This novel was published only last month and while I have many books on my tbr list, once I’d met Lisa Hill in person I knew I would read it this summer! We met at an RNA event (remember thats the Romantic Novelists Association) in May in Oxford, then again at the annual conference in Leeds, and her chatty and encouraging demeanour really helped me to feel part of each meeting. I read slowly yet finished ‘Heart’ (as Lisa calls it herself) over three days. My kindle informed me it was an 8-hour read and had I been able to press pause on life to read it in one sitting, I would have done as each time I resigned myself to putting the kindle/phone down, all I wanted to do was get back to it!
The fun work setting of property agents in Yorkshire made the perfect backdrop against which the story unfolds across three, no, four generations of one family. Lisa captures her characters so well, I felt I was walking alongside them, and the multiple points-of-view style that she writes in really added an enjoyable vision of the same plot from different angles. Ultimately a feel-good read but touching on relationship issues makes this novel a multi-layered tale and I was really keen to find out how Lisa had started her journey as an author. So I sent her an email, then prayed.
Amazingly, she not only remembered me in person, she’d recalled I had submitted my partial to the New Writers Scheme this year and we chatted about her previous experiences putting work through the scheme. I asked if I could create a blog with some Q&A and we are very lucky that Lisa was delighted to answer my questions and I can share them with you here – how very exciting!
How long ago did you first spark an idea for this particular story?
Heart was the reason I started writing really. I kept reading Jill Mansell and Rebecca Shaw novels and loving the cast of characters, who I would fall in love with, and I started thinking about the sort of people I would write about, if I was to write a novel. So, nine years ago, with the glimmer of an idea in my mind, I joined a creative writing class to learn about plot, characters and setting and that was how the plot was formed. Working in property, and always being told write what you know, I decided to write what I always fantasised when I rocked up at a viewing; that my applicant would turn out to be Sean Bean!
Were you nervous writing around a subject where your colleagues might compare some aspects of your character Lottie with yourself?
Not really, as I just said; write what you know about. My writing career really came about as the result of an unhappy marriage and writing was very much my creative outlet and an escape from reality. And, if I hadn’t experienced that, I wouldn’t have been able to write so authentically about a hero and heroine who have hit a rocky patch in their marriage. Plus, I make no bones about the fact I love to be compared to Kirstie Allsopp; she is definitely the person I look up to in life!
How has being a member of The Romantic Novelists Association helped you?
I joined the RNA in 2010 after completing a year of creative writing classes and having the bones of a manuscript of what eventually became Heart. The RNA has been a source of invaluable help to me over the past few years; my first New Writers’ Scheme report was so positive and constructive with its criticism that I realised I needed to write the entire thing again! Which I did and received further feedback the following year which helped shape it into what was finally published. Sadly, I couldn’t find a publisher for it at the time, so I ploughed on with another manuscript which also went through the NWS and helped me win the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition in 2016. Not only have the RNA been supportive in a writing capacity, I have made so many genuine friends who are equally supportive. I find the members a source of inspiration and information on a daily basis these days!
What do you do to relax/switch off during the creation of a first draft?
I can’t. Actually, I don’t really do relaxing! I’m currently sitting on a sun-bed in Corfu answering these questions! My characters are always in my mind but they are my relaxation from reality, really. I find escaping into their world helps with the daily mundanity of cleaning bathrooms, taxiing children to and from schools and dealing with the demands of the business I run with my husband. Plus characters do what I want them to do most of the time; which is more than I can say for my three sons!
If you had to choose three books to take on a year’s trip to space, which would they be and why?
Head Over Heels by Jill Mansell as it’s the novel which inspired me to start writing.
Cider with Rose by Laurie Lee as it’s set in Slad, in the Cotswolds, where my dad grew up. In fact, my younger son is named Laurie after Laurie Lee. Lee’s description of setting is so evocative, you really feel like you are there.
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian because it is and still remains one of my favourite books of all time. I first read it when I was eleven but it is a story which stays close in mind. If you are a writer, it’s a good plot to track the highs and lows of a story arc. And it might be a children’s book but it very much has love at its core. We could all do with a Mister Tom to look out for us.
Who are you author idols?
Think I may have covered this already, haha! It’s Jill Mansell; the first time I ever met her at an RNA conference she recognised me from my Twitter profile picture and I had a gushing, fangirl moment!
What is a piece of advice you might give to other would-be authors that you wish you’d heard at the start of your journey?
As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, write what you know about, I will add to that keep going. If you are serious about becoming published – unless you are exceptionally lucky – you are going to suffer rejections. But what doesn’t break us only makes us stronger. So, develop a thick skin and keep going; if you give up you certainly won’t get published. And remember reading is a bit like marmite; some will love your style, others will hate it, you can’t please everyone. One agent might tell you it’s not for them, another agent might want to snap you up. It’s such a subjective vocation and even when you get published there’ll be readers giving you those 1 star reviews because it was nothing like they thought it would be! So know your own mind, keep going and eventually you will get there, I promise.
OMG … now I feel like Parkinson, or Oprah, interviewing famous peeps – tee hee!
Seriously though, I enjoyed Heart so much I ordered Lisa’s first published book from 2017, called ‘Meet Me at Number Five’ and am already 70% through it as I type this post. (Not doing too badly here on the planning front are we?!)
Another family, all the generations, this time set amongst the racing world of the Cotswolds. I’m going to need some tissues soon, I can feel it coming (and that’s an art in itself as an author).
If you’d like to check out either book on amazon, the links are below.
A big thank you again Lisa for entertaining me with your novels, for sharing your journey, for encouraging a newbie like myself and I look forward to seeing you soon!