Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LYNNE CONNOLLY: Hot and Steamy!

Today we are delighted to welcome Lynne Connolly to the blog to answer a few of our questions: 

I’ve been looking at some of your book covers. They leave the reader in little doubt of what might be found within their pages. Some say a cover sells the book. What do you think – and where do yours come from?

My covers are largely provided by my publishers. For the self-published ones, I do my own, but I’ve had some art training, and I find it fun to do a cover or two as a break from writing. I’ve been very lucky with my covers!

You write romance under three sub-headings: Historical, Paranormal and Contemporary. Do you have a favourite?

The one that I’m writing at the time. Sorry, but it’s true. When I write historicals, I immerse myself into the time and mind-set, as much as I can, but that can be exhausting. The contemporaries and paranormals have their own challenges. I have to keep the world I’ve created for the paranormals consistent, for instance. And in the contemporaries, keep the points of view nice and deep and the characters emotionally compatible.

Arrows of Desire was published this month. With larger than life mythology, do you struggle to keep your characters’ feet on the ground?

It’s a different kind of challenge, and one that constantly fascinates. The basis of this series is completely new for me, but when I read a textbook on the Classical Revival, the “what if…” premise that started it all came unbidden, and I had to work on it, and see if it worked out. It did, beautifully. In this mythology, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome are entities and their attributes that live on after the body dies. So the people in the books are eighteenth century people, but they have to live with the spirit and the powers of the gods that have blended with them. It gives me extra conflicts to play with. Add to that, the enemies, the old Titan gods who want to regain the power they used to have, and the mix makes for delicious storytelling.

When not writing, how does Lynne Connolly keep her own feet on the ground? Tell us a little about your ‘away from the keyboard’ activities.

I have a family that keeps me on my toes! And I make and fill doll’s houses. Creating worlds in a different way, you might say. I love to travel, too, and there are places I have yet to visit. I love visiting my friends in the States, especially Texas, and carrying on exploring Europe.
I love to do historical research, too, finding out more about the people who often inspire my books. The “Emperors” of my other current series, “The Emperors of London” belong to a powerful family of aristocrats, their nicknames because of the outlandish first names they were saddled with, but substitute one of the famous families of the era for them, and it takes one step away from fiction. The Howards, the Pelhams, Grevilles, Foxes and so on had huge power in this time. And their private lives were the stuff of legend! So I spend a lot of time visiting their houses, reading their letters and journals, and generally trying to get the feel of the era right.

Do you have a favourite myth or fable that has inspired one of your own books?

I’ve always had a copy of Bullfinch’s Mythologies by me! For the “Even the Gods Fall In Love” series, I’m working mainly from Ovid. The “Metamorphoses” captivated me in my teens and it’s never let go, so it’s a joy to reinterpret the myths and add a slightly different slant to them. Plus, my awesome editor, Amy Sherwood, who is as passionate as I am about the mythology.

Are you writing anything else right now?

My other historical series, “The Emperors of London” is also set in the eighteenth century, but this is factual, with a little “what if…?” that isn’t too far-fetched. It’s known that the Old Pretender, James Stuart, had mistresses, but what if he also had a deeper secret than that? Taking the political and economic atmosphere of the 1750’s into consideration, when old King George was frail and his heir was a boy, would the Stuarts have tried to do what they failed to do in 1745? They were done with battle, but even a cursory glance at their history tells the observer that they weren’t done with scheming or politics! I’ve just sold a new series of contemporary paranormals, “The Agents of CAT.” But more about that later! It’s secret agents who also happen to be shape-shifting dragons and the like.

How do you approach social networking? Do you regard it as a blessing or a necessary evil?

I don’t like the “buy my book” promotions that thud into my virtual mailbox every day. On a book’s release, yes, and I like to look at the extracts, but on the whole, it’s much more interesting to see what makes a person tick. It also means I can talk to my friends on the other side of the world and keep in touch. I’m afraid I don’t use it like I probably should—as a marketing tool, but that’s not why I write.

