I got to know powerhouse romance writer Francine Beaton through a new South African Indie Writers Group. I’m totally inspired by her organisation and ability to get books out. Being relatively new on the romance writing scene, I just had to interview her, didn’t I? Here’s how it went.
The only word I can think of to describe you as a writer is prolific. With four series and other projects in the works, how did this crazy drive to publish start?
My inspiration to write emerged on the Fourth of July boat cruise on the Hudson River of all places. I didn’t even know it then but there had to be a reason why the meeting of a fellow rugby enthusiast from Jersey made such an impression. It was only on the long flight from New York to Johannesburg, while trying to read a really bad sports romance, that I thought I could do better.
That Monday, I unpacked the muse along with my dirty laundry, put my ass on the chair and started to write. I must admit that first attempts were not better than the one I read on the plane but I persevered, completing eight manuscripts before I went on a Romance Masterclass with Sarah Bullen from The Writing Room. It was the biggest investment I could’ve made. With the help of Sarah’s three-month mentorship, I rewrote and edited my debut novel, Eye on the Ball, about twenty times before Sarah encouraged me to submit. I did.
Of course, like most authors I got numerous rejections but three indie publishers believed in me.
When I realised how slow the process was through a publishing company, and I realised that I have so many manuscripts to publish, I thought I’ll be dead if I have to wait for publishers to do that.
That’s when I decided to self-publish the Taste for Love series. Things with my then publisher didn’t work out, mainly because of the costs of getting print books to South Africa. She was very forthcoming and gave me my rights back so, now, I self-publish all my books. It’s not to say I might not approach a publisher or agent in the future, but for now I like the self-publishing. As you say, I’m a prolific writer, working on one or more projects at the same time.
Your most exciting series so far, and one which explores your passion for rugby, is Playing For Glory with those awesome green and gray covers. What gave you the idea for the series, and do the stories intertwine? If so, how?
As I’ve mentioned, the meeting of that rugby player from Jersey gave me the idea. Before then, I never considered writing about my beloved sport, not even romances. I thought of only one book at first, but before the plane landed in Johannesburg, I had outlined a series of six books. The focus in each book would’ve been one member of a core centre of friends and teammates at a young, professional rugby club. For eight months after that New York trip, I plotted and wrote the first six books in the series and outlines of several other books. None of them was Eye on the Ball, my debut novel. Jakes from Eye on the Ball was initially only a name and number in the team, and not part of the group of friends. He and André, his best friend, were only included in the core group of friends after I wrote Eye on the Ball.
The stories could be read as standalones, but they do intertwine. Those core friends are mentioned in almost all the books. There are a few characters that are mentioned but only briefly. One of them is Ulrich, my MC in Playing by the Rules. These are shorter novellas and I hope to publish Ryan’s story soon. Hopefully Richie and Mark’s stories will be published this year as well as Matthew. Then there are two other characters climbing out of the woodwork, wanting me to publish their stories, too. I take it one book at a time.
What was the most exhilarating point of your research for the Playing For Glory series?
When I planned the series I thought it would be typical sports romances with lots of heat. It turned out that that was not what my characters wanted. Often when I need inspiration, I will sit at Trademarx in Pretoria, watching the Bulls players train. I guess it was when one of the Springboks or Bulls players walk past you and says, “Middag Tannie*,” that I realised that these are just regular guys. I listened to their conversations, moaning about the distance travelling, renting a house, and I thought, yes, regular guys with the same issues other people have. That had been the turning point for me in writing the series.
I love the research about injuries, rules and regulations and talking to players and ex-players.
When I wrote Eye on the Ball, I thought Jakes was going to New York, as I’ve just been to New York and I could describe it better. Nope, how Jakes ended up on a flight to Denver I’ll never know. It caused me to do way more research about Denver than I planned. It’s strange how the research can teach you things you would never have known.
The Blue Mountain series takes us into the Winelands of the Cape, and another passion of yours, I presume! Tell us a bit about the characters of Blue Mountain, and which wines you’d like to drink with them.
Oh yes, I love wine and I love the Cape. I got the idea of the series while visiting Stellenbosch in September 2016. I haven’t even published my first book yet and there I got the idea for another series! I looked at all these old farms that had been in a family for generations and that was where the Blue Mountain series was born. When I released the series, I had a release party for friends and family. I met with a wine guru beforehand and he gave me the idea to name a wine after each character. It had been so much fun to describe the wine according to each of the characters and choose the wine to go with them.
