Today it is my pleasure to welcome P.L. Harris and her alter-ego Polly Holmes to chat with us about her writing journey. We first met at a book launch and I asked her if at some point she would be a guest on my blog. She is a busy and versatile writer who writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense as well as cosy mysteries. She also holds down a fulltime job as a teacher so her time is pretty full.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book is the first in my Burrum Ridge romantic suspense series, In His Protection. It follows Melody Maddison as she discovers an old photo of her mother with a newborn baby that is neither her, nor her siblings. While she’ll do anything to uncover the truth, someone is willing to go to whatever lengths to keep the truth the secret, even if it means silencing Melody for good.
What inspired it? This book, in fact, the series, is inspired by my niece Kara-Lee through a brainstorming session about two years ago while visiting the Hot Springs at Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne. She asked me, what if you found a photo of Grandma (my mother) with a baby you know nothing about, what would you do?It kind of went from there and it has turned into a series of six books, one for each of the siblings and I can’t wait to write them.
Who is the main character?
My heroine is Melody Maddison. Her mother past away when she was 26 and she has been travelling for 2 years trying to deal with the loss leaving her sister Riley to pick up the pieces. Now she’s 28 and returned home to help her sister sort their mother’s possessions.
My hero is Noah St. Reeve. Noah has been working in Perth and decided to start his own security and protection business, but unsure where to base it. Seeing Melody almost run down by a car cements in his mind his course. To protect her at all costs.
Why should we care about them?
Everyone has a secret, and for Melody finding out the secret behind the photo may lead her to a long lost sibling. If she can uncover the secret she’ll be able to share with them how wonderful her mother really was. We want to find out who the baby is, for Melody’s sake. We want to know if Noah will be able to save her in time and most of all if Melody has the willpower and strength to save her own life in the face of danger.
Did you always want to write?
I loved reading and writing stories, but no I never thought I was good enough to write a story that could be published. I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I took some time out for me and I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story.
Which books did you love as a child?
Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances were my all-time favourite books to read when I was growing up and I still have most of them today. I loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that is why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair.
You write in several genes Contemporary romance and Amateur Sleuths or cosy mysteries – was that deliberate choice or do you just have so many ideas? Which came first?
It wasn’t a conscious decision, I kind of stumbled into it. I always wanted to write contemporary romance and I knew I wanted to have drama and suspense in them. So I started writing contemporary romance first. I also knew it was a way for me to deal with certain things going on in my personal life and I could express it through my characters. I suppose you could say it was a kind of therapy.
Then when I was looking for a cover for Callie’s Dilemma I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s website where I did indeed find the cover, but also stumbled across the cupcake capers cozy covers and that was it I was hooked. I ended up buying 13 covers but had no idea what a cozy was. Crazy I hear you say. Yep, totally.
In His Protection went on hold and I had to research the genre. What it was, what you can and can’t do, it was a whole new world. Then I posted on Amazon the dates I was releasing them in 2018. Why I did that I have no idea because it put me under so much pressure to get them out on time and at the same time I was staging the musical Lion King Jr at school.
In the end, it was a huge learning curve, but it also helped me realise that I love writing cozies and also romantic suspense.
Research into each writing style is the key. Know what the readers want and deliver. I had an email from a lady who loved my book but wanted a recipe in the back like everyone else does.
I do have to try and turn off one genre when I am writing another and that’s where my planning comes it. I love to plan my novel out.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Never give up no matter how much you feel like it.
What is the worst? I’m not sure I have had any bad advice. It’s about knowing which bit of advice to take that will work for you and which bits to leave behind.
If you were starting now would you do anything differently?
I would definitely have learnt more about the self-promotion, social media side of the industry right from the start and started that much, much earlier. Follow the experts. If they have tried something and it didn’t work, think carefully if you are going to follow in their footsteps. I would have created another pen name for my different genres, which I have now done, but a year after the first cozy publication. Look out for Polly Holmes in the cozy mystery genre.
You sound incredibly busy how do you manage to fit it all in?
Sometimes, I don’t fit it all in. Although I work full-time, I want to write and I can’t let my busy schedule stop me. It’s something that I can do for me, something that makes me happy (When it’s all going to plan) I do have to try and prioritise especially around the busy times at school like exams and reporting time. Sometimes I am guilty of putting things in the too hard basket and then I feel guilty so out they come and I persist until I achieve it.
Often I ask myself is it worth it? The answer always turns out to be yes. In the long run, I know that I will succeed if I persist. Take the good with the bad and there is always more good than bad.
How long have you been published and how are you so prolific?
I have been published 2 years now and self-published 18 months. I think the key is persistence and learning as you go. You can’t get everything right the first time, but learning from mistakes allows you to improve the next time. Knowing what you want and setting the intention to achieve it.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
That is a hard one and I’m not sure if they are fun facts. I love old musicals and sometimes I wish I was born back when Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Ann Miller and the greats were around. Even though I can’t sing it doesn’t stop me from having a go when a great tune comes on.
If I hear music with a good beat, I have to dance no matter where I am. It’s in my blood.
I’m addicted to most reality TV especially House Rules, MKR, Masterchef. I know, it’s very bad.
It has been great learning more about your writing journey- thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.