Over the past few months, I’ve been delighted to take part in two blog tours for books by T. A. (Trevor) Williams – and he is such a prolific author that I am pleased to say that this is another!
As is my habit, I will review To Provence, With Love at a later date, but having read it, I’d happily recommend it as a summer read. Heavy on the romance, and with a little bit of mystery thrown in, it’s definitely a satisfying book.
For today, though, Trevor has been kind enough to answer some questions for me, about his background and writing process:
You’ve been writing since you were 14 – what gave you the push to take up writing as a career after so many years?
I spent my working life in a language school and it could be quite a full-on job, especially in the summer, so I wrote in the evenings for relaxation. I had written six or seven books (I lost the manuscript for one of them in a house move…) by the time I retired (I am very old – 68), but nobody in the publishing world had shown any interest in them. Then, miraculously, Carina (now HQ Digital) took my book, “Dirty Minds” in 2013, and that was the encouragement I needed. Since then I haven’t stopped.
What’s the best money you ever spent to further your writing – training? publicist? Etc
Buying a good pc. As I said above, I am very old and my first books were typed on a battered old portable typewriter. I am a TERRIBLE typist (two fingers on a good day, but a mistake every line) and you can imagine what a mess my manuscripts looked. I spent a fortune on Tippex. Then, suddenly, with a computer, you can copy and paste, spell check and seamlessly correct.
I’ve read books by you set in Italy, France and Spain – what is it about the continent that makes for a great setting for a romance novel?
When I was running the International School, I travelled pretty much all over the world, but I just love Europe. Europe has the scenery, but it also has the history (one of my passions). I did French and German at university and then spent 8 years living and working in Italy. I speak a bit of Spanish, too, so I feel very comfortable in most European countries. Also, the distances are so small, compared to, say, the USA or Australia. People can jump on a plane in England in the morning and be in Rome for lunch.
You are a hugely prolific writer, where do you get your inspiration for such varied settings and characters from?
I only ever write about places I know and have visited. So, I tend to choose places either that I already know and love, or would like to visit. For instance, my next book will be set in Florence and we lived there for 4 years. The one after will be in St-Tropez and my wife and I went over for a few days last month just to get the flavour of the place. Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to see a book from me set in Pyongyang any time soon. As for the characters and plot, I wish I knew. They just sort of happen (if I’m lucky).
Which is longer? Your writing process or your editing process?
Ha, ha, a very good question. I write very quickly (once I’ve made up my mind what the book’s going to be about). An 80,000 word book usually takes me less than two months. However, the next stage is to give it to my wife to read and then I edit according to her comments. After that it goes to the publishers and they can ask for two or even three rewrites of bits. And then it goes for copy editing to somebody who changes all my semi-colons to colons or whatever. So, if the first draft takes 2 months, the editing process probably takes twice that.
Where do you come up with names for your characters – are they random, or based on people you know or meet?
The heroine of “To Provence, with Love” is called Faye. I borrowed this name from Faye Rogers, who organises my blog tours. I’m currently writing a book where the main character is called Debbie – I used to work with a very nice girl called Debbie. So, although I have been known to trawl through baby name websites, I mostly tend to use names of people I know. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never find a Trevor in any of my books. I’ve hated the name since I was a kid.
If I may say, as a male author, you write your female characters extremely well – what do you think gives you an insight into the female psyche?
Thank you, but I would be very rash if I were to claim that I have really got a handle on the female psyche. I spent most of my working life in an environment where most of my colleagues were female and no doubt that gave me a bit of an insight. In my writing, I get a lot of help from my wife and my editor, who is a girl in her twenties. One thing I have learnt is that you lot think a lot more than we men do. If somebody is rude or unkind to me, I tend to just shrug it off. A woman, I feel sure, would try hard to analyse the motivation behind. Similarly with emotions. Men, I think, tend to take things much more at face value. Women seek a deeper meaning behind actions. I’m constantly being told by my editor to “get inside her head”.
I know you write in a broad range of genres, but to focus it down, why romance novels?
Various reasons – the first very pragmatic. Two thirds of all books are bought and read by women (allegedly), so it makes sense to write with the female reader in mind. Second – I have always liked happy endings (not just in books, but in life generally), so I chose romance because it (generally, but not always) leads to a happy ending.
If you could recommend one of your novels as a starting point for your body of work, which would it be?
Mmh, not sure. All my books are standalone, so there’s no need to begin with any particular one. I’m convinced that my writing has developed over the past few years. The fact that “Dreaming of Venice”, my last book before “To Provence with Love,” has been so very popular is probably because I have learnt from my previous books. It is a continuous learning process. Having said that, I would maybe suggest “What Happens in Tuscany”, the first of the five “What happens…” books, as one to start with. Although I shouldn’t have favourites, this one is definitely one I like a lot.
You are happy to admit that there is a Black Labrador in your books whenever you can fit one in – can you introduce us to your Black Labrador?
The inclusion of a black Lab in all my books is a little homage to Merlin, our wonderful old Lab who died a few years ago. I’m not a religious person and I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if it exists, then Merlin must have been somebody very special in his former life. He was a rescue dog who had been seriously mistreated and could have had deep mistrust for and hatred of humans as a result. Instead, he was the sweetest, softest woofer in the world. We no longer have a dog – my wife was so broken up when he died, she vowed she didn’t want another – so I get my vicarious canine fix through my writing.
In To Provence, With Love, Claudette’s home-made biscuits have a starring role – do you have a biscuit recipe that you swear by (or love having made for you)?
Me, cook? I’m afraid the only cooking I do is on the barbecue. That’s one of many reasons why I chose to marry an Italian. She’s a great cook. As for biscuits, I’ve had a lifelong addiction to Chocolate Hobnobs (nb always best from the fridge). Just go into the supermarket and save yourself the trouble of making them.
Huge thanks to Trevor for taking time out of writing his next book to answer these questions – having not started the ‘What Happens in…’ series, I’ll definitely be picking those up!
To Provence, With Love was published by HQ Digital on 12th July. The blog tour for this book is ongoing, with lots of other exclusive content and reviews featured on the blogs below, so do check them out if you can.