Friday, December 19, 2014

No Pets - Not Even A Goldfish!


Welcome to today's guest, Alison May.

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
Well, it all depends when you count from really. I starting taking writing semi-seriously in 2002 when I signed up for a part-time creative writing degree, but at that point I was intending to be a serious playwright. I started my first novel nearly six years later when the serious play about Lord Nelson that was supposed to be my degree dissertation turned out to be indescribably terrible. I wrote the first three chapters of what eventually turned into Sweet Nothing in a blind panic so that I’d have something to submit for my degree. And lo, a novelist is born. That was in 2008. Sweet Nothing was published by Choc Lit at the end of 2013.


So you wanted to be a playwright?
No. When I was younger I mainly wanted to be Queen. To be honest, I sort of still do – I’d model my ruling style on Queenie from Blackadder II. Having said that, my mum recently reminded me that I wanted to be a journalist when I was younger. I think I was picturing myself as some sort of terribly daring Kate Adie type war correspondent. It turns out though that people like that tend to get shot at a lot, so I think I’m much better off staying home where it’s safe and making the stories up.

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
By being terribly organised, and getting up bright and early every morning and whipping off 2000 words before breakfast.
Not really. I fit writing around home life in two ways.
Firstly, I have a very minimalist home life. No kids. No pets, and a delightfully self-sufficient husband who is very relaxed about the length of time that elapses between clothes being put in the washing basket and clothes re-emerging from the great laundry black hole.
Secondly, I decided some time ago to embrace my own disorganisation. So I do have phases where I dedicatedly write 2000 words a day, but I also have phases where I watch a lot of Millionaire Matchmaker and write nothing, and phases where I don’t really wash or eat hot food and write 5000 words a day. It all balances out in the end.

Christmas is fast approaching and it seems a good time to ask you how you plan to promote your new released book, Cora’s Christmas Kiss ?
I’m supposed to have a plan? I’m not actually very good at promo. I come over all English and awkward when it comes to bigging up stuff I’ve written. I am writing a few guest blog posts for different sites, but when I write those I generally get carried away writing the post, and forget to mention how awesome the book is. Even on my own website I get very distracted when I’m supposed to be blogging about my books and almost always digress into a rant about whatever random thing has scuttled to the front of my brain at that moment. All of which reminds me - while I’m here, I probably ought to mention that Cora’s Christmas Kiss is awesome. It’s Christmassy, and romantic, and it has Father Christmas, and a mishap with a turkey, and a scene at the end that made me cry when I wrote it, and still made me cry when I read it at the proof-reading stage. You should probably all read it. If you want to. Or not. It’s up to you really. One wouldn’t want to impose.
See what I mean? Hopeless at promo.

You are also a short story writer. Do you find it difficult to ‘jump’ between novels and shorts?
Not really. I enjoy the completeness of short story writing – the fact that you can sit down with nothing and, one writing session later, have a complete draft with a beginning and an end, and if you’re lucky some semblance of a middle. I also think it’s really good practice for novel writing – all the skills of concision, and making every line and every scene work really hard that you hone in short story writing, you should be using in longer pieces too.

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
It varies from book to book. Cora’s Christmas Kiss was planned quite carefully because it has quite a complicated plot and some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey business thrown in for good measure. In contrast, the book I’m writing at the moment, which is about a professional psychic, is much more of a seat-of-my-pants endeavour. It’s different again if I’m writing an adaptation, like Sweet Nothing which was based on Much Ado About Nothing, because then I have to try to find a balance between planning how to interpret the original play but still leaving myself the freedom to put my own stamp on it.

Do you enjoy research?
Not even slightly. My wish to avoid research largely explains why I mainly write contemporary stories about British thirty-somethings getting drunk and making poor decisions.

What did you enjoy most about writing your latest book?
I had the most fun writing Liam’s storyline I think. Liam is a jobbing actor, and all-around nice guy, whose life is trundling along perfectly pleasantly, until… well I’m not going to tell you what happens, but it includes some very silly scenes indeed, and was a lot of fun to write.

How do relax when not working?
I do Zumba and Bokwa. Sometimes I even do yoga, but then I remember that I am not bendy and I basically hate yoga, so I stop again, and go and drink hot chocolate instead.

What is next for Alison May?
Well, I’m just finishing the first draft of my first non-romance novel. After that I’ll be writing part 3 of the Christmas Kisses series all ready for next year, and then, who knows? I’ve got a little notebook of novel ideas, and there are two that are really calling to me at the moment. The first is another Shakespeare adaptation, and the second involves a terribly well-mannered ghost. I might spend a bit of time writing odd scenes on both and see which one most grabs my attention.

