Friday, June 29, 2012

Interview with Viola Russell

 Viola, your latest book PIRATE WOMAN is set in Ireland. What made you want to write about this particular place?

I'm of German and Irish heritage, and I've visited the West of Ireland. It's beautiful and rugged country.  The people are friendly while the rural setting is peaceful, inspiring, and raw.  

It takes place in the sixteenth century. What was going on in Ireland at this time which inspired the story for you?

I love the distant past, and that time in British/Irish history is a fascinating but tumultuous time.  Grainne's(Grace) story was especially compelling.  This was a time of great change for England and Ireland.  The Tudors brought 

 upheaval to England, an then, great prosperity.  Elizabeth, a woman who'd spent a great deal of time in the Tower, rose to power and set the stage for the founding of an empire.  She wanted her people to survive and thrive.  What I found very interesting is that my pirate queen wanted to do very much the same thing for her clan and family.  Like Elizabeth, she defied convention and led her clan during dangerous times.  She, not her brother, represented her family's shipping interests.  Elizabeth and this pirate woman did meet, and Grainne holds her own with the queen.  In many ways, Grainne and the queen are adversaries, but they understand each other.  This was a time of great English expansion into Ireland, and Grainne knows how to manipulate, fight when necessary, and compromise when she must.  

Tell us something about your heroine and what turns a woman into a pirate?

Grainne was not really turned into a pirate.  Her family had long engaged in piracy as well as in legitimate shipping interests.  Her father, a powerful chieftain, often took her on his adventures.  Legend has it that she cut her long hair and sneaked aboard his ship. I incorporated this into my book.  When she married, Grainne became the de facto head of the O'Flaherty clan because of her husband's stupidity and rash behaviour.  When she married Richard Bourke, Grainne was every inch his equal and helped him in his enterprises.  She built up the fleets of the O'Flaherty and Bourke clans.  

What do you think makes for a good romance?

For me, a good romance has intriguing characters, a solid plot, and a locale that is as much a character as any of the other major players.  For example, the upheaval taking place in Ireland among the Celtic tribes as well as the political conflicts with England occurring at the time figure prominently in the novel.  In LOVE AT WAR, the wartime setting also figures prominently.  England, France, and Germany are integral to the plot and enhance the character development.  

 You live in New Orleans, so research must have created a problem. How did you set about it?

Well, I've travelled to Ireland and the UK.  Galway and the Aran Islands are two of my favourite places in the whole world.  I also research extensively. My local librarians know me quite well, and I also went online to scour records from the National Archives of Ireland and other sites.  IRELAND'S PIRATE QUEEN by Anne Chambers and PIRATE QUEEN by Judith Cook were very helpful.  So was UNDER THE BLACK FLAG, the ultimate manifesto on piracy.  

If you were starting out afresh what advice would you give yourself as a fledging writer?

I would tell any starting writer to follow his or her heart and not listen to naysayers.  Too many people told me that being a writer was unrealistic, and it took a long time for me to find my correct path in life.  

So what next? Have you already started work on your next book?

I have started work on a new book set in New Orleans and Europe during the Depression.  Red Rose Publishing,, has signed two of my contemporary romances, and I'm eagerly awaiting my edits.  

Thank you for talking to us Viola. We wish you every success with Pirate Woman.
Best wishes, Kate

To find out more about Viola’s work visit her website at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview with Mandy Baggot

A very warm welcome to Wiltshire based author, Mandy Baggot, who has been writing romantic stories since her school days. Music plays a big part in Mandy’s life, she sings with vocal group, Raise the Roof and in a duo, Hard Drive. Her latest novel, Taking Charge was recently published by US based Sapphire Star Publishing.

Mandy, tell us something of your journey as a writer. Has it been long and hard, or short and exciting?

It’s actually somewhere in the middle! Having written as a teenager I got back into writing after the birth of my first daughter in 2005. I penned my first novel Excess All Areas in between feeding, changing and naps (my daughter not me!) and submitted to one of the biggest publishers in the UK, Headline. They really liked the novel but not enough to take it on. Back then I was a little big fragile (yes really!) and I put the novel in a drawer! Then in 2008 I heard about and their Arts Council supported scheme to get writers into the marketplace. They published the book and I haven’t looked back. I’ve published four novels in conjunction with Youwriteon/Feed A Read but in January this year I signed a contract with US publisher Sapphire Star Publishing for my next novel Taking Charge.
Romantic fiction is a wide genre, which sub-genre would you say your books slot into?

