Welcome to the one hundred and ninety-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with humorous romance novelist Carole Matthews. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Carole.
Carole: Hi Morgen. Thank you so much for having me on your blog.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. I was delighted you said “yes”. 🙂 Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Carole: I had a very quick start as a writer, which tends to go against the grain. I sent the very first short story I wrote off to a Writing Magazine competition and, to my surprise and delight, won a thousand pounds.
Morgen: That beats my £10 (Woman’s Weekly 60-worder) hands down. 🙂
Carole: Then, instead of spending the money on shoes and handbags, I booked to go on a writing course instead. An inspired idea! When the course came around, I had started my first novel and the course tutor liked it and recommended an agent to send it to. I sent it to Darley Anderson and he took me on straightaway. He sold the book within a week and it became my first published novel ‘Let’s Meet On Platform 8’. It was at the very start of the whole chicklit wave and I was very lucky to hit the right desk at the right time.
Morgen: I took a 105K chicklit novel to three agents at Winchester in July and was told the genre was over (can’t see it ever being over myself) but really they were looking for historical and / or crime so I like to think it was the right thing for the wrong person(s), although looking back on it there are thing I’d change but then I think we can edit for ever. You generally write “fabulously funny romantic fiction”, have you written or considered writing any other genres?
Carole: I do love writing romantic comedy. I feel that it’s my natural fit. If you meet me, you’ll instantly know why!
Morgen: I nearly got to Milton Keynes Waterstone’s once but… er, not sure what happened in the end. (note to self: must try harder, although I did see crime novelists Stephen Booth and Peter James recently).
Carole: So, as long as my readers keep buying my books, I’ll keep writing.
Morgen: And hopefully because you love writing. 🙂
Carole: For pleasure, I’ve tried a vampire novel (love those bitey folk!) and a thriller, but they’re both lying unfinished in my desk drawer. I don’t think they’ll ever see the light of day (particularly not the vampire one!)
Morgen: Ah yes, apparently that’s another genre that is apparently written to er… death. Angels are the next big thing so the word has it, but then they’ve been around forever, mostly non-fiction I guess. Maybe you could write an angelic fabulously funny romantic novel. 🙂 These interviews have become fairly renowned as being ‘get a large cuppa and comfy chair’ so it may definitely applicable for the next question as I know it’s a long list… what have you had published to-date? Can you remember where you saw your first book on the shelves?
Carole: Wrapped up in You is my 19th novel and my first one for my new publisher Little, Brown and they’re doing a great job with it. My first novel was picked for a W H Smith ‘Read of the Week’ and I remember going to Heathrow Airport and seeing a whole wall just of my book! It was a great feeling.
Morgen: Wow. I bet. Have you ever seen a member of the public (whom you don’t know) reading your book… in any unusual locations?
Carole: I was once queuing up in Asda and the lady in front of me was buying ‘A Whiff of Scandal’. I couldn’t help myself, so I tapped her on the shoulder and said ‘I wrote that book.’ She looked me up and down with disdain and said ‘Yeah, right.’ I’ve never done it since.
Morgen: Oh dear, hopefully she’s twigged by now. 🙂 Peter (James) said the other day that he’d done the same thing with an old lady on a train; he told us he was quite surprised that it was her genre but said “That’s my book” and she handed it back saying she’d found it but he was welcome to it as it wasn’t very good. Ouch. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Carole: I think all authors have to do a lot of marketing now. But it’s quite nice to do. I love being on Facebook and Twitter, so the whole social networking thing isn’t hard work for me. I know that some authors resent having to do it, but I’m certainly not one of them!
Morgen: A surprising number of my interviewees have said that marketing is their least favourite aspect of writing. I’m a rubbish sales person (“oh you don’t want it? OK, thanks anyway”) but I do think it’s easier online, although some take it to extremes and have nothing else to talk about then wonder why people de-follow or de-friend them.
Carole: Sometimes my readers tell me off for being on there for too long and shoo me off to get writing.
Morgen: Really? I wish they’d do that to me. 🙂
Carole: Blogs like this are great too. I also do a lot of library talks and events, which I also enjoy.
Morgen: I must keep an eye out for your events as we don’t live a million miles away from each other. I spend my life (it seems – when I’m not at work, walking the dog etc) online so it would be nice to get out more. 🙂
Carole: You just have to be careful that it doesn’t nibble too much into your writing time.
Morgen: Writing time? <laughs> That’s why I need things like NaNoWriMo and StoryADay. Tell me you need something doing yesterday and I’ll do it, saying there’s no hurry is fatal, everything else takes its place. I subscribe to your newsletters, which are great fun to read, do you compile them yourself or do you have help?
Carole: I do all the written bits and then my dearly-beloved, Lovely Kev, puts in the images and all the links. I like to do my own newsletter as, again, I hate to get ones from authors that have clearly been generated by their publishers. We do also have a Reader VIP Club and all of those come direct from Little, Brown, but we still work on them together and we have great offers for my most dedicated fans.