Alison May is a novelist and short story writer, who writes romantic comedies for Choc Lit. Her debut novel, Sweet Nothing, was published in 2013, closely followed by Holly’s Christmas Kiss Alison lives in Worcester with her husband, but still no pets, on account of what happened to the goldfish.


Links:
Twitter @MsAlisonMay



About Cora’s Christmas Kiss: 
Can you expect a perfect Christmas after the year from hell?
Cora and Liam have both experienced horrible years that have led them to the same unlikely place – spending December working in the Grotto at Golding’s department store.
Under the cover of a Father Christmas fat suit and an extremely unflattering reindeer costume, they find comfort in sharing their tales of woe during their bleak staffroom lunch breaks. But is their new-found friendship just for Christmas? Or have they created something deeper, something that could carry them through to a hopeful new year?
Plus, keep your eyes peeled for characters you may recognise from Alison’s previous novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.

We are not even going to ask about the goldfish, Alison. Thank you for joining us today.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by


Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com






Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Linda Chamberlain: Press releases for authors


A big welcome to author and journalist, Linda Chamberlain who has written a very handy article on writing press releases to promote our books.

We are writers so therefore we can write a press release.
But can we all write one to accompany the launch of our latest book? Will it help make the headlines? And will it help sales? Or should we let our publisher do the job for us?


I knew my debut novel – The First Vet – which was published on Amazon last month was a press release waiting to happen. I’ve been a journalist most of my working life and can smell a story when it’s near, especially if I’m working on it every single day. Mine was simple. My book was a blend of fact and fiction about one of this country’s first ever vets. He was a man ahead of his time, an animal’s rights campaigner before the term was coined. But his work was condemned and then forgotten for 200 years.
The aim of my novel was two-fold, to tell a page-turning story about love and corruption and to make Bracy Clark’s name known again. It was already starting to happen without my contribution as he is mentioned on web sites from New Zealand to New York as being the godfather of a growing movement to enable domestic horses to live more natural lives. Once the book was published, I got out a press release with a list of bullet points.

FORGOTTEN RESEARCH UNCOVERED AFTER 200 YEARS
THE FIRST VET’S BATTLE AGAINST ‘HARMFUL’ SHOEING
ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION IN EARLY YEARS OF VET COLLEGE
ANIMAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER SHUNNED BY HIS OWN PROFESSION

I was giving journalists and bloggers a choice of headlines.
I started sending it out slowly. First to equine web sites and on line magazines that I knew would have an interest. Reports have started and my press release has gone on line thanks to writers in Brighton and as far afield as Vancouver.
According to Tony Mulliken, chairman of Midas PR, every book should have an accompanying press release. ‘It’s an aid and should give an instant impression of what the book is about,’ he said.
Publishers will notify magazines about a new publication months in advance because they have such long lead-in times. Newspapers will be told nearer to publication date.  The aim is to get coverage and reviews.
Let’s face it; any book has at least one headline in it even if it’s only Writer Publishes Book. The Guardian may not care but an author’s local paper will. So will local magazines. If there is a professional angle – it should be exploited.
Jean Fullerton, who has just stood down as chair of the London RNA chapter, has a successful series of books set post war and steeped in nursing. She’s a former nurse and now lectures in nursing. What a great story. Did her publisher make use of it? Of course. So did Jean.  She altered the publisher’s press release and sent it out to her local media.
‘It saved me the hard work of writing it. I changed it a bit and emphasised the locality; personalised it. I got a lot of publicity from it,’ she said.

There’s a useful technique to writing a press release and that is to get all the important information near to the top - nothing vital to be saved for the end, apart from your contact details. Journalists write under huge pressure. Novelists do too but rarely with a news editor standing at their elbow and screaming in their right ear while the chief sub pulls his hair in frustration. Nerve wracking. Journalists will thank you if you’ve kept the good stuff at the top. Summarise your story for them, make sure it has a good intro and make sure you include some quotes. Yes, even from yourself. If you are the author who won an award last year, remind them.
Don’t forget there are lots of publications that run on a very tight budget. Small free newspapers and magazines that are pushed through your door will appreciate if you let your press release run at length. You might fill up a page or two for them at no cost to themselves and in return they may sell you some books.

Remember – a book’s best marketing asset is its author.
About Linda: 


Linda Chamberlain has been a journalist most of her working life but a horse rider for quite a bit longer. When she’s not typing away at her latest manuscript she’s usually off on that horse again! The First Vet is her debut novel. She lives in Sussex with her family and a couple of four-legged friends.
Thank you, Linda for a most informative article.

This blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write a piece for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, December 12, 2014

RNA Chapter: Border Reivers


Welcome to Caroline Roberts who has come along today to answer our questions about the Border Reivers chapter of the RNA.

Please tell us a little about your Chapter.
Our Northumberland Chapter, also known as the Border Reivers, was founded in 2000 and has grown steadily. We live in the north-east of England and cover a wide geographical area, even having one or two members further afield/abroad who keep in touch with us.

When do you meet?
Once a month, usually on Fridays.

Where do you meet?
At the home of one of the members, moving location to try and cover the area. We all bring something to contribute to lunch, which makes it a lovely social occasion with a chance to chat before a fairly informal meeting, where we discuss our writing, work-in-progress and any issues.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes, it’s open to full members, former members, NWS members and anyone interested in the RNA and writing romance-based fiction.


What do you have planned for the future?

We recently had a very successful day of workshops run by our own members at a retreat house in Northumberland, on the topics of self-publishing, e-books, synopses and using emotion. It was a great day, and the group would like to repeat this format again. We are also pro-active in promoting romance writing and the RNA in libraries and have taken part in regular 'Girls' Night In' events in libraries, where we have teamed up with beauticians, craft stalls and caterers to give a fun night for readers.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special? 
We are a very close and supportive group – more like a friendship group – but everyone is professional about their writing no matter what stage of their career they are at. And we have such a wide range of writing experience between us. We support each other through good times and bad – and celebrate first publications with champagne!

Who is the contact for new members?
This is Anna Scamans. Contact details: anna@annalouiselucia.com 



How many members attend your meetings?
It varies, but usually somewhere between six and twelve.

Tell us more about your latest get together:
The October meeting was at Prue Phillipson’s house in Hexham with 12 present, welcoming a new member, and congratulating her and another newly published member on their successes over a bottle of bubbly.
 
This photograph was taken at our Writing Retreat Day at Shepherd’s Dene this year.
 
Thank you for finding the time to speak to us, Caroline.

The RNA blog is brought to you by
 
 Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman
 
 Why not have your RNA Chapter featured on our blog? Contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Taste of France


Today we are delighted to welcome Marie Laval. Originally from Lyon in France, Marie studied History and Law at university there before moving to Lancashire where she worked in a variety of jobs, from PA in a busy university department to French teacher in secondary schools. Writing, however, was always her passion, and she spends most of her free time dreaming up stories. She has published two historical romances with MuseitUp Publishing, ANGEL HEART  and THE LION'S EMBRACEA SPELL IN PROVENCE her first contemporary romance and is published by Áccent Press.

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
I wrote my first novel, ANGEL HEART, in just over six months. That was four years ago. I was so engrossed in the story that I spent all my free time working on it. I did have to rewrite and edit it extensively, so altogether it took me about a year. It was the same for A SPELL IN PROVENCE, my contemporary romantic suspense shortly to be released by Áccent Press. When I first got the idea for the plot during a family holiday in the South of France, I was working as a part-time teacher and had more time to write than I do now so I could complete the first draft quickly.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. For as far as I can remember, writing was always my passion. As a teenager in France, I used to write the most ridiculous plays, poems and love stories with my best friend, some of which we would then perform and record on a cassette recorder. We were very silly but we had a lot of fun. To this day we still remember lines from our great dramatic masterpieces!  

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
I write in the evenings, after planning lessons and when my young daughter is in bed. Unfortunately it's often quite late when I start so I sometimes fall asleep on my keyboard. My favourite time to write is very early in the morning at weekends or during the holidays when everybody is still in bed and the house is quiet. I make myself a cup of tea and 'steal' a couple of hours at the computer. It feels like heaven.

How do you plan to promote your book?
I am not very good at promoting myself and I must say that it is the aspect of publishing a novel I enjoy the least. For A SPELL IN PROVENCE, I have contacted several author friends who have very kindly offered me a spot on their blog, and I may organize a tour and a couple of special events as well after the book is published. 

Did you find it difficult to move from historical to contemporary romance?
Not really. People often think that historical romances require a lot more research and are more tricky to write than contemporary novels, but I find both genres equally exciting and challenging. For example, I am really bad at understanding and using the latest technological gadgets and I had to do some research into mobile phones in order not to make any mistakes.
In the end, whether the novel takes place nowadays or in the nineteenth century, my aim is the same - to write a love story between two appealing characters.

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
I am hopeless at planning. Although I usually have an idea about the main plotline and can visualise the final scene when I start the story, I tend to just get on with it and let things happen - or not! I would love to be better at plotting because I waste a lot of time exploring a storyline, only to backtrack and delete entire chapters a few weeks later.

