Tell us a bit about your family. I live with my boyfriend of 13 years our cat. I’m the second to youngest of seven, four sisters, two brothers and I’ve lost count of the number of nieces and nephews I have. Just when I think there won’t be any more someone surprises me with that announcement. It’s not very often we all get to be together in the same place but when we are it’s manic. I love it!
What is your favorite quality about yourself? That I stand where I am today without regrets. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Sometimes I’ve made decisions which at first I thought were mistakes and later turned out to be the best decisions I’ve ever made. I look back on the things I have done and accept I can’t change them. So instead I learn from them and I keep moving forward.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? Yes! I don’t think anyone can say their upbringing hasn’t influenced their writing in some way or another. The very foundations of who you are lie within the experiences you’ve had.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? No. I’ve been writing stories and poems longer than I can remember. My source on this is my Mum. But I can tell you the moment I decided I wanted to be an author. I was 14 and I read Danielle Steele’s The Gift. Maribeth is a pregnant teen who meets a shattered family and, oh my, at 14 I reached for my abdomen in what I can only assume was a protective maternal instinct as I connected with Maribeth. That was me hooked, lined, and officially sunk in the sea of published author dreams. And do you know, today, even with the idea of children shooting me for a very dark cave in the mountains a la the first radio airing of Orson Wells War of the Worlds, I still reach for my abdomen.
What inspires you to write and why? Inspiration comes from anywhere. The reason used to be for me, because I love it, I enjoy it, because it’s as good as a pain killer when I’m suffering the effects of a long term medical condition. But more recently I get a kick from having readers. From people, emailing me, writing on my Facebook author page, asking questions, commenting on snippets from what I’m writing, sharing tweets, and blog posts. I also study New Media at University so all this online engagement is really high for me.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction, which in today’s market is a really broad spectrum, but I can’t really narrow it any further. Tainted Love, and the subsequent Valentina Secrets Series, balances a lot of chic-lit elements with a darker edgier domestic abuse theme. But I’m also working on a paranormal romance series and another contemporary/women’s fiction series as well as plans for comedies.
What inspired you to write your first book? Tainted Love came from a back story, of a back story in fact. I’d finished writing what is now the 5th book in Valentina Secrets, and made reference to a woman in an abusive relationship whose story is known worldwide, Faith McKenzie. There was also a prominent secondary character, previously in an abusive relationship was remarrying. I was fascinated by how she’d made her way through the process of survival, recovery and then learning to trust another to love them. And so set about writing her story, knowing the best conflict in this romance would be if the new guy was Faith McKenzie’s brother. Somewhere along the way Faith herself came along and stole the show.
Can you tell us about your main character? Faith story begins in the late 70’s with a budding romance between Faith and Calvin, who’s a doctor at the hospital where she’s training to be a nurse and ten years her senior. She’s smart, she’s occasionally witty, and she has this enormous heart and desire to protect her family. She has no idea of her own strength or capabilities because Calvin exploits her one weakness; her naiveté. By the time the abuse reaches its pivotal moment Faith and Calvin have been married for twenty plus years. They’ve raised Faith’s younger brother, they have two children in college and two more in preschool, and they have a state wide psychiatry empire. They have a lavish lifestyle, respected pillars in the community, and they’re least likely people you’d expect to be in an abusive relationship. Faith tells her story through letters and emails she sends to her brother. It’s the first time she’s spoken out about what actually happens when Calvin is angry.
How did you develop your plot and characters? It’s really difficult to answer this one because there was no systematic approach to Tainted Love’s plot or its characters and I guess that’s because Faith’s story started formulating some nine months before I wrote it. The characters in the other Valentina Secrets books developed Faith’s story as they developed their own. Going in I knew Faith had two children, that she was married to Calvin for twenty years and a few other details. Everything else developed over the two weeks it took to write it. I’m very much a character driven writer. I love drama and there’s certainly plenty of that but with Tainted Love I let Faith tell her story her way.
Who designed the cover? Stephanie Mooney. http://mooneydesigns.net/She did a really amazing job because I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I wanted white roses because Calvin always buys Faith white roses. I also wanted a purple ribbon because a purple ribbon is used to raise awareness of domestic abuse. I wanted something that would say something’s not quite right in the world of marital bliss but still appeal to a romance audience.
Who is your publisher? I published Tainted Love independently because it doesn’t fit too many of the criterions required by tradition publishing. It’s too long for Harlequin Romance, too short for mainstream publishing. Its women’s fiction with a chic-lit quality and feels like you’re having a chat with your best friend. It’s a romance without a happy ending. I like to break the rules in favour of making the story I’m telling the best it can be. I’m also fan of bringing my readers my story as soon as possible. I wrote Tainted Love in June 2012 and I have a fantastic editing team and a brilliant cover designer and thanks to their efforts I published in it the following October.
