Friday, October 9, 2015


RNA membership secretary, Alison May, has popped along today to give us the exciting news about membership changes. Welcome, Alison.

Responding to change is one of the hardest things for any organisation to do – organisations have principles and values that they want to uphold, but at the same time nobody wants to get left behind while the world cheerily moves on around them. The Romantic Novelists’ Association is an organisation that exists for two reasons - to ‘raise the prestige of romantic authorship’ and ‘to encourage and foster the writing of romantic works'.

For years the RNA has worked towards these goals by celebrating and promoting the best in romantic fiction through events like the RoNA awards, and by supporting writers’ development through the New Writers’ Scheme for new and unpublished authors, and by providing development and networking opportunities for romance writers across the country through our meetings, conferences and local chapters. And for years it was felt relatively easy to identify what made a professional romance author – traditional publishing was the goal for new writers and the defining characteristic of our full members.

But over the last five to ten years the publishing industry has changed. The rise of ebooks and print-on-demand services has made self-publishing a commercially viable option in a way that, for the majority of authors, it simply hasn’t been before. At the same time, many publishers have struggled to adapt to a changing market place as high street booksellers have declined and the internet has become the default option for many book buyers. Increasing numbers of entrepreneurial authors have seen these changes as an opportunity and, by self-publishing, found a route to get their books directly to readers.

So I’m delighted that as of this September the RNA has recognised the professionalism of successful self-publishers and established a new category of membership – Independent Author Membership – as a route to full membership of the association. The first Independent Author Members are already signed up and we’re looking forward to seeing them contribute to the association.

If you’re a self-published author of romantic fiction you can find the full criteria for Independent Author Membership on our website: and I really hope you will consider joining the RNA. It’s one of the friendliest, most supportive, but also most professional and inspiring, organisations I’ve ever been a part of, and we look forward to welcoming more self-published writers to our ranks.

Alison writes as Alison May. Her romantic comedies are published by Choc Lit, and her most recent novel, Midsummer Dreams is out now in ebook.
She is also a creative writing tutor and Membership Secretary for the Romantic Novelists’ Association. You can find out more about Alison at or by following her on twitter @MsAlisonMay

Thank you, Alison. We look forward to welcoming our new members and meeting them at chapter events, parties and the Summer Conference.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for us please get in touch on

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ticking All the Boxes

Today we welcome Fenella Miller to the blog. Fenella tells us how she and four other authors collaborated to produce box sets.

I would like to say thank you for inviting us to be part of the RNA blog. Melinda Hammond, Amanda Grange, Elizabeth Bailey, Monica Fairview and I are all bestselling authors in a variety of genre. I discovered a multi-author crime box set and thought it an excellent idea to promote each other’s work and get new readers.
Regency Quintet
Christmas Edition

Our first foray into multi-author box sets, the Valentine Edition, had a slightly different format as Wendy Soliman was one of the five authors, but she had to drop out and we were delighted Monica Fairview was able to join us. This box set did amazingly well – way above our expectations so we decided to continue. The second, Regency Quintet Summer Edition, also did well. We are just about to publish our Christmas box set and this is the first one with new titles.

This has been an enjoyable venture. However, as the box sets are on my account I have to keep track of sales and work out the royalties, which is a worry. If you have friends who write in a similar genre you could do this. Our box sets sell at £1.99 – an absolute bargain for five books – so don’t expect to make a fortune - think of it as a promotional opportunity. You might be lucky and find your box set becomes a bestseller. My advice is to have a go – but whoever’s hosting shouldn’t have more than two to juggle with.

A Most Unusual Christmas
Fenella J Miller
Miss Cressida Hadley is delighted when Lord Bromley and his family are unexpectedly obliged to spend Christmas at The Abbey. However, falling in love with Lord Bromley hadn’t been part of her plan.

Winter Inheritance
Melinda Hammond
Governess Verity Shore longs for a little adventure, then Rafe Bannerman too exciting!
arrives to carry her off to Highclough and Verity discovers that life can be a little

A Very Merry Chase
Monica Fairview
A penniless lady is caught poaching by a lord, but when she flees to her rich aunt’s manor, she finds the same man is her aunt’s house guest.

His Lordship’s Christmas Bride
Elizabeth Bailey
Isolde Cavanagh seeks refuge with her father’s old friend and finds a reluctant guardian in his son. Richard de Baudresey.

A Six-Month Marriage
Amanda Grange
Desperate to escape her brutal uncle, Madeline Delaware enters into a marriage of convenience with Philip, Lord Pemberton. On the night of the Christmas fete they give in to their feelings but it is not until they vanquish a woman from Philip's past that they find the happiness they deserve.

I asked my fellow authors what they thought about our joint venture.

