Friday, February 5, 2016

Ask the Industry Expert: Agent, Clare Wallace

Helena Fairfax returns with another interview in her super, ‘Ask the Industry Expert’ series.

It’s a great pleasure to welcome Clare Wallace today – an agent who inspires with her enthusiasm and 
Clare Wallace

love of all things bookish. Thanks for taking the time to visit us, Clare, and for letting us get to know you. We appreciate your giving up valuable time!

Please tell us a little about the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency, how long you’ve been with the agency, and how you came to join.
The Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency is proud to specialise in a broad range of commercial titles, including thrillers, mysteries, crime, accessible literary, sagas, historical and commercial women’s fiction. The agency was founded in 1988 by Darley and has been going from strength to strength ever since.
I started at the Agency in January 2011, initially in the rights department, selling translation rights, and then I started to gradually build my own list of authors alongside managing the rights department. After a while my list grew so I moved over to fulltime agenting in January 2015.
Like many people trying to forge a career in publishing, I’d been working in various internships at agencies and publishers for six months. During that time I applied for a lot of jobs and got a lot of rejections. And I was close to giving up my working-in-publishing dream as my savings were gone and my confidence was definitely dented. But then, just at the right moment, I found out about the opening at Darley Anderson and someone rather lovely I’d been working with recommended me for the role. After two interviews, I was offered the position.

What do enjoy most about your job? And least?
There’s so much I enjoy. Finding a brilliant submission, meeting new people, negotiating, just being amongst books and people who love them every day. I don’t take for granted that I look forward to going to work, and I know that’s a luxury that isn’t shared by many. I suppose, in all honesty, there’s nothing quite like phoning a début author that you’ve been working with and telling them you’ve received an offer. That all their hard work and belief will be rewarded. That an editor and publishing team, who have the expertise and means to champion a novel to the public, see the same potential and talent that you can. And the worst is doing the opposite. Accepting when the manuscript you’ve sent out on submission isn’t going to find the home you were looking for. I also dislike sending rejections. There’s nothing fun or fulfilling about saying no to aspiring authors, but sadly it is a necessary part of the process. And finally, just the lack of time. I always, always, wish for more time to read.

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?
I’m looking for voice. A strong, individual, immediately engaging, voice. Characters that you want to stay with, that you’ll sacrifice a good night’s sleep for. In terms of plots and themes, I like an unusual concept, a gripping ‘what would you do if’ kind of question or dilemma. One of the hardest things, I think, in terms of placing a début novel with a publisher, is it being different enough to what’s already out there. It needs to stand out amongst its competition. Being well written and competent isn’t enough. So, I’m looking for that punchy pitch as well, although of course it’s the talent of the author that brings the narrative to life.

Where do you find your new authors, and how?
In my inbox. In my submissions folder. And I go to events to meet authors, like the Festival of Writing in York, and I’m involved with events held by Writers’ & Artists’, for example, but mostly through reading the submissions.

What advice would you give someone submitting to you?
Make sure you’ve had a look at our website and our clients, so that you think we really would be a good match for you, and have a good look at the submission guidelines. Tell us why you’ve picked our agency. Have a clear pitch. Hook us in, think of the agent as a reader. If we were browsing in a bookshop and we picked up your book and turned it over, what would the blurb look like?  Identify what genre you’re writing in, and who your readership might be. Really polish those opening chapters, think about where you’ve started your story. Is it relevant to the narrative? Is it full of intrigue? Don’t rush, check and double check your submission is exactly as you want it to be before you press send.

Do you think aspiring romance writers have a better chance of being published if they are planning a series? Are stand-alone novels more likely to be rejected by publishers and agents?
I don’t think so. I think it’s all about the writing, ultimately. The goal is to establish an author and have a clear brand, which can be done with a series or a stand-alone. If you are writing a stand-alone novel though, it’s very helpful to have a second idea, even if it’s only in blurb form, to show that you’re serious about continuing in the genre, and that you’re committed to delivering a brilliant, and suitable, second book.

