Thank you to author, J.M. Ralley for answering our interview questions! A lovely read - make sure you check this out!
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: Cinderella has always been my favourite story. I also love Scotland. It was only a matter of time before I combined the two. However, I wrote a slighter darker version, to make the characters pop. The reviews state the plan worked.
2. Can you tell me about the book?
Answer: The story revolves around Bella, who has a wicked mother and brother. In a typical Cinderella way, they treat her like a servant, spread rumours and make her life a misery. She no longer believes in love. Enter Ramsey, the Duke of Starthburg, who does believe in true love and is searching for a wife. When they met at the Gretna masked Ball, speaks fly. However, at midnight Ramsey is left holding a mask and no lass. The wicked mother has other plans for Bella.
3. What is your writing process like?
Answer: I work full-time so writing is fitted in when I can. This is mainly early morning and evenings, with weekends left for editing. This allows me to write a first draft and edit another book. First drafts are written on my tablet and transferred into word, on my desktop, for editing. I can edit several times, checking for plot problems, adding descriptions, extending scenes and making them stronger and more powerful. Then I print out the manuscript and read it out loud for clarity. It’s amazing how many other mistakes can be found this way. Only when I feel I can do no more myself, do I send it over to my editor and wait for her to work her magic
4. What did you learn when writing the book?
Answer: That it’s not easy. You need discipline to stay focused. It’s so easy to slip over to social media sites while online researching. Too take decent breaks and allow your mind to have a break. So many things can go wrong. A checklist is important to keep any plot holes under control.
5. What surprised you the most?
Answer: How easy it is to come up with a plot. Sometimes I only have to glance at a cover and know its story. It’s staying concentrated on one or two books that is hard.
6. What does the title mean?
Answer: There is no actual meaning to the title. It suited the plot and simply popped in to my head as I was writing.
7. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?
Answer: No. Although there is a bit of me.
8. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
Answer: They lived happily ever after. After wat I put them through, they’d better had. Getting divorced wasn’t an option. I did write a short piece about them for my Facebook page and blog, over Christmas. Also, they pop up in the second book in the series.
9. What advice do you have for writers?
Answer: Get the first draft down. That’s it. Don’t worry about getting all the details right or getting in every scrape of description. My first drafts are awful. It’s the first edit which sorts them out. Find yourself a decent editor and cover designer. No matter how god you think you are, unless you are a professional, don’t try and do it yourself. (And yes, I read a book written by an editor who thought she didn’t need another set of eyes. There were mistakes.).
10. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Answer: Both. If I’m writing an exciting part, for example a wedding or party, I’m energized and must get it down. The sad parts make my heart ache, and, yes, I have been known to cry. After writing an extended sorrowful, scene, I’ll always take a break. Most writers will get into the heads of their characters and this can be emotional. However, it is needed to get the emotionally state of the character right. I can usually tell the ones who don’t.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Answer: Self-doubt. It will rear its head at some point and make you think your work is rubbish. Don’t listen. Writing can be a lonely business, but there are plenty of social groups you can interact with, and most are helpful and supportive. Take a few days of and go back and re-read what you have wrote. It’ll chase those blues away and you can see where it went wrong, if it has.
12. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Answer: Marketing. This has to be every author’s nightmare. The book is done. It’s published and now you have to find those readers. Not as easy as it appears. There are social sites to help and you can advertise, but at the end of the day, you can’t force anyone to read your book.
13. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Answer: No. I’m proud of what I write.
14. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Answer: A bit of both. I read romances, so I know what type sells, but don’t want to be labeled as the same type of story. Yes, I wrote a Cinderella-type story, but it’s so different. I removed the two ugly sisters and added a brother. Took away the glass slipper and set it in modern day Scotland, with a hint of historical from the way the wicked mother asks. I’m also writing a story based on Snow White, but from shifter point of view. The similarities are there, but not enough to be classed as the fairytale. I write what I want to write. Not the stories people might expect.
15. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Answer: The second Romancing in Scotland book does refer back to Bella and Ramsey, but not enough that you need to have read their story first. I have another series where you do need to read them in order. I plan on writing series and standalones. Sometimes, I feel the characters need to be revisited, or the stories revolve around the same bunch of people. Others are complete in one book. I might revisit some of them with short blog/social media stories.
16. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Answer: To many. I have three published. A fourth I have unpublished to sort out a few problems with it. I have another first draft on the go. One I am editing – which is the first of a trilogy. Another trilogy planed with the first one started – but writer’s block has stopped me working on that one yet. And I’ve a big series planed which I was starting next year. However, I have began to write the beginning scenes. Sometimes a scene is so strong in my mind, I have to work on that one regardless of what I should be doing. So the total stands at – four in the persecuting series awaiting editing, two trilogies to write, one standalone being wrote. The first in another series awaiting editing and the first of the big series started. I need to write faster.
17. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Answer: I do basic character and world-building before I begin anew book. The research comes during the first edit. This includes simply things like the car my character drives, to more complicated items. I.e. how a lift works.
18. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Answer: Still part-time
19. How many hours a day do you write?
Answer: Various from day to day and what shift I’m on at work. Usually I manage half an hour before work and another 2 hours later in the day. Weekends can be all, day.
20. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
Answer: Adult. I struggle to write about children and usually end up researching at what age children do what.
21. What did you edit out of this book?
Answer: With Falling for a Duke, Siberian Huskies are a big part of the story, with Bella and Ramsey owning studs. Originally, I burnt the stud down and a few dogs were killed. Yep, I was nasty. However, my beta reader had words with me, and I re-wrote the whole section. I can now happily say, that no dogs were harmed during the writing of this book.
22. How do you select the names of your characters?
Answer: Most are easy and will pop into my head as I’m writing the plot. Others, I leave with a lot of he and she’s in the outline, until I figure them out. I’ve used baby name websites before now, and one name will usually jump out at me. I also own a Scottish book of first and surnames, to help with this series, as I want to keep most of the names Gaelic. For instant, with Falling for a Duke, Arabella’s name started of as Anabelle, which was the version my alpha read. During final edits I changed her name to the Gaelic version. Also, I changed the surname of her friend Katie from Campbell to Gowen – Even in the last edit, my Editor kept finding the original name. (I need the Campbell Name for another in this series and felt having an unrelated Campbell in the first two books, would cause problems).
23. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Answer: I work full-time as a Veterinary nurse. Long shifts make finding time to write more difficult, but I manage.
24. What was your hardest scene to write?
Answer: In this book the most difficult scene must be Bella’s memorial. Getting the emotions right for Ramsey meant having to think like him. Funerals I find so sad to write and I usually ends up in tears. Once done, I take some time out and make sure I write a happier scene next.
25. What is your favorite childhood book?
Answer: As I’m rabbit mad, there can only be one. Watership Down
26. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Answer: 6-12 months, from beginning the first draft to publishing.
27. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Answer: Yes. This is one of the reasons for so many unfinished projects. Some have come to a complete standstill due to writer’s block. But it also allows me to work on something else. If it gets to the stage I can’t concentrate on any book, I go back to reading and relax my mind.
28. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Answer: Computer. Anyone who knows me, knows hoe bad my writing is. There are times even I can’t read it.
29. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: I never wanted to. Writing means being in the public eye and that wasn’t for me. However, The story for Persecuting Abi has ben in my head for years, and one day I said to myself, write it. I did. Never meant to publish, but I put it out there to see what others thought. There were a few problems, but the story was loved. Things developed from there. Having done craft fairs for a few years, I feel better at talking to strangers, and can now cope with it.
30. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Answer: Not that hard. I find writing relaxes me, especially after a hard day at work. It’s stopping I find difficult. I now longer watch as much television – probably a good thing.
31. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Answer: No. I write what I feel is enough. I don’t like deadlines because it would stress me out. Apart from getting my Christmas book out for December 1st, I set now actually deadlines until the story is nearly complete. Usually after the second edit by my editor.
32. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
Answer: I start with a basic plot and let my characters lead me. I have a set idea of where things need to go, and what I want to happen along the way, but my characters have a habit of changing things. With Falling for a Duke, I ended up changed a whole scene due to Bella refusing to be the victim again. She wanted me to pick on Ramsey. Now, I listen more carefully to them.
33. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Answer: I’m a avid reader, which I think helps with writing, as well as being relaxing. My favourite authors vary from what I’m reading. At the moment I love the Centaur series by A S Mcgowen. Jasmine Walt for paranormal/fantasy. Nora Roberts – she was the one who started me reading adult books with her Mills and Boon books. But there are loads of others who I lie too.
