Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on social media will know that my bestie is also an author – Sharon Booth. We first met a decade ago and have navigated the (sometimes) crazy world of publishing ever since. Sharon’s books are absolutely gorgeous and I have read every single one of them so far, with her latest on my TBR pile for as soon as I’ve finished my current read.
I’ve been saying for ages (years!) that I’d have Sharon as a guest on my blog and I finally got my act together and sent some questions over to Sharon. I put something on my notes to her which she said I had to keep in because it’s funny so here we go…
Thank you very much for agreeing to appear as my first guest in what will not be a regular slot on my website as I can’t be arsed to manage it!
Hee hee! Please excuse my language. I’m not very sweary usually but I do find ‘arse’ a particularly funny word and, although I use it flippantly here, it does take a lot of time managing guest slots and I don’t think I can find that time at the moment. Maybe one day. Anyway, let us crack on with Sharon’s interview…
Please introduce yourself
Hiya, Jessica. Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog. I write contemporary romantic fiction, and lighthearted paranormal romances. My stories are set in pretty villages and quirky market towns, by the sea or in the countryside, with a guaranteed happy ending. You’ll find a gorgeous romance in each, but community, friendship, and family relationships always play their part too. I’ve been an indie author for eight years, but recently published my first book with Storm Publishing.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
Yes, I have. I just didn’t know it was possible for people like me. I thought authors lived in big, country houses and had pots of money and “spoke posh”. I was basing my assumptions on my favourite author, Enid Blyton, who lived in the famous Old Thatch and Green Hedges. I grew up in a council house in a small town near Hull, and there was nothing posh about the way I spoke. Still isn’t!
It didn’t stop me dreaming about being an author, though. In fact, we had to write an essay about ourselves for school, and one of the questions was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said an author. Mind you, I also said I’d quite like to be a showjumper or a vicar’s wife. Interesting career choices there!
What prompted you to write your first full-length novel?
I was ambushed by three characters who popped into my head and refused to leave until I started to tell their story, even though I had no idea what that story was. They became Joe, Lexi, and Will in my Kearton Bay series, and they started everything for me. I quickly realised Lexi’s dad had his own story, and he became the focus of my first book.
When you started writing that book, what did you think/hope would happen next and how close was that to what actually happened?
Honestly, all I wanted was to finish the book. I’d written so many Chapter Ones over the years and never progressed beyond that. Then, after I got married and had kids, I gave up writing altogether. When I decided I needed to tell my Kearton Bay story, my one and only goal was to get to the end of it. I never imagined in a million years I’d end up publishing it, nor that I’d go on to write another twenty-seven books after it!
You write full-time now but, for many years, you had a day job. How did you manage to fit in writing time around the day job?
It wasn’t too bad because, for four out of five days, I was only working in the afternoons, so I’d get up early and start writing until twelve. Mondays were out because I worked ten hour shifts that day. I was late for work quite regularly, though, because I’d get so absorbed in my writing that I’d keep tapping away at the keyboard when I should have been getting ready to leave the house. Oops!
You’ve released 26 books so far as an indie author. What prompted you to go down the indie route and what have you found to be the highs and lows of self-publishing?
I always intended to be an indie writer. When I was writing There Must Be an Angel I did a lot of research about publishing, and there was such a buzz around self-publishing that I thought it would be an incredible and exciting thing to do.
I love it. I love the control. I like choosing my own covers and titles, arranging my own editing schedule, deciding when and where I will publish. I love the self-publishing community, and the enthusiasm and generosity of the people who work within it.
The lows are the few people who persist in sneering at self-published writers, and the difficulties in getting visibility in a very crowded market. Some doors are still shut to indie writers, which is a great shame. Hopefully, one day they’ll finally open.
Summer in Tuppenny Bridge is your first release through Storm Publishing. What can readers expect from this book and from the rest of the series? Is it connected to anything you’ve written before?
Summer in Tuppenny Bridge is a cosy romance in a similar vein to my Kearton Bay and Bramblewick books.
Where the Bramblewick characters were connected through the country practice in the village, my characters in this series are connected by an event which occurred fourteen years before the series starts.
Tuppenny Bridge is a pretty market town in the Yorkshire Dales, and it’s populated with a large cast of colourful and interesting people. There’s a strong-knit community, which is always important in my books, and there’s also romance, friendships, and humour.
The town first appeared in my The Other Half series. It appeared briefly in How the Other Half Lies and was the setting for How the Other Half Loves.
Summer in Tuppenny Bridge focuses on Summer Fletcher. She’s moved to the town to be with her mum, and develops a strong attraction to lovely local vet, Ben Callaghan. Readers should note that it’s a standalone story, and you don’t have to have read The Other Half series to read this book.
This is your first experience with a publisher. What prompted you to explore that route?
I found it increasingly hard to get noticed as an indie. There are so many books published these days that I felt I was becoming invisible. Plus, there’s an awful lot to do when it’s all on you. It’s not just a case of sitting down to write. There are so many other tasks to carry out, and decisions to make.
I felt I needed some help after going it alone with twenty-six books, and Storm Publishing was a new publisher whose founder, Oliver Rhodes, had such a strong background in the industry that I thought Storm would help me reach new readers and widen my audience.
How has working with a publisher compared to being an indie author (so far)?
It’s been pretty full-on! I’m contracted for three books, so it’s been a case of getting my head down and getting on with it, because these deadlines aren’t self-imposed ones that I can move about if I want to.
I’m not used to working on several books at the same time either. Now I’m publicising Summer in Tuppenny Bridge, editing the second Tuppenny Bridge book, and writing the third! I keep forgetting what events happen in which book. It’s also strange having the cover designed and the title chosen for me. It’s been a steep learning curve, that’s for sure, but quite a relief in some ways!
Between writing the Tuppenny Bridge books, you’ll be writing and releasing the final book in the fabulous Witches of Castle Clair series, Destiny of the Witch (out on 31st October and available for pre-order now). Can you tell us a little more about how this magical series came about and why you think it appeals to your women’s fiction readership?
Oh, I love my witches! I’ve always loved magical books and tv shows. My favourite programme when I was little was Bewitched, and I was a big fan of Charmed. I had an idea for a book that I called my Magical Mishaps Novel. I only ever intended it to be a one-off, but it morphed into a trilogy. Then I got lots of messages asking for more, and I missed the St Clairs, so I decided to write another three and make it a series of six.
I’ve now got a spin-off series planned, so it’s way bigger than I ever expected it to be. I know some of my women’s fiction readers are reluctant to read “witchy” books, and that’s absolutely fine.
They should, however, know that my paranormal novels are very lighthearted, and very much written in my voice. It’s still me! There’s still romance, and family relationships, and friendships, and humour. My witches are ordinary young women in lots of ways. They just happen to be magical, and come from a very special and unusual family!
All your books are part of a series. What draws you to writing books in a series? Have any of your series started off as standalones but grown?
I love writing series, because I enjoy creating a beautiful setting and populating it with interesting characters who I can visit time and time again. Kearton Bay was always going to be a series, as was The Other Half, and Moorland Heroes.
My Skimmerdale series consists of two books, but I only planned to write one. I loved Eliot and Eden so much I wanted to go back and see how they were getting on, and Emerald had seemed like such an interesting character in Summer Secrets at Wildflower Farm (even though she had a tiny part in it) that I thought I’d like to explore her further.
Baxter’s Christmas Wish and New Doctor at Chestnut House started out as People’s Friend pocket novels, which were then titled, All Because of Baxter, and Surrender to Love. They went on to become the first books in my Home for Christmas and Bramblewick series. I will admit, though, that the Home for Christmas series is really three standalone novels, whose only connection is that they’re about people who are looking for a home at Christmas. I’m still debating whether to remove the series label and market them as standalones.
And of course, as I’ve said, Belle, Book and Candle was supposed to be a one-off, too.
Of all the books you’ve written, what’s your personal favourite and why? What’s your favourite series and why?
Oh my word, that’s so hard! Why are you being so mean?
Who’s my favourite grandchild? Impossible to say! Who’s my favourite child? Also impossible. They all annoy me equally! (Joking—maybe.)
I suppose I’d say the Kearton Bay books are my favourite because Kearton Bay is where it all started for me, and I absolutely love the setting, which is based on Robin Hood’s Bay, and I’m extremely fond of all the characters there. But The Witches of Castle Clair books were the most fun to write.