Do you enjoy research?
I love it. In fact, I love it far too much and often have to restrain myself and get back to writing the story.

What did you enjoy most about writing your novel?
I enjoyed finding out about the ancient history of Provence, which is fascinating, and I loved even more surrounding myself with photos of hill-top villages, of old fountains and of lavender and sunflower fields. I spent many holidays in the South of France as a child and writing A SPELL IN PROVENCE brought back fond memories of sitting in a fragrant garden in the sunshine, breathing in the scents of flowers and grasses, and listening to the cicadas.


If you could rescue only one book from your burning home what would it be?
Just one? I think I would take a book of poems by Jacques Prévert or Victor Hugo.

What is next for Marie Laval?
My next historical romance, DANCING FOR THE DEVIL, will be published by Áccent Press in the New Year, and I am currently working on another contemporary romance which I hope to finish by Christmas.

It's been lovely chatting with you Marie. Thank you for joining us today

Links:
A Spell in Provence is currently available from Accent Press
and will be available on Amazon from 19th December 2014

The RNA Blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.


If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com



Friday, December 5, 2014

THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE RUSSIAN ARISTOCRACY


We are delighted to welcome author, Freda Lightfoot to the blog today to tell us about the fascinating social life of the Russian aristocracy.

When in town, the social life of the Russian aristocracy would include concerts, the opera, theatre, dinner and dancing, as well as attending smart clubs. One, called the Café Chantant, was particularly popular with the rich. They would hire a box and indulge in champagne and caviar. In St Petersburg, Krestovsky Island - one of several islands on the River Neva and linked to the mainland by a bridge, was where they would engage in tennis, golf and yachting. In winter there would be skating and tobogganing.

In the summer, many Russian families would visit their datcha, which was generally fairly Spartan. But here they could enjoy boating, bathing, riding, fishing, croquet and picnics.

Social life might be thought of as much simpler than in England, but full formal dress was expected to be worn at all social functions. A silk, muslin or canvas dress was considered to be highly fashionable. At a Court luncheon a low-necked gown was popular, but no décolleté was allowed at an afternoon tea party as that would be very bad form. Hats were worn at all times, including fur ones or hoods in the winter, but removed in the theatre as an act of courtesy to those seated behind. Men would wear uniform or evening dress for social events during the day as well as the evening. No lipstick for an unmarried woman was permitted, or they would be assumed to be a prostitute.

Nine o’clock in the evening was a popular hour for social calls, when glasses of tea would be set in silver stands with handles of gilt or enamelled silver. Tea was served without cream or milk, but very sweet, and with slices of lemon floating in each glass. A Russian lady would often nibble on a lump of sugar before sipping her tea. It was considered to be ‘a want of taste’ if you didn’t take sugar. There would also be cakes of all kinds, some flavoured with caraway and poppy seeds, and fruit and bonbons were also provided.

The linen of the social elite would be of the finest and most delicate, as Russians loved their napkins, tablecloths and bed linen, maintaining a store of the very best they could afford with great pride. Even a newly employed servant would bring her own with her. When anyone paid a visit to the house of a friend, they would take their own sheets with them. The English were excused from this tradition, on account of their incomprehensible habit of sharing family linen. But if a Russian governess’s linen was not up to the mark, she received very sour looks from the rest of the household.

Millie, my heroine, was most grateful that she had learned her etiquette as a servant of the nobility back in England. Even so, she was constantly under pressure from her mistress, Countess Belinsky, to get it right, not helped by the naughtiness of the children in her care, who had led sheltered, cosseted lives. But in the end, the social standing of the aristocrats collapsed as the revolution took hold, their treasures and possessions taken from them. Many were left penniless and starving, assuming they survived.

