Friday, October 31, 2014

Carole Matthews: What a Celebration!


We are delighted to welcome Carole Matthews to the blog today. Carole will be known to many of our members for her bestselling novels and we interview her as she celebrates a special point in her writing life.

You have reached a milestone in your writing life with the publication of your 25th book, The Christmas Party. Congratulations! How did you celebrate this event?
My publisher gave me a lovely posh party at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London. It was a really great evening with many friends from the world of publishing and personal friends who have been important in my career. I’ve also been trying to take time and savour the publication of this book and have been looking back at the many things that my partner, Lovely Kev, and I have done over the years. It’s been quite a ride.

How long does it take from the first idea to filing the completed novel and do you find it easier to write now that you are an experienced novelist?
I write two books a year, so have a deadline every six months. It’s usually three or four months of solid writing in that. I’m not sure the writing process ever gets any easier. I’m currently writing book number 27 and that’s the trickiest one I’ve done in a while. Also, modern publishing requires you to produce a lot of promotional material, so I’m always writing short stories, articles and blog pieces. That takes up quite a lot of time.

How much research do you undertake when planning a story?
It depends entirely on the story.  If I set them in a location that I don’t know then I like to make sure I visit it if I can. Or, if I’m writing about a particular job, then I like to shadow or talk to someone doing that job. To research a theme, I talk to people, gather magazine or newspaper articles, roam the internet. I just sort of know when I’m armed with enough knowledge and ready to make a start.

What would be a typical writing day for you?
I get into the office about eight to answer email and catch up with social media. Then I work from ten to one. I have an hour for lunch and then write again from two until six. I do that five days a week and try very hard not to work at weekends. Those who chat to me on social media will also know that I usually pull two ‘insomnia’ shifts a week. I’m not a great sleeper and if I’m awake, I generally get up and work through the night.

You make yourself available on social media to chat to your readers. Would you say this is important for all authors?
Crucial. But I also think that you have to love it. You can tell the authors who are on there only to promote their books and that’s annoying. Fortunately, I love social media and the opportunities it gives. I’d like to think that I’m building genuine relationships with my readers and I value their feedback and friendship.

Which of your books was your favourite to write?
I have several favourites for different reasons.  Let’s Meet on Platform 8 was my first book and so I’ll always have a soft spot for that one. The books that I can’t leave alone are The Chocolate Lovers’ books - The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet. I love the ladies in those books. They never leave my head and the books have been my best sellers worldwide. I’m currently writing another two in the series. Yay!

How many personal appearances do you make to promote each book?
It depends on many different things. I tend to do only the big events that my publisher organises now or, on the flip side, small ones that are local to me. I also organise outings with my readers - we’ve been on chocolate tours, out for afternoon tea and I sometimes drop in on them for a cuppa if I’m passing. The joys of social media means that you have friends everywhere!

What words of advice would you give to members of our New Writers’ Scheme?
Don’t follow trends. Write the book that you want to write and make it the very best that you can. Don’t be in too much of a rush to send it off to agents or to self-publish. I have many manuscripts come across my desk from writers who want to be published, but very few of them are finished to a professional standard. Write every day when you’re starting out, even if it’s only for half an hour. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Please tell us something about book number 25
The Christmas Party is a riotous story about one night at an office party. The heroine is Louise Young, a single mum, who is back in the world of work for the first time in five years. Unfortunately, she has a difficult boss, Tyler Benson, and is treading on eggshells with him in an attempt to keep her job. She goes to her first office party hoping to have the time of her life, but little does she know that it will be a night to remember for many reasons.
This story was great fun to write, full of misdemeanours, mischief and mistaken identity. Being the festive season I have a great pantomime baddy who you can boo and hiss on every page. Everyone has been to an office Christmas party, but I don’t think many people have been to one quite like this!



About Carole:
Carole Matthews is a bestselling author of twenty-five hugely successful romantic comedy novels. As well as appearing on the Sunday Times and USA Today bestseller lists, Carole is published in 31 different countries and has sold over 4 million books. Her books Welcome To The Real World and Wrapped up in You have both been short-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year.
Previously unlucky in love, she now lives happily ever after with her partner, Lovely Kev, in a minimalist home with no ornaments or curtains. She likes to drink champagne, eat chocolate and spends too much time on Facebook and Twitter. Carole’s latest book is The Christmas Party.

Carole’s website:
http://www.carolematthews.com/

Thank you, Carole for finding time in your busy schedule to answer our questions.

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

If you wish to be featured on the blog or write a craft article please contact us on elaineverest@aol.com





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Readers Wanted!


Today we welcome RoNA organiser, Nicola Cornick who is asking for our help.

