Friday, September 19, 2014

Personal Assistance

Today we are pleased to welcome, Louise Rose-Innes to the blog.

It's hot, really hot. The sky is cobalt blue, and the sun shines down relentlessly. The streets are barren and a fine layer of dust coats everything in sight. The buildings are mere shells of their former selves. Wiring and electronics hang out of broken windows like disgorged entrails. In the distance is the sound of rifle fire. A sound that is as common in this city now, as the sound of children playing in the streets once was.

This could be Damascus, or Libya, or any other city on the front line of conflict in the Middle East. Scenes like this flitter across our TV screens regularly these days. The powerful images stay with us. We can imagine how awful it is for the people living there, for those who have been forced to flee their homes, taking their children and scarce belongings with them.
Such is the setting for my latest romantic suspense, Personal Assistance.

Stark and unromantic, you may argue, but I chose this setting for a reason. Firstly it’s very topical right now, and we can’t ignore what is going on in the world around us, but also because even in an environment like this, love can flourish.

Hannah Evans is a British employee, working in the royal compound of Prince Hakeem, ruler of a Middle Eastern Arab kingdom. She stumbles upon a state secret so powerful that it could alter the course of the war. On the run for her life, she joins forces with disgraced SAS commander, Tom Wilde, the only man capable of getting her out of the war-torn country. But Tom has a hidden agenda and Hannah can’t be sure he’ll stick to his end of the bargain.
“Fast-paced”, “great action” and “suspenseful” are some of the comments from reviews of Personal Assistance. I like to think that this in some way is attributed to the volatile setting where nothing stays still. How can it in a war zone? But also the stark heat, the characters under duress, a country in turmoil and a military desperate to get its hands on the secret that Hannah has taken all contribute to the pace of the story.

One can never underestimate the power of setting in a novel, romance or otherwise.
Personal Assistance is available from Amazon.

Louise Rose-Innes writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Born in sunny South Africa, Louise is a lover of sunshine and the sea, and this is often reflected in her novels. After completing a post graduate in Marketing Management, Louise headed off to the United Kingdom to gain work experience and travel. She now lives in leafy Surrey with her family, and when she’s not writing, is traipsing through the beautiful countryside, or kayaking on the river Thames.

Her debut romantic suspense novel, Personal Assistance, has recently been published through Entangled Publishing. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) in the UK, and the Romance Writers Organization of South Africa (ROSA)

Thank you, Louise.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chatting with Cathy Mansell

Today we are delighted to welcome Cathy Mansell to the blog

Thank you Natalie and Elaine for having me as your guest today. It's a pleasure to be on the RNA blog again.

In 2013, when Shadow Across the Liffey became a contender for the Joan Hessayan award, I had no inkling of what was to come. You know that old saying; you wait ages for a bus and then three come along at the same time. That's the best way to describe what happened next. Two more books followed in quick concession. Her Father's Daughter in June 2013, and Shadow Across the Liffey came out in paperback. Galway Girl was released in May of this year, followed by paperback of Her Father's Daughter. Where the Shamrocks Grow, my recent novel, was released as an eBook this month. All published with Tirgearr Publishing who have mentioned doing paperbacks of Galway Girl, and Where the Shamrocks Grow, next year. If that wasn't enough excitement, Magna have taken all four books for library large print and audio. Audio is scheduled for 2015. This is a dream come true for me, and to say I feel fortunate, is putting it mildly. These four books went through the new writers' scheme where the feedback was invaluable. 

In a past life I edited an anthology of works funded by Arts Council England. I also appeared on the TV show Food Glorious Food in 2012. Nowadays, I write novels set in 19th century Ireland, depicting the lifestyle and hardships of families in those days, together with the emotions of her characters when they become wound up in intricate criminal plots. 

We asked Cathy a few questions: 

You began your writing career with short stories and articles. What made you decide to move to novel writing?
While writing articles for Woman's Way, Woman's Own and Yours etc., I embarked on writing my life story. Just for my family. It turned out to be 90,000 words. It was then that I realised I wanted to write novels and joined the RNA NWS in 2002. I still write the odd article and short story, but mainly stick to writing novels.

