About author, Rhoda Baxter: Rhoda Baxter started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra pounds in weight and a PhD in molecular biology (not necessarily in that order). She had childhood ambitions to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humourous novels instead.
Her first novel, Patently in Love was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Preditors and Editors poll for romance reads. Her second novel Having a Ball will be published in March 2013.
She can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her website www.rhodabaxter.com or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).
Describe yourself in five sentences: I love cakes and chocolate. I talk too much and waste hours chatting to people. This has led to having a good ear for dialogue and a collection of fun anecdotes. I have an odd sense of humour, which has always helped me out when life gets difficult.
Writing is…: In the grey area between sanity and lunacy. There are people living in my head demanding to have their stories told. If I didn’t write them down, I’d probably end up gibbering into my cornflakes.
If I’m writing, my hands are busy so I can’t sneak into the kitchen and go for the chocolate. So writing probably keeps me thin. Probably. Oh all right, all right, I admit it – I should join a gym. Except there’s this book I have to write…
When did you start writing? One day, when I was about ten, I realized that Enid Blyton had died a long time ago. I looked at the rows of books on my shelf and thought ‘she’s not even alive, but I’m still reading her books. That’s like being immortal’ (I was a precocious child. I knew what ‘immortal’ meant). I decided then that I wanted to be a writer. The first stories I made up were variations on the Famous Five stories. I realize now that it’s called Fan Fiction. Back in the day, I just called it ‘the things I think about before I fall asleep’.
Who is your favorite author(s)? Tough call. I like Terry Pratchett as a comfort read, PG Wodehouse for uncontrollable giggles and all sorts chick lit for fun. At the moment I’m reading a lot of books published by Choc Lit – I’m particularly partial to Jane Lovering’s brand of dark humour and Henriette Gyland’s romantic suspense.
Walk us through your editing/writing/editing process: Are you sure? It’s going to be a long answer. Best get yourself a cup of tea. Okay? Ready? It goes: Have Idea. Get excited. Eat chocolate to celebrate the fact that the muse hasn’t died while I was writing the previous book. Try not to think too hard about the Idea in case it runs away.
After a few days of circling it, sneak up on the Idea and pounce on it. Figure out a character for the Idea to fit into. Come up with a semblance of plot. Write it down as a series of scenes. Colour code it by characters or plots or themes, doesn’t matter which, so long as it’s colourful. Send to writing buddy. Eat chocolate.
Apologise for giving her a migraine and send the document again without the colour coding. Redo plot based on feedback.
Start writing. Despair that the characters don’t sound real. Write some more in a chocolate fuelled frenzy, hoping to write myself out of the problem. Get slightly desperate and write off into tangents.
Look at earlier plot (with the colourcoding because it doesn’t give me a headache!). Decide it’s a load of rubbish. The Idea was a dud. The characters are vegetables, and there is no way on earth this pile of steaming dung is going to make a decent book, who was I kidding thinking I could write anyway?
Get annoyed because writing buddy is not sharing my angst and has told me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to it. Eat chocolate. Maybe cry a bit more.
Decide I may as well take writing buddy’s advice and start writing again. Completely unexpectedly, write a scene that totally comes alive. The characters are finally speaking to me! Walk around grinning, start saying the odd line of dialogue out aloud without meaning to (frighten husband a bit, but hope he’s getting used to it by now). Write like crazy in case the characters go away again. No time for chocolate now, so hopefully, lose weight.
Have a sudden realization that I’ve written a story that’s pretty accurate to the first plot I did. Chide myself about all the time wasted moping about. Eat chocolate.
Type ‘The End’. Jump around a bit. Bake cakes with the kids. Eat cake. Think about joining a gym or something.
After a few weeks, reread the draft. Cringe. (Cue Chocolate again). Get Save the Cat out. Figure out the spine of the story and straighten it. Cut out a few thousand words, add in a few thousand other words. Tinker around a bit more until the very thought of the book makes me ill. Send to writing buddy to critique.
Try not to think about what the feedback will be. Fail. Eat chocolate. Maybe progress to cake.
Receive feedback. Get annoyed. Eat whatever confectionary I can get my hands on. Grudgingly admit that she’s right. Chop out more scenes, add in different ones. Lose/amalgamate characters or storylines. Read the whole thing again. Decide that, actually, it was worth doing that second (third?) big edit because it’s much better now.
Have another read through. Decide that it’s good enough for other people to see. Submit.
Start to miss the feeling of people in my head. Worry that the muse has moved to Bermuda while I was working on the last book. Eat chocolate…
What did you do to celebrate your first book being published? I can’t remember! (I was moving to the other side of the country, starting a new job and juggling a 3 year old and a baby at the time). I think DH and I went out for dinner. I definitely bought a celebratory cheesecake.
Are any of your characters based upon anyone you know? I start with a sense of a character which I then have to flesh out. Sometimes I may add a few traits that I’ve mixed and matched from people I’ve met just to make them interesting, but they don’t come alive until I’ve written a few scenes. Those early scenes usually get edited out or rewritten completely by the end of the second draft, but they are essential for the characters to reveal themselves.
Who or what motivates you? I’ve wanted to be a novelist for most of my life. That’s what motivates me. That and the hope that one day I’ll sit on a train and spot someone reading one of my books. Not very likely since both mine are ebooks right now, but one day…
If your books were turned into movies, who would you want to play the parts? Ooh. Good question. I might need some time to think about this. And biscuits. I think is going to be Hobnobs type question. Excuse me a minute.
Right. A packet of Hobnobs and a pot of tea later, I have a list. You’ve got to love a list.
From Patently in Love:
Marshall – Matthew McConaughey. Lovely, lovely Matthew. I could watch him all day.
Jane – who cares. There’s Matthew McConaughey to watch. Oh, all right, someone sprightly with dark hair. Romola Garai with dark hair, maybe.
From Having a Ball
Stevie – Jenna Louise Coleman. No contest
Tom – I wrote it with a young Rufus Sewell in mind, so he could do it if we could get hold of a time machine. Failing that, Zachary Quinto.
Where do you see your writing career in five years? Having a writing career is a long game. I’d like to have my books on physical bookshelves in five years’ time. That way, I might get a chance to spot someone on the train reading one.
I think I’ll still be working the day job, though.
What is the best advice you’ve been given? Write what you enjoy reading.
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? I’m currently waiting to hear if a publisher has accepted my third novel ‘Dr January’, which is set in a microbiology lab. It’s about a girl who is being emotionally abused by her boyfriend. It’s the story of how she overcomes that and falls in love with her best friend (who’s been in love with her all along). The hero in this book (Hibs – whose real name is James) is my favourite of all my heroes. I think I’m a bit in love with him myself.
**Buy “Having a Ball”: