How did you become a writer? I've been a voracious reader since childhood, and I've always had stories in my head, but somehow I never thought of becoming a writer. But some years ago I was backpacking solo around the world, often in countries where I didn't speak the language, and the writing bug bit me. I started writing by hand in exercise books. When I got home again I started writing seriously — submitting work to publishers and researching the market, and a few years later I sold my first book.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). All the authors of the books I devoured from when I was a child onward — the list is endless. I'm always discovering wonderful new writers and always learning from them. I love craft-of-writing books and here are some of my faves. Some of these are about writing novels, some from screenwriters because I think screenwriters concentrate more on storytelling, which is good for popular fiction.
Dorothea Brande — Becoming a Writer. An oldie but still in print because it's good. My take on Dorothea is here: http://www.annegracie.com/writing/DorotheaBrande.html
Linda Seger — Writing Unforgettable Characters. When I'm stuck, she always helps me go deeper into the characters.
James N. Frey — How to Write Damn Good Fiction.
Blake Snyder — Save The Cat When I'm 3/4 of the way through a book and am convinced it's never going to work, I apply my story to his beat sheet and it usually calms me down when I find I'm more or less on track.
Jerry Cleaver - Immediate Fiction.
I also have some articles on writing on my website, and on my "links" page I like to some writing sites I like.
When and where do you write? I started off writing in notebooks anywhere — in my bed, in hotel rooms, cafes, train and bus stations etc., but once I got published I more or less only wrote at my desk. Then a few years ago I started writing by hand again — and again, that can happen anywhere. I'll explain more in my response to question 5. As to when, I write mostly in the morning and edit in the afternoon, but sometimes I'll write at night as well. Writing is like a muscle — the more you use it the stronger it gets and the easier it becomes.
What are you working on now? I'm working on The Spring Bride — the third book in a series of four, called the Chance Sister's series, about four girls in Regency-era London who find themselves in dire straits and set about turning their lives around. It's my third series and my 17th book.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I call it "writer's anxiety" rather than "block" but yes, I have battled with it on and off — I think most writers will experience it at some time in their career. It's slowed me down, but I can't let it stop me altogether — I have contracts and obligations, thank goodness, and they're very motivating. I believe the root cause of it lies in perfectionism -- the kind of perfectionism where you know the minute you try to put the vision in your head into words, you will ruin it.
I've learned a number of strategies for dealing with it, apart from "talking myself down" from the anxiety. As I said above, I now write the first draft of a scene by hand in notebooks. I deal with the anxiety/perfectionism by telling myself it's "just scribble." Then I type it up onto the computer, telling myself "it's just typing." By then it's a first draft, and I can work on that. I guess I play a few mind games with myself.
I also keep a writing journal in which I reflect on my progress (or whine about my lack of progress and give myself a good talking to.
It's really helpful because there comes a stage in any book where I'm certain I can't make the story work, and that this will be the worst book ever and everyone will hate it and my career will be over — and then I'll flip through previous journals and find very similar sentiments about previous books — books that won awards or made “best of” lists. So then I'm reassured that if I can just work out this problem in this book (because it's always a different problem) I can make this book work, too. I also write about what I like about this story, and characters, and I “talk through” story problems with myself. I love my journal.
What’s your advice to new writers? Love the work. There will be days when that's very hard to do, but once you get past the difficulty, and the story is spinning in your brain and the words are flying and your world has sprung into being and your characters have come to life and it feels like they're taking you on an adventure, there's no better feeling.
Also, when you're in the early stages of a story, try not to think about the market and what's hot and what people are buying at the moment. Go deep into your world and your characters and stay true to them. Yes, to have a career in writing you need to please the readers, but first you have to serve the characters and the story. Breakout books come from wonderful, fresh, original stories, not people second-guessing the market. So have faith in your own, unique vision.
Anne Gracie wrote her first novel while backpacking solo around the world, and while that novel never even got typed up, it was a start. Anne is published by Berkley USA (and Penguin Australia) and is a nationally bestselling author in the USA. A former president and honorary lifetime member of Romance Writers of Australia, she's a four time RITA finalist, has won a number of awards and has several times been featured on national "best of" lists in the USA. Her books have been translated into sixteen different languages, including Japanese manga editions.
As well as writing, Anne has had a lifelong interest in promoting adult literacy — it started when she was at university — and until recently, she kept bees in her back yard. Her website is: www.annegracie.com. Writers might also be interested in Anne's writing articles: http://www.annegracie.com/writing/writing.htm.