I am pleased to have Sophie Claire on my blog to answer questions about her debut novel Her Forget-me-Not Ex which was published in May 2015 by Accent Press:
Natasha has consigned her wealthy French ex-husband Luc to the past, so she’s horrified when he turns up at her village florist’s shop out of the blue, pleading for help. He never dared to tell his family about the divorce, and when he asks her to come to France and pretend they’re still married for a couple of weeks to please his dying father, she’s not sure she can say no. She certainly isn’t prepared for the warmth of his family’s welcome, or the attraction that’s still simmering between her and Luc. But it’s just two weeks in a vineyard, no strings attached, right?
Sophie – congratulations on the publication of your novel.
Tell us how the novel came about – and are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m kind of in between, or a wannabe plotter! Before I start a book I need to have a plan (for my peace of mind!) of all the main plot points, but most of the time that plan gets abandoned as I write. I think of better plot developments, or I write a section and it doesn’t feel right so I change it. I don’t mind rewriting huge chunks of a book if I think it will improve it – unfortunately, this isn’t the most efficient way of writing, and I do wish I could think up a perfect plot in advance and then stick to it.
Her Forget-Me-Not Ex came about because I’d had the two main characters, Luc and Natasha, floating around in my head for a while. I knew they’d been married and divorced, but I wanted to bring them back together in the present day and I wasn’t sure how to do that until I went to a writing workshop. During one of the exercises the book’s opening scene came to me – it just wrote itself. It was very exciting and I wish that would happen more often!
Some writers say that characters arrive in their heads fully formed. Did that happen to you with Natasha and Luc?
I get to know my characters as I write, and I need to put them in different situations to see how they will react. As I get through the first and second drafts they become more rounded individuals and develop their own quirks – for example, Natasha’s nail art. Don’t know where that came from! The wonders of the subconscious…
I think it’s true to say that, traditionally, romantic novels did not include a male point of view but it is a requirement of some publishers now. Did you know from the beginning that you were going to include Luc’s pov?
I did include Luc’s pov from the start, but I was advised to add more and I’m so pleased I followed this advice because it really added to the story. It gave me a greater understanding of him as well as his strained relationship with his father. And it also revealed how Luc and Natasha hadn’t known each other very well in the past and had more in common than they realised.
Natasha is a florist. I loved her arrangements with sunflowers! Is this something you’ve done yourself?
No, never! I’m far too clumsy to be able to do anything like that. I knew that Natasha liked modern flower arrangements and I think I may have got my inspiration for the sunflowers from Pinterest. I made a board as I wrote this book (which you can see here: www.pinterest.com/sclairewriter), and found the visual inspiration really helped me as I wrote.
You pitched your novel to Accent Press at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference. Could you say a little about that experience?
Pitching your work to industry professionals is nerve-wracking, but it’s such a golden opportunity to get feedback on what you’ve written and also to find out what people are looking for (for example, the publishers I spoke to liked the French setting). I was thrilled because Accent asked to see the full manuscript and then made me an offer for it ten days later! I’ve never known a publisher respond so fast and that was part of their appeal for me.
Do you have a writing routine?
My routine varies depending on which stage of the novel I’m up to (first draft or revising/editing) and whether the children are at school or on holiday, but generally I write first thing in the morning, then do Twitter, Facebook or writing blog posts later. For the writing I set myself targets – a word count when I’m writing the first draft, or a number of hours for editing. When I get to the editing stage, I’m happy to write all day and into the evening because I find it so much easier than the first draft.
I believe that you spent many family holidays in Provence when you were growing up; clearly the landscape left a lasting impression on you. Will your next book have ‘French connections’?
The book I’m finishing at the moment is set in Manchester so it’s a long way from Provence! However, I’m not sure about the next book yet…
Thank you for answering my questions. All the best with your writing.
It’s been a pleasure, Kate, and thank you.
Find out more about Sophie Claire (a pseudonym for her own name Johanna Grassick):