Name: Jill Steeples
Hometown: Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, UK
Based: Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, UK (I haven’t moved very far!)
Briefly: I’ve had over 150 short stories published in magazines around the world. My stories have also appeared in a number of anthologies. My first novel Desperately Seeking Heaven was published this year by Carina UK (a digital imprint from Harlequin).
Favorite Read: The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien.
Pet Peeves: People who don’t return their trolleys to the bays at the supermarket and leave them obstructing the car park. Tut tut..
If You Weren’t a Writer You’d Be…running my own small business. I’d love a crafts and tea shop.
What You Have Lined Up Next: My second novel Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off is due for publication in January 2014. It’s about a girl who, in a moment of madness, reads her best-friend’s diary and what she uncovers changes her life forever.
Did you make a conscious decision to become a writer?
Yes, I was approaching a significant birthday and that galvanized me into signing up for a creative writing course. I’d been thinking about it for years and dabbling in writing, but not getting very far. It was the best decision I made as my tutor suggested I started writing short stories. It’s a great discipline and when I started selling my stories it gave me the confidence to start taking my writing seriously.
How did you get the inspiration for Desperately Seeking Heaven?
I had an image in my mind of two teenagers coming across a car crash scene and a man, a famous celebrity, emerging from the wreckage. It changed quite a bit from that initial idea, but that was the spark that set the story in action.
Did you find yourself struggling when you were writing it?
The first draft came very easily, but it did go through a number of re-writes.
When writing a short story, and when writing a novel, do you use different plotting and outlining techniques?
With a short story, I usually know how it’s going to end and then it’s usually a straightforward task of getting there. With novels, I tend to do a little more planning, but not a great deal, just brief chapter outlines.
What are some things that you feel every author should know before publishing their first novels?
That you start obsessing about different things; your Amazon ranking, your Goodreads status, how much marketing you’re doing, will your editor like your second book etc. I think you swap one set of worries for another. I think the important thing is to concentrate on your writing and try not to get too distracted by those other things.
Do you think there’s a considerable discrepancy between real life and romance novel life?
Yes, and I think that’s the reason romance novels are so popular! They are fantasy, they take you out of your own mundane world and give you a taster of another life in another world.
What was the first novel, with a romantic storyline, that made the biggest impression on you, growing up?
I loved all the Jilly Cooper single title romances, Octavia, Harriet, Bella etc. They are such feel-good, funny, involving stories with great characters that sparked my love for romances.
New writers struggle with writer’s block. What pieces of advice do you have for them, in handling creative block situations?
Set yourself small targets. If you tell yourself you need to write 2000 words a day, the task can seem insurmountable. Break it down into smaller chunks and slowly you’ll start to make progress. When I was going through a difficult patch, I told myself I only needed to write 100 words a day, but invariably I wrote much more than that.
What makes a good novel?
A writer’s voice is the thing that draws me into a story and then well-drawn characters and an intriguing plot will keep me reading.