Arrows of Desire - a taster: 

Edmund, otherwise known as Eros, steps onto English shores, and stumbles head over heels in love.
There’s something different about Perdita Seaton and her secretive family. Revealing he’s the Duke of Kentmere could cut their courtship short. Yet he can’t abandon his heritage, and leave his family in deadly peril.

Website (paranormal)
Website (contemporary romance)
Twitter: @lynneconnolly

About Lynne Connolly:

Lynne Connolly is the best-selling author of sensuous historical, paranormal and contemporary romances. Lynne fell in love with the Georgian era at primary school, and never fell out of it, visiting historical sites, towns, battlefields and houses.

Lynne gives the reader a real flavour of what it was like to live and love in the eighteenth century. She lives in England with her family and her Mews. She writes surrounded by the doll’s houses she enjoys making and filling.

Wow, Lynne, you are a truly busy lady. Thank you for joining us today.

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

If you would like to appear on the Blog please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, March 20, 2015

RNA TALK: Eloisa James

Our thanks to Linda Chamberlain who reports on the talk given by Eloisa James at the recent RNA General Meeting.

New York Times best-selling author Eloisa James is a great supporter of literature.

It’s something she does in her day job as Professor of English literature specialising in Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York – a job she would never give up.

And it’s something she does by osmosis as a prolific writer of historical romantic fiction. We all know that it’s the ‘role’ of hugely successful authors to effectively bolster those further down the earnings ladder. With a smile, she reminds us that the entire literary department is included in this scenario.

She is disappointed that so little nurturing of careers goes on in the industry, saddened that so many mid-list authors are thrown out through a perpetually revolving door if their sales don’t improve.  As the writer of, she thinks, 23 books, which have sold in their millions she says a thick skin is essential. Eloisa had some brilliant advice for her RNA audience in London.

Be Machiavellian – know your strengths, your weaknesses and read books that are selling. Stop reading and you lose sight of what is at the heart of the market. Study those ‘reader pleasure moments’ that make a book special and keep the pages turning.

Get in the Zen – she admits to a strong ego. She’s left a publishing house that wasn’t serving her well and she won’t suffer an editor who’s not up to the job. She has sufficient clout to say NO but sometimes she has to accept that she might be wrong and re-write. Remember, she says, ‘Your editor doesn’t own you; your agent is there to serve you.’

Have a thick skin – she describes herself as the queen of such scenes as near-death and outside sex but ‘not everyone will like what you are writing’. High sales increase your chances of nasty reviews and vicious blogs. Never respond. She keeps a book at hand featuring bad reviews for good writers as an antidote.

Be a businesswoman – you have to understand royalty statements and contracts.

Writing can be high risk and humiliating – there were murmurings of understanding from her audience at this point. Writing about relationships and sex bring the inevitable questions of what does your husband think? Have you done all those things? Remember that romance is a fantastic genre; its triumphs may be small but it helps people through the bad times.

Beware of critique groups – they can iron out ‘that voice’, the thing that makes your book original. Better to have one critique buddy.

She finished her talk with a reminder that will resonate throughout the RNA with its remarkable New Writers' Scheme.

‘You have to nurture the bottom if there’s to be a top,’ she said. ‘Readers need great books to read.’
Eloisa is prolific but she can’t write all of them.

Report by Linda Chamberlain

Thank you, Linda

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

If you would like to appear on the Blog please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


All roads led to London for the annual Romantic Novelist Association’s Romantic Novelist of the Year Awards (RoNA’s) held this year in the Gladstone Library at the Liberal Club, One Whitehall Place.

Members, guests and finalists met to chat over a glass of bubbly before the main event of the evening got under way. We had a chance to peruse the books that were up for awards under the six sections as well as catch up with friends and fellow members. The RNA is nothing if not friendly and we love a celebration and a party. Who would win and what else was in store during the evening ahead?

Canapes and Introductions
Jane Wenham Jones & Barbara Taylor Bradford
After finding our tables and partaking of the delicious canapes our Chair, Pia Fenton welcomed everyone to the event. Agents, publishers, established authors, new writers, friends and family clapped enthusiastically as Jane Wenham Jones started the evening’s proceedings by introducing our special guest, Barbara Taylor Bradford. There was more than one author in the room who had dreamt of becoming a writer after reading Barbara’s A Woman of Substance. Barbara was warm and encouraging offering advice to any would be aspirant to be focussed and concentrated. Those of us in the room were focussed on Barbara, looking as immaculate as any heroine.

Category Winners
This year, books shortlisted for the RoNA Rose, for category/series and shorter romance, competed for the first time with all other categories for the overall prize of Romantic Novel of the Year. Prior to announcing the overall award winner, Barbara Taylor Bradford revealed the winners of the individual categories and presented them with star-shaped crystal trophies.

Historical – Hazel Gaynor, The Girl Who Came Home
William Morrow, (Harper Collins)
For novels set in a period before 1960
Hazel Gaynor
RoNa Rose – Louise Allen, Scandal’s Virgin
(Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical)
For category/series and shorter romance.
Epic – Ella Harper, Pieces of You
For novels containing serious issues or themes, including gritty, 
multi-generational stories.
Contemporary – Lucy Dillon, A Hundred Pieces of Me
(Hodder & Stoughton)
For mainstream romantic novels set post-1960, and can include chick lit, 
paranormaland romantic suspense.
Lucy Dillon
Young Adult– Joss Stirling, Struck - formerly Storm & Stone
(Oxford University Press)
Featuring protagonists who are teenagers or young adults.
Joss Stirling
Romantic Comedy – Lucy-Anne Holmes, Just a Girl Standing in Front of a Boy
(Sphere (Little, Brown)
For consistently humorous or amusing novels.
Lucy Holmes
The categories and the award winners with Barbara Taylor Bradford.

The Romantic Novelist of the Year Award would be announced later in the proceedings. Who would be the winner?

Outstanding Achievements
A high spot of the evening was the presentation of Outstanding Achievement awards to two of our favourite authors, Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews, both ladies having reached the pinnacle of their careers by having twenty five books published. In her acceptance speech Jill revisited her twenty-one year old self when becoming a writer wasn’t even yet a dream and Carole attributed her fat bottom (not true) and repetitive strain industry to her career. Naturally – because that’s the sort of people they are – they heaved praise and thanks upon all the people who had helped them along the way.

Team of Judges
All too soon the official part of the evening was drawing to an end. A panel of independent judges read the six category winners’ novels before meeting to debate the finer points of each book. The panel included Sarah Broadhurst, formerly The Bookseller; Alison Flood, Guardian.co.uk; Jane Mays, The Daily Mail; Karin Stoecker, ex-Editorial Director, Harlequin Books and Matt Bates of WHSmith Travel.

The Big Moment!
Barbara opened the red envelope and announced the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award to be…Joss Stirling with, Struck. A fantastic achievement and the first time the prize has gone to a novel in the young adult category. Barbara Taylor Bradford presented Joss with her trophies and a cheque for £5000

The five judges were fulsome in their praise of Struck:
            “A fast -paced novel, full of adventure and danger, as well as a satisfying romance with an instant attraction.”
            “Mean Girls meets 21 Jump Street, navigating life and themes of school cliques and bullying.”
            “Main characters were well drawn.”
            “A satisfying developing relationship between heroine and hero. A provocative read which delivered on the romance. Good plot. Great hero and heroine.” 
            “An absorbing read that really pulled you in – I admired the energy and pace.”
Our heartiest congratulations to Joss and indeed to all of the contenders and winners.

Until Next Year
Guests lingered to sip wine and chat before heading for home and your intrepid blogging team took the opportunity to chat to potential interviewees for the blog. Yet another fabulous RNA event had come to an end. Well done to the organisers and the committee for pulling off another fabulous and memorable event. Farewell until next year – but first we have the Summer Party, our Summer Conference and the Winter Party. See you there!

Elaine & Natalie

Friday, March 13, 2015

Barbara Taylor Bradford at the RNA Awards 2015

Members and honoured guests are looking forward to the annual Romantic Novelists Association's Romantic Novel of the Year Awards on Monday 16th March 2015 at the Gladstone Library, Whitehall place, London. Our special guest who will present the main award is well known author. Barbara Taylor Bradford

Barbara Taylor Bradford is the bestselling author of the enduring novel A Woman of Substance, which has sold over 32 million copies since its publication in 1979 and launched the career of one of Britain’s most beloved and iconic story-tellers. Barbara’s novels have sold more than 88 million copies worldwide, in more than ninety countries and forty languages, and no less than ten mini-series and television movies have been made of her books. Born and raised in England, Barbara began her writing career on the Yorkshire Evening Post and later worked as a journalist in Fleet Street. She is a forthright and popular commentator on everything from marriage to fashion, and her journalism has appeared across the national press.  Barbara lives in New York City with her husband, television producer Robert Bradford. 

We asked Barbara her thoughts as she prepares to be the guest presenter at the Romantic Novelists Association's Romantic Novel of the Year Awards event. “I’m filled with curiosity to know who the winners will be and am looking forward to it. I know there will be a lot excitement and anticipations from the shortlisted authors.”
What would her advice be to the many writers just starting out on their writing careers?
To do what Ernest Hemingway once said: ‘put your bottom on a chair and sit at a desk for as long as it takes in order to start and finish a novel’. That is how it gets done!”

Barbara’s much awaited 30th novel, The Cavendon Women will be published on 24th March 2015 by Harper Collins. A sweeping multi-generational saga for fans of Downton Abbey is set around the stately home of Cavendon Hall as the roaring twenties change the family’s fortunes forever.

The Cavendon Women:

1926. One stately home’s future lies with four very different young women …

On a summer weekend in 1926 the Ingham family gathers at Cavendon Hall, the great house in Yorkshire that has been their home for centuries, summoned by the Earl.  With them are the Swanns who have served the house for generations – and know all their secrets.

The estate is under threat: the aftermath of the Great War has left Cavendon facing ruin.  Its heir is pushing for divorce so he can follow his heart.  And the Earl has a surprise of his own. 

Four young women from both sides of the house will be the ones to shape its future – Daphne, fighting to modernise her ancestral home; Cecily Swann, forging a path as a fashion designer in London; Deidre, the career girl, and Dulcie, the outspoken debutante.  They will change the estate’s future for good or ill as the roaring twenties burn towards the Great Depression. Nothing will ever be the same again …

Thank you for sparing time to contribute to the RNA blog, Barbara and we look forward to seeing you along with all writers at the awards evening.

The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Alison Morton: To Split or Not to Split

Alison Morton tells us why she decided to have two blogs - one for her books and one for writing.

The scientists who split the atom had an easier job. I spent weeks testing and preparing, and on S (for Split)-Day, I worked for hours to ensure the smooth transition to two separate and fully functioning blogs. I’m not sure everything is in place yet!

When I started my blog in 2010 on World Book Day, I called it ‘Write a Novel? – I Must Be Mad! I had just signed my indentures as a mad newbie writer so it seemed an appropriate title.  But three years later on 1 January 2013, a few weeks before my first book, INCEPTIO, was published, I took on all the wisdom of the Internet(!) and changed the title to include my name and the series name, hence ‘Alison Morton’s Roma Nova.’ I had survived the initial apprentice phase and was passing into the journeyman one where I hoped to produce novels on a reasonably regular basis.

In those first three years, I had combined my blog and former website to produce a blogsite. As well as maintain the static pages  (About, Contact, etc.), I posted about my writing, people I’d met, writing craft, courses, conferences, literary social events (the posh name for RNA parties!), decisions, disappointments, things I’d learned, guests and Roman-related posts. I carried on with these topics, when I changed to ‘Alison Morton’s Roma Nova’ but added in posts relating to my books – excerpts, launches, background, reviews and events.

Then it reached That Point.

In January 2015, a vague unease that had been grumbling away for a few months was confirmed by an outside assessment of my blogsite.  As I read the report – similar to reading the dreaded NWS report – I wiped away a mental tear and realised the awful truth. I was trying to please two distinct groups of readers at the same time. People looking for my books had to wade through a raft of writing topics; others looking for writing and publishing post fought their way through Roman and Roma Nova stuff. My site resembled two chariots trying to race in opposite directions, but tied to each other at the back. Neither could win. The stark conclusion: sharpen up my message and ditch the writing part if I wanted to focus on selling books.  Sob. All those posts about writing, publishing, parties and people into the bin?

Being an author today means developing entrepreneurial skills, especially marketing ones - setting out your wares, and creating an environment that supports that. But being a writer also means sharing accumulated knowledge, experience and techniques. While in no way setting myself up as a guru, I wanted to pass them on as well as exploring new topics.

Now with the fourth book, AURELIA, on the way, it was decision time. I put my site-splitting gloves on and decided to develop in both directions. I purchased another domain name, alisonmortonauthor.com, to become my new writing blog and installed WordPress on it. Next, with my IT expert husband’s help, I exported a copy of the original blogsite to that new domain. Although it was live, I didn’t tell a soul about it as I needed to redesign the site, write a new front page, upload new photos, check and change all the links, the graphics and reformat pages as well as make sure the content was appropriate for a writing blog. I didn’t zap any old posts in case they were linked elsewhere in the digiverse.  

As a relief from all that, I drafted and formatted new pages for the re-vamped Roma Nova book site. I used an old spare domain with WordPress installed to practice and fiddle with the new pages. Originating graphics and new content, checking every single link, learning the arcane lore behind tables and buttons took time. My HTML skills increased exponentially…

On S (for Split)-Day day, armed with a large cup of coffee, I glued myself to the keyboard (almost literally) and performed the split. The writing site was relatively easy, the new book site was more fiddly, but I had all the coding ready on my practice domain to transfer over. The worst bit was agonizing about what to zap on the books only site but the newsletter managed to keep its place!

Now I have two separate sites, serving two distinct sets of readers and sending out two different messages.

On Writing Blog you’ll be able to find my posts about writing, independent publishing, marketing, fabulous guests, research, author-entrepreneur skills, writing life and what I’ve been up to!

The darker Roma Nova Thrillers features my books, plus this is where I’ll concentrate my photos and posts about Rome, alternative history and background about Roma Nova. And I have a very serious photo and tough new bio there…

SUCCESSIO – Roma Nova (Book 3) Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. 

She senses danger crawling towards her when she encounters a strangely self-possessed member of the unit hosting their exchange exercise in Britain. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she knows the threat is real.

Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years before turns into a nightmare that not only threatens to destroy all the Mitelae but also attacks the core of the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

Thank you, Alison

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

If you would like to appear on the Blog please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, March 6, 2015

Jane Holland: 21 Ways to Write a Commercial Novel

Today we welcome Jane Holland who tells us how she went ‘From Blog to Book’

Last year I went a bit crazy and decided it would be fun to write a How-To blog for writers who were not necessarily beginners but felt lost within the publishing industry. I called it 52 Ways To Write A Novel, with the cheerful thought that I could blog a few hundred words every week for a year, and it wouldn’t hurt too much or distract from my novel-writing.

I was wrong, of course. Writing intelligently about our unforgiving industry is not easy to do in a soundbite, and I didn’t like putting out posts that felt rushed or unpolished. So it did take more time than I liked. But the feedback I received from other writers encouraged me to keep going.

