Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview with Helen Carey

Best known as the writer of the London wartime Lavender Road trilogy published by Orion, Helen Carey has had several jobs including army officer, crude oil trader, tour guide and management consultant. Having lived in various part of the world, she now lives in West Wales on a small coastal farm which she and her husband run as a conservation project. 

She is also an artist and has made a gallery out of a converted goat shed. As well as writing and painting, she now teaches on the MA Creative Writing at the University of Wales and currently has a RLF fellowship at Aberystwyth University. Welcome to the RNA Blog, we’re pleased to have you here. So tell us about your latest book and how you were inspired to write it.

My latest novel, SLICK DEALS, was originally inspired by a Dolphin Survey boat trip in Cardigan Bay. For some time I have wanted to set a novel in Wales and seeing an oil exploration vessel just off the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast gave me the perfect opportunity to create a romantic, exciting crime adventure. I have always liked stories about ordinary people getting caught up in big dangerous issues. When I first left university I worked as an oil trader for Shell. I now consider myself to be a conservationist. This novel allowed me to explore both sides of the oil debate. Involving the cool, sleek, city girl Ella Crossley in her oil tycoon boss’s family crisis and making her join forces with the scruffy, laid back American environmentalist Nick Jardine also gave me a chance to add some humour and emotional interest.

What do you enjoy most about your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?

Having been shortlisted for the RNA New Writer’s Award for THE ART OF LOVING, and then having written the LAVENDER ROAD TRILOGY, set in the second world war, I used to consider myself to be a romance/ historical saga writer. I loved being able to explore a broad range of relationships and weaving the real history into my plots. But I have recently turned to crime! In ON A WING AND A PRAYER, my heroine Helen de Burrel joins the SOE and is sent into occupied France. A lot of people wrote to me to say that they found the final scenes of that novel really exciting as Helen evades the Nazis to blow up the ships in Toulon harbour. It made me feel that I would like to have a go at a thriller or a crime novel. Writing SLICK DEALS as a crime adventure allowed me to bring my experience of creating tense relationships to a different kind of novel.

I love sagas with plenty of suspense in them. What tips would you offer to any writer wishing to write a saga?

Create a varied cast of compelling characters, of different ages and from different walks of life. It is the extent to which readers engage with the characters that makes or breaks a saga. Find a theme for the novel (mine was how people show courage in adversity) and keep it in the back of your mind. Make sure each one of the main protagonists has their own story, their own secret (or not so secret) aims and ambitions. Try to ensure the highs in one character’s story coincide with the lows in another’s. Know exactly how the story is going to end and structure your plot to make everything work towards that climax. Try to incorporate some humour too - it always helps. Don’t forget to read. And keep at it. As Winston Churchill said: ‘Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.’

Of all the characters you’ve created, which one holds a special place in your heart?

I am fond of many of my characters, but Ward Frazer, the Canadian air force pilot (and subsequently SOE agent) who first appears in Lavender Road probably holds a special position in my heart. (And in many other people’s too judging from his fan mail!) He is physically attractive, of course, but I think his real appeal comes from his nonjudgmental acceptance of other people’s foibles, his mental strength and physical courage, and the romantic tragedy of his past. Also perhaps because he is the only person to see the true quality in the young, sickly Katy Parsons.

I know you have enjoyed a successful career in print, are you upbeat or concerned about the digital revolution? How do you think it might affect your own career?

I am very excited about the digital revolution. I think it will have the effect of liberating writers from the shackles of traditional publishing with its artificial restrictions about genre, word count and author marketability. Without the gatekeepers of agents and publishers, writers will be able to spread their wings and try writing different kinds of novels, crossover novels, short novels, long novels, in fact whatever they want to write. OK, it will be up to them to edit, promote and market their work but then most of us want to/have to do that anyway! And readers will have much more choice about what they read. Yes, there will probably be too much choice but hopefully, in a free market, the really good, readable books will rise to the top.

As a regular attendee at RNA events, do you have an embarrassing moment you can share with us?

My most embarrassing moment at the RNA was at one of my first meetings when an agent I was hoping to impress asked me if I had ever had anything published, I was just shaking my head when a friend standing next to me said, ‘Yes you have, you once had a letter published in Whippet News!’

Do you cry over your own emotional scenes?
Yes, and not just the first time either. I’m glad to report, however, that my husband does too, he was checking through THE ART OF LOVING yesterday prior to uploading to Kindle and came in all red-eyed to report that he had just finished it and had only found five mistakes!

Aren’t husbands wonderfully supportive of we writers? Lastly, which is your all time favourite book?

I have lots of favourite books but they all share the same characteristic. The quality of the story matches the quality of the writing. If you get a really great story and great writing in the same novel then you get a winner! I’ll choose The Far Pavillions by M.M. Kaye as a prime example. And lastly, what do you think every good writer should avoid? Concentrating too much on the words and not enough on the story. Being too precious about their work.