What benefits do you feel an agent can offer an author?
Ah so many. Editorial support and passion for your writing - because it can be a lonely business. The ability and confidence to negotiate and handle a contract – we can ask the difficult questions and won’t worry about querying a royalty rate or asking for a higher advance – we don’t find it awkward, in fact we like it. Insider knowledge – we might know an editor who has just yesterday told us they’re looking for a manuscript just like yours. And care. It’s your agent who might talk through early ideas with you, who might see the first draft, who you might tell if you’re having trouble meeting a deadline, who you might confide in if you’ve decided that your main character isn’t the person you thought they were. Ultimately, agents offer support in all sorts of ways – they’re part of your team and on your side. It’s a relationship of trust. And it’s not just your primary agent, at the DA agency there’s a rights department who are looking to sell your novel in translation, to the US, in audio, in film and TV, and there’s a finance department who make sure you get your royalties on time and can give you fiscal advice. It’s our job to make sure you get the best deal you can, in as many ways as you can, and that your relationship with your publishers is protected, so that you can concentrate on the writing.

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
Such a difficult question. A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian was my first true ‘romance novel’ love. And you never forget your first true ‘romance novel’ love.

Apart from your own authors, which book have you enjoyed the most in the past twelve months, and why?
From my ‘just-because’ reading pile, I’ve just read The Complete Maus, a Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. It’s a Holocaust survivor story, which was recommended to me by a friend, and isn’t something I knew about or would have thought to pick up. Maybe ‘enjoyed’ isn’t the right word, but it’s incredible, and haunting, and brutally honest. I also loved Lianne Moriarty’s dark and funny Big Little Lies.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
‘Just-because’ reading. I love seeing my friends and doing all the endless, effortless chatting. And I’m also pretty happy curled up on the sofa, with my cat, burning my way through a box set (the most recent being The Affair.)

If you could describe your working-day in just three words, what would they be?
Gloriously-bookish, demanding, fun.

Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Clare. It was a pleasure getting to know you!

Link to the Darley Anderson Literary Agency:

About Helena:

Helena Fairfax writes contemporary romance novels. Her latest work, Palace of Deception,
is a romantic suspense novella featuring a princess, her double, and her fit bodyguard. The sequel, The Scottish Diamond, will be released in March.
Helena interviews authors and writes about books and writing on her blog.  You can also find her on Twitter, @helenafairfax, and a list of her other books on Amazon

Thank you, Clare and Helena for a most enjoyable interview.

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Heidi Swain's welcome to the 2016 intake of the New Writers’ Scheme

It is always lovely to hear good news and when this news comes from one of the graduates of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme we want to share it. When Heidi Swain named popped up in The Bookseller then of course it followed that we wanted her to visit our blog! Welcome Heidi.

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to Elaine Everest for inviting me to feature today and
secondly, wave a cheery ‘hello’ to all you lucky folk who have secured a spot on the New Writers Scheme this year. May I suggest that you all take a big breath and brace yourselves because if you are determined, focused and ready, big things could be about to happen!

2015 was a truly monumental year for me and I put much of my good fortune down to securing a space on the New Writers Scheme the year before and then joining the RNA as a full member.
In 2014 I submitted my novel, The Cherry Tree Café, to the scheme and then, having worked through the insightful critique, which flagged up some typical rookie errors, and met with the other ladies in my wonderful local chapter, set about considering where and how to submit.

In summer 2014 I then sent the freshly edited manuscript off to Books and The City (the digital imprint of Simon and Schuster) and in December of that year signed my first two book deal, initially to have the novels published in e-book format. Needless to say I was absolutely delighted, but the hard work of course was just about to begin. Along with getting to grips with editing deadlines and traveling to London for meetings, there was also the business of promotion to get to grips with. Love it or hate it authors need a solid social media platform and as an unrestrained chatterbox I personally
found Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and guesting, as well as posting on Instagram and Pinterest, great fun. I was also invited to take part in the Books and The City Spring Blogger Evening last March which meant giving a reading and taking part in a Q and A. Fortunately Milly Johnson and Jane Costello were there to guide me through, which is another great thing about writing romance – we are a very friendly bunch of authors.

