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Charlotte Betts Interview

Charlotte talks to Paragraph Planet about her new novel 'The Spice Merchant's Wife'

1 - Tell me about your latest novel 'The Spice Merchant's Wife'.

When I finished writing The Apothecary's Daughter I couldn't free my mind of the picture of the Great Fire of London sweeping through the city and destroying everything in its path. Thousands of people's lives were changed forever and every one of them would have a different story to tell. Kate Finche's is only one of them. Newly married to a wealthy spice merchant, Kate believes her dreams of a happy family life are about to come true, until the Great Fire rages through London. She watches in horror as their livelihood goes up in flames, filling the air with the heady scent of burning cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The city is devastated and then Kate's husband is drowned but she refuses to believe he has taken his own life. Widowed and penniless, she seeks refuge in home of blind perfumer, Gabriel Harte, who awakens Kate's senses to a whole new world. But as she flees from this forbidden love, her husband’s murderer comes looking for her …

2 - What is your favourite part of the writing process?

All of it! I find the historical research fascinating, especially if I can find original sources so that voices from the past 'speak' to me and I can understand how events shaped people's minds. I love daydreaming when I’m writing a new scene – I have to see it in my mind before I can write it. I even enjoy the editing because I know that I'll have a leaner, stronger novel at the end.

3 - How important is an online presence to a writer?

Increasingly important, particularly as publishers simply don't have the budgets any more to promote authors' work to any great extent. If you're self published you have to do it all yourself. I found it difficult at first but now I'm getting the hang of FaceBook and Twitter. Paragraph Planet encouraged me to try something different and I had a number of comments when I had a paragraph published. So thank you for that!

4 - I understand you're a member of WordWatchers. How does being a member of a writing group influence your writing?

Although we all write in different genres, the support and feedback is invaluable. We are honest in our criticism of each other's work because that’s the only way we will raise the standard. We encourage each other and act as a fantastic sounding board when the writing isn't going so well. Our meetings are a chance to talk about things that only another writer can understand – writer's block, writer's bum, writer's cramp, etc. Oh, and we eat cake. Lots of cake. Very helpful for solving plot problems.

5 - Any advice for aspiring writers?

Don't try and copy another writer's style; find your own voice.
Write something every day.
Read! Read! Read!

Charlotte's website here

Paragraph Planet is a creative writing website which has been publishing one 75-word paragraph every day since November 2008. Famous authors, aspiring writers and occasional dabblers have all got involved, submitting a mixture of twist-in-the-tale flash fiction, evocative short, short fiction, openings of published novels or brief moments captured. Get involved here. You can read over 1400 examples in the archive section. There are also interviews with some of the published authors who have submitted to the site, as well as an authors in which you can read an example paragraph from all authors who've submitted, and also link to dedicated pages with more info about regular contributors. Finally, I've started compiling a writing group map to help you find a writing group near you. And if you're still reading, and want to know what else I do apart from Paragraph Planet, here's my own website. All words and images (c)Paragraph Planet 2008-2013