That was marvellous, Helen, and best of luck with all your new ventures. Do come and chat with us another day. 

Slick Deals TSAP Books
A child is kidnapped in Monaco. 
The British government is about to license oil exploration in the Irish Sea. The only person to see a link is Ella Crossley, a young oil trader in London. But Ella doesn't want to get involved. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved with the irritating, American environmentalist Nick Jardine, uncle of the kidnapped child. But when the action moves from Monaco to London and then to West Wales and an attempt is made on her life, Ella discovers that the only people she can trust are a group of tepee dwelling eco warriors. And as she and Nick Jardine get closer to finding the hostages and to exposing a government licensing fraud so it becomes imperative for the perpetrators to stop them. Permanently. 

To learn more about Helen and her work, you can find her here:
YouTube books video: http://is.gd/TqqynO

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interview with Jan Jones

A very warm welcome to Jan Jones, who has been shortlisted for one of the Romantic Novelists' Association awards for the third year running. Many congratulations on your short listing with The Kydd Inheritance, Jan. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

My most recent book is The Kydd Inheritance. It is the prequel to my Newmarket Regencies, Fair Deception and Fortunate Wager.

What is it about the regency period that so excites you, and how do you set about your research?

It was such a period of change. The Georgian era as a whole saw the start of consumerism, but with the Regency, the Arts and Sciences became fashionable and society's mind began to expand. As for research, I wander round my local area studying the buildings, I look at prints, visit museums, read the books of the time, read the adverts in contemporaneous magazines...

I know that you also write serials which are not easy to do. Can you tell us in what way they differ from the novel?

My serials are quite short (21K for People's Friend, 16K for Woman's Weekly), so the story structure has to be much tighter. The writing itself has to be more disciplined. I am always conscious of the need to provide - not necessarily a cliff hanger - but a reason for the reader to buy the next issue.

Is it true that you must have fewer characters in a magazine serial, and how do you set about creating them?

Creating characters for a serial is exactly the same as creating them for a novel or a short story. They have to be fully rounded and live in my head as real people or I can't write them in the first place. I do think that if you have too many characters in a serial, it's impossible to keep track of them from week to week, both as a writer and a reader. If I need a minor character for some reason, I try to resolve that strand within the same episode.

I know that you are very involved with organising the conference for the RNA, tell us about your work schedule and how you fit everything in.

I have no idea how it all fits! I just get on with it. Going without sleep certainly helps.

Tell us about your previous award short-listings and any awards you've won. Do you think they help with a writer’s success?

All three of my Regencies have been shortlisted for the Love Story of the Year (now the RoNA Rose) in succeeding years. My début novel Stage by Stage won the Joan Hessayon NWS award. It is a wonderful boost to one's belief in oneself, and it keeps me writing when things get tough, but I don't think they have helped with success in any wider sense.

Are you ever driven to write by hand?

I always used to write by hand at night in my kitchen (because it was quiet), then transcribe onto the computer next morning, editing as I went. Now I have a netbook for evening use. It speeds the process up, but I lose that first round of tightening up. I still edit hard copy by hand.

Do you cry over your own emotional scenes?

Goodness, yes. How else would I know if they were any good?

What should every good writer avoid?

Don't read bad reviews of your work. They are appalling for your self-esteem. You don't write for those people, you write for readers who like your stuff.

Are you good at ignoring the ironing?

I'm degree standard at avoiding all housework. I have a distinction in not-dusting, but minimum-ironing runs it a close second.

Who is your favourite hero?

I quite like damaged, faulty heroes. Diana Wynne Jones (fantasy) was very good at them. Thomas Lynn from Fire&Hemlock, for example, and Mordion from Hexwood.

Thank you for talking to us Jan. The best of luck on 5th March when the winners of the RNA awards will be announced.

Jan's latest serial "Written on the Wind", a four-part mystery, starts in the Woman's Weekly in the 6th March issue. The first episode is on sale Thursday 1st March.

To find out more about Jan and her work visit her website at

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview with Joan Hessayon contender Lynda Dunwell

Over the next few months we’ll be meeting the authors short listed for the 2012 Joan Hessayon New Writers' Award.

A warm welcome today, to the first of these writers, Lynda Dunwell. Many congratulations on being short listed for the award, Lynda. Do tell us about your novel and how you got the idea.

My novel “Marrying the Admiral’s Daughter” went through the NWS twice! It’s a Regency romance with a strong nautical theme. My hero is a dashing frigate captain in Nelson’s navy, where an ambitious, but less wealthy recruit, could progress through the ranks by his own merit. Hence the ideal background for my hero Ross Quentin. Returning to shore after a long period at sea, where he has accumulated a fortune in prize money, Ross is the equivalent of today’s self-made man. But as a romantic novelist I faced one huge problem – how to get my sea-dog hero on land long enough to fall in love. That’s why I set my debut novel for Musa Publishing during the brief Peace of 1802.

How did you hear about the RNA, and how long were you in the NWS?

My mother died suddenly in 2005. She had always encouraged me to write and read my manuscripts with great enthusiasm. I had promised her one day I would be published. I searched the net, found the RNA and joined the first week in January 2006. I am indebted to the RNA not only for the many friends I have made through conferences, ROMNA and the Leicester Chapter, but also to my NWS readers, whose advice regarding plot, characterisation and style has enabled me to fulfil my promise to my mother.

Where did you find the inspiration for your characters?

Like many historical romantic novelists I read Jane Austen’s works. One of my favourite characters/heroes is Captain Wentworth in “Persuasion”. Jane knew the service well as two of her brothers had distinguished careers in the navy. My attraction to naval heroes also came through reading the fictional adventures of sea-farers like Hornblower (C.S Forester) and Jack Aubrey (Patrick O’Brian), just two of the many authors who have succeeded in capturing the exciting and romantic life-style of an age when Britannia ruled the waves.

To match my hero, I needed a strong minded heroine who had an understanding of life in the service. So, Bella Richmond is an admiral’s daughter.

But I couldn’t keep Ross away from the sea – he just wouldn’t rest until I put him back on board a vessel. When Bella is carried off on board a French merchantman, Ross demanded that I found him a ship. So despite stormy seas, he sets sail to rescue the woman he loves.

Have you had rejections and if so, how did you deal with them?

Every writer has to learn to deal with rejection. I am also a short story writer – almost every piece of my work has been rejected by and editor at some time. I have persisted, edited, rewritten and polished my manuscripts until editors wanted them. And none more so than, “Marrying the Admiral’s Daughter.” Persistence pays off. There is nothing like the feeling of receiving that first contract, savour it.

So what now? Can you tell us a little about your next book?

Continuing my nautical theme my next book is set on board the Titanic. Although I wrote “Tomorrow Belongs to Us: a novel of the Titanic” some years ago, I offered it to my editor soon after I received my first contract. The setting is well-known, the outcome well-documented and the story charged with emotion. My heroine, embroiled in naval espionage, sails on the ill-fated liner – will she and the man she loves survive? The novel is published on February 24 2012 by Musa Publishing.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Aged 12, I read “Gone with the Wind” in three days and got hooked on historical romance for life.

What would you say was the most fun part of an RNA conference?

The buzz of talking, drinking and just being with so many like minded writers – I always go home on a high.

Do you work with the door locked?

I’m fortunate as I have a study, I don’t lock the door because the cats like to visit but I do work in silence.

What would represent a romantic gesture to you?

Red roses and my guy saying, “Here’s looking at you kid, we’ll always have Paris.”

If you were fortunate enough to win the Hessayon Award who would you wish to thank?

(To be delivered in Kate Winslett style)
My NWS long suffering readers, all five of them, Celina Summers, Editorial Director of Musa Publishing, Editor Melinda Stephans, Cover artist Kelly Shorten, Line editor/historical Annie Seaton, Dr David Hessayon for making the award possible, my many RNA friends especially the Leicester Chapter, my dear husband, my children, my wonderful mother and my readers.

Thank you for talking to us, Lynda. We wish you every success with your latest novel, which with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic coming up, is sure to be popular. Good luck with the Joan Hessayon award.

To find out more about Lynda and her work visit her website at www.lyndadunwell.com
and her blog at www.lyndadunwellauthor.blogspot.com

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Extending Valentine's...with The Valentine's Scheme by Kate Allan

Kate Allan shares a Valentine's memory...

First the missions to Woolworths and Clinton Cards. Reading every card on the racks, the sweet ones, the saucy ones, until we found the perfect ones. Then to WH Smiths for special pens; gel pens, glitter pens, silver pens. And finally the art shop in the mews that sold the best selections of stickers. The scheme was simple: Valentine's cards were going to our secret loves on the school bus. And then we could tease them mercilessly about it. A prank, but motored by the beating heart of teenage crushes.
First the card recipients had to be selected. Easy for those only admired by one, but for the objects of multiple affections, mutual decisions by barter about who was sending which card to whom. The cards had to be written with great care at home; “i”s dotted with hearts, words ended with flourishes. Then sealed with spit and the best sticker. Addresses copied from the phone book and and then the card was hidden in among the homework ready to pop in the postbox along from the bus stop while no one was looking.
Valentine's day! A mist-breath morning as we wait for the bus. The most daring girl speaks first, “So how many Valentine's cards did you get, Adam?”
Adam looks away, colour in his cheeks. “Hundreds.”
“Bet you didn't.”
“What about you, John?” I pipe up.
John tosses his satchel over his shoulder and walks away. “I didn't get any.”
I know he is lying. I wrote his card, sealed it with a kiss. “Bet you did.”
John makes out he's the centre of a conversation with his mates. No reply.
A moment of doubt: has it been lost in the post? Then fear: did he open it, laugh and throw it away? My heart constricts with pain. Did he guess it was from me?

Kate's latest book...SNOWBOUND ON THE ISLAND ebook

After the break up of a long-term relationship Lisa escapes to the remote Isles of Scilly, twenty eight miles off the coast of Cornwall, for a new year reunion with old college friends. But as winter weather sweeps across Britain the airports close and only two people make it: Lisa and Dominic. She always thought him attractive and he still is, but he doesn't even seem to remember her.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Paula Martin

We are delighted to welcome Paula Martin to the blog today. She lives in the North West and enjoyed some early publishing success with short stories and four novels, but then had a break from fiction writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after taking early retirement. So do tell us, Paula, what made you want to write and how you got your first break.

I’ve always written stories, from being about 7 or 8. By the time I was in my teens, I was writing romances, usually in instalments, for my friends to read. I wrote my first full-length novel when I was in my early 20’s (it was actually an amalgam of several stories I’d written in my teens). At the time I was hooked on reading romance novels, and decided my story was as good as (if not better!) than some I read. So I typed out the manuscript (this was in the 1960’s) and sent it off to Mills and Boon, the only romance publisher I knew of. I fully expected it to come winging back by return of post, but six weeks later I had a letter (signed by Alan Boon himself) accepting the novel and with a contract for two more. So – first novel accepted by first publisher – how lucky was that? I had two more novels published by M&B, and another one about ten years later by Robert Hale. Then my teaching career and family took precedence and I didn’t return to fiction writing until about 5 years ago. Since then, I’ve had three romances accepted by Whiskey Creek Press.

A tantalising start, but I know from my own experience that life can get in the way at times. So what do you enjoy most about being a writer? And which is the hardest part of the job for you?

I love the times when the characters come alive and start to run with their story. Often they tell me something that’s very different from what I’d originally had in mind, and usually it’s much better! It’s a real ‘Yess!’ moment when you realise they’ve become real people in your head. At the same time, the first draft is very much the hardest to do and takes me the longest time, as I do tend to agonise over sentences and words.

However, while taking part in the National Novel Writing Month last November (with the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month), I realised I could actually turn off the ‘inner editor’ while I wrote the first draft. I was basically ‘sprint-writing’ and my mantra became ‘I’ll fix that later’. So I’m thinking maybe that’s what I should do with my future novels – get the whole story down first, then agonise over everything else later!

You say you love it when characters come alive. How do you set about creating them?

In a sense, the characters create themselves as I write the first draft. Although I give them names and jobs and put them into a setting, they’re rather like cardboard cut-outs when I first start writing. I can usually see them and I can hear their voices, and I gradually get to know them, just as you get to know people in real life. They reveal different aspects of their characters, sometimes surprising me. By the end of the first draft, they’ve become real people, and then I can add more depth to them as I revise and edit the story.

That’s interesting, I like the idea of your characters slowly coming to life. Have you ever redeemed and published a piece of work you thought might never see the light of day?

My first novel, with Whiskey Creek Press, HIS LEADING LADY, was exactly that. When I decided to try my hand at romance novels again, I dug out the box in which I’d dumped several unfinished stories. When I found the first half-dozen chapters of this particular story, I remembered vaguely how I’d intended to continue it and decided it was worth re-vamping. In the process, the story changed considerably from the original, but the early chapters still remained as the starting point for it.

Tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it.

My latest book is FRAGRANCE OF VIOLETS. The title comes from a quote by Mark Twain – “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” It’s a story of two people who have to learn how to forgive both themselves and each other. It’s set in the English Lake District which I know and love, and this setting inspired a lot of the story. I’m sure the village, which I’ve called Rusthwaite, will be immediately recognisable by anyone who knows the Lake District!

Abbey Seton distrusts men, especially Jack Tremayne who destroyed their friendship when they were teenagers. Ten years later, they meet again. Can they put the past behind them? Abbey has to forgive not only Jack, but also her father who deserted his family when she was young. Jack holds himself responsible for his fiancée’s death. He’s also hiding another secret which threatens the fragile resumption of their relationship. Will Abbey ever forgive him when she finds out the truth?

I love the Lake District too, having lived there for a number of years in my younger days, and Esthwaite Water is beautiful and a wonderful setting for a romance. I and shall look out for that. But on a lighter note can you multi-task?
I do it all the time, and often tell myself I’d be far more efficient if I concentrated on one thing at a time – but I don’t listen to my own advice, I’m too busy thinking about or doing something else.

What would you most like to find in your Christmas stocking? 
A ticket for a round-the-world cruise so that I could visit all the places I’d love to see, and then use them in future novels. If you could know into the future, what would you wish for? For my two grandsons, now aged 17 and 23, to find satisfying jobs in today’s (and tomorrow’s) world – and also give me lots of great-grandchildren to spoil!

Are you into family history? Have you discovered any villains among your ancestors?

Not exactly a villain, but one of my 3xgreat-grandfathers, a captain for many years with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, was eventually fired for being drunk in charge of his ship.

Oh dear, so who is your favourite hero? 
It has to be Mr. Darcy (the Colin Firth version - oh, those eyes!) but I also loved Hugh Jackman as Drover in ‘Australia’ and can’t wait to see him as Valjean in the film version of Les Miserables.

That was wonderful fun, Paula, and I should think will inspire many people who may feel it’s too late to take up an earlier hobby. 

His Leading Lady published by Whiskey Creek Press in June 2011 
Fragrance of Violets released February 2012. 
Her Only Option will be published later in 2012.

If you wish to find out more about Paula’s book you’ll find her here:  http://paulamartinromances.webs.com

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Independent Releases

The independent releases from full RNA members...

Freda Lightfoot CANDY KISSES (Champion Street Market Series)
February 2012
‘Romance doesn’t come sweeter than this tale of love and chocolate set in the grimy streets of 1950s Manchester.’ Lancashire Evening Post

18 August 2011
When they are left orphans and turned out of their tied cottage, fourteen year old Sarah Jane Winterday is forced to take her young brother, Billie, to the dreaded workhouse, but she vows it will only be a temporary refuge.  ‘One day I’ll be a lady,’ she tells herself. ‘One day I’ll wear silks and satins an’ ride in a carriage and people will look up to me and obey me the minute I open me mouth like they do Lady Chevington. Cookin’ an’ sewin’ an’ launderin’ jus’ won’t come into it.’ But Sarah Jane has a long journey to make before she comes anywhere near realising her ambition.
Previously published as The Stubble Field.

After the break up of a long-term relationship Lisa escapes to the remote Isles of Scilly, twenty eight miles off the coast of Cornwall, for a new year reunion with old college friends. But as winter weather sweeps across Britain the airports close and only two people make it: Lisa and Dominic. She always thought him attractive and he still is, but he doesn't even seem to remember her.
Snowbound on the Island is a short contemporary romance novella (10,000 words). 

February 2012
A collection of 12 short stories full of love, laughter and animals from the author of Molly's Millions and A Weekend with Mr Darcy.

18 August 2011
Nancy is a child of the London slums, a perky no-nonsense girl with the ability to laugh at the knocks life deals her.  Her sister is a whore and to save her from the same fate Lily takes her to work at a laundry which is no more than child slavery. Nancy runs away and makes a life on the streets, scavenging and begging, where she meets Billie Winterday, also a street urchin and they team up. ‘We’ll have a whole house to ourselves one day,’ he promises her when they decide to leave the streets and move into a rented room. ‘With six rooms and curtains at the windows and carpets on the floor.’
‘I don’t reckon you oughta make promises,’ she says. ‘Promises and pie crusts are made to be broken.’
‘This one i’n’t.’
But when things start to go badly wrong, it seems Nancy is right…
This is a companion book to A Line Through Chevington.

14 September 2011
Kate was known as the poacher’s daughter in the village of Middleacre where she and her pa lived in a tinker’s caravan on the common. They all knew she was not the poacher’s real child, though few knew the mystery of how she came to be living with him. Josiah had told her he had found her abandoned as a baby, but was Josiah telling the truth? He loved her and she was devoted to him and did not question what he said until two mysterious men came to the village on the same day, both handsome, strong, self-possessed men, but so very different in every other way. Something was happening in the village, something important, something that would affect all their lives…

October 2011
From a chrysalis to a butterfly
But can love emerge so perfectly?
From a narrow religious home where makeup and dancing are forbidden, life for Megan Cresswell has always been bleak. In 1950 after the death of her parents, she struggles to exist on her meagre wage as a young paintress in the Potteries. Finally freed from the disapproval of her father, she starts to listen to friends’ advice; find a husband or endure a life of hardship and penny-pinching.
Her search begins with the flirtatious Ben but she quickly realises he is a seasoned heartbreaker. Charismatic Nathan touches her heart only to return to America leaving her forlorn. Dependable Terry offers security but has the mother from hell!
After Megan takes an extra job with the wealthy Celia Bevington her life is spent in two worlds, one of refinement and ease, the other amidst the earthy camaraderie of ‘the girls’ in the pottery factory . But only when the mystery surrounding her inherited silver hairbrush is solved, does she discover a shocking and tragic family secret. 
And when she does fall in love 
Will Megan have the courage to take the step that will transform her life? 

Jennifer Bohnet FRENCH LEGACY
February 2012
If you refuse me and leave, you will have thrown away your son’s inheritance. With those words Nicola is blackmailed by Henri her ex-father-in-law, into moving to France with Oliver her young son.

