Hi Clare, welcome to my blog. I first became aware of you as an author just over a year ago and was blown away by how many books you’ve published and how popular they are. How old were you when you first started writing and what sort of things did you write about?
Hi Lynette, Thanks for having me! I have always, always written but I began to write actual books when I was thirteen and submitted my first novel to Harlequin at fifteen. It was wisely rejected, as it was pretty terrible (it’s almost like they know a thing or two about romance writing!). I continued to write though, working on cooking blogs, research pieces and always books in the background. I have been told ‘write what you love to read’ so for me that is overwhelmingly recipes and romance.
You write contemporary romances, why did you choose that particular genre?
I don’t think I chose it… it chose me. I met my first Harlequin hero when I was around eleven. My mum is an antique dealer and she used to drag my sisters and me into these dusty old shops. We would beeline for the books –there are always books in these places— and stock up on whatever took our fancy.
I just gravitate towards writing romance. Even when I start writing something else, it turns into romance. I see the shape of the story in my head. 50,000 words is challenging, because there’s a lot to convey in a relatively small book – characters need to have depth and heart, and the reader has to be pulling for them from the first page.
How many books to date have you published?
I’ve self-published over forty-three unique titles (circa 50,000 words) and more than six anthologies. My first, THE ITALIAN BILLIONAIRE’S BETRAYAL, continues to sell well.
Which book is your best seller?
I would find it hard to say, but a consistent top seller is Seducing the Spaniard. It’s also one of my favourites, because the heroine is a little bit messed up but oh, so likeable and the hero adores her but tries to make her see sense in all the wrong ways! I have a great following for my Sheikh books, and I always love to write them. My first best seller was At the Sheikh’s Command.
Who do you think is your core reader?
I would say overwhelmingly women. I don’t think age is an issue to enjoying romance – I know I have some readers who are late teens and I think good love stories appeal to all generations. My biggest markets globally are America, India and the United Kingdom, in that order, followed closely by Australia and Canada.
Could you tell us a little about your typical writing day?
I work full-time as a writer, but I do juggle this with being at home with two children – a six year old son and a four year old daughter. I published my first book mid-2014, and at that point was up to my arms in toddler business. I had to be very disciplined to get my words down, but I knew I had limited time in which to make this dream come true – I was coming to the point where I was itching to be working again. I was blessed with children who napped well and I ran our schedule with military precision, ensuring they were worn out in the mornings so that they would nap at precisely noon, allowing me to sit and tap out words. There were days when they wouldn’t oblige with sleep, of course, and that could be frustrating. But as soon as my husband would arrive home, I scurried into our room with my laptop and picked up the slack.
Things are easier now. I have the confidence that I can write and the assuredness that this is my career, so I don’t feel guilty about making proper dedicated time to write. My husband is very supportive. I wake early and immediately set to work. Most days I get out two thousand words before I have to start processing the kids for school or the day ahead.
But I’m a compulsive writer and I tend to do between 8,000 and 10,000 words per day when I’m in a book – I wrote 14,000 words the other day because I really could not step away from the story. It comes to me fully formed and I just want to get the words out while they’re flowing. I know not all authors write like this but for me, it works.
Where’s your favourite place to write?
I’m a coffee shop writer – by necessity. We have a fabulous nanny who helps with the kids and on the days she’s with them, I leave the house. I just need my computer and headphones… and a seat with wifi!
Who are your favourite authors?
I’m a Harlequin Presents girl through and through. I love Penny Jordan, Emma Darcy, Sharon Kendrick, Helen Bianchin, Maisey Yates, Amy Andrews and from the general romance writing shelves Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell… And from the non-romance stable, Kate Morton of course, Roald Dahl, Stephen King (the master of narrative!), JK Rowling, of course, Dr Seuss.
Who inspires you?
John Lasseter, who was the creative genius behind Pixar. He had been fired from Disney for trying to revolutionise animation and encourage it towards computer animating and he went on to found Pixar. I watch ‘The Pixar Story’, a documentary on his journey, at least once a year. His determination and vision literally turned the industry on its head. Interestingly, Steve Jobs, another visionary I revere, was a vital part of Pixar, bank rolling it from his own pocket because he believed so greatly in the work they were doing. Speaking of which, Meredith Wild is my book idol. Not just because she writes fantastic stories, but because she’s parlayed her talent into a scorching self-published career, a seven figure book deal, and has now started her own publishing house, Waterhouse Press, which represents standout bestsellers like Audrey Carlan. I think she’s an incredible writer and business woman.
