Hi everyone! As mentioned in my January reading recap, I reached out to the lovely Lilac Mills to see if she was interested in having a nice little Q&A with me.
Lilac lives on a Welsh mountain with her very patient husband and incredibly sweet dog, where she grows veggies (if the slugs don’t get them), bakes (badly) and loves making things out of glitter and glue (a mess, usually).
She is the author of over 12 romance novels, which have been translated across the world.
What do you enjoy most about women’s fiction?
Aside from the romance, I like that most of them are character driven, and many of them deal with issues that any of us might face. And of course, the happy ever after leaves me with lovely warm, fuzzy feelings that lift my day.
Your chapters are really short. Is this a conscious decision or just a coincidence derived from your writing style?
It’s just a coincidence. If a chapter needs to be longer to address a particular scene effectively, then I’ll make it longer.
Out of all of your published works, do you have a favourite character? If so, who & why them?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. The protagonist in whatever story I’m working on at the moment tends to be my favourite character, as I lose myself in their life and their romance. But I particularly love Flossie in Summer on the Turquoise Coast. She wasn’t the main character, but she was an absolute joy to write.
Do you base your characters on real people from your life?
Most of them contain elements of real people, but those elements are jumbled, and no single character is just one person: they often have several characteristics combined. For instance, Flossie, mentioned above, contained more than a little of my grandma, with bits of my Aunty Nellie thrown in.
Are the locations in your works (Tanglewood, Foxmore Green, Applewell village) based on real locations?
Yes! Definitely. Although I often move bits around, or completely uproot places and drop them into other locations. Tanglewood is loosely based on a small town called Crickhowell, on the Welsh-English border. I moved the river though… Foxmore has elements of the town of Usk in South Wales, but I added a village green, moved the river again (I seem to like moving those!) and relocated the whole thing to North Wales.
What do you love most about living in Wales?
The countryside. You don’t have to go far to be in the heart of it, and green spaces are so important to me. Ten minutes from my front door brings me onto open moorland. A few minutes more and there are little wooded valleys with streams tumbling through them. And sheep. Lots of sheep.
What was the first piece of fiction you ever wrote?
It was a horrendously long full-length novel that was part family drama, part time slip, and wholly un-publishable. But it proved to me that I could write a novel, and it also taught me a little about plot and character development. It is hidden in the depths of my computer, never to see the light of day.
What is the last book you read, and what did/didn’t you like about it?
The last book I read was Samantha Tonge’s Lost Luggage. I liked that the main character is older, and I enjoyed the way the author dealt with grief, family secrets, complex relationships and the main character’s self-discovery. There were a few plot twists that were fun, too.
What is your process for writing? Do you need complete silence, or are you a writer who enjoys background noise?
I usually prefer silence, but I have been known to write on trains, on the beach and in the living room with the TV on. I can’t write when music is playing though! My favourite time to write is very early in the morning, before anyone else is awake and there is little chance of any distractions – as long as I stay away from social media!
How long does it take you to finish writing a novel?
Normally about two months for a first draft. But if I add on the editorial (developmental) edits, and all the proofreading back and forth, the total is about six months. But the true beginning can be a long time before that, when an idea pops into my head. Some ideas can take years to brew.
Do you have any top tips for aspiring writers?
Finish it. So many books are abandoned halfway through- maybe the author has written themselves into a corner, has lost momentum, or thinks it’s not good enough… It may be a cliche to say you can’t edit a blank page, but it’s true.
A lot of people say “write what you know”… has your life been as charming/fairy tale-esque as women’s fiction sometimes is?
I’ve noticed that this has become a” thing” lately, but I think it’s unrealistic to an extent. I’m sure Val McDermid doesn’t commit murders, and Andy Weir hasn’t been to Mars. And I’m fairly certain Mary Shelley didn’t stitch a load of body parts together. It’s the author’s ability to imagine that makes stories such as these possible, and allows them to put themselves in the minds of their protagonists. As for myself… no, my life has not been as charming as the lives of my characters. But I do know a little about the places I set my books, and I was born and bred in a small close-knit community, so I am utilising my own experiences and knowledge to a certain extent. The rest is imagination and research.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I am! I’m expecting the edits for the second Foxmore book back from my publisher any day now, and in the meantime I’m about halfway through writing the first draft of the third book in the series. And I’m also beginning to think about a brand new series for 2024-2025, but the ideas are vague and unformed at the moment.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Lilac!
You can find Lilac at her website, lilacmills.com, where you can also sign up to her newsletter – Lilac’s Letters – to stay up to date with all her exciting news and upcoming works.
You can also find her on Instagram @LilacMillsAuthor and Twitter @LilacMills.