I first met Jane Bidder, who writes under the name Janey Fraser, when we were both writers in residence in prisons at opposite ends of the country. We got on very well. I have always appreciated her practical can-do approach to writing and this will be reflected in her forthcoming 'How To ...' book.
Janey was a journalist for nearly thirty years until becoming a full time novelist. She is also a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Exeter University and a judge for the life story section of the Koestler Awards. Janey lives by the sea with her second husband and a constant going-in and out of older children.
She usually writes family comedy with a strong dramatic twist. Her current novel is ‘HappyFamilies’ published by Arrow. As Jane Bidder, she writes social crime novels. Her latest novel is Guilty, published by Accent.
'By the middle of January, I was beginning to feel like Cinderella approaching midnight. My deadline for HOW TO WRITE ROMANTIC FICTION was nearly nigh. Unlike Cinders, I had days rather than hours until crunch-time but even so, my heart was beating. I’d written the first draft a few months earlier but had to put it to one side in order to do the proofs on my tenth novel , Guilty. This is about Simon, a solicitor who goes to prison for two years for a driving offence – along with the humorous voice of Joanna, the beautiful woman who died in the crash and who acts as a witty commentator Inside.
The two books were like chalk and cheese. But, like many writers with different voices inside, the two actually helped each other. Although Guilty is a crime novel rather than a romance, it helped me to analyse how character ticks and how plot is constructed. It also provided a bit of a break from the different kind of discipline demanded by a non-fiction book.
Guilty is also a love story. Simon, the solicitor, has just married Claire. They are totally wrapped up in each other until his transgression makes Claire wonder just how well she knows her new husband. It’s a problem which many a romantic fiction heroine has to grapple with. Love at first sight is all very well but what happens when you get down to the nitty gritty of the rest of life (not to mention the plot)?
In fact, a continual piling on of problems after problems was one of my main points in the How To Write a Plot section. Readers might well get restless if you take the whole book to solve the main problem. (Without a crisis, remember, there’s no sorry story.) But if you allow the hero or heroine to solve the first one and then up the anti (in other words, the pressure), you’ll increase tension. And although that’s not great in real life, it’s a sure-fire seller in the world of books.
Realistic characters are also essential in romance – just as they are in any other kind of genre. Writers are always being asked if they base their fictional characters on real ones. The true answer is that we usually create a mixture. My characters might have an ear from someone I used to know; a craving for doughnuts like a long-dead aunt; and an uncanny sixth sense. The latter is partly fact and partly imagination. Simon, for instance, is certain he can hear Joanna. Personally, I believe that we carry on after life. But Simon himself, certainly isn’t based on a real living person.
Dialogue was another crucial chapter in my Cinderella race to beat the clock. Real people don’t speak like characters in novels and vice versa. If you taped your own conversation, there would be lots of ums and aahs and trivialities as well as (maybe) some riveting revelations. When writing romance (and other genres too), every word of your dialogue has to count. It needs to push the plot along and also describe the character by showing us how he/she thinks , talks and makes love.
Talking of the latter, I had some real fun and games in the How to Write Sex chapter. Naturally, this involved some research by talking to other writers about how they ‘do it’. Advice ranges from closing the bedroom door to baring all. Personally, I go for the middle approach. That applies to my writing and my love life! After all, a girl needs a bit of mystery….
The whole point of a How To book is to help people get published. So there are lots of hints and tips too from other writers ranging from Katie Fforde to Kate Furnivall. Self-publishing has totally transformed the market but it is still possible to be published by a mainstream name. I spoke to publishers, authors and agents on how to get that elusive book deal.
All this took a lot of midnight oil and several cups of hot chocolate but in the end I made it, with twenty four hours to spare. Rather disappointingly, my computer didn’t turn into a pumpkin although a hero did come knocking on my door. It turned out to be my newish husband. He’d left his keys behind......'
HOW TO WRITE ROMANTIC FICTION BY JANEY FRASER will be published later in the year by How To Books (Constable & Robinson).
After The Honeymoon, by Janey Fraser will be published in May by Arrow, Random House. Her current Janey Fraser novel is called Happy Families
Guilty by Jane Bidder (a pen name) is published by Guilty. Currently available on Kindle. The paperback is due out in March.