Hi Laura, thank you for inviting me to Novel Kicks and giving me this opportunity to talk about my book.
Love & Pollination is about an extremely naïve young woman called Perdita whose Catholic education and convent upbringing did not prepare her for having an intimate relationship. Being so innocent, she makes mistakes – and she ends up pregnant. Then she loses her job – and her home. But she’s optimistic and makes the best of things despite the intrusion of Saul Hadley into her life. She thinks that she can get the better of him – and readers will have to see if she succeeds!
The story was inspired by the fact that faith schools in the UK are not required to have Sex and Relationship Education (the government has now changed it to Relationship and Sex Education as they probably realised the revised word order was more appropriate for young people). So students in religious schools can end up being pretty ignorant about the birds and the bees – and how to spot a no-good womaniser.
I thought it would be fun to have a character who was brought up by nuns in an orphanage attached to a convent – and who had a Catholic convent education – to explain her innocence. And the plot set-up relies on her naïveté as do many of the jokes. That aside, she is still a unique character as you will see if you read the book – she has an interesting approach to problem-solving.
How long did it take you to write Love and Pollination and what’s your process like from idea to final draft?
I began the idea of the book about thirty years ago – I tried for Mills & Boon and had no luck. I worked on other things and, on and off, came back to this novel. But it wasn’t until about eight years ago that I decided to completely re-write it and change the tone of my writing. Then something seemed to click – and I started to make people laugh at the writers’ group I’d recently joined. I decided the plot worked far better as a comedy.
I bought some books on writing comedy, and I watch a lot of comedy on TV. But I didn’t labour on the book continuously over the eight years – I had other comedy romance ideas and began work on those. It took a great deal of slog to get Love & Pollination to the stage where it was finally published and I’m incredibly grateful to DuBois Publishing for giving me the opportunity to present my book to the world. I am hoping that I will be quicker getting my next book out. I just have to find a publisher…
You were a member of the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme. How did that help you write your novel? Is this something you’d recommend to new writers?
I belong to a writers’ group – we read out a piece of our work for ten minutes and get feedback for another ten minutes or so. This is very valuable but people giving feedback in a writers’ group can only see snippets of the novel at a time. The great thing about the New Writers’ Scheme is that the entire novel gets read by one person and they give a comprehensive critique. This gives feedback on plot and character development and can identify problems that a writers’ group can’t.
I recommend the NWS unreservedly. I think it’s fantastic. The membership fee is small compared to what it would cost to have someone from, for example, a critique company read the book – it makes getting personalised help much more affordable.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I don’t have a typical day – my writing is erratic. Sometimes I go through a fertile period and make a great deal of progress and then I can go for weeks with not being able to work on my manuscript at all for one reason or another.
What elements do you feel make a good story?
In a romance, the two protagonists must be likeable. And the reader must be rooting for at least one of them very early on. Plots are re-worked time and again in different novels – it is up to the author to bring freshness and originality to the treatment of the story to keep the reader interested.
For what I am writing at the moment, it’s important to make it entertaining. Although I’m currently working on comedy, there still needs to be light and shade with the emotional pull on the reader otherwise the story can be monotonous and it would lack depth. I like my characters to do unexpected things. Although romances usually have a happy ending (mine certainly do!) it is interesting to consider how the characters behave before they get there. Between the start and finish lines, there is plenty of opportunity to inject a whole load of fun.
What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite word has to be ‘love’. It has connotations of warmth, security, togetherness, loyalty and a whole load of other positive adjectives. When you’re in love and that love is reciprocated the feeling is amazing. When you make a new friend you love to spend time with, it makes you feel so good. Love is what binds us to our families (usually) and keeps us strong. And love is what I write about.
Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?
I’d like to meet The Genie from Aladdin – he’d be able to grant me three wishes. I really need them! (Sorry, I’m not revealing what I’d ask for!)
Which songs would feature on a playlist for Love and Pollination?
The playlist would have to include The Sound of Music. Although Perdita was not a nun – nor intending to be one – her upbringing makes her the next best thing.
Stevie Wonder – I Believe (When I Fall In Love)
The Seekers – I’ll Never Find Another You
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – Orphan Girl
Thorne Empire – Perfect Harmony
And my favourite – Michael Learns To Rock – Eternal Love. This song was written for the great Korean drama, Healer and I think it’s brilliant. The drama was too.
What is next for you?
The next book I’m hoping to get published is another whacky romance. Another mad plot with interesting characters and unpredictable storylines. More snappy and witty dialogue. I use Perdita’s world although she has a minor role. But Luke and Gavin, whom we met in Love & Pollination also, feature in the massive sub-plot. And, of course, this book has to have a happy ending. Fingers crossed I get a publisher to take it on.
Any other advice for new writers?
Write in all kinds of styles and genres to help you find your voice. If possible, attend writing courses – you will progress much more quickly (I have seen the difference between those who have attended and myself…). And do join a writers’ group. You need the feedback to stop you wasting time in the wrong direction, and hearing feedback on other authors’ work teaches you too.
If you are writing romance – join the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. You might not like everything that’s said, but in the end you will be very grateful for it. And you can re-submit the same novel year after year until you get it right.
About Mari Jane:
Mari Jane Law lives in the UK. She loves books, TV series and films that make her laugh and, through her writing, discovered she could make other people laugh as well. She hopes those who buy or borrow her work have as much fun reading it as she had in writing it.
Love & Pollination is the first whacky romantic comedy novel in a series she is working on – each book in the series will have at least one new love story. Her main characters appeal so strongly to her that she is unable to let them go. She enjoys their humorous behaviour, quirky personalities and sharp, witty dialogue.
Mari was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2019 Search for a Star competition.