Author Q&A: Carrie Elks

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming author Carrie Elks to the blog for a Q&A.
First of all, could you introduce yourself to readers? Tell us a little bit about you and the books that you write.
Hello! My name is Carrie Elks and I write romance stories. I love strong, flawed heroes and heroines who don’t take any rubbish! My stories are often either based in or feature my favourite city, London, as well as some more exotic locations including New York, France and Italy.

In which genre/genres do you write?
I mainly write contemporary romance, though I love to read all genres. I’m lucky enough to have found readers who love the same themes and conflicts as I do, so I see myself writing contemporary romance for a long time to come.

Tell us about your most recent book, and where can we find it?
My most recent book is Canada Square, the third in my Love in London series. These are all standalone books, though some characters cross over between stories. Canada Square is the story of Amy, a working-class, kick-ass student who goes to work for a dark, serious Scotsman in a busy London consultancy. Of course, as soon as they meet, sparks start to fly!

Canada Square is available from all good online retailers:
Amazon | iBookstore | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Are there any particular themes which you try to incorporate within your books?
I think the main theme of all my books is about becoming the person you are destined to be, and that you shouldn’t let your past define you. Most of my heroes and heroines are conflicted, and have had experiences that have led them to be that way. What I love about my characters is that they gain redemption and love, through facing their biggest fears.

How do you hope to make readers feel while reading your books?
I think it’s probably the aim of all writers to create strong emotion in their readers. I hope that my books make them laugh and cry, and think about the characters long after they’ve finished the final page. I get a lot of people contacting me about my first book, Fix You, asking for a continuation. I’d like to think that’s because I did a good job of making them fall in love with Richard and Hanna, the hero and heroine of the book!

If you had to choose three words to describe your most recent book, what would they be?
Emotional, smart, romantic.

When it comes to creating your characters, are they completely fictional or do you gather ideas from the people you know in real life?
I think they’re a real mixture of both. When creating characters I’m looking for somebody who will spark a reader’s imagination, and whose traits and motivations are strong enough to push the plot forward. Some of this comes from observing friends and relatives, but a lot of it comes from my imagination. I’ll be inspired by real life events and people, but most of the time you’d not be able to guess it from the finished work!

How do you choose the settings of your books?
I think again it depends on the character and plot. A lot of my books are set, for at least part of the story, in London, and this is not by chance. Living so close to London, and spending such a lot of time there, I’m absolutely enchanted by the vibrant city, and the myriad of people who live there. I also like to add in a bit of travel, too, so my books also feature locations in other countries. The latest book I’ve written (top secret, hush-hush) is mainly set in Italy. That was a joy to research!

 Have you visited any of the areas which you’ve written about?
Yes! As with my characters, I tend to fall in love with the locations, too. The second book in my Love in London series is mostly based in Shoreditch and Hoxton, and I’ve spent a lot of time there. And my current book is based in Italy – and although I haven’t visited the village where that story is set, my research has led me to fall in love with it, and I’ll be visiting it in the summer. It’s led my family to joke that I should set a book in Hawaii next, just so they get to holiday there.

Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have so many that I’ll bore you by reciting them all. As a reader I feel very lucky that there are so many talented writers out there. A few of my ‘must read’ authors (I’d read them if they wrote out the phone book) include Marian Keyes, Mhairi McFarlane, Amanda Prowse,  Stephen King, Bill Bryson and David Nicholls. As you may have guessed, I read a lot!

Do you like to plan strategically, or do you let the characters lead the way?
I’m a planner. Before I write a book I work on character sketches, plot outlines and chapter plans. That doesn’t mean everything always goes to plan, however. Some of the best part of my books have been where the characters have taken me by surprise and put a twist in the story I never knew existed. But for the most part, I feel comfortable with the plot sketched out before I start.

If you could sit down and have lunch with any author, who would you choose and why?
You know, I’ve been thinking about this for ages, and still haven’t come up with an answer. The main reason being that if I had lunch with some of my heroes, I’d probably be the worst date in the world. Tongue tied and shy. However, I can say I have had lots of lunch dates with authors who are friends and they’ve always been a complete hoot.

 Is there a particular part of the writing process which you enjoy more than others?
Whatever I’m doing at that moment, is what I like the least! I think it’s a little like running, when you’re doing it, it’s hard work, but afterwards you get a runner’s high and want to go back and do it again. Also, like running, there’s a process you have to follow. Warm up (planning), easing yourself into it (first few chapters), pushing through (middle parts) followed by the glory of finishing (writing the end!!) And to really stretch an analogy, editing is the part where you look over the run, decide what went well, what you would do differently.

When it comes to the cover of a book, how important do you feel they are?
I think that books live and die by covers. My first book, Fix You, has been through 3 different covers, and though I love them all, the current one is definitely my favourite. It’s published in 3 other countries, and each one has a different vision for the cover, depending on the genre, the market, what other books are out. I know that as a reader I’m seduced by a pretty cover, and I’m sure that many others are, too. Without enticing readers in with the cover and the blurb, they’ll never get a chance to read the actual story.