How much did your upbringing in Ireland help in the setting of your novels?
It helped enormously. Having lived my childhood and teenage years in Dublin, Ireland during the 1950s/60s, it gave me plenty of ideas. I write my stories around things and events of the rimes I remember, without having to do too much research.

Your latest novel, ‘Where the Shamrock Grows’, has recently been released. Is there another in the planning stage?
Oh, yes. I'm writing another romantic suspense set in the 60s Dublin. I'm half way through writing it, and have given myself a deadline to finish it by February 2015.         

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to ‘wing it’?
I'm not that clever. I would never get away with "winging it!'  I'm a planner. The story is usually in my head long before I start to write it. I need to know where I'm going and work out a chapter chart and then I follow it like a map. It works for me.

Following that, how do you fit your writing round your family life?
That can be hard at times, especially with grandchildren. I have quite a few, so birthdays and Christmas can be expensive. My eldest granddaughter lives in Perth, Australia, and my son and his family live in New Zealand. Even so, I still have enough grandchildren here to keep me busy. My husband is amazing and gives me space to write. As a writer who loves writing stories, I will always find time to do what I love. Life is too short not to.

Finally, what aspect of your writing do you most enjoy?
All of it, but I have to admit there is a certain amount of satisfaction in editing the finished manuscript. I enjoy researching especially when it takes me over the sea to Ireland. One of my favourite places in the world.

Where the Shamrocks Grow’ is set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, Jo Kingsley is transported from her turbulent childhood to the sophisticated life at the beautiful Chateau Colbert. She meets Jean-Pierre, grandson of her employer Madame Colbert, and discovers the desire of men.

Destiny takes Jo to America where she experiences more than dreams of becoming a music teacher.


Thank you for joining us today, Cathy

This 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

Friday, September 12, 2014

But On The Other Hand...

Today Natalie Lloyd-Evans, writing as Natalie Meg Evans, compares the RNA with the Romance Writers of America.

In July, I attended RWA14, the conference of the Romance Writers of America which this year, took place in San Antonio.  

During the three packed days I spent shuttling between the Marriott Rivercenter and Riverwalk hotels in San An, it bore in on me that the RWA Nationals must be the busiest writers’ gathering anywhere. At signings, readers queue up in their hundreds to buy books by their favourite authors. There’s a bewildering array of workshops and retreats. Friendships are made and so are deals. I have an American agent because I sat in front of her for a few nerve-wracking minutes in a conference room in Anaheim Ca in 2012. Being an RWA member has not only got me through doors, it has opened my eyes to one of the largest potential markets for UK writers.

There are many differences between the RWA and our RNA and I’ve listed some that leap out at me. Please note, I do mean ‘differences.’ I’m not implying better or worse. 

Difference #1 - Successful authors Stateside are loud and proud. When I became a Golden Heart © finalist and travelled to Anaheim for the awards, I discovered that you get a special ribbon and brooch, and get congratulated and called ‘awesome’ by complete strangers. Dancing in corridors is encouraged and will be applauded. The attention fades if you don’t win (I didn’t) but while it lasts it’s lovely, particularly if you’ve been writing alone for a long time. 

Difference #2 - Career focus. It’s in the constitution and is one of the key driving forces. Where the RNA has probationary and full membership, the RWA has General, PRO and PAN. PRO authors are those submitting work and awaiting the call while PAN stands for ‘published author’s network’. To become PRO, you present evidence of action in the form of letters to agents and publishers.  PAN requires a published novel, an ISBN and proof of earnings over a certain limit – not that different from RNA requirements for full membership. However, to qualify for its tax status with the IRS, the RWA can only allow full status to members actively pursuing writing as a business. Those who write for fun or who are gently developing at their own rate should, in theory, opt for associate membership. The RWA is tightening up on this.
A Nationals veteran with several years' of awards behind her

Difference #3 - What is romance? Yes, that old conundrum. The RWA board has narrowed the definition of a romance novel, affecting members who write romantic suspense, or crime or inspirational books with romantic elements. Books submitted for the annual RITA and Golden Heart awards are judged on the following criteria: Is the love story the main focus of the book? Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic? Compare this rule with the existence of the ‘Epic’ category for the RONA awards.   

