Wednesday, February 21, 2007

FEATURED AUTHOR - Victoria Howard

SORMAG: Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

Victoria Howard:
I was born in Liverpool, at a time when the Beatles (Twist and Shout!) were becoming popular. We moved to the Wirral on the “posh” side of the river Mersey when I was eleven. I attended the local girls’ grammar school, going on to college where I received my Medical Secretarial Diploma.

I’ve lived and worked in various places since then, spending most of my adult life on the outskirts of a village in the Highlands of Scotland. While living there, I managed a company involved in the offshore oil industry. I feel Scotland is my spiritual home, which probably the reason why I’ve used it for the setting of my second novel.

In October 2000 I moved to South Yorkshire to be with my partner, Stephen, and until recently, I worked for Britain’s National Health Service.

I've always enjoyed writing – mainly in the form of letters to friends overseas, but had never considered writing fiction, until I had the idea for Three Weeks Last Spring.

SORMAG: Tell us about your current book?

Three Weeks Last Spring is a suspense romance, set in the stunning scenery of the Pacific Northwest. However, it's not a straightforward hearts and flowers, boy meets girl romance.

The story is centred on two main characters; Skye Dunbar, a London based computer expert, and Jedediah Walker, a marine biologist.

Although successful in her business dealings, Skye has never been able to forget the disastrous love affair she had with a US naval Officer, and in attempt to lay the past to rest, she rents a cabin in the San Juan Islands, where she meets the mysterious Walker.

From the first time they meet, it is hate at first sight. But that's not the only chemical reaction occurring on the island. Dead fish with high quantities of toxic chemicals are being washed up by the tide. After Skye’s sudden and somewhat unexpected appearance, things only get worse. When a hacker breaks into his computer files, Walker decides to learn more about the strange and beautiful woman, now renting the cabin on his land.

As the store progress it becomes a cat and mouse game of wit, as both Skye and Walker seek answers to their questions.

SORMAG: What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

Obviously, a sense of enjoyment. However, I hope I've written something more than just a romantic novel. You can't listen to the radio, or read a newspaper, without hearing or seeing an article on the environment. In writing Three Weeks I hoped to draw people's attention to how delicately balanced the eco-system of our planet is, and what we should be doing to preserve it.

SORMAG: What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Two things in particular come to mind. Firstly, I hadn't appreciated how difficult it is to have manuscript accepted by a publisher. Many publishing houses will only accept manuscripts through an agent, and literary agents prefer to represent authors who either have had work published, or have a sure block-busting idea, such as J K Rowling did with Harry Potter. It's a catch twenty-two situation in may respects.

Secondly, it takes far longer than a novice author might realise for his or her work to appear in print. From signing the contract to your book hitting the shelves can take anything from one year to eighteen months, depending on your publisher's schedule.

SORMAG: What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Very few authors become bestselling authors. Publishing companies aren't willing to take many risks on a first-time author. So concentrate on quality. Write the story you'd most like to read. Tell your tale very well, edit your manuscript not once, but at least twice before submitting it, and be willing to spend serious time afterward marketing your book.

SORMAG: What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I love writing dialogue. Once I've developed my characters and have the plot line roughed out, I can envisage conversations between the key characters taking place. Until recently this always seemed to happen when I was driving to work, or late at night when I would be trying to get to sleep! Since I no longer work, this isn't a problem.

Like many new authors, I hate writing a synopsis of my novel. How do you condense a 120,000 word novel into three pages? It’s a difficult question to answer. A synopsis needs to focus on your story's essential details; it's after all, it's what sells your book to the publisher.

SORMAG: What music do you listen to when you’re writing?

I don't usually listen to music when writing, I find it too distracting. However, occasionally I will, in which case it tends to be mainly instrumental, Kenny G, Sam Riney, Jonathan Cain and John Barry to mention a few.

SORMAG: What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it?

Diana Gabaldon's "A breath of Snow and Ashes". I've been a huge admirer of her work, and in particular this series.

SORMAG: If you could take five books on a desert island what would they be?

Only Five? That's a bit harsh for an avid reader like me! I think I would have to take the following:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, for her irony and wonderful characterisation. It's one of the great British classics and no matter how many times I read it, I always find something new.

Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald, now sadly out of print. It is a magnificent novel, and Fitzgerald's description of India in the 1830's is so detailed, that you can almost feel the heat, smell the rotting corpses after the massacre and feel the heroine's frustration at being so close to the man she loves, but unable to ever have him.

Highland Fling by Katie Fforde. I love reading anything with a Scottish theme and Katie Fforde writes as a modern day Jane Austen.

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. The opening line– "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again," is perfect. The reader is immediately drawn into a novel of suspense and romance, and is almost forced to read on. DuMaurier's plotting is impeccable, and the haunting story told from the unnamed heroine's view point, is compelling.

My final book is The Shining Levels by John Wyatt. Wyatt was Head Warden for the Lake District National Park. His book is a humorous account of his life in the Park.

SORMAG: What do you do to make time for yourself?

I have a border collie, Lucy, who needs plenty of exercise. Taking her on long country walks gives me plenty of time to think about plots, characters, and dialogue.

SORMAG: How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Readers are welcome to sign my guestbook at They can also contact me via email at

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