Why did you choose to write this particular book? I didn’t choose to write it. In fact, I tried to run away from writing this book. I am not, have never been, in an abusive relationship and I didn’t think I knew anyone well enough, to write a book about someone in an abusive relationship. I didn’t think I could put my head or myself in Faith’s shoes, regardless of how much research I did. Faith gave me no choice. I was writing a particular scene in Behind Closed Doors whenDarryl remembered something in Faith’s journal. The excerpt from Faith’s journal was so powerful I had goose bumps. I knew I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
What was the hardest part about writing this book? What came after I sent Tainted Love out into the world was people began telling me how they could identify with Faith and their past relationship experiences. This was something I was not prepared for because I created Faith’s world, her marriage, her abuse, everything. And you know, when they say 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime. They’re not kidding. It’s horrifically true, regardless of class, colour, sexual orientation, country of residence, religion or other excuses domestic abuse happens everywhere. And I really had to come to terms with a clash between the world where I live and the world I’d created in my head because all of a sudden they’d become one and the same. That was tough.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? That I can get so emotionally involved with my characters that I even though I know what’s coming I still make myself cry. Not shed a couple of tears drops but sob my heart out to the point where I can’t see time and time again. The ripple effects of Faith’s story continue throughout Valentina Secrets and I can’t wait to get started on her children’s stories because I’m so invested in them too.
How do you promote this book? At my blog, Beyond My Writing Space (http://www.erin-cawood.blogspot.co.uk ) I have a blog regular feature called ‘Ask Faith’ every Thursday. Faith answer reader’s question every Thursday, with the aim of raising awareness of domestic abuse and to get people talking more about it. I also share any reviews on my Facebook author page (http://www.facebook.com/authorerincawood ) and twitter (http://www.twitter.com/erincawood ) and I write guest post for other blogs and I’m available for interviews.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Yes, this year you can expect the release of Behind Closed Doors (Book 2) and there may even be another release towards the end of the year depending on the demands of my university course.
Where do you see yourself in five years? If I have my way I’ll be writing novels and publishing through the publishing imprint of the company I intend to set up when I finish university. I plan on freelancing in web design and programming, specialising in websites for authors.
What are your current writing projects now? Valentina Secrets is my main focus. Behind Closed Doors, the second book in the Valentina Secrets Series, is in the first stages of editing and I’ve already begun the third, Whispers Behind the Curtain. I hope to bring something from one of the other women’s fiction or contemporary romance projects I have in progress soon but my New Year’s resolution in 2012 was to focus on one project at a time, especially when my time is so limited.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I’m currently reading Eden Baylee. After reading E L James and Sylvia Day I really didn’t think erotica was for me. Baylee is less in your face with it all. The novellas I’ve read so far have all had intriguing characters, with interesting backgrounds, who enjoy sex.
What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? If I when back in time to when I was starting out what would I tell myself… to get a decent smartphone! You can write, voice record, receive email, tweet, update Facebook, take pictures, listen to music, blog, and literally never be out of the loop as you’re trying to build an author platform ever again… depending on signal and battery life, of course. Scrivener. For me, this is like the best outlining tool ever! It’s supposed to be novel writing software and I probably don’t use it correctly because you can’t beat MS Word. But if you do use Scrivener correctly it will export into the correct file format with table of contents.
What contributes to making a writer successful? Practice; you have to continue developing and growing as a writer regardless of successful you are. Perseverance; it takes a lot of self belief to continue pushing forward when you feel like you not getting anywhere. Never give up. Professionalism; remember at the end of the day everything you do and say can be seen by people who will make or break you; your readers and your peers. One of the hardest things to get your head around is you are your books, your brand. You have to present yourself the way you want people to see your books, your brand.
Do you have any advice for writers? I’m an advocate for listening to the character and not the genre. There is nothing more annoying than reading a book, a really great book, that has a really rubbish ending just to conform to genre stereotyping. Don’t afraid to break the rules to make the story better.
What do you do to unwind and relax? I write. I’m at my most relaxed when I’m writing.
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?There will always be people who want to stand in your way and want to tell you that you can’t do it. No one else can prove them wrong. Only you can make your dreams come true.
When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? What am I doing?! Am I crazy?!So maybe when my life flashes before my eyes and before I reach the next phase in wherever… I hope Tainted Love makes a difference to at least one person. Valentina Secrets raises money and awareness to help people affected by domestic abuse. I hope I bring joy to a lot of people through my writing. I hope I live my life the way I want and by the end I still have all my loved ones around me and I am happy.