Samantha Tonge, bestselling author of Mistletoe Mansion and Doubting Abbey tells us what she’s been up to. Plus there’s a party dress giveaway!
Can you tell me a little bit about your Christmas novel out this November?
It is called Mistletoe Mansion and was inspired by society’s current obsession with celebrity. I wondered what would happen if a celebrity wannabe got to live the life of her dreams – would it meet her expectations?
Who is the central character and what do you like most about her/him?
It is Kimmy Jones, wannabe celebrity and cake-maker. I love Kimmy because she has a good heart and ambition, which I admire in anyone – whether that’s to be a great parent, amazing teacher, efficient shopworker or like Kimmy… a world-famous baker!
How different is this novel compared to your others?
Well, it is a different set of characters – my other two books are part of a series – but I hope, essentially, it has the same humorous, optimistic, romantic feel.
To Paris with Love is the sequel from Doubting Abbey. Did you plan to write a sequel or did you decide that after reaching the end of writing book one?
I didn’t plan a sequel from the start, but I do love the character of Gemma and it was hard to resist working with her again.
What made you choose Paris for the backdrop for your second novel?
I lived in Paris as a young woman for a while, and have very romantic, nostalgic feelings about the city.
What did you enjoy most writing about To Paris with Love?
It reminded me about my happy times in the French capital – but mainly I love writing with Gemma as a main character as she is such fun, gets herself into ridiculous circumstances, yet, is loyal, determined and the kind of friend I would like to have.
Your debut novel Doubting Abbey was very popular. What did you enjoy most about writing it?
Thank you! Again, spending time with Gemma is my most favourite thing… But I did enjoy creating the aristocratic characters, especially uptight but gorgeous Lord Edward.
There’s an amazing cast of characters in Doubting Abbey, how do you develop your characters?
Thanks! I suppose I like slightly eccentric characters that are a little bit larger than life, so I concentrate on quirky things to do with their mannerisms or appearance. Although this means you have to be very careful, as it is all too easy to tip into making them caricatures, rather than like real people.
How do you usually plot your novels after getting an initial idea?
I decide on the main plot outline, then by studying the characters this can help me come up with a subplot or two – I like my novels to have lots going on. Then I plan the novel chapter by chapter before I start, but not in too much detail.
What were your reasons for giving Doubting Abbey a Downton Abbey edge to it?
Well, first and foremost I am a commercial writer, so I tried to think of a story that was close to something that had already captured the public’s imagination, and Downton Abbey seemed to have done that across the world!
How long does it take you to write your books?
4 to 5 months (I write full-time) and then a month or so of rewriting/tweaking.
Can we expect a book three and continue to read about Abbey’s journey?
Yes, maybe, I am currently deciding what to write next year! I would love to take Gemma on another journey though (or, as it feels sometimes, she’ll take me on one!)
What’s your writing background?
I didn’t start writing seriously until about 10 years ago. Eventually I tried my hand at short stories, and have sold over 80 to women’s magazines.
Tell me what was your journey like getting a publishing deal with Carina?
A long, hard one, writing novels, getting nowhere, sticking them under the proverbial bed… With occasional moments of joy, e.g good feedback from an agent or the satisfaction of finishing a project. Finally I bagged an agent and then a year or two later managed to land the deal with Carina. A very happy moment!
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I currently have two ideas for my next book and can’t decide which one to start!
Give us your best five tips for anyone wanting to write a novel.
Write short stories as well – they will really make you focus on every chapter – every word – of your novels
Network online – support from other authors will get you through the hard times.
Start setting yourself up on Facebook and Twitter now. Social media will be important, when you bag that deal and have a book to promote.
Try not to take rejections personally – it only takes one agent/publisher to like your work. I have a red folder full of rejection letters.
Don’t give up if you know, in your heart, writing is what you want to do. You WILL get there. It may just take a little longer than you thought.