52 Ways doesn’t deal specifically with romantic or historical fiction, both of which I have written in abundance, but any kind of commercial novel. However, many of the writers who chatted about their own experiences in the comments section are fellow members of the RNA. So the blog developed a slight kink, if you’ll pardon the word, in the direction of romance. But I was writing a crime novel at the time, so crime crept in too. My hope was that the blog would help commercial writers, so I focused on that rather than genre.

After Week 20, it occurred to me that I was totting up thousands of words of free advice on my blog, and wouldn’t it be nice to publish an ebook of my wisdom so far and charge a few pennies in return? (I’m a mercenary type, you understand.)

But when I sat down to convert my blog into an ebook, I discovered that it wasn’t as simple as transferring all the posts into one file and publishing it. For a start, I had dozens of photos and captions in my blog. All that needed to be stripped out and the formatting simplified. Furthermore, my blog was not in a coherent order. For instance, I had given advice on making friends with other writers before advice on how to write a chapter opening, and while we all like to relax at RNA lunches, I thought I had better put business before pleasure!

So I cut and pasted the posts into a more logical order, wrote an Introduction and an Afterword, then expanded each post into a full chapter. I had used short paragraphing on the blog, but that looked odd so I increased paragraph length. To keep things dynamic, I got permission to use a selection of comments left on the blog by other writers, then sprinkled them throughout the text.

The result is 21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel, a combination of my blog posts with other writers’ comments, plus a fantastic letter of advice to new writers by Rowan Coleman, addressed in the first instance to our mutual friend, Sarah Callejo. ‘Write the damn book!’ Rowan urges Sarah … advice even the most experienced writers can take to heart.

Jane Holland writes as herself, plus Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss and Beth Good among others. Her archived blog is here and you can chat with her most days on Twitter: @janeholland1

21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel is £1.99, published by Jane’s imprint Thimblerig Press, and is ONLY available on Amazon Kindle (but can be read on most devices): Amazon:  

Thank you joining us today and good luck with the book.

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

If you would like to appear on the Blog please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

DENSIE WEBB: A Thanksgiving Feast

Today we welcome Densie Webb who likens writing a novel to preparing Thanksgiving Dinner

Densie Webb (not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor. Her debut novel “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” was released by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2015. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety), drinks too much coffee and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. She is currently working on a second novel.

So, Densie, why preparing Thanksgiving Dinner?
When my debut novel, You’ll Be Thinking of Me,” came out in January, I spotted a common theme among the comments I received: “I couldn’t put it down. A real page-turner. I read it in two days.” That’s a good thing, right? No, it’s a great thing. But there’s also this thing: It took me five years from first sitting down at the computer to my publication date—five years of climbing the learning curve of writing fiction, researching, writing, rewriting, editing, and submitting to agents and publishers.

Let that one soak in for a moment. Five years vs. two days. That’s when it hit me: Writing a novel is akin to preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Each year, on the 4th Thursday of November, the majority of Americans sit down to “give thanks for the blessing of the harvest.” At least that’s what Wikipedia says. Whatever the symbolism behind the traditional Thanksgiving meal, the ingrained image is that of a Norman Rockwell painting in which the family savors the once-a-year feast together.

I’ve noticed, however, there are no Rockwell paintings depicting the long hours logged in the kitchen in front of a hot stove, getting the ingredients and timing just right as you make sure the pumpkin pies are chilled by the time the meal is done and the dressing isn’t dry or the turkey undercooked. Neither are there depictions of the grocery lists or last-minute return trips when you’ve forgotten that one essential ingredient.

And that’s where my writing analogy comes in. Anyone who has ever prepared, served and cleaned up after a traditional Thanksgiving meal will attest to the planning, labor, skill, patience and the hours it takes to get it right. And that feeling of “is that it?” when the meal is scarfed down in twenty minutes flat. While I’m thrilled beyond words that readers have found my novel “unputdownable,” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get the same “is that it?” feeling when I heard it was being gulped down in two days.