February 2012
Widow of a professional yachtsman, Cassie Lewis is busy running the family boatyard in Devon. When catastrophe strikes, Cassie has to accept she can’t change the inevitable.

Benita Brown writing as Clare Benedict A DARK LEGACY
February 2012
Of the three men in her life only she could decide who was her friend, who was her enemy, and who would be her lover 

February 2012

When Hugo and Sophie are separated odd, sinister events occur, and they suspect an agent of Louis XIV who bears grudges against them both.

www.marina-oliver.net (many other Marina Oliver books available on ebooks...please see her website)

Originally published by My Weekly Story Library
Released 11 January 2012
Price: £0.87 inc. VAT or $0.99
On the death of her grandmother, Kristal Hastings reads the obituary of Baron Gustav von Steinberg, once her grandmother’s lover. Intrigued, she goes to Vienna in search of possible relatives. Rodolfo, a younger cousin of the Baron, is distinctly hostile despite the instant attraction between them. And surely he is promised to the fun-loving Gabi? Why does old Mathilde take an instant dislike to Kristal. And what kind of a joke was it to publish the obituary of a man who is very much alive, anyway?

Benita Brown writing as Clare Benedict DARK FUGITIVE
February 2012
Laura forgets all her former problems when she finds herself snowed in with a man she believes to be a wife killer

Benita Brown writing as Clare Benedict THE BRIDES OF EDEN
February 2012
Will Alison be able to overcome the family curse and find happiness with the man she loves?

Benita Brown writing as Clare Benedict DESIRE UNBIDDEN
February 2012
Talented television presenter Heather Kerr finds ambition and love colliding when Luke Barron walks into her life 

Nora Fountain JILTED
Released 18 January 2012
Price: £1.99 inc. VAT or $2.99
Jilted by Tim, while dressing for her wedding, Sam’s first instinct is to escape. Tim has rushed off to Paris and into the arms of a former girlfriend. Where better for Sam to go than the empty villa in Lanzarote where she and Tim were to have spent their honeymoon?
Tim’s odious stepbrother, Adam, makes it perfectly plain that, in his opinion, she has brought the situation entirely upon herself. Why then does he turn up in Lanzarote? And why does he start being nice to her? She must be careful – it would be all too easy to fall for someone on the rebound, someone as attractive as Adam.

Originally published by Robert Hale, also Thorpe Large Print
Released 5 February 2012
Price: £0.99 inc. VAT or $0.99
Verna’s visit to Italy is to pay her last respects to her young love, Gianni, before marrying Tim. Gianni’s mother, Maddalena, welcomes her, but Luke, Gianni’s devilishly handsome half-brother, is overtly hostile, blaming her for Gianni’s death and for wrecking his own career but at the same time is attracted to her. Franca, Maddalena’s god-daughter, hasn’t forgiven her for stealing Gianni’s heart six years ago, and now warns her off Luke. But why?
When Franca is kidnapped, Verna knows she must leave this beautiful place and go home to safe, reliable Tim. Why is she reluctant to go? Why is she relieved when Luke insists on her staying till Franca is found. Why would he want her to stay? Can he honestly believe she was implicated in the kidnapping? If Franca is found, can Verna bear to witness her reunion with Luke…

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An interview with New York Times bestselling author Jo Beverley

To celebrate this special day we have New York Times bestselling author, Jo Beverley with us today. Jo wrote her first romance at sixteen in installments in an exercise book, then went on to study history and American studies at Keele University. She later emigrated to Canada with her husband and when her professional qualifications proved not to be suitable for the Canadian job market, she instinctively turned to her passion for writing, and for history. 

And we are so glad that you did, Jo. You write wonderfully exciting historical romances and have enjoyed a very successful career, can you tell us how it all began and how you got your first break? 

I think a writer’s career begins when she first writes a story, and for me that was very young, but I sold my first novel in 1988. Gosh, it’s hard to believe it’s nearly 25 years! I didn’t burst onto the scene in glory because I sold to Walker Books in New York, which does short print runs for libraries, but the book received a rave review in Romantic Times that said, ‘The sky’s the limit for this extraordinary talent.” I’d really only been focused on the wonder of selling a book, but those words opened a vision of the future. I suppose I felt I should try to live up to them. My career began to take off when I switched to historical romance, which has a much bigger readership in North America, where most of my books were, and still are, sold. The sky really is the limit there. My last six books have been on the in-print bestseller list in the New York Times as well as other lists.

What a wonderfully inspiring story, so what would you say was the secret of your success? 

It’s a mystery. No one controls these things. Someone said that publishing isn’t a business, it’s a casino, and there’s so much truth in that. Luck plays a huge part. Publishers can put all their resources behind an author and it fizzles. Another author comes from nowhere to be a star. I have always written what I want to write, but I’ve been fortunate that what I have wanted to write has mostly been Regency and Georgian historical romance, which many readers enjoy. For example, I was itching to move out of the regency genre into historicals just when that market exploded. In fact, I’d sold three Regencies which were really historicals, but there hadn’t been the niche for them at the time. However, talent, craft, hard work, and keeping informed really do help.