Melinda Hammond
Melinda Hammond said: I have known my fellow authors for many years and it is a delight to be working with them. We support and encourage each other, and the added bonus is that we are providing our readers with a variety of Regency romances.

Elizabeth Bailey
Elizabeth Bailey said: I love historical romance and despite forays into historical mystery and edgy women’s fiction. I was delighted to be offered the chance to work with friends and fellow authors on the Regency Quintet box sets.

Monica Fairview
Monica Fairview said: I was thrilled to be asked to join the group. It is an opportunity to work with some of the best authors in the field (who also happen to be lovely friends), but will also keep me on a strict deadline. It’s a wonderful way for readers to try other writers.

Amanda Grange said: I like working with friends. Writing is usually a solitary business but the box sets give us a reason to email each other and keep in touch. As an author, it's a good way for me to maximise earnings and it's good value for readers. They get 5 books for the price of 1 - or even less than the price of 1, judged on paperback prices. It's also a good way to readers to try new authors and discover new favourites.

I thought you might like to know a little about all of us and our latest books.

Fenella J Miller was born in the Isle of Man and wrote her first book when she was twelve. There are now forty books published including seven WW2 family sagas.
Her latest book is Christmas at Castle Elrick, a Regency fairy tale - Miss Verity Sanderson the beauty and Sir Ralph Elrick the beast. Castle Elrick is a cold, unwelcoming place situated on the bleak Northumbrian coast and Ralph and his small staff are not the only residents. Will Christmas be a celebration or will the ghosts of Castle Elrick force them apart?

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire and studied music at Nottingham University. Her first novel, A Most Unusual Governess, was published in 2001, after which she had another 25 novels published by a range of publishers.
Amanda's best-known book is Darcy's Diary 

Melinda Hammond was born in the West Country and grew up with a love of history. She has written more than 40 historical romances, including the award-winning Dance for a Diamond. She also writes romantic historical adventures for Harlequin Mills & Boon under the pen name of Sarah Mallory and won the RNA's Rona Rose for two of her titles.

Monica Fairview’s first novel was a Regency which was published by Robert Hale. Since then she has also published several Jane Austen variations and sequels. She is best known for The Other Mr Darcy and for her series The Darcy Novels. For more about Monica, go to
Here are the links to Mr Darcy's Pledge on Amazon. 

Elizabeth Bailey’s latest stand-alone story is a romantic suspense novella, Silence of a Stranger - Is
Bea’s life more at risk than her disobedient heart?

A wonderful idea and good to see five authors working so well together. We wish you luck with your forthcoming Christmas box set.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

Would you like to write for us?

Get in touch on

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ask an Industry Expert: Carole Blake

This month Helena Fairfax interviews well known literary agent, Carole Blake, about her work and her life.

Welcome, Carole. Please tell us a little about Blake Friedmann.
I founded my agency in July 1977. 

For my first 12 years in publishing (straight from school), I worked for 4 different publishers, finally as Marketing Director of Sphere.  In three of those jobs I had worked for Edmund Fisher, a charismatic, energetic publisher with whom I had a very volatile relationship, and learned so much. .  We used to row, and shout at each other – extraordinary to think back on that now.  I’ve never shouted in an office since.  No one I know behaves like that now.   He taught me so much about

publishing and about management styles.  The latter did include some things NOT to do! One January we were having a row and I was in the middle of resigning when I realised he was firing me, saying I could have 3 months notice and I  needn’t tell anyone I’d been fired. That infuriated me as much as being fired because I’d worked with him for more than a decade and he clearly didn’t know me.  I told my staff immediately, wrote to everyone I was dealing with (I ran the contracts, marketing, publicity and rights departments) and told them to deal with Edmund in the future, and left a week later.  I started legal proceedings for wrongful dismissal, and they settled out of court because Thomson, Sphere’s owners at that time, realised quickly that Edmund hadn’t followed legal procedures.
I went to interviews for jobs with other publishing companies but authors I had published were calling me and asking if I was going to start an agency.  So I did.

What do enjoy most about your job? And least?
Easily the best is negotiating deals.  I love negotiations, or ‘agent fun’ as I think of it.  Just as good, is receiving a new manuscript from one of my clients, or in the earlier days, loving a newly-submitted manuscript from a new writer.   I recently took a fortnight’s ‘holiday’ (to progress the writing of my very overdue next  book) but during that time Sheila O’Flanagan and Elizabeth Chadwick each delivered a new manuscript, so I was in the blissful situation of being able to just spend an entire day reading them, from beginning to end.
The least enjoyable: the admin that comes with an agency that has grown from me alone in 1977 to 20 staff now. In effect, I have several jobs:  agent to my authors; MD to the company, HR for my staff.  It makes for very long days.

