Popular author Rita Bradshaw was born in Northamptonshire, where she still lives today.
Since her first novel was accepted for publication, she went on to write 63 books for Mills and Boon before turning her pen to family sagas. Her new book Snowflakes in the Wind will be published in large print later this year.
Did you always dream of writing books? Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a writer?
I can’t remember a time, even as a little girl, when I wasn’t scribbling stories and I won a national competition when I was 12. Meeting my husband at 16, getting married at 20 and then having my first child at 22 put the dream of becoming a writer on hold for years, but when I was approaching 40 I decided it was now or never and sent a story off to Mills & Boon.
Your first novel was accepted for publication – did you use an agent or did you send it directly to the publisher? Were you very surprised to be successful first time?
I hadn’t even written a short story at this point and had no idea about agents and so on; I just sent the manuscript off in the post a few days before we went on holiday. On my return a letter was waiting inviting me to the Mills & Boon offices in London. There I met my future editor, tidied up the manuscript as he suggested and it was accepted first time. It was a dream come true. Over the years I wrote 63 books for M & B, under the pseudonym of Helen Brooks, but I also wanted to branch into longer, more nitty-gritty historical sagas.
How many novels have you written to date?
I wrote a couple of these for Penguin before moving to Headline where I wrote 16 northern sagas, and then a few years ago I began writing for Pan Macmillan and have had four books published with them, the most recent being SNOWFLAKES IN THE WIND and with another - A WINTER LOVE SONG - out in Oct / Nov this year.
Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
Inspiration for my stories is never a problem – I have countless characters and situations forever knocking about in my head.
How do you go about researching your novels?
Research is essential as the time span can be anywhere between 1880 to the 1950s. Libraries, museum archives, old ordinance survey maps and other data from various sources is essential. If I’m not sure about something it doesn’t go into the book.
Can you tell us about your writing day – do you have a routine, or do you just write when you feel inspired?
I’ve found writing needs discipline and perseverance, the more so because you are at home and the temptations to have a day off – or two or three! – is very real. I begin my day mid – morning and finish early evening, normally putting in six hours or so with plenty of cups of tea and coffee to keep me focused. Then it’s a walk with our dog Muffin, (until recently we had a little Meg too, my furry baby and precious beyond words, but sadly she died), and then dinner for us and dog alike.
You’re an animal lover – can you tell us about your pets?
We’ve had dogs ever since we got married and they are as essential to me as breathing. Each one has been treasured and adored.
Do you ever use your local library and how important is it that libraries stay open?
I think it is absolutely essential that libraries are available for folk. As a young mother with little money, being able to visit the local library and choose books for myself and see my children choose theirs was an incredibly important part of my life. And my children now do exactly the same thing with their little ones.
What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
In my early days as a writer the best advice I was ever given was to write from the heart – not what you think might sell. I believe in my characters, they are as real to me as flesh and blood people, be they nice or nasty. They all take on a life of their own and often dictate where the story goes – there’s nothing manufactured or false about them, and I think that’s what readers sense.
Interview by Nicky Solloway at Magna.