You clearly enjoy writing sequels or series. What is the special appeal for you?

It was an instinct from the start and I love it, because each book makes the world richer in characters and other details. I have the Regency Rogues one and the Georgian one built around the Malloren family. Even my four medieval romances are linked, as are the six traditional Regencies I wrote first. I call the Rogues and Malloren series “worlds” because I’ve moved beyond the original characters.

For example my 2011 novel, AN UNLIKELY COUNTESS, was about new characters and set in Yorkshire, so the Malloren family only played a small part. My February 2012 book, A Scandalous Countess, spins off a minor character in the previous book, but involves a few Malloren characters because it takes place in London. Linked books enable me to keep in touch with characters from earlier books, which my readers enjoy, but I don’t have them all parade through without reason. This means I do get complaints, or at least questions about how characters are doing.

There’s a downside to all this. Keeping track of the details in a series that is written over twenty years isn’t easy, especially when I didn’t realize the longevity when I started. It’s often the little details that are most elusive, such as that dotty aunt who had a short scene in a book ten years ago. But which book? For this reason I’m now gathering details of my Malloren World in a wiki, and trying to note everything. I’ll fail, of course, but I try. If anyone wants a look, it’s here. http://mallorenworld.wikispaces.com/ 

Do you think the media is less dismissive of romance than it once was, or is this a cross we will always have to bear?

I’m not sure how much it’s changed, but it is getting better and will continue to do so. It’s so nonsensical to dismiss books simply because of their story line, and intelligent people will realize that. I think we might be at a turning point now, because in hard economic times people turn to pleasurable entertainment, and especially to guaranteed happy endings. I think it’s important for authors to set the standard by being proud of reading or writing romance novels in a commonplace way. By that I mean romance novels can be the equal of any type of fiction. Of course they’re a part of literature. Of course I’m writing the very best novels I can. Of course they’re real books, and good books. Why ever would anyone question such things?

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer wishing to break into the regency or Georgian market? 

Read as many recently published books as you can, mostly bestsellers, because there’s always a reason a book is a bestseller, even if it isn’t exactly to your taste. Try to see what makes the books popular. Decide whether you want to sell to the UK or US market, because they are different. In particular, the US reader loves to be taken into an aristocratic experience, and explicit sex scenes are nearly always essential. Remember that the romance reader is primarily seeking entertainment. Though a book is enriched by your knowledge of history, she’s not reading for a history lesson but for a powerful, emotional story of love overcoming great odds. Save the details for an author’s note at the end. Many readers are also interested in history and will appreciate your research there.

You have an impressive list of titles so are clearly a busy lady, if you could clone yourself, what job would you hand over? 

I’m coming at this from another angle. I find I need variety for my health and creativity. Over time I’ve shed many jobs and duties, but in some cases I’ve been the worse for it, so I’ve put jobs and hobbies back in.

Since you must spend hours at your desk, do you have an exercise routine to help you avoid writers’ back, and does it work?

Not an exercise, but a chair. The Herman Miller Aeron chair truly is wonderful. Expensive, but worth every pound.

I know you are painstaking over research, but have you ever made an unfortunate error in one of your books and got away with it? 

I’ve made errors, though none too horrendous. Some have been caught by readers and others not. Despite doing lots of research, I never assume I’ll be perfect, so I always accept corrections with true appreciation, especially those that educate me. I won’t make that mistake again.

All writers love chocolate, does it help you in your writing? 

Ah, chocolate. I was never much of a chocolate eater until I found really dark chocolate. I like Lindt 90% chocolate, and at that intensity it’s more for the chemicals than any sweetness. I’m sure it keeps my brain working.

And lastly, since this is Valentine’s Day, what would represent a most romantic gesture to you? 

Always the truly thoughtful action or gift rather than the conventional. Not every woman wants chocolate or roses.

It has been fascinating talking with you, Jo, thank you so much for sharing some of your secrets with us. We wish you continuing success and hope to have you back on the RNA Blog at some point in the future. 
Best wishes, Freda

If you wish to know about Jo’s books you can find her here: 

Or watch this delightful video of Jo talking about her latest book.

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview with Janey Fraser

Today I am delighted to welcome Janey Fraser to the blog. A journalist and novelist her debut novel THE PLAYGROUP, is published by Arrow. But as Sophie King she has written five novels including THE WEDDING PARTY, short listed for Love Story of The Year. She has also written nine non-fiction books and numerous magazine stories. For three years, she was writer in residence of HMP Grendon, a high security male prison. Janey/Sophie is also a past winner of the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy and a runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize. 

Janey, you are clearly a very talented lady, do tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it. 