The Amber Keeper
After her mother’s suicide, Abbie Myers returns home to the Lake District with her young child—and no wedding ring. Estranged from her turbulent family for many years, Abbie is heartbroken when she hears that they blame her for this tragedy.
Determined to uncover her mother’s past, Abbie approaches her beloved grandmother, Millie, in search of answers. The old woman reveals the story of how she travelled to Russia in 1911 as a young governess and became caught up in the revolution. As Abbie struggles to reconcile with her family, and to support herself and her child, she realizes that those long-ago events created aftershocks that threaten to upset the fragile peace she longs to create.
Set against the backdrops of the English Lake District in the 1960s and the upheavals of revolutionary Russia, The Amber Keeper is a sweeping tale of jealousy and revenge, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Extract:
The next afternoon was cold and damp, and both children protested vehemently when I insisted that a walk was necessary despite the inclement weather. ‘We English believe that fresh air is good for you, as is plenty of exercise. But we’ll keep it short today as it looks about to rain.’
Nyanushki came with us to make sure I didn’t get lost, and we took a turn about Alexandrvovsky Park, the children grumbling and dragging their feet the entire time.
‘Can you skate?’ Nyanushki asked. I pulled a rueful face, making her laugh.
‘You’ll soon learn. I’m sure the children will help teach you.’
Noticing the smirk on Serge’s face I rather thought he would look upon this deficiency as an opportunity for making me look stupid. He may be only eight years old, but he was a wilful boy with a defiant streak in him.
Later, dressed in their best, I took the children down to tea with the Count and Countess, as instructed, urging them to be good in the hope they would do not embarrass me. No sooner had I taken my seat than a large metal tea urn was set before me and overcome with panic I realised that I was about to embarrass myself.
 ‘I assume you’ve operated a samavar before?’ the Countess asked with a knowing smile.
I’d never seen one in my life before. Fortunately, there was a certain familiarity about the tap from which the hot water must flow, if not the way the tea pot sat on top of the vessel to keep warm. It rather reminded me of the tea urn used by the Women’s Bright Hour at our local chapel, except that nestling in a space below this one, I could see the glowing red of charcoal that kept the water hot, and hear it hiss and spit as it simmered gently within.
Turning the tap I poured the scalding water into the tea pot, serving the tea with only the slightest tremor in my hands. The children sat stiffly in their seats, Irina’s small greedy eyes firmly fixed on a plate of lemon wafers. I knew the children must wait to be offered something to eat so I gave her a stern glance, warning her to be patient.
Serge quietly slid under the table and began to unfasten the laces of my boots and tie them together so that my feet were linked. I glanced anxiously at the Countess, worrying she might have noticed, or if I should chastise the boy. But on seeing what he was doing she began to chuckle. ‘Serge does so love a practical joke.’

Links:
Facebook
Blog
Twitter: @fredalightfoot

Thank you, Freda for a delightful insight into Russian aristocracy.

This blog is brought to you by


Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write something for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chatting with Romance Matters editor and wannabe Bond Girl, Adrienne Vaughan


We are delighted to have as our guest today, Adrienne Vaughan.

Thank you for finding time to speak with us, Adrienne.

When did you first take over the editorship of Romance Matters?
2012 was a hugely significant year for me, it was the year my first novel, The Hollow Heart, was published and the year I started working on Romance Matters. I joined the RNA NWS – it took a couple of goes – and one of the first editions of the magazine I received had a notice asking for a volunteer to take over from the then editor, the lovely Myra Kersner, who was standing down after an eight year editorship.

A tough act to follow, but I put my hand up, as a new kid on the block, who loves magazines, what better way to get to know people and learn about the business in which I was becoming immersed.

Have you worked in the world of magazine publication in the past?
I was given a turquoise Petite typewriter as a child, and my fate was sealed. I would sit for hours at the kitchen table, cutting out photos and pictures and sticking pages together to make my own magazines. I would often hear my mother, sitting down with a well-earned cup of tea, scream because I’d cut out the middle of Woman’s Own.

I always wanted to be a journalist and having achieved the necessary qualifications, was lucky enough to gain a place at the Dublin College of Journalism. My first stint at work experience on a national pop magazine, catapulted me into a glitzy press reception where I chatted with Rod Stewart and the stunning Brit Eckland. I was hooked.

We’ve seen changes to the latest edition of the magazine. Do you have any plans for further changes?
For many members the magazine is the only channel of communication, so it’s important it not only reflects the organisation, communicating important issues, but gives a feeling of inclusiveness for many who may not be able to make meetings, parties or the conference.

It also needs to be an important source of industry information, this is our professional role and our magazine needs to reflect that. It should be fun too, so it’s a balancing act.

I like to think of the magazine as evolving rather than changing and the more membership participation the better. Instigating the idea that members can advertise their services to each other is positive, encouraging us to use the vast and expansive range of experience and expertise our membership has at its fingertips.

Romance Matters is the association’s shop window, I strive for it to reflect our diversity, our talent and our professionalism and I’m thrilled when I get messages from readers saying they’ve enjoyed an issue, it sounds corny, but it really does make it all worthwhile.

If a member wishes to contribute an article can you advise on the type of topics you would like covered as well as word count? Should they pitch the idea to you first?
As I’ve said, I’m only the custodian of the magazine, it belongs to the membership, so the more contributions the better. Articles about technical issues, the mores of social media, how to write for a particular genre, how to tackle research, any and all of these are welcome. Please check deadlines and get in touch with me as soon as possible so I can plan a particular idea in, and always get in touch with me first, because we can often work ideas into a future issue. I’m not too worried about word count, if an article is particularly lengthy we can turn it into a series.

How about advertising? Who do members contact and are there any guidelines?
Again, just contact me. Members can advertise their books, editorial services, writer retreats, indeed anything that’s of interest to the rest of the membership, just get in touch and we’ll sort the artwork out and get things moving.

Tell us something about your own writing and how do you manage to fit it in amongst your RNA duties?
I’ve always written creatively, I think if you’re a writer, you just write.  Professionally, I have been a journalist and today I run a busy PR practice, setting my alarm clock to rise early and do my creative stuff - novels, short stories and poems - before heading to the office to work with the media, create corporate publications and co-ordinate launches and lunches!

Through the RNA I met three fantastic writers, Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns and Mags Cullingford and in 2012 we set up an independent publishing group, now known as the New Romantics Press and in less than two years we’ve published nine full length novels between us. My latest, the final in the Heartfelt trilogy, Secrets of the Heart, has just been published and for me, it’s now time to seek representation and that elusive publishing deal. In the meantime I’ll continue to work in PR, edit Romance Matters and write and write and write. Well, the do say sleep is overrated!

Thank you for sparing the time to speak with us, Adrienne.

Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure, as is working on our fabulous magazine, thanks again.

Adrienne is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the British Horse Society and the proud owner of a Powerboat Driver’s Certificate …just in case she gets the call to be a Bond girl!





Links:
Twitter: @adrienneauthor

Books:



The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write an article for the blog or have a book due to be published please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com




Friday, November 28, 2014

THE LONGEST-SERVING NEW WRITERS' SCHEME MEMBER?


Welcome to writer, Katy Haye who tells us what it’s like to be a member of the New writers’ Scheme.

I’m a writer because I can’t be anything else. Believe me, I have tried to give up (several times, always at the same stage of writing a book) but I honestly can’t NOT write. I do other things to earn a living, sure, but my head is always full of my books and my characters are every bit as real as the people I meet in daily life.
I’ve been making up stories since I was tiny, and writing them down since I learned how to write.  Because I loved stories and writing, that’s the route I took in education where GCSEs and A Levels were followed by a degree in English Literature and then a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. After that, suddenly I was a little lost. I knew I wanted to write, and I believed I was pretty good at it, but inexplicably I didn’t trip over all the agents and editors beating a path to my door each time I tried to go to the corner shop. Clearly something had gone wrong and I needed some help.
Thank heavens I discovered the Romantic Novelists Association and their wonderful New Writers’ Scheme at that point. I joined up, polished a manuscript and posted it off and, frankly, thought the next step would be for a contract offering me wads of cash in exchange for my peerless prose to drop through my letterbox. I was, in my blissful naivety, shocked to discover this wasn’t the case. My writing still had an awful lot of faults which my reader politely but firmly pointed out to me (actually, in hindsight it was appalling, but my reader was kind enough not to state the matter so baldly). After a day or so of railing against the unkindness of fate and weeping at how cruelly misunderstood my writing was (chocolate may have featured; copious hot tea certainly did), I calmed down enough to look at both my novel and the reader’s report with an open mind. I saw that, uncomfortable as it was to acknowledge, she had a point; well, several, actually.
Putting that manuscript in a drawer to mature, I wrote something new.  While studying for my degrees I had relaxed with Mills & Boon books. Their novels were short and had a very limited cast of characters and they were effortless to read, so surely they must be easy to write, too?  I’d try my hand at them. In fact, I tried several over my next few NWS submissions.  My attempts weren’t terrible – a couple of times they were forwarded to the M&B editorial team because my readers thought they had sufficient merit, but believe me, easy to read does not equate to easy to write. Quite the opposite. Eventually I accepted that I just didn’t have the knack of writing the intense, focussed stories M&B were looking for. Once again I was a little adrift.
Discovering that writing wasn’t as easy as I’d always supposed, and I wasn’t as good as I’d fondly imagined was strangely liberating. If I couldn’t write especially well, then I might as well just write whatever I wanted to write badly and then see what could be done to improve it. Thus freed, my imagination went exactly where it wished. On the basis that if I was going to make it up I might as well REALLY make it up, my next few submissions were full of fairies and genies and ghosts and witches. My feedback got both more complimentary about my writing as a whole, and more niggling about the issues with my work, both of which cheered me tremendously as being proof that I was moving in the right direction.
And while I’d had my head down, writing, writing, writing and improving slowly but surely, a revolution in publishing had got underway with self-publishing moving from vanity presses on the wrong side of publishing acceptability to slide into the centre and become part of the mainstream.
I had been seeking a traditional publishing contract, but eventually even that changed. Agents liked my work, but not enough to offer representation, and the last of the scales slipped from my eyes as I realised if I waited for a traditional deal where I would write and the publisher would take care of everything else I would be waiting forever. With help and support from writer friends I’d met through the RNA I decided to go for it and self-publish the YA novel I’d been trying to get published for several years.
When I received my editor’s report this summer I didn’t waste any time or tears feeling misunderstood. I could get straight on with accepting what a fresh pair of eyes had seen in my work and strengthening the weaknesses that would get in the way of other readers enjoying the story.
And so, after an estimated 15 years in the New Writers’ Scheme, my YA fantasy novel, The Last Gatekeeper, is finally a reality. It may have taken a while, but I don’t regret a minute of the time I’ve spent learning my craft.  My first book (written on A4 lined paper in pencil at the age of 11) was entitled Ingolly and the Earthlings - a sci fi novel heavily influenced by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories. It was, I can safely admit from this distance, terrible.  By contrast, with the help of the New Writers’ Scheme and RNA friends, I’ve now written a book that is finally fit for other people to read.
ABOUT KATY
Katy Haye spends as much time as possible in either her own or someone else's imaginary worlds. She has a fearsome green tea habit, a partiality for dark chocolate brazils and a  fascination with the science of storytelling.
When not lost in a good book, Katy may be found on her allotment growing veg and keeping hens in order to maximise her chances of survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar catastrophe (you never know!).

