Katie Fforde on romance novels: ‘I think a good hero is absolutely key’

Bestselling author Katie Fforde shares the essentials of creating a good romance, writing tips and how to resolve writer's block

Did you always want to become an author?

No, I didn’t know I wanted to be an author until my late twenties. Before that I ran a narrowboat hotel business with my husband and then had babies, but I would have liked to be a counsellor if I wasn’t a writer.

Do you miss anything from your life before?

I had a very good life before I became an author, with a lovely husband, children and house. But when I started writing I realized what I had been missing. I think it’s to do with having an overactive imagination and wanting to communicate (which can be a posh word for chat!).

Katie Fforde and her dogs
Author Katie Fforde and her pet dogs

What’s the best thing about being an author?

The best thing is getting to try out lots of jobs I could never have had in real life through my characters. It’s also lovely to hear from people who have enjoyed my books - it can give me the impression that I’m doing something worthwhile, even though what I write is for entertainment.

How do you start writing a new novel?

I start with a theme. I have several subjects I long to explore bubbling around at any one time and when one comes to the top I start to think about my characters. Then comes the plot. I don’t usually know at the beginning what the ending will be - I have to wait and find out! Although I know that it will be happy.

What are the essentials of creating a good romance?

I think a good hero is absolutely key, and then a heroine who the reader can recognise - not too perfect, but likeable. Plot is very important, so then it’s a case of creating a few really romantic scenes. Not necessarily hearts-and-flowers romantic but unexpected romance in surprising places.

Why is research important?

It’s hard enough to write a book as it is, let alone without knowing about your theme - you need to know your stuff. That said, some things can be impossible to research, like the judging at the Chelsea Flower Show, or when the Queen visits! I do quite a lot of research personally. I remember a writer friend saying to me, "But you write contemporaries, you don’t need to do research", but that is very far from the truth. My early books were set around my own life - working in a cafe and being a cleaning lady were things I had actually done. However, eventually I ran out of life experience and had to do research. I love finding out fascinating things about subjects that interest me.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you try and relieve this?

Writers block happens often in a small way. A change of scene helps to relieve it for me. This might involve shopping, a drive in the car (scenery often gets my creative juices going) or just being with friends. Luckily it never lasts for long with me and is often caused by being a bit tired.

Can you tell us about the Katie Fforde Bursary?

I created the Katie Fforde Bursary because I was a ‘nearly there’ writer for a long time. I found it a bit of a struggle to pay my annual subscription to the Romantic Novelists’ Association so when I finally became published, I wanted to give something back. That’s the bursary, a year’s subscription and a place at the conference. It does seem to give people a valuable boost to their confidence. People can find out more about the Romantic Novelists’ Association at www.rna-uk.org.

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