Della writes: “My first short story was published in 1987, when I was about… er hem… six – and since then I’ve sold over 1500 short stories and I regularly write serials, which have been published in both the UK and abroad. I’ve also sold hundreds of features and a handful of children’s stories.”

“I live Dorset with several dogs, one of whom looks more like a donkey!

“I’m often asked for the secret of my success and it’s very simple. If I won the lottery tomorrow I would still write. I live and breathe writing. It has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I simply cannot imagine a life without writing.”

1. Which book or writer do you feel has most influenced your writing and why?
Dick Frances has always been one of my favourite writers. I think he’s underrated. He’s brilliant at both plot and characterisation and not many thriller writers are. I can’t put his books down.

2. What made you decide to write a novel?
Having a novel published has always been my ultimate dream. I loved writing them too because it means I can live with the characters for a much longer period of time than I would if I was writing a short story.

3. Did you find writing a novel easier or harder and why?
I found I could write many more words in a day than I could if I was writing short stories. In some sense it was easier because I only needed one idea, one set of characters, one plot etc.

4. Which living writers do you particularly respect and why?
Teresa Ashby has always been a hero of mine because she’s both prolific and very good. And I like Nora Roberts for the same reason.

5. What do you think is the hardest part of writing?
With novel writing I find the beginnings are the hardest parts. And strangely I find it’s the opposite with short story writing. It’s the endings I have the most trouble with.

6. In terms of your writing, what would you consider to be your own strengths and weaknesses?
I think plotting is my biggest weakness. I’m far more interested in the characters than the plot and so I tend to neglect it, which can sometimes get me into trouble if I reach a plot cul-de-sac. What I’m good at is easy, it’s emotion.

7. Describe your writing process?
Once I have the idea I work out a basic outline, and then I start writing. I don’t go in for detailed plotting. My stories are character led. I write every day apart from Christmas Day when I’m not allowed! I think it’s important to get the first draft down as quickly as possible.

8. What one piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Attending a good writing class can be very helpful, but the main way to learn is to write and write and write.

9. How did you get started as a writer?
I started going to an evening class called Writing for Profit and Pleasure. And even though I teach writing myself now, I still attend that class.

10. What was your inspiration for Passing Shadows?
I used to help out at an animal sanctuary, which was the basis for the setting of Passing Shadows. And once I started writing the novel I fell in love with Finn.

11. Did you show your novel to anyone before you sent it to your editor?
Oh yes. I’ve worked very hard on Passing Shadows and early drafts of it were seen by two critique agencies. I also had input from an agent on an earlier draft whose advice I really valued. It was also helpful to read out sections to other writers who knew what I was trying to achieve.

13. What books would you recommend to new writers?
» Teach Yourself Creative Writing by Dianne Doubtfire – (recently revised by Ian Burton, my writing tutor). This was the first book I ever bought on writing and it’s very comprehensive and easy to understand.
» Cracking The Short Story Market by Iain Patterson.
» On Writing by Stephen King.

There are many good writing books out there but it’s not just reading ‘how to’ books that is helpful, it’s reading other writers’ novels. Other writers inspire you to write better. For example, I love Katie Fforde’s books. And another novel I read recently, which was wonderfully inspiring was, The Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.