Monday, January 5, 2015

Write About What You Know

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons. She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances. Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

Where to find Paula:

Group blog (where I blog each week):

Her contemporary romance, His Leading Lady, was first published in 2011, and has just been re-released by Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery, with a beautiful new cover.

CONTEST ALERT!!! Paula will be giving an e-copy of His Leading Lady to someone who comments. Be sure to leave your email address in your comment for a chance to win.

Write about what you know

His Leading Lady is set mainly in London’s theatre world, when small town girl Jess Harper is given the opportunity of a lifetime – to star in a new musical in the West End (the equivalent of New York’s Broadway).

We’re often advised to write about what we know – but my only experience of the West End is as a member of the audience in the theatres there.

However, I have been stage-struck for most of my life. When I was a child, my parents were Gilbert and Sullivan fans so my very first ‘theatre’ experience was The Yeomen of the Guard when I was about eight. I loved it (and still love the G and S shows). Repertory theatre was also still alive then, so my mother used to take me the weekly plays if she thought they were ‘suitable’ for me. Then, in my teens, I discovered Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals through the amateur operatic society in my home town, and I was hooked!

Although I had a few minor parts in school plays, I couldn’t really act to save my life (can’t sing or dance either!). However, in the 80s and 90s, I worked backstage with two local amateur musical theatre societies, doing either costumes or props. Also, for about ten years I produced two shows each year with the junior section of one society and I was privileged to work with a lot of very talented youngsters.

I’ve never worked in the professional theatre but I reasoned that rehearsals are pretty much the same as in the amateur world, as well as the glitches which happen with scenery and props, even when the show goes ‘live’ in front of audiences. I have a lot of memories of good (and not so good rehearsals), and of the excitement, adrenalin surges, and camaraderie of ‘show week’.

In that sense, therefore, I could write about what I knew, and the main thing I had to research was how professional shows are financed.

Of course, the background and setting of romance novels only form part of the story. Even more important are the emotions of the main character and we, as writers, can write what we know about those, since we may have experienced them ourselves – the thrill of falling in love, the uncertainty, the fear, sometimes the disappointment, even resentment and anger. Then, since romance novels should always have a happy ending, there’s also relief, joy, and happiness.


Jess Harper's life is turned upside down when her twin sister disappears a week before rehearsals are due to start for a new West End musical in which Lora has the lead role. Jess decides to impersonate her in order to save her career, despite her initial dislike of Kyle Drummond, the determined and arrogant director. The last thing she expects is the irresistible magnetism that draws them together, but there's also evidence Kyle dated Lora.

Is Jess simply a substitute, in real life as well as in the show? And what will happen when Lora eventually returns?


(Jess is posing as her sister, and she and Kyle have returned to Lora’s apartment after having dinner, the night before they are due to do a TV interview together)

Kyle followed her across the landing and panic fluttered in her stomach, like a bird caught in a net. Her fingers shook as she started to put the key in the lock, but his hand on her arm stopped her. “I’ll pick you up at nine thirty tomorrow.”

She looked round at him, genuinely taken aback. “But—but aren’t you coming in?”
The instant she said it, she could have kicked herself. Amusement flashed across Kyle’s face. “What man could turn down such an invitation? But no, tonight I must resist. You need a good night’s sleep and I—” He stopped and gave a half-laugh. “Let’s just say I have several things to sort out before tomorrow.”

Jess knew the feeling sweeping through her should be one of relief, knew she should say a casual goodnight to him and open the apartment door, but she couldn’t move. His steady gaze sent waves of heat flooding along her veins, and she tensed. When he put his hands on both her arms and started to lower his head, a warning bell shrilled in her mind but it was too late.

His mouth was against hers, soft and gentle, and so warm and tantalising that her head began to swim. A small gasp escaped from her lips and parted them slightly. Kyle’s arms went round her, and he pulled her firmly against him. His lips hardened and his tongue slid into her mouth.

She’d been kissed passionately before but nothing had prepared her for Kyle’s kiss. His mouth took possession of her in a seductive demand for surrender. As his tongue gently fondled hers, sensations she’d never known before heated her skin, ignited every nerve, and melted every bone. She gripped his shoulders, and involuntarily arched towards him, thrilling exquisitely to the firmness of his body against hers. The surrender he demanded was complete as she responded with the same fervour, wanting more, still more.

When he released her, her breathing was ragged, and she stared up at him, dazed and disorientated.
For a couple of seconds, Kyle stared back at her before blowing out his cheeks as he exhaled. “Wow, you certainly know how to make a man regret his decision.” He cupped her chin with his hand and his gentle smile softened the darkness of his eyes. “I’d better go, otherwise I never will. Goodnight, beautiful lady. Sleep well, and don’t worry about tomorrow. You’ll be fine.”

His lips brushed her mouth again in a brief parting kiss before he turned to the lift. The door opened, and she watched as he went in and pressed the ground floor button. Still numb, she raised her hand slightly. Kyle smiled again and tilted his head in farewell.