THE LAST GATEKEEPER
 Zan knows she’s different. Today she discovers why …
Zanzibar MacKenzie knows she’s a freak. She has EHS – electrical hypersensitivity – which leaves her trying to live a Stone Age life in the twenty-first century: no internet, no phone, no point really. Then Thanriel knocks on her door and the dull summer holiday becomes maybe too exciting. Zan discovers fairies and angels are real beings from other planets, she herself is half alien, and the future of life on Earth rests on her shoulders.



Links:

Website
Twitter @katyhaye
The Last Gatekeeper

The RNA blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write something for the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

RNA Winter Party: A cold night but a warm atmosphere


Today we welcome Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts to the blog. Both ladies accepted our challenge to cover the RNA Winter Party for our blog and what a fantastic job they did too!

On Wednesday 19th November, members of the RNA gathered for the annual winter party, ready to meet up with old friends and make new ones. As with some previous events, we occupied the wonderful panelled Hall of India and Pakistan at the Royal Over-Seas League in London.
It was the first time the two of us had been to the winter party, so didn't know how it would compare to the other enjoyable RNA events we'd attended. It was soon clear that everyone present was bound on making it a joyful evening, judging by the animated chatter and laughter. Many people acquainted only on social media took the opportunity to met in real life. A good deal of head bowing and squinting took place as we all tried to read each other's name badges to find out who we were!


180 people attended, representing the industry across the board, from writers new and established, to editors, agents and publishers, all of whom mingled seamlessly. As usual, the frocks were fabulous, a fact celebrated by a photo call on the grand staircase (due to appear on the front cover of Romance Matters).





Tracy Hartshorn (aka Sally Quilford)
Tracy Hartshorn (who writes as Sally Quilford), the main organiser of the event, did a splendid job. She could be spotted for a good part of the evening on the front desk welcoming guests. Tracy explained afterwards that, “The RNA parties take several months to organise, culminating in just three hours of party time. But what a three hours they are. The mood is always cheerful and positive, and it gives a glow of satisfaction to those of us who do the organising to know that our work hasn’t been wasted. The Winter Party was no different. A good time was had by all, including me!”

Chairman: Pia Fenton


Our chairman, Pia Fenton, gave a speech thanking the committee, along with others who’ve contributed to the work of the RNA, for all their efforts. We raised a glass to those no longer with us. Pia thanked those who’d helped with the organisation of the party, particularly Tracy, who got a rousing round of applause.

   





Waiters weaved their way through the guests offering an array of canapés which included mini fish and chips and tiny pies. The bite sized chocolate cakes were particularly delicious. Not only did everything taste good, it looked good as well, the catering as ever living up to the splendour of the venue.