We’re looking for readers for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award!
I’m in the thick of organising this year’s Romantic Novel of the Year Awards and for the

 most part it’s been great fun. Stressful and time-consuming occasionally, I will admit, but also a really interesting process to be involved with. We all know, of course, that the romantic novel of the year award is a prestigious prize that recognises the very highest standards of romantic fiction. We’re proud of our awards and rightly so. Over the years, as the profile of the RNA and of our awards has grown, an increasing number of books have been submitted for the contest. This year we have had over 200 entries across the five categories. Next year, with the inclusion of e-books in the awards for the first time, we are anticipating even more.
Delighted winner 2014, Veronica Henry



One thing that makes the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards different from some other contests is that the readers in the first round are book lovers and keen readers drawn from the general public. Our readers are not members of the RNA. We are always looking to attract more people to join the panel, never more so than now in order to meet the greater demand for readers for both e-entries and paper entries. We’re talking to libraries, writing groups and other organisations in order to drum up some support, which is also great for getting the RNA more widely known. So if you know of anyone who might be interested in reading for our awards, please rope them in! I’m always happy to send out details and application forms to anyone who is interested.

Here, to give potential readers a taster of what it is like, is one reader’s view:

“Last year I saw a call for readers to assess and review those books nominated for the 2014 Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. Having some time available I thought that that would both provide me with some good holiday reading and be a fun thing to do.
I duly contacted the Awards coordinator who sent me a form. With this filled in and sent off, I awaited the arrival of the postman on a daily basis. Time and holiday passed, and I hadn't heard a thing, when, at the beginning of November, I got a phone call. “Good morning. You volunteered to read for us. If I send you five books, do you think you can read and review them in a month?”


Category winners with Darcey Bussell CBE and Helen Fielding
The next day five books and review notes arrived, and I settled down for some extended homework. The review notes were MOST helpful. I managed all five books inside the allotted time and e-mailed my scores as I completed each one. Of the five, two were good, one was less so, one was very good, and one was also good but didn't meet the RNA's criteria.

I found the process very enjoyable, and volunteered to read again this year. It’s a process I would recommend to anyone. You don't have to “just like romantic fiction” and the RNA really do make it easy for you. Oh, and you get to keep the books!"

Thank you, Nicola.
 Our glittering awards ceremony could not go ahead without the help of our wonderful team of readers. 
If you would like to join the team please contact Nicola on: RONAawards@romanticnovelistsassociation.org

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

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


Friday, October 24, 2014

Editing: What do authors' miss?


Today we welcome jay Dixon to the blog. jay is well known to us all as Honorary Secretary of the RNA. Today she writes about editing.

As an editor with some 40 years’ experience I am still surprised by what writers miss in their manuscripts. Perhaps I shouldn’t be. It is notoriously difficult to edit your own work. But there are some tricks which can make it easier to spot errors. For instance, to avoid having two characters with the same name, which I have often found, all you need to do is list in alphabetical order all the characters’ names, with a short note about them – e.g. brown hair, chemist assistant – and then check the list for any duplications.

Something many authors find difficult to keep track of is the timeline – I once edited a ms where the heroine was pregnant for over a year! Problems with timelines are easily seen if, at the editing stage, you write down on a separate sheet of paper the chapter number and note the day (either with the actual day or just as day/week/month 1, 2 etc.) beside it and then under it you write a very short description of what happens in that chapter – just the action (e.g. villain kills dog) as an aide memoire and underline or put in bold any foreshadowing (e.g. will go to hairdressers on Saturday). Then when Saturday arrives, you know that character should be at the hairdresser’s, and not gallivanting round the countryside.

Noting down the action also helps with inconsistencies in plot. You know what you want to convey, but you may not have put it down on the page. Watch that event B arises out of event A, and that there is no disparity in the event being described. For instance, if the heroine has told the hero she loves him on p.100, make sure she does not then think to herself, ‘I love him’, as if it is a revelation she has only just realised, on p. 150.

Note descriptions – the aide memoire of hair and eye colour I mentioned above keeps characters’ characteristics straight, but I have edited mss where e.g. the hero’s flat was described in two very different ways a few chapters apart.

Check your facts. It is all very well getting carried away with a story, but could your character have done that journey in that way in that time? There was a historical novel I edited where the main secondary character was a real person – a quick wiki search yielded information about him that indicated he was of a very different character than the villain depicted by the author. OK, a dead person can’t sue, but readers need to be respected and as much as possible descriptions of character as well as place etc. should be right.
And don’t forget tension. Have you put in enough questions to keep the reader reading? By this I don’t mean actual questions necessarily, but ones that arise in the reader’s mind, e.g. will the heroine reach the hero in time? This can take a few chapters to answer. Or a more minor one, answered more or less immediately, e.g. will she buy the handbag she yearns after? And then the overarching one, answered at the end, e.g. will true love conquer all?

Then do the rewrites.

And finally do the copyediting. Yes, spell check is helpful, but be aware it does not pick up e.g. that for than. In order to see errors more easily, print the ms out and go through it with a ruler or sheet of paper under the line, reading for the sense and rhythm of the sentence, and for errors of spelling and grammar.
Once the ms is the best you can make it – and don’t overthink this, you have to let it go sometime! – send it off and wait for the inevitable rewrites your editor will request!

jay Dixon is a freelance  editor specialising in women’s and historical fiction.

Thank you, jay for your most useful post.

The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman


If you would like to write an article or be featured on the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Katherine Garbera: Avoiding Cowboys, Babies & Brides!


Welcome to author, Katherine Garbera.