Then there’s the cleanup. The turkey carcass is waiting to be picked over and the leftovers bagged and frozen. That’s when you realize you don’t have enough storage containers and there’s not enough space in the refrigerator anyway. The dirty dishes are waiting to be washed by hand because you used the good china, and the pots and pan have remnants of gooey tradition stuck on the bottom. I liken this phase to promoting your book. It may feel like all the hard work is done, but it’s just beginning. You have to clear your mind and your desk, roll up your sleeves and put everything in its place so you can post, blog, tweet, and advertise in the hope of reaching more prose-hungry people.

Is it all worth it? It must be, because I’m already planning for the next “Thanksgiving feast.”


A wonderful analogy, Densie. Good luck with You’ll Be Thinking of Me and with the next Thanksgiving feast.

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

If you would like to appear on the Blog please contact us at elaineeverest@aol.com

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hazel Gaynor: A Memory of Violets

Today we welcome, Hazel Gaynor to the RNA blog to tell us something of the research into her latest book.

Roses are pink …

The idea for A MEMORY OF VIOLETS was first planted back in 1988, when I was seventeen years old and played the role of Eliza Doolittle in the school production of My Fair Lady. There was something about this character and about London in 1912 that really struck a chord with me. Many years later, I started to write notes for a novel set around London’s flower sellers, and began to research street life in the early 1900s in the hope of discovering the real Eliza Doolittles. I was
astonished to learn just how many young children and women were selling flowers and watercress, many of whom were orphaned, blind or physically disabled.
Early in my research, I discovered the fascinating history of Christian preacher and philanthropist, John Groom. Groom wanted to find a way to help the flower sellers who sold bunches of flowers and watercress on the streets near his Clerkenwell home. He established the Watercress and Flower Girls Mission (commonly known as the ‘crippleage’) housing the young women in a row of terraced houses in a street in Clerkenwell, North West London and establishing an orphanage in Clacton for the youngest children.
With a dozen occupants in each home, under the care of a Housemother, these women and young girls lived and worked together making artificial flowers in a nearby factory. It took them off the streets, gave them employment that wasn’t dependent on the seasons or the weather, and improved their quality of life immeasurably. The artificial flowers produced were mostly sold to the wealthy to decorate their homes, but the work of the ‘Flower Girls’ was eventually noticed by the Dowager Queen, Alexandra of Denmark (widow of King Edward VII).
Queen Alexandra was to commemorate fifty years since she had first arrived in England from her native Denmark and rather than the usual processional drive through London, she wanted to use the occasion to raise funds for the city’s hospitals. Aware of the work of the girls at Groom’s ‘crippleage’ she commissioned them to make thousands of artificial pink roses for buttonholes which would be sold all over London.

The event on 26th June, 1912, was a huge success, supported by a thousand titled ladies who took to the streets to sell the roses. As The Times reported of the event, ‘the most noticeable sight was the enormous number of men who wore [a rose]. In the City and West End, at any rate, nearly every second men had at least one bloom and often had two or three in one buttonhole.‘ In total, over £30,000 was raised for charity (several million pounds in today’s equivalent). This was the very first ‘flag’ day of its kind, known as Queen Alexandra Rose Day, and the capital had never seen anything like it.
From its inauguration, Alexandra Rose Day became an annual event in London and was greatly supported for one hundred years. The flower girls also went on to make some of the first poppies for the Royal British Legion after the Great War. Although ‘Rose Day’ is no longer held annually, Alexandra Rose Charities is still running today, and from 2013 has focused on food-related issues affecting lower-income families. The charity’s Patron is Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy – great granddaughter of Queen Alexandra of Denmark. John Groom’s work also continues to this day under the organisation known as Livability, the UK’s largest Christian disability charity. Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, is the charity’s patron.
As we approach the annual Daffodil Day on March 27th (an annual fundraising event for Marie Curie Cancer Care in the UK and the Irish Cancer Society in Ireland), I will think about the blind, crippled and orphaned girls and young women who made those first little pink Alexandra roses, and started the concept of selling artificial flowers for charities. It is quite incredible to think that their legacy lives on over one hundred years later.
To get involved with Daffodil day, contact
Thank you, Hazel for the informative insight into the world of the flower girls.
The RNA blog is brought to you by,
Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