Difference #4 - Output. I attended six workshops and in all of them, the panel took it as a given that to be successful in the digital age, writers must produce at least two books a year, preferably four. I heard a woman behind me make a sound like a wounded beagle.

Difference #5 - Promo and branding. If you want to stock up on personalised nail files, mini torches, blister first aid kits, fridge magnets, hair slides . . . you get the picture. ‘Promote your brand’ was a constant refrain. Promotion and marketing should be 50% of your working week, I kept hearing. It isn’t 50% of mine, more like 15%.  I quote: ‘If you don’t enjoy the business side, get over yourself.’

Difference #6 - Get thee to an attorney. At one workshop, a smart literary attorney invited everyone to raise their hand if they’d used one of his profession to check their publisher’s contract. All hands but mine rose. ‘Because I don’t know any,’ was my answer to his obvious question. He walked over, presented a card, and said ‘You do now.’  

Difference #7 - Security. Can you imagine dodging a sex pest at an RNA summer conference? An unpleasant individual attempted to molest female guests in the main hotel. It dawned on me how vulnerable women-only conferences are when access to the building is public. Mace sprays fit in any handbag.

Difference #8 - Climate. San Antonio, Texas, is like sharing a blast furnace with mountains of wet washing. Do not go out without water, I was told.  Ever. However, once inside a hotel, the air con is severe. RWA Nationals visit a different city each year, and if you’re planning to go, take a woolly.  
Next year, the RWA is in New York City and I’m looking forward to being there. I’m hoping the tight definition of romance won’t edge me out. I like having a foot in both worlds. They are not the same, but vive la difference.

Natalie Meg Evans is author of The Dress Thief, a historical novel set against the background of Parisian haute-couture of the 1930s.   In 2012, Natalie won the Harry Bowling Prize and in 2013, was shortlisted for a Daphne du Maurier Award. Natalie was a probationary member of the RNA throughout the 1990s, and rejoined this year as a full member.

The Dress Thief available in paperback and ebook from 29th May 2014 at

Thank you, Natalie. A fascinating piece

This 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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Right Connection

Laura E James talks about the theme of her novel, Follow Me, Follow You

Thanks to a fantastic Julie Cohen 2013 RNA Conference workshop on theme, I realised my second Choc Lit novel, Follow Me, Follow You, is about reconnecting. Connection is a universal human need, which most likely took root in the days when hunting for food required teamwork ‒ where safety in numbers ensured mankind’s survival. A group can provide protection for the individual and share the workload.

I loved team sports when I was at school – I wasn’t naturally athletic, but I enjoyed the interaction and the process of working towards a common goal. To celebrate a win or commiserate over a loss with others is emotionally more satisfying and healing than whooping or crying alone. Being part of the team gave me a sense of belonging; a sense of being part of something greater than just me. And it gave me a sense of acceptance. This is what Victoria Noble, the heroine in Follow Me, Follow You, is missing. A divorced mother to four-year-old Seth, with whom she has a difficult relationship, and let down by the men in her life, she seeks sanctuary in her virtual world of computers. At work she doesn’t suffer the risk of emotional rejection, as the only connections she has to make are professional, but it’s here she unintentionally fulfils her basic human need of being part of the bigger picture.

However, what strikes me about Victoria is her obvious need to reconnect with the real world ‒ with real people. Her sanctuary, where she escapes the harsh realities of life, is a business she’s built centred on social media. EweSpeak is the number one social networking site, with all sorts of people interacting with one another. Victoria rarely engages with her flock, but she facilitates others to do so.