What is it you are looking for when a manuscript lands on your desk? Are there any specific plots or themes you’d like to see?
Voice, confidence in the storytelling. A writer who can keep me enthralled in the world of their story with no jarring moments that throw me outside and make me remember I’m reading. With regard to plots and themes, I’m very open minded. It’s the voice that always draws me in.

Where do you find your new authors, and how?
I’m not actually looking for more clients any more. I cut my client base drastically about 8 years ago because it’s much more satisfying to work in more depth, with fewer authors.  I wasn’t planning to take on any more authors at all after that, but I did take on Liz Fenwick and it’s been a lovely relationship. I already knew her (through the RNA conferences and parties) and when she sent me her first manuscript I knew I had to represent her. I had to fight off several other agents who offered her representation!  She recently delivered her fourth manuscript, and it’s so very good that I was able to negotiate significantly improved terms for her next UK 2 book contract. Very satisfying: and she’s published in a dozen other languages too. I do still read submissions though: I receive dozens a day and I can’t bear not to.  But these days I usually refer good material to my colleagues. Other agents in my company are definitely still adding to their client lists and it’s wonderful to see the clients they take on and the passion with which they represent them to the book trade.  When we take meetings at trade fairs, we all talk about the overall client list so it’s exciting to see what my colleagues are representing.

What advice would you give someone submitting to you?
Read the submission guidelines on our website, and the profiles of our agents.  There is so much helpful information available on agency websites, and via the RNA, that sending in material in areas that I or we don’t represent is like waving a flag announcing that you can’t be bothered to do research, that you aren’t behaving in a professional manner. And DON’T submit via social media. I say that with feeling, having received a tweet this morning from someone who had followed me 5 minutes before. All he provided was a link to a manuscript.  I looked at his Twitter timeline and saw that he had sent the identical message to hundreds of others.  Blocked and reported for spam…. Be professional, submitting a manuscript is similar to applying for a job interview after all.

What benefits do you feel an agent can offer an author?
Many and varied. Advice on genre, editorial work, career planning, protection of their rights and exploitation of their work. Marketing advice, social media help, feedback about editors and publishers. Cashflow advice. We scrutinise royalty statements and regularly query publishers about them. We sell other rights – film, TV translations, America. Better terms if they wish to publish their own ebooks. Strong contract boilerplates with publishing houses – we negotiate strongly. Support in many areas. A shoulder to cry on or better yet someone to celebrate with. Lunch, champagne… And although publishers do the formal publicity (or should) my agency and our agents are active on a variety of social media platforms, and we regularly update the news section of our own website.

Romance is the biggest-selling genre in publishing, and yet the one taken least seriously by the mainstream. Why do you think this is? And how do you think romance authors can address the negative perception?
Of course it is the biggest selling genre: romance is, or we wish it to be, part of all of our lives, always.  I think the negative attitude to it could be jealousy, simply because it is so popular. It is the biggest selling genre after all, and regularly dominates the bestseller lists in this country and many others. Romance writers are skilled at making their novels easy to read.  So that is wrongly judged – by those who have never tried it – as being easy to write.  Such nonsense! The genre is also dominated by women writers. There’s a lot of misogyny still around. And of course, it’s easier to sneer at success than to emulate it …
I don’t know what romance writers can do to address the negative perceptions. Ignore them, I’d say, and just go on writing good books and counting your royalties.

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
This question has caused me heartache because so many vie for that position … favourites ebb and flow with me depending on my mood. Should I say Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre,  Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafĂ©,  Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, L P Hartley’s The Go Between, Robert James Waller’s Bridges of Madison County (film better than the book actually, both very sentimental but I loved the story), Dostoevsky’s The Idiot  (oh how I cried over that!), L M Alcott’s Jo’s Boys (so much more moving than Little Women with those drippy sisters), Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand  … but in the end, if I could only have one, it would have to be Alain Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, the only novel he wrote, before dying during the First World War. I first read it at 19, and have since gone on buying ever fancier print editions, always trading up, because reading it induces such a sense of yearning which has always to be part of a romantic experience for me.  And the story is based on one meeting with a woman he fell in love with but could never aspire to marry. Heartbreaking!

Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed most in the past twelve months, and why?
I’ll have to give two examples from this year.  I read a lot of non-fiction, and a contrast to the fiction that I work with, and the clear winner here is Cathy Rentzenbrink’s moving memoir THE LAST ACT OF LOVE about her brother who died.  I sobbed my way through that and even cried in the middle of asking her a question in public, after she’d given a talk. So embarrassing.
And a crime novel – Clare Mackintosh’s I LET YOU GO. There is a twist of such breathtaking audacity half way through that I had to put the novel down at that point and spend a week thinking my way through it again from the beginning to work out if the twist was believable. It was, and I practically inhaled the rest of it in one sitting.
Both these books are the first published work of the authors.  And they are both by friends of mine.  But I judge my friends more harshly than people I don’t know, and never let friends know I’m reading their books until I’ve finished just in case I don’t like them. These two have gone on to become bestsellers, quite rightly. I’ve bought several copies of each to give to friends.  And am eagerly awaiting the next book by each of them.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time?  Ha!  Reading my clients’ work eats into a lot of what is laughingly known as ‘spare time’ (see earlier comment about my fortnight  at home to write myself!) and of course every moment available is currently spent writing what has become known as ‘mybloodybook’ (sorry Macmillan!).   I read a lot of medieval non-fiction, inspired by my client Elizabeth Chadwick and her knowledge of the period.
Other passions are early classical music, Renaissance art, Venice, paper crafts and miniatures.  I’m a serious collector of OOAK (one of a kind) hand made miniatures and have several dolls’ houses (one only partially built because I am doing it myself) and a miniature antiquarian bookshop where every one of the hundreds of books can be opened and read.  With a magnifying glass.  They are all tiny replicas of real antiquarian books.  I also have a greenhouse and a conservatory filled with exquisite miniature hand-made plants, with bird boxes outside, and a beehive. And beautiful cabinets full of miniature, mouth-blown, cranberry glass. It’s a bit of an obsession.

If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?
Varied.   Long.  Exciting.

Thank you, Carole, for taking time out of your busy schedule to appear on the RNA blog snd thank you, Helena, for asking such interesting questions.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

Would you like to write for us?

Get in touch on

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chatting with Joanna Courtney

We are pleased to welcome Joanna Courtney to the blog today. We are sure that many of the answers to our questions will resonate with readers of the blog.

Welcome, Joanna, can you tell us how long you've been writing?
All my life. I was an avid reader from an early age and wrote Enid Blyton style boarding-school
books from 10. I kept long teenage diaries and wrote plays and stories for school events. I studied English Literature at university and once I was working I wrote fiction in the evenings. I’ve always wanted to be a writer so seeing my novel on the shelves is a dream come true.

What about your path to publication?
It’s been a long, hard road and my poor husband has had to deal with many a tearful ‘that’s it, I’m getting a proper job’ tantrum! I started out writing short stories for the women’s magazines when I had young children. I was first published by The People’s Friend in 1999 and over the years I’ve been published by all the major magazines, with serials as well as stories. One of these, ‘Running Against the Tide’ was published as a novel by Robert Hale in 2012 and I’d also been working on a contemporary romance for which I secured my agent, Kate Shaw, back in 2009. We didn’t manage to find a publisher for that but Kate was supportive of my desire to move to historical fiction. The first novel I wrote in the Saxon period was also turned down by publishers, though with enough nice comments to persuade me to write a second, and that one – The Chosen Queen – was finally taken up by Pan Macmillan who have been absolutely brilliant with it.

Do you find it confusing to move between your author name and ‘real’ name?
Courtney is my middle name and also my grandma’s name, so it already feels like part of me and I rather like having a pen name. It makes it easier to find the confidence to do events as I go in almost as an actor – as ‘Joanna Courtney, author’, rather than just as little old me!

Marketing and promotion is a big part of an author’s life. How do you cope with this?
I enjoy a lot of it and I find it easy when I’m editing or researching but when I’m deep in writing a novel it’s much harder to pull myself away from my imaginary world to do all the ‘real’ stuff. That said, though, connecting with readers is wonderful and nothing makes your day like a tweet from someone you don’t know saying how much they’ve loved your book so I could never complain about that.

How do fit your writing around your day to day life?
I have children so on the whole I write during the school day. Up until recently that stopped painfully early at 3.15 but now they are both at secondary school I thankfully have much longer days. I also, however, have to fit in my work as an Open University Creative Writing tutor and have two dogs who need walking – though that’s fantastic thinking time.

What is the next big thing in your writing life?
I’m in the middle of writing the third book of the trilogy. Book 2, The Constant Queen, is finished and edited and due out next May, so I’m now writing the Norman side of the 1066 story for Book 3, The Conqueror’s Queen. It’s proving really interesting as until now they’ve been the ‘baddies’ so it’s lovely getting under their skin and seeing it all from another point of view.

Author Bio:
Ever since Joanna sat up in her cot with a book, she’s wanted to be a writer. She’s had many stories and serials published in women’s magazines and The Chosen Queen is the first novel in her historical trilogy, The Queens of the Conquest, about the women of 1066.

Facebook: joannacourtneyauthor
Twitter: @joannacourtney1
My website:
My blog:

Thank you so much for visiting the blog today, Joanna. We eagerly await publication day for The Constant Queen.

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