The similarities and differences between my roles as a shopping television presenter and a novelist.
At first glance it might seem as though the two professions are worlds apart, and quite often people who are avid book-readers say they don’t watch any television at all, but actually, as someone who has a foot in both camps, my opinion is that they have more in common than you might think.
For a start, they are both communication-based. One of the reasons I’ve been successful at QVC, the shopping channel where I’ve been a presenter since it first appeared on UK television screens more than twenty-seven years ago, is that people feel they can connect with me and trust me. Obviously, trust doesn’t come overnight, it is gained through being honest about the products we sell and not over promising. If viewers purchase an item based on what I’ve said about it, I am, to a degree, responsible for their satisfaction when they get the product home. I therefore have to be very careful with my choice of words and the same is true when I’m writing.
The same story can be told in different ways by different writers. How many times do you look at the blurb on the back cover of a book and think this sounds familiar; another book about a missing child, as my first DCI Rachel Hart book was. But when you start reading the story, although it may have some basic similarities, it’s not the same at all, and part of the reason for that is the way that it’s told. In other words, the author’s voice which, if it’s in a style the reader likes, will bring them back time and again.
To go back to my day job for a moment; a product will be shown multiple times across a couple of days by different presenters, so why do viewers purchase from a presenter when they’ve seen the item several times previously and not been tempted to buy. It’s words and the way they are delivered. Painting the picture of how something will fit into your home and how it will enhance your day to day life is very different from describing what something is and what it does. The same is true when writing a novel.
Books would be very short if it was just the plot, told from A to B, without including any backstory or minor characters. The art of the writer is to engage the reader to keep them turning the pages, just as the art of the shopping television presenter is to keep people from channel hopping if they don’t like the product that is currently being demonstrated. If you keep the viewers entertained as well as informed, then they are more likely to keep watching and they may love the next item and go on to buy it.
Of course, in both scenarios it’s important not to over embellish which is where my producer enters the ring at QVC and my editor steps up with my writing. Their jobs, again similar, are to keep me focussed on the key points so that I don’t lose the viewers or readers attention.
In the very early days of QVC, I think I may have been guilty of waffling a bit to give me precious seconds of thinking time. In fact, one of my best friends at the channel had a sweatshirt made for me with the words, ‘I digress’ printed on it, which I used to say to bring me back to the point.
Likewise, while I still love the characters and storyline of my first novel, Life’s a Beach and Then… which was self-published, I’ve since realised that it could have done with a couple more rounds of editing to tighten the book up.
So, there are a lot of similarities between my ‘day’ job and my writing but there is also a major difference. Although the words I use in describing products might encourage people to use their imagination to some extent, picturing how a blender will look on their kitchen work surface for example, they are actually able to see the items I’m demonstrating. However, the words in a book rely on the reader’s imagination running riot as they visualize the scenes and characters in their own way. They even ‘hear’ the dialogue differently unless the novel is available in audiobook, which I’m pleased to say is the case with my latest book, My Mother’s Secret.
(c) Julia Roberts
My latest novel, My Mother’s Secret is out now. Go to my website www.juliarobertsauthor.com for more information.
About My Mother’s Secret:
‘They told me he died, but I never believed them. I’d have known,’ she says, her voice little more than a whisper and her eyes searching mine. ‘A mother would know if her child died, wouldn’t she?’
The phone call comes in the middle of the night, rousing Danni from her safe, warm bed. The police have found her mother Diana wandering miles from her house, confused and lost. Danni races to her mother’s side – and as usual, Diana doesn’t seem to want her there. But when Danni finds out that her mother is seriously ill, she decides to put the past behind her, and care for her mother in the time they have left.
But as some of Diana’s memories are slipping away, others are forcing their way to the surface. One night she breaks down and reveals that before Danni was born, she had another baby who never got to see the world. Faced with her mother’s heartbreak, Danni vows to do everything she can to bring Diana some peace, hoping that it will mend their fractured relationship too.
Yet as Danni investigates the past, tracking down the aunt she’s never met and searching for her lost brother’s resting place, her good intentions have unexpected consequences as more truths emerge. And there’s one shocking revelation which could change Danni’s life forever. Are some secrets best left buried?
A completely heartbreaking and compelling story of families, secrets, and the fierce love between mothers and children. Fans of Amanda Prowse, Ali Mercer and Jodi Picoult will smile through their tears.
Order your copy online here.