Interview Englewood and Charlotte Sun

Following my presentation to the Suncoast Writers’ Guild, I was interviewed by the local newspaper. Here’s a copy of the article.

Boca Grande’s serenity inspires ‘Ring of Lies’
By STEPHEN HARRISON
SUN CORRESPONDENT
ENGLEWOOD — Novelist Victoria Howard spends only one month a year in Boca Grande, yet manages to make an impact on the area.
Howard became so inspired by the island’s sunny beaches that she showcased them in her newest novel, “Ring of Lies.”
Born in Liverpool and living in South Yorkshire, Howard spends a significant portion of time traveling and writing.
While in Seattle she wrote Pushcart Prize nominee, “Three Weeks Last Spring,” and in the Highlands of Scotland she wrote, “The House on the Shore,” which put her in the running for the Joan Hessayon Award for romance novelists.
Now Howard has come back with her third romantic suspense novel, “Ring of Lies.”
While enjoying the serenity of Boca Grande, she was inspired to write the book.
“I sat admiring the wonderful homes and started to think how I would feel if, unbeknown to me, my husband, who’d recently been killed in a car accident, left one to me in his will. And thus a novel was born,” she said in a phone interview.
The book was published in 2010 by Vanilla Heart, publisher of romance books.
Howard, 55, started writing novels relatively late in life.
She worked for both the National Health Service in the U.K. and in the offshore oil industry.
Friends who were interested in her short stories encouraged her to write a novel. At first, the task seemed insurmountable, she said, but she broke through and wrote her first novel. Two more followed.
Knowing your audience, researching your novel and being able to relate to your characters are the most important things in becoming a successful author, she said.
“You don’t want to be three chapters in and realize you hate this person,” she said.
While vacationing in the Englewood area with her partner Stephen and border collie Rosie, Howard gave a presentation on character development at a Dec. 18 meeting of the Suncoast Writers Guild.
“She was excellent,” said Edwin Ellis, guild director. “She was very on-target and timely. She explained how to use the basics of character development to introduce support characters and plotlines.”
For information on Howard and “Ring of Lies,” go to www.victoria howard.co.uk. For information on the Suncoast Writers Guild, go to www. suncoastwriters.com  .
E-mail: sharri32@live.com  

Talks and Puppy Dog Tales….

Writing is, for the most part, a lonely profession, but once in a while I receive an invitation to give a talk. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a delightful morning talking to the members of the Parkgate Branch of the University of the 3rd Age.

For those of you unfamiliar with the name, the University of the 3rd Age is an organization for those people no longer in full-time employment. Members can take part in educational, creative, and leisure activities including, languages, music, computing, bird watching, crafts, and of particular interest to me, literature and book groups.

This was my second talk to members of the U3A, and I can honestly say that on both occasions I felt welcome. I had a great time talking about my books, writing and the publishing industry. Thank you Birdwell and Parkgate Branches for inviting me, I just hope I didn’t waffle on for too long!

I said at the start of this post, that writing is a lonely profession, and it is. For the last ten years I’ve had a constant companion in the form of my Border collie, Lucy. Sadly, Lucy passed away in December. Since then the house, and my office, have been a quiet, empty place. No more.

Meet Rosie, my nine week old Border collie.

Like her predecessor, she’s intelligent, (too intelligent at times) and is now my constant companion. There’s not a room or place I can go without her following me. Given time, I know that will change, but for the moment, I kind of enjoy being a surrogate mum, although she’d rather I played with her than write. But I like a good challenge, so I’m finding new, interesting ways to make book number three come to life.

Backstory

On my recent appearance on the Rony Robinson Show on BBC Radio Sheffield, we talked about backstory or the infodump, and why telling the reader too much, too soon, should be avoided.

What exactly do writers mean when they talk about backstory? Basically, it is filling the reader in on the background of your story, why the action takes place where it does, the subtext of your character’s lives, and the reasons for the big question or problem they have to solve.

Backstory is essential to novels, but the opening pages aren’t the place to go into depth about your character’s past or the places they inhabit. The trick is to give the reader just enough information to make them care, and want to find out what happens next.

You need to think carefully about the opening chapter. Readers don’t necessarily have to know that your heroine has blue eyes, blonde hair, and lives with her aged mother in a tumbledown cottage, or that the hero has two siblings who have green eyes and regularly tap him for a loan.

Think of the opening of your novel as the equivalent of an appetiser—a bit of teasing in order to keep the reader hooked. A couple of sentences here and there, no long blocks. Backstory is showing not telling. Your readers want to launch into the action. They want to see what’s happening. They don’t want to be told.

What about flashbacks – those little scenes where your character starts to think about something that took place weeks/months/years ago? Flashbacks can slow the pace of the story and confuse readers. They are best used in a prologue, but be careful that you don’t tell the reader too much, too soon. There are three primary ways to include backstory in your novel.

  1. Dialogue.
  2. Narrative.
  3. Description.

I prefer to use dialogue. It feels more natural to have my characters talk about their past, or explain their reason for acting in a particular way. But it’s a personal choice and you have to decide what works best for that part of the story.

But how do you know how much backstory to use?

That’s a difficult question, and to a certain extent, the decision is yours. Just remember, too much backstory will make the reader bored and tempt him or her to put the book down. You’ll lose their attention. They may even wonder why they picked up the book in the first place, and that’s the last thing any writer wants.