34. What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
Answer: A strong plot and strong characters. Nothing worse than a great plot but the characters are to weak to pull the story off. It’s the reason I stop reading many books. If I don’t bond with the characters, I can’t continue with any story.
35. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
Answer: Awkward. I’m not done many yet, but someone has always shown interest. Saying that, my books aren’t for everyone, so the quieter days don’t upset me to much.
36. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Answer: I had to write a children’s book for my GCSE English. It was about a rabbit who learnt to tell the time. On each page the rabbit moved, and a clock had a different time on. I ended up having to go to the local nursey to read and received a glowing report. And those who know me, know I don’t do children, so I must have done something right.
37. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Answer: There is a bit of me in all of them. From my hobbies mainly. This year’s Christmas release will combine my love of crafts. In Falling for a Duke, I added a whole section on Scottish Wildcats. In the second book, Falling for Katie, it was pine martins. Two animals I love to see. And have seen in the wild
38. Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
Answer: So far, I haven’t. But will probably be my family in the future.
39. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
Answer: My mom, who has to put up with hours of me ignoring her.
40. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
Answer: I think our ideas for stories must come from somewhere. Whether that is a hidden Muse in my head is yet to be seen, but I have so many plots whizzing around my mind, there must be something in it.
41. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
Answer: False. Most writers make little money and don’t have a lot to start with. I, for one, don’t have the money to pump into advertising or marketing. I can afford an editor and cover designers now, so that’s a plus, but so many writers have books unpublished while they save up. The most successful ones are the ones, I think, are those who manage to get film rights, or have the money to splash out with first. Or manage to get a big publisher behind them.
42. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Answer: I’ve heard some do. However, I don’t believe it. No first draft can be perfect, who would they need an editor, otherwise. Mine are bad, very bad. It’s a basic version of the story. By the time I finish the first edit, it resembles a book and is up to twice the length. My first draft is just so I can get the story and ideas down. There are times the whole lot gets deleted because I’m not happy. Including a 56,000 manuscript the once.
43. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
Answer: I publish indecently to maintain full rights of my books.
44. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Answer: I don’t have plans to co-author, maybe it will change in time. I’ve read several books which have been and were well written.
45. Is writing book series more challenging?
Answer: Yes. The main thing is to keep the detail correct throughout the series and the timeline. Readers will pick up any changes. Therefore, I make better notes when writing a series which will have related books. I’m in a Facebook group where readers discus an author’s books and they pick up the changes easily, so I know I have to get things right.
46. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Answer: This is why I make notes as soon as I can. My phone is set up to take any ideas which form and transfers them to my tablet for me. That way, I never forget an idea. However, if this happens at work, there are times I can’t remember the exact details by the time I get a break.
47. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
Answer: My computer has crashed but I have it set up to save every 2 minutes, so I don’t lose a lot. It’s annoying, but better than losing the whole lot. The only ones I destroy, are the ones I delete on purpose, but I keep the copy on a USB stick, incase I want t use it again.
48. Can you tell us about your current projects?
Answer: I’m editing this years Christmas book. It started as a standalone but is now a trilogy and is based around three brothers. They are my first forage into erotica and BDSM style stories. I’m also writing my first shifter romance. This is out of my comfort zone, so it’s talking longer, but going well. I’m also planning a big series. All I’ll say about that, is that each story will have an underlying plot running through al of them. They are fantasy and will have witches, shifters, vampires and angels.
49. Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?
Answer: No. In fact, I got graded an E in English. We did coursework And no exams, and I still maintain I wasn’t a favourite and got marked down. When I re-sat at collage with the same coursework, I went up to a B.
50. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
Answer: My mom is an avid reader, and I spent a lot of my time at the library. I can read quite fast, so a couple of books didn’t last me too long. She’s the one who got me into reading.
51. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do you value their inputs?
Answer: Being single, I tend not to mention new ideas to anyone. I do have a few author friends I can throw ideas at. However, I keep the main plots secret until the book is ready to publish and is copyrighted.
52. Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
Answer: I rarely dream, so not really. I have turned a big phobia of mine into a book and is the set up for my two characters in my Christmas release.
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