A romantic career

MORE than six Mills and Boon books are sold every second across the globe, proving that romance is far from dead in today's busy world. BEVERLEY BOWRY meets the mum from Suffolk who is one of the publisher's most prolific writers.

MORE than six Mills and Boon books are sold every second across the globe, proving that romance is far from dead in today's busy world. BEVERLEY BOWRY meets the mum from Suffolk who is one of the publisher's most prolific writers.

BROWSE the sections devoted to romance novels in local supermarkets or town centre bookshops, and it's quite likely that you could find yourself standing alongside Caroline Anderson.

While you might be checking out the new Mills and Boon titles, mum-of-two Caroline will be eagerly searching for her name - and she freely admits to moving her lovestruck novels front of the shelf.

For she no longer dreams, like many of us, of writing a book. For her the dream has already come true. She is currently in the process of writing her 75th novel and she says that she 'still gets a buzz' when she sees her books on display.

Having previously worked as a nurse, a secretary and a teacher, Caroline, 54, started writing novels in 1990 when her daughters were aged nine and seven.

She said: 'I needed to earn a living and I wanted to do something I could preferably do from home.

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“At first I ran my own soft furnishing business but I found that instead of having more time with my family, I was spending most weekends travelling around the country. As I have always enjoyed creative writing I thought it might possibly be something I could do, especially as one of my lecturers at teacher training college told me he thought I ought to think about doing it properly'.

Caroline is today one of Mills and Boon's most prolific writers.

The claim doesn't always win a favourable reaction. She said: 'Sometimes people laugh or say something like 'How amusing.' That really annoys me.

“When my first book was published someone asked me 'If you could choose what book to write, what would you choose?' I replied, 'I thought I had chosen'.”

Caroline certainly gets her husband John's full support. She laughed: “He's a very good husband but he doesn't have a romantic bone in his body!”

That fact has no adverse affect on Caroline's ability to produce romantic novels. Working from a study situated down a spiral staircase from the lounge of her Witnesham home, Caroline spends her time plotting story lines for her imaginary heroes and heroines.

She said: “I get an idea in my head of what the characters are going to look like and then I flick through magazines to find pictures of similar people so I can visualise them.”

She collects these images and pastes them on to sheets to temporarily decorate the wall of her study.

Although writing is how Caroline earns her living, she says that there are 'no set hours' and admits that most days are spent 'writing nothing'.

Caroline said: 'When I am going flat out I write a novel every six weeks, but I spend most of that time thinking about it. Most of my books have about ten chapters and I usually re-write chapter one about 20 times because that is where I am laying down the foundation stones.

“I don't even bother re-reading chapters nine and ten though as by that stage I know exactly where the story is going.”

Unlike some Mills and Boon writers, she does not follow a formulaic approach, and said she prefers to 'do my own thing'.

Caroline may not always be at her desk but she usually has a diary close to hand. She said: “I hate continuity errors with a passion, so I like to make sure I have a record of the significant events.

“I also tend to set my novels at the time of year I'm writing. It's easier to get the colour of the season and the smells if it is happening around you.'

With her husband out at work and her daughters having now left home, Caroline spends most of her weekdays in the company of the family's 20-year old pony Pipkin, their dogs Poppy and Meg, cats Joey and Leo and 11 chickens.

Animals also play a pivotal role in her books. She said: “They always tell you never to work with children and animals but I very seldom write a book that doesn't have both in them.”

Although Caroline says that she has a lot of fun with her heros and heroines she sometimes finds the isolation of being a writer working alone, quite hard.

“It can be lonely, very lonely,” she mused, “especially if you like to gossip like I do. Once you get stuck into a book though, it's okay.”

Caroline has one word to describe the feeling she experienced the very first time she saw her work in print: “Fabulous!”

Her new book 'A Wife and Child to Cherish' is on sale during February, and 'His Very Own Wife and Child' will be sold during April.

If you want to write a novel:

Write what you like to read otherwise you won't do it justice. Don't write about something just because you think it will be easy.

Research the area you want to write about and read, read, read with that subject in mind.

Stop procrastinating. Don't say “One day I'll write a book - sit and do the first chapter today. Just keep on going and don't give up.

Never write genre fiction if you think you only have one book inside you. You need lots of ideas to be able to keep writing.

Pay attention to any advice given and don't take rejection personally.

50 million readers worldwide

6.6 books sold worldwide, per second

35 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower if you stacked every book sold in a single day on top of each other

74pc share of the paperback romantic fiction market

20.5pc of all fiction books purchased at retail in UK are romantic fiction

Over 3 million women in the UK regularly read a Mills & Boon book.

1500 authors worldwide; 200 authors living in the UK, 600 new titles per annum; 50 per month