Welcome, Rhoda, to the Romaniacs blog and thank you for spending time with us. We’re pretty informal here, so please, kick your heels off and relax.
Now then, tell us about the scientist within. Are you a naturally analytical person? Do you approach writing in a structured fashion?
I used to think I was a creative person trapped in an analytical person’s body, but now I’m realising it’s probably the other way round. With each book, I’m planning things more and more. Once I get into my groove for the book I can deviate from the outline a little bit, but it’s usually pretty true to the plan.
Oh, and I love stationery, so anything that give me an excuse to buy ‘plotting supplies’ is a good thing.
Does the creative side conflict with the scientific part of you or do the two areas work in harmony?
A bit of both. Sometimes it’s a real pain because I’ll write something beautiful and then my analytical brain will pull the sentence apart and I end up rewriting it for the sake of accuracy. It also means that often I have to act things out to see if you really can pull your coat on while holding a mobile phone to your ear and eating a White chocolate Magnum (you can. But it’s messy).
On the other hand, the analytical side of me is very useful when doing research into topics. My WIP is set in a microbiology lab. That’s fun to write. The difficulty is in making sure the book is jargon free. We scientist types love our jargon and forget that other people haven’t a clue what we’re talking about. I have to get my critique partner to check and point out any jokes that are too nerdy.
You say you write ‘smart romantic comedy’. Can you explain what that means?
I write about ‘smart’ women. They’re educated, hardworking and good at what they do. My heroines tend to have a streak of cynicism in them. Think Miss Congeniality or Two Weeks Notice or (frantically looking for something without Sandra Bullock in it…ah yes) Intolerable Cruelty.
At what point did you decide to write a novel and did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?
My first novel was a fairly serious cross cultural romance about heartbreak and making the wrong choices in life. I sent it in to the NWS for a critique. The feedback said ‘you’re writing the wrong sort of book. You have a naturally funny and irreverent voice that’s struggling to get out. Take a break and write something fun.’ So, just for fun, I wrote Patently in Love – about a girl who ran away from celebrity to become a lawyer. I had a blast doing it. I made myself laugh. Now I’m hooked on the genre.
Would you consider writing in any other genre, if so, which?
I’d like to write a romance with Sri Lankan characters one day. I grew up in Sri Lanka and when I write about it, my style changes completely. It’s fun to inhabit such a colourful place and the nostalgia adds something to the writing.
Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?
Imagination, Perseverance and a good sense of humour.
I read somewhere that the writer’s mantra should be – write, write, write. Edit, edit, edit. I’d add to that and say ‘submit, submit, submit’. I’m good with the writing. Not so keen on editing and really lazy at submitting. I’m working on it though.
What are your favourite genres to read?
Romantic comedy (naturally). Fantasy. Crime… just about anything really, so long as it’s not boring.
And do you like to review books? Is this an important part of being a writer?
It’s important to READ a lot of books if you’re a writer. The reviewing is optional. The main reason I review books is that I’m very opinionated when it comes to fiction. Also, it’s a great way to support the writers that I like. We writers love hearing that people like our work.
The books I like are easy to review. If I don’t notice the writing, then I know it’s a good book and can concentrate on the story. If I hate a book, I usually don’t bother finishing it, but it bothers me intensely until I work out exactly why I disliked it. If I hate a book, I don’t review it. I know how much hard work goes into writing a book and I wouldn’t want to rubbish someone’s effort. Besides, reviews are subjective things. I wouldn’t want to put a potential reader off.
What makes you laugh?
Lots of stuff. Silly names, sitcoms, the Viz book of crap jokes, my husband (it’s one of the things I love about him).
Right, time to sit up straight, Rhoda, as we have some quick-fire questions, Romaniac style:
Melon or lemon?
Twenty-one again or age every year?
Age every year. Although I wouldn’t mind having the energy and waist line that I had when I was 21.
Chocolates or flowers?
Bunsen burner or log fire?
Depends on what you’re cooking. You really want me to choose? Yes. Okay, Bunsen burner. There’s nothing more romantic than a searing blue flame.
Sunday roast or whatever you fancy?
Whatever you fancy.
Big Bang or Evolution?
Many congratulations on your nomination for this year’s Joan Hessayon award. Please tell us all about it.
I was an NWS member for three years. It’s a fantastic scheme. I learned a lot about the business side of writing and publishing through the RNA and I’ve made a lot of friends through it. I would recommend it to writers, be they published or not.
My manuscript for Patently in Love went through the NWS scheme before Uncial Press accepted it. Even though I didn’t win the Joan Hessayon award, it was an honour to be on the list and the award ceremony was lots of fun. I got to take a big pink balloon home on the Underground, which was a fun experience.
Finally, what are you working on now?
I’m currently doing the edits on my second book, Having a Ball, which is coming out in March. It’s about Stevie, who is has to organize a charity ball for a bunch of slightly bonkers retired academics. She falls for Tom, who is helping his mum out with the ball whilst on an enforced break from work. Stevie has a fear of being abandoned. Tom is about to take a job in the Middle East. What hope have they got?
I’m also half way through my next book, provisionally called ‘Doctor January’. It’s about Beth, a PhD student who has a self-esteem problem. She’s bullied by her boss and by her adored boyfriend, Gordon. The hero is Hibs (Dr. James Hibbotson) who works in her lab. He wants to help Beth, but doesn’t know how to make her see what Gordon is doing to her. When things with Gordon take a more sinister turn, the only person Beth can turn to is Hibs.
I wanted to write about the problems faced by women in science. The dropout rate of women in science is massive. Some of this is due to having kids etc, but mostly, it’s down to the confrontational interactions in the scientific community. You need to have a lot of confidence in your work and yourself to succeed. Beth is an extreme example in that she has neither.
I’m having lots of fun revisiting my memories of life in the lab. Also, I think I’m a bit in love with Hibs. Shh.
Many thanks for coming to chat with us Rhoda, and good luck with your books.
You can follow Rhoda on Twitter at: @rhodabaxter
And keep up to date with her on her blog:
Rhoda’s book Patently in Love is published by Uncial Press and is available for Kindle
And other eReaders.