If you’re a regular visitor to Linda’s Book Bag it will come as no surprise that I am thrilled to welcome Isabelle Broom, author of Hello, again to the blog in interview today.
To find out why I’m so excited I suggest you read my review of Isabelle’s book One Winter Morning here, my review of My Map of You here, A Year and a Day here and The Place We Met here. Sadly I haven’t yet managed to get to One Thousand Stars and You, but I do have a lovely personally signed copy on my shelf!
The RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) celebrates its 60th birthday this year and as we’re almost the same age (eek – am I REALLY almost 60?) I thought it would be wonderful to interview Isabelle as part of the celebrations. My grateful thanks to RNA Press Officer, and friend, Annette Hannah for arranging this.
An Interview with Isabelle Broom
I’m thrilled you’ve agreed to be interviewed for Linda’s Book Bag as part of the #RNA60 celebrations Isabelle. I think you know how much I love your writing.
Firstly, would you mind telling blog readers a little bit about yourself please?
I certainly can. I’m an author of escapist romantic fiction novels – six, so far, with the seventh due to be published this coming July – all of which are set in various locations around the world. I spend my time travelling to do research, writing, and I also work as a freelance sub editor, reviewer and panel host. I live in Suffolk with my two dogs, Max and Julius, who are both extremely fluffy and utterly bonkers, and love nothing more than a long walk, a long bath and an even longer glass of red wine.
They are utterly adorable!
How would you describe your writing?
I write commercial fiction, so I guess my style is (hopefully) mass-consumer friendly. I love the challenge of bringing a place to life on the page, and try to avoid clichés wherever possible, opting instead for something less obvious. People have called my writing style evocative in the past, which is a huge compliment, but I also adore dialogue and would love to try scriptwriting one day.
That sounds like a really interesting direction for your writing to take. In the mean time, tell us about your latest book.
Hello, again (which is out in July) follows Pepper, whose dreams of becoming a world-renowned artist have been scuppered by a childhood tragedy that still haunts her today. Never having left the small coastal town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk, where she grew up, Pepper finds her world rocked when her 71-year-old friend Josephine asks her accompany her on a trip abroad. The older woman wants to retrace the steps of an illicit love affair she had many years before, and the romantic in Pepper is entranced. The last thing she expects, however, is to stumble across her very own love story in the process…
Hello, again sounds just as fabulous as all your other books. I can’t wait to read it.
What are your writing routines?
Oh gosh, well, that really depends on the stage I’m at with a novel. If I’m editing, then I’ll be at my laptop for ten-plus hours a day, tweaking and rewriting and hair-tearing, but if I’m drafting, it tends to be more like five or six. I enjoy writing in my local library, but I also have a home office and often write on the train to London and back. One of my most favourite places to write is at Book Camp, which takes place twice a year down in Somerset. Nothing inspires me more than being surrounded by my fellow authors in a beautiful place – many a novel has been saved this way!
Which aspects of writing do you find easiest and which most challenging and why?
I wouldn’t say that writing ever feels easy; I would describe it as feeling magical. Those moments when you sit down to write and feel as if the story is telling itself, when the characters take over and dictate their own actions and words, and it feels as if you’re a mere portal through which they travel – those are incredible. And fun – so much fun. I would say the most challenging stage for me comes around the first big structural edit. I said to my author friend recently that editing is like doing a blank jigsaw, in the dark, on the edge of a cliff, with a strong wind blowing. Very tricky indeed! But it is always so worthwhile. Once that stage is over, I find the line and copy edits a breeze by comparison.
I love that analogy – and I think it helps those who don’t know your writing to get a feel for how wonderful it is!
I know you travel for your research into settings and I always find your descriptions so vivid. How do you record what you see and do in order to use it in your writing?
Thank you! It’s a tough job, etc. But no, it can come with its own set of problems. Sometimes the plots don’t work within the locations, or vice versa, and geography can be a pain. I had to create a completely made-up nature reserve in my fifth novel in order for the elephant scene to happen at the right time. In terms of recording data, I take gazillions of photos and videos, I do voice recordings as I stroll around, so I don’t forget how places smell and what sounds I can hear. I also carry a notebook with me and jot down first impressions – it gives me the perfect excuse to stop for numerous cups of coffee (or vin brulé, if I happen to be in Lake Como at Christmas time). I’m very fortunate in that I have a photographic memory, so when I’m back home in my office, I can put myself back into the locations pretty easily, simply by closing my eyes. Then I just describe what I can see.
With that level of attention to detail no wonder your settings are so evocative. So, which of the countries you’ve visited have you enjoyed the most and why?
Oh, I love all of them. They all have their different merits. Zakynthos in Greece is like a second home to me; Prague is pure magic, Mojacar in Spain holds so many memories from my teenage years and Lake Como is spectacular. Sri Lanka remains one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited, and the people there are so wonderful, as is the scenery. I will never forget the moment I watched the sunrise from the top of Adam’s Peak – a true life highlight. New Zealand, where I set my sixth novel, is probably my current favourite, and I’m heading back there in March for a second look. I knew before I went that I would love it, but I wasn’t prepared for how moved I would be by the stunning landscape, or how welcoming the locals would be. The country’s Maori heritage lends it an almost mystical quality – it feels like a place where anything could happen, and the adventurer in me is enthralled by that.