When I first started writing romance novels back in the early 90s the popular trends in contemporary romance were brides, babies and cowboys.  And because I'm contrary by nature I set to work on a novel about a single-mom with a seven-year-old (definitely not a baby).  I was unpublished at the time and every contest I was a finalist in I was up against some cowboy, baby or bride.  Somehow this made me more determined not to write one.  I sold my not-a-cowboy-bride-baby book to Harlequin for the Desire line and THE BACHELOR NEXT DOOR was released in 1997. 

After that I wrote romantic suspense which I had heard from numerous agents and editors was deadßpun intended!  Those books were fun to write and I enjoyed dipping my toe into the suspense waters.  One thing that has stood me well in writing is the fact that I can see the both sides of an issue. And when I write bad guys I need to know why they are bad. I’m sort of digressing but it made my stories a little not so suspensy in the traditional sense because you always knew who the bad guy was.  J

I did a pretty good job of staying away from babies and cowboys until recently when I dipped my toe into the cowboy sub genre.  And I have to admit I love those rough and tumble men.  The way they are no-nonsense (billionaires are too!) and can sweep a gal off her feet.  I have an upcoming Christmas novella, Cowboy, It's Cold Outside :)

My main objection to writing a cowboy was that I had grown up on various ranches in Florida.  You probably didn’t know that Florida had anything but beaches and theme parks but there is a whole other Florida that is rural and ranch centered.  My parents had an egg-ranch with 10,000 chickens—do you know how smelly that is? 

That was my problem with cowboys and romance for a long time.  Every time I set something on a ranch I remembered the smells, but time has given me the distance to move on from there. 

And babies...the problem with babies when I first started writing was that I had a toddler and then was pregnant and had a baby--funny how that happens! And writing about a pregnant heroine or babies was too much my reality.  I didn't see the cute part until my kids were teenagers.  Then I could look back fondly and write a baby book.  Or in my case a series featuring cute babies, billionaire alpha men and strong feisty women. :)  


My latest release FOR HER SON'S SAKE is available now.


COMPETITION:

So what about you?  Are you a trend follower? Or a trend bucker like me?  I'm giving away an autographed copy of the complete Baby Business series to one lucky commenter!


USA Today bestselling author Katherine Garbera is a two-time Maggie winner who has written more than 60 books. A Florida native who grew up to travel the globe, Katherine now makes her home in the Midlands of the UK with her husband, two children and a very spoiled miniature dachshund. 

Visit Katherine on the web
Connect with her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @katheringarbera.

Thank you for visiting the blog, Katherine.

This blog is brought to you by:   Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write a craft article or perhaps be featured on the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, October 17, 2014

Large Print: Another string to your bow?


Today we welcome Sarah Quirke to the blog. Sarah will be known to members through her work with Ulverscroft.

Welcome, Sarah. Many authors know the name Ulverscroft but can you tell us something about the company?

Ulverscroft Large Print Books has, under its umbrella, F.A. Thorpe Publishing, Isis and Magna – so between us we produce both large print and audio titles.  I work at F.A. Thorpe, which has been around for a while now; in fact, we celebrated our half-century earlier on this year!
Sarah Quirke
Thorpe Publishing was founded in 1964 by Dr Frederick Thorpe, who had a bit of a battle on his hands at the time. Publishers were reluctant to risk allowing their authors’ work to be reproduced in this new medium, but a chance meeting with Dame Agatha Christie changed that.  She thought the idea a great one, and gave Fred Thorpe permission to reproduce her titles in large print which, in turn, helped break down resistance throughout the industry. Today, the Ulverscroft Group is owned by a charity, the Ulverscroft Foundation, which supports research into and treatment of eye diseases. For example, the Foundation funds the Ulverscroft Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

What does your job entail?
We’re a small team in the Publishing office (four of us, including me), so we work quite tightly together. I’ll be setting lists, while someone else is sorting out the cover artwork and editing down back cover blurbs.
A big part of what I do is sifting through the titles that are submitted to us (we’re surrounded by book-mountains in our office!) and deciding which ones to go for. There’s the nitty-gritty part of that – looking at production costs and sales figures and working out our margins – and the more mundane part: do we really need any more non-fiction titles on our ‘bought’ shelves at the moment? No, but we could do with getting some more mystery titles before next month...
Much of the time I’ll base my decision on an author’s previous sales records, and we have people who read submissions from authors we’ve not published before and write reports for us, which is very useful.  But sometimes a book will just grab you, and you know it’s worth offering on straight away. That was the case with Vikas Swarup’s Q&A (which eventually became the hit film Slumdog Millionaire), and with Emma Donoghue’s Room, which I knew was a winner the second I read the strapline on the proof’s cover.
Once I know I want to acquire a title, there’s the bidding process.  For the larger titles, it can sometimes be a case of a one-off bid securing the large print rights, but more often there’s an auction. It can be galling to wave good bye to a title you’ve set your heart on acquiring, but we win a lot of the auctions too!

