Today I’m delighted to welcome Rhoda Baxter to Me, My Books and I:
Rhoda Baxter always wanted to be a writer, but her parents told her she needed to get a ‘real’ job and write in her spare time. So she became a scientist and now works in technology transfer. She now writes contemporary romantic comedies in whatever spare time she can find around her day job and her family. Which means her parents were right all along. How irritating
Her first novel Patently in Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon award 2012. Her third novel Dr January will be published by Choc Lit in 2014.
To find out more:
Where did the idea for Patently In Love come from?
I had the trajectory of Marshall and Jane’s romance in my head already and I wanted to set it in an office so that I could use the emails more effectively (I often use settings I know and change a few details so that I know the layout of the place without having to draw myself a map). When I was still planning the book, I knew I needed something else to make it tick properly. My critique partner mentioned something about how fame must be very intrusive and something just went ‘click’ in my mind.
So, it wasn’t so much one big idea as lots of little ones joining together to make something bigger than the sum of the parts – if that makes any sense.
How do you decide on names for your characters?
I love to look at the signs on motorway exits and imagine they’re names. I originally named Jane’s ex Ashby Coalville after the exit on the M1. My critique partner made me change it, but I kept the name Ashby because it’s so appropriate for him. Left to my own devices, I’d have books populated with people called things like Aztec West or Wilbur Foss.
I’m not great at thinking up surnames, so I tend to nick them from maps or off the textbooks shelf above my desk. My husband’s a chemist and I’m a lapsed Biochemist, so if you’re a scientist, you might find some familiar surnames popping up.
The first names are easy enough. I try out different names until one feels right.
Which of your characters would you like to meet in person and why?
If I met Marshall, I’d probably be a bit shy and tongue-tied because he’s really rather gorgeous. I think I’d have fun with his sister, Stevie, though. We could do lunch and go window shopping or something.
If I had the choice of any of my characters, I’d love to meet Hibs, the hero from my next book, Dr January. He’s easy going and funny and I might still have a teeny weeny crush on him from the time he spent living in my head. Dr January is coming out this autumn, published by Choc Lit. I’m so excited I could burst.
Is any part of Patently In Love based on your own personal experiences?
As I mentioned earlier, I used a setting that I already knew. Apart from that, I don’t think I used anything I had experience of (ponders hard for a minute)… Actually, I eat a lot of ice cream. Does that count?
Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?
I didn’t always write comedy. I started off trying to write a literary masterpiece. I submitted my manuscript for critique and the main response was ‘you’re trying to write what you feel you SHOULD write, try putting this away and write something you enjoy reading. You have a naturally funny voice crying to be let out’. So I thought I’d give it a go. Patently in Love was my first attempt at writing something funny. I had so much fun doing it, that I knew I’d hit the right genre.
I still occasionally try and write something darker, but it puts me in a bad mood, so it’s a relief for everyone when I write something that makes me laugh instead.
Do you get emotional when you finish writing a book?
I’m always relived to finish a book. Chances are I’ll have been working on it for 10 or 11 months by then and I’m sick of the sight of it. So, no, I don’t get emotional when I finish a book. That said, I do get emotional while I’m writing the book though. When the characters are going through something major, I feel what they feel. I’m happy, sad, angry, frightened, depending on what’s going on in my head. Thank goodness I don’t write erotica.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just started writing the third Email and Ice Cream book – it doesn’t have a title yet, but it features Og (Olivia), best friend to Tom from Having a Ball. Olivia is a bit of a ladette and is fiercely independent. So when she accidentally gets pregnant, she’s not best pleased. The hero, Walter, lives in the flat upstairs. He’s scared of spiders and has to ask Olivia to evict them from his bath, so how will he persuade her to take him seriously?
That’s all I have so far. Olivia made me laugh when I wrote Having a Ball, so it should be fun spending more time with her. I’m hoping to explore father-daughter relationships. Walter’s relationship with his own little girl, Olivia’s with her father and the relationship that connects Olivia to the father of her baby.
I haven’t figured out which flavour ice cream Olivia likes yet. I’m conducting extensive research into this at the moment. *Nods seriously, making all the chins wobble*
If you could collaborate with any author who would it be?
I’d write with Jane Lovering. Her books make me laugh like a drain. I’ve met Jane a few times and she’s just as funny in person. I also know I can motivate her to do her bit by offering her chocolate Hobnobs.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever met?
That’s a tricky question. Most people are interesting if you find out about them. Besides, I know a lot of writers and science geeks, who are always interesting types anyway.
After some discussion with my other half, I reckon I’d have to go for the late sister Pru Wilson. A long time ago I lived in a hostel owned by the convent of the sacred heart. It was the house that inspired the setting for Having a Ball. There were 26 students and 4 nuns living there. Sister Pru was in her eighties then. When she was young she studied English literature and was taught by Tolkein and CS Lewis! And, as if that weren’t cool enough, she used to babysit Rafe and Joseph Feinnes when they were kids. She’d lived in India, Africa, Scotland and goodness knows where else. She couldn’t cook for toffee, but she told the most fantastic stories. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago. We miss you, Pru.
Paperback or eBook?
Both, with a slight preference for eBook.
Hot or cold?
Hot. With custard please.
Sweet or savoury?
Sweet. Can I have a bit more custard?
Milk, white or dark chocolate?
Milk, I think. No, dark. No Milk. Aaargh. White chocolate is not chocolate.
Early or late?
Early. No, not that early. That’s better.
Any last words for your readers?
I’m delighted that I even HAVE readers! So a big wave and hello to them *waves*. Keep reading (please). If you’re a writer, still read. Read for entertainment and read with attention. Then write. The stuff you learned will colour your writing and make it better.
Thank you so much for being here today Rhoda, it was a pleasure to have you on my blog. I particularly enjoyed reading about how you decide on names for your characters!
Now check out the book:
“The girl who ran away from fame to become a lawyer.
After her popstar boyfriend publicly humiliates her, Jane wants to start a new life away from media scrutiny. Maybe even find a new man.
Marshall wants a partnership in his patent law firm. He just has to prove he’s totally focussed on his work. No distractions. No office romance. Unless, of course, no one knows about it.
The last thing Jane needs is to have her picture splashed on the front page of a gossip magazine. To makes matters worse, the only person who could have told the paparazzi where Jane was… is Marshall.”
EXCERPT: The first chapter is available on the Uncial website (http://www.uncialpress.com/patently-ch1.html)