Friday, January 23, 2015

Carla Caruso: Thoughts from Abroad

Carla Caruso tells us about her adopted writing home

I have a confession to make: I’ve barely set foot inside Britain. I’m Australian, with Italian blood, thanks to my parents. There was one time, a few years back, when I was travelling through Europe with my younger sister and we were meant to stop for a few days in London. But we got the timing muddled at the travel agent’s and, after booking everything, had to make a last-minute change. Which meant we wound up catching a plane from Rome to London, heading straight to the Tube, and journeying on a train to Paris. That was it. Our big glimpse of London. All I can remember thinking was the weather was warmer than I expected and the city was so, so BIG. Much bigger than Sydney back home.

Now I have one-year-old twin boys, so another trip to Europe is off the agenda for quite some time (yikes!). Still, I’d love to give the UK a longer try at some stage. Especially because – weirdly – I’ve been mistaken for a British author before, even though I’ve hardly breathed in a lung-full of London air. Some book bloggers have admitted to thinking I was a Brit…perhaps it’s my wordiness…until they’ve stumbled across an Australian town I’ve mentioned in a story. One even likened me to Sophie Kinsella (and I promise I didn’t pay her to do so!). A book editor has also described my writing style as having a ‘gentleness’. If Americans have been generalised as ‘loud and brash’, I’m the exact opposite, which I guess makes me a little more British-sounding!

I also like to drop in words like ‘rather’ and ‘quite’ and am partial to an adverb, although many elsewhere turn their nose up at them. I just can’t do that short, sharp and snarky style.
So where has this all come from (aside from my country sharing your Queen)? Well, I put it down to the ‘diet’ of books I’ve been brought up on. It started off with Enid Blyton. The Magic Faraway Tree, The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, Five on a Treasure Island, The Secret Seven, The Wishing-Chair…I’ve read them all. Sometimes until the characters’ voice started turning cartoonish inside my head because I’d been reading far too long! I didn’t have time for the Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew books my big sister read. (Although, I did go on to enjoy the Yankee Sweet Valley and Baby-Sitters Club series – oh, and Judy Blume!)

Now I’m 35, I always cite Sophie Kinsella and Maggie Alderson as my favourite authors. (Okay, Maggie lived in Australia for a time, but she’s a London fashionista through and through.) Plus, I also adore the dry wit of British films like Love Actually and Death at a Funeral (the original UK version, please, not the American!). And no one does my beloved chick-lit better than the UK…which leads me to why I’ve recently joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’ve decided it’s time I embraced my ‘adopted’ writing home with gusto. The Americans may never understand my slang. Just, shhh, don’t tell my Aussie cohorts!

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. These days, she writes romantic comedy novels in between playing mum to her one-year-old twin boys. Her books include Catch of the Day, Cityglitter, Second Chance, the ‘Astonvale’ rom-com mystery series starting with A Pretty Mess, and more.

Twitter: @CarlaCaruso79

Thank you for joining us today, Carla.

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

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Romance AND Suspense with Vonnie Hughes

Today we welcome Vonnie Hughes - all the way from the Antipodes. Vonnie was born in New Zealand and now lives in Australia.

As a child she won several writing competitions. She won a pony once but her parents encouraged her to take the substitute prize. After all, there’s not a lot of room in utopian suburbia for a pony. 

After attending teachers’ training college where they encouraged her writing, Vonnie began writing in earnest – poetry and short stories mainly. Now she writes novels and novellas in the Regency and contemporary suspense genres. She will, she says, probably write until the day she dies. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but just cannot let it go.

I asked Vonnie a few questions:

I believe you haven’t always been a career writer. Can you tell our readers what brought about the change in your career?
I’ve always been a writer, just not a full-time writer. As a seven year old I won a writing contest to name a pony and I’ve been writing ever since. At first it was mainly articles and poetry. In my early fifties when I became a self-employed researcher with a houseful of overseas students, I needed a break from real life and began to write Regencies. As the Regency market has become more and more crowded, my stories are seguing more into the Victorian era. (I’ve been reading in that era since I was eleven years old and I love the sense of order and responsibility). But my preference is for writing contemporary suspense novels where I can indulge my love of convoluted plots and forensic clues.

I see from your website that you’re a ‘panster’. How does this work in conjunction with writing suspense? Don’t you need to know beforehand where your story is going?As for being a pantser and knowing where my plots are going – I think about my books for some weeks. Then I do a very small outline of the story generally, about five or six sentences. But the real planning comes from the characterisation. I spend a lot of time working out the characters’ backgrounds, motives and the likely consequences of their behaviour. Then I jump into writing the book. But I never do chapter plans or story arcs. Just go where it leads me.

Writing any period novel must entail considerable research. Is it something you enjoy and do you have any methodology?
As for the research for my historicals, I have to admit I have a LOT of hard files which I’ve compiled over the years. They contain things like bridge building in Britain, the slums near the Thames, maps of old roads etc. Also I belong to Beaumonde, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America and their archives are amazing.

Do you have a typical day?
I have no typical writing day. I write every day, but sometimes for no more than an hour. Sometimes I get restless and bored so I relax by walk/jogging with the dog, going to the gym and reading, reading, reading.

Innocent Hostage was published in December 2014. Is its successor in the pipeline?
At present, although I am part way through another New Zealand set book about a negotiator with one of the Armed Offenders’ squads, I also got started on an idea put forward by The Wild Rose Press about a mythical town in Maine called Lobster Cove. Since I’m not American I had to do some intensive research.  At the request of the Carmichael family’s accountants, their son takes over a lobster packaging business to investigate the reasons behind a consistent drain on the company resources. At the same time he is coming to terms with the fact that he is adopted and that at least one of his natural parents comes from the little town of Lobster Cove.

Innocent Hostage is published by The Wild Rose Press in both paperback and e-book form. In an Alice in Wonderland world where everything is tipped upside down and every value questioned, how do you save the innocent? Two years ago, Breck Marchant handed his son, Kit, over to his ex-wife, Tania, even though it tore him apart. She knows all about kids. Thanks to his own upbringing, he hasn’t a clue. But when the boy is held hostage, Breck steps up to the plate.


It's been lovely talking to you, Vonnie. Thank you. 

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

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Friday, January 16, 2015

Margaret Kaine: From Sagas to E-books

We are delighted to welcome Margaret Kaine as our guest today.

You won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer Award in 2002 and the Society of Author’s Sagittarius Award in 2003 with ‘Ring of Clay’. How did this affect your writing life?
There is no doubt that it affected my writing career. When I won the New Writer’s Award, then sponsored by the Readers’ Digest ‘Of Love and Life’ series, I managed to make a coherent acceptance speech - let no-one be misled, it’s a hugely emotional moment - and made my way through the crowd to be greeted by Carolyn Caughey, the then senior editor at Hodder & Stoughton. She asked me if the UK rights were available (Ring of Clay was first published in Ireland by Poolbeg). And as a result Hodder bought the UK rights to my first four novels. I remember her delight when the following year, Ring of Clay went on to win the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize of £4,000. Would my writing career have taken off as it did if I hadn’t won the above awards? Who can say?

And for me at the time, luck was with me all the way. For instance, the Sagittarius Prize is awarded to the ‘the best first novel by an author aged over 60’, and for the first time it was sponsored by the wonderful Terry Pratchett, that fact alone bringing extra publicity. And on a purely personal but important point, the uncertain self-confidence that I think we all feel on occasions about our writing, received an enormous boost. That doesn’t mean that I don’t doubt my ability at times, but I have a framed letter from the SoA above my desk, think of how good the RNA Rose Bowl used to look on my hall table, and feel a surge of encouragement.
Would you advise writers to enter competitions?
I think some writers find these invaluable, especially at the beginning of their career. A competition, judged by a writer or writers you respect, can provide a useful challenge, an inspiration to perhaps attempt a different genre. Or even the incentive you need to write at all. And the word count required is often quite short, giving a budding novelist a breather from a long manuscript. But I do believe that if your ambition is to write a novel, then it is best not to allow yourself to become distracted by other writing ventures. Having said that, I know there are several writers in the RNA who combine both with enormous success, so it’s a question of finding out what suits you best.
What is it about writing sagas that you enjoy so much?
For me, it’s the nostalgia. I began to write Ring of Clay just after my mother died, and writing about my childhood in the Potteries and basing the character of Rose on her, proved to be the therapy I needed to get through that first year. It astonished me how many details of the industrial life there I could remember. How many facets of the people and area had seeped into my unconscious. Those years were good times.

Is there another genre that appeals to you enough to ‘have a go’? Would you ever write another genre?
I feel that I have already moved into a different genre with Dangerous Decisions, as it is definitely not a saga, and set in the Edwardian era, whereas my first seven novels were set in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Maybe a time-slip might appeal, but I am proud of being a romantic novelist, that will never change.

What sort of impact have e-books had on your back catalogue and your readership? Has it changed the way your work?
I’ve embraced the concept of e-books, and love both my Kindle and print books. As for my backlist, it’s lovely to see that some of my out of print Potteries sagas are now enjoying a new lease of life and attracting new readers. I don’t think the digital side of publishing has affected the way I write at all.

Tell us about Margaret Kaine and Choc Lit.

Ah, the lovely Choc Lit, who are the publishers of Dangerous Decisions, my romantic suspense novel set in the Edwardian era. Berni Stevens, who designs many of their covers, has given me my favourite cover of all time. If one can be in love with the cover of your book, then I’m afraid I must plead guilty. And it’s a good feeling to be ‘part of a publishing family’. 

I notice you are running a competition on your website. Is this a first and how do you hope it will impact on your readership?
Now this is a tricky subject for me at the moment. I’ve run a competition on my website for many years, and it’s promoted by leading competition forums. This means that hundreds enter my competitions, and the hope is that this leads to new readers. But I confess to feeling a little disillusioned, as it is rare that a winner gives feedback on a book. Meanwhile postage is increasing all the time . . .

As an established author, what advice would you give to new writers?
To write what you enjoy and to join a good writers’ workshop. I still attend mine and read out my chapters and value highly the constructive critiques and loyal friendship. The best tip on writing I can give is to read your work aloud, edit it, put it aside for three weeks then read it aloud again before another edit. This will give it a final polish.

What is next for Margaret Kaine, the author?
I have almost finished another Edwardian novel, set initially in a workhouse, but again with the well-loved ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, scenario. I so love the elegance of this era, although as my grandmother was sent to be a scullery maid at the age of 13, I suspect that my own place in the hierarchy would have been strictly ‘downstairs’. Sigh!

Margaret Kaine began by writing short stories which were published in the UK, Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Her debut novel, Ring of Clay, won two literary awards. Seven of her romantic sagas about life in the Potteries have been mainstream published, translations including German and French, and all are available in LP, Audio and Digital. Dangerous Decisions, her most recent novel, published by Choc Lit, is a romantic and psychological suspense set in the Edwardian era.

Twitter - @margaretkaine

Thank you so much for joining us today, Margaret.

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

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Carol Townend - Hot...or What!

Courtesy of Mills & Boon
Today we are delighted to welcome Carol Townend. We put some questions to her:

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
The first book I finished was Sapphire in the Snow which I probably wrote in 1987. I can’t quite remember because it’s so long ago! After some revisions Mills & Boon published it in 1989 and to my delight it won the RNA New Writers' Award. I think it took around six months to write, although I’d been thinking about the plot for a while before I began. It was written on an Amstrad, which was entirely different to a modern computer. I loved my Amstrad, but it struggled to cope with files larger than about 10 pages. Also, the novel took an age to print and came out in one long sheet. You had to separate the pages manually! I wrote about five novels on an Amstrad.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, although it took me some time to really get down to it. I played about with various writing courses which were great except they kept trying to make me write articles when all I really wanted to write was medieval romance. When my daughter went to school, I wrote three romances quite quickly and was thrilled when they were accepted by Harlequin Mills & Boon. I guess the message there is to write what your heart tells you to write!

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
It’s a job and I treat it as such. After various displacement activities in the morning – putting on the washing machine, tidying up, dealing with mail etc – I try to get started on the WIP around coffee time. Ideally this is five days a week. I finish at 6. Sometimes I write at week-ends, but it’s important to have a life too…

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
A lot of planning goes in. I have a set of coloured school notebooks and pick one for each novel. They say ‘Oxford’ on the covers, but we buy them in French supermarkets on research trips. By the time the notebook is full, it’s usually time to start writing. Having said that, the story never goes to plan! My characters are wayward and tend to run off in all directions. In The Stone Rose, a medieval saga I wrote for Headline, one character got up and walked out of the book half way through. I tried to pin him down by breaking his leg – ha! It kept him in place for a short time, but as soon as the leg was healed he was off again. I let him go and in the end he came back again, and the book was better for it. So I’ve learned that the characters know best, and let them have their head. It makes for a more interesting journey. It also makes me wonder why I do all that planning!

Do you enjoy research?
I love it. I read history at university, so the interest in anything medieval has always been there. A great joy of writing medieval romance it that it give you an excuse to visit castles all over Europe. I like to explore the town/area where a book will be set and get the medieval map firmly in my head. It’s not always possible, but a visit to Istanbul resulted in the Palace Brides trilogy set in eleventh century Byzantium. Places are very inspiring. When visiting QuimperlĂ© in Brittany, a whole novel popped into my head. An Honourable Rogue was inspired by the church at the confluence of two rivers.

