dab hands at preparing chicken schnitzels!
Any writing rituals that are a must?
I would have said ‘drinking coffee’ six months ago, but I’ve recently given up my eight-a-day-habit and am now a tea devotee. I always have a hot drink beside me when I’m working. Sometimes, I swap it for red wine. I also have a playlist (called Clare Writes Love and available on Apple Music) that helps get me in the mood to write.
How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?
I will say again that I am blessed to be able to write for a living, though I work very, very, very hard, and very long hours – breaking my day into as large a portion for writing as I can, and then usually in the evening, doing the ‘other stuff’ (graphics, covers, incorporating editorial, scheduling facebook posts, answering interviews etc.) Establishing a career was almost a happy accident for me. I really did publish my first book almost as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, but it quickly developed into a lot more.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I truly don’t. There are some days when I feel less enthusiastic about writing, but I always force myself to push through it. I’m very fortunate to be able to do this for my career and maybe deep-down I’m a little scared that if I stop writing, my readers will disappear. There’s nothing quite like fear to keep you motivated.
I want to put a ding in the universe – Steve Jobs.
Words you live by?
You get what you get and you don’t get upset (thanks to my then-four year old nephew for teaching me this one!).
Overall what would you like to say to anyone reading this?
Thanks for reading, because I’m a rambler! And also, thanks for reading and loving romance. I dedicated OFF LIMITS to ‘romance readers everywhere’ and the debt of gratitude I feel to you (us, because I am one too) is huge. I write people that are real to me, and then other people read them and they become more and more real each time someone else falls in love with them. What a great thing that is!
Mills & Boon : Off Limits
‘I want to taste you tonight.’ With chemistry this hot, it’s worth getting burned…
Billionaire Jack Grant is totally off-limits to Gemma Picton. He’s wild, deliciously dangerous…and her boss. When working late turns x-rated, it’s better than her wildest imaginings — and Gemma’s imagined a lot! But Jack has major emotional baggage, so when she starts wanting to heal his heart as well as enjoy his body, she knows she’s in big trouble…
You can find all of Clare’s buy links for Off Limits in one spot https://www.millsandboon.com.au/