I love Sri Lanka too and Prague. I have still got my signed copy of One Thousand Stars and You to read but I adored A Year and A Day where you capture Prague perfectly.
To what extent do you think studying journalism has helped or hindered your writing?
It certainly gave me a good grounding in terms of story – ie the what, who, where, when, why? – and also got me very used to a brutal edit. I worked as a sub editor (and still do, on a freelance basis) for a number of magazines, and I am definitely not scared of cutting, cutting and cutting some more. I’m not precious about my words, which I hope makes my edits far less painful. Of course, I was also lucky enough to be a Book Reviews Editor for a number of years, and through that I met so many incredible people in the publishing industry – including you! There truly are no better people in the world than book people.
It’s been my pleasure to meet you several times too!
Every time I read one of your books I’m reduced to tears. How does your writing affect you as a person and as you write?
Writing is such a personal thing – at least it is for me. I have never shied away from sharing the experiences I’ve been through, and along with those come a whole heap of complicated emotions. Creating novels can often feel like therapy, because you start with something you know to be true, and often learn a new lesson along the way. Romantic fiction is all about exploring people and their relationships with themselves and each other, so I suppose it is inevitable that lots will come to surface as you go along. Every novel I have written has taught me something new, and every single one contains so much of who I am in its pages. I do hear from readers who have been a similar journey to that of my characters, and to know that those stories are finding connection means the absolute world to me. There are a lot of miraculous things about being an author, but that one is right up at the top.
I’m a member of the RNA NWS (Romantic Novelist Association New Writers Scheme) and have finally finished my first draft of a romantic novel. What advice would you give me as an emergent writer?
Congratulations! Getting to The End is such an achievement, and you should feel very proud. This is the really exciting bit. I would start by urging you to connect with other writers and industry figures, but you are way ahead of me on that score! In order to get published in the traditional way and have the best chance of your novel finding its way to the right publisher, you need to start by sourcing an agent. As well as working on your draft with you, they will also submit, negotiate and take care of selling into other territories. I could not do what I do without my agent. It’s also a good idea to have a think about how you want your career to look; ask yourself if you’re in it for a few books, or the long haul? Are you set on one genre, or keen to explore multiple subjects? Where do you envisage your book sitting in Waterstones? What are your dream five-year goals? The more you prepare, the more you will impress an agent.
My goodness, that’s plenty to think about…
Frequently, romantic fiction finds itself vilified and I know that in its 60th year The RNA is keen to dispel the negativity. What would you say about romantic fiction?
Oh, this just makes me feel so sad and SO frustrated. Love is what makes us human, and humans are what make stories interesting, and relatable, and important. People don’t turn pages simply for words, but for the characters saying them, and for the relationships those characters are having. Whether it’s a scandalous bonkbuster, a tragic tale of unrequited passion, a meet-cute will they/won’t they or a sweeping historical epic (complete with bodice ripping), they all have an element of wonderful romance, and it’s FUN to read about. Anyone who poo-poos romantic fiction deserves to be flushed – grrrr!
I couldn’t agree more!
What can we expect next from you?
First up is Hello, again my seventh novel (see answer above), which will be out in July, and after that it’s back to the laptop for book number 8. I can’t give away too many secrets about that one yet except to say that readers should expect a bit of a mystery this time… I’m coming along to Romance In The Court at Goldsboro Books in London on 14 May, so if anyone wants to bring their books to be signed, I will be there, Sharpie in hand! Hopefully, there will be some bookshop panel events coming up through the summer, too – keep an eye out on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom for all my announcements. And if you want to follow my trips abroad, Instagram is your best bet. Find me @isabelle_broom
I’m really looking forward to catching up with you again in person at Romance in the Court Isabelle. Thank so much for your time in answering my questions. You’ve been so generous with your answers and good luck with Hello, again. I can’t wait to read it and I think I’d better tell readers all about it.
Thank YOU for having me! xx
Philippa Taylor (Pepper to her friends) has big dreams. When she closes her eyes, she can picture exactly who she ought to be. The problem is, it’s about as far away from her real life in a small coastal town in Suffolk as she can imagine.
So when her elderly friend Josephine persuades Pepper to accompany her on a trip to Europe, she jumps at the chance to change her routine. And when Pepper bumps (literally) into the handsome Finn in Lisbon, it seems as though she might have finally found what she’s been looking for.
But Pepper know all too well things are rarely as they seem. Her own quiet life hides a dark secret from the past. And even though she and Finn may have been destined to find each other, Pepper suspects life may have other plans as to how the story should end.
A romantic and sweeping story about friendship, love and realising that sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Hello, again will be published by Hodder on 9th July 2020 and is available for pre-order here.
About Isabelle Broom
Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before a 12-year stint at Heat magazine. Always happiest when she’s off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her escapist fiction novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her second home – the Greek island of Zakynthos.
Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her two dogs and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and tries her best not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.