When we first meet Victoria, she’s beginning to understand the importance of the human connection and wants to fix the broken bond between her and Seth. The problem is she doesn’t know where to
Seth on Chesil Beach
start. ‘
The fact he provoked such intense feelings within her was proof she loved him. Wasn’t it? The question banged around her sore head. She wanted love to flow through her veins. She wanted it to flood her heart and be her life force, but it was hard with a child who communicated with words of hatred.

To secure and nurture the connection, interaction is required, which means both parties need to be open to the idea. To make matters worse, Seth connects with others with astonishing ease. And then there’s a romantic connection with her first love, Chris Frampton, Victoria has to address …

She has a long journey ahead, and she has no idea if she’s taking the correct path. She knows from past experience rejection can lead to negative emotions ‒ anxiety and poor self-esteem, to name two. It’s a tough call.

To my mind the importance is not in how we make those connections, but in the fact we have the courage to pursue them. The human race needs to belong to survive. I am lucky. I have found my place in the world. I have established connections that make me happy. I am secure. I am accepted for who I am, along with my disabilities, limitations and funny ways. I love and I am loved. And for that, I shall be eternally grateful and thankful.

Follow Me, Follow You is available on all major digital platforms and as a paperback.

Laura is married and has two children. She lives in Dorset, but spent her formative years in Watford, a brief train ride away from the bright lights of London. Here she indulged her love of live music, and, following a spectacular Stevie Nicks gig, decided to take up singing, a passion that scored her second place in a national competition.
Laura is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, and an editor of the popular Romaniacs blog.
She was runner-up twice in the Choc Lit Short Story competitions. Her story Bitter Sweet appears in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Anthology. Truth or
Dare?, Laura’s debut novel, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction Best Romantic eBook 2013 and the 2014 Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award. Follow me, follow you is Laura’s first Choc Lit novel published in paperback.

Thank you for joining us today, Laura

This 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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Difficult Second Novels

We are delighted to welcome back, Hazel Gaynor who will tell us about her approaching second book.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that second novels are a curious thing. Like that ‘difficult second album’ so many bands struggle to produce (I’m thinking especially of T’Pau, Mr Blobby and the Sex Pistols here) so too the ‘difficult second novel’. What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if all those readers who loved your first novel don’t fall in love with your second? What if, what if, what if. Realising you have ONE published, actual book is quite something. Doing it all over again is both a terrifying and exhilarating prospect.
My second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS will be published in February in the U.S and March in the UK and Ireland. Final proofs are in. Back cover blurbs have been written. The (beautiful) cover has been designed. We are on the final countdown toward ARE’s and galleys and early, nerve-shredding, reviews and I suddenly feel crippled with self-doubt and writerly angst. I’m sure this is normal and expected (please tell me this is normal and expected), but it’s a strange sensation all the same. While part of me cannot wait for this novel to be published and read, to be an actual book (rather than words on a screen or notes scribbled on a pile of papers), another part of me wants to creep into a distant cave and hide until it’s all over.

So, here are my ten truths about writing second novels:
1)      Second novels are like a second child. You are much more relaxed about it in many ways (you’ve been through this all before, right), but then you panic as you realise you can’t remember what on earth you are supposed to do.

2)      Second novels come with expectation. Yes, debuts come with expectation also, but it’s your first (bless), people expect the worst and are surprised if it is actually any good. But if it is, people expect this one to be even better. Readers have something to compare your second novel to. This makes you feel nauseous.

3)      Second novels come without the cotton wool and pampering of debuts. Much like a second pregnancy, people soon forget you’re going through the same aches, pains, insecurities and fears. They assume you have it all figured out, because you’ve done it once before. You’re a writer now. Yeah, yeah. We know.

4)      Second novels come with a contractual agreement. With deadlines. With a publication date. No namby-pamby flouncing around and ‘look at me, I’m writing a novel’ with this one. This is serious, dude. You have schedules to stick to.

