Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Write what you know, but how?

Today romance writer Gina Rossi is a guest poster on my blog. Gina's second novel, Life After 6 Tequilas, has just been released by ThornBerry Publishing. Gina's debut novel, The Wild Heart, was nominated for the 2012 Joan Hessayon Award. Welcome Gina!

Hello Alissa, and thanks so much for inviting me to talk today about writing and my new brand-new release Life After 6 Tequilas.
Here’s a question: How many times have you finished a book with a satisfied sigh and thought, I could never, in a million years, have written this book, because I don’t know all that STUFF?
Aspiring writers are told, over and over, to ‘write what you know’. How, when you don’t know anything? I’m in awe of people who write fantasy.
Have you ever been stuck under the Polar ice cap with Mr. Universe in a nuclear submarine that’s about to explode? Or run for President, married a sheik or won the Grand Prix? Have you led barefoot men into battle, built an aeroplane out of coconut shells, dived on a wreck of a Spanish galleon, or performed brain surgery? No? Me either. Note to self:  Must. Get. Out. More.
As with so much in life, writing what you know starts with the little things. In my brand new book, Life After 6 Tequilas - just released by Thornberry Publishing on 4th March 2013, details at bottom of page – I portray some of the conflicts and stresses of ordinary life,  and hastily add that the realistic issues faced by my characters are – I hope – lightened with a chick lit angle and accompanying, essential dash of humour.
I placed the book in a familiar setting, casting my heroine as a regular middle-class young working woman in London, so similar to many I know. My heroine, Beth, juggles single motherhood with full-time work. Her son, Jacob, is nine months old as was my grandson, Sam, at the time of writing. They are peas in a pod –  the most pleasurable research I’ve undertaken to date, particularly the swimming lessons.
The story’s set in 2011, so I used true, current and traditional events to mark the passage of time. This backfired because I soon realised I had to wait until the end of the year before I could finish the book – otherwise I’d be writing what I definitely didn’t know!
The reference Armistice Day, apart from being relevant to the story, is a tribute to the British armed forces, past and present who gave, and continue to give, their lives for our freedom.
 Moving on to calmer subjects, like furniture (LOL, as they say), Beth’s boss has an antique partner desk similar to one my father had when I was a child. He did all his writing there and unfortunately sold it when he moved – it’s gone out of the family but it’s there, forever, in my book.
Plants in Beth’s tiny garden are pulled, gasping, from my own repertoire of long-suffering hydrangeas, hellebores and dead clematii.
A piece of jewellery is similar to some my daughters own, and Beth’s painted plates and green-stemmed wine glasses are the ones I coveted years ago in Italy, and still regret not buying.
In conclusion, like your characters, each event and object has a past life, present impact and, possibly, future repercussions. If you add what you know about them, then you add rich, colourful, personal detail to your story. Old hat and I-never-go-anywhere to you, but fresh and interesting to your reader.
As for the new cafe called ‘Cupcake’ in Wandworth, I wish such a place existed!
It’s been great to be here, Alissa. Thanks so much for inviting me. I’d love to hear other writers’ comments on the task of writing what you know. Readers are most welcome to join me on:

Life After 6 Tequilas by Gina Rossi is available in ebook format from Amazon. Paperback coming soon.


  1. Sounds like a fun read! Off to grab my Kindle! Great post, Alissa and Gina :)

  2. Lovely post, Gina. I think I always put a little bit of my own experiences into my books, but they're also flooded with plenty of total make believe which is also great fun.

    And isn't writing a great way to escape to another world that we would probably never experience in our own lives?

  3. Yes I imagine Wandsworth could do with a place called Cupcake!

    As for writing what you know - depends on the genre you're writing ... if you know what I mean ... ;-)

    Off to buy Life After 6 Tequilas now. You've got me hooked!

  4. Enjoyed the post ladies, yes writing is a balance, drawing on your own experiences but working that touch of imagination into the mix as well.

  5. Thanks Rae and Amanda! I hope you enjoy. Take with a cupcake ;)Kathy and Jo, spot on. Thanks for your comments. Good luck, all, with your writing.

  6. Great post. I think we all draw on our experiences when writing, very often subconsciously. Love the book, can highly recommend it. Must try tequila one day, I've never tasted it. Good luck.

  7. Thanks, Kit! And only one tequila, mind ;)seeing as you know the story...