Nora Roberts exclusive interview

We put ten questions to Nora, to find out more about how and why she writes …

How did you first start writing?

A blizzard hit Maryland in February 1979 and I was stuck in the house with two small children. I live in a rural area of the state, at the top of a hill and at that time had no four-wheel drive transportation, two active sons, a dwindling supply of chocolate and three feet of snow. I’d never thought about writing as a career. I thought everyone made up stories in their heads. 

But after days of being trapped by the blizzard, I was tired of playing Candy Land and was desperate for some sort of release. I took one of those stories in my head and wrote it down. The minute I started the process of writing, I fell in love with it.

How to you write? Do you have a routine, a plan – or do you just start writing and see how the book grows?

My work day is very predictable. I sit in front of the computer all day. On a perfect day (which are few and far between), I get up and maybe work out for about 40 minutes or so—because I’m on my butt the rest of the day. I’m up in my office by 9:00 and work for about 6 – 8 hours. And I write… check email… write some more. After dinner, I either call it a day or go back to work for awhile.

As for the process of writing a book, I have a basic idea in my head.  I do whatever research needs to be done to start out – and I will continue to research throughout the course of the book — and then I sit down and start. That’s it. Oh, and I try to make sure there is a good supply of Diet Pepsi in the house. And pretzels or some salty thing. Oh, and chocolate.

What or who inspires you?

I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration. It’s my job to sit down and figure out what to write. I think if you wait for `the muse’ you may wait a very long time. I build stories. Just start with some sort of situation or setting, character type, some element that pulls me in and then I begin to build the story. It’s work, but it’s really interesting work.

The landscape and setting in your books is so important – how do you believe the environment they live in shapes people? There’s also a strong sense of community in your all books – both writing as JD Robb and as Nora Roberts – why is this important to you?

Relationships have always played a key role in my books. I’m fascinated by the dynamics of family, the shared history and the way each individual grows.  And the setting grows out of those questions I start with – here’s a place, here’s this person, why is he or she there, on and on.  Sometimes the character is new to a place, sometimes they have lived there forever.  And the story builds from there.

Your male heroes are always rather gorgeous – do you have a favourite male character in your books to date?

Choosing a favourite wouldn’t be fair to the rest!  I think that most romance heroes, or heroes in fiction of any kind, are generally superior to real men. Same goes for heroines and real women. They are idealized. That’s what makes them heroes.

Your central female characters always feel strong, brave and determined to me, and work hard to overcome difficulties they face – why are such qualities important to you?

I’m not nearly as adventurous, brave or unselfish as any of my heroines. My job is to make them that way.  Since I consider my books to be character driven, if the characters are cardboard and don’t have dimensions and emotions then, who cares? Who wants to read about them? They have to be very real for me, so that they are real for the reader, and we care about what situations they’re in and how they deal with those situations. 

I understand you’re writing a Wedding Quartet, which sounds fantastic – please could you tell me a little bit more about it?

My younger son just got married last month and as all the pieces that make up a wedding started to fall together, I started playing with the idea of four women who run a wedding business.  It’s a quartet because that suited the various important angles to the big day: wedding planner, photographer, cake baker/designer and florist.  I’m having a lot of fun writing it and hope readers feel the same starting next spring.

You visit Ireland regularly – why is Ireland so special to you?

My roots are in Ireland on both sides of my family. Other than home, it’s the place that speaks to me the strongest. When I first visited there, many years ago, I knew I would have to write books set in Ireland. To me, it’s a place that pulses with stories.

What do you do to relax?

During my downtime, I do ordinary, normal things. I love to garden.  I enjoy watching TV and movies. I’m very content to stay in and relax at home.

Your love for writing comes across so vividly on the page – what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I really believe you should write what you read for pleasure. Concentrate on the work, on making the story better – whatever the type of story you tell. Most of all have fun with it. This is the best job in the whole world, and if you can’t enjoy it, you’re missing the biggest perk — besides being able to wear pyjamas at work.


Indulgence in Death
J.D. Robb