So, The Cherry Tree Café was published on July the 16th and the launch party, blog tour, press feature and radio spots all happened in the weeks that followed. It was crazy, it was hectic and of course there was still the next novel, Summer at Skylark Farm, to polish, edit and present in preparation for publication on June 2nd 2016!

It is, in some respects, impossible to believe that so much has happened in such a short space of time and having attended my first RNA conference last year and made such good friends with my Norfolk chapter ladies and beyond (thank you Facebook), I am exceedingly thankful to have such a caring association to help keep me on the straight and narrow and support the next leg of my author journey. If you are new to the scheme this year then I would say, do not delay, get involved as soon as you can and make the most of your membership.

My own journey took a very exciting turn at the end of 2015 as I not only had the extreme pleasure of seeing my name in The Bookseller, I also signed another two book deal and this time around for both
novels to be published in print as well as in e-book format.

The success of The Cherry Tree Café, which I am proud to say became an Amazon Number 1 Bestseller last autumn, played a huge part in securing this latest deal and I am eternally grateful to the New Writers Scheme and the RNA for giving me the confidence to put my work out there and pursue my lifelong dream.

Whether you are new to the scheme this year, or have renewed your membership, I wish you all the very best of luck, because if you have set your sights on publication and are determined to make it happen, then it will and I can’t wait to read all about your success.

Happy New Year everyone!
Heidi Swain

Heidi’s Links:

Thank you, Heidi. We are both graduates of the NWS and agree it’s a fabulous scheme for all new writers of romance. Good luck for 2016 and thank you for sharing.

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

New Romantics Press – The Future’s Looking Bright!

Welcome to Adrienne Vaughan who has popped along today to tell us about The New Romantics Press. What an enterprising group of ladies they are!

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting us onto the RNA blog, Elaine, it’s an absolute honour and we’re thrilled to be here. Here’s our story so far …

Three years and a couple of months ago the New Romantics Press (NRP) – Adrienne Vaughan, Lizzie Lamb, Mags Cullingford and June Kearns ‒ was born. Huddled together in the backroom of a village

pub in the wilds of rural Leicestershire, trembling with fear and trepidation, four fledgling authors – having met through the RNA and all on the New Writers’ Scheme ‒ launched themselves on the world.

Dozens of book launches, blogs, newspaper reports, radio interviews and videos later, we’ve embraced each and every element of what being an author in today’s multi-media environment entails; standing shoulder-to-shoulder, through drafts, edits, rewrites and great big gaping holes of self-confidence. And still, what remains at the very essence is our passion to tell our stories our way.
Ten acclaimed novels ‒ hundreds of reviews, award nominations and a best seller ‒ later, the dream is a reality and the greatest reward is still when someone says. “I loved your book, when is the next one coming out?”
Here’s a quick update as we hunker down into 2016 …

Lizzie Lamb
 Lizzie’s debut Tall, Dark and Kilted, was swiftly followed by Boot Camp Bride and having launched 

her third novel, Scotch on the Rocks last July, there was ‘no rest for the wicked’ as it rocketed up the Amazon charts to reach No 1 in Scottish Romance! So it was head down as Lizzie ‘got busy’ with novel number four, This Highland Magic.

Born in Scotland, with Brazilian and Irish blood in her veins, it’s no surprise Lizzie’s novels feature feisty heroines and gorgeous heroes, and having enjoyed a successful career in education, sprinkles her books with fascinating historical facts, face-fanning sex and laugh out loud dialogue.
Earning something of a reputation as a ‘go-to’ speaker on the art of self-publishing, Lizzie gives lectures to creative writing students at De Montfort University, has hosted numerous literary lunches in some of the county’s top hotels and will be speaking at Leicester Writer’s Club next month. She – together with June ‒ also organises the RNA Leicester Chapter, The Belmont Belles and keeps the NRP in check, inspiring us all to ‘keep at it’. 
Lizzie & Adrienne
I’m dreaming about hitting the road in 2016 with our caravan, computer, parrot and husband to research number four, so Highlands of Scotland, here I come. Our travels have become part of the writing process for me and I love the adventure, laughter and shared experiences of our trips, keeping us buoyed and enthused throughout the long winter months. I just know 2016 is going to be one of our best years ever!” Says Lizzie.
Lizzie's Links:
twitter: @lizzie_lamb      
Scotch on the Rocks
Boot Camp Bride 

