Ballymena Mills & Boone author on the world of romance
Ballymena based writer Lynne Graham has just published her 100th novel for world famous romance publisher Mills and Boon. Jenny Lee finds out more about her 30-year writing career
SHE may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of Irish literary greats, but Ballymena author Lynne Graham is Ireland's most successful author. Writing romantic fiction, she has sold more than 35 million books since her debut title, Bittersweet Passion, in 1987.
Last month she published her 100th Mills & Boon novel, Bought for the Greek’s Revenge – a story of love, money and revenge. The mother-of-five was also the worldwide best-selling Mills & Boon author in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – quite a feat considering the publisher has more than 1,300 authors.
I believe you are currently living in Ballymena – can you fill me in on your Irish roots?
My parents are both actually Scottish. They moved over to Belfast before I was born and I grew up in a seaside village just outside of Belfast. I moved to Ballymena about 10 years ago after deciding to swap the rolling sea for rolling green countryside.
How did your big break in the industry come about?
I started writing to mainly entertain myself when I was at home with my first child who was a toddler at the time. It felt at first as if I was just writing stories, but as they began to mount up I began to think seriously about getting published. It took several years and several rejections but I was determined to write for Mills & Boon. The desire to write was always there even from a young age, it was just something I revisited when I was at home with my eldest child.
What attracted you to romance and do you think you will ever write in another genre?
I’ve always read romance. It was there to help me through some of the most difficult times in my life and it became an escape for me. I went through a number of painful years suffering miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, and for me both writing and reading were an escape from the reality of that. When I write, I very much hope that I am offering that same escapism for other people, where happy ever afters are reassuring and comforting. I don’t have an interest in writing for another genre. I think I’ve found my metier.
What is the most romantic thing your husband has done for you and if you create your ideal date what would it be?
One Valentine’s Day he laid a trail of red cardboard hearts all the way to a small gift and I was very touched. He is very romantic. My ideal date would be a nice walk and dinner with my husband. Quite simple things really, but ones that mean the most.
With such a big milestone, was your approach to writing Brought for the Greek's Revenge any different or did you feel nervous?
Yes, I was very nervous because I wanted it to be a good book. I chose a mistress theme for the book as it’s one of my favourites.
What was your inspiration for your latest novel?
The one I’ve just handed in is the first in a trilogy about three sisters who each receive a ring from their estranged mother. The ring really was the main starting point for this trilogy. I love rings but I don’t have the hands to wear more than a couple.
Why do your male characters tend to be European or Arabian and would you contemplate creating an Irish heartthrob?
One thing that helps to capture the 'international’ promise is if the hero is from a far flung destination, allowing the heroine to travel away from her home. And as my heroines are usually English, it’s up to the hero. There is an aspect that makes an Irish hero a little too familiar for me, but ultimately it’s because there is no Irish hero that could match my husband.
Do you research the location your novels are set in?
Yes, very much so. My writing room is filled with travel books from all over the world, and the internet is an incredible tool.
Is everyday life an inspiration for your writing?
I love reading newspapers and magazines. There are bits and pieces I take from things I’ve read, but they often just form part of an idea rather than the whole story or character.
Do you get emotionally attached to the fictional characters you write about?
My characters become very real to me while I’m writing them but I get tired of them too. Partly because of the emotional rollercoaster I go on them with. I never feel quite right between books until I’ve got another one to go on to.
You have a vast back catalogue but are there any novels you are most proud of or characters you have found hardest to let go?
At the moment it's Apollo Mextraxis. He’s in a book coming out in December. It’s the second part of the Tycoon series, titled The Greek’s Christmas Bride. He’s so gloriously alpha which pleased both me and my editor immensely.
With 30 years' experience, what advice to you give to budding writers?
Find a way to make the time to write, to handle the first rejection, and to pick yourself back up and try again. Keep reading in the area of fiction you want to write. You must know your audience and your market. Ultimately writing isn’t easy; it’s takes perseverance, strength, grit and determination. But if it’s something that you truly want, you’ll not be able to give up because it’s also the most wonderful thing to do.
Who are your favourite authors?
Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Kresley Cole, Laurell K Hamilton.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
About two months, because that's the timescale I set myself.
Are you writing your 101st at the minute?
No, 104th! I just keep writing the stories that come to me and I will keep going until that stops.
What would you say to readers who have never picked up a Mills & Boon before?
Buy it – you may be surprised. We’ve moved on a lot and I don’t think that people have realised it. It’s frustrating when Mills & Boon is used as a derogatory term.
Finally, can I ask you about your family. What ages are your kids now? Do they serve as your book critics?
Of course! My husband and I have four children. My youngest four are adopted and only my eldest reads my books. They’re all grown up now and starting their own families. I have two children still living at home, and three grandchildren.
Bought for the Greek’s Revenge is available now on www.millsandboon.co.uk.