Today I’ll be shining the author spotlight on romantic comedy writer, Rhoda Baxter!
Hi, please can you give a brief introduction of yourself?
Hi. I’m Rhoda. I write romantic comedies which are published by Choc Lit Publishing. I also write short fiction. In real life, I trained as a microbiologist but now work in university technology transfer (which is the most fun way to keep in touch with the science without having to do lab work). I drink far too much tea and am partial to a bit of cake.
When did you first start writing?
I’m not sure. Apparently I wrote a story about parrot when I was about seven. When I was in my early teens, the Sweet Dreams romance novels were incredibly popular. I wasn’t allowed to read them, in case they gave me ‘ideas’ and distracted me from my studies. So I started to write my own. I still have my early typescripts. They’re impossibly naive and cringeworthy, but they’re worth keeping for the scribbled notes from my friends (my early readers!) on the margins.
How would you describe your author brand in 5 words?
Smart, witty heartfelt romantic comedy.
What has your experience been of publishing with Choc Lit?
I love the way Choc Lit choose their books. They have a ‘tasting panel’ who check out the submissions. If enough people on the panel pass the book, they publish it. This means that they don’t have to second guess whether the readers would like a book, they know. They can also edit the book with actual market feedback. Choc Lit publishes a lot of unusual romances – ones that other publishers might turn down because they perceive them as too niche. For example, a romance with a non-white heroine (mine) or one with a hero with cerebral palsy (Jane Lovering) – both of which would be considered ‘risky’ in the normal run of things.
They also do fabulous covers!
What’s your opinion on diversity in the contemporary romance genre?
I’d like to see more of it. By this I mean real diversity – with people of different backgrounds (be it different by ethnicity, sexual orientation or ability) having a place in the genre.
I’ll use ethnicity as an example, because it’s what I’m more familiar with (I’m Sri Lankan by descent). There is a tendency to fetishise difference. You get books with Asian characters, but either the conflict of the book revolves around the Asian-ness of the character or the characters are over-the-top Asian. The day to day lives of most British Asians isn’t hugely different to the day-to-day life of other British people. Religious and cultural differences exist, sure, but on a basic everyday level, we live in the same sort of houses, eat lunch/tea at the same sort of time, watch the same sort of TV shows. But, if you look at romance novels, you’d be hard pressed to see that. The differences in culture are magnified. The familiar elements are ignored. So people see only how ‘they’ are different to ‘us’.
It’s important to change this. We absorb our world view from the books we read and the TV shows we watch. If we’ve only ever seen Asian women as downtrodden slaves to tradition, no wonder we’re surprised by Nadiya Hussein baking a fizzy pop flavoured cheesecake. I’m a big fan of GBBO and of Nadiya. When she won GBBO, the undertone of the commentary that followed was ‘oh my word, she wears a hijab, but… she and her family seem so Normal!’. Which, if you think about it, is just bonkers.
So, I’d like to see more romance novels with diverse characters falling in love – not falling in love in an Asian way, or in a gay way, or in a disabled way – just falling in love in their OWN way.
Describe your ideal fictional love interest
He’d be kind and clever and funny. Preferably, he’d be fit in a slim-built kind of way… and would definitely wear glasses. Most men look sexier in glasses. David Tennant in glasses… ooh…
Sorry, what was I talking about? Oh yes. Men. I much prefer beta males to alphas. I tried to write an alpha male hero once (because people kept telling me they were popular). I hated him so much that I had to stop after a few chapters and start again.
What are your writing goals for 2017?
I’m trying my hand at writing novellas at the moment. I’m hoping to write three novellas set in a fictional village in West Yorkshire. I’ve done one. Two more to do.
My next book Girl In Trouble – the sequel to Girl Having A Ball – should be coming out with Choc Lit later in the year. I’ll be editing that in the next few months.
What authors would you recommend for fans of contemporary romance?
There’s too many to mention. I like books with great dialogue (sharp, realistic and funny). I’m currently reading a lot of Courtney Milan, Jane Lovering, Jenny Holliday, Alison May, Kate Johnson, Mhairi McFarlane, Janet Gover, Julie Cohen. All of whom write great dialogue. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, there are many, many more.
What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
I have always kept an eye on self publishing. I was too insecure in my abilities to self publish (I have chronic impostor syndrome), so I needed the validation provided by having a traditional publisher, but I’ve always thought that Indies were the ones who knew how to market books. I follow a lot of Indie blogs because they are so clever in what they do. I think I’d like to end up with a combination of both. When I’ve finished my West Yorkshire novellas, I’d like to self publish those. [If you want a preview, you can get a short story set in that world for free by signing up for my reader group].
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new writers?
Don’t give up. Write, submit, get feedback, edit, repeat. Eventually, good things will happen.
I started writing in my early teens. I’ve been writing in earnest since I was in my twenties. I wasn’t published until I was in my mid thirties. It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.
Rhoda Baxter writes cheerful romantic comedies starring smart heroines and charming beta male heroes. She likes to write about people who make her laugh. Her books have been nominated for awards, so she must be doing something right. In real life, she’s a former scientist who works in technology transfer and a mum of two. Her latest book is Girl Having A Ball.