It was lovely to hear your fantastic news that you’ve had a manuscript accepted for publication by Harlequin Books. Where were you when you got ‘The Call’ and how did you react?
It was utterly surreal! I was sitting at my tiny, paint-stained kitchen table with my husband getting the kids to bed in the background (and all the noise that brings). I thought Megan (Haslam, my delightful editor) was calling to chat about the plot I’d put forward. The offer of a two book deal knocked me sideways! It was less than two months after I’d met with Joanne Grant of Harlequin UK at a romance conference, where I pitched myself to her, so it happened really quickly, exceeding all my expectations! I remember putting the phone down and just staring out of the window, unable to process the fact that my longest-held dream was actually happening.
I was just about to speak to my husband about it (he’d already popped the bubbly, having gathered the gist) when my phone buzzed with a twitter notification and the lovely team at Harlequin were announcing that I was on-board. Their enthusiasm and support is something I will never forget.
Can you tell readers a little about that particular book?
Happily! Nikos and Marnie were teen sweethearts but he was never deemed good enough for her aristocratic family. He’s paid off by Marnie’s father to leave her alone and, having just lost her sister, Marnie doesn’t want to upset her parents further by fighting for Nikos and their relationship. Fast forward six years and her rejection has spurred Nikos on to become the kind of man he thinks she wants. He’s a self-made tycoon, and he wants her back… He propositions Marnie, using her family’s dire financial standing to give her the right incentive. Love for her family sees her agree to marry him … but their past is a big black hole that neither can forget.
I’m really intrigued by the notion of good people, who are deeply in love, being driven to do the wrong thing. Love is a complex business and when hurt feelings, betrayal and our duty to others come into play, it can be very hard to simply grab what you want with both hands.
It was a labour of love to write this; as with all my books, it’s full of passion, glamour, angst and heart.
Have you got any new works in progress?
I’m always writing! I was commissioned to write an episode in an upcoming Harlequin serial – a fascinating project which sees twelve authors from various Harlequin lines come together to write a racy, exciting twelve episode novel. I’m also working on my second Harlequin Presents novel and I have the second two books in a trilogy due out over the next four months. I also have a really great agent who’s shopping a book I wrote which doesn’t fit squarely into category or romance. It’s a romantic thriller with a really likeable, sassy heroine and a hero who is closed off and enigmatic… but exactly what our lady needs. I’m excited to see what, if anything, happens with this book.
If there was one country in the world you could visit, where would that be?
I’ve been really lucky to have travelled quite a bit but I’ve only ever flown in and out of America. Until the political climate there shifted, I would have said that I’m desperate to spend six months in New York, visiting a different state each month for a long weekend, but really immersing myself in American life. Now, I’m not so sure I could plan for that.
Australia is a beautiful country, and I’ve seen an embarrassingly small amount of it, unlike my husband. As a child, his parents drove everywhere. He’s swum with fresh water crocs in the northern territory, eaten pearl shell meat from Paspaley pearls, flown in a helicopter over the Bungle Bungles, climbed Uluru (Ayers Rock) back when you still could. I’d really like to tick some of those boxes.
What are your goals for 2017?
Good question! I have type one diabetes and I’ve found juggling the demands of small-children and establishing my writing career have made it difficult to give my health the attention it deserves. It’s a bit of a cliché but I’d like to really focus on being more active this year. Walks are a great way to get the creative juices flowing, and I generally love healthy food. But wine, oh, wine! My weakness. Writing at night with a bucket of shiraz is my guilty pleasure… I’m going to have to try to swap in herbal tea, though!
How will you spend Valentine’s day?
I am going to thwart my New Year’s Resolution and cook creamy, yummy French food that is most definitely not good for me – and wash it down with delicious champagne! We celebrate as a family, generally. The kids make decorations and help me bake love-heart themed food (loaves of bread, biscuits).
And finally, where can readers find you on social media and where can they purchase your books?
My website has links to my books www.clareconnelly.com and I am on facebook, twitter, Instagram, and pinterest. I’m turning into a bit of a pinterest addict, actually – it’s too much fun!