Thursday, 4 July 2013

Q&A with Aussie rom-com author Claire Baxter

When were you first published, and how long (and how many manuscripts) did it take you to get there? I started writing in 2003 when I left my job as a corporate communications manager to write a book – just to see if I could do it. I quickly became hooked on writing and knew I had to try for publication. I didn’t know I was going to write romance, but every one of my early stories contained a central love story, so I did some research and – aha! – discovered that I was a romance writer.

I wrote three romances and a mystery, joining Romance Writers of Australia along the way, then pitched my fourth romance at the 2005 conference in Melbourne to a Harlequin Mills and Boon editor who requested the partial. When I returned home from the conference I learned that I’d won a US contest and had received a request for the full manuscript from the same editor. So I sent it off to London and in February 2006 received The Call!

Fast forward seven years (where did that time go?) and I’ve had several romance novels published, as well as numerous short stories. My current release is a romantic comedy from Random Romance (Random House Australia’s new digital imprint), and I have a fun category romance coming out from Entangled Bliss in September. I’ve also ventured into indie publishing with a series of short romantic novellas.

From Mills and Boon to Random Romance, Entangled Publishing and self-publishing eBooks – what’s made you now go the digital route? Well, my own reading habits have changed, so I can easily believe that my readers’ habits have changed too. I still read some print books, but I read most of my romances as ebooks now. As for self-publishing, I thought it would be an interesting experience to have control over all aspects of the publishing process, and it has been very interesting.

Tell us about your latest books with Random Romance and Entangled, and what sparked each title. Anybody But Him from Random Romance is an enemies-to-lovers story with some laughs along the way. Nicola, a corporate accountant, returns to her home town to look after her increasingly eccentric parents. There, she's thrown into regular contact with Blair, her high-school crush and the last person she wants to see because she can’t forget how he humiliated her. Now that he’s grown up, he’s not such a ‘bad boy', and whenever she needs help, he’s there – although she’d prefer it to be anybody but him.

My story from Entangled’s Bliss imprint is about two fire-fighters who work on the same shift crew. They’re friends – Aaron even shares his dating stories with Jasmine – and she knows better than anyone that he’s incapable of commitment, so when they kiss at a wedding reception, she’s well aware that it can’t lead anywhere. Besides, neither of them wants to risk their working relationship, the respect of their colleagues or their friendship.

Why do you prefer sweet romances and beta heroes? Sweet doesn’t mean unsatisfying, and for every reader who wants a steamy read, there’s one who prefers sexual tension without the physical act described in detail. I do read sexy romance occasionally, but for me sex in fiction is like hot chilli sauce. It’s okay to spice things up once in a while, but I don’t want a steady diet of it.

Sweet stories generally focus on the feelings behind the desire, and yes, the characters might sleep together, but if they do, the word count isn’t used up on describing the deed. Instead the story highlights the emotional journey the characters go on to find their Happily Ever After.

As for beta heroes, well, I love a charming, easy-going beta hero who can make me laugh, and a beta hero fits so well into romantic comedy. Of course, he still has to have the core ideals of a hero and be a strong, smart man who will do anything for the woman he loves.

Where and when do you write? I write in my home office. It’s a room I share with a snooker table (which is currently covered in books and papers and folders and...well, anything but snooker balls), but in one corner I have a desk and in another I have a comfortable chair with a footstool. The comfortable chair is where I write (or edit) on my laptop four days a week (in theory).

When you’re not writing, what occupies your time? I spend one full day a week with my grandson, and the remaining time is divided between all the activities associated with writing, gardening, reading, cooking, and now that it’s winter, I’ll also be searching out my knitting needles. I rediscovered knitting last winter after a long time. 

You’re also known for having short stories published in magazines worldwide. What do you love about the ‘short form’? I love writing short stories. I love the change of pace between longer works. I feel free to experiment more in a short story than in a novel, and I’ll try out different genres. Many of my short stories are romantic, but I also write stories without romance. They usually contain humour, or are twist-in-the-tale or feel-good stories.

Did you always want to be an author? And, what would be your absolute book-writing career dream? As a child I adored Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series and devoured all twelve books. Around that time I had to write a story at primary school and I wrote an adventure in the same vein as ‘Swallows and Amazons’. I was hooked, and the teacher let me continue after the lesson was over. It ended up 30 pages long and I received a gold star for each page! I told everyone I was going to be a writer when I grew up, but it was about 40 years before I made good on that promise.

My absolute book-writing career dream? I don’t really have one. I just want to write books, sell them, and hear that readers have enjoyed them. :)

Favourite writers you like to slip beneath the doona with (figuratively speaking!)? My favourite author is Jill Mansell, British author of romantic comedy, and then there’s Marian Keyes, Carole Matthews, Cathy Kelly. But those names are just a few of the authors I love, and I’m discovering more all the time. I always return to Georgette Heyer when I need a comfort read, and I recently found a YA series by Bridget Kemmerer that kept me riveted. Oh, I could go on and on. Stop me now!

The second in Claire's self-published series, More Than Just Pretend, will be out at the end of July.
(This interview first appeared on the South Australian Romance Authors' blog.)