Friday, 16 October 2009

Eleni-fest: chatting with Claire Baxter

Today we have a fellow SARA member, the lovely Claire Baxter on Eleni-fest. Claire is HM&B Romance author (HM&B Sweet in Australia) and was nominated for the R*BY short sweet category with her book The Single Dad’s Patchwork Family.

Welcome Claire to Eleni’s Taverna and Eleni-fest!

Thanks for inviting me. It’s great to be part of Eleni-fest!

Congratulations on being nominated for a R*BY award. This was your first nomination. How did you react with the news?
Thanks, Eleni! To say I was shocked and delighted is an understatement. We have so many wonderful writers in Australia and New Zealand that the competition for a spot in the finals is incredible.

What attracted you to the Romance line?
Oh, I love the Romance line! I was a late-comer to romance reading. In fact, I hadn’t read a single Harlequin Mills & Boon romance until 2003! Once I did, a whole new world of reading opened up to me. I read my way through the HMB lines but couldn’t see myself writing any of them. Until I picked up a book from the Romance line or ‘Sweet’ as it’s known in Australia. It was A Bride At Birralee by Barbara Hannay, and I knew immediately that I’d discovered my line. I read every Sweet I could get my hands on, and found many wonderful Australian writers.

I love the sense that these romances really could happen to you, that they take you on a roller-coaster of emotions, and that they deliver the feel-good high of falling in love, every time.

Do you have any say in the titles of your books?
No. And this suits me because I’m hopeless at coming up with titles. If I had to choose my own, I’d never get a book published. My favourite title so far is that of the book due out in December 09 (UK): Her Mediterranean Makeover. The heroine is a widow who married her childhood sweetheart, and at the age of forty finds herself alone. She does something she dreamed of when she was young: she goes to learn French in France, and she finds a whole new life.

You obtained a grant to attend the RWA national conference in San Francisco last year. Can you tell us about the grant and the application process?
I was thrilled to be awarded a professional development grant by Arts SA. I must admit, I didn’t think an arts council would award grants to romance writers; I thought they’d be reserved for the literary writers, so before embarking on the application process, I emailed Arts SA to ask whether this was the case. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply indicating that all forms of literature were eligible.

My advice to people hoping to apply for a grant, is not to be put off by the application process. It’s not as onerous as it might appear at first glance. It requires the submission of a one-page project description, a CV, a budget, letters of support, referees, supporting documentation such as reviews, media clippings etc, and support material including books.

How was the San Francisco conference?
Fantastic! Well worth the effort of putting in a grant application. I attended many fine workshops, was one of 500 authors who participated in the Literacy for Life book-signing event, met four Harlequin Mills and Boon editors from the London office, talked with fellow authors from America, England, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, and of course, attended the Rita award ceremony. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Hmm, a pantser would call me a plotter, but I don’t plot in detail. I don’t do character charts, or collages, or casting. I do write a two-page synopsis. This is for my editor, but I’m so used to writing it now, it’s part of my process, and I’d probably continue to write a synopsis even if my editor didn’t want it.  I like to know the main turning points of the plot, and an idea of how it’s going to be resolved, but the details of getting from point to point only emerge as I write.
Before I start writing, I make up a collection of music specifically for that book, and I play it over and over again while I’m writing. I find that it helps me to get back into the story mood after taking a breaking from the manuscript. And as I work part-time, these breaks are unavoidable.

What is the best thing you have done for your writing?
In the early days, it was joining RWAus, and specifically, the Romaus e-list. It’s a very inspiring and supportive group of people, and just knowing that they were all striving for (or had achieved) the goal of publication in romance, was motivating for me.

What would be your ultimate research trip? ;))
Oh, this is such a hard question to answer, because it will always be the location of my next book. As it happens, I’m hoping to set my next book in Greece, starting in Athens, then to Crete, and then on to several other Greek islands. So, right now, this would be my ultimate research trip, but ask me in a few months time, and it could be somewhere completely different *grin*.

Thanks Claire for joining us. Claire has kindly offered a copy   of ‘The Best Love Stories of 2009’ to be a give away.

For your  chance to  win please comment below
. If you have a favourite line or subgenre you read, let us know.
Comments will be open until  21st October.

Comments now closed. Congratulations Mariska!
Please drop by Claire's website.

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