It’s called THE PLAYGROUP and is published by Arrow £6.99. Aimed at mums and grans of all ages, it’s a pacy contemporary women’s fiction novel about the complex lives and loves of staff and parents with lots of twists and humour – although it has its dark side too. Fay Weldon described it as ‘unputdownable’ and Katie Fforde said it was a ‘must for anyone who knows small children’. I was inspired to write it because I love subjects with an umbrella appeal, that rope in all kinds of characters in different situations. I also look for topics that can bring in humour and sadness at the same time because that’s what life is all about.

Are you involved in social networking and blogs?Any tips for other writers? 

I’m involved now – but I wasn’t! I’ve just spent three weeks, forcing myself to get acquainted with Twitter, Facebook, blogging and updating my website. At times I felt I was going mad, especially as it interfered with my writing time. But I think I’m there now! The best tip I’d pass on, is to find one person to help you with all these different aspects. Also keep a big red notebook and write down all your different passwords etc . I found this particularly complicated as my previous novels were under the name Sophie King so I need two lots of social media. Still, each might be able to help the other!

You seem to be a busy and versatile writer, what do you enjoy most about this particular genre? And tell us more about your other personas. 

I write multi-viewpoint contemporary women’s fiction. I learned, after some false starts, that I have to write a story from different points of view. That’s because it moves the plot along and allows you to get into different people’s heads. My subjects need to be funny and sad as well as reflecting modern lives.

However, for many years, I’ve had an historical in my head so last year I wrote it. It’s called THE PEARLS and my agent took it to Frankfurt where there was a fierce bidding war. It sold for a six figure sum and is coming out in Germany this year. It also sold to Italy last year where it was number eight in the translation chart. So it shows you can write different genres.

Sometimes I wonder who I am! I started as a journalist at the age of 22 which was when I got married the first time round. My name then was Jane Bidder. However, when my first novel THE SCHOOL RUN was accepted in 2005, my then agent suggested I changed my name so readers wouldn’t think my books were non-fiction like my articles. Then last year, Random House took me on and were keen to have a change of name so I was part of their ‘stable’. In fact, my close friends and family call me ‘Janey’ so at least I will turn my head when I am called! I wrote THE PEARLS under Jane Corry because my agent said I had to have another name for a different genre. This is actually my new married name.

The RNA is famous for its New Writer Scheme. Were you ever a part of it, and what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

I bless the RNA! Hilary Johnson first introduced me when we lived near each other in Buckinghamshire. I knew her through a friend of a friend so we could so easily not have met. What an awful thought! I was lucky enough to be short listed for the New Writers Award about seven years ago. It was a great honour and a big confidence booster.

The advice I would give to an aspiring writer is to write about what you feel passionate about. Write every day to keep the plot rolling. Act out the characters in your head and across the room (what is the result of someone saying something; how do they walk?). Make sure something significant happens in each chapter. Don’t bombard the reader with too many characters at once. Intersperse dialogue with action. Be clear about viewpoint. Present it properly on the page (correct grammar; double line spacing etc). Don’t talk about the story to many other people (if any) until you’ve finished as it takes away the need to put it on paper.

I’m sure lots of aspiring authors will lap up your advice for their latest wip. Can you tell us something of what you are working on now?

I’ve just delivered THE AU PAIR which is the second of the two book deal I got with Random House. Luckily Teresa Chris, my agent loves it although I’m still waiting for my editor to read it as I delivered early. It’s about a mother who starts an au pair agency around her kitchen table; a French au pair who comes to England to find her lost father; and a widower whose daughter keeps driving au pairs away until she finds the perfect match. Wickedly funny and partly based on a terrible two years with five different au pairs. Don’t ask. Now for some lighter questions:.

And now for some lighter questions:
What was your most embarrassing moment at an RNA event?
In 2003 when a reporter thrust a feather duster mike under my nose. I explained I wasn’t published and probably not worth interviewing. Then he said ‘Jane, don’t you recognise me?’ It turned out that he was one of the very few boyfriends I’d had before getting married. He broke my heart and I married my first husband very soon afterwards. And no, I didn’t recognize him. That says it all.

What is the craziest ambition you ever fulfilled?
Not sure if it’s crazy but I’ve always wanted to go to Ronnie Scott’s. My newish husband and I went last year with my sister and her man but we got told off for talking.

Do your family and friends get any sense out of you when you’re writing a book? 

Not at all. This is one reason why my second marriage works. My new husband understands this.

Are you good at ignoring the ironing? 
What’s that?

Who is your favourite hero?
My new husband. He’s funny; eccentric; kind. And he gives me space.

How to Write Your First Novel is published by How To Books at £9.99
The Wedding Party is published by Hodder at £6.99
The Playgroup is published by Arrow at £6.99
That was fascinating, Janey, and we wish you continuing success with your new books. Do come back and talk to us again when the historical is coming out.
Best wishes,

To find about more about Janey Fraser and her books, you can find her here:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk