Friday, February 18, 2011

Author Interview with Julie Cohen

I’m delighted to welcome Headline author, Julie Cohen, to the author interview hot seat. Until recently, Julie’s been best known for her Little Black Dress books, but her latest book, “Getting away with it”, heralds a new move into writing longer, more complex stories with wider issues, as well as romance.

Julie, can you tell me how you first got started?

I’ve always been a writer—I’ve been writing novels, plays, poems, comics and articles since I was a kid, and I was a peer writing tutor at university—but I didn’t start writing romantic novels with the goal of publication until about 2000. I was teaching secondary school and hadn’t written creatively for a few years while I concentrated on my career, but I had an old draft of a Mills & Boon novel that I picked up again, for fun, and then I decided to make my dream of being a novelist come true. I joined the RNA and some other writers’ groups; it was a very steep learning curve, but I found so much support from other writers, which made it easier. I wrote four or five novels, all of them gathering rejections, but I was getting better with every one.

Everything sort of came together for me in 2004—I finalled in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest; I landed an agent (who I’d heard of via the RNA); and RNA chair Jenny Haddon took a risk on me and engaged me to be the first unpublished author to speak at the RNA conference—and the first to give a talk about writing sex. In July 2004 I got a call from Brenda Chin at Harlequin to say they’d like to buy my Golden Heart novel. Publication was delayed, but meanwhile, my agent was shopping my single title and I was writing like crazy...with the result that in 2006, I had five books out with two different publishers.

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?

I’m half and half. I usually come up with a premise for the book, and I spend some time developing the main characters and their arcs. So even though I have no clue what will actually happen after chapter three or so, I do know the emotional journey that my heroine will have to take. I usually write that down in one sentence, which sort of guides me throughout the entire novel. Then I write whatever comes to me. It’s quite often very surprising.

About halfway through, I realise I need to start figuring out how I’m going to end this thing. That’s when I get out the index cards and start plotting. I might or might not follow this.

After I’ve writte
n my first draft, I go back and plan the novel retrospectively, which helps me with revising it into shape.

I’ve written about this process in detail on my blog, if you’re interested:

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?

You know, I always think I might know the answer to that question, right up until the time that an editor is considering one of my novels. Then I realise, to my horror, that I have no clue.

Where is your favourite place to work?

I used to like to take my laptop to various places and work, but bad posture and bad working habits have meant that for the past year or so, I’ve had trouble with my back, neck, arms and hands. So now I have to work at my own desk with my own special keyboard and timer that tells me to take a break and stretch every 20 minutes. For a change of pace, I like taking a notebook and pen to a local cafĂ© and brainstorming ideas whilst drinking coffee.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?

I take Sundays off, and I take a month or two off between books to refill the well. If I don’t, my marriage and m
y sanity would surely start to crumble. Otherwise, I write every day. My son goes to nursery at 8 am, so that’s when I start. I’m not normally a morning person so this requires some force of will (and much tea). I write until he comes back, at about lunchtime. I aim to write an average of 1500 words a day, over six days; if I don’t achieve my word count within the time that he’s in nursery, I write in the evening after he’s gone to bed. I try to keep my afternoons free to spend with my son. Of course, when I’m hitting the home stretch on a book—finishing it or doing the last bit of revisions—I forget all about schedule and work every possible waking hour.

Which authors have most influenced your work?

There are too many to count, but here are a few. Ursula LeGuin made me want to write fiction. Leslie Kelly made me want to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Marian Keyes made me want to write women’s fiction. Kathy Love was my writing partner from age fifteen. Kate Walker was a kind mentor for me when I was starting out. Most of the published members of the RNA have helped me along in some way, at some time or other.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?

The beginning. For me, it’s like going to a new city without a map, or being able to speak the language. I find it exciting, but terrifying, and I faff around for ages until I absolutely cannot put off starting the book any longer. Then I write about 20,000 words which are bad and which I have to immediat
ely cut. After that, it gets easier.

How do you promote your books?

Blogging, tweeting, Facebook, an online newsletter, doing workshops and speaking engagements. I’m also a regular guest on BBC Radio Berkshire. The publisher and I send out lots of copies of my book for review. I enter contests, both in the UK and the USA. After Sue Moorcroft’s excellent session at the last RNA conference, I’ve started writing short stories that my publisher can try to place, to coincide with the launch of a book. I have a constantly-updated website and I usually have postcards and business cards printed with my latest title, in case I meet anyone who’s interested, randomly in a train or something. (Yup, I’m shameless.)

Do you have interests other than writing?

I quite like walking around at dusk and looking through people’s windows before they draw the blinds.

What advice would you give a new writer?
You don’t have to get it right the first time. The great thing about writing is that it can always be re-written—and no writing is ever wasted, because even if it’s wrong, you’ll learn something from having written it. Just write.

Tell us abou
t your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.

GETTING AWAY WITH IT is my first women’s fiction novel with Headline Review, and it’s out in paperback in March. It’s the story of Liza Haven, a rebellious stunt woman whose life goes terrifically wrong following an accident, and who goes back to the small village where she grew up, to see her perfect identical twin sister, Lee. But when she gets there, Lee has disappeared, and everyone in the village thinks that Liza is Lee.

I’ve always been fascinated with identical twins, and I was digging in my garden when I decided I wanted to write a novel where one twin takes over another’s life. But I wanted it to have more of a twist than your usual life-swap novel, which is why Lee disappears and Liza takes over her life almost reluctantly, to see what it’s like to be the twin that everyone likes for a change.

Finally Julie, can you tell us something of your work in progress?

My next novel for Headline Review is about a woman who takes a job as a historical interpreter in a stately home where they’re recreating the summer of 1814, and finds herself drawn a bit too much into her historical role. It’s got two strands to it—the present-day strand where her life is a bit of a mess, and the 1814 strand, which is more of a Regency romp. As I write, I’m waiting to hear what my editor thinks of it, and mostly chewing my fingernails (see answer to question number 3).

Thank you Julie, and I wish you every success with your latest novel.

If you want to know more about Julie and her writing, visit her website

To buy on Amazon:


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Presents? Sally Clements Shares A Bit of A Disaster

Last year, I decided to buy the DH a heart shaped valentine’s day frying pan to fry an egg in. It seemed a good idea, at the time, but in retrospect, I wonder what on earth I was thinking. DH loves fried eggs, so that definitely had something to do with it. And I wanted to say more than ‘here’s your card, where’s mine?’ After all, I’d given him a card and a box of chocolates (and received the same in return – what can I say, we’re chocoholics) for the previous twenty-six years, and I felt like a change.

It looked inviting, next to the comedy pants, and the bottles of bubbly. I even bought a few of those heart shaped chocolates and filled in the round bit in the centre for the yolk with them. I thought it screamed, ‘Innovative! Different!’ but of course it didn’t. Instead it screamed, ‘What?’ or rather DH asked ‘What?’ with that funny little wrinkle that appears on his forehead when he receives one of my ‘unusual presents.’

I made him a fried egg in it, holding the frying pan at an exaggerated angle to keep it from tilting over (the handle was too heavy, so if left to its own devices it tipped up). Cut his toast into heart shapes with my heart shaped petit fours cutters. And offered him a couple of chocolates from the box he’d given me. On the whole, it was an unmitigated disaster, as far as love displays go.

This year, I think I’ll just go with the flow, cave in to commercialism, and get him a chocolate orange. After all, it’s almost heart shaped, ( if you squint) and I know he loves em!

Sally's book BOUND TO LOVE is out now.

Jake Forrester, a controlled, self-reliant security expert  scarred by his father’s murder is pursuing his goal of an independent life, relying on himself and logic, until he’s forced to accept the help of an impulsive, spirited goldsmith who follows her instincts, wherever they may lead.
When Tempest MacKenzie witnesses a gorgeous stranger being bundled into a van, she tries to help him, but becomes tangled in a complex web of intrigue. Tempest finds stubborn Jake attractive, compelling and infuriating, his logic the complete antithesis of her reliance on her instincts. And Jake is fascinated and attracted to the feisty redhead.
As they spend time together trying to thwart a heist at the British Museum, the attraction between them flares out of control. The thief has a grudge against Jake, and danger stalks their every move. Will Jake learn to trust Tempest’s intuition, before it’s too late?

Bound to Love is available in print and e-book from here.
And from here.
And from Salt Publishing here here 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day- A Man's View from Matt Dunn

Valentine's Day: Two words that strike fear into the hearts of men up and down the country. Not because of the cards/bouquets of flowers/bookings at overpriced restaurants we're expected to arrange, but because nowadays, we're also expected to buy you a gift.

It's not the money, you understand – it's simply that men and women are worlds apart when it comes to buying presents. You ladies can go into one of those gift shops that men avoid like the plague, full of various made-to-look-old items and aromatic things, and find something like a scented candle that even unlit smells like toilet cleaner, or one of those tiny, decorated boxes that’s too small to ever hold anything useful, plus a card with some hideously abstract glitter-encrusted front and twee message, and you'll buy them – and here's the thing we don't understand - even when you don’t yet know who you're going to give them to. Like a benevolent camel, you can store these kinds of things for months, waiting for the perfect as-yet unforeseen opportunity to present itself so you can present the, er, present.

Yet for men, even when we're buying for a specific person and for a particular event, present-buying is a minefield. Venturing into the kind of shops mentioned above makes us lose the will to live, so instead, we might take refuge in the nearest department store, but it's then our problems really start.

For example, we daren't buy you clothes. We know you'll never wear what we pick out for you, and instead you'll oh-so-sweetly ask for the receipt so you can change it 'for a different colour', then actually swap it for another handbag or yet another pair of shoes, because 'they didn’t have my size' – code, of course, for 'I hated it'.

There’s always lingerie, but we know you can't take that back, so buying the correct size is of paramount importance; trouble is, the only way to guarantee we'll get that right is to check. This means rifling through your underwear drawer when you're not looking, and if we get caught - and don't want to ruin the surprise - we run the risk of being branded a pervert. Even then, we have the problem of what sort to get you; a red silk stocking-and-suspender set may get our pulse racing, but you might think it means we don’t find you sexy enough as is. Similarly, anything too plain and you'll worry we don’t find you sexy at all.

Jewellery's worse. We're scared enough to spend a tenner on a pair of knickers that you'll think are, well, pants, so the thought of spending ten times that on something you'll regard with equal disdain paralyses us with fear. And while most of us have learned by now that giving you something practical for the house means we're likely to receive divorce papers in return, that doesn't leave an awful lot for us to choose from.

So this Valentine's Day, do us – and yourselves – a favour. If you want to stand a chance of getting a half-decent present from your other half, then make sure you give us something first: A great big, hard-to-miss hint.

Matt's latest book, THE ACCIDENTAL PROPOSAL, is out on the 17th of February. For information is and all Matt's books visit his website here

'Ed Middleton is ecstatic: he's just got engaged to his girlfriend, Sam, and he couldn't be happier. At least, he thinks he's engaged. The thing is, it was Sam who did the proposing, and the more he thinks about it, the less he's sure that she was actually asking him to marry her. She could have just been asking the question, you know...hypothetically. As the wedding day draws nearer, Ed becomes more and more uneasy. Sam keeps disappearing off for furtive meetings and private phone calls, and when he spies her going into a pub with a man he's never seen before, all his old jealousies and insecurities threaten to re-surface. It's the perfect time for Ed's unhinged ex-girlfriend, Jane, to show up on his doorstep. Meanwhile, Dan - Ed's best-friend and soon-to-be-best-man - is determined to throw him a stag night to remember. And when a severely hung-over Ed wakes up the morning after the night before to see a second dent in the pillow, it seems as if Dan has got his wish. Will Ed manage to find out the truth about his stag night as well as the identity of Sam's secret man? Or will an accidental proposal lead them both down the aisle to a wedding neither of them ever imagined?'

Monday, February 14, 2011

Veronica Henry Shares a Valentine's Tale of Love on Twitter


I was upstairs one evening and my husband was downstairs, when he tweeted me to say he’d opened a bottle of cava and a glass was waiting for me.  I went a bit pink – somehow it was a very spontaneous and romantic gesture, and I realised the power of Twitter went further than I had given it credit for.  At the same time my publisher. Orion, was thinking about doing something based on Twitter, and knowing I was a heavy user, asked me if I would like to get involved.  And so Tweetie Pie was hatched – a little book of romantic tweets, guaranteed to put a smile on your lips and a twinkle in your eye. 

Compiling it made me realise that we don’t often take the time out to say the things we mean to each other, and most of us don’t have enough romance in our lives.  The love letter is long gone; even waiting by the phone for it to ring is a thing of the past, and we communicate in symbols and curt messages.  Even if we don’t get out a fountain pen and a sheet of watermarked notepaper, we can take the time to send an expression of our love.  I’m hoping this little book will be an inspiration and an example to us all.

So go on … say it!  Whether on twitter or by text or email or carrier pigeon … tell the person you love that you do.

To learn more about Veronica's books including TWEETIE PIE: 140 WAYS TO SAY I LOVE YOU visit her website here

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pure Passion Awards Update

Here's a few photos from the RNA Pure Passion Awards announcement breakfast courtesy of Midas PR...

Here are the short listed authors for the Romantic Novel of the Year...
JoJo Moyes, Elizabeth Chadwick, Sarah Duncan, Rebecca Dean, Kate Furnivall, Tom Gamble
Three of the short listed authors for the Romantic Comedy Award...
Ruth Saberton,Jules Stanbridge, Christina Jones
The authors short listed for the Historical Novel Award...
Elizabeth Chadwick, Christina Courtenay, Joanna Fulford, Kate Furnival, Rebecca Dean, Jane Jackson

The five of the short listed authors for the Love Story of the Year...
Jan Jones,Caroline Anderson, Louise Allen, Valerie Holmes, Abbey Green

Friday, February 11, 2011

Author Interview with Christina Jones

What a treat I have for you this week. If you love wit and humour with your romances then Christina Jones is the writer for you.

Christina, you sound as if you come from a loving, and most interesting background. Your father was a circus clown and your mother a qualified teacher. I particularly like the story of how they met while your dad was playing Santa Claus and your mum was the fairy in his grotto. I can quite see where you get your passion for love and laughter from. But tell us more. How did you get started?

 I've written all my life. I was writing stories long before I started school. I was an only child, and my parents were great story-tellers and readers, and I just grew up listening to them and working my way through their bookshelves. I thought everyone wrote stories. I wrote stories for myself and for my friends about everything - real and imaginary - and had my first submitted short story published in a teenage magazine when I was 14. I just carried on from there without thinking it was in the least bit odd - let alone lucky! I wrote romantic short stories for teenage magazines for years, then moved on to the women's mags - again without realising how lucky I was.

I was very happy writing short stories, and never thought about writing a novel because I thought novelists were very rich, very grand people who lived exotic lives in exotic places. As I lived in a council prefab in a very working class Berkshire village it just never occurred to me that I could be a novelist. This all changed when I joined the RNA (because of the NWS) in 1994. My first NWS submission was an attempt at a M&B romance. I loved them and read loads and loads of them. But I was sadly soundly and roundly (and rightly!) trounced by my reader. I'd made every error known to man, or woman. In fact the only positive thing my reader could find to say was that it was nicely presented. I cried and roared - and, when I'd calmed down (it took weeks!), read and re-read my critique and learnt a lot.

The next year I wrote Dancing in The Moonlight, a 35,000 word novella targeted at My Weekly Story Library - and (I know now that Hilary Johnson was my second reader - how lucky was I????) won. At the awards ceremony, I was amazingly approached by agents, all of whom told me I could write a novel despite me still saying (stupidly!) I couldn't and that Dancing in The Moonlight was just like a long short story not a proper novel. But I went home and gave it a go. I wrote Going the Distance (a romantic comedy about a horse racing village because we lived close to one and my granddad had been a jockey) in a month, (again treating it like a long short story so that I didn't get scared by the prospect of all those words). I sent it to the agent who had scared me least and she took me on, and sold it to Orion within weeks. It was picked for WHS Fresh Talent, and went into the charts. It was a truly amazingly magical fabulous time for me, and, thanks to the wonderful RNA, I was a novelist at last.

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
I'm definitely not a plotter or a planner. The thought of planning the story out in advance and knowing exactly what is going to happen in each chapter fills me with horror. I couldn't work like that to save my life. I know because I've tried. So, I'm afraid I just make it all up as I go along. I do have to have a title before I start though. I can't write anything - book or short story - without knowing what it's called. It only seems real to me if it has a title. But with the present series of novels (rural romantic comedies with a bit of practical magic thrown in), even before I have a title I have to have a magical element theme: crystals, dreams, or some other hocus-pocus. Then I find a title that fits the theme and away I go. The characters and settings are sort of already there, fully formed, living inside my head, so once I have a vague idea what the book's going to be about, and I know what it's called, I just start writing. I can't write any other way - I just wing it, telling myself the story as I go along, like reading a book or watching a film unfold.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Page-turning, definitely. Whatever the genre, it has to be a gripping fast-paced story, with real, three-dimensional characters that step out of the pages, a cracking plot, relevant sub-plots and supporting characters (not just there for padding!), and no long chunks of narrative to slow the story down. "Show don't tell" will be engraved on my headstone!

Where is your favourite place to work?
The spare bedroom is now my study. It's big and light and airy and filled with pretty, sparkly, twinkly, flowery things and pictures that make me happy. I can't work anywhere else. I've tried working on a laptop away from my desk and I can't. I'm far too easily distracted by everything else that's going on around me. If I'm in the study, sitting at the desk, with the computer in front of me then I know I have to work.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
No, I don't write every day. The only time I do that, in a panic, and force myself to sit at the keyboard until my eyes droop, is when I'm nearing a deadline and there are no excuses. Like now. Otherwise I'll probably write 4 or 5 days a week, and then only in the mornings. I love early mornings and find my best time for writing is from 5 or 6 a.m until mid-day. Then I work lunchtime shifts in two pubs (not at the same time!) finishing at about 3 o'clock. I've always hated afternoons, my brain just dies, so when I've finished in the pub I use the rest of the afternoons for walking and socialising and sleeping.

The evenings are usually taken up with family stuff. And I rarely write at weekends - unless there's the dreaded deadline, of course. So, I probably spend 6 or 7 hours a day writing - on the days when I feel the words are going to flow. On days when I know that my brain is fogged I just leave it alone. I'd rather write nothing than become irritated by not being able to find the words I need. When I'm on a roll I can write 5000+ words at a time. When I'm not I can't even manage 50. I've tried to be more disciplined and write 1,000 words a day every day but it just doesn't work for me. I think I'm an all or nothing person.

Which authors have most influenced your work?
Charles Dickens (loads of characters, odd names, social issues, humour mixed in with the bleak stuff); Dick Francis (page-turning plots and brilliantly spare writing - not a word used when not necessary); Jilly Cooper (her early books - not so much the later ones - because of the flawed characters, the reality of her romances, her humour and her wonderful rural descriptions) and (old-fashioned now) John Betjeman because I discovered him when I was very young and despite him being a rather snobby upper class man and me being a very working class child, his wonderful descriptions seemed to be about places and people I knew.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Starting! I loathe that blank first page! I've got my title, I've got my theme, I know what I want to write, the story is bubbling in my head, I'm itching to get started - and yet I find that first page of 300 or so really daunting. I think it's because although I know exactly who the characters are and what they're doing I still have to introduce them to the reader in an interesting and believable way. Until I get my characters suitably bedded-in, I mess about with my first chapter so many times it drives me mad!

How do you promote your books?
Despite being a Luddite I've become quite adept at using the internet as a promotional tool now. I use my blog (and other people's) and FaceBook too. I organise a launch party in my local book shop. I also send flyers round to all the local indie bookshops, the libraries, the local papers, radio and television every time I have a new book out. And I write my own press release for papers and any relevant magazines too. I think my publishers do it sometimes, but I'm aware of my place in the pecking order when it comes to promo so always feel every little bit helps. I'll talk or appear anywhere I'm asked! I never turn down anything that might end in a book sale!

Do you have interests other than writing?
I do cat rescue - we have a much-adored houseful of unwanted and previously unloved cats. I'm active in a lot of animal welfare organisations, and also raise awareness (and funds) for Motor Neurone Disease (my mum had it). I'm an avid football supporter (Chelsea - have supported them since childhood, long before they became posh) and go to as many games as possible. Also love planes so am a bit of an anorak at air shows. And I go to the theatre a lot because I love live performances - plays, comedy shows, concerts - anything. Ooh, and then there's steam - traction engines, steam fairgrounds, steam railways...

What advice would you give a new writer?
Probably because I started writing long before there was all this wealth of information which is now so readily available to writers, I'd say not to take too much notice of advice. There are so many people offering conflicting advice on how to write, when to write, what to write these days that it must be horribly confusing. So, as long as your work is presented well - typewritten, double-spaced, one side of the page - I think you should write what's in your heart. There's very little point in trying to follow a genre trend as by the time your book reaches the bookshelves that trend will be old hat. Write in your own voice (it's so easy to try to copy someone else), and tell the story you want to tell. Be brave about it, and most of all, enjoy it. If you love what you're writing and it pours out in your work, then your agent/editor/readers will love it too.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
The Way To A Woman's Heart (I called it Midnight Feast but the publishers didn't like it) is a romantic comedy about cookery and friendship and second chances and fairies. I wanted to use fairies as this particular magical theme because they've always fascinated me, and I believed in them when I was a child, I also knew that all the (very different) characters loved cooking, had to be strangers to one another and, for various reasons, be homeless but end up living in the same house.

So Hideaway Farm popped into my head, with the owner Poll (a woman with a real need to fill her empty home with lost souls) welcoming her strangely mixed brood with open arms. Then I threw in the fairies (who complicate everything), a couple of very unlikely romances, two OTT Michelin-starred chefs with a top-rated television cookery show looking for a venue to film their latest show, and away I went. I'm obsessed by television cookery shows (watch them all) but am the worst cook in the world (my family will vouch for the fact that I really try to cook, but can't) so writing about people who can cook beautifully, and letting them discover obscure and complicated recipes and managing to turn out perfect food was like therapy for me!

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
Never Can Say Goodbye (maybe, depending on my publishers) is the last in the present series of novels. And it's a sort of romantic comedy ghost story. I've wanted to write a ghost story for years! It's a cold winter book set in the village of Kingston Dapple, not a million miles away from my other villages and with a lot of the former characters involved. The heroine is Frankie who inherits a run-down shop in the market square and with a little help from her friends turns it into "Francesca's Fabulous Frocks" where she sells gorgeous second-hand dresses from the 1950s to the present day. So far so good but when the totally lovely Dexter Valentine arrives to take over the flower stall in the market place, Frankie (who had her heart broken three years earlier) is very smitten. However, Dexter comes with a bad reputation and an even worse attitude to relationships. They become friends, but nothing else, and with the frocks and flowers combination doing nicely, Frankie is happy. Until Maisie The Useless Medium arrives to tell Frankie that her shop is haunted. And it is. Frankie and Dexter, unbelievers both, are scathing. But after several inexplicable sightings and happenings, Maisie spreads the word, and Kingston Dapple in general, and "Francesca's Fabulous Frocks" in particular, become the focus for every kind of ghost-hunter. Will Frankie manage to keep her business going given that, thanks to Maisie's interference, there are now more dead customers than live ones? And will Dexter give-up his love 'em and leave 'em lifestyle and realise that Frankie is the only woman he needs?

Christina, your enthusiasm for writing comes over in every sentence. But it takes more than that to become a successful writer. You once famously took a national writing course, in what way do you think such courses help the budding writer?

Yes, I am an ex-Writers Bureau student, and proud to say so. I took the WB course at a time in my life when I was already published (romantic short stories only) but was wanting and needing to see if I could tackle other areas. As it was a home study course without time strictures, it was ideal for me then as I was my mum's carer and the assignments gave me, and her, something else to focus on rather than the all-encompassing horror of Motor Neurone Disease. I'd read the answers to my assignments out to her and she'd indicate in her school teacher-mode (she had full brain function but couldn't speak) whether she thought they were good, could be improved, or were just plain awful! She was my sternest critic.

I took both the fiction and non-fiction courses, although it was the latter that I was most interested in at the time. For me, the WB taught me how to seek out non-fiction markets and target/pitch pieces to them, how to use the facts I'd garnered to write several features on one theme, how to rein-in my over-use of adjectives and adverbs, how to write sparely and factually, and have my features and articles accepted almost as regularly as my fiction. They also pointed out that I had an ear for comic fiction writing (I had no idea!), and could and should try longer fiction (something I still managed to avoid!).

I have always maintained (as have the WB) that writing courses (any writing courses) can't teach you to write, but if you have a glimmer of writing talent then they are wonderful in nurturing that talent. They encourage it, point you in the right direction, teach you to be professional about targeting your markets and submitting your work, and keeping you abreast of what's wanted and what isn't in the publishing world. For a budding writer, in these days of so much available and confusing information, a writing course like the WB, with one-to-one tuition, is, still in my opinion, a wonderful way to explore your "wannabe a writer" gene in the comfort of your own home.

Thanks you so much for your time, and I wish you every success with your new book. You can find out more about Christina and her books on her website:


Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Passion for Romance - The Shortlist For The Pure Passion Awards

Katie Fforde, chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association is delighted to announce the shortlist for the Pure Passion Awards 2011.

The RNA Pure Passion Awards celebrate the very best in romantic fiction. Over 200 titles were submitted for this year’s four categories, from the long-standing and hotly-contested Romantic Novel of the Year, to more recent additions which recognise the breadth of romantic fiction – the Historical Novel Prize, Romantic Comedy Award, and Love Story of the Year.

This year's short list represents the whole gamut of romantic fiction,’ said Katie Fforde, RNA Chair. ‘We have royalty, love letters, history and humour, from both newcomers and established authors. A truly impressive list.’

The shortlists
Over 200 books were submitted for the greatly-prized Romantic Novel of the Year. The shortlist of six titles have been selected by a panel of 85 readers from the general public. The winner will be selected by three independent judges – Amanda Craig, author and book reviewer, Foyle’s War actor and contributor to the blog Vulpes Libris, Jay Benedict, and fiction buyer for Waterstone’s, Janine Cook. The shortlist, in alphabetical order by author name, is:

To Defy a King Elizabeth Chadwick Sphere
The Golden Prince Rebecca Dean HarperCollins
Kissing Mr Wrong Sarah Duncan Headline Review
The Jewel of St. Petersburg Kate Furnivall Sphere
Amazir Tom Gamble Beautiful Books
The Last Letter From Your Lover JoJo Moyes Hodder & Stoughton

The Romantic Comedy Prize is organised and administered in the same way as the Romantic Novel of the Year. To reach the shortlist, the books must be laugh-out-loud funny. The winner is chosen by a panel of judges - Jane Wenham-Jones, author and columnist in magazine Booktime, Glenda Wood, Head of Libraries, Culture and Learning for Hertfordshire County Council, and Sara Craven, author of over 80 books for Mills & Boon. The shortlist is:

The Way to a Woman’s Heart Christina Jones Piatkus
I Heart Paris Lindsey Kelk HarperCollins
Mini Shopaholic Sophie Kinsella Bantam Press
Take a Chance on Me Jill Mansell Headline Review
Katy Carter Wants A Hero Ruth Saberton Orion
A Date in your Diary Jules Stanbridge Little Black Dress

Fiction submitted which is set pre-1960 is eligible for the Historical Novel Prize. As with Romantic Novel of the Year and Romantic Comedy Prize, a shortlist of six is selected by a panel of readers, and the winner selected by three judges – Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Association, Elizabeth Hawksley, author and creative writing teacher, and Diane Pearson, president of the RNA since 1987. The shortlist is:

To Defy a King Elizabeth Chadwick Sphere
Trade Winds Christina Courtenay Choc Lit
The Golden Prince Rebecca Dean HarperCollins
The Wayward Governess Joanna Fulford Mills & Boon Historical
The Jewel of St. Petersburg Kate Furnivall Sphere
Heart of Stone Jane Jackson Severn House

The Love Story of the Year is for a shorter romance where there is a strong emphasis on the developing central relationship. A shortlist of six is again chosen by the reading public, with the winner selected by three judges. The shortlist is:

The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst Louise Allen Mills & Boon Historical
Mother of the Bride Caroline Anderson Mills & Boon Cherish
Bride in a Gilded Cage Abby Green Mills & Boon Modern
Moving On Valerie Holmes Linford Romance
Fortunate Wager Jan Jones Robert Hale
The Captain’s Mysterious Lady Mary Nichols Mills & Boon Historical

Two Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to two people who have made outstanding contributions to romantic fiction and the Romantic Novelists' Association.

The winners for each award will be named at the Pure Passion Awards 2011, Monday, 7th March 2011 at a champagne reception at One Whitehall Place, Westminster.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Author Interview with Louise Allen

I’m delighted to be interviewing Louise Allen today, a fabulously successful writer on Harlequin’s list. I love your website Louise on which you say you find the Regency era an endlessly fascinating era full of contrast and change, danger and elegance, luxury and squalor, but tell me how you first got started?

Badly. I am an awful example of how not to do it. I was aiming at HMB and assumed that a) anyone reasonably literate can do that. b) I will earn lots of money immediately. c) I don't need to actually read any examples first. It was a very steep learning curve but after that first sharp shock of realising I'd been an absolute idiot, I slogged away until I was accepted. Had never heard of the RNA until after I was published. Wish I'd joined sooner!

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
Mostly I'm a pantser after a lot of brooding on the characters. But I had to do very detailed plotting with the other 5 authors who made up the Regency Silk & Scandal continuity team and I am plotting in detail with the current wip which is set in late 18thc India because that is new ground for me.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Good storytelling with an original twist and an author with a "voice"

Where is your favourite place to work?
At my desk in my writing studio (Husband calls it The Shed) in the garden in Norfolk where I can be endlessly distracted by watching the birds.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
Everyday that I'm "in". I work out how many words, on average, I need to write each day to finish a week ahead of deadline and then do at least that many every day. If I do more then they go in the "bank" against unplanned distractions. I also revise the day before's work first.

Which authors have most influenced your work?
I honestly don't know. There are a lot that I admire greatly and try and learn from, but I try not to be influenced.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The awful sinking feeling about half way through when I'm convinced it is utter tripe and I've finally hit the rocks. I usually cheer up again about three-quarters of the way through, which is probably down to self-delusion and red wine.

How do you promote your books?
Website, blogs, Twitter and talks.

Do you have interests other than writing?
Travel, gardening, family history and researching history on the ground - the Great North Road at the moment.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Stick with it, learn to accept and understand constructive criticism, study the market and decide where you are aiming your book.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
My latest is actually a two-in-one called Regency Pleasures which contains The Marriage Debt and the Model Debutante. They've been out of print for several years but I'm very fond of them. (Mills & Boon February). The Marriage Debt came from reading about women during the late 18th/early 19thc who married condemned men because their debts would then die with their husband. Working out how to hang my hero was a challenge! The Model Debutante is about a young woman who models nude for an artist and I'm not too sure where that one came from.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I became fascinated by the early British experience in India after a trip to Kolkata last year and I used the wreck of a returning East Indiaman to trigger the three stories in my Danger & Desire trilogy that is out from August onwards this year. Then my editor suggested something set entirely in India and that is what I am working on now. It will be set in the 1780s, which is earlier than usual for me and I'm hoping that my hero and heroine are going to produce a son to be the hero of a Regency novel eventually. And, of course, this is a wonderful excuse for research so I'm just back from two weeks in Rajasthan where I've been studying the princely places in detail, riding on elephants and getting into the mood.

Finally Louise, all your books are strong on research so perhaps I can ask you more about that another day, but for now tell us what made you decide to write a non-fiction book.

I had done a lot of walking in London researching for my novels, accompanied by the 1814 street map and an 1807 guidebook. I found I had pages of notes and realised that they could be linked into some interesting walks. I'd enjoyed exploring, so I thought that others would too, either on the ground or from their armchair - and from the responses I've been getting, I was correct! And I also have a big collection of Regency prints of London, so it was good to be able to share those.

Thank you for your time and expertise. To find out more about Louise visit her website.
Walks Through Regency London - available from my website

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Releases

Arrow Books
17th February
When Sophie realises her family see her as general dogsbody, accepts her old friend’s offer of a chance of a lifetime to head off to the Big Apple.

Mills & Boon
February 4th 2010
£3.99 Paperback
Once a slave, maidservant Katerina has promised to convince Commander Ashfirth Saxon that she is an Imperial princess, but the longer she keeps up the  deception, the less she wants to deceive him… This novel is set in medieval Byzantium - for further details see Carol’s blogsite:

3rd February 2011
£7.99 paperback
Hoping to find solace in country cooking, Ella leaves her corporate life for rural Berkshire and finds instead a houseful of homeless foodies, a television crew shooting a top-rated cookery programme, a flurry of flower fairies - and the sexiest chef in the world.

Fay Cunningham SNOWBOUND
Linford Romance LP
1st February
£8.99 (Amazon)
Stranded over Christmas, Amy discovers Ethan's secret and passions flare as the snow deepens.

Samhain Publishing
February 22nd 2011
$5.50/ £3.17
Sworn virgin, instrument of the god’s vengeance—helpless in her target’s arms. 

3rd February
Life has been tough for widow Mattie Maguire but very soon it’s going to get a whole lot tougher.

A Penguin-NAL e-special.
A Georgian rake, a vicar's daughter, and a pagan ritual in rural Suffolk. When the great earth demon Waldborg rises in truth, everything changes in this reissued novella.

Penguin NAL trade paperback
Also in e-book.
When she and her siblings are to be thrown onto the streets of Regency England, Meg Gillingham turns to a magic statue for help.

Linford Romance Library LP
Escaping Christmas with a trip to the Caribbean is just what Maddy needs, but first a besotted bloke with a ring burning a hole in his pocket turns up. No! Then her godmother with a gigolo in tow. Fake snow and tinsel is beginning to look appealing...

Louise Allen REGENCY PLEASURES (Containing A Model Debutante & The Marriage Debt)
Mills & Boon
Feb 2011
Two novels with unusual Regency backgrounds - an artist's studio, complete with nude model, and the condemned cell in Newgate and a marriage of desperation.

Embrace Books
14th February 2011 
Can Charity ever make the rakish Lord Robert love her, when he’s convinced a husband should never be in love with his wife?

A People's Friend Pocket Novel
10 February 2011
When private enquiry agent Sophie Blaze bumps into her old school adversary
Emma Mountjoy the encounter leads to an old scandal best kept hidden.
On the way she meets the charismatic Jack West who has no reason to trust her.

Astraea Press
8th February 2011
New company, no further info at this stage

Cassidy Jones needs a holiday and her friend, Tammy’s cottage in New Bay sounds perfect. The beach could heal the bruises from losing her job and her fiancĂ©. Josh Parker is also looking forward to a much needed break after eighteen months of non-stop work. His friend Tammy’s cottage would be just right for some time alone. Or would it? (This is a reprint of A Taste of Summer)

Robert Hale
Hester, a laundry maid at the old Poplar Hospital, is already caring for her twin siblings, when her widowed father is badly injured at the docks.  Her dreams of becoming a nurse are put aside. The irrepressible Polly, Harry and disabled father determine to help, and with their pet dog Puglet, become The Poplar Penny Whistlers.

Noble Romance
February 7th
A foolish mistake has put Lydia James in a predicament, marry Lord Likely or become the scandal of Bath.

Susan Palmquist WHO’S THE BOSS
Cobblestone Press
February 11th, 2011
Getting caught in a compromising position at work leads to the unexpected.

Freda Lightfoot LUCKPENNEY LAND - LP
Jan 2011
W F Howes Ltd
Life is hard for Meg Turner living on a lonely farm in the bleak but beautiful mountains of the Lake District with a bully of a father and a brother who resents her. She loves Jack, but loyalties are threatened as World War II approaches, and Meg gradually realises that the only thing she can really count on is her passion for the haunting land she loves so much...

Aurora Aspen Mountain Press
February 11th.
A Regency romance with spies, horses and a dashing hero.

Sally Clements BOUND TO LOVE
Embrace Books

Security expert Jake Forrester must accept the help of impulsive, spirited goldsmith Tempest MacKenzie when they find themselves kidnapped together, despite his misgivings!