Helena Fairfax lives in the North of England in the village of Saltaire, an old Victorian mill town in Wuthering Heights country on the edge of the windswept Yorkshire moors. She is the author of two books, The Silk Romance and The Antique Love and refers to herself as a romance writer, insatiable book lover and crazy rescue dog owner.\r\n\r\nRomance author Helena Fairfax shares her writing processes and more with Writer's Edit.\r\n\r\n \r\nWhat motivated you to start writing? Was there a light bulb moment?\r\nI started writing as a way to occupy myself on a long train commute to work. On those deathly mornings when the rain steams off everyone in a packed carriage, and all the windows are fugged with condensation, it was so much nicer to imagine myself in the south of France with my characters, rather than facing a cold, damp morning in the north of England! Bit by bit, the story I wrote on the train evolved, and I began writing more and more often. I then joined the Romantic Novelists\u2019 Association New Writers\u2019 Scheme, and my writing became a lot more focused.\r\nIs it your main source of income? What were you doing before you were a writer?\r\nMy first novel was only published last year, and writing still doesn\u2019t provide much of a living. Most commercial romance writers don\u2019t make a living out of it for the first five years. In order to make a living, you also have to be quite prolific. I\u2019m trying to increase my work rate, and I\u2019m getting a lot better with experience.\r\n\r\nI have a degree in languages and am a qualified translator. Before I started writing I worked in manufacturing, dealing with export customers.\r\n\r\nReviewers dubbed Fairfax's first novel "An unforgettable, powerfully intense and beautifully written contemporary romance". Image Credit: Helena Fairfax.\r\nYou write romance. Did the genre part come about or was it a conscious decision?\r\nIt was a conscious decision. I\u2019ve always enjoyed reading romance novels. People think there\u2019s a \u2018formula\u2019 to these novels, which isn\u2019t the case. There is, however, a definite structure, in the same way poems like sonnets or haikus have a structure. Pride and Prejudice is the perfect example of how a romance novel should be structured. Writing romances isn\u2019t about gushing out purple prose. In fact it\u2019s a little like doing a crossword puzzle at times. I enjoy the discipline of making my ideas fit the structure of an excellent romance novel.\r\nWhat pitfalls have you experienced being a romance writer?\r\nNot understanding how a romance novel should be structured (see answer above) when I first started out, which meant a lot of re-writing.\r\n\r\nAnother pitfall is that many people in the publishing industry don\u2019t take the romance genre seriously. This used to be true also of crime, science fiction, and of graphic novels. These genres are now taken seriously and reviewed in broadsheets. There are some first class romance novelists around. It would be nice to see them enjoy the same status as other genres.\r\nAre there other genres you write about?\r\nAt the moment I\u2019m trying to get established as a romance novelist, so I\u2019m focusing on this genre. I do have a novel for teenage readers in mind, though, that I plan to finish in the not-too-distant future.\r\nWhen you are writing a novel do you plot the story from A \u2013 Z or do you let it emerge, take form? Describe the process.\r\nRomance novels have a structure, as I mentioned.\u00a0 When starting a new story, the first thing I do is decide on the nature of the conflict between the hero and the heroine. Romance novels are character-driven rather than plot-driven, and the conflict between hero and heroine is key. What is it in these two characters that keeps them apart? Again, Pride and Prejudice is the perfect example. The title says it all.\r\n\r\nOnce I have an idea of the conflict, I work out a story in which that conflict can deepen and be tested at every turn.\r\nWhat advice do you have for starting out writers when it comes to pitching stories and managing deadlines? How do you deal with rejection?\r\nI work best to a deadline, as it gives me something to focus on. If I don\u2019t have a deadline, my tendency is not to sit down and get on with it.\r\n\r\nPitching stories is an art in itself. It would depend on the market you\u2019re pitching for. With romance novels you need to be able to sum up the key to the entire story in two or three lines, and make it sound unique and interesting. That\u2019s a good discipline to get used to, and nowadays I try and do this before I\u2019ve even started writing the story. If you can\u2019t sum up the whole idea in three lines, there\u2019s something wrong with your story.\r\n\r\nAfter that, your first page has to grab the editor immediately. So, not hard, then!\r\n\r\nRejection is painful and I hate it. I\u2019m quite robust, though, and if a story has been rejected several times I try and figure out what it is in my story that isn\u2019t working. Having a critique partner can help. You need to be able to listen to other people\u2019s suggestions dispassionately, and rework the story if necessary.\r\n\r\nThe Antique Love was published on 30th August 2013 by MuseItUp Publishing. Image Credit: Helena Fairfax\r\n\r\n \r\nWhat has been the most memorable moment of your writing career to date?\r\nWhen my reader at the Romantic Novelists\u2019 Association told me she loved my manuscript and it was ready to go forward to a publisher. I knew then that even if this first manuscript was eventually rejected, I was able to write and one day I would achieve publication. That was an elating feeling and a massive confidence boost.\r\nDo you find the self-motivation and the discipline required difficult?\r\nYes, quite often. I am the master of prevarication. That\u2019s why I\u2019m answering these questions and not getting on with my present wip :)\r\nDo you find writing a lonely experience? It can also be an anti-social exercise. How do people in your life deal with that?\r\nI don\u2019t find it at all lonely. Once I\u2019m concentrating on writing, I don\u2019t miss having other people around. You\u2019re right, it is quite anti-social at times. My husband is luckily quite understanding, especially as I\u2019m not writing as a hobby, but to try and earn some money.\r\nDo you have a routine \/ a particular place and time when you write?\r\nI have a routine every day. I get up early and answer all my emails and do all the social media stuff. Then I take my dog for a good hour\u2019s walk on the Yorkshire moors, where I live. This is also thinking and plotting time for me. When we get back, my dog has a good sleep and I try and achieve my word count for the day without getting distracted by all the many lures of the internet.\r\nWho \/ what inspires your writing? Who are your favourite authors?\r\nI read massively widely and thus would be hard put to choose one author. Authors I re-read time and again include Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Stanislav Lem, Dickens, Tolstoy, Mary Stewart and Philip K. Dick. For commercial romance I like Fiona Harper, Liz Fielding and Barbara Hannay.\r\nWho do you call on for support in your hours of need (which I am sure every writer has from time to time!)\r\nI\u2019m a member of several author groups online, such as Marketing for Romance Authors, and my own publishers\u2019 author loops. Romance authors are incredibly helpful and supportive. I\u2019m also a member of the Romantic Novelists\u2019 Association, and have made several great friends there. It\u2019s good to find your tribe.\r\n***\r\nHelena's next novel, a contemporary romance called\u00a0A Way from Heart to Heart, is due out on 14th December and is published by Accent Press. You can visit her website here.\r\n\r\nWriter's Edit would like to thank Helena for taking part in this interview.