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Interview with Charlotte Betts

I get very twitchy if I don’t have at least two pens and a notebook to hand. I’m not overly fussy about pens, providing they have a fine point and black ink. Currently I have a batch of Bic Orange Fine that suit me very well for everyday use. If I’m feeling flush or celebrating another novel being published, I might buy a set of Pilot V5 Hi-Techpoint Extra Fine Rollerballs.

They always make me feel efficient as they are so smooth and my writing looks more legible than usual. I also have a Parker fountain pen, which is special to me because my parents gave it to me for signing book contracts. It’s black with a discreet gold trim and nicely balanced to hold.

Charlotte with pen

I have a ‘wardrobe’ of lined and plain notebooks to suit every occasion, some elegantly bound and embellished and others supermarket cheapies. I use them all the time for jotting down ideas for a new novel or for thinking while I doodle or sketching word pictures of a place or a character. The notebooks vary in size from miniature to A4. Small ones slip neatly in to the pocket of my jeans when walking the dog, in case the Muse walks with me.

I have a lot of handbags and there will always be at least one resident notebook in each. Then there are notebooks beside the bed to scribble down the brilliant plot twists that always seem to arrive just as I’m falling asleep, several in the kitchen and untidy heaps of them by my desk. I never throw them away but skim through them when looking for ideas for a new novel and can be instantly transported back to that café in Seville or to a strange conversation overheard on the train. I always take one of the poshest notebooks, like one of the beautiful Paperblanks, to meetings with publishers and agents because they make me feel confident and professional.

Wordcloud and felt pens

Recently I discovered how extraordinarily useful wordclouds can be when planning a new novel. That gave me a marvellous excuse to dig out a pile of slightly crumpled A1 paper from my time as a designer and to buy a brand new set of felt tip pens. I still get the same thrill of pleasure from having new colours that I had as a child. Although they are inexpensive pens from Sainsburys, they are nice and bright with one fine and one thicker point. I use different colours for different themes or characters.

ThePalaceOfLostDreams (1)I write romantic historical novels with a dash of mystery and adventure. I started to write late in life and my first published novel, bestseller The Apothecary’s Daughter, arrived in the bookstores in 2010. Since then I’ve had a book published by Piatkus every year. Several novels have won awards and some have been translated into nine languages. My latest, set in Hyderabad in 1798 is The Palace of Lost Dreams. It will be released on 31st May for Kindle and then this October as a paperback and an audiobook.

I visited India eleven years ago. It was an assault on the senses and, when I look at the photographs I took then, I can immediately hear the intense clamour of the streets, car horns, camels and cows, and smell the cinnamon, jasmine and drains. The impact of the vast numbers of jostling people in the cities, the beggars and the heat was overwhelming but that was all part of the excitement of the experience. The decaying grandeur of the abandoned forts and palaces was impossibly romantic and I dreamed about walking through them alone, listening to the whispers of times long ago. It was this that inspired me to write The Palace of Lost Dreams.

You can read more about me and my books on my website at where you can subscribe to my newsletter or do come and visit me on Facebook at @CharlotteBettsAuthor or follow me on Twitter @CharlotteBetts1

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