I always use the term ‘contemporary romance’ because my books are all modern day and the main theme is the romantic connection between the two lead characters. However, there is also humour, drama, action, family issues, you name it it’s probably there somewhere in my book. I also use the term ‘chick-lit’. Some people don’t like it, I just see it as standing for popular women’s fiction and I’m more than happy to be associated with that!

What inspired you to write your latest book TAKING CHARGE?

A volcano would you believe! My dad and step-mum moved to Portage, Michigan back in 2000 and in 2010 we went to visit them for the first time since they moved there. We’d stayed for ten nights and were on our long drive back to the airport when my husband got a text from his mum asking if our flight was still going to go because of the volcano in Iceland. Well, a few phone calls and some Google visits later, we turned the car around and headed back. We ended up staying for a total of twenty one nights! Apart from the inconvenience and missing work etc. it was a joy to stay there even longer. It made us feel like we were part of the community and not just holidaymakers. Robyn and Cole’s story grew from my time spent in Portage, the people there, the slower pace of life, the different priorities they have, the old-fashioned, traditional values they still uphold – obviously the roadhouses and the ice hockey. We can’t wait to go back!

Are you inspired by music when creating your fictional world?

Yes! Both Strings Attached and Taking Charge have suggested playlists at the front of the books. These are filled with songs that set the scene for the novel. With Taking Charge there is a country/rock vibe going on – songs from Tammy Wynette to ZZ Top and everything in between. Readers really enjoy these added extras and I’ve had several compliments about it at book signings. It helps readers with mood setting and also lets them feel they’re getting to know the ‘likes’ of the characters.

Do you ever find yourself writing in odd places, like the bath?

I don’t think I’ve ever written in an odd place! I tend to have a notepad to hand wherever I am but not done it in the bath before!

Do you find it easy to keep faith in yourself, or do you have any tricks to boost your own morale.

I am the most determined person I know! I’ve been through quite a few battles in my relatively young life and I’m not one of those people who thinks ‘poor me’. I’m the person who shrugs her shoulders and just keeps going. Hard work and determination are the only two things that are going to help you reach your dreams. Some people believe in luck – I think you should make your own luck and then Tweet about it!
Do you edit and revise as you write, or after you have completed the first draft? What method works best for you?

It’s actually a bit of both. I tend to re-read the last chapter I’ve written to get back into the characters’ heads when I start again the following day, but that’s all until the first draft is finished. Then I leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks before I go back through it again. It takes me three edits usually before it’s polished enough to do anything with.

How did you hear about the RNA, and how has it benefited your career?

I’ve known about the RNA since I started writing seriously. I’ve met lots of author friends who are members and they’ve all told me it’s a great group to belong to. I attended my first conference last year and it was an amazing experience. By the time I had gone to all the brilliant talks and workshops I was completely exhausted but it was so nice to be in the company of all those like-minded romance writers! I’m a new member so I don’t think I’ve given it a chance to benefit my career just yet, but what I do know is when you tell people you’re a member it seems to be like a rubber stamp, a seal of approval to your romance writing!

Can you tell us something of what you are working on now?

I can! I’m working on a new novel at the moment entitled ‘Security’. This is a story about pop princess Autumn Raine and her newly appointed bodyguard Nathan Regan. Autumn’s mother also happens to be a high ranking politician and she’s been receiving threats saying that someone is going to kidnap her daughter before the International Music Awards. It is a romance novel but there is quite a lot of action and intrigue and you never really know who’s telling the truth. The tagline is going to be ‘Who do you trust?’

 Thank you for talking to us Mandy. Your determination to succeed has paid off and we wish you every success with ‘Taking Charge’.
Best wishes, Kate.

To find out more about Mandy and her work, visit her website at 
Follow her on Twitter @mandybaggot and on Facebook.

Friday, June 22, 2012

An Interview with Sarah Evans

I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Evans to the blog today. An English ex-pat, and RNA member, Sarah has been writing short stories and novels since leaving the world of journalism in the late eighties and taking up the ‘good life’ in rural WA to raise a brood, home-school and attempt self-sufficiency. In between home schooling, baking, gardening and harvesting produce, Sarah writes novels, novellas and short stories across several genres including crime and romance. Her short stories have been broadcast on ABC Radio and published in magazines and anthologies in Australia, England, America and New Zealand. 

Her sweet romance novellas are published by My Weekly Pocket Novels (UK) and her contemporary romance novels, under Sarah’s pseudonym Stephanie-Anne Street with The Wild Rose Press. 

Sarah teaches creative writing, is co-ordinator of Words in the Valley Writers Festival and edits for a children’s book publisher. As a former journalist what made you switch to novels, and what was your first success? Tell us of the excitement of getting that call.

I was a journalist for ten years and loved the whole kit and caboodle, but I’d always had a hankering for writing fiction. My first attempt was the Betty Trask Award. I heard on the radio that they only had one entry and there were two weeks to go to deadline. So I thought, I can do that and proceeded to write a very bad novella in between covering court, council and police rounds. A friend proof-read as I carried on composing and typing out the story. Another friend collected it and gave it to her husband who trained up to London and hand delivered it. All very exciting even if I didn’t get anywhere. At least I knew I could go the distance.

I didn’t actually get ‘The Call’ until another country and four children later. That book was written by candlelight in our shack (no water or electricity, with a baby) and took seventeen years to publish. But the most significant call was when I won a $5000 love story competition run by the Australian Family Circle. Such a buzz and it made family and friends realise I wasn’t just wasting time clattering away at my old typewriter...

What is it about your chosen genre that you most enjoy?

I’m a sucker for a love story - one with lots of humour as I’m not good with angst. I don’t see the point in spending hours wallowing in DMs. Every time I rework something, I like to get a laugh. I know, that’s really sad to laugh at your own stuff (my children tell me so too!) but if I do write a story that is too angst, I lose interest and put it on the back burner for another few months. I also like to throw in a bit of crime. My favourite genre is rom-com crime.

I believe you also write for women’s magazines, is that short stories, serials or articles? What is their particular challenge?

Occasionally I write short stories for the magazine market - again usually humorous ones. I have tried a couple of serials but they weren’t accepted. Both will probably be reworked as novels down the track as I hate wasting anything. Back in the mists of time I also wrote magazine feature articles. I do a lot of short stories for competitions but these don't usually fit magazine criteria. I think this is a good medium for trying out ideas and honing writing skills. There is a quick turn around and they are very do-able in a busy life. Also they can be good for the ego when you win competitions while being rejected on the novel front. Those wins also look good on your CV and covering letters to publishers.

You seem to be involved in many other writing related tasks including teaching creative writing and as co-ordinator of a writers’ festival, not forgetting homeschooling your kids. Tell us about your routine and how you manage to fit everything in. 

Aah, routine... As a journalist, I had no routine. As a new mum, no routine! But now, after 17 years of homeschooling my four children (just down to teaching the youngest one now), I do have a certain rhythm to life. Basically, up early (five in summer, later in winter) and walk the dogs and any pet lambs that think they’re dogs. Chores get done, which can be anything from bonfiring to picking copious quantities of fruit and veg (we try to be as self-sufficient as possible) and then school starts at nine. During school hours I do the washing, which usually means bucketing the water out to the garden (hence I don’t do gym or zumba) and any other jobs that can be done close to the kitchen where most activity seems to take place, including jamming, bottling, drying, chutney-making and baking.

In the afternoon, I try and do some writing related work. This can be anything from my own writing, to editing for a children’s publisher, organising workshops, preparing talks or doing emails. I do tend to keep scraps of paper and a pencil in my pocket to write down any ideas or lines of dialogue otherwise The Muse disperses into the ether for someone else to enjoy and exploit. Overall, my routine is seasonal. I have to fit in with the rhythms of farm, family and community, which means some weeks I hardly write a thing and other times I write up a storm.

You wrote SEASONS AND SEASONINGS IN A TEAPOT about life on your twenty acre farm in rural Western Australia. Can you tell us something about how that came about, and the difficulties of being a writer out in the sticks, as you call it.

SEASONS AND SEASONINGS IN A TEAPOT is a lifestyle/recipe book packed with anecdotes of our early ‘pioneering’ life from shack living without electricity and running water (with a baby) to moving an old wooden boarding house on to our derelict orchard, renovating, planting, playing the Good Life. It was written primarily for my children. I thought it would be a good book for them to have in later years. What I didn’t expect was for them to use it regularly as their own recipe book. And I also didn’t expect it to hit a chord with so many people. I get such lovely letters of appreciation from all over the world. I also get stopped by locals who tell me they’re cooking the pumpkin soup or flapjack. 

As for living in the sticks, Bridgetown is three hours from Perth, nestled in a river valley amid rolling hills. Though it is called a town, it’s more like a village. I’m from the Sussex weald and I found the Bridgetown landscape called to me. It is also a very creative place with lots of artists and musicians, writers and performers. There is a real buzz here. Australia is very city-centric but we are trying to reverse that trend. I have run or organised writing workshops for several years now and for the past three or four I have been asked to co-ordinate a writers festival, Words in the Valley, which means we can get some of the city-based writers down on the farm. Of course, the internet has helped in making us rural authors feel connected with the outside world. I’ve had publishers in the US, UK and New Zealand and my two sons are illustrators and have clients in the UK and Eastern States which would have been difficult a few years back.

How did you hear about the RNA, and in what way has it benefited your career?

I have been a member for years. I think I heard about it through Writing Magazine. It is great to be a member of such a vital organisation, though I do wish I could attend some of the events. So far I have only managed one conference.

SEASONS AND SEASONINGS IN A TEAPOT: A humorous account of the Evans Family’s adventures while establishing Teapot Farm, a 20 acre hobby farm in rural Western Australia. Published by Access Press in 2007. Reprinted in 2008.

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

OPERATION PARADISE is a rom-com crime romp featuring singleton cop DI Eve Rock, her daughter, Chastity, a teenage vigilante with high ideals, and Eve’s mum, a hooker turned nun who now runs a boarding school. For starters, there’s murder, kidnapping, bigamy and stalking, Then there’s dishy undercover cops, speed dating and speed kissing. 
Published by Clan Destine Press it is due out early next year.

Thank you for sparing time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. We wish you continuing success with the books.
Best wishes, Freda 

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:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interview with Leah Fleming

I am delighted to welcome Leah Fleming to the blog today. Born in Bolton to Scottish parents, after graduating from university she made a career first in teaching. After emigrating to Yorkshire with a husband and four children she found herself catering in market stalls and cafes, doing stress management and counselling in the NHS as well as trying to live the “good life” in a Dales village. Working in this landscape brought out the storyteller within, although ideas are now marinated for a few months each year under some olive grove on Crete. 

She has published 15 novels, been shortlisted for the RNA Award as Helene Wiggin, and the Captain’s Daughter is currently shortlisted for the Premio Roma Award for Foreign Fiction 2012 under the title: La Strada in Fundo al Mare. You’ve created a name for yourself writing sagas set in Yorkshire.

So tell us what made you take a change of style with The Captain’s Daughter?

I think my books have been gradually expanding over the years in both length and time span. My editor, Maxine Hitchcock, challenged me’ to write bigger books’ and explore using other countries (eg America and France in Remembrance Day. Italy and USA in The Captain’s Daughter). Having a son in the States is proving useful! The Captain’s Daughter begins in the middle of the ocean so I knew it would have to be more epic in style with a strong continental connection. Quite a challenge!

It must have been a particular challenge to investigate an event as well known as the sinking of the Titanic. How did you set about the research? 

I was lucky that the only thing I knew about Titanic history was the fact that Captain Smith’s statue was in a Lichfield park and much neglected before the big film came out. Now he’s on the Titanic trail. I began to read about his life and family and the controversy about his role in the tragedy. ”What if” sparks began to fly. It was a joy to research after that and of course we had to visit some of the American museums too...

I’m part way through reading this book and already fully engaged with the characters. How did you set about developing them, or did they simply emerge on the page?

I knew there would be two women in the lifeboat from different backgrounds who became friends for life. I used two places I know well: Bolton and Lichfield as their starting points. Celeste came complete with her name and May followed closely behind but the one who surprised me was Angelo. He turned up fully formed on the New York dockside looking for his family and I just knew he was important but I groaned when he appeared.(Lots more research needed here.) May’s moral dilemma in the lifeboat was a tricky one to resolve but I gave it my best shot.

This being the anniversary of the disaster there are many books out there on the subject, and a TV series. In what way would you say your book is different? 

I think this novel comes at the event from a different angle. The sinking is the “inciting incident” in my story not the main theme. The narrative grows over 50 years from the tragedy and deals with the psychological aftermath on my three main characters. We also need to find out who the rescued baby in the lifeboat really is.

The Captain’s Daughter begins on the night the Titanic sinks. Two English women from different backgrounds forge a lifelong friendship in the lifeboat as a baby is rescued and put into their care. What follows is at times a heart breaking journey from America, Britain and Italy over fifty years until the true identity of the child is revealed.

How long have you been a member of the RNA, and in what way do you think it has helped your career?

I joined the RNA as a full member in 1995. How I wish I’d known about the NWS when I first began writing. I was on the committee for a few years under Angela Arney and Norma Curtis where I made some lifelong friends. I am proud to have been on the steering committee for the first residential conference at Stoneyhurst and was one of the founder members of the first regional Chapter ( The Flying Ducks) in Harrogate. This northern group was a lifeline to me in the years when I was not being published, and I still attend regularly.

Some writers need silence, others prefer the bustle of a coffee shop. What is your favourite mode of working?

I am a ‘silence in the workplace’ sort of writer, not easy in Crete when working among the noises off and cicadas. I need a table or lap, a pen and paper for first drafts and my special research notebook with pockets for reference. At home, I have a pleasant office overlooking the hills and village churchyard so I can daydream out of the window. With my rocker chair and blanket it becomes a womb-like little den in winter. I work out plot lines and problems by taking walks down the lane or lying in the bath by candlelight.

I believe you've been shortlisted for an Italian Award. That sounds very exciting. Can you tell us a little about that? 

The Premio Roma award is an annual cultural award in Italy. I am one of five finalists for the Translated Foreign Fiction Award. We are invited with our partners to an official prize presentation in the Sala Pietro da Cortona in the Capitoline Museum and to a Gala award evening ceremony on Friday 13th July in an ancient teatro in Rome: all very exciting and requiring I think some sartorial panic... 

My Italian publishers; Newton Compton submitted La Strada in fundo al mare. The translation of Captain’s Daughter with its vibrant cover, unbeknown to me. I was invited to the magnificent Italian Ambassador's residence in London in April for the launch of this year’s prize. It was only when I heard my name mentioned in the ballroom that I realised I might be going to Rome...Wish me luck but just a free trip to Rome is a prize in itself!

What do you miss most about your childhood?

I was lucky to have a fifties childhood which was safe, open air, street based and full of handstands, cartwheels, ball games, dancing and messing about. I miss not being able to hang upside down as much as I did then but I think I can still do a mean cartwheel if pushed.

What’s your favourite guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure on a wet afternoon is watching good black and white movies on TV whilst eating dark chocolate violet or rose creams.

If the aliens landed which book would you suggest they read first?

Iwould like aliens to read In The Heart of The Garden which was written under my old persona of Helene Wiggin (Hodder and Stoughton 1998) It would give them a potted history of England through the eyes of women gardeners over 1000 years.

So what next? Can you tell us a little about your work in progress? 

I have just submitted “The Girl Under The Olive Tree” for publication in 2013 (Simon and Schuster). I have wanted to write this account of the Battle of Crete (1941) and its aftermath for ten years. It tells the story of a British and a Jewish nurse who both hide with resistance fighters during the 4 years of occupation. It is based on true events with my own twist and a chance to give something back to the beautiful island that’s captured my heart and gives me writing space and peace.

Thank you for finding the time in your busy schedule to talk to us today, and we wish you continuing success for the future. 
Best wishes, Freda 

To find out more about Leah's books, you can check her out 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: 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June Independent Releases

e-book. Kindle
The worlds of opera and pop collide when sibling rivalry takes over.

Is any relationship strong enough to survive a string of secrets?

Corfu is a sunny, charming Greek island, but for Val Baker it is dark with secrets.

Fenella J Miller THE DUKE'S REFORM
Can Alexander, The Duke of Rochester, prove he's a changed man and win back his bride?

Gwen Kirkwood FAIRLYDEN
Sandy Logan has promised Mattie’s father he will take care of her. Although she is deaf he loves her and plans to marry her when she is old enough but the laird takes over, promising her to a rapacious neighbour to buy the man’s silence. Sandy and Mattie flee from the glen leaving their possessions. They find refuge in the derelict farm of Fairlyden.

Sarah Fairly is happy at Fairlyden but her husband is ashamed when his eldest son is born with twisted feet. He is bored with farm life and sets up a precarious business, but his partner dies and his attractive widow poses a problem for Sarah, coping with a growing family, financial hardship and a secret she dare not share. She finds herself drawn to Crispin Bradshaw, owner of a Yorkshire woollen mill, whose father has bought the Fairlyden estate.

In 1906, Beth Jamieson’s mother dies. She is a loveable child and her father is the main man at Fairlyden. Sarah Fairly treats Beth as part of her family but her daughter, Sadie is viciously jealous. Logan, Sarah’s youngest son, is Beth’s childhood friend. As they grow older love makes the teenagers inseparable, but war is declared and Logan must leave Fairlyden to fight in France. The lovers cannot foresee what lies ahead. No one knows who will inherit Fairlyden.

It is the 1930’s men are desperate for work. Fairlyden has survived due to Logan and Beth. Their daughter, Kirsty, is proud of her father’s achievements but her brother, Luke is afraid of animals and his fear leads to tragedy.
James MacFarlane has spent his formative years learning all he can from Logan but he chooses to live Nithanvale, the Fairly family’s greatest rival. Kirsty feels betrayed. Her