For those who could not follow the chat at the time, or who ‘don’t do Twitter’, here are some of the questions and answers.
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers in regards to submission/query letters & synopses when contacting agents/publishers?
A: For the letter I’d say part 1 is why you chose that ed/agent; 2 is about the book; 3 is about you. Never tell a lie but make the truth sound as good as you can. If you can include a marketing detail, do so. Re synopsis: think broad brush strokes, as if answering a friend who asked ‘What’s your book about?’
Q: When critiquing the work of aspiring authors, what advice do you find yourself repeating the most often?
A: To write satisfying endings, I think, though my biggest bee in my bonnet is lack of viewpoint control. General advice about writing is to educate yourself and to persist with your writing. Success can take time.
On writing romance…
Q: It's a thin line between romance and kitsch. Any advice on how to steer clear of the latter?
A: I feel there should be a reality and honesty about romance. Bring some real life into it - even ‘issues’.
Q: Is romance at the core of all your fiction, or do you hanker after other genres?
A: All my recent novels, certainly, though the first 2 were more family drama. Short stories can be all sorts.
Q: Is it more important to surprise your readers, or to give them what they expect?
A: For me I try to give readers the same style but in a new story every time. I work to avoid repetition.
Q: Are there any no-goes at all?
A: In my writing? I try to avoid being insensitive, positive mentions of recreational drugs, racial hate. My stuff is quite feel-good, although there are issues in there, also. They’re not gritty.
Q: What do you find easiest to write and why?
A: Romantic fiction, especially if it’s a bit hot. I guess I must just enjoy the vicarious pleasure! So that usually means novels because my short stuff goes to women’s mags & they don’t do ‘hot’.
Q: Which comes first for you: theme, character or a scene that sparks your imagination?
A: Probably not theme but either of the other two. Hero probably comes to me first more often than heroine. I do think theme is important, though, as it provides focus. I often fight with that a bit.
On the business of being a writer…
Q: Do you have a daily writing routine?
A: I work quite long hours though I have time off for exercise classes. I just try and keep going.
Q: You said you work long hours. What helps you keep going?
A: I like my work & I have to earn money. It’s a winning combo. I don’t want to have to try and get a proper job!
Q: Do you have a favourite place to think or plot storylines?
A: I like to be alone and in silence and scribble plot ideas with pen and paper. My study is good, but garden is too.
On writers’ holidays…
Q: What do you enjoy most about tutoring on writers' holidays?
A: Have to confess I like the ones in hot countries most! It’s nice to have a terrace up a mountain as a class room. But I’ve always had such fab writer participants on residential courses, it’s all a pleasure.
Q: Do you see your students develop rapidly in that kind of environment?
A: Yes, students do develop rapidly on a residential course but best of all is that they seem inspired.
On being a competition judge…
Q: How do you select the winner when judging competitions? Do you have a system or rely on gut instinct?
A: I like complete stories that have a satisfying ending. Also, good characterisation and good writing. Stories that make me think ’So what?’ don’t do it for me, no matter how lyrical the writing.
There was more, of course, and a good chat was had by all. Thanks again to Sue Moorcroft for being our latest victim (she says she enjoyed it). Do follow Sue on Twitter and visit her website.
This chat was moderated by Andrew Shephard for the Swanwick Tweet Team. Don’t forget to put the next #AskSwanwick tweet chat in your electronic diary, or on to your Swanwick calendar. Join Jen Campbell (‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’) at 7.30pm on Friday 10th October.