Nicola in Kind of Blue’s label read: You can’t describe her in one word because there are so many facets to her. It makes her instantly likeable and fun. If you can spend real quality time with her, like on an overland train trip, we’re sure you’ll discover more to her than sweetness and light. Not that you need to bother. She’s perfect just as she is. Nichola is a blend of, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine shows black plum and cinnamon spice on the nose. Black cherry and mulberry fruit show through on the palate along with spice, all leading to a well-integrated, elegant tannin structure.
Adam, the MC in Kind of Blue read: Still waters run deep. He’s not the showy type, a little more reserved. He’s the perfect friend to have in cosy little settings where nobody has to speak. They just come to enjoy the moment. He’s comfortable, and yet he will surprise you every so often. If you get stranded on a deserted island, you might get tired of just about anyone after a while, but you’ll never get tired of him. Dark, ruby red colour. Intense nose of mulberries supported by cinnamon and white pepper. Adam is a medium-bodied Merlot with soft ripe tannins and intense berry flavours.
These are two of my favourite wines.
Now, the Blue Mountain series is also available in Afrikaans as the Blouberg Series. What decided you to offer it as a translation? Do you have plans for further translated works?
While I was at JOE’s Indie Popup Book Fair in 2018, several readers complained that there were no Afrikaans books. I therefore decided to try re-writing the Blue Mountain Series in Afrikaans. It had been a surprising success, not only here but also overseas. I’ve sold most of the Afrikaans copies in Canada.
If I get the time, I would like to try and re-write Eye on the Ball in Afrikaans. I’m also working on another series set on a game farm which I hope to re-write in Afrikaans as well.
Trick question: Afrikaans can be quite fun when it gets snaaks, and there’s some words which don’t have English equivalents. At school, I used to love describing storms in Afrikaans because it could be so much more evocative. Do you prefer writing in English or Afrikaans, or does it depend on genre?
This is a trick question. Although I am Afrikaans, I find that I write easier in English. It had been quite a big difference writing in Afrikaans again after all these years. I agree though, Afrikaans is such a descriptive language. My Scottish husband’s favourite word is vrot.
Then there’s the Taste For Love series. This brings in another place you’re very passionate about—Edinburgh. Why did you decide to set the first book partly in Scotland?
My husband is Scottish and we spend a lot of time in Scotland as his mother and brother are still there. Taste For Coffee is solely set in Edinburgh, but the rest of the series will be Edinburgh and somewhere else. Taste For Wine, for example, will be partly in Edinburgh, a flashback to South Africa, and then Mendoza in Argentina. Taste For Chocolate, I think. might be Edinburgh and France, and Taste For Whisky would be Edinburgh and somewhere in the Highlands.
You’re very inspiring to us Indies out there with all that you’ve achieved in your publishing career in such a short space of time (18 months, is it?). What advice do you have for us newbie series writers?
Thank you. Yes, I’ve started writing in July 2016 but only published my first book in April 2018. That first year was practice. I’m still not perfect, having just re-edited my debut novel. Writing is not for sissies. It’s hard work, dedication and growing a thick skin. It’s not everyone who can achieve overnight success and become a millionaire. For me, if you write for the money, it feels as if you can’t write from the heart. You have to believe in what you’re writing and why you’re doing it. And you have to believe in yourself. Never stop growing. With each book I can see how my writing style evolves and hopefully improves.
I’d ask you what’s next, but I can guess it’s another series or two, so I’d prefer that we know how and where to find you 😀
I’m currently finishing Taste For Wine as part of the Taste for Love series. Yes, there are a few series in the pipeline. One is romantic suspense called Until You’re Mine, set in Scotland (Glasgow and Gairloch). It could develop in a series of three books. I’ve outlined several other books and series. The one series is set on a game farm and a small town in South Africa and will be about six or seven books with passion, intrigue and suspense. I’m also planning a series of Scottish billionaires and will spend two months later this year in Scotland researching that as well as a standalone women’s fiction with the working title, Alive. And as I’m spending the next few years travelling extensively, who knows? Ideas seem to develop every day.
Romance author Francine Beaton published her first romance novel — a contemporary sports romance called Eye On The Ball— in April 2018 after she first started writing in July 2016. Her latest novel, Playing By The Rules, will be the fourth in her Playing For Glory series and her twelfth novel.
Francine currently calls Pretoria home until the travel bug bites again. She loves travelling to faraway places and considers Scotland her second home. When she’s not reading or writing about love and Happily Ever After, she’s most likely busy painting or taking photos of everything that catches her eye. During rugby season, you’ll either find her next to the pitch or in front of the television, following her favourite teams. It’s probably not difficult to figure out why her debut novel, Eye on the Ball, as well as the series, Playing for Glory, has rugby as a theme.