Monday, January 23, 2017

Vivien Hampshire: A successful route to publication

It is such a pleasure to invite Vivien Hampshire to the RNA blog. Viv is known to many of us due to the years she’s spent as a successful published writer. Viv, tells us about her journey to becoming an author and how she wrote for her living along the way.

Thank you for inviting me onto the blog today.

Although ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’, published by Harlequin HQ on 18 January, is my first
commercially published novel, I have actually been writing for a very long time. I won the annual ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition run by the Mail on Sunday way back in 1994 and then came second two years later. Both of those were just short 150-word pieces written to draw readers in and make them want to read on. Having beaten around 5000 other entrants to make it to the winners list, I had clearly got that bit right, but sadly the full length novels that grew out of them never made it to publication.

With young children at home and limited time to myself, I turned my hand to short stories. They were quicker to write and far more likely to bring some more immediate financial reward. I sold my first – an emotional family story based at Christmas - to Woman’s Weekly in 1997, and have continued to write and sell stories to all the usual UK women’s magazines on a pretty regular basis ever since. I have stories in issues of both Woman’s Weekly and The People’s Friend Special this month, and usually manage to get one into the People’s Friend Annual every year too!

As my confidence as a writer grew, I also ventured into poetry and non-fiction. Several funny poems for young children found their way into school anthologies published by Macmillan, and I won a few minor poetry competition prizes, including an all-inclusive weekend hotel break, only spoilt by the fact that they misspelled my name and had me living in the wrong home town in hundreds of printed copies of the love poetry booklet they gave away free to all their hotel and wedding guests! 

By day, I was working with young children in libraries and children’s centres. So I started pitching article ideas to nursery and childcare magazines, got myself regular commissions, joined the editorial board of one of them, and have now had over 250 articles and children’s book reviews published in that field. I also drew on my hobby of tackling cryptic crosswords and wrote my first book, ‘How To Crack Cryptic Crosswords’ (How To Books), and started a small business compiling my own personalised crosswords as gifts, with all clues individually tailored to the recipient. 

Joining a creative writing evening class and then a local writers’ group early in my career was probably the best move I ever made. I came across like-minded people, learnt a lot about technique, found out about markets, and began to share my work and receive criticism. Within a few years, I ended up both teaching the evening classes and running the local group! Writers’ holidays at Caerleon followed (I went eleven times!) bringing me into contact with some lovely writers who have remained good friends, and I joined the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, where I now serve on Council and administer the Society’s competition programme.

With the children grown up and gone, I made the decision at the end of 2013 to quit my job and write full-time. I had self-published an e-book novel which had some very good reviews, but I lacked the marketing expertise to make it a sales success, and the urge to get a novel accepted and published by a ‘real’ publisher had started to rear its head. I had a feeling it was now or never… so that’s when I turned to the experts, the RNA. 

I spent four years in the New Writers Scheme and, despite briefly having an agent who didn’t manage to get me a deal, two of the novels I submitted to the NWS have now found publishing contracts. The first, ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’, is out now as an e-book, with the second to be published by Harper Impulse under my married name of Vivien Brown in the summer, and another contracted for 2018. The original contacts with both my editors were made as a result of short but very successful one-to-one meetings at last year’s conference in Lancaster. No agent. Just me chatting to the right people, and showing them the right manuscript at the right time. What a result!

Vivien Hampshire xx


Thank you, Vivien, and good luck with your very busy 2017.

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Friday, January 20, 2017


Welcome to our latest blog series, Book Bloggers & Reviewers. Author, Ellie Holmes will be chatting each month to the wonderful industry bloggers who love to read books and do so much to promote our work. Welcome also to Rosie Amber the first in the series. Over to you Ellie.

I am delighted to welcome Rosie Amber to the RNA Blog. Nearly five years ago, Rosie decided to
use her love of reading to help promote authors and their books through her blog.  She is now in the top 1% of Goodreads reviewers and has been a runner up in Sacha Blacks’ Bloggers Bash awards for the last two years. Rosie says one of the best things about her blog is that it has allowed her to meet some lovely people.
Inspired by “A Year of Doing Good” by Judith O’Reilly. Rosie decided to undertake her own challenge of doing one good deed a day for a year. She enjoyed the challenge so much she decided to carry on and wrote about it on her blog. You can check it out by following the link at the bottom of this article.

Welcome Rosie. What made you start to review/blog?
I began blogging nearly five years ago, both my children had reached their teens and it was a way of legitimately entering the huge social media scene to keep up with them and more importantly an eye out without stalking them. I’ve always loved reading so writing reviews for the books I read was an easy step.

How has your blog developed over time?
Rosie Amber
At first my reviews were only one or two sentences. Clearly this wasn’t enough, I studied other book bloggers and soon took a pencil and paper with me when I read and made notes as the book progressed. I was rather shocked when I was first approached to review a book from a “real“person.
My first review copies were read on my computer screen, I didn’t even own a kindle. Next came the kindle, I found out how to upload mobi files. I made a point of learning my craft from the bottom up, researching and teaching myself. I had a friend show me the basics of Facebook and Twitter, I’d have a lesson from her and then she’d send me off to experiment. My first blog was on Tumbler but the platform didn’t work for me and I made the switch to Wordpress.
To develop the blog I offered a book review and then an author promotional piece on the next day. I ran my own themed book tours – “Romancing September” was popular, I co-hosted with a blogger in the States giving a double opportunity for promotion each day of the tour. I also took part in the April A-Z challenge, it opened my blog to lots of bloggers from different walks of life.
Soon I had too many books to review of genres I wasn’t always keen on, I created a book reviewing challenge to reach out to get more people writing reviews and I made lots of new friends. On the back of that I created a book review team. We can now offer the possibility of multiple reviews of an author’s book all from one place.

What are your review guidelines?
I read books across a range of genres, both fiction and non-fiction.
I enjoy romance, paranormal, humour, murder mystery, mild thrillers, spiritual, a bit of fantasy, reading about other cultures and places all over the world and YA/NA books.
I don’t read blatant erotica, political or strong religious themed books, nor do I enjoy a book with a lot of violence. I’m afraid poetry isn’t my thing and I can only take a little sci-fi, please no short stories.
I prefer to accept books in paperback, I love their feel, but I’m also happy to work with Mobi files which I download to my Kindle.
Before I accept a book a few lines about it should be sent along with your details, plus a link to where I can find the book. The final decision to review the book, is mine. Upon acceptance I will provide a mailing/e-mail address.

Book review team guidelines:
The book review team gives you access to a wide range of reviews. I have reviewers from around the world who read and review books, posting reviews on several platforms.
Authors should decide how many copies of their book they could donate for a review. Accepted formats are e-formats;  Mobi , e-pub, vouchers for Smashwords or Amazon, Gifted books from Amazon. I then post the book details on my team book list. They will request a book and I will then get you to send them the book direct in their chosen format.
Reviewers have been asked to post a review on a minimum of 2 sites such as their blog, Amazon or Goodreads, etc. Plus they are asked to send me a copy of the review which I will post on this blog.
If a reviewer has taken the time to read and review a book I shall post a copy of the review on my blog. We write as we see a book in our own personal reading experience. If you put a book out in the public domain, expecting only positive 5* reviews from all readers it is unrealistic, the top authors all get a range of star ratings.
Full details here

What do you expect from a writer when they appear on your blog?
The best type of author is one who supports my blog, I do this as a hobby and don’t earn anything from it, an author has the potential to earn money, so repaying mine and my team’s time in kindness is important, social media shares are my “bread and butter”. So this means following the blog posts and sharing them on their own social media, not necessarily every day but as a regular supporter would be lovely.

How important is social media to you and your blogging team?
Social media is huge for us. If we are posting a review of a book we’ll never post under a 3*. An author can get a lot of publicity if they act on the day, posts go out on my blog, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. As a group the review team are very supportive and most share these on their own social media. One of our favourite hangouts is Twitter and if authors pick up and share all the tweets they’ll get about their book then the message really gets out there. On Tuesdays we use #TuesdayBookBlog for book related blog post tweets and we get it trending nearly every week. Anyone can use it, here are our guidelines.

What are your interests when not blogging?
I live in Hampshire and I’m a farm secretary, I run bookwork and accounts for three farmers. I’m also keen to keep fit and try to walk most days for at least an hour, often longer.

Do you ever read a book purely for enjoyment and not with an intention to review?
I try, but most times, I’ll end up reviewing it too. One of my favourite authors is Louise L Hay, she writes non-fiction self-help books. I’m very interested in alternative health, past lives and the spirit world.

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see in 2017?
A million dollar question! I work with a lot of indies and self-published authors, rather than a next “big thing” guess I’d like to see Amazon iron out the removal of precious real reviews for good small time authors.
Thank you so much for inviting me today.


Ellie Holmes:
Ellie Holmes
Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in thecountry. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the RNA and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book The Tregelian Hoard, set in Cornwall, is the first novella in her Jonquil Jones Mystery Series.


Thank you, Rosie and Ellie, for such an interesting blog.

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Romantic Novel of the Year Awards: The judges are...

It’s just three weeks until the RNA announces the books that have been shortlisted for the RoNAs – the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards - and we are now unveiling the judges who will decide on the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year 2017.

The RNA gives seven awards for different types of romantic novels. The categories are: Contemporary, Epic, Historical, Paranormal or Speculative Fiction, Romantic Comedy, the RoNA Rose for a shorter romantic novel and Young Adult. In the first two rounds of the contest the entries are judged by a panel of readers who choose the winner in each category.  These seven winners then go forward into the overall Romantic Novel of the Year Award for excellence in romantic fiction.

The four independent judges who will read each of the category winners to decide the overall winner are:

Matt Bates, the Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel, writer and journalist Fanny Blake, bookseller and publisher Ron Johns and Caroline Sanderson, writer and books journalist.

 RNA Vice-Chair and Award Organiser, Nicola Cornick said:  ‘We are thrilled to have such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable panel of judges with such a commitment to the romantic fiction genre.”

Matt Bates is the Fiction Buyer for WH Smith Travel. In 2013 he judged the HNS International Award and has contributed to book-related articles in Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, The Bookseller and Writers Forum magazine. In 2015 he was named Bookseller of the Year by the RNA.

Fanny Blake was a publisher for many years before becoming a freelance journalist and writer. She is books editor of Woman & Home and has written five novels including Women of a Dangerous Age and House of Dreams. Her new novel Our Summer Together will be published in in July 2017.

Ron Johns opened his first bookshop in 1974 aged 20. He now owns several bookshops and also created Mabecron Publishing, which publishes books with a West Country flavour and to date has published 23 titles. Ron has been a Costa Prize judge and is a council member of the Booksellers Association and the Independent Booksellers Group.

Caroline Sanderson is a writer and books journalist, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Worcester. She is Associate Editor for The Bookseller, and the editor of ALCS News. Caroline is the author of five non-fiction books, and co-hosts a monthly book club on BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

A total of 300 books were entered for this year’s Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.
The shortlisted books will be announced on the RNA website on February 7th and the RoNA Awards will be presented in London on March 13th. For tickets

For more information about the RoNA judges, visit our website news pages

To learn more about the awards, go to

For more details on the RoNA Awards event, or to buy tickets, visit our website activities pages. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

FOCUS ON: Chelmsford Chapter

It's a great pleasure to welcome the Chelmsford Chapter to our series. Carrie Elks was kind enough to answer Jean Fullerton's questions.
Welcome to the RNA blog, Chelmsford members!

Where are you based, Carrie?
helena fairfax

We are the Chelmsford Chapter, based in Essex. You don’t have to live in Chelmsford to join us though, you just have to get here by train, plane or automobile!

How long has your chapter been running?
Around ten years. We began as a casual group of romance writers meeting for lunch, and only later became a chapter of the RNA. Since then, the chapter has grown, but some of our founding members still remain. 

How often do you meet?
We meet on the last Thursday of each month. The dates are published in advance, but we also send out an email reminder (because we’re all busy writers!)

Where is your regular meeting place?
We’ve just moved to a new venue. We now meet in A Canteen in Chelmsford, a delightful delicatessen and cafĂ©. 

How many members attend your meetings?
It varies from month to month. Sometimes there can be only six of us, and other times (especially at Christmas) we can number up to about twenty. There’s no pressure to attend monthly, just whenever you can. 

Do your meetings include a meal?
Yes, the food in A Canteen is very nice, and the atmosphere is lovely. We find chatting over lunch is a great way to share our thoughts and news. 

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Though we’re primarily members of the RNA, we do have a few chapter members who are no longer part of the organization. We are all writers though – whether at the start of our careers, or well-established.

helena fairfax
                How long are your meetings?
This varies, too. We meet at 12 noon, though some members arrive a bit later due to public transport restrictions. We’ve usually finished around 2:30pm (perfect if you need to pick up children from school) but nobody worries if you need to leave earlier. We’re very relaxed! 

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you’ve had in the past year?
We’re primarily a support group, so haven’t had any speakers in 2016. However, we did help to organize the Colchester Cream Tea in April this year, which was a lovely event for all involved. 

What do you have planned for 2017?
I’m just working on that now. We’ve had a fabulous new bookshop (Foyles) open up in our city, and it would be good for us to forge some closer links with them. Apart from that we’ll be doing our usual plan of eating, talking, and having fun!

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
Probably the same as all chapters – the people. We are a varied bunch. We range from authors on the New Writers' Scheme, to those who have been published for decades. Each of us brings something unique to the group, whether it be experience of the publishing industry, knowledge of digital marketing, or connections that might help a fellow writer. I only joined a year ago, and I immediately found the chapter to be very welcoming and generous with their support. It’s great to spend time with like-minded people. 

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?
We have a Facebook group, but haven’t yet made any other social media accounts. One to work on in 2017! 

Who is the contact for new members?
Me! (Carrie Elks) I recently took over as the organiser for our chapter, and am enjoying it immensely.
I can be contacted by email: or by telephone 07530 859769

Thanks so much for joining us, Carrie!

About Jean:

Jean was born in East End of London and spent all her career as a district nurse in East London but is now a full-time writer. Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie, is her current release. Her next novel Pocketful of Dreams, set in the turbulent years of WW2, is due for release in June 2017 and is the first in next East London series.
Her first series with Orion Fiction was set in the Victorian period after which she jumped forward to post-war East London.
She is a proud graduate from the NWS and passionate about the local chapters, which is why she has taken on the role of Chapters Liaison. 

This blog was prepared by blog team member, Helena Fairfax

Friday, January 13, 2017



Thank you to Sheila Riley for compiling another bumper list of the latest romantic novels from our members. 


Meet me at Beachcomber Bay
Hardback and ebook
Headline Books
12th January
Back to St Carys in Cornwall for a summer of fun, when
Clemency falls for someone she really can't have.

Whispers in the Wind
Severn House
He is an earl who was left at the altar. She was his true love. Fate brings them together again.

What Doesn’t Kill You
Choc Lit/Dark Choc Lit
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger – but how strong can one person be?
It's Dorset coastguard Griff Hendry's belief that everyone is worth saving –
which is why he can't forgive his father, Logan, for what he did, nor can Griff
understand why his estranged wife, Evie, and his troubled step-daughter,
Tess, are keeping secrets from him. As the truth is uncovered, Griff is forced
to accept that perhaps he's never understood what real strength is.

Moorland Mist
Large Print
Emma Greig has seen little of the world at fourteen when she goes to work at Bonnybrae Farm.
Maggie Sinclair welcomes her warmly, Jim and William gently tease her, but their mother is haughty
and disapproves of their friendship with a maid. She is determined to keep Emma in her place,
so when a closer bond develops between Emma and William she sends Emma away without a reference
and banishes William from the farm he loves.

Puppy Love
Large Print Paperback
Linford Romance
1st January 2017
When pedigree dogs start to go missing in the village, Hannah,
her granddad and local artist Ryan, form an unlikely trio of amateur detectives.
Cute puppies and mysterious visitors keep the sleuths busy but there’s still time for romance.

GIfts for our Time (#4 in Rivenshaw series)
Hodder & Stoughton UK
January 2017
Christa fled from Germany during WW2 and as the war ended,
she found herself in Rivenshaw with Daniel and his aunt,
helping the struggle to keep the old house from being taken over by the council.
And will the secret cellar reveal its secrets at last?

Sister, Sister
digital and paperback
6 January 2017
Two Sisters. One Truth. Reunited after many years apart, sisters Clare and Alice reacquaint themselves in adulthood,
but as events take a sinister turn, nothing is at it seems and everyone must question who they believe.


Pushing the Limits
Format paperback,
January 1, 2017
"Houston, we have a hot-astronaut problem…"
Survival expert and control freak Jessie Odell has faced the most hazardous environments on earth.
Training astronauts should be a cakewalk. Nope. Enter candidate Hemi "Thor" Barrett and his hot, ripped bod,
and suddenly Jessie is breathless with raw excitement—something she hasn't felt for a long, long time—and it scares her to death.
Hemi isn't just some sexy distraction. Jessie actually likes the guy—and that makes him more treacherous than an Everest ascent.
It also means Hemi's that much harder to resist. With every hungry, heat-fueled encounter, Jessie skirts closer to that dangerous edge.
Falling for this space cowboy is definitely high stakes…but could the payoff be worth the risk?

Miss Bradshaw's Bought Betrothal
e-book and paperback
Mills and Boon
17th January
She'd done it! Plain, invisible Evelyn had escaped
Fed up with being a doormat to her evil stepmother, heiress
Evelyn Bradshaw pays a dissolute rake to pose as her betrothed so she can secure her freedom.
But then her fake fiance leaves her with his estranged brother Finn Matlock and disappears!
Having withdrawn from the world, Finn knows the last thing he needs is the temptation of a woman,
especially one like Evie. She has an irritating habit of causing chaos wherever she goes and being
in places she shouldn't including, as he soon learns, his heart!

Kind Hearts & Coriander (a New Forest romantic comedy).
Accent Press
16th Jan (paperback to follow in March)
On her mother's death, sous chef Polly learns she may be New Forest hotelier Charles Hetherin's illegitimate daughter.
Having grown up watching her mother do without, she's furious. The Hetherins have it all - including fabulous Hetherin Hall country house hotel.
Determined to discover the truth, Polly's mistaken for a job applicant but takes the waitressing position to get to know the family who may be hers.
Romance is the last thing on her mind, but she can't deny the sparks flying between her and Oliver, the grumpy but gorgeous restaurant manager.
However, it seems nobody is quite who Polly thinks they are ...

Scandalous Lady
Endeavour Press
17 December 2016
Constantinople 1811. Ice cool diplomat Lord Berannes is involved in negotiating peace between the Turks and the Russians.
Then he encounters fiery, rebellious artist, Olivia Hartford. And after that, nothing goes to plan – for either of them!

Entertaining Death
Accent Press
December 31st
The second novella in the Alexandrians series about an Edwardian Concert Party.

The Vets at Hope Green: Part 1, Escape to the Country
19 January 2017
Working as a receptionist in a London vets, Sam is always broke,
rents a tiny flat and is constantly arguing with her boyfriend.
But the worst part is that her career is going nowhere. Something’s got to give ...
will a visit to her Nana Peggy's small picturesque village be the answer?

The Thief's Daughter
Choc Lit
6th December, 2016
Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …
Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet
casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm
onto the beaches and smuggling prospers. Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as
a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help
to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the
dangerous world of the smuggling trade.Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs
in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover
their lives are more entangled than they first thought. Trust and loyalty are tested
to the limits, but can there ever be love, as Jenna is a thief’s daughter –
where blood always runs thicker…

From Rome With Love
E Book/Print on Demand
January 20, 2017
A holiday in Rome, staying in a beautiful apartment with a gorgeous guy, sounds like the perfect trip, right? Wrong
When Lisa finds herself saddled with childhood-friend-turned-enemy, Will Ryan, romance is the last thing on her mind.
She’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father.
But as they dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal.
Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …

How To Win Back Your Husband
HQ Digital
18 January 2017
Nicci has made one stupid and seemingly unforgivable mistake and, after eight years together, her husband Mark is divorcing her.
Her best friend is determined to help her get over it, start enjoying life again and move on, but Nicci knows getting over Mark
just isn't an option - she still loves him and she wants him back! With no clear plan in mind and only thirty days left until
the divorce is finalised, the race is on to prove her love, regain his trust and save her marriage, before it's too late.
A debut romantic comedy with a sprinkling of winter magic! 

The Girl on the Beach
Choc Lit
24 January 2017
Who is Harry Dixon?
When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere.
But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the
beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling –
and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have
no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous
figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time,
just waiting to strike.

The Buttonmaker's Daughter
HQ, HarperCollins
12 January, 2017
May, 1914. Life at Summerhayes appears to offer the perfect country idyll,
but a feud in the Summer family and growing conflict in Europe, has tensions running deep.
As the sweltering heat of 1914 builds to a storm, Elizabeth Summer must decide how best to
save her family from danger and keep the man she loves. One thing is certain: nothing can stay the same.


An Unconventional Act
1st January 2017

A mysterious bookkeeper. A damaged actor-manager. An earl hell-set on increasing his
land by fair means or very, very foul. Secrets and subterfuge in the Regency theatre

Loving the Lost Duke
Epub for Kindle.
(Dangerous Deceptions Book 1) The first in a new series of historical romance with a twist of mystery. Seven years ago the young Duke of Calderbrook left England for the self-imposed exile that seemed the only way to save his life. Now he’s returned, to take back his birthright and discover who so nearly killed him – even if they prove to be someone he loves.
The truth and revenge are Cal’s aims, but his quest is stopped in its tracks by Society beauty Sophie Wilmott. He wants Sophie and Sophie, armoured against love by her own secrets, wants Cal. He needs to keep her safe, she needs to guard her heart – but death is waiting at the heart of the Duke’s great house and only courage and love are going to give them the strength to overcome it.