HELEN J ROLFE: The Friendship Tree

Welcome to the blog, Helen and many congratulations on the publication of your first novel.
The Friendship Tree is a delightful title. Can you tell us how you came to choose the title and what came first, the title or the book?
The idea came first. I initially wanted to write a book set in a small town and I wanted a way for the town to come together in times of need, and so the idea for a friendship tree was born. Thank you so much for saying that it’s a delightful title.

Would you like a friendship tree in your own life?
I’d love to live somewhere like Brewer Creek, the fictitious town in my novel, and at the moment as we have recently moved back to the UK, a friendship tree would be fantastic! I think I’d even volunteer, like my character, Tamara, and be the coordinator. It’s a wonderful way to bring people together socially and in times of trouble.

Some writers carry an idea with them for a long time before putting words to paper. How was the process for you and did it take long to write?
I don’t remember having the idea for that long. I think once I thought of it, I couldn’t wait to get going and write the story. I was in a good position to do so, because my first novel was very much a learning experience. I put that novel completely aside and somehow I knew that I’d never go back to it, and with everything I’d learnt I had time to focus my efforts on The Friendship Tree.
It took me a couple of months to do the first draft, but the editing process took much longer. I put this novel through the NWS twice and had many rejections along the way, but I used my time to rework the book so it ended up a much better version of what it was initially.

You are a member of the well-known writing group, The Write Romantics. How important do you feel it is for a writer to belong to such a group?
I honestly think that my journey to publication would’ve been so much harder without my writing group. We met, via the RNA, and for a while only knew each other online. Most of us met at the conference in Shropshire in 2014 and it was amazing to meet all these women who have supported each other in the low times and toasted one another’s successes, not only with writing but with anything else going on in our lives too.
There are ten members of The Write Romantics and we have a closed group on Facebook which acts as our virtual office. Most of us are in the ‘office’ seven days a week, if only to say a quick hello, and having that support there is the most amazing thing a writer can have. I’d recommend it to everyone.

What do you have planned to celebrate the publication of your book?
When I signed my contract initially, it was champagne and oysters on Sydney Harbour. On publication day, Tuesday 24th February, I’ll be opening champagne and making some very special cupcakes. I’ll enjoy celebrations with my family who have never let me give up on the dream of being published, there’ll be celebrations at my online launch party and of course online with The Write Romantics, and next weekend I’m getting together with extended family for more celebrations, more cake and more champagne.

So what is next for Helen J Rolfe, author?
I have another novel which is almost ready to go for submissions, then another after that which I’ll be passing onto my beta readers in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that both of these can be out during 2015 or at least, early 2016. I’ll keep you posted!
I already have my next idea in my head and in various notes on my phone and computer, and I’m itching to start that one but I’ll focus on the launch of The Friendship Tree and finalising my other two for the next few weeks … until I can’t resist any longer!

About Helen:
Helen J Rolfe worked as a computer programmer until her passion for writing refused to be ignored any longer. She studied journalism, left the I.T. industry and embarked on a career as a freelance journalist. In 2011 the fiction bug bit and Helen has been writing fiction ever since. 
In the year 2000 Helen answered her call to adventure and bought a one-way ticket from the UK to Australia, but after fourteen years of calling Australia home, Helen decided to return to the UK with her husband and two children. She now lives in Bath.


Thank you, Helen, good luck with The Friendship Tree and enjoy your celebrations.

The RNA blog is brought to you by:

 Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to appear on the Blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com

 [EE1]Portant is the group to you and would you recommend