This evening in the Library we have Zara Stoneley, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, Zara, please introduce yourself:
I grew up in small village in Staffordshire. After completing a degree, working as an IT consultant, and then combining running a dog grooming business with family life, I returned to my love of writing. In 2012, I secured my first publishing contract with Xcite Books, the erotic imprint of Accent Press, and a year later signed a deal with HarperCollins.
I now write fun, romantic romps set in the British countryside and split my time between a country cottage in a Cheshire village, surrounded by family, friends and assorted animals, and an apartment in Barcelona.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I’ve always been an avid reader and as a child spent most of my time in my bedroom curled up with a book – refusing to go down for dinner until I’d finished my chapter! At various times as my son grew up, I had less time to bury my nose in a book, but now he’s gone to University I’m back to reading more than ever. I read all sorts, from books by Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker that are similar to my own, to romcoms, thrillers and anything else that grabs my fancy. My son recently thrust a copy of ‘Game of Thrones’ into my hands and insisted that as I enjoyed ‘Lord of the Rings’ I would love it. One wonderful thing about being an author is that you also quite often get copies of new books from your publisher.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
Mainly traditionally, although I have self-published an erotic romance trilogy which I am planning on re-releasing soon – reworked with the eroticism toned down.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
Where I live now has definitely influenced my writing; my editor suggested that I write a series of books set in horsey Cheshire and these novels are firmly anchored in the English countryside and its way of life.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
I always find the middle of the book a challenge, however well or badly I have planned it out in advance. I think this is the critical point where you know whether you understand your characters, their motivations and conflicts well enough, and whether the plot is working with or against them. My solution is always to stop trying to squeeze the words out, go back to the drawing board and look more closely at the main characters. It then becomes obvious (nine times out of ten!) what is missing, or where adjustments to the original plan need to be made. A plan is fine, but quite often I find that characters have developed in unexpected ways!
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I find it easiest to work in the morning if I’m plotting, but if I’m in full flow writing then late evening is my most productive time.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
I just love writing, creating new settings and characters, watching them develop and conquer their fears and all the obstacles I throw in their path. Holding the finished book in my hand once it has been published has to be the highlight though. On the downside I have to cite negative reviews – a story is such as subjective things and although authors know that some people will love their books, love their voice, they also know that others will not – and sometimes vehemently dislike what they read.
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
It can be very time consuming, and definitely needs managing or I can find that half the day has been devoted to social media and no words have been added to my book – the most important thing! I think Facebook is the most rewarding forum as you can engage properly with people, but twitter is great for keeping things snappy. I’m also starting to explore Pinterest and Instagram, but these are fairly new to me.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I always wanted to be a vet when I was younger, but somehow ended up an IT consultant! But I ran a dog grooming business when my son was young, and still love my animals… so it would probably be something pet related!
Please tell us about your latest published work.
My latest book is ‘A Very Country Christmas’ is a free novella.
A short Christmas story of three courses: Love is in the air in Tippermere, as Lottie dreams of a white Christmas with no trimmings – other than her hot and hunky eventer, Rory. But things are never quite that simple on the Tipping House Estate.
Festive fervour takes over and it isn’t all seasonal peace and goodwill as expectations rise and it soon escalates from cosy dinner for two, to all the trimmings for ten! With missing turkeys, loose horses, troublesome terriers and randy huntsmen, Lottie is hard pushed to find time for a kiss under the mistletoe, let alone find the opportunity to woo Rory with her sexy Santa costume.
But there is only one thing Lottie really wants for Christmas, and only one man can deliver it…
To learn more about Zara and her work follow the links below.