I am very excited to be able to share an exclusive interview with you today. I have been quizzing the fabulous Michelle Betham, HarperImpulse author of the hugely popular ‘Striker’ series. (If you haven’t yet discovered this gloriously steamy series yet then DO check them out. Striker Extra Time and pre-order Final Score)
Hi Holly! It’s really great to be here, thank you so much for having me! I’m an ex-media technician turned romance author who loves music – especially rock music – reading, football, Peter Kay, and darts! I’m also a bit of a TV addict who’s hooked on binge watching – I love nothing more than a really great TV series to get stuck into! But I’m also a HUGE fan of MasterChef! I currently live in County Durham with my husband and little West Highland Terrier, Archie, but we also spent a couple of years living on the beautiful Canarian island of Tenerife.
Can you tell us a bit about the books in your sexy soccer series, Striker, Extra Time and the third in the series, Final Score (due for release in August 2014)?
These books are definitely what I’d like to call edgy romance. The tagline I like to use sometimes is ‘The Beautiful Game isn’t always so pretty…’, because it isn’t. Not in these books, anyway. And I’ve also nicknamed the series ‘Fifty Shades of Football’, because these books do have their moments! I’m not over keen on my mum reading them, let’s put it that way! The books follow the story of fictitious Premiership footballer Ryan Fisher, sexy sports reporter Amber Sullivan, and the mysterious, but extremely enigmatic America-born football manager Jim Allen, and the sometimes complicated and intense relationship that goes on between the three of them. The Striker Series is a love story, when all’s said and done, it’s just not your everyday kind of love story. It’s quite edgy, but also very hot! Oh, and don’t let the football theme sway you – they really are more about the sex than the soccer!
What inspired you to write a series of books based around footballers? Are you a football fan yourself?
I am! I’ve been a football fan since I was very young, and I’d always secretly wanted to write a book based around football in some shape or form because it’s a world I’ve been fascinated with – what really goes on behind all the glamour and the fame? That’s what I wanted to explore in the Striker books. I was also a huge fan of ‘Footballers’ Wives’ – I adored that show ! It was pure escapism at its best, and that’s what I wanted these books to be. They’re pure escapism, simple as that.
Is your feisty lead character, Amber Sullivan, based on anyone you know?
No, she isn’t, but I suppose you could say her character was influenced a lot by the fact I always really wanted to be a football journalist, but just never had the confidence to take that career path. So I’m kind of living that fantasy through Amber! I think there’s probably a little bit of the person I’d quite like to be in Amber.
What was it like writing a follow-up to Striker? Did you find writing the second novel in the series more difficult than the first?
Funnily enough, no, which is strange, because I know a lot of people who write sequels say the second book can be much harder to write than the first. But I actually found it really easy writing the second and third books, because I knew the characters so well, and I kind of knew the journey I wanted them to take throughout this series of books. I did, however, struggle quite a bit with the ending of ‘Final Score’. When you’ve spent so long with a group of characters, and you finally come to the end of their journey, finding that perfect ending – or an ending that you, as a writer, are happy with, anyway – was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I actually lost sleep over it at times! But I think I chose the right ending for all of those characters. I hope! I guess I’ll have to wait and see what the readers who’ve followed Amber, Ryan and Jim’s journey with me think!
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
I started out self-publishing back in 2011, after receiving the usual rejection emails from agents and publishers, releasing around 7 or 8 novels through the Amazon KDP Select platform – one of my books, ‘Bon Voyage’, a cruise-themed romcom, actually got to #53 in the Kindle Top 100 Paid chart back in the summer of 2012, so I have actually written a bestselling book, and I was really proud of that achievement, because I’d done it as an indie author. But I finally plucked up the courage to submit again after reading about HarperImpulse and their search for new authors. Back in March 2013 I submitted ‘Striker’, and then assumed I’d been unsuccessful because I heard nothing back for months. But, back in August of last year I noticed HarperImpulse were also asking for submissions for their ‘Winter Wonderland’ competition – which was open to all Christmas/New Year themed books. So I decided to have another go and submitted my little self-published Lapland-set novella ‘Christmas Without Icing’, and then sat back and forgot about it all over again. Only, a couple of months later, in October last year, I got “the call” from the lovely Charlotte Ledger over at HI, telling me that they wanted to take not only the Christmas book, but also ‘Striker’, too! To say I was over the moon was an understatement, especially when Charlotte told me a couple of weeks later that my Christmas book was one of the winners of the Winter Wonderland competition! I went down to London just before Christmas last year to visit the HarperCollins offices – which in itself was a dream come true for someone like me who has always wanted to write – and then as my prize for being one of the winners of the competition, I got to have afternoon tea at Fortnum & Masons with Charlotte, Katie and Kimberly from the HarperImpulse team! The day after that my Christmas novella – now renamed ‘The First Christmas Without You’ – was published, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, but I wouldn’t change any of it. I’m still learning so much, and it’s still a very emotional journey, but this really is my dream come true.
What do you like best about writing steamy romances?
I love the fact you can lose yourself totally in a complete fantasy world. I love the fact I can spend my days creating drop-dead-gorgeous characters, giving them these journey’s to go on that might not always be easy, but they’re usually very sexy! Writing steamy romance gives me, as a writer, a chance to let loose, and use my imagination to its absolute limit! Because I’ve got a very over-active one!
Do you have a favourite character from any of your books?
Oh yes! One of my favourite characters has to be Kenny Ross, from my first ever self-published novel ‘No Matter What’. He’s a Hollywood movie star, gorgeous, fit, and I think he’ll always be one of my favourite characters, because he was probably the first real book character I ever created. He was “born”, so to speak, just after I watched Keanu Reeves in the movie ‘Point Break’ back in 1991, and I just knew I had to have a main character who looked like that, because I love Keanu Reeves! And even though Kenny never actually made it onto paper until 2009, he was always there, in my head for all those years, just waiting to be written. But I also LOVE the character of Ryan Fisher in the ‘Striker’ books. There’s so much more to him than you might think when you first meet him, and I loved writing his journey. I really fell for that character, big time! Oh, and then there’s Sheriff Ethan Everett from another of my self-published novels ‘Unbreakable’. He is very sexy! I really like him!
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I have so many favourite authors! I love reading anything from romance to horror, with the late James Herbert being a particular favourite of mine – anyone who can scare me with words the way he can scare me is a genius in my eyes. I couldn’t sleep for two nights after reading ‘The Dark’! I also love Stephen King, Jill Mansell, Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Danielle Steel, Jilly Cooper, and my absolute favourite, Jackie Collins! Her brand of escapism is something I always turn to when I want to be completely taken away from the real world for a little while. I adore her books!
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
That’s a difficult question because, at the time of writing this, I’ve got about half a dozen projects on the go at once! I like to make my life easy!! I’m working on a rock star romance series, a follow-up to ‘Unbreakable’ – a novel I self-published back in March of this year, as well as something that might involve bringing back some characters I’m finding really hard to let go of, a couple of ideas for summer-themed books, and a biker gang romance, inspired by my love of ‘Sons of Anarchy’. I like to keep busy! So, not altogether sure what my next book (after ‘Final Score’) will be, but I should hopefully have some idea of what that will be very soon.
My thanks again to Michelle for appearing on Bookaholic Confessions. ♥