5)   Second novels come with experience. You know what’s coming. You know everyone won’t gush with praise. You know some people might even be downright nasty. This makes you feel nauseous.

6)      Second novels have to be juggled with the first (which you are still promoting). You cannot indulge them with your undivided attention like you did with your precious debut. Sometimes, one or the other may be a little bit ignored. And if you’re already writing your third, Lord help you.

7)      Second novels must (naturally) improve on the first. You must have learned something in the process of writing, editing and publicising your debut, and you must prove this with your second. No pressure then.
  8) Second novels show your readers who you really are – the style of your writing, your voice, your brand, your ‘thang’. You are setting your stall out. Pitching your tent. Get it wrong, and people may just quietly walk away and pick up the new Robert Galbraith instead.

  9)Second novels come with the potential for all those lovely ‘Praise for …’ quotes from your previous novel and might even come with a ‘from bestselling author’ splash on the cover. Oh, the joy!

10)  Second novels are, ultimately, brimming with opportunity. They are wonderful, frightening things that consolidate your place as a writer; your space on the shelf. And when all is said and done, you wouldn’t swap that for the world.

Hazel Gaynor is a mum, novelist and freelance writer. Her debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME is a 
NY Times and USA Today best seller. Her second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS will be published in
 February, 2015. Hazel is also a guest blogger and features writer for 
Originally from Yorkshire, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two children and an accident-prone cat.

Read more about Hazel and her books at
Twitter @HazelGaynor

Thank you, Hazel and good luck with book number two!

This 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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sue Moorcroft: Loving the Research

When I decided to set The Wedding Proposal in Malta I knew that I was going to enjoy researching the setting – Malta has a special place in my heart.
As part of an army family, I lived in Malta when I was a child. When we left after our second tour of duty I was eight-and-a-half and had lived in Malta for more than half of those years. We referred to the UK as ‘home’ but I’d only lived there for a couple of years and didn’t remember it much. But when my dad’s next posting took us to London I discovered something.
I’d really thought of Malta as home all along.
Sunshine, dust, honey-coloured stone, palm trees, sea, snorkelling, scorpions, lizards, geckos, church bells, freedom, ramparts, festas and horse-drawn taxis – they were what I knew and loved. And now they were lost.
I suggested to my parents that we return but the army had other ideas and so I’ve had to make do with (many) holidays to Malta ever since. And setting a book on the island gave me an excuse to shoehorn in an extra visit.
So, what was I likely to have to research, given that I was a frequent visitor? A lot of detail.
Flat overlooking Ta'Biex Marina
I’d lived in a flat overlooking the Ta’ Biex yacht marina so when I decided to put Elle and Lucas together on a 42’ boat for the summer that was the obvious place to moor it. (Additional research note: Elle and Lucas had been together four years earlier and didn’t expect to have to share a small boat for the summer. The man who kindly showed me around the real life twin of the Shady Lady said, ‘If they’re not ‘together’ then sharing a boat this size is going to cause friction.’ He was probably surprised when I laughed and rubbed my hands gleefully.) Knowing the shape of the marina and the taste of the sea when you fall in, these things weren’t enough. I had to find out where in the marina each of the boats in The Wedding Proposal would berth, and how (stern-to, ie blunt end to the shore), how essential services were accessed – one yacht owner told me when it was the time for the ‘black waste’ to be emptied ‘You go far, far out to sea’. But there is actually an on-shore disposal point!
Happily, most people don’t seem to mind falling into conversation about their boats and my brother put me in contact with one English person and one Maltese who’d moored at Ta’ Biex.
And when I needed to know a depth at an exact spot, I asked a fisherman. He stuck his rod in the water, pulled it out and pointed to the wet section. ‘That deep.’ We decided it was two metres. Basic research never fails me …
And even when I feel I know my subject well, I never fail it.
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. Is this Love? was nominated for the Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was shortlisted for a RoNA in 2013. Sue is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.

