Known for her glamorous fiction set in exotic locations with brilliant white yachts surrounded by sparkling blue sea and tanned bodies, Victoria has written a novel that’s quite different to what we’re use to – The Santiago Sisters, and she’s here to tell us all about it.
What’s your book about?
It’s a sizzling story of sisterly rivalry, set between Argentina, London and Hollywood. Twins Calida and Teresa Santiago grow up in a simple farmhouse, dreaming of a world beyond their dusty ranch. So when world-famous actress Simone Geddes jets in to adopt one of them into a life of riches and stardom, a deadly competition begins.
Who is the central character and what problem are they trying to solve?
There are two central characters. Teresa, the fiery, passionate twin, is taken from home and groomed for celebrity – but she never forgets the place she has left behind. Can she forget her past and embrace her future? Meanwhile Calida, the sensible, level-headed sister, believes Teresa to be ruthlessly ambitious, and vows to match her glittering success. Should she follow in her twin’s treacherous footsteps, and which of them will come out on top?
What inspired the storyline to your novel?
My husband and I went to Argentina for our honeymoon. While there, we spent three days on horseback in Patagonia, where we rode across mountains, herded wild ponies and slept under the stars at night. It was a magical place; I knew I had to set a book there. I’d been thinking about an adoption storyline for some time, and the two fit together perfectly.
You are known for your glam or bling fiction and now you have gone for the more subtle storyline set in Spain. Can you tell me the reason for this change?
The Santiago Sisters still has plenty of bling, but for future books it’s true that I’m moving away from glam fiction and towards atmospheric mystery. It just feels like the right time to try something new. I always love to challenge my writing and I’ve completed six ‘bonkbusters’ now: I’m looking forward to seeing where a new direction takes me.
Will we be seeing more glam fiction from you in future?
I’d never rule it out! I do adore the genre – Jackie Collins was a huge inspiration for me, and my love of her books inspired me to write in the first place. These books are great fun to put together – all the glitzy locations and outrageous characters mean your imagination can run free. I’m sure I’ll try my hand at them again.
How long did it take you to write your novel?
It takes me between four and six months to write the first draft, then another couple of months to edit.
Which do you prefer to do first and why, Character or Plot?
That’s a tricky one, because they often come together. Normally I’ll start with a plot ‘hook’, some central idea on which I hang the story, then the more I dig into that the more strands appear – and the characters with them. It’s so important to get characters right: if you do, they’ll tell you what the story is. But often I get to know my players as I go: it might take me the whole first draft to find out that my protagonist isn’t actually the person I initially sketched them out to be, but I had to write them one way in order to realise they’re meant to be another. Writing a book is a complex, organic process packed with twists and turns: I’m often reversing out of a tight spot and changing my route! So I like to keep my characters and plot informing each other throughout.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Bringing Argentina to life. It’s such a vital place, from the intense, sultry tango in Buenos Aires to the vast, beautiful planes of Patagonia.
What did you research the most while writing this book?
I had to check a lot of my Spanish! My husband lived in Buenos Aires for a while in his twenties, so he was able to help me a bit.
What did you do before becoming a writer?
I worked in publishing as an editor of women’s fiction. It was my dream job and such a privilege to be able to work on authors’ manuscripts and prepare them for publication. But when I hit on an idea of my own, I knew I had to take a risk and see if I could become a writer myself.
For those who have not discovered your novel, how would you describe it to them to get them interested?
Excitement, escapism, thrills and scandal, my books are nothing if not entertaining! They’re perfect for the beach – true summer reading.
What’s a typical writing day like for you?
It depends on if I have childcare, as at the moment I’m trying to juggle writing with looking after a one-year-old. If I do, I’ll endeavour to stick to a regular working day: nine-to-five with a lunch break. If I don’t, I’m grabbing any opportunities I can while she sleeps! (Which isn’t often.) Therefore I’m thinking a lot about my story while I’m doing other things, even writing large chunks of it in my head, so that when I get the chance I can sit down and get some words on paper.
Who’s your favourite character arc of all time?
It has to be Dallas and Al’s love affair in Jackie Collins’ Lovers & Gamblers. It’s that perfect mix of initial dislike, then massive attraction, then tons of sexual tension, all chased up by misunderstandings and mis-communications, until we’re desperate for them to get together!
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m hard at work editing my Spring 2017 novel, a Gothic time-slip romance set in Florence.
What is the theme or take home message of your book?
The Santiago Sisters is all about succeeding against the odds, so it would have to be… Never give up: the world is there for the taking!
Thank you for your time.