Today on the Behind the Pen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome award winning romance author, Avril Tremayne. I’ve been following Avril on Facebook for several years now, but she still managed to surprise me with a few of her answers! Thanks for joining in with Behind the Pen Avril and congratulations on your recent awards.
How many novels have you written and published?
I’ve got a few ghastly novels, written many years ago, that will never see the light of day! But since I started seriously writing in 2013, I’ve been lucky enough to have all my completed works published. The tally is currently nine, and I have another three coming out with the new Harlequin Dare line.
How long on average does it take you to write a novel?
I’m not an especially fast writer, but twice I’ve had words flow like magic and have managed to write a complete novel in around three-to-four months (Here Comes the Bridesmaid, and The Millionaire’s Proposition). The longest I’ve taken would be around twelve months (The Dating Game). Some stories definitely take a more torturous route to get onto the page, and that doesn’t necessarily correlate with the length of the book – sometimes a shorter novel is actually harder work. One thing to note: I write seven days a week, but the hours per day vary. At the moment, I’m working very hard, and writing/revising/polishing/staring-into-space on and off from 9:00am until 1:00am, but usually, I try and finish by 6:00pm.
What is your favourite character from one of your novels and why?
My favourite character is probably Sunshine Smart, the heroine from Here Comes the Bridesmaid. There’s something so alive about her – she’s quirky and warm-hearted, manipulative but so crazily charismatic with it, the grumpy hero Leo Quartermaine can’t for the life of him figure out how she keeps getting him to do exactly what she wants. Many readers tend to fall hard for the hero in a romance novel, but Here Comes the Bridesmaid is a rare example of the heroine being the character everyone adored.
What is your favourite scene from one of your novels and why?
Argh – so many! But if I have to choose one, I’ll nominate the ‘obstacle course’ scene in The Dating Game. In this book, David (a painter who’s lost his artistic mojo) does a deal with Sarah (who has a disastrous track record with men): if she poses for him, he’ll teach her what she’s doing wrong on her dates. Of course things don’t go according to plan, and there are quite a few scenes that show things going off the rails, but it’s the transition scenes in a novel that are always the special ones, and when David decides Sarah’s walk is all wrong (because he secretly likes her swagger a little too much!) and she insists he get tactile and show her how to ‘sway’ more seductively, it’s a game-changer. It’s humorous on the surface, but the sexual tension is simmering hard.
How far has your writing career evolved from when you first began to write to what it is today? Is this in line with your initial expectations?
I’m where I intended to be from the writing side of things. I have a mix of category romances and single title romantic comedies out, which is what I wanted, and I have enough story ideas in my head to drive me crazy. One really great thing: I didn’t expect to be a Ruby winner only four years after kicking off my career! One not so great thing: it was always my intention to get an agent but because I’ve had suck luck in competitions (my first two contracts were a result of competitions) and pitching directly to editors at conferences, I haven’t focused enough on that.
You recently won two RWA Ruby awards (Long Romance and Book of the Year) for Escaping Mr. Right. What was it like to win not one, but two awards for this novel? Can you tell us about Escaping Mr. Right? What was the inspiration behind the story?
What it was like to win two awards was, in a word, gobsmacking. I’d always felt Escaping Mr Right was the book in which I came of age as a writer. It has all of my ‘voice’ hallmarks – funny, sexy, fast-paced, urban, with strong heroines and complicated heroes – but they so were perfectly calibrated (with many thanks due to my brilliant editor, Lex Hirst, at Penguin Random House). But I guess I had the natural doubt of every author vis a vis ‘Is it really as good as I think it is?’ I tend to write fairly straightforward romances – their quintessence is very definitely the falling-in-love of one couple, which can make for an intense reading experience, but the reader really has to be invested in the hero and heroine to enjoy such a ride, because there are few distractions from the main game.
Escaping Mr Right also had an unusually interesting beginning! It’s the second book in my ‘Mr’ series, but I’d initially intended to write the two stories as one book – in which Chloe and Nick (Escaping Mr Right) would be the secondary story in Wanting Mr Wrong (Evie and Jack). I initially wrote this ‘larger’ book in the third person from several viewpoints, but the sexual tension wasn’t quite right so I switched to first person, stripped out stories into two standalone novels and dived back in. I finished Wanting Mr Wrong and found a home for that before opting to kick-start Escaping Mr Right as a NaNoWriMo project.
Have you ever had to deal with a situation where someone feels they recognise traits of themselves in one of your characters?
No – because I don’t base my characters on people I know. I may pinch a trait or an expression or a situation from real life, but if it’s ever going to be more than a springboard into a completely different context, I’ll only use it with permission (for example, my hero in Here Comes the Bridesmaid, Leo, shares a surname and a shaved head with a former colleague of mine, with his full approval). Seriously, though, people would have to be working very hard to find a correlation between my characters and themselves.
What other genre would you like to try your hand at writing and why?
I always thought I’d like to try my hand at crime writing, but to be honest, I doubt that’s ever going to happen. I do, however, have three different stories kicking around in my head – one is a domestic noir, one’s a generational saga, and one is a full-on drama with some edgier romantic elements than what I write at the moment.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I used to be a notorious course-doer – I’ve had a crack at so many things, from acting to singing to millinery to pottery, oil painting, salsa and zouk, Arabic and German – but these days, my only real hobby is my lifelong one of reading. I always usually have two books on the go, and sometimes even a third.
What authors and types of books do you love the most?
To relax, I love historical romance and crime fiction (the cosy mystery type is my favourite). My go-to author when I need a pick-me-up is Georgette Heyer.
Do you have an all-time favourite book? Why is this book so significant to you?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – absolutely no question about it. It was the first book that took my breath away and it sowed the seed of an enduring love of romance. I feel deep in my bones that this is the book that marked my destiny as an author.
Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people would know?
I once thought about becoming a nun! Nobody can believe this, let me tell you!
If you could sit down for an afternoon with an iconic person from history, who would you choose to spend that time with?
Anne Boleyn! I’d would love to hear her story from her own lips, unfiltered by history. How I wish she’d kept a journal.