Sue’s latest book The Wedding Proposal is available as an ebook from 4 August 2014 and as a paperback from 8 September.

Twitter @suemoorcroft

Thank you, Sue. You make research sound like a lot of fun.

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.
If you would like to write for this blog please contact us on

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Write Young Adult?

Sixteen in my head, or Why I write YA?

Today Ruth Frances Long answers the question for us

Some years ago (not so many that I can excuse it all as a hazy memory, alas) my then-new boss asked my age. Obviously he shouldn’t have but the long pause that followed wasn’t from my shock at being asked this question. It was due to my actually having to stop, think and work out what age I was. Unfortunately for me, he realised what I was doing. “Don’t you know what age you are?” he asked in surprise. The answer to which, I blurted out without pause. “I’m sixteen in my head!” Because I am. I have been since I was sixteen in reality too.
I think everyone has an age they “are” in their head.  Most of my friends give an answer somewhere in the mid to late twenties, some in their thirties. One friend finds this idea seriously entertaining and has researched it thoroughly at this stage by asking just about everyone she meets what age they are in their head. She says she’s never met a man who will admit to being over twenty five (in his head). Draw your own conclusions on that! But me, I’m sixteen. The eternal teenager. 

On the outside I’m a (sometime) responsible adult, with a job and a family, a mortgage, a car etc. Inside however...
I think this is why I love to write for young adults. There’s something so interesting about that time of life. You’re always learning (even though you outwardly know everything already). You’re always looking forward to things. You’re the eternal optimist. Everything is about hope and growth.

When writing for adults there’s a certain expectation of seriousness, reality, of the grim consequences of time, its effect on life. Teens in adult books are often engaged in coming of age stories, the loss of innocence, the casting aside of childish things. Every theme connected with them seems to be about loss. If not, they are a flippant, annoying caricature, designed to display inexperience and silliness.

In YA fiction, it’s the opposite. Themes cover the discovery of self, of autonomy, becoming your own person, responsible for your own actions, making your own choices. Teens acquire knowledge and experience. They learn and grown in a way that often their adult counterparts don’t. It’s a vital part of their makeup.  A teen character is a changeable, evolving wonder, especially for the writer who is learning along with them.

As adults we desire to protect and nurture our children. But the teenager is all about breaking free of such constraints. They are “young adults” for a reason, the second word being the key one. They aren’t children anymore and it’s time for their independence to begin. Much is written about dark themes in teen books, about drink and drugs and sex, about death, illness and suicide, and whether books should deal with these things. Often writers are accused of glorifying or exploiting such themes.

But where better for the young teen to learn about them than safely between the pages of a book? Where better to have those adventures, to enter those conflicts, to feel that maelstrom of emotions, than a place where simply by putting it down and walking away, it can all stop in an instant. They might only do that for a moment, they might never pick that book up again—but, and this is key, it’s their decision. It is often a lot more difficult to have such control over events in the real world.

Writing for the young adult audience and reading books for the YA market is a rollercoaster. It’s an adventure. And it’s a joyous discovery.
 Ruth Frances Long writes young adult fantasy such as The Treachery of Beautiful Things (Dial, 2012) and the forthcoming A Crack in Everything (O'Brien Press, September 2014), the first in a trilogy set in the world of demons, angels and fairies that exists alongside our own in modern day Dublin. As R. F. Long she writes fantasy & paranormal romance such as The Scroll Thief (Samhain, 2009) and The Mirror of her Power (Taliesin, 2014). She lives in Ireland and works in a library of rare, unusual & occasionally crazy books.

Twitter: @RFLong 
Tumblr: RFLong 

A Crack in Everything by Ruth Frances Long

(O’Brien Press, 1st September 2014, ISBN: 9781847176356, available to pre-order now)
She was a mistake. A crack in the order of the world …
When Izzy Gregory takes a wrong turn down a Dublin alley she stumbles into a shadowy, frightening world where magical beings, angels and demons hold sway. In this place where everything is strange, Izzy finds herself surrounded by danger, chased and threatened. Her only chance of survival lies with Jinx, who’s been sent to capture her. Jinx has known nothing but duty and cruelty from his own kind; Izzy is something altogether new to him – and to his world …
Falling in love was never in the plan, but it might be the one thing that can save them.