How do you keep track of your writing progress? Do you use daily word goals? Do you aim to get a set number of chapters written?
I’m very strong on planning. At the beginning of 2016 I sat down for a few hours and worked out my goals for the year, and then cut them down into 3-month chunks. At the start of every month I review my progress against this, and see if things are on track, if I need to make changes, or if  there’s something else I want to do. I don’t let these plans handcuff me, rather they guide me.

On a writing day I’ll plan to get down around 3000 words. Any more than that is a bonus. But I also make sure not to overschedule myself, and include enough time to spend with family and friends. I want to make this a sustainable career, so days off and holidays are a must!

Tell us the top three books you’ve read so far in 2016.
1. Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan. This book was engrossing, emotional and eventually uplifting.

2. Three-and-a-half Heartbeats by Amanda Prowse. This slayed me. Say no more!

3. In the Light of What We See by Sarah Painter. A beautifully written, evocative story of family and loss.

When did your love of writing first begin to blossom?
For me, my love of writing went hand in hand with my love of reading. As a child I was a voracious and precocious reader. I began to read at 3, and by 6 or 7 I read several books a week. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton at that age, and started to write my own adventure stories that mimicked hers. Then as I grew older and my reading tastes changed (I was a big Sweet Valley High fan!) and so did my writing. I wrote steadily into my twenties, and gained a pile of well-deserved rejection letters. Then, when I had my children I stopped for 10 years, not putting another word onto paper. It was only in 2012 that I began to write again.

How did you celebrate your most recent publication day?
It was very low key. Because this one was a self-published book (Canada Square), I spent most of the morning marketing online, and checking with reviewers. At lunchtime I went to the pub with my RNA chums for lunch. Then in the evening, my husband and I celebrated with a bottle of prosecco! I do see some lovely launch parties online and am envious, but I’m not great at being the centre of attention. Maybe one day!

What are your thoughts on the book-blogging community?
I love the blogging community, and am very grateful for all the support they give writers. I think that the internet has been a real game changer for publishing, bringing authors and readers closer together. Bloggers have a lot to do with this. The romance / chick lit community is a really amazing and supportive one, and we all work so well together. Bloggers are the ones who bring books to the attention of readers, and they also support authors with reviews and posts. Without them, the book world would be a much sadder place.

Which, if any, other genre would you like to try and write in?
One day I’d like to write a mystery / suspense book. I even have my author name – C.T. Elks. Sadly I don’t have a plot yet.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your writing career?
I think getting my first book published will always be the pivotal moment for me. Having spent most of my life as a reader or writer, being able to walk into a shop and see my book on the shelves was breathtaking. I feel very privileged to be able to bring my stories to readers, and absolutely love it when they tweet / facebook / email me to say they’ve enjoyed it. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, tell us a little bit about it.
I’m working on the second book of a new series. It’s a romance with an international flavour. I can’t tell you more at the moment, but promise that you’ll be the first to know when I can!

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t give up. All those ‘overnight successes’ you see are usually the result of years of hard work. The only people who definitely won’t make it are those who stop trying!

What do you class as a successful writing day?
I love days where the story flows and I get 4000-plus good words down on the page before the children come home from school. I then like to put my work away, and sit and talk to them about their day. It doesn’t happen very often, though. It’s much more usual for me to be typing crazily when they walk into a messy house, with no food, laundry everywhere and the dog going crazy. But I still love it!

Writing in an apartment in New York City or writing in a cottage in the English countryside?
English countryside!

Writing with a cup of tea or writing with a cup of coffee?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon (with cake, of course!)

Writing with a sandwich or writing with a cupcake?
I think I just outed myself above. Cupcake every time!

Writing with music or writing in silence?
Silence, unless I’m trying to create a certain mood. Not that I put Barry White on for the love scenes (although… there’s an idea), but when I wrote Fix You, I was writing about the recent past and found putting songs of the moment on helped me recreate those times.

Writing outside in the sunshine or writing inside as the snow falls?
The sunshine. My favourite place to write is on my deck, as the sun shines down and the dog curls up beside me.

And lastly, if someone told you that they wanted to be a writer, what would you tell them?
Go for it. It’s the best and the worst job you can do, but it’s a calling and it’s amazing. Make sure you create a support network with lots of writer / reader / blogger friends, and try to get out of the house at least once a day!

- About the Author -
Carrie Elks lives near London, England and writes contemporary romance with a dash of intrigue. At the age of twenty-one she left college with a political science degree, a healthy overdraft and a soon-to-be husband. She loves to travel and meet new people, and has lived in the USA and Switzerland as well as the UK. When she isn't reading or writing, she can usually be found baking, drinking wine or working out how to combine the two.

You can find Carrie Elks on Facebook | Twitter | carrieelks.com | Goodreads | Pinterest
You can find Carrie Elks's books on Amazon UK & Amazon US







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