What kinds of books do you accept for large print?
As a second rights publisher, we really only want to publish work that’s either already been published in standard print, or has been accepted for standard print publication. There’s also the practical consideration of word count, which has a bearing on whether a title will be suitable for our lists. We have our genre fiction lists – the Linford Romance, Mystery and Western imprints – which are shorter reads, and our Ulverscroft and Charnwood imprints. These latter two contain longer fiction and non-fiction titles, of varying genres.

Are there any subjects you avoid?
Some years ago there was a glut of ‘misery memoirs’ which, for the most part, I tended to avoid; there were also an awful lot of books with suspiciously Da Vinci Code-esque plots... I’d say the main criterion for our titles is that they have mass appeal, and I do think we have a good, wide selection of titles: light-hearted reads, thriller titles, serious and not-so-serious non-fiction, the occasional horror, a goodly amount of crime, some family sagas – basically, I think there’s something for everyone. I can’t walk through a bookshop now without a running commentary going through my head: ‘We’ve got that one… Oh, and that one.  Bidding on that one, fingers crossed…

Who is your typical reader?
I’m not sure we have a ‘typical’ reader.  Our titles are, of course, intended to be read by those with poor or failing eyesight, but just as there isn’t a typical person affected by macular degeneration, so there isn’t a typical reader.  This is why we try to get titles with a broad range of appeal into our lists.  It’s a shame that all books can’t be reproduced in larger print, but I think it’s great that we can provide a good number of titles, so that anyone who needs to make use of large print has a range to choose from when they head to their library.

How many books are submitted to libraries each year?
At F.A. Thorpe, we publish 36 titles per month across all our imprints, so that’s 432 titles per year available for libraries to buy. We also do one-off Special Collections – for example, we re-published almost all of Agatha Christie’s titles a few years ago, and we’re looking at doing something similar again with another author (yet to be confirmed!)
 
Do you write yourself?
Not yet!

How would we submit to you?
Those authors who are submitting titles for consideration for our Linford Romance series tend to email me. As many of you will know, we no longer set titles directly from the D.C. Thomson booklets. Instead, we now need to see the manuscript, so it’s helpful if this is attached as a Word document.

Sarah can be contacted on: s.quirke@ulverscroft.co.uk

Thank you for finding time to answer our questions, Sarah.





 
The RN blog is brought to you by
 
Elaine & Natalie

If you would like to contribute an article or be interviewed for the blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Romance? A 'bloke's' point of view!


After discovering Mike Clarke's blog, where he mentioned in glowing terms his first NWS report, we felt it only fair he was invited to write for the RNA blog. Welcome, Mike, to what we hope will be the first of many reports for the RNA.

   ‘The Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme?’ James looked so shell-shocked he had to set down on the bar the two plates of squid, samphire and pea risotto he was carrying from the kitchen. ‘But – but – you’re a – a – bloke! At least you were the last time I didn’t look in the showers after rugby.’
   The other blokes supping in the pub placed their pints on their beermats and stared at me with bewilderment.
   ‘Well, I didn’t deliberately set out to write a bodice-ripper,’ I stammered. ‘But I’ve got these two characters – this bloke and this woman who are like chalk and cheese – and they kind of get thrown together by accident and realise they really want…you know what I mean…so badly…but there’s all sorts of huge obstacles in their way they have to overcome.’
   ‘That don’t sound like Mills and Boon – that’s what life throws at all of us,’ Old Pete said. I’d never seen him stare at his tobacco pouch and Rizlas so wistfully.
   ‘If they’re finding the right person to spend the rest of their lives with then I couldn’t think of anything more romantic,’ Kim said, polishing glasses and glancing at James, as if seeking a reaction.
   ‘Mike, don’t you worry about this bunch of sexist dinosaurs.’ Emma downed her glass of Pinot Grigio and placed a conspiratorial her hand on my wrist. ‘If I can stride into the boardroom of a FTSE-100 company, you can say with pride that you’ve written a romantic novel.’

 
Well, that’s how I’d imagine my characters reacting if I walked into the pub at the centre of my novel and declared that I was now an extremely satisfied member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). I suspect similar conversations or raised eyebrows would follow in any British pub or across typical dining tables.  
 
Of course, it’s not that men don’t write fiction in which romance plays a significant role, it’s just that when we do it seems to be termed anything but romantic fiction. Over the past few years I’ve met many other male writers on novel-writing courses and I’d dare say the majority have been busy at work on books that wouldn’t fall far foul of the  RNA NWS’s entry requirements of  ‘romantic content and love interest [that is] integral to the story’. And wouldn’t that definition neatly apply to a certain novel with a short title that’s recently been published to huge industry anticipation – whose male author’s phenomenally successful previous work unashamedly charted a famously slow-burning love affair? Perhaps it contravenes an unwritten law of marketing or just that we chaps are rather coy about wearing our romantic hearts on our sleeves but my membership of the RNA NWS has so exceeded my expectations that it’s been well worth risking the odd ribbing down the pub.
 
For those who aren’t aware, the RNA NWS offers unpublished writers the benefits of RNA membership plus a comprehensive reader’s report from one of the scheme’s expert readers, all of whom are published romantic fiction authors. Until I eagerly devoured my own report I didn’t realise how comprehensive or expert the feedback actually is. In fact I worried I’d disqualified myself from receiving a report at all, nervously submitting my manuscript with a covering note tentatively mentioning its use of very strong language and some unconventional romantic ingredients – such as graffiti art, TV cookery contests and compromising photographs being leaked on the internet. Despite being a love story at heart, I feared it would be filed in the ‘Romantic Fiction? Who Are You Kidding?’ bin.
 
My panicky preconceptions were set aside when my reader wrote that she’d thought the novel was both interesting and enjoyable. I must thank the scheme’s organiser, Melanie Hilton, for finding such an appropriate reader (who must remain anonymous according to the scheme’s rules) for my manuscript at a time when she’ll have been incredibly busy.  
 
My novel has developed during City University’s intensive one year Novel Studio course and this summer I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University’s MA course in Creative Writing so I’m accustomed to receiving feedback on my work. However, the RNA NWS report was equal in detail and rigour to that I’d received on the university courses. Particularly invaluable for me was its completely fresh perspective. I was challenged to re-evaluate and question some elements of the novel that, after working for so long on the manuscript, were almost as invisibly familiar as old furniture. And my reader reminded me of hard-edged commercial realities – the type of readers who’d be likely to be interested in my book and what their particular expectations would be from a novel. 
 
Creative writing courses are great for honing your writing style and learning to use feedback from tutors and peers to improve your work. But, even courses that focus on novel-writing must, by necessity, workshop students’ writing in relatively small chunks of a chapter or two.  By contrast, the RNA NWS will read your novel in its entirety – just as your target reader would – and provide comment on how the book works as a whole. This is almost worth your manuscript’s weight in gold and, if you’re lucky like me, your script will be marked-up for proofing too.
My report certainly wasn’t uncritical but it was also very constructive and I’m currently busily revising my manuscript in the light of the report’s insightful recommendations. But it was enormously motivating too – in fact some of its praise made me blush like a Jane Austen heroine. And it’s this encouragement, given in a generous-hearted spirit that seems to me to make the scheme unique. As an organisation with a passion for romantic fiction, it’s inspiring that the RNA actively nurtures and fosters new talent. No wonder the scheme is always over-subscribed.
 
Of course, I’m only able to talk about my own positive experience. However, I’m optimistic that it will help strengthen my nearly finished novel’s chances of publication to the point where I become one of that very rare species – a male graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme – and I hope many more men become enlightened enough to do the same.

Mike Clarke recently completed a Creative Writing MA with Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently using the feedback form the RNA NWS to put the finishing touches to his first novel. His short stories have recently been performed at the award-winning Liars’ League spoken-word evenings in London and Leicester. He lives with his family on the slopes of the Chilterns.
His blog is at www.macnovel.org.uk and can be found on Twitter as @macnovel .

Thank you, Mike!

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. 
If you would like to write for an article or be interviewed about our latest novel please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cornish Myths and Giants


We are delighted to welcome Angela Britnell today to tell us about her latest book and a few things we may not have known about Cornwall.

Angela grew up in Cornwall and met her husband Richard, a US Naval Officer, while serving with the WRNS in Denmark. After multiple moves and having three sons they settled in Nashville, Tennessee where a creative writing class awakened her passion for writing. Since that she’s had short stories published, several pocket novels with DC Thomson and eight contemporary romance novels. Her latest ‘Celtic Love Knot’ was recently published by Choc Lit.




Can two tangled lives make a love knot? Lanyon Tremayne is the outcast of his small Cornish village of St. Agnes. Susceptible to fits of temper and with a chequered past behind him, he could even be described as a bit of an ogre. But nobody knows the painful secret he hides.
Olivia Harding has learnt a thing or two about ogres. She’s a professor from Tennessee, specialising in Celtic mythology and has come to St. Agnes to research the legend of a Cornish giant – and to lay to rest a couple of painful secrets of her own. But when Olivia meets the ruggedly handsome Lanyon, her trip to Cornwall looks set to become even more interesting. Will she get through to the man beneath the bad-tempered façade, or is Lanyon fated to be the ‘ogre’ of St. Agnes forever

I’m sure we’ve all heard the ongoing discussions about whether authors should primarily write about what they know and having grown up in Cornwall I freely admit it’s been the inspiration for many of my stories. It was only when I was writing my new contemporary romance ‘Celtic Love Knot’ that I discovered how little I really did know!

I must confess that I don’t plot and at the most have a vague idea of my main characters when I sit down and start to write. When I started the first draft of ‘Celtic Love Knot’ Olivia Harding soon revealed that she was a Celtic mythology professor from Nashville, Tennessee heading to do research in Cornwall around the St. Agnes area where my hero, Lanyon Tremayne, lives. I’d visited St. Agnes several times so that wasn’t a problem but my knowledge of Celtic mythology would have fitted on the proverbial head of a pin. I immediately delved into a lot of research and as Lanyon is a physically big man came up with the idea to link him with the legends of the Cornish giants. I had vague memories of hearing about the giant at St. Michael’s Mount but the existence of any others was a complete mystery to me. If you’re interested in reading a little more you can check out one of the sites I used here.

The story that particularly caught my imagination was of a giant called Bolster. He was supposed to have terrorised the local people until the brave St. Agnes outsmarted him causing his death. I became increasingly fascinated by the story and the way in which it’s still celebrated in the local community today. Its place in my book crystallized when I discovered a You-Tube video of the annual Bolster Festival held every May in St. Agnes. The story is re-enacted and culminates on the cliffs where Bolster is reputed to have died. Here’s a link to this fascinating video. Going to see this is definitely on my list of things to do!

Lanyon Tremayne’s links with the festival begin in his childhood when he takes part in the pageant along with his brother. Circumstances conspire to make him something of an outcast in the community until Olivia arrives and challenges him to find a way to change both his own and other people’s perceptions of himself. His re-involvement with the village and the Bolster Festival are interwoven with Lanyon and Olivia’s growing relationship until the two stories merge in a fascinating and unexpected way. It was totally unexpected to me anyway!

‘Celtic Love Knot’ became more than a ‘normal’ book as I discovered so many things I should’ve known about Cornwall and its rich history but didn’t! This story proved to me that writing what you know is often maligned as being an easy option which can be a million miles from the truth. Instead it can be an open door to even more interesting stories.

Very interesting and informative. Thank you, Angela

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 elaineeverest@aol.com






Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Margaret James: Magic Sometimes Happens


Today we welcome Margaret James to the blog.

A couple of years ago, I decided to set myself a challenge. I would write a dual viewpoint novel in the first person and I would write half of it in a foreign language.  

I’m well aware that there are many bi-lingual and indeed multi-lingual novelists in the RNA and, since my challenge was to write half my novel in American English, perhaps it was really no challenge at all? At first, I thought the whole thing would indeed be a doddle. I mean a cinch. Americans say elevator, the British say lift. They say sidewalk, we say pavement. We use a biro, they use a ballpoint. I’d just have to remember a lot of things – I mean a ton of stuff – like that.

Alas, there turned out to be far more to it than merely replacing biros with ballpoints. I’d chosen to make my hero American, so I had to research how American men really speak, in particular 30-something, well-educated, Midwestern American men, because the novel is set partly in Minnesota and the hero comes from Missouri.

Over the years, Amglish has gradually infiltrated Britglish, and we British usually understand Amglish perfectly well. But I still found I had to watch my step, I mean be on the ball, while I was translating my own Britglish into my hero’s Amglish. I find something is a hoot while it cracks him up. I have mates while he has buddies. I arrive while he shows up. I say definitely while he says you bet.

I didn’t want to write in joke Amglish, so my American characters never say whaddya or gonna or woah/whoa. I can’t stand woah/whoa, sorry. It makes me shudder. I mean it creeps me out. As for American expletives – I have to tell you, citizens of the USA, you don’t have nearly enough of them. You have the universal damn, but – if we don’t choose to go fishing in the open sewers of Urban Dictionary – what else can be used in more-or-less civilised society? We British are far more inventive!

I must admit I adore my hero Patrick Riley, whose lovely Midwestern voice I could hear in my head the whole time I was writing the novel. So all I had to do was take celestial dictation. But just once in a while I did get the feeling that when Pat assured me that yeah, American guys of his age did say stuff like that, he might have been having me on. I mean he was kind of kidding me.

Who is Patrick, then? He’s a married father of two small children and professor of IT at a college in Minneapolis. He doesn’t want to be attracted to Rosie Denham, a visiting British PR professional, but...

Pat had a difficult childhood. But he’s worked hard to make something of his life and nowadays he has a great career. Sadly, he also has a wife from purgatory and a best friend from hell. My heroine Rosie Denham is going to help Pat find his personal happy-ever-after, and in return he will help Rosie deal with the issues in her own troubled life.

At the start of the story, neither Pat nor Rosie has the time or inclination to fall in love. But in romantic fiction magic sometimes happens and, since I love magic, I had great fun writing this book. As for challenges – the hero and heroine meet plenty, including some stiff competition for the limelight from Patrick’s gorgeous children, Pat’s sex-addict buddy Ben, Rosie’s great mate Tess, and incidentally a very cute dog.

About Margaret:
I’m a British writer of historical and contemporary fiction. I’m also a journalist working for the UK’s Writing Magazine and I teach creative writing for the London School of Journalism.
I was born in Hereford, but now I live in Devon at the seaside, which is great because it means when I am stuck for a plot I can always go for a walk along the beach and be inspired!


Magic Sometimes Happens (Choc Lit) is available from Amazon as an ebook from October 1st.

Contact:

Thank you for visiting the RNA blog, Margaret and good luck with your book.

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. If you would like to write an article for the blog or b interviewed about your latest project please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com



Friday, October 3, 2014

Jane Lovering: Problems with technology!


Today we welcome Jane Lovering who reminds us how we can’t live without technology – or can we?

Have you tried recently re-reading one of those ‘Old Skool’ thrillers that used to be so popular?  Heroine trapped in a deserted warehouse, hero searching fruitlessly for her through the streets, while the villain bears down on her location hell-bent on murder and mayhem?  And have you too thought ‘why doesn’t she just phone the police?’
Jane Lovering

The advent of the mobile phone has dealt a bit of death-knell to ‘heroine in peril’ plots.  It is a lot harder for villains to confine characters to await their doom when one simple call would bring the police, the hero and a whole army of plot-killing devices to save the day.  Likewise, anyone with a computer, even those with a fairly limited knowledge of what all the buttons do, can Google – revealing those plans to turn that plot of derelict ground, for which the heroine has been offered a derisory sum, into a supermarket and leisure centre complex.

Technology is making us rethink our plots.  In the old days, when Planning Information was, as Douglas Adams said, ‘on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'. plots could, quite happily, revolve around secret purchases of land.  When a land-line or phone box was the only way to contact someone at a distance, misunderstandings and kidnappings were much easier to use as plot devices.  Nowadays, when even children have mobile computer devices almost permanently in their hands, and Google Earth can show you a picture of anywhere in the world at the push of a button, life for the author is, paradoxically, much more complicated.

Yes, the villain can search and remove a mobile phone from our MC. But, can he be sure that they also don’t have a concealed second phone? A tablet hidden in a pocket?  Body-searches can be time-consuming and slow the plot, but are necessary if the reader isn’t going to curl their lip in despair.  Even if disabled, mobile phones, I am led to believe, can be tracked by satellite, so the villain can’t just discard the phone, he (or she, I am well aware that villains are not all moustache-twirlers) must make arrangements for it to be disposed of at a distance.  Google can be used to verify an identity – no more getting away with presenting yourself as an Investment Banker, mister ‘Penniless But Hoping To Marry Rich Heroine’!
 
If any of this is a problem in your WIP, may I present the ‘Yorkshire Solution?’ Glacially-slow broadband connections means looking in an encyclopaedia is faster than Googling, and the vast number of mobile signal Dead Zones negate the whole ‘dispose of the mobile’ plot problems. Or, perhaps, write historicals, where none of these things apply? Either way, take care that modern technology doesn’t mean that the possibility of one quick check of Wiki and an e mail will render your carefully-crafted plot climax redundant…

Contact:

Books:
FALLING APART:  OUT NOW from Choc Lit Publishing – the sequel to VAMPIRE STATE OF MIND
HUBBLE BUBBLE - Choc Lit PublishingPLEASE
DON'T STOP THE MUSIC - RoNA ROMANTIC NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2012
STARSTRUCK -  Choc Lit Publishing
VAMPIRE STATE OF MIND - Choc Lit Publishing

Thank you, Jane, we may well be moving our setting to Yorkshire in future!

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.
If you would like to write something for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

With the Accent on Xcitement

Today we are pleased to welcome Hazel Cushion, founder of Accent Press and Xcite Books, to answer our questions about her well known publishing company.


Can you tell our readers how Accent Press began?
It all started in my front bedroom when I was a single mother to 6 year old triplets. I did an MA in Creative Writing intending to be an author but, when putting together our anthology, I learnt how to make a book and I was hooked! I realised that making books had become very easy with the advent of desk top publishing software but selling them would still be hard. I’d worked a lot in the charity sector before and came up with the idea of combining sex and charity in short story collections – the first was called Sexy Shorts for Christmas and raised money for a Breast Cancer charity. Katie Fforde was amongst the authors that kindly donated a story and her name helped sell it into WH Smiths. We still do at least one charity book a year but these days our main focus is on contemporary women’s fiction and crime.

You kindly undertook one2ones at the RNA Conference. Did you enjoy the experience?

Yes, I did, very much. I have a great deal of empathy with authors as I’d planned to be one myself and know well the disappointment of rejections and the joy of an acceptance or positive feedback. Without a doubt digital publishing has opened up new opportunities for writers and enables us to offer a wider and more interesting range of titles. I think it’s an exciting time to be an author as you can now reach a truly global readership and there aren’t the rigid genre restrictions that finding the right place, on the right shelf, in a bookshop used to impose.

What are you looking for from authors? The winner of the RNA's Joan Hessayon Award, Jo Thomas, was published by Accent Press. How important are competitions and awards to your company?

Yes, we were very lucky to be the launch pad for Jo Thomas who was then sold on to Hodder Headline and is continuing to win awards for The Oyster Catcher. Last year I had a very proud moment when we were shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year alongside Bloomsbury, Faber and Faber and Constable and Robinson. For a small and relatively new publishing company to be up against those three established London companies was simply incredible. We didn’t win, Bloomsbury did, but it was a huge endorsement and boost for me.
I do think awards are really important to both us and our authors.

Our erotic imprint Xcite Books has won the ETO Best Erotic Book Brand for the last five years and gives us some serious international marketing clout and credibility. I would always encourage people to enter awards because even if you don’t win there are often other benefits and recognition for being shortlisted.

We understand you will shortly be running your own competition, closing date 30th November 2014. Can you give us details?

We are currently running a novel writing competition with Woman magazine and I really hope your readers will participate in that as they can win a writing holiday in France and a publishing contract. Here’s the link to the full details: http://www.accentpress.co.uk/woman-writing-comp.html


Accent Press has grown to become well known in the publishing world. Are there plans to move in other directions in years to come?

This last year has seen a great deal of very positive growth for the company and I have been able to establish a wonderful new team which includes four full-time editors. That has enabled us to take on a lot of new authors – these include debut writers, self-published ones or those, like Christina Jones, who had a strong backlist.  Without a doubt our strength lies in our digital marketing where, due to the way the Amazon algorithms work, authors benefit from being part of a stable of authors that includes top 100 Kindle bestsellers.

One new innovation is our Accent Hub which we are developing as a meeting http://accenthub.com/
place for readers, authors and reviewers – anyone can join so I do hope your readers will as it’s a great place to connect.

Have you ever considered writing a novel?

Yes, and I have two outlined but I have so much fun publishing other peoples that I doubt they’ll ever get written. My triplets are now 18 and have all left for university this September so just maybe, I’ll get around to it. I doubt it though as I have the attention span of a teabag and lack the self-discipline required. I’m genuinely in awe of authors who do ever managed to get to write The End – the dissertation for my MA was 20,000 words and I ran out of things to say at 17,000 so I really don’t think there’s much chance of me bashing out a 70,000 word bestseller any time soon!

Hazel, thank you for finding time in your very busy life to join us today

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 elaineeverest@aol.com



Friday, September 26, 2014

From the Top

This is the second in our new blog series where we chat to authors about their start in the publishing world and their advice to new writers. We’re delighted to welcome our own Katie Fforde as our guest today.  

I’m Katie Fforde, proud President of the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA), and writer of twenty one books.  I live in the country with my husband, and see my children and grandchildren often.

My latest book, The Perfect Match is about an estate agent.  I wanted a chance to paint them in a better light as I always think they get a bad press.  My sister’s house hunt locally was extremely useful to me.

How long did it take before you held your first published book in your hand?
It took me ten years to actually get a book in my hand.  Eight years to get a publisher.

Would you follow the same path to publication if you were starting out today?
Very hard to say if I’d have taken the same path to publication today as the world has changed so much, but I think so.

Agent or publisher? What would you advise?
I’m very old school - agent, agent, agent, every day of the week.

Tell us one thing that kept you going while you worked towards being a published author.  
It was the RNA that kept me going during the long years it took me to learn to write. I aimed for Mills and Boon until I finally accepted I couldn’t actually get that camel through the eye of that needle.  But if it hadn’t been for the New Writers' Scheme (NWS) (the rules were different then) and the support of my fellow writers, I probably would have given up.

What would be your advice to new writers?
My best advice to new writers - any writer, actually - is to read, read, read.  If you read enough you will eventually learn to write.  Although to also have to write, write, write, too.  That, and join the RNA, of course.

I see your latest book, The Perfect Match, was published on 13th March this year. Do you have a work in progress?
I always have a book on the go.  I’m currently copy editing Vintage Weddings that will be out in February, 2015 and the next book is forming in my head.  Two of my children got married this year which is where that one came from.

Amazon UK: The Perfect Match






Thank you, Katie, for finding time to answer our questions and good luck with your next novel.

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 elaineeverest@aol.com


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's in your Pocket?

Today we are delighted to welcome Tracey Steel who works as part The People’s Friend fiction team, with special responsibility for Pocket Novels. We asked her about these books, complete in their own right but following a very different path to publication from the ‘norm’.

Did you work for DC Thomson before taking on your current job?
I joined DC Thomson straight from school at the tender age of 18! That was way back in 1987 and my first job was writing the horoscopes on Jackie magazine. It’s true….they’re made up! From there I worked on most of the teenage titles then I had the brilliant job of serialising books for the Dundee Courier. One month it was John Grisham and the next, Joan Collins!

How many Pocket Novels are published each year?
Twenty-four. Two a month.

Where can we purchase Pocket Novels? Twenty-four novels a year is a huge amount. Can you tell us something about their ‘shelf life’?

Each Pocket Novel is available for a fortnight. They are available from most supermarkets or you can order them on line at www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk

What happens then, after you withdraw them?
The author can then self-publish or sell to Large Print AFTER we’ve published it. They also have to use their own original manuscript i.e. not the one we’ve edited.

What would you say is the best word count for a People’s Friend Pocket Novel
With our new larger print they tend to come in between 40,000 and 43,000 words.

How does an author submit and does she/he have to have written for the People’s Friend Magazine?
Anyone can submit a Pocket Novel manuscript. All I need is a synopsis and the opening three chapters…anyone can have a go!

What would be the normal lead time before you can reply with an answer?
It really does vary as I’m part of the weekly Fiction team as well, so please bear with me! We have rather a lot of manuscripts

How long does it take from acceptance to publication?
It can be anything up to around six months.

Is there a genre that readers prefer?
We had a pretty detailed survey done a couple of years ago and no one genre came out on top. As long as the story’s engaging it doesn’t matter where or when it’s set.

What are you looking for at the moment?
Family sagas, ‘gentle’ crimes, but not murder, and romance!

What do you enjoy reading and how do you spend your leisure time when not working on Pocket Novels?
I’m a crime fan! I love forensic-based books and thrillers!

Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope there’s room in you inbox after our followers have read this.



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 elaineeverest@aol.com