Thank you, Ruth. A child, or at least a young adult, at heart like the rest of us.

This blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. If you have attended a literary event or have something you'd like to share with members of the RNA please contact us on

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two special authors, two special anniversaries

Today we welcome Ian Skillicorn to the blog to tell us about two special anniversaries.

August 27th is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the author Naomi Jacob. The following month, a new edition of Catherine Gaskin's novel Sara Dane marks the sixtieth anniversary of the book's first publication. These special dates are an opportunity to remember two very successful writers of romantic fiction.

Both authors were hugely popular bestsellers in their time, whose writing careers each spanned five decades. Both lived for eighty years, and their own lives were every bit as interesting as their fiction.

Before becoming an author, Naomi Jacob had been a teacher, an actress, a political activist and a suffragette.

She had a comfortable upbringing in Ripon, Yorkshire, where her grandfather had twice been mayor, and her father was headmaster of the local school. But her family suffered a reversal in fortunes after her parents separated. She left school at fourteen, and went to work as a student teacher in a deprived part of Middlesbrough. A few years later, she began visiting music halls in Leeds, where she met the actress and singer Marguerite Broadfoote. Jacob became her secretary (and lover) and this introduced her to the world of theatre. In time, she started acting too, and had success as a character actress in the West End (opposite John Geilgud) and in touring productions.
Naomi (who was known to her family and friends as "Mickie") was also involved in political causes, and was a member of the Women's Social and Political Union, campaigning for women's suffrage. She also stood as a Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in East Ham, but was unsuccessful.

In 1925, Naomi published her first novel, Jacob Usher. It was a bestseller, and for the next almost forty years, she wrote one or two books every year.

Naomi had contracted TB as a young woman, and in 1930 doctors recommended she move to a milder climate. She found a villa in Sirmione on Lake Garda in Italy. Apart from a period during the Second World War, it remained Naomi's home for the rest of her life. But she frequently returned to England, and was a regular contributor to the BBC's Woman's Hour in the 1950s and 60s.

Many of Naomi's romantic novels are set in Yorkshire, and her love and respect for the people and landscape shine through in her writing. But she is perhaps best-remembered for her seven-novel series The Gollantz Saga, which follows a family over several generations. The saga begins with The Founder of the House, which introduces us to Emmanuel Gollantz, the son of a Jewish antique dealer. Set in nineteenth century Paris, Vienna and London, it's an engaging read about family ties and rivalries, and the cost of living by principles of loyalty and honour.

Naomi was a very disciplined writer; she wrote every morning, except Sundays. Afternoons and evenings were for socialising with friends. She continued writing up to her death, and her last novel, Flavia, was published posthumously the following year.

Catherine Gaskin was born in Ireland, the youngest of six children. When she was three months old her family emigrated to Australia. In contrast to Naomi Jacob, Catherine became an author at a very early age. She wrote her first novel while she was still at school, and got a publishing deal for it when she was just sixteen. This Other Eden sold 50,000 copies in its first two months of publication, and by the age of seventeen, Catherine was already a bestselling author.

After her second novel was published, Catherine moved to London with her mother and one of her sisters, partly to seek medical help for her sister's undiagnosed illness. During her time in London, two significant events in Catherine's life took place. Firstly, she met her future husband, Sol Cornberg, on a blind date. An American, he had come over from NBC to design television studios in England. During their married life, the couple lived in the USA, the Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man, and Ireland.

It was also in London that Catherine wrote her most popular and well-known novel, Sara Dane. Sara Dane is an eighteenth century young woman who is unjustly sent to the penal colony in Australia. Once there she has to fight against prejudice, natural disasters and the harsh conditions of early settler life to establish herself as a women of wealth and power. The book was a huge hit around the world, and was made into a successful television mini-series.

