In Conversation with Katie Fforde
We sat down for a chat with the wonderful Katie Fforde who shares with us what it’s like to be an author, where she finds her inspiration and a fact that very few people know!
Have you always wanted to be an author?
I first thought I wanted to be an author in my twenties when I had two small children who didn’t sleep and a husband who was at sea a lot of the time. Add in two mad cats and an Irish Wolfhound you will understand why I was very tired. I became addicted to Mills and Boon novels as an escape and when I became less tired, I thought, I could write one of these! All in all, I wrote eight novels, either entirely or partially, before I finally accepted defeat and thought it just wasn’t going to happen. It was only then, thanks to the Romantic Novelists’ Association, that I was introduced to a literary agent, who convinced me that I could write something a bit bigger . . . and writing contemporary romantic fiction proved to be my true calling!
My debut novel Living Dangerously was snapped up by a publisher before I’d even finished writing it and was published in 1995 – at the age of 42, 10 years after I first started trying, I was finally a published author. The story was inspired by much of my own life: my town, my job, my wardrobe, and even my elderly cat.
Since then I’ve written a further 29 novels as well as a collection of short stories and a Quick Read for The Reading Agency.
How do you choose your characters’ names, have you met them?
I struggle a bit with names. It’s very important to get them right and I have used up a lot of names by now. I probably haven’t met them in real life!
Where do you find your inspiration when writing?
Inspiration for books is everywhere. In the past I have had ideas for books from television programmes, the small ads in magazines and overheard scraps of conversation. It is amazing how many ideas there are if you keep your antennae on high alert!
What are your three favourite books and why?
This is a hard one! My first favourite is King Arthur and his Knights. My mother read it to me when I was very small. I think it made me a romantic novelist. The second is Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer, the first of hers I read. I carried on until I’d read them all, several times. My third is The Diary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kauffman which I read when I was 16 and a student in Rome. It was far too old for me really but I re read it recently and I can see why I liked it. The writing is so frank.
You can invite three people to dinner, past or present, who would you invite and what would you cook?
I cannot imagine anything more stressful than inviting my heroes to dinner and then having to cook for them but here goes. Georgette Heyer. I don’t suppose she’d come because she’d be too grand and wouldn’t want to have dinner with another writer. Shakespeare because he is the best writer ever, and I don’t suppose he’d be fussy about the food. Maya Angelou, another writer who is right up there. As for the food, I might start with ‘pine cones’ which is savoury chou pastry with cheese and ham which you deep fry. Tasty and quite easy, although a bit ‘last minute.’ Then a really good stew, like beef cooked in beer (which I would do the day before) with a cheese scone topping. For pudding I might do a simple chocolate mousse with cream. I think chocolate needs cream!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
This advice was given to me and other new mothers by a paediatrician, but it applies to everything. ‘Don’t ask advice unless you’re absolutely sure you don’t know the answer.’
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My advice is don’t give up. If you’re really determined you will make it. You learn from every book you write.
If you hadn’t become a successful writer what would you be doing now?
I’d probably be retired! But I expect I’d have become a counsellor, someone who listens to people’s problems. I am so nosy!
Tell us something about yourself that we likely don’t know! The more obscure the better!
I spent three months in Rome when I was 16 studying modern dance and singing. I was spotted by someone looking for dancers and he wanted me in his show. I declined. My mother wanted me home!
Which profession do you look at and think: “I’d love to be able to do that?”
Something artistic. I’d love to be able to paint, or be a potter.
What inspired you to write Wedding Season?
‘I was inspired to write Wedding Season after I met a wonderful young woman who made corsets and wedding dresses. She and her husband owned the narrow boat we had built many years earlier. She said she only ever wore red shoes and they had a ‘boat rabbit’.
I then thought a wedding planner would be a good main character because she would see all aspects of a wedding. Then there was a dress maker, and a hair and makeup artist. The research was a lot of fun and the horror stories people told me were unbelievable. The vintage wedding car with red leather seats whose proud owner had polished the seats and red polish came off on the dress. The venue which had bleached all the chairs so all the guests ended up with pale stripes on their clothes, or the couple who broke up after the wedding because after it was over, they had nothing in common.
Quick Fire Round
- Where is your favourite place to write? I love my study but also love to write in different places. I like a view.
- Does writing energize or exhaust you? Bit of both. A good writing day is always cheering but I can feel very tired afterwards.
- What motivates you? The characters and the story I have on the go. But I do enjoy working with no immediate prospect of retiring.
- What are 3 words to describe yourself? Disorganised, messy, kind.
- What are you grateful for? My wonderful family and the huge luck I’ve had in my writing career, just for starters.
- What is one thing everyone should do? Follow at least one of your dreams.
- What are you reading right now? The School Teacher of St Michael, by Sarah Steel. Loving it!
- What 3 things you can’t leave the house without? My phone, tissues, my huge handbag.
- Tea, coffee or wine? These days it’s tea. It used to be wine.
- Reading, TV, Music – in order. In that order really. I love TV but if I’m away from it I forget it was ever invented.