Author Spotlight With Heidi Stephens
In this series, we interview published Novlr authors to learn about their work, routines, and how they use Novlr. Heidi Stephens has spent her career working in advertising and marketing; some of her early writing work includes instruction manuals for vacuum cleaners, cookware and sex toys. For the past twelve years, she has also freelanced as a TV journalist and liveblogger for The Guardian. She lives in a small town in the UK with her partner and her Labrador, Mabel.
Can you tell us a little about yourself as a writer?
I’ve been a writer of sorts for the past twenty years – mostly as a copywriter in marketing agencies or freelancing as a journalist. But I came to novel writing late.
I wrote my first novel during the first lockdown of 2020, aged 47. Two Metres From You was published in 2021 and earlier this year, won Debut Romance Of The Year at the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. All my books so far have been contemporary romantic comedies; I can’t ever imagine writing a twisty thriller, but who knows?
What publishing route did you choose, and why?
I wanted a traditional publisher, if possible, to help me navigate an industry I knew nothing about. So I dived into the submission process and was lucky enough to be signed by a brilliant agent.
In turn, my agent got me a two-book deal with Headline, which has since been extended to four books. The third is out in November 2022, and the fourth in summer 2023.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote a lot of stories as a child and was an avid reader, but I never imagined I could make a living out of it. I had my children very young, and life commitments took over – it took decades (and a global pandemic) before I actually had the time and headspace to give it a go.
What is your writing routine?
I still have a job and various journalistic commitments, so I fit a chapter in whenever I can – sometimes at 6 am, sometimes at 10 pm.
Occasionally I’ll get a full day at a weekend, and I’ll hammer out 5000 words. Luckily I write quite fast (or so my agent says), and I’m quite good at writing in my head while I’m walking the dog, and then jotting it down when I get back. I haven’t missed a deadline yet!
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
I’m a notoriously organised person – my lists and spreadsheets are the stuff of family legend. So I assumed I’d be a meticulous planner of plot and character, but I’m not. I just dive in and keep writing, knowing vaguely where the story ends and finding the path as I go along.
It seems to work, although it’s not at all how I imagined it would be!
How do you find your inspiration?
All KINDS of places. My second book, Never Gonna Happen, was borne out of a news story I read on Facebook about a hair straightener fire. Another book I’m itching to write is inspired by a lyric from a pop song.
I’m also pushing fifty, so I’ve travelled a bit, done lots of jobs, raised a family, and met loads of interesting people. When you’ve been around the block a few times, there’s ALWAYS plenty to work with.
How long have you used Novlr, and how does it fit into your writing routine?
I started my first novel in April 2020, and it took me about a week of Microsoft Word to realise I needed something better. I have quite an orderly mind and needed a way to move things around, put sections to one side, add notes and random thoughts that were easy to find later.
I read lots of reviews of writing software and settled on Novlr; I wanted something cloud-based rather than device-specific, because I had a laptop for work and one for home, and I wanted to be able to use both depending on where I was. I’ve never looked back.
What is your favourite Novlr feature?
I love the little prompts that give me a ‘well done’ for how many words I’ve written – it’s such a small thing but also a real boost. The goal setting is great too – when I was furloughed from my job and could write every day, I set a goal of 1000 words a day and at one point had a 68-day streak. That feels like a VERY long time ago now!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in the process of writing?
That the online writing community is incredible.
The support I’ve had from other writers, bookstagrammers, bloggers, booksellers and, of course, readers has been so inspiring.
I’ve had a pretty smooth path to publication and feel very lucky, but getting there involved studying the advice and wisdom of so many brilliant people who’d been there before me. I hope I can pass that on one day.
What do you think makes a good story?
For romance, it’s all about character. Obviously you need heroes and heroines who your readers can really root for, but it’s often the side characters – friends, family, colleagues, neighbours – who truly bring a story to life.
Readers of romance trust that whatever the twists and turns along the way, the author WILL give them the ending they want. So you have to fulfil that promise, but make the journey feel worthwhile and satisfying.
Where can people find your books?
Amazon, obviously, and if you’re in the UK, you can order through your indie bookshop of choice. The easiest place to start is probably my website – heidistephens.co.uk. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
If you’re a Novlr writer who has published a book, we’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to tell us about your work and share your writing journey with us, please email [email protected].