The Intriguing Interview (aka About Me)

As I didn't want to do the usual boring 'all about me' page, I asked my mates over on Facebook to 'interview' me. This is the result.

Which of the characters you've created is your favourite? (And why, obviously!!) – Val Bonney
Often it’s the character who I’m writing at a particular time, but the most enduring favourites (note the plural) for me are Mrs Oakengate, from My True Companion and A Collector of Hearts, and May Tucker from Bella’s Vineyard.
They’re very different women. Mrs Oakengate is an ex-actress who ‘collects’ broken girls as a way of making herself look better, though she does soften a little in A Collector of Hearts.
May Tucker, in Bella’s Vineyard, is a frontiers woman in America, who takes care of my heroine. She’s straight speaking, but has a heart of gold.

What or who got you into writing? Janie Salt
I always credit my dad with getting me into writing, if only because he got me into reading. He always had books in his house (I lived with my mum and step-dad), so from an early age I was reading Frederick Forsyth, Alistair McLean and similar thriller writers. Then at my mum’s friends I read loads of Mills and Boons and Barbara Cartland’s. I think that’s why I write romantic intrigue now, because I was brought up on thrillers and romance. But I didn’t really start writing until I was in my thirties.

What would be you ultimate wish as regards your writing? What would be your dream book? Sharon Watkins
My ultimate wish is to be published by Mills and Boon. I keep trying but can’t quite get their style right. I’ll keep trying though. My dream book would be one that people read and enjoyed, as simple as that. It doesn’t mean I’d have to sell loads (though that would be nice).

What's the best type of cake to eat whilst reading one of your books? Patsy Davies
Oh I didn’t realise the questions were going to be this tough! There’s a lot to be said for Red Velvet cake, but you can’t beat a nice moist fruit cake either. Then there are choux buns. Actually thinking about it, I think any cake is perfect to eat whilst writing. All donations gratefully received!

Are any of your characters based on yourself or people you know? Wendy Keyte
I think when you write romance, you always put something of yourself in your heroines. Or at least they’re the people you’d like to be. A bit slimmer, a bit prettier and possibly a bit nicer. I have sometimes based characters on people I know, but I’m always very careful to camouflage them! Especially if they’re not very nice people. I also use a lot of old family names for my characters. Millie in True Companion, is based on my mother’s middle name of Millicent.

Do you jot first ideas with pen and pad, or stick to electronic devices? June Grundlack
It depends where I am. Like a lot of writers, I do have a notebook at the side of my bed and in my handbag, but I’m much better on the computer as I can get the ideas down quicker. I can also play around with them, which is harder to do when handwriting. Plus my handwriting is awful so sometimes even I don’t know what I’ve written!

Where did the idea for the town of Midchester come from? If you lived there what would you do? Charlotte McFall
The first Midchester novel I wrote was The Ghost of Christmas Past. The name Midchester was just meant to denote any town in Middle England, but as I was in Shropshire on a retreat at the Arvon Centre at the time, I set Midchester in Shropshire. Which was a bit daft as I hardly knew the place! Since then I’ve tried to play down the Shropshire angle, unless I mention nearby places. I’d rather Midchester be seen to be any town in England. If I lived there, I’d want to be the local sleuth, maybe running The Quiet Woman pub, so I could hear all the gossip to help me solve the crimes.

Are there any genres you'd never try writing? Why? Cally Taylor
Well, dino-porn for obvious reasons. J And whilst I don’t have anything against people who write BDSM (in fact I count some as my friends), it’s not a genre I’d personally feel comfortable writing, though I’m not averse to writing about a bit of fun with handcuffs. I probably wouldn’t write High Fantasy, because I just don’t think I’d be good at it, even though I love the LotR films and Game of Thrones. It takes a lot to create such a world and I’m not sure I could remember all the characters, let alone the locations!

Which six writers (living or dead) would you invite to a dinner party? CallyTaylor
Agatha Christie
Barbara Cartland (yes really – she’d be a hoot!)
Baroness Orczy (author of The Scarlet Pimpernel)
Frederick Forsyth
Stephen King
Lee Child

What was the first story/publication you were paid for and what did you do with the money? Cally Taylor
It was a story called Clarence, that I sold to Yours magazine. I can’t remember what I did with the money. I probably paid some bills, which is rather boring, isn’t it? I learned my lesson later when I sold one of my novels and used the proceeds to buy my summerhouse, which is where I do the bulk of my writing.

What use are stories, anyway? Helen Kara
Ooh that’s provocative. I like it! Apart from being a great means of escape, I think stories are a great way of learning how to deal with the world. We may see a character take some course of action, and whether we agree or disagree, helps us to decide how we would behave in a similar situation. Though to be fair I’ve never had a vineyard in America left to me by a maiden aunt…

But mainly I write as a means of escape and I hope my readers are able to escape into that same world when they read my stories. They may be having problems in ‘real life’ (which is very overrated), they may have to pick the kids up from school, and do the millions of chores around the house. But for an hour or two they’re transported into another world away from all that. For me reading (and writing) is the most cathartic thing I know.

Which four books would you choose to have with you as a desert island castaway? Mike Ross
I want to be really worthy here and say something like The Bible or War and Peace or something by Emile Zola. But as I don’t read them now, I can’t imagine why I’d ever read them when I was too busy worrying about making a decent meal from bananas and coconuts and/or avoiding the now feral children who have landed on the other side of the island.

So I’ll be really low-grade and say:
The Man in the Brown Suit – Agatha Christie (the romantic intrigue by which I judge all my own novels).
No Darkness for Love – Barbara Cartland. The first BC novel I read and still my favourite. Yes, she’s a bit flowery by today’s standards, but I still enjoy her novels from time to time.
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth – I read this when I was 12 and it’s still one of my favourites.
The Stand (the unexpurgated 1400 page version) by Stephen King.
I’d probably end up burning them all to keep warm one freezing cold night, but with any luck the light from the fire will catch the attention of a passing liner.

Knowing you like visual inspiration for your characters and often use celebs photos as inspiration my question would be... Have you used the same character/ celeb as inspiration more than once? And why? (What do you look for in an inspiring character photo?) Awen Thornber
Hmm, let me think. I don’t think I have used the same celeb more than once in my novels, but I am a bit of a trollop when it comes to hankering after handsome celebs so there are always plenty to go around. Oh no, now I remember. Yes, Peter Strauss. The actor from Rich Man Poor Man and Kane and Abel. I used him for inspiration in both Sunlit Secrets (aka Lonesome Ranger published by Pulse) and The Future Mrs Winter. I was having a Peter Strauss moment at the time.

One of the reasons I’ll use an actor or actress for inspiration is that it’s easier then to remember what they look like, so I don’t suddenly give someone with blonde hair and blue eyes, brown hair and brown eyes halfway through the story.

Any photo I use for inspiration has to fit in with the character as I see them. So for example, the Peter Strauss photo that inspired me was from his younger (but still mature) days, rather than has he is now. Though he still looks darn good for a man in his sixties!

What is a 'typical' writing day? Carol Warham
Basically I get up, check my emails, drink tea, check Facebook, play some Criminal Case (used to be Candy Crush, but I got bored with that), think about when I’m going to start to write. Go out to my shed and start writing around 10am, then write as much as I can in as short a time as I can so I can get back to Facebook and Criminal Case…

What names are and aren't your idea of hero and heroine names and why? What names are and aren't your idea of hero and heroine names and why?Raven McAllan
Names are crucially important for heroes and heroines aren’t they? My hubby’s mate, Kevin, keeps asking why I don’t name a hero after him, and I had to tell him, sadly, that Kevin is not a great hero’s name! I was also reading some Barbara Cartland’s lately and one of her heroes was called Kenneth, which completely put me off as it’s my late father-in-law’s name, and then another was called Perequine (I’m not even sure I’m spelling that correctly and I can’t be bothered to check). I mean, Perequine? How can you whisper that in the dark and keep a straight face?

On the other hand, The Scarlet Pimpernel is called Percy, yet I’d still do him (as long as he looked like Richard E Grant).

I like strong hero names, and tend towards single syllable names, like Vance, Nate and Matt.. In fact, someone did a study once and found that in romantic fiction, heroes tended to have single syllable names, whereas heroines had two syllable names, like Lucy or Annie. The only hero I’ve ever given a two syllable name to was Tony Marcus in Take My Breath Away.

The best hero and heroine names are the simplest ones. And there can never be too many heroes called Jack in my humble opinion.

Barbara Cartland, again, has some very odd heroine names, like Atalanta, which I don’t think would fly with a modern readership. The most ‘out there’ name I’ve ever had for a heroine was Calista in Loving Protector and even then I worried that it would not be taken seriously.

I know you passed your driving test and took to the road recently, which is awesome - just wondering what bits of driving do you especially love and which bits do you still hate? Jane Linfoot
For those who don’t know, I’ve just passed my driving test at the age of 50! I love just being able to get in the car and go wherever I want, when I want (within reason as I still am not comfortable doing longer trips). If I need bread and milk, I don’t have to wait for hubby to be around anymore, though I dread to think what my carbon footprint is! The other week my daughter and I went to the pictures and she said ‘Shall I pick you up, Mum?’ I said ‘No, thank you, I can drive myself now!’ and that was a nice feeling. I love putting some music in the CD player and just taking off on my own!

What I hate is drivers who drive up so close you can almost see the whites of their eyes in the rearview mirror. It takes a lot not to be intimidated by that, especially for a new driver, and I can see why there are so many accidents, if people are trying to force you to go faster.  And then there’s the sort who pip you at the traffic lights if you can’t get gone quickly enough for them.  It’s like they think their hooter is attached to your accelerator. Then I stall, and they get more annoyed.

What was the first silly question you were asked when people found out that you were a writer? June Gadsby
The one I remember is ‘Do you want to be the next JK Rowling?’ But as she wasn’t around when I first started writing way back in 1995, I think the main question I was asked (and the same went for when I returned to education in my thirties) was ‘What do you want to do that at your age for?’

Then, if I wrote anything fruity, it was ‘Where do you get the inspiration for that? Nudge nudge, wink wink.’ I always point out that as I also write murder mysteries, I’m surprised no one asks me how I get the inspiration for my murders!

Would you write even if you never got paid for it? Geraldine Ryan
Yes, definitely. I wrote for years without being paid, starting with (bad) poetry and fanfiction. Then short stories and some novels which are best forgotten. It’s nice to be paid, but it also changes how you view your writing. I seldom write anything nowadays that I couldn’t be paid for. But that’s good to, because it means I work harder to be a good writer, rather than just playing at it as I did before.

I hate that writers who want to be paid are considered to be literary whores. Everyone else who works in the arts, including Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst, gets paid for their artistic endeavors, so why shouldn’t writers?

How old were you when you started to sell your writing? Kirsty Davies-Chinnock
It would have been late thirties, early forties, but the sales were few and far between and for many years I spent much more on my writing than I earned from it! But it shows, I think, that you can start writing at any time in your life and become a paid writer.

What's the best part about being a writer? Lynne Cobine
For me, it’s a catharsis. It helps me to escape into worlds where I have control. I can create my own happy endings. I love having new ideas and putting them into words. But it’s also the fantastic people I’ve met whilst being a writer. The writing community is, for the most part, very generous with its time and advice, and I’ve always tried to pay some of that forward.

I also love the idea (though this sounds a bit narcissistic) that my books will be in print long after I’m gone. They may not still be for sale or in libraries, but maybe someone will pick one up in a charity shop one day and enjoy reading it. Being a writer is a way of being immortal. No, I’m never going to be the next JK Rowling, but I’m quite happy being the first Sally Quilford.


  1. Really interesting, Sally. I like the idea of that dinner party and I agree Barabra Cartland would probably be a fun guest.

    1. She'd certainly brighten the place up!

  2. Good point about being paid. Some people almost lay guilt trip on writers who don;t write every day because they 'can't help themselves - they're compelled - the pay is irrelevant.'
    Well if you have time to write for pleasure and nothing else, that's fine; but for many of us, if it's going to take up a significant part of our time, it's going to have to at least try and earn its keep. As you say, it's a skill - one we're wielding for the pleasure of others. They wouldn't expect Hugh Jackman do the next X-Men movie because he 'has to act', would they? ;)

    1. That's very true, Alison. Though we'd all gladly pay Hugh to be Wolverine ;-)

  3. Brilliant interview, thanks Sally!

    There's a Chinese (I think) saying, that in your lifetime you should aim to plant a tree, have a child and write a book. Three things to keep your legacy alive after you're gone. Have you planted a tree? If not, consider it a job for next weekend!

    1. I've planted at least half a dozen trees, Womag. So now I've done all that, can I go and have a lie down?

  4. Way to go, Quillers! you have really made something of this and I am proud of you. A long way from our Labourite Baronet with a fondness for pickled eels, eh?

  5. Hello, John! What a long way we've both come since days of Amazon Shorts, hey?


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