What did you enjoy most about writing your novel and how do you relax when you're not working?
Finishing it! Writing is hard work and I am lazy…then I can enjoy reading, walks in the countryside, chatting with friends, cinema.

If you were a guest on Desert Island Discs what would be your chosen book?
This varies. This year it’s Transcendence by Shay Savage, an unlikely time-slip romance between a teenager of today and a cave-man. The cave-man cannot speak or understand language, and the idea that the heroine comes from the future is quite beyond his grasp. The entire novel is told from his point of view and there is no dialogue. It’s hard to pin down why I adore this book, but the fact that the hero constantly misunderstands the heroine makes for an extraordinarily poignant and moving read.

If your next title Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress was turned into a film who would you like to play the main characters?
Pass. I think it’s important to let readers make up their own images of the characters. Suffice to say that Lord Gawain has sun-streaked hair and brown eyes. He’s a knight, so he is strongly built. Elise, aka Blanchefleur le Fay, is dark, the cover image fits her very well!

What is next for Carol Townend?
I’d like to write two more stories in the Knights of Champagne mini-series. After that, Sicily is throwing out lures. Spain is too. Who knows? I can’t plan too much in advance, but it’s likely to be medieval. And romantic, naturally!

Publication day of my next title: 1st March 2015, Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress. It is Book 3 in the Knights of Champagne mini-series.

Carol Townend writes medieval romances set in England and Europe. Born in Yorkshire, she went to a convent school in Whitby and studied history at London University.
Her first novel, Sapphire in the Snow, won the RNA New Writers' Award. In 2013, Betrothed to the Barbarian was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award.
Carol's non-fiction writing includes dozens of articles for Writing Magazine and Writers' News, and a portrait of the Romanovs using photographs from the Imperial albums. Carol lives in London with her husband and daughter.
Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress will be published in March 2015, it is the third book in the Knights of Champagne mini-series set in twelfth century France.

Thank you for joining us today, Carol.

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

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sheryl Browne: It's Been Quite a Year!

We are delighted to welcome Sheryl Browne to the blog today.

Thank you so much for helping me to share the latest news in my up and down writing journey. After a trying year, which saw my partner diagnosed with prostate cancer (I mention this, because I ended up having to apologise all over the place for my constant state of befuddlement. I should also mention that his prognosis is extremely good after early diagnosis - and that he is now very positive, agreeing to share his progress with Prostate Cancer UK in hopes of encouraging other men to seek help early), I finally DO have some lovely news to share.

Having written seriously for fifteen years, mystified agents, and achieved several near misses, I am also super-pleased to announce that I have recently signed with Choc Lit for my upcoming novel, currently titled The Rest of My Life. This development is all the more special because Choc Lit read the book on recommendation of someone who restored my faith in my writing. Excitingly, the news was announced first in The Bookseller! Wow! Little me rubbing shoulders with Burt Reynolds and Julian Clary (form an orderly queue, guys). I owe this person a huge debt of gratitude for picking up my book, loving it, and being prepared to say so in the right ears.

As mentioned, I have been ‘at it’ for some time. Although I’ve been a little bit shy, I have been a member of the RNA for some years. I was originally a member of the New Writers’ Scheme, which offers invaluable advice on where your manuscript might be flagging (or shining!) and generally encourages and supports new writers. My manuscript was sadly flagging, something I was aware of. However, writing definitely being a journey in my mind, I listened and learned, redrafted and rested that manuscript, and I couldn’t be happier that that book, Warrant for Love, is finally published and currently “touring”.

I therefore also owe huge thanks to the NWS, an editor recommended to me by the RNA, and to Safkhet Publishing. I have six books published with Safkhet, who not only commissioned me to write my first book for them, having read and loved my writing, but opened an imprint for three further novels. Despite my determination, I was at a point then where I wondered whether continuing to pursue my dream was sheer self-indulgent, and rather exhausting, madness. Safkhet believed in me.  Bloggers, readers and reviewers believed in me, cheering me every step of the way. I really can’t say thank you enough to those wonderful people, who give of their time and work so hard for authors.

For me, being published with Choc Lit is a dream come true. The best part of that dream is that it allows me to do what helps me through, during good times and bad – and we ALL have the latter, the one thing that keeps me sane (though some would question that!). It gives me the impetus to keep writing. Maybe I would have kept going anyway. It is my passion (can you tell?). I do know, though, that having a support network counts for an awful lot. Published or self-published, there are some extremely talented authors out there. I’m proud to know many of them and share in their publishing journeys.

COMING SOON from Choc Lit
The Rest of My Life - Two damaged hearts, a sizzling sexual connection. Can love find a way to bring Adam and Sienna together? 

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal - and a little Ohhhh la la! Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has six books published with Safkhet Publishing and has now been signed with Award winning Choc Lit Publishing.

Author Links

Thank you, Sheryl, and good luck with The Rest of My Life. 

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

If you would like to contribute during 2015 please contact us on

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Clare Chase: Settings in romantic suspense

Today we welcome Clare Chase to the blog.

I’ve always found novels with a strong sense of place compelling, and been fascinated by the powerful effect setting can have on an unfolding story. Of course, it’s a crucial aspect of all forms of fiction, but where suspense is involved, the right setting can help the writer in all sorts of ways.
A character’s immediate surroundings – the house they live in, for instance – can point to a person who’s off balance. Suspense builds as the reader anticipates the effect their skewed world view might have on developments. You don’t have to go as far as Dickens went with Miss Havisham to introduce unease.
Wider setting is also a huge bonus when creating mood and tension. Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn comes to mind. Mary Yellan’s awful journey in appalling weather, from her familiar village, to the remote moorland home of her aunt and uncle, remains vivid. The reader is immediately sucked into a threatening and oppressive atmosphere.
And then there are the physical practicalities of a location. Because Mary’s geographically so far away from help, and the landscape around her is so harsh and unforgiving, we’re intensely conscious of her isolation.
In my own debut novel, You Think You Know Me, I used two locations: London and the Lake District.
When the novel begins, Anna, the heroine, has just moved to the capital. London was a good location on practical grounds. It allowed her plenty of glamorous opportunities to pursue her career as a freelance journalist, and was a realistic setting for a story focussed on crime in the art world. But beyond the practical, it was also perfect in terms of atmosphere. I love the bustle of London, the frenetic pace, the crowds and the buzz. And as Anna’s caught up in a passionate love affair, pulled along by excitement, uncertainty and the first hints of danger, this pacey backdrop worked.
And then, as the mystery deepens, her desire to find out the truth leads her to the Lakes. You Think You Know Me is set in winter, and Anna finds herself driving through dark, deserted lanes, caught in torrential rain, her mobile dropping in and out of coverage. I’m always staggered by the beauty of the area when I visit, but on dark, stormy days, the awe-inspiring masses of mountains like Skiddaw and Blencathra become menacing. The hairpin bends, steep inclines and the narrowness of the roads mean any escape is going to have to happen at an agonisingly slow pace. What’s more, there are plenty of places where there’s no mobile coverage at all, so calling for help can be tantalisingly out of reach.
My next novel is the start of a mystery series, and has a Cambridge setting. I find the city endlessly intriguing, but realise there are dangers with writing about somewhere I know well. I need to make sure I can still see what’s unique about the city, even though I’ve become an insider. Luckily, Cambridge is full of surprises, and sometimes things that shock, so it’s not hard to see it afresh, even after all these years.

Clare Chase writes fast-paced romantic mysteries, inspired by what makes people tick. She reads everything from Jilly Cooper to Sue Grafton, and finds romance complements crime perfectly, doubling the intrigue.
Clare wrote dodgy whodunnits in primary school, read English at London University, and honed her creative writing skills working in PR.
In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, cooking and wandering round the pubs and galleries of Cambridge, where she lives with her husband and teenage daughters.
Twitter: @ClareChase_

Thank you, Clare!

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

If you would like to write an article for the blog please contact us on

Friday, January 2, 2015

Nicola Cornick: Changing Times, Changing Genres

Welcome to Nicola Cornick who writes our first blog post for 2015.

Thank you very much for inviting me to the RNA Blog today. It’s a great pleasure to be here!

It was with something of a shock that I realised in 2013 that I had been writing Regency historicals for fifteen years. From the publication of my first traditional Regency, True Colours, by Harlequin Mills and Boon in 1998, I have had a wonderful time living in an alternative historical world. Along the way I have changed from a UK to a US publisher and now back again. The stories have become longer, more sensual and have ranged in setting from the ballrooms of London to the Highlands of Scotland to the far north of the Arctic.

It’s been an amazing time but for more than ten of those fifteen “Regency” years there was something else that I also wanted to write, a book with paranormal elements where the past and the present are entwined, and secrets and mysteries from centuries past are brought to light. I’d been promising myself for years that one day I would write this story but it always got squeezed out by contracts and deadlines until last year I thought that if I didn’t stop and write it now, maybe I never would.

I work as a guide and historian at the National Trust house Ashdown Park, a place with a rich and vivid history that has given me so much inspiration. It was a given that if I wrote a timeslip book then Ashdown and its history would take centre stage. So I started to plan a book set at Ashdown with three intertwined stories. One takes place in the 17th century and involves Ashdown’s owner, the Earl of Craven and Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, to whom it is rumoured he was secretly married. A second strand of the story is based on the notorious love affair of the 19th century Earl of Craven and the courtesan Harriette Wilson, and there is a contemporary thread revealing the connections that link the characters through the centuries.

 When I first started to write the book (as opposed to it being a collection of ideas in my head) I also started to have dreams in which I took on a series of ever more bizarre challenges (organising a competition for racing pigeons was one!) I felt scared. I had doubts. I think that maybe I was afraid deep down that I didn’t know how to write something so different. It was exciting to have the time and space for this new project but it was also disorientating because suddenly, after years of promising myself that this was the book of my heart, I actually had to prove it. I had to write it.

With three intertwined stories the book required a lot of planning, a detailed structure and a complex plot, three things that have never been my forte. My books usually arise out of the characters or from particular historical events. I get an idea and write off into the blue. This time, though, I was mixing fact and fiction and also mixing three time periods. When I tried to plan in detail my brain froze up so in the end I did what I always do and just plunged straight in and waited to see what happened. The whole book was a very, very steep learning curve as I struggled to create three stories that were individually compelling yet also wove together to create a much bigger canvas than anything I had ever written before. It was also a huge amount of fun!

Ashdown Park

Now the book is written and I am revising it to layer in some more character depth and texture, smooth out the wrinkles in the plot and tighten the pace. At the moment the most difficult thing to decide upon is the title – something suitably historical and a tad mysterious!  Please look out for the book coming in September from MIRA Books – by which time it will definitely have a name!

Thank you, Nicola for writing such an informative piece.

The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to contribute an article or write about your latest publication please contact us on

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nikki Moore: What does New Year mean to you?

Welcome to Nikki Moore with our final blog post of 2014. A time for reflecting back on what has happened over the past year and forward to what’s in store for 2015.

I’m the kind of person who always makes New Year’s resolutions. They usually involve being healthier (going to the gym/changing my diet/cutting down on the amount of white wine I drink) or achieving certain writing or personal goals. Like most people, I’ve usually forgotten what my resolutions were by March, let alone succeeded in keeping them twelve months later...

I wonder if it’s because we make resolutions that are too aspirational, or unrealistic? After all, people can’t change overnight, nor can they change their habits from one day to the next. It’s all about small steps over time.

To me New Year has always been a time of new beginnings, an opportunity to put aside all the bad things that might have happened in the past year, and look to the future.

It’s certainly something that Frankie, the heroine in book two of my #LoveLondon series New Year at the Ritz wants. The last year hasn’t been good for her and she can’t wait for a fresh start. So giving her a journey - a romantic scavenger hunt across Knightsbridge - and two men to choose from, one from her past and one from her present, to go into the future with, felt right for the story.

While writing New Year at the Ritz, I realised that everything that happens in your life, good or bad, makes you who you are. It’s all part of your life story. Zack tells Frankie that, ‘sometimes to go forward, you have to look back.’ I think that’s true. So I thought back over the last year. What did 2014 hold for me?

On a personal front it meant the sale of the family home, moving house, my daughter moving school, divorce, and a new relationship. And writing wise, it’s been massive. I went from unpublished writer to published author. My first paid story appeared in the RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply which was a bestseller on Amazon in November, followed by two short stories in the Be My Valentine anthology. My debut novel Crazy,Undercover,Love (which went through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme) was published as an ebook by the wonderful HarperImpulse in April and paperback in September. More recently, the #LoveLondon series was launched with Skating at Somerset House, followed by New Year at the Ritz on 22 December.
Three more short stories and a full length novel will follow in 2015, to finish off #LoveLondon, so it’s going to be a busy year!

Thank you, Nikki and good luck for your busy year ahead.

Natalie and I would like to thank all contributors to the blog during 2014 and also the thousands of readers who popped by to visit and enjoy our interviews and articles. If you would like to contribute during 2015 please contact us on

 We wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2015

Elaine & Natalie  

Friday, December 19, 2014

No Pets - Not Even A Goldfish!

Welcome to today's guest, Alison May.

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
Well, it all depends when you count from really. I starting taking writing semi-seriously in 2002 when I signed up for a part-time creative writing degree, but at that point I was intending to be a serious playwright. I started my first novel nearly six years later when the serious play about Lord Nelson that was supposed to be my degree dissertation turned out to be indescribably terrible. I wrote the first three chapters of what eventually turned into Sweet Nothing in a blind panic so that I’d have something to submit for my degree. And lo, a novelist is born. That was in 2008. Sweet Nothing was published by Choc Lit at the end of 2013.

So you wanted to be a playwright?
No. When I was younger I mainly wanted to be Queen. To be honest, I sort of still do – I’d model my ruling style on Queenie from Blackadder II. Having said that, my mum recently reminded me that I wanted to be a journalist when I was younger. I think I was picturing myself as some sort of terribly daring Kate Adie type war correspondent. It turns out though that people like that tend to get shot at a lot, so I think I’m much better off staying home where it’s safe and making the stories up.

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
By being terribly organised, and getting up bright and early every morning and whipping off 2000 words before breakfast.
Not really. I fit writing around home life in two ways.
Firstly, I have a very minimalist home life. No kids. No pets, and a delightfully self-sufficient husband who is very relaxed about the length of time that elapses between clothes being put in the washing basket and clothes re-emerging from the great laundry black hole.
Secondly, I decided some time ago to embrace my own disorganisation. So I do have phases where I dedicatedly write 2000 words a day, but I also have phases where I watch a lot of Millionaire Matchmaker and write nothing, and phases where I don’t really wash or eat hot food and write 5000 words a day. It all balances out in the end.

Christmas is fast approaching and it seems a good time to ask you how you plan to promote your new released book, Cora’s Christmas Kiss ?
I’m supposed to have a plan? I’m not actually very good at promo. I come over all English and awkward when it comes to bigging up stuff I’ve written. I am writing a few guest blog posts for different sites, but when I write those I generally get carried away writing the post, and forget to mention how awesome the book is. Even on my own website I get very distracted when I’m supposed to be blogging about my books and almost always digress into a rant about whatever random thing has scuttled to the front of my brain at that moment. All of which reminds me - while I’m here, I probably ought to mention that Cora’s Christmas Kiss is awesome. It’s Christmassy, and romantic, and it has Father Christmas, and a mishap with a turkey, and a scene at the end that made me cry when I wrote it, and still made me cry when I read it at the proof-reading stage. You should probably all read it. If you want to. Or not. It’s up to you really. One wouldn’t want to impose.
See what I mean? Hopeless at promo.

You are also a short story writer. Do you find it difficult to ‘jump’ between novels and shorts?
Not really. I enjoy the completeness of short story writing – the fact that you can sit down with nothing and, one writing session later, have a complete draft with a beginning and an end, and if you’re lucky some semblance of a middle. I also think it’s really good practice for novel writing – all the skills of concision, and making every line and every scene work really hard that you hone in short story writing, you should be using in longer pieces too.

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
It varies from book to book. Cora’s Christmas Kiss was planned quite carefully because it has quite a complicated plot and some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey business thrown in for good measure. In contrast, the book I’m writing at the moment, which is about a professional psychic, is much more of a seat-of-my-pants endeavour. It’s different again if I’m writing an adaptation, like Sweet Nothing which was based on Much Ado About Nothing, because then I have to try to find a balance between planning how to interpret the original play but still leaving myself the freedom to put my own stamp on it.

Do you enjoy research?
Not even slightly. My wish to avoid research largely explains why I mainly write contemporary stories about British thirty-somethings getting drunk and making poor decisions.

What did you enjoy most about writing your latest book?
I had the most fun writing Liam’s storyline I think. Liam is a jobbing actor, and all-around nice guy, whose life is trundling along perfectly pleasantly, until… well I’m not going to tell you what happens, but it includes some very silly scenes indeed, and was a lot of fun to write.

How do relax when not working?
I do Zumba and Bokwa. Sometimes I even do yoga, but then I remember that I am not bendy and I basically hate yoga, so I stop again, and go and drink hot chocolate instead.

