Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Book's Journey by Julia Williams

Julia Williams tells us about the book's development...

THE BRIDESMAID PACT which comes out on May 28th is my fourth book, and in a way my most personal to date. Not, I hasten to add, that I have shared any of my heroines' experiences as such, but I did delve deep into some situations from my own life for inspiration, and somehow almost by accident I ended up writing a book set very much in the territory of my youth. That's the strange thing about writing: when my editor suggested I write a book about weddings, I started off with a light bit of froth which was going to involve race horses and vineyards, and somehow ended up with something quite a lot darker, which went nowhere near a race course. I'm glad to say though, an early idea, to have my heroines go to Eurodisney on a hen night did last the distance.

So what did I end up writing about? Well, funnily enough, for a book that is about arguably the most important day in a girl's life (well if she's a romantic like me, anyway), there is just as much in here about friendship - and in particular the friendship of women. I think for a lot of women, particularly, when they have children, those friendships can centre around the domestic sphere, and I wanted to write about that: about the joy, comfort and strength women can give each other, and also about forgiveness and redemption when those relationships go awry.

So my story follows the fortunes of four friends: Caz, Sarah, Doris and Beth, who aged 8 make a pact with one another that when they grow up they will be each other's bridesmaids. Though of course, real life doesn't work out quite as they had planned. But despite all the difficulties that come in their way, the original strength of the Fab Four (named after my own quartet of teenage friends), turns out to be a stronger deeper bond then they might imagine...


Monday, May 17, 2010

An Event in Liverpool - Pages Ago

Readers in Liverpool!

June Francis and Melinda Hammond are attending the launch of Pages Ago at the Bluecoats Arts Centre in Liverpool on Tueday 18th May. The aim of Pages Ago is to encourage more reading of history - fiction and non-fiction and the launch wil include a panel discussion chaired by Dr Jerome de Groot, Lecturer in English and American Stides at Manchester University and will include writer Sarah Dunant, Egyptologist Dr Joce Tyldesley and Juliet Gardiner, Review Editor of History Today.

The discussion should be lively and if anyone would like to come along, the launch event starts at 3 pm and ends around 5 pm. Tickets and more information can be found at

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Summer Party Pictures and a Contest

It was a beautiful evening for the Summer Party at the Library of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and as always it was a buzz of conversation and laughter. It had to be a first the this year's winner of the Joan Hessayson Award went to a woman about to give birth in Spain, Lucy King. For her delighted reaction visit the RNA website
(NOTE: your photographer is capable of taking pictures and holding a glass of wine but note of carrying a note pad for names - so I have done my best to capture names but have failed dismally in several places- humble apologies)

(above Veronique Goodman, Margaret James and Cathie Hartigan)

(l to r Linda Mitchelemore, Sarah Newson, and Anne Bennett)

(Chris Stovell, Lyn Vernham and Sue Morcroft)

(June Tate and friend)

(Julie Vince, Norma Curtis and Trisha Ashley)

( Jan Jones introduces Katie Fforde)

( could put in comment here but your scribe will refrain - Julie Cohen and Nell Dixon)

(Lucy King's editor at Mills & Boon talking about Lucy and her winning book)

(Allie Spencer speaking about her year since winner the award last year while Katie Fforde speaks to this year's winner Lucy King on the phone)

(Rowan Coleman and Nell Dixon)

(Two editors from Hodder - Sophie Missing and Ms.Toon)

(Hannah Green and Natalie Braine from Orion with Jean Fullerton)

(Sarah Duncan, Lizzie Owen Thomas and friend)

(Margaret Barker, Flo Nicole of Mills & Boon and Jan Jones)

(your scribe was so overwhelmed by a wave of handbag envy she didn't catch the first woman's name - apologies, still trying to fight of the waves of handbag lust the next woman was Louise, and finally beating into submission Louise Mills from Orion)

Now that you have had a glimpse at the party it's time for the contest.

Thank you Julie Cohen for the donation of the prize - a signed copy of her latest book NINA JONES and the TEMPLE OF DOOM. Here's the mind bending question:

Using the photos below as a clue- what do most romantic novelists and the heroine of the book have in common?
I will drawn a winner out of a hat - well probably not a hat, but something- from all the correct answers post in the comments section.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Joan Hessayon Award 2010

Melanie Hilton, organizer of the New Writers' Scheme reveals the short list for the this year's Joan Hessayon Award...

The Summer Party is on Thursday – May 13th – and that means the announcement of this year’s winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award.
The Award is generously sponsored by Dr David Hessayon in memory of his wife Joan Hessayon, a long-standing member of the RNA and great supporter of the New Writers’ Scheme.
This is a high point of the year for me as the New Writers’ Scheme Organiser – although not quite as exciting as it is for the authors concerned! To be eligible for the Award novels must have been through the NWS at some stage, and somewhere in the crowd will be many of the anonymous Readers for the Scheme – there may even be three of them holding their breath as they wait the result for “their” author.

This year we have three contenders –

Monique DeVere - Divorce Etiquette (Wild Rose Press)

Georgia Hill – Pursued by Love (E-Scape)

Lucy King – Bought: Damsel in Distress (Harlequin Mills & Boon)

Three very different novels, three new Full RNA members – congratulations good luck to all of them!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Elizabeth Chadwick On The Anatomy Of A Book Cover

Best selling author Elizabeth Chadwick shares her insight in the process of creating a cover...

As competition for readers in the book buying market becomes increasingly stiff, the cover of a book has never been more important as a means of wooing the bookseller, supermarket buyer and the reader at first glance.

A book cover needs to sell the story, to place the book within its genre so it’s immediately recogniseable. It needs to give an intimation of what the book’s about. To make that all important connection between eye and hand so that a reader is drawn to pick it up in the first place. And for that to happen, it needs to stand out from the crowd of other covers all trying to do the same thing, but it also has to remain within parameters that readers will recognise. Basically the same but different!

This time last year, at my UK publisher’s, LittleBrown, It was time to discuss the direction we wanted to take for the cover of my forthcoming historical novel TO DEFY A KING. Planning always starts at least a year ahead of publication, if not more.

The jackets of my previous novels, designed by Larry Rostant had served me extremely well and continue to do so. Sales have increased dramatically with my half-headed and head turned away ladies (and one man!) in nice clothes. They were part of a trend begun by The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, sales of which had received phenomenal global success. As time had gone on, everyone (not surprisingly really) had jumped onto the bandwagon and it seemed to us last year that you couldn’t move in historical fiction circles without seeing some headless period woman in a nice frock on the front cover. On a couple of reader forums where I go to socialise (as a reader not a writer) these kind of covers were being branded by the forum members as the ‘Dude I’ve lost my forehead’ look.

We felt it was time for a change, but we still wanted something that wasn’t a woman passively posing in a nice dress, but that nevertheless still said ‘Historical’, We wanted something that told the reader about the character, rather than just being about the dress.

I was invited to a meeting at LittleBrown to brainstorm ideas with Joanne Dickinson, senior editor of commercial fiction, Barbara Daniel with whom I have worked for twenty years, Hannah Torjusson from publicity and Carole Blake my agent. Joanne had prepared a presentation document where ideas discussed via phone and e-mail before the meeting had been set down in writing. We discussed who my target audience was and how best to reach it. We discussed my positioning in the market. Who were the historical novelists that my readers also read? What did readers like best about my novels and expect from them? We identified core words and emotions that cropped up time and again.

Our next move at the meeting was to discuss how to apply the feedback to the covers. Various historical fiction book covers were passed around and discussed and we all agreed that the half-headless woman in a nice dress had been used to saturation point. We were all particularly drawn to strong historical film posters and high quality shots from fashion magazines and we felt that the word we were seeking was ‘filmic’. We wanted richness, texture and drama.

Once we had made that decision, the next thing was to brief the designer with our ideas for the look we wanted, married to details from the novel. I sent LittleBrown’s book designer Emma Graves photographs of how I envisaged the heroine’s appearance, descriptions of her from the text of the novel, pictures of medieval costume, and text and photographs concerning specific details that were relevant to the story. I also sent Emma the book trailer I had made for TO DEFY A KING and the music that had inspired me during the writing.

Novels are briefed up to a year in advance of publication, so often the designer only has a synopsis and a few chapters to go on. The cover is generally briefed in discussion with representatives from the editorial and sales teams, from marketing, design and publicity. Once there’s a consensus, then the project can begin in earnest. Briefing meetings are held once a fortnight.

While I was sitting at my computer, working on my next opus, Emma went away and got stuck into the research material I had sent her and the chapters of To Defy a King so that she could get a feel for my heroine Mahelt Marshal, who was to star on the front cover. Emma’s initial task was to come up with concepts that could be further developed at the cover photo shoot and formulate an idea of how this was going to look on the book cover.

The next task was to find a photographer to work with. In this case, Jeff Cottenden was the choice. He’s a photographer who specialises in covers for historical fiction and has worked on jackets for the Jean Plaidy Re-issues and for Philippa Gregory among others. Jeff provided Emma with the name of a model agency – which he uses regularly. Emma went through the list of available models and chose a selection of models who resembled my descriptions of Mahelt’s looks and personality. Presented with a shortlist, I chose Jade Creswell because I liked her hair which I thought was suitable for Mahelt Marshal, and from the photos, Jade looked as if she was thoroughly capable of putting on the right expressions for Mahelt’s vibrant personality.
Jade was available for the shoot date and we were in business.

The next thing we needed was a costume. Emma and the photographer went to professional costumiers Angels – and here selected a medieval dress. The original was green, but thanks to the wonders of photoshopping, turned out to be this glorious pinkish-red on the cover!

