1. You started off as a journalist. What was the attraction?
From the earliest age I can remember, I was always writing. When I was ten, I won a contest for something I’d written and actually got paid for it. From that point forward, I knew I wanted to make a career in writing. It was just a matter of finding a way into the business. When I was 16, I managed to get a job as a typist for the Yorkshire Evening Post. I was the youngest member on staff and I eventually was promoted to a reporter. Being a journalist was exciting. It taught me to conduct exhaustive research and to create perspective for the reader. Although I don’t miss the daily deadlines and being on call for a breaking story at all hours, I did enjoy my journalistic career. It opened my eyes to the world and enabled me to graduate into adulthood.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
As a young child (maybe 4 pr 5 years of age) my Mother would have me read constantly. She was a great influence and she got me hooked on the classics. I loved the Bronte sisters, Muriel Spark, Charles Dickens and so forth. I started to write at a rather early stage and by the time I was eight or nine I had become quite proficient.
3. Where did you get the inspiration for “A Woman of Substance”?
I’d actually written three novels prior to A Woman of Substance that were never published and quite honestly they weren’t especially worthy of being published. I started writing A Woman of Substance in 1978. For this effort I decided to base the story around a character. Suffice it to say, I put a lot of my self into Emma Harte, a strong woman from Yorkshire who aspires to be successful. There were aspects of many people who I knew in this novel (my Mom and Dad, friends and people I’d worked with). But most of all I just wanted this to be a book about a strong female character, spanning her life from youth to old age.
4. How did you manage to sell your first book on just an outline and some 200 pages? Beginning authors will find this extremely interesting!
It wasn’t hard really to sell A Woman of Substance. Back in 1979, selling a book was somewhat easier than it is today. I had actually been a published author of several decorating books and a couple of children’s books, so I had my foot in the proverbial door to publishing. I do remember how intimidating it was when I turned in a manuscript of nearly 1000 pages (two full boxes), but selling this book wasn’t terribly difficult. I suppose my outline for the story was solid and convincing. It had people hooked right away.
5. How was the reception of this book?
No one ever expects to become a bestseller overnight. I knew from the reaction of those who read it that A Woman of Substance was going to be enjoyed. But it was still unexpected when the first edition of the hardback sold out so quickly. Not even the publisher was prepared for this. As a result, they printed up a greater number of paperbacks in anticipation of big sales. Whether it was word of mouth, or solid promotion, the paperback was flying off the shelves at a record pace. Twenty-five years and twenty-five million copies later it is still in print and still popular. Various sources report this book to be among the top ten bestselling works of fiction in history. To this day I am still amazed at how popular this book became.
6. Do you ever receive bad critics on a book?
Spending so much time writing and editing, I honestly have little time for reading book reviews. I do try to read as many letters from my fans as possible. I do take their feedback seriously and I enjoy their comments. After writing in isolation, all comments are welcomed when time permits. I’ve seen some great reviews for my books and like all authors I’ve received my share of disappointing reviews, but I always remind myself that I am not writing for my critics. I write for myself first and for my reader second. I try not to take book reviews too seriously, whether glowing or scathing.
7. Are you completely satisfied with the way your books are brought on the screen?
Fortunately my husband, Bob was a film producer long before he met me. I’ve been lucky enough to have him as my partner in all aspects of life, including the production of my books as films. Thus far ten of my novels have been given screen adaptations. I am pleased with each and every one of them. Some, like A Woman of Substance and Hold the Dream are made to perfection. Others like A Secret Affair and Remember were slightly altered from the original story. But I am proud of each and every one of these efforts.
8. Do your heroines get characteristics of people you know/have known?
I mentioned earlier that Emma Harte has a lot of me in her. I tried to make her in my own image. Strong, determined, fashionable and ultimately successful. Other characters have piece of me, along with aspects of friends in my life. I often will make a character a composite of several people, rather than one. And sometimes I create characters straight from my imagination, with little influence from real life. It really depends on the kind of story I’m working on. But in general, I try to write about what I am familiar with. Often my characters hold similarities to people in my life.
9. Please be frank. Which country do you prefer: England or the States?
I grew u p in Yorkshire and I will always be a proud Yorkshire girl. My journalist career was in London and I’ve always retained England in my heart with great pride. I even read several British newspapers each morning, even in New York. However, being old fashioned, I elected to move to the States after marrying Bob. I always believed that a woman should go where her husband has his career. In our case that was New York. A a writer I had little trouble finding work here. Later on when I started getting published as an author, being in NY (the publishing capitol of the world) had its advantages. As it stands now, we just about split our time between New York and London. I have an equal number of friends in both places and I don’t do a lot of comparing and contrasting. However, when it comes down to it I am an Englishwoman first and foremost, no matter where I spend my time.
10. Do you have your own favourite writer or book?
My favourite book growing up was Wuthering Heights. I still think this is the best book ever written in the English language. Today I don’t have much time to read, but I do try and get to all of Patricia Cornwell’s novels. I’m also a fan of historical bibliographies. In particular I like to read anything about Winston Churchill.
there you have it. This was fun!
© 2005 Nickie Fleming/Jansan