I have some new blog features for 2020, one of which is to ask authors to tell readers when and how they began to write. The first author to reply to this question is Georgia Hill. Over to Georgia …
Hi everyone and hope it’s not too late to wish you all a Happy New Year. Huge thanks to lovely writing friend Morton for inviting me on.
I had a choice of topics and plumped to tell you about when I began writing and how. It’s an odd tale so I hope you’ll spare my blushes.
I suppose I’ve always written in some form. When on holiday I always made sure I wrote a journal. Often writing was something I did as part of my teaching job. If I couldn’t find quite the right passage to use for a lesson I’d end up writing it myself. I’ve also written some really bad poetry, which will never be seen in public! (Ooo, I think we need to see some of your poetry now! Mx) So I’ve flexed my writing muscles all my life. My head has always been full of stories. A legacy, perhaps, of having my nose permanently stuck in a book.
The ideas and characters having a jolly old time in my head began to make their way onto paper and laptop, properly, in 2004. You might remember the BBC put on a Sunday night period drama called North and South in that year? I love period drama and I love a bit of Mrs Gaskell so I tuned in. Immediately gripped, I became embarrassingly fixated on the story, with the characters and mostly, I have to admit, by the hero John Thornton. It helped that he was played by Richard Armitage who has a rather swoon-worthy appeal. Check him out, he’s gorgeous! (I was swooning along to North and South too and have watched it again many times since! Mx)
This kind of thing had happened to me before – when the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice aired. Back then the only thing I had with which to feed my obsession was a behind the scenes book which accompanied the series. (Yes I had this book too – blushes and produces said book from her book shelves to photograph for this post. Mx)
In 2004 I had that new invention: the internet! Dial up and creaky it may have been but I was able to connect with others in a similar state of ecstasy over Mr Thornton, the brooding, brusque but oh-so-honourable mill owner. We gathered together on the BBC drama forum and feverishly discussed matters of grave import such as the working conditions in nineteenth century cotton mills, where John Thornton got his shirts laundered and, most hotly debated of all, was he a virgin before he married the fragrant Margaret?! (Swoons! Mx)
When the BBC closed down the drama page (I think a gaggle of hormonal women proved too much for the moderators), someone set up the online forum C19. We all flocked to it, relieved that we could continue feeding our appetite for all things North and South. There was an extra dimension to C19; it had (and indeed still does) a page devoted to fan fic. Fan fic, if you don’t know, is fiction written by fans of a particular book, film or television series and continues or expands the lives of the characters.
I read a few and enjoyed them and the beginnings of an idea emerged. Two characters stranded in a pub in a snowstorm and forced to share a room. They simply would not leave me alone. Entitled The Winter’s Tale, it developed into the story of Nick and Perdita, actors about to star in a new version of Pride and Prejudice. And yes, Nick the brooding hero had more than a passing resemblance to John Thornton. Gosh, I had fun writing it. Threw everything and the kitchen sink at it. Austen references, mentions of pre-Raphaelite painters, you name it, in it went. I had no idea of technique, knew nothing of point of view or head-hopping or story arcs, I just wrote one chapter a time and posted it up. Readers seemed to like it so I carried on. Eventually it was re-written, evolved into my first book, Pride and Perdita and taken on by a small independent digi-only publisher. You can still buy it.
Reading it back I wince at the style and realise how much my writing has changed (I think mostly for the better!). Soon afterwards I decided to give up my day job, which was causing me huge amounts of stress and making me very unhappy and devote all my time to writing. I was poor but happier. Not long after that, Say it With Sequins was accepted by Harper Impulse, then an imprint of Harper Collins.
I now have seven novels and a collection of short stories to my name and have just finished writing my eighth, another romcom. I’m a bit two-faced with my writing, but only in the nicest possible way. I love writing fun romcoms set in the wonderful and entirely fictional seaside resort of Berecombe but my passion is for historical romance timeslips – to read and to write. I’ve continued my interest in all-things Victorian in my most recent book, On a Falling Tide.
You can drive yourself demented by over-analysing twists of fate but I do wonder what would have happened had I not become addicted to North and South and found an outlet for my embryonic scribblings. Would I still be slogging away trying to teach wriggly five year olds? I’ll be forever grateful to the BBC, to Mrs Gaskell, to the … ahem … inspiring Richard Armitage. Most of all I’m thankful for the friends I made during that mad time of my North and South obsession. It really did change my life.
P.S. North and South didn’t change just my life. Writers Phillipa Ashley, Hazel Osmond, Elizabeth Hanbury, Rosy Thornton, Sally Orr and many others all had similar starting points. (I guess you can add me to that list too. Mx)
Thank you for a fascinating post, Georgia!
About Georgia Hill
I write short stories for women’s magazines, novellas, epic historical romances – and some really bad poetry! I love writing romcoms but my passion is for historical romance with a contemporary twist – to read and to write. I’ve written for Harper Collins since 2013. They have published Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Café, The Little Book Café and While I Was Waiting – a WW1 historical romance. I have a nasty habit of moving house. It’s disrupting to a writing career but being the outsider can be a rich vein for inspiration. I love local history, myth and folklore and these often find their way into my writing. I have now settled in Devon with my two beloved dogs, a husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe. For someone born in the midlands, living by the sea is bliss.
My latest book is On a Falling Tide, a historical romance set in Lyme Regis. If you like spooky timeslips it might just be for you. Here’s the blurb:
About On a Falling Tide
Two women. Connected by heartbreak, separated in time. Can Charity save the man she loves, or will Lydia’s vengeful spirit prove too strong?
Two haunting love stories and a hundred and fifty-year-old curse …
When the beloved grandfather who brought her up dies, Charity is left struggling to cope. Alone and rootless, she’s drawn to the sleepy fishing village of Beaumouth near Lyme Regis and begins to research her family tree. A chance encounter with attractive boat-builder Matt sparks a chain of mysterious and unsettling events and leads Charity to uncover the story of a young girl who lived in the village over a hundred years before.
In 1863 all Lydia Pavey wants to do is follow in Mary Anning’s footsteps and become a ‘fossilist.’ Instead, she is being forced into marriage to a man she barely knows.
Charity’s obsession with Lydia becomes all-consuming and she risks losing everything. With a longed-for family tantalisingly in reach, will Charity find the happy ever after she’s yearned for and, most importantly, can she save the man she loves?
To keep in touch with Georgia Hill you can use the following links: