Erica James was born in 1960, on Hayling Island in Hampshire, but today she divides her time between a village in Cheshire and Lake Como in Italy. The author of fifteen bestelling books, her novel ‘Gardens of Delight’ won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2006.
Confessing to have an insatiable appetite for other people’s business, Erica James will readily strike up conversation with strangers in the hope of unearthing a useful gem for her writing. She finds it the best way to create authentic characters for her novels, although her two grown-up sons claim they will never recover from a childhood spent in a perpetual state of embarrassment at their mother’s compulsion.
Q: First, a huge thanks for agreeing to an interview – what with splitting your time between Italy and Cheshire, you must be one busy lady! So let’s start with an easy one – what book are you currently reading?
– I am currently reading The Kennedy Women by Laurence Leamer. It’s a fascinating read and since I love writing about families, I’m hooked on the wealth of the characters within this extraordinary and deeply flawed family.
Q: It’s hard to believe you only started writing in your 30’s. What prompted you to enroll in a creative writing course in the first place? And how do you feel your life experiences have affected your work?
– I had been writing for a year or so when I decided to go on a five-day residential course and for no other reason than I thought it would be interesting. It was certainly that! I’d go so far as to say it was a turning point, the moment when I became serious about writing. Just about every life experience I’ve had – big or small, good or bad – has been grist to my writing mill. Nothing in life is ever wasted on me.
Q: You once said that you started to write due to your love of reading. How easy was it, going from being a passive reader to an active author?
– I wouldn’t describe reading as being ‘passive’, aren’t we as readers taking part in the story? Well, maybe that’s why I didn’t find it a leap to switch from reading to writing, the two seemed one and the same to me.
Q: So, a young aspiring writer has hit an artistic block. What are your three top tips for any budding author out there?
– My three top tips for a budding author who’s hit a black spot would be to take some time out. Go off and do something else and amazingly when you return to the manuscript you’ll see things through fresh eyes and be able to forge ahead with renewed vigour. Reading is another way to lift your flagging spirits if you’re stuck, be inspired by other authors. Lastly, remind yourself why you started writing in the first place, hopefully it was because you enjoyed the creative process.
Q: In your article ‘My very public humiliation; the perils and pitfalls of the promotional tour’, you tell us of a strange fan who offered to show you a scar from his latest operation! I’m guessing you’ve had some pretty odd experiences as an author, but what would you say has been the best experience?
– Hearing that my first novel had been bought by Orion is easily the most memorable and special experience I’ve had as an author. It came at a time when I needed to earn money and it was an answer to a prayer. I still vividly remember the call from my agent and how excited my sons and I were.
Q: A self-confessed lover of travelling, you’ve also been described as having an “insatiable appetite for other people’s business”, striking up conversations whenever and wherever you can. What has been the most inspirational/touching place you have been and person you have met?
– I’ve written about Venice a couple of times now in my novels and it’s somewhere that I loved from the very first time I went there; I remember arriving just as the sun was setting and feeling instantly at home. I particularly love the city late at night when no one is about, when you can really feel the melancholy essence of the place. Venice never fails to inspire me and never more so than when I stayed for a month one autumn and got the idea to write ‘Tell it to the Skies’.
Q: How would you describe your average day?
– My average writing day starts at about 8.30 in the morning and finishes around 7.00 or 7.30pm. I often eat my lunch sitting at my desk, a bad habit, I know, but sometimes I just don’t want to stop the flow of words or ideas. I then take another break late afternoon to give my eyes a rest from staring at the computer screen.
Q: Your novel ‘Promises, Promises’ comes out in paperback in the UK on August 18th. The book tells the story of three people, Maggie Storm, a cleaner who dreams of romance, Ella Moore, a recently single woman bemoaning the last seven years of her life, and Ethan Edwards, a man desperately seeking solace in a string of affairs. For those that haven’t read it yet, how would you describe these interlinking stories?
– In a nutshell Maggie, Ellen and Ethan are linked by each finding the courage to change the course of their lives.
Q: Your work has been described by critics as “captivating stories of love, deception and misunderstanding”. What makes you focus on such universal topics? Can you see yourself writing in any other genre in the future?
– People are always asking me if I would like to write a different kind of novel and my answer is always the same, I love what I do! I love writing about ordinary people living extraordinary lives, because that’s what happens to each and every one of us. Without ever meaning to, we live a life of ups and downs and twists and turns, and somehow we survive it all.
Q: And last, but not least, here at World of Books we are dedicated to providing good quality second-hand books to the public. Any book we can’t sell, we recycle; last year alone we saved 12,500 metric tonnes of waste from going to landfill sites. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?
– Books are like a big tin of Quality Street, there’s something for everyone, so pass the tin round!
‘Promises, Promises’ is out in paperback on August 18th. And, if you want to hear more from Erica, why not visit her site at http://ericajames.co.uk. World of Books has many books by Erica James, to see the available titles please click here.