MF 375 : Writing series: Nicola Lowe ("Kiss" book series)
Updated: May 19
Novelist Nicola Lowe ("Kiss" series) joins us this week to talk about writing for the romance genre. You'll learn how Nicola gets inspired by everyday people, events, and letting your characters make critical choices. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Nicola is a novelist based in Northam, England, which is near Liverpool for all of you Beatles fans. By day, Nicola is a program manager for a software company and by night, once her kids are tucked into bed, she writes romance novels. Today, on Moving Forward, Nicola shares how she got started, what motivated her to write her first book and some starting points for new authors.
A spark of romance during a difficult time
Nicola's writing journey started during the early days of the pandemic when the UK was in lockdown. Initially, she wrote to provide herself a little cheer from what was happening in the world. Nicola always loved writing from a young age but until recently didn't feel brave enough to attempt a novel much less share it with an audience. It was on New Year's Eve 2020 and into 2021 that she made a resolution to write her first romance novel.
Flash forward to July 2021, her debut novel The Missed Kiss was released, followed by two more in the series: To Kiss You Again, released last November, and a short story called The Christmas Kiss, which came out this past December. In addition, Nicola writes short stories and poetry, which she publishes on her website.
Taking a life of its own
As Nicola shares in our conversation, she didn't intend to write the "Kiss" books as a series but the characters took a life of their own and the positive response to her first book led to the sequel, and an alternate universe spinoff: the aforementioned The Christmas Kiss.
Long before writing her first novel, Nicola was a romance content connoisseur when it came to books, films, and other media. She is also a big fan of fantasy, especially ones with romantic overtones and subplots.
Nicola's writing process starts with observation. She is a self-described "day dreamy person" and uses this superpower to her advantage. Unlike most of us who will curse at being stuck in a traffic jam, everyday events such as this are where Nicola finds ideas for for her next books. A random person on the street or at a corner may become the template for a character to entice her readers into their next adventure. I was curious how Nicola tracks all of these ideas and she revealed that she has dozens of books sketched out on the notes app (see episodes 338 and 339 for more on why this is one of my favorite productivity tools).
Letting the characters lead
From there, Nicola builds the plot arounds the characters. She uses a skeletal outline but doesn't do a lot of heavy planning when it comes to the story. Instead, she invests her time and creative energy into developing her characters to the point where they become living, breathing beings to her. She will even go so far as to cast actors who might play them in a film or TV adaptation and hear their voices in her head as she writes the dialogue. Nicola develops a deep bond with her characters, and puts her trust in them to tell the story.
"I just start writing and see what happens." -Nicola Lowe
Finding the time to write
As noted, Nicole has a busy day job and a full family life at home. Naturally, I was curious how she finds the time to write. The evenings are when she does most of her writing. For her, it starts with having the right mindset: transforming yourself from consumer to creator. As she explains, if you want to write a book, find out what activities you can backburner or sacrifice to create pockets of time to write. For Nicola, this meant giving up watching romance stories on Netflix to write her own. This is an important takeaway for any person who has writing a book as one of their big goals. We can't add more hours to the day so do a time audit, make choices, and write.
The nitty gritty on the first book
It took Nicola three months to finish the first draft of her The Missed Kiss, following a disciplined schedule of writing four nights a week. From this, Nicole set three months as a benchmark for her completing the first drafts of her subsequent books. This illustrates the power of time management and making book writing a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
From challenge to opportunity
Nicola's method of letting her characters lead the story does come with occasional hiccups. As she explains, when you start with minimal outlining or planning, you have to allow your characters to make decisions and sometimes they are the wrong ones. Specifically, Nicola treats her characters as a universe of possible choices. They could do anything, from "traveling to Australia to buying a pony." However, for purposes of a novel, certain decisions will bear better storytelling fruit than others. Thus, there are times when one decision doesn't quite carry the story forward. Nicola advises that when a choice doesn't gel or goes against the grain of a character's overall arc, go back to the fork in the road and make another decision. This may require redoing and rewriting chapters of work. It can be painful but ultimately, this process allows the characters to lead the story. Unlike real life, a writer can go back in time and see what plays out if a character does X instead of Y. This is why Nicola finds the middle section the hardest, which is when most big plot decisions come to fruition. She advises new writers who follow this method to be flexible and open to going back, and if necessary, deleting and rewriting chapters in service of a better story.
From draft to published book
It may surprise you to learn that Nicola initially didn't intent to publish her first novel. She wrote it primarily for herself. It was when she let her best friend read it, and received an overwhelmingly positive response, that she decided to take the bold step of publishing her book and sharing with a wide audience. In Nicola's mind, if she could bring the same joy to others that she did to her friend, especially during these dark times, it would be worth getting over her initial fears and hesitations. Nicola briefly looked into traditional publishing but because she is a "complete control freak," and "very impatient," she decided to go the self-publish route. Nicola dove head first into the wealth of knowledge on self-publishing available online, trying to separate the good from the bad. It was joining the #writingcommunity on Twitter that ultimately proved to be the best resource for learning the ins and outs of the process.
One of the biggest hurdles Nicola faced was internal. As she reveals, once she set up her social media accounts and branded herself as an author she felt like a "fraud." Ultimately, what got her through this mental obstacle was the reminder that you have to take risks in life. Moreover, think about your life at age 75. As she puts it do you want to look back on your life and think "I wish I had published that book?" or do you want to look back and say "yeah, a few people didn't like it but a hundred people did!" As we're speaking, Nicola has since written three more books. It all started with the fateful decision to release that first "Kiss" novel to the public. Nicola also advises new authors to "write what you love" because you will spend a lot of time with it, not just in the drafting but the editing process.
"Just be brave and go for it." -Nicola Lowe
With respect to marketing, which comes with self-publishing, Nicola recommends you start with your budget. This will dictate what you can and can't do. With a bigger budget, you can explore traditional advertising, including paid social media ads. If you're working with a smaller budget, develop a regular presence on social media and let people get to know you. Don't just put out posts that say "buy my book" but connect and engage; build relationships. In particular, Nicola has found Twitter to be a great place to find your reader base. Finally, if you can dance, go on Tik Tok!
Connect with Nicola:
The "Kiss" book series by Nicola
Watch the video of our conversation on Facebook:
Check out the Moving Forward mini-series collection
Get your news with Morning Brew (free)
Morning Brew (affiliate link): a fantastic free newsletter that's a quick read and a great way to get your morning briefing on what's happening in the market, the economy, and the larger world.
What I’m reading / read
The Judge's List by John Grisham (***)
Books by John
Audiobook narrated by John
Get a free trial to Audible and I Am a Professional Metalhead (Audible affiliate).
Support the Podcast
The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.
Try Audible for free (Amazon affiliate).
Try Amazon Prime for free (Amazon affiliate).