For over forty years, Catherine wrote a novel every one or two years. But she admitted that often writing did not come easy to her. When she was interviewed on Desert Island Discs in 1980, she told Roy Plomley that “I can be stuck with the first 10,000 words for a year” and that she would "invent every sort of excuse not to go to the typewriter".

Catherine would do a great deal of research for each book;  it took her two years to research the background to Sara Dane. She became known for novels which described, in rich detail, worlds unfamiliar to her readers, such as a grand London auction house, a Victorian whisky distillery and a small 1950s American town.

After publication of her twenty-first novel in 1988, Catherine chose to stop writing, so that she could enjoy retirement with her husband. They had eleven more years together before his death. The following year, she returned to Australia. She remained there until her death in 2009.

These two special anniversaries are an ideal time to celebrate the lives and works of two talented authors, whose stories continue to entertain readers around the world.

Find out more at and

The Founder of the House by Naomi Jacob is published on August 27th and Sara Dane by Catherine Gaskin on September 10th, both by Corazon Books.
Thank you, Ian.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Droopy

Today Amanda Ward tells us about her ‘older’ heroes and heroines.

I am an author of romance novels specifically with the hero and heroine in their 40s and above. I would like to point out I do not write ‘mum, chick, nan or granny’ lit. Mine are romance, pure and simple with a quirky sense of humour woven throughout, and I admit that I have great fun in writing them.

In my early teens, twenties and thirties I was an avid reader of romance novels. Travelling to work each day with a Temptation book in my handbag and immersing myself completely. During those years raising my family they were my one indulgence, a means of escaping from the nappy changes, whining and moaning (and not just from the kids) in the evenings. Now I’m in my early forties and a grandmother I am looking for something a little more ‘my age’. A couple of years ago, I couldn’t find anything, so I started writing and here I am now a fully-fledged member of the RNA as of January 1st 2014 and attended my first conference in July.

 I wrote my first novel Without Saying a Word during Nanowrimo and submitted it to Books to Go Now which they accepted within a few days. I am currently working on a Christmas novella for them. As for the MisAdventures of Pann Haggerty, well they started out as a series of short stories. I put them together and sent them to Secret Cravings Publishing, with whom I am contracted for the next two books in the Pann series.

Both Secret Cravings and Books to Go Now offer a wide range of romance novels, and I have been supported and encouraged by them to write more for them, and in this age range.

I have seen in the past five years especially a major shift in what categorizes a romance novel. From the mainstream tropes, we have Christian/inspiration/Amish romances and at the other end of the scale the erotica side. In between, the list is extensive. So if there are readers who are buying these, who is to say there isn’t a call for writing which raises the age of the hero and heroine.

It is a fact that women are living longer than men. I will happily put my hand up here and say that I have been married 3 times. In my 20s and twice in my 30s. My current (and last ever one) was himself in his 40s when we married, and how we met, well it’s a story in itself. So what fun can there be with the older couple? Well, let’s see. They’ve passed the turmoil of their youth. While the younger couple are setting out on the road to house buying, nappy changes, school runs and teenager hood, my couple have done it and better than that… survived. Ted and Shirley are either divorced/widowed/never married. Meet at the park or been set up by one of their kids on a dating website. They have a fair bit in common like remembering the 70s and the power cuts and telling each other about how their children/grandkids are doing.  I’m getting ideas for a future book here. This is a couple who can talk to each other and spend time together without rushing off here there and everywhere. As for the physical side of the relationship, a sense of humour is the way I usually write them. Let’s face it nothing is perky anymore, there are going to be a few awkward moments, but writing it with compassion and sensitivity (especially if there is a medical problem) is tantamount. What I really do love when I write about this couple is that they work out any issues together, because they truly love each other.
Older hero and heroine romance…BRING IT ON!

Thank you, Amanda, for showing us that romance is out there for everyone – no matter what their age.

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