What is next for Alison May?
Well, I’m just finishing the first draft of my first non-romance novel. After that I’ll be writing part 3 of the Christmas Kisses series all ready for next year, and then, who knows? I’ve got a little notebook of novel ideas, and there are two that are really calling to me at the moment. The first is another Shakespeare adaptation, and the second involves a terribly well-mannered ghost. I might spend a bit of time writing odd scenes on both and see which one most grabs my attention.

Alison May is a novelist and short story writer, who writes romantic comedies for Choc Lit. Her debut novel, Sweet Nothing, was published in 2013, closely followed by Holly’s Christmas Kiss Alison lives in Worcester with her husband, but still no pets, on account of what happened to the goldfish.

Twitter @MsAlisonMay

About Cora’s Christmas Kiss: 
Can you expect a perfect Christmas after the year from hell?
Cora and Liam have both experienced horrible years that have led them to the same unlikely place – spending December working in the Grotto at Golding’s department store.
Under the cover of a Father Christmas fat suit and an extremely unflattering reindeer costume, they find comfort in sharing their tales of woe during their bleak staffroom lunch breaks. But is their new-found friendship just for Christmas? Or have they created something deeper, something that could carry them through to a hopeful new year?
Plus, keep your eyes peeled for characters you may recognise from Alison’s previous novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.

We are not even going to ask about the goldfish, Alison. Thank you for joining us today.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Linda Chamberlain: Press releases for authors

A big welcome to author and journalist, Linda Chamberlain who has written a very handy article on writing press releases to promote our books.

We are writers so therefore we can write a press release.
But can we all write one to accompany the launch of our latest book? Will it help make the headlines? And will it help sales? Or should we let our publisher do the job for us?

I knew my debut novel – The First Vet – which was published on Amazon last month was a press release waiting to happen. I’ve been a journalist most of my working life and can smell a story when it’s near, especially if I’m working on it every single day. Mine was simple. My book was a blend of fact and fiction about one of this country’s first ever vets. He was a man ahead of his time, an animal’s rights campaigner before the term was coined. But his work was condemned and then forgotten for 200 years.
The aim of my novel was two-fold, to tell a page-turning story about love and corruption and to make Bracy Clark’s name known again. It was already starting to happen without my contribution as he is mentioned on web sites from New Zealand to New York as being the godfather of a growing movement to enable domestic horses to live more natural lives. Once the book was published, I got out a press release with a list of bullet points.


I was giving journalists and bloggers a choice of headlines.
I started sending it out slowly. First to equine web sites and on line magazines that I knew would have an interest. Reports have started and my press release has gone on line thanks to writers in Brighton and as far afield as Vancouver.
According to Tony Mulliken, chairman of Midas PR, every book should have an accompanying press release. ‘It’s an aid and should give an instant impression of what the book is about,’ he said.
Publishers will notify magazines about a new publication months in advance because they have such long lead-in times. Newspapers will be told nearer to publication date.  The aim is to get coverage and reviews.
Let’s face it; any book has at least one headline in it even if it’s only Writer Publishes Book. The Guardian may not care but an author’s local paper will. So will local magazines. If there is a professional angle – it should be exploited.
Jean Fullerton, who has just stood down as chair of the London RNA chapter, has a successful series of books set post war and steeped in nursing. She’s a former nurse and now lectures in nursing. What a great story. Did her publisher make use of it? Of course. So did Jean.  She altered the publisher’s press release and sent it out to her local media.
‘It saved me the hard work of writing it. I changed it a bit and emphasised the locality; personalised it. I got a lot of publicity from it,’ she said.

There’s a useful technique to writing a press release and that is to get all the important information near to the top - nothing vital to be saved for the end, apart from your contact details. Journalists write under huge pressure. Novelists do too but rarely with a news editor standing at their elbow and screaming in their right ear while the chief sub pulls his hair in frustration. Nerve wracking. Journalists will thank you if you’ve kept the good stuff at the top. Summarise your story for them, make sure it has a good intro and make sure you include some quotes. Yes, even from yourself. If you are the author who won an award last year, remind them.
Don’t forget there are lots of publications that run on a very tight budget. Small free newspapers and magazines that are pushed through your door will appreciate if you let your press release run at length. You might fill up a page or two for them at no cost to themselves and in return they may sell you some books.

Remember – a book’s best marketing asset is its author.
About Linda: 

Linda Chamberlain has been a journalist most of her working life but a horse rider for quite a bit longer. When she’s not typing away at her latest manuscript she’s usually off on that horse again! The First Vet is her debut novel. She lives in Sussex with her family and a couple of four-legged friends.
Thank you, Linda for a most informative article.

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Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

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