When I first decided to try my hand at writing a romantic novel, I was very unsure of myself. What if I couldn't think of a story? What if the only backdrops to lovers' tales I could find were the ones I'd read in other books? What if I failed at the first hurdle?
I needn't have worried.
The first thing I did was take my dogs for a walk on the forest. (I live on Ashdown Forest, in the Sussex downlands.) As well as my own dogs, I was, at the time, dog sitting a spaniel for my daughter. This wilful, disobedient creature took it into her head to refuse to come back to me at the end of the walk. She thought it a great game to keep just out of my reach.
A (handsome) man on horseback came through. He saw the trouble I was having, dismounted and called the dog. Being a dog of very little brain, she trotted over to him and he grabbed her collar for me. Now, in real life, I thanked him, dragged the dog back to the car and went home. But in the computer file I'd just opened to store ideas for romantic plots...
Then there was the hotel where I went for dinner with friends. On visiting the ladies' powder room, I overheard the waitress and her visiting boyfriend...
The credit crunch provided several stories as people who'd left town drifted back when their jobs in the City disappeared. A trip to Kenya threw up two stories. And if I can't get a story out of the volcanic ash and the air problems, I have no right calling myself a writer.
I now have a number of stories. I have characters, situations, settings. All that's left is to get the stories out of my head and into the books.
As of today, number one is done. I can hardly wait to introduce myself to the lovers featured in number two. Coaxing them, getting them to trust me with their stories, is something I look forward to very much.