Only when she was staring at the closed lift door did she finally turn away. She let herself into the apartment, and caught sight of herself in the hallway mirror. Her face was flushed and her blue eyes stared back at her.

“Oh God,” she whispered, unable to think of anything except Kyle’s mouth, his tongue, his whole body. A quiver ran down to somewhere low in her stomach.
In the next moment, her jaw dropped and she clasped her hand to her mouth. How could she have allowed herself to respond to him so eagerly?

She tried to bring some order to her confused thoughts as she studied her reflection in the mirror. Lora’s clothes, Lora’s make-up, Lora’s hairstyle. Of course, he’d thought he was kissing Lora, and she’d reacted as Lora. Hadn’t she?

A shiver skittered through her. Playing the part didn’t explain her own response. Not only the way she’d returned his kiss, but the other treacherous feelings she didn’t even want to think about.
Relief, she told herself firmly. She’d been worrying about how the evening would end, and when he said he wasn’t coming in, relief had swept through her. Not a storm of desire, not longing, not need. Relief, nothing more.

Her mind feverishly struggled to deny what had happened to her, both physically and emotionally, and she diverted her thoughts to the TV interview. Once she’d done that, this whole charade would be over. She could go back to Rothfield and forget about Kyle Drummond.

Buy Links:
Paula’s Amazon page


Sarah J. McNeal said...

You certainly know about England, so just having to research part of it isn't so bad.
Maybe I should tweak the "write what you know" line to say, "write what you love." If you love something, you've probably already researched it thoroughly. Enthusiasm can drive you to dig into a subject and glean all the goodies out of it.
Of course, if you can't write what you know or love, you can always just make the whole thing up like building a world and a society in a science fiction or paranormal tale. Sci-Fi still requires a working knowledge of science and where the possibilities lie for the future. (There's the main reason I don't write science fiction.)
I love to read books about things I don't know. I sure don't know about the United Kingdom and that's one of the reasons stories about the UK fascinate me. His Leading Lady really peaks my interest. I love live theater, too. Frank Lloyd Weber is one of my favorites.
All the very best to you, Paula, in the coming year. I enjoyed reading your blog and getting a glimpse into your book, His Leading Lady.

Paula Martin said...

Many thanks, Sarah. I must admit I prefer to set my books in places I know. Although I've been to the USA several times, I've never lived there, so I'd be worried about getting things wrong, or missing some important celebration like the 4th of July!

Suzie Tullett said...

I think writing about what we know brings an authenticity to our work. And like Sarah says, if we love what we know or feel strongly about it, even better. We can bring an enthusiasm and passion to what we write x

Jenna Hines said...

Hi Paula,

This is my first time here. It looks interesting. 'Write what you know' is such good advice, it is much easier to write about things, places people that you do know rather than writing about anything you don't! Best, Jenna

margaret blake said...

Loved the excerpt, Paula. So exciting and tantalizing.
You are right about writing about what you know. You don't have to have experienced it but you can carry out quality research to make sure everything is correct.
I do agree about Amateurs and Professionals in the business. Although I always found the Amateurs to be a tad more theatrical, ha ha. Best of luck.

Paula Martin said...

Suzie, I agree about the authenticity - and about the enthusiasm too! Thanks for visiting :-)

Paula Martin said...

Jenna, I still find I have to research details even when I'm writing about places I know well! That's when Google maps and street view often come in useful. Many thanks for visiting :-)

Paula Martin said...

Thanks, Margaret. I think you already know how anxious I am to make sure everything is factually correct in my novels.
I agree about the amateurs too - especially the chorus members who over-act LOL!

Anonymous said...

A great post again. It is probably easier and better to write what you know but at least these days there is so much research can be done online. I hope so because my book is set in USA and I've never lived there! :(
You bring such wonderful evocative scenes when you describe the places you love ie Ireland.

Paula Martin said...

Thanks, Carol! Even with places I know, I still have to do some research, but I find it much easier to describe places I've visited and can picture in my mind.

Unknown said...

Hey, Paula! You give good advice, something I have followed during my writing life. Texas, all Texas, even though one couple made a foray into New Mexico, but I took them into the mountains where my family and I lived one year. Because of that, I created a valley and a river and a ranch that exactly fit the story. So, I've been asked--why do you write all Texas stories? My answer? Why not--I'd need to do much more research than I do now if I chose Baltimore, or Miami, or San Francisco.
Congratulations on all your writing successes.
Remember I have read His Leading Lady, so you don't need to put my name in the pot. The winner will surely enjoy this story.

Paula Martin said...

Hi Celia - oddly enough, I've never set any of my stories where I actually live i.e. near Manchester in NW England, but I have used places I know well, like the Lake District, London, Paris, Ireland, and even Egypt, although I was only there for 2 weeks. The only exception was when my hero went off to Iceland, which I've never visited. I had to do a lot of research and look at masses of photos for that!

Paula Martin said...

And the winner is... Jenna Hines! I'll contact you via Facebook, Jenna!
Thank you all for your comments, and a special thank you to Sarah for having me as her guest here.