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Billed as the new Jilly Cooper, Veronica Henry's debut novel, Honeycote received rave reviews. Her second novel, Making Hay is published in June 2003.

What inspires you to write?
My books tend to have a specific setting which provides the inspiration for the overall structure - eg Honeycote revolves around a brewery; Making Hay around the re-vamp of a village pub. Around that are woven all sorts of characters and scenarios which have been inspired by conversations I've had or overheard, snippets of gossip, an idle remark. Or I meet someone with a particular trait which might inspire a new character. Even the most dull guest at a dinner party can provide a pearl of wisdom, an insight into another world that can become a story strand. For example, this morning I had a twenty minute phone call with a pest-control officer - utterly fascinating. He was trying to get rid of me in the end, as I probed into his vermin-infested world. No doubt he will pop up in a book someday.

I'm also a voracious reader of everything and anything - leaflets in the vet's waiting room, noticeboards in the village post office, the Yellow Pages ... inspiration can strike at any time.

How long does it take you to write a novel?
About a year - although during that time I might be working on TV scripts, as well as fine-tuning the previous year's novel, writing short stories etc. And I do try and keep the holidays free for the children - though my mind never really switches off from what I am doing. The wonderful thing about writing is that you can create while you are wondering round Sainsbury's, or on the school run, or in the bath - though it's best to capture your thoughts on paper as soon as you can.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
Hmmm ... yes. In theory, I would like to complete a thousand perfect words a day - preferably in the morning, when I work best. Soemtimes I achieve nothing; other days, when I am on a roll, I can manage four thousand.

Has your life changed since you became a novelist?
I've been a writer for ten years, doing scripts for TV, so I am used to a solitary, self-motivated existence. Now I'm a novelist, the main difference is that I have one big deadline instead of lots of smaller ones.

How do you cure writer's block?
Wait. Wait for the hideous, horrible black gloom to end. Is it any wonder that so many writers and artists turn to the bottle? There is nothing as painful as self-doubt, but I am sure it's part of the creative process. The minute you think you're good, you can be sure you're not! On a more positive note, a good brisk walk on a windswept beach often blows the cobwebs away. Or a bit of retail therapy - the guilt of that Marc Jacobs handbag soon drives me back to the computer to compensate for the recklessness.

Who is your all-time favourite author?
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Enid Blyton, Daphne du Maurier, Martin Amis, J D Salinger, Rafaella Barker, Deborah Moggach, Harold Robbins, Scott Fitzgerald, the Brontes .... Depends on the mood, the occasion, the time of life, whether I want to improve my mind or escape.

What are you reading at the moment?
Godchildren, by Nicholas Coleridge. I'm expecting a baby in three weeks, so I need something absorbing but not too demanding - this fits the bill perfectly. I'm also reading The Siege by Helen Dunmore - a harrowing but gripping depiction of the siege of Leningrad, wonderfully written. I like to have something light and something more demanding on the go at the same time.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That your characters are based on people you know. People from real life just don't fit into fictional stories - they might provide the initial inspiration, but your characters must be living, breathing people in their own right, that you have created and developed and believe in. They take on their own personalities as a result of situations you have invented for them.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Find your own voice, and don't try and pigeonhole yourself by fitting into a genre or following a formula. Freshness and originality count for more than the ability to churn out more of the same - though certain basic rules of common sense should also apply! Try and write instinctively rather than forcing yourself into a corner, and write what you enjoy.

What can readers expect from you in the future?
I'm just finishing my third novel - hopefully before baby number three arrives! And I'm jotting down notes for book number four, though I'm not sure how life is going to pan out over the next twelve months. I'm hoping for a good sleeper!

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