Favourite book? I love them all, honestly, and don’t have a favourite as such. I guess if pushed, I’d say the book I’m proudest of is Summer Wedding at Wildflower Farm. It took an awful lot of writing, with six points of view, and a lot of interwoven plotlines. It nearly broke me, writing that book, so when I look at it now it gives me a real sense of achievement. It also reminds me never to write such a complicated book ever again!
Which of your books or series do you think would work best on the big or little screen and why?
Probably The Witches of Castle Clair. Castle Clair is very much inspired by the North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough, which is a cinematic treat in itself. And I think the mixture of the beautiful setting, quirky characters, legends, and magical mystery would be interesting. On the other hand, The Other Half is quite the funny family drama, so that might work too.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, is there anything you’d change? What would this be and why?
So many things! But I suppose, three in particular leap out at me.
One, I’d use a pseudonym for privacy, and I’d also use a different pen name for the Castle Clair books because it’s made marketing a lot trickier using the same name for paranormal and contemporary romances.
Secondly, I’d think more about my author brand, and be more consistent with covers etc from the start.
Thirdly, I’d wait until I’d written at least three books in the series before starting to publish, and I’d have published them closer together. I knew nothing in the beginning, and even though A Kiss from a Rose was almost ready to go, I hung onto it for six months after Angel was published thinking that was the right thing to do. I could have published the entire Kearton Bay series in a year, and I do think that would have been a smarter move.
We know it’s a cliché, but being an author is often compared to being on a rollercoaster as it’s full of ups and downs. During the down times, what is it that keeps you going?
You, mostly! Seriously, having a best friend who does the same job as I do, and understands how frustrating and depressing and confidence-sapping it can be, has helped me to keep going many times. Plus you make me laugh, which is always a bonus. Our writing tribes, The Write Romantics, and our local chapter of the RNA. What else keeps me going? Cuddles from The Husband, who’s proud of me no matter how rubbish I’m feeling about myself. And kind comments and messages from readers who’ve loved my books make it all worthwhile.
One thing I have found crucial when my confidence is low and the whole thing is getting me down is to switch off social media, walk away from the writing, and focus on family and friends and “normal” life. It soon reminds me that, as much as I love it, writing is my job, and there’s more to life than work.
What advice would you give to any aspiring writers out there or anyone who is at the early stages of their career and struggling a little?
Find your writing tribe. Don’t be alone. Join a writing group or connect with other authors in person or on social media. Romance writers, join the RNA! (Romantic Novelists’ Association.) Read lots about writing, about the business of writing (they’re not the same thing!) and learn as much as you can about this industry. Be prepared for rejections. Don’t expect to get rich. Think very carefully about your brand. If you really want this, don’t give up. Value yourself and your work. Have fun and enjoy the process!
Where would you like to see your writing career in five years’ time?
I’d like to have at least another fifteen or twenty books out in five years’ time, and I’d love to have had at least one of them in the Kindle top 100, because then I could officially say I was a bestselling author. The closest I’ve come is top 200 with Christmas at the Country Practice. Hopefully I’ll have another magical series and a cosy mystery series out by 2028. Beyond that, who knows?
Which do you prefer?…
Writing books set in summer or winter?
Ohhh, that’s so hard. Both have their pros and cons! I’ll say winter.
Writing full-length novels or novellas?
Writing women’s fiction or magical books?
Why are you torturing me with these difficult questions? Okay. Magical books.
Writing a series or standalone book?
First draft or edits?
Edits. Writing a first draft is like wading through treacle.
Cover reveal day or publication day?
Cover reveal day. Nowhere near as much pressure!
Reading reviews or checking the chart position?
I don’t read reviews unless I’ve been tagged in one, so checking chart positions, though I hardly ever do that either!
Reading or writing?
Well, reading’s easier!
Reading the book or watching the film?
Depends on the book and film, and how lazy I’m feeling!
Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog, Jessica. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions, even though some of them were too cruel!
Buying link is https://geni.us/53-Storm
Please include links to the socials and author pageYou can find all my links at https://linktr.ee/sharonboothwriter
A huge thank you, Sharon, for those fabulous answers. Sorry (not sorry) for being mean with my questions!