Although it doesn’t show on the cover, the shoot took place in a church not far from St Paul’s cathedral. The brief was to have Mahelt looking strong, powerful and pretty all rolled into one, and this was the mood they asked the model to portray. The shoot itself took about three hours with Jade sitting and standing and posing in different light to get a range of photos.

Emma tells the next part in her own words – being lazy here. It’s easier than me retyping it all!
‘After the shoot we had a very wide selection of pictures to choose from and selected three of our favorites to develop further. We tried different crops and ideas of single pictures of Mahelt but felt that we wanted to show the different sides of Mahelt’s character. We decided to do this by creating a mirrored image showing two different aspects . This concept worked well with the story and reflect it’s content. Although the idea is not unique and has worked on other printed material before, it gave us the filmic feel we were after. The photographs were then retouched to get the colouring of the dress and accessories right. We were after a rich, warm feel giving the story and cover that deep historical texture we were after.

Before the shoot I had looked into various option for type. I was after a historical typeface with some character and texture and thought the final choice worked really well with the title and cover feel.’

After this, Emma sent the cover to me for approval. I loved it and thought it was exactly right – saying historical but at the same time adding a unique twist.

Following on from this, the cover was presented to sales, marketing and publicity, who unanimously loved it and were very excited by it as they felt it would do really well in the market place. This is proving to be the case so far I am pleased to say with very positive noises being made by the booksellers to whom it has been shown.

I must admit to having a slight smile to myself. I really, really love this cover, but it’s a kind of ironic statement that instead of going headless, my heroine gets to have two heads this time!
So that's it. One of the ways in which a book cover comes about. It's not the same for all authors, and each cover is different, but this has been my experience this time around - and very exciting too!

One of the other interesting and positive things that has come out of the shoots that Jeff Cottenden undertook for TO DEFY A KING is that one of these shots is being used by my USA publisher Sourcebooks for the jacket of FOR THE KING’S FAVOR. (USA version of THE TIME OF SINGING). Although it’s very different from LittleBrown’s cover, I really love this one too. And again, it fits the novel in question. I love it that Jade can play both the imperious Mahelt, and the much gentler Ida de Tosney convincingly.

Elizabeth's latest release TO DEFY A KING is available from Sphere now.

To find out more about Elizabeth's work and books visit her website here

Saturday, May 1, 2010

RNA Members' Publications Coming out in May

May 4, 2010
Iron born and iron bred. Trust not iron, it will see you dead.

1 May 2010
If Dr James Frayne keeps his secret, he risks losing his job. Can Becky the Practice Manager save him from himself?

Headline Review
13th May 2010
Lu's looking for Mr Right, so why is she falling for Mr Couldn't be more Wrong?

Elizabeth Chadwick TO DEFY A KING
May 6th £14.99
Spirited Daughter. Rebellious Wife. Powerful woman. A story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta.

Mills & Boon
May 2010
As a member of the renowned Piccadilly Gentleman's Club, Jonathan Leinster has been instructed to ensure the return of a runaway. Little does he realise that meeting spirited Louise Vail will change his life for ever… Having discovered she was adopted, Louise has fled, hoping to find her family – but handsome, charming Jonathan stops her in her tracks! His task is simple: escort Louise promptly home. Yet all he wants to do is claim her as his own.

Beth Elliott APRIL AND MAY
Robert Hale
£18.99 / £13.99 from
A secret mission in Constantinople forces the heroine back in contact with the man who abandoned her.

with Three Times a Bridesmaid, Nicola Marsh
May 2010
The wildest celebrity wedding in a game lodge in Botswana gives Josie all kinds of problems - Gideon McGrath being the biggest of them.

Severn House
May 10th 2010
Kenna Mc.Kenzie defies her conniving guardian and finds love on the streets of Edinburgh

Little Black Dress
May 2010
Jess is a special constable with the Met Police but her day job, or rather night job is working as a pole dancer at Shoq nightclub and she is very careful to keep both jobs very separate. When her two worlds collide her life and her love life are both put on the line.

Tonto Books
May 6th
"Even More Tonto Short Stories" is the third collection by acclaimed publisher, Tonto Books. This collection sees experienced writers brought together with new and exciting writers to create an anthology packed with original, quirky, dark and compelling fiction. It is compiled and edited by Caroline Smailes.

Harlequin Spice Briefs
1st May 2010
A frisky and inquisitive Victorian widow gets more than she bargained for when seeking "Intimate Advice to the Gentlewoman".

Jennifer Bohnet DANGEROUS HARBOUR (Three Part Serial)
My Weekly
Starting May 29th

SEX IN THE CITY- PARIS (anthology edited by Maxim Jacubowski)
Accent Xcite
May 10
In this second collection in a series of erotic stories, Helen finds sensual temptation in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.