Tall, Dark and Kilted 

Mags Cullingford

Mags’s first two novels, Last Bite of the Cherry and Twins of a Gazelle are definitely romance with edge and she will be the first to admit her writing errs on the darker side, with an undercurrent of tense, psychological drama heightening emotions.

She is currently completing and polishing her, as yet, untitled third novel which features threatening letters, a fatal car accident and a private investigator and, knowing Mags, some deep, dark romance too.
Mags says, “I must confess although I love writing, I’m absolutely rubbish at marketing and promoting and it’s my readers reaction to my books – as well as my NRP comrades, chums in the RNA and my writer friends in general – who inspire me to keep going. My resolution for 2016 is to get to grips and improve on these necessary skills, at least once January is over. It’s not that I’m procrastinating but I do like to take a leaf out of our cat Tina’s book and for me January is the time for hibernating.”
Mags’s Links:
Twitter: @cullingfordmags

June Kearns
 June is our historical novelist and to date has written two fabulous novels, The Englishwoman’s

Guide to the Cowboy and The 20’s Girl, both acclaimed as eloquent and stylish with clever twists and turns, and nods to fashion and music, two of June’s passions.

Now working hard on novel No 3 June admits to be a little awry with her New Year resolutions.

So far I haven’t started reading War and Peace nor stayed away from the choc-and-nuts – but I have been working on my third book, so that’s something!

June in the swinging sixties
Set in the early 1960s, it’s gathering pace and coming along nicely. I’m trying to pin down recollections of the time by trawling through old photographs (I had a waist!), tramping London streets and visiting our son in San Francisco last year (my story is set in both places). It’s all bringing back lots of lovely memories and inspiration. Fingers crossed, I’m hoping to publish at the end of this year.”
June’s Links:
Twitter: @june_kearns

And finally me – Adrienne Vaughan
“I write romantic suspense and having trained as a journalist I love lifting the veil of celebrity to

reveal what lies beneath the glitz. I set my characters against the elements and each other, taking readers to wild, romantic locations where literally anything can happen and it usually does!

My first three novels – never thought I’d be saying that - were well received, my debut The Hollow Heart shortlisted for a Reader Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction, as was the follow-up A Change of Heart and then last November I was absolutely thrilled to learn Secrets of the Heart was shortlisted for a Love Reading Award, amazing!
But no resting on laurels here, so last year saw me interviewing a friend’s daughter who dresses members of the cast of Downton Abbey and Strictly Come Dancing; poking around in military

reference books and studying reports on plots to murder the Pope, as I started working on, Scandal of the Seahorse Hotel. I aim to have it completed by the end of January before sending to my fabulous mentor, June Tate – a dear friend who I met through the RNA – and who helps me edit and polish ahead of launching to the ‘waiting world’ (okay I made that last bit up!).

Having been Long Listed for the Elizabeth Goudge Award for A Most Deadly Affair, a historical novel about a beautiful Irish socialite who inherits the family business – an undertakers – in the 1950’s, it looks like that’s next on my list, in between editing Romance Matters, hosting a charity luncheon at a five star country house hotel with Lizzie next month, oh and the day job, but most of you know what
Is it Spring yet?

that’s like!”

So 2016 looks as exciting as ever and it simply remains for us to thank you all for your continued support – we could NOT have done it with you and the amazing organisation which is the RNA. Hoping to see you all soon …

Adrienne’s Links:
Twitter: @adrienneauthor
Lizzie and Adrienne have also contributed to a short story anthology, see below.

Hocus Pocus '14a collection of spooky short stories 

Here are the links to our Amazon pages . . .

Thank you, Adrienne, and good luck with your venture ladies. So many wonderful books!

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