Katie Oliver wrote a wonderful guest blog post last week, and you might also recognize her from our review of her first series Dating Mr. Darcy. She’s back with us this week, answering questions in anticipation of her latest book What Would Lizzy Bennet Do? out January 15 from Carina UK.
Q: How did you come up with the ideas for your book series?
A: I started writing Prada and Prejudice after seeing an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” with Gordon Ramsey a few years ago. He clashed spectacularly with a spoiled Italian girl from New Jersey who was running her family’s restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida into the ground. It got me to thinking…what if I changed the restaurant to a failing British department store, and instead of a New Jersey girl, transformed my heroine into a spoilt English heiress? And what if her grandfather hires a tough-minded (and opinionated) consultant to curb Natalie’s spending and turn the store around? And what if they hate each other on sight?
As I wrote the book, some of the characters – Holly James, Dominic Heath, Rhys’s younger brother, Jamie – practically demanded their own stories. So the second and third books followed in quick succession and I let those characters take center stage. And the second series continued with those characters finally finding their true love(s).
Q: How big of a role did Jane Austen play for you as a writer?
A: In the beginning, only a little bit. I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice, and while Prada wasn’t precisely reimagining of that novel, it did share the trope of two people who meet and instantly loathe one another, largely because of preconceived (and incorrect) notions. Like Darcy and Elizabeth, they’re both proven wrong by the end of the book, and fall in love.
The three books in my new series, The Jane Austen Factor, are different. They’re unquestionably influenced by Miss Austen in that each book is intentionally based on one of her novels – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, respectively. I’ve written an updated reinterpretation of her stories. While I could never hope to improve on the perfection of Austen’s works, I had great fun imagining her characters as modern people, dealing with similar sorts of issues.
Q: Talk a little bit about your writing habits. Do you write daily?
A: I do when I’m on a deadline. For the Jane Austen Factor series, I started every morning at seven and wrote straight through till afternoon; then I’d read over what I’d written and mark it for corrections the next day. That was my writing schedule Monday through Friday (and sometimes Saturday) all summer and into early fall. It took roughly two months to complete the first draft of each book.
Otherwise, I write as time allows. If I’m composing a blog post or answering interview questions, I spend a couple of hours a day at my laptop or iPad.
Q: What do you do to overcome writers block?
A: I do something – anything – else. I take a walk, watch TV, cook, listen to music… all work to provide a break from writing. And ironically, I often get some of my best ideas while I’m doing something else. Win-win!
Q: What advice do you have for writers looking to go the traditional publishing route?
A: Perform your due diligence. Don’t submit work to a publisher that doesn’t accept unsolicited stuff. Don’t submit a romance if they only publish horror. First and foremost, write the very best book you possibly can. Learn to write a killer query letter. Don’t stop working on other projects once you send your books out into the world. Don’t give up after a few rejections. Believe in yourself. And be patient…like all good things, getting a book published takes time…and faith in yourself.
Q: Do you listen to music while you write, or do you prefer quiet?
A: I absolutely need quiet to write. It’s the only way I can concentrate and focus.
Q: Who are your biggest literary influences?
A: Jane Austen (of course); Ian McEwan; P.D. James; Penelope Lively; and Nancy Mitford.
Q: What book are you reading right now?
A: A wonderful, funny book called Pug Hill by Alison Pace. It’s about a young woman in New York City who has a fear of public speaking and decides to take a class to try and overcome it. Oh – and she’s obsessed with pugs.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure television show?
A: “The Royals” on E! is my favorite guilty pleasure. It stars Elizabeth Hurley as the Queen of England and Joan Collins as the Queen Mum. It’s centered around a very dysfunctional royal family and is rollicking great fun.
Q: How has your life changed between the publication of the first series, and the publication of the third?
A: It’s changed A LOT. Mainly because I was still working a day job when I started on this journey. I began writing the first book when the contract I was working on ended (I was a technical editor for a defense contractor) and I found myself with time on my hands. When the sixth book was published three years later, I left to pursue writing full time.
Also, we moved to Florida recently, which is a BIG change after living in northern Virginia!
Q: What can we look forward to in your new books?
I hope I’ve brought emotion, humor, and drama into Lizzy, Emma, and Elinor and Marianne’s reimagined stories. Readers will find romance, some funny bits, and (hopefully) some bits that will make them cry. I tried very hard to stay true to the spirit and intent of Austen’s original novels. She’s a very tough act to follow!
Q: What’s next for you?
A: That’s kind of up in the air at the moment. I’ve written another couple of books set here in the US, each featuring a European hero; my agent has those, and I want to polish them up and send them out into the world. If the Austen Factor series does well, who knows? There may be more books to follow. That’s up to you, my wonderful, fabulous readers!
Katie Oliver loves romantic comedies, characters who “meet cute,” Richard Curtis films, and Prosecco (not necessarily in that order). She currently resides in South Florida with her husband, two parakeets, and a dog.
Katie has been writing since she was eight, and has a box crammed with (mostly unfinished) novels to prove it. With her sons grown and gone, she decided to get serious and write more (and hopefully, better) stories. She even finishes most of them.
So if you like a bit of comedy with your romance, please visit Katie’s website, www.katieoliver.com, and have a look.
Here’s to love and all its complications…
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