Morgen: You do have a lot going on, your website is heaving. 🙂 I see from your November newsletter that The Festival of Romance (which I missed because of work, bah humbug) inducted you into their Hall of Fame for an Outstanding Contribution to Romantic Fiction, it sounded like it was a complete shock.
Carole: It was totally unexpected. I had a great time at the event and it was lovely to meet so many new people. I’m pleased to see that it will be running again next year. You need to be there!
Morgen: I’m actually going back to temping (hopefully more writing than temping) from Christmas so I can pick and choose my hours; I can say “I’m having x-day off” instead of “please can I…”. 🙂 My editor Rachel was going to go but in the end she couldn’t but by all accounts it was great. I love everything literary (you can probably tell) and say I’d go to the opening of a rejection letter (I probably would). My next ‘outing’ is February’s Verulam Writing Circle’s Get Writing one-day conference. It’ll be my third time and it’s such a great event. So yes, I’ll definitely put the Festival in my diary, especially as it’s near my old stomping ground (Amersham, Bucks).
Carole: It was really very kind of them to give me an award. They gave me cupcakes too. What’s not to love?
Morgen: I’ll have to hope Rachel isn’t reading this as she’s from California and I’m pretty sure she’s a big cupcake fan (not that the two necessarily go together). You run your own competitions (and how much do I wish I didn’t already subscribe so I had a chance of winning Philippa’s gorgeous bag :)), what made you start these? Carole: I love my competitions and you can still enter, Morgen. I try never to exclude any of my readers. They’re all important to me. All current subscribers can just send me an email. There’s usually a funny little phrase that you have to enter each month. You have to do a bit of work!
Morgen: Ooh thank you… I’ll take another look.
Carole: It was a short-story competition that kick-started my career, so I’m a big fan of them. It helps to build a writing CV if you can have some success in them.
Morgen: One of the writing groups I belong to has a yearly members-only competition and whilst I won last year we’ve had a few new members and the writing’s even stronger this year. Keeps me on my toes. I love them anyway because short stories are my first love. Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to an author’s profile?
Carole: No, I’m Carole Matthews on my books and Carole Matthews in real life. I think if I’d had a pseudonym, I’d have been tempted to be Blaze Champagne or something exotic.
Morgen: If you wrote Mills & Boon perhaps you could be tempted. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved at all in that process? Do you have any plan to write any eBook-only stories? And do you read eBooks?
Carole: All my UK books should now be available as ebooks and we’re just working through the titles for the American market. I think there might, in the future, be some books that are just available as ebooks. I can see the benefit of ebooks and when I travel I’ll certainly be taking a Kindle. For a two-week holiday, I usually take about 6 books, so Kindles are definitely a bonus there. I do still like a tree book though. There’s just something so perfect about them. I know that ebooks are the future, but I hope we never entirely lose the real thing!
Morgen: I don’t think so. I read tree books at home then my eReader travels with me (although not always as my laptop usually gets preferential treatment) and most of the people I’ve ‘spoken’ to (interviewed here or chatted with on LinkedIn) have enjoyed both – I think they just serve different purposes. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Carole: I write two books a year and my next one is due out in May 2012. It’s a lovely summery story called Summer Daydreams. It’s about a young woman struggling to make her way in the world of business while juggling a young family and relationship. I think it will be a lot of fun.
Morgen: Two books a year… no wonder your readers urge you to stop social networking! Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Carole: Thanks very much for having my on your blog, Morgen! Much appreciated. Some great questions!
Morgen: Oh goodness, my pleasure. Thank you so much Carole. It’s been great getting to know more about you and your writing.
And a taster of Carole’s books…
A Christmas fling, or has Janie found the real thing?
Thirty-something hairdresser Janie Johnson’s single status is a constant source of gossip for her friends and clients. So after too many nights in with her cat, a blind date disaster and news that her ex is getting married, Janie realises it’s time to do something dramatic with her life.
It’s time for an adventure!
Leaving winter behind, Janie takes the plunge and books an exotic trip to Africa. Her friends think she’s mad and Janie thinks they may very well be right… but then she falls head over heels for her tour guide – and fully fledged Maasai Warrior – Dominic. But can Janie now face spending a snowy Christmas back home without him?
Carole Matthews is an internationally bestselling author of hugely successful romantic comedy novels. Her unique sense of humour has won her legions of fans and critical acclaim all over the world.
As well as appearing on the Sunday Times and USA Today bestseller lists, Carole is published in 30 different countries. Her novel Welcome To The Real World was shortlisted for the RNA romantic novel of the year award. She has recently been given an award from The Festival of Romance for her Outstanding Contribution to Romantic Fiction.
Previously very unlucky in love, she now lives happily ever after with her partner, Lovely Kev, in a minimalist home with no ornaments or curtains. She likes to drink champagne, eat chocolate and spends too much time on Facebook and Twitter.
When she’s not writing novels she likes trekking in the Himalayas, rollerblading in Central Park, taking tea in China or being cajoled up the Andes by Lovely Kev. More often than not, she can be found daydreaming in her garden shed in Milton Keynes.
Morgen: Just a hop over the county border from me. 🙂
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