Wendy Clarke, Deirdre Parlmer, Karen Aldous, Rosemary Goodacre

First time attendee, Wendy Clarke told us, “I’m not much of a ‘party person’ and was expecting to spend most of my first RNA party behind one of the pillars – but I’m happy to say that this couldn’t have been further from the truth. From the moment I walked in, the welcoming atmosphere enveloped me and any fears of awkwardness evaporated. I didn’t feel the need to hide behind a pillar once – which was just as well, as there weren’t any.”



Vanessa Savage & Catherine Miller



Having some well earned time off from her adorable twins, Romaniacs member Catherine Miller declared it “another wonderful RNA party.” She went on to say that, “It's great that NWS members are made to feel so welcome.” As New Writers’ Scheme members ourselves we can certainly vouch for this. 

Sue Barnard




Another newby, Sue Barnard, said, “My first RNA party, but definitely not my last! What a great evening. It was wonderful to be able to put faces to names at last, and I made some lovely new friends too. I'm only sorry I couldn't stay longer!”



Rachel Crafts & Maggie Swinburne



Maggie Swinburne, editor of the twice monthly My Weekly Pocket Novels, travelled down from Scotland for the event because she said it was, “lovely to meet people”. She relayed some funny stories to our group regarding her job as editor, along with some tips on what she looks for in a story. She also came wielding the guidelines and is hoping for more submissions.




As the evening wound down and people started to don their coats and flat shoes (what a relief!), it was evident by the smiles and hearty farewells that the evening had been another RNA success. It might have been cold outside but the atmosphere inside was warm and friendly.

A hearty thank you to Tracy Hartshorn and all those involved in organising the evening.

Thank you, Elaine & Francesca for a wonderful blog post. Here they are earning a well deserved rest in between their reporting duties:

Elaine Roberts & Francesca Burgess

If you would like to cover an event for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com




Friday, November 21, 2014

Helena Fairfax: Suffering from green shock!


It’s a great pleasure to welcome Helena Fairfax to the blog today,

Many years ago I spent a week in a hostel in the middle of the Yorkshire moors with a group of teenagers from an industrial city in Germany. They were on an exchange with a group of English lads from a similar urban environment. All had spent their teenage years in difficult, sometimes extremely tough circumstances, and were from various different ethnic heritages, ranging from Turkey to Korea. One thing these lads all had in common, though: they’d all been born and bred in a city.
I remember sitting in the coach with them on the way from Leeds/Bradford airport, watching them gaze out at the rolling heather, the moors stretching into the distance, all greens and purples, with not a bar, or a café, or a MacDonalds in sight.
 
One of the Germans murmured, with his face pressed to the window: ‘Ich habe Grün-Schock.’ Literally: I’m suffering from green shock. What a great expression!
 
Over the years I’ve thought a lot about that week on the moors, and last year I began to turn the experience into a story. I thought up a heroine who is a Londoner. Kate Hemingway, born Katerina Rudecka, spent time living homeless as a teenager and now volunteers with teenage girls, helping them in their turn to mend their broken lives.
I wondered how it would be if I took Kate and her group of London teenagers away from the city and into the middle of the Yorkshire moors. And then I wondered how it would be if they had a journalist accompanying them - someone from a completely different background; male, upper-class, and (outwardly, at least) appearing to have all the advantages a public-school education can offer. So, a completely random group of people, brought together out of the city and surrounded by sheep and moorland for a week. How would they all get on?
 
One of the teenagers in my novel is from Afghanistan, and I took the theme of my story from an old Afghan proverb: ‘There is a way from heart to heart.’ My story is filled with differences in culture: between town and country, between East and West, between rich and poor. And yet despite all these differences, where basic emotions are concerned, the human heart is the same the world over, with the same capacity for love. At the core of my novel is a romance (of course!), but it also deals with the love between best friends, between families, and with the intensity of teenage love. ‘There is a way from heart to heart’ is the positive, uplifting message I wanted to leave readers with at the end of my novel. I hope I’ve succeeded!

A Way from Heart to Heart was released by Accent Press on 18th November.

After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway’s world collapses around her. Her free time is spent with a charity for teenage girls, helping them mend their broken lives - which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.
Reserved, public school journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren’t.  But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything, and leaves Kate torn.
Can she risk her son’s happiness as well as her own?
 

 
Biog:
Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Happy endings are her favourite, and when one of her novels won a reader competition for "The Most Romantic Love Scene Ever" it made her day.
Helena was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She's grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire. After many years working in factories and dark, satanic mills, Helena has turned to writing full-time. She walks the Yorkshire moors every day with her rescue dog, finding this romantic landscape the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
 



A Way from Heart to Heart is available on:


Follow Helena:
Twitter: @helenafairfax

Thanks so much for having me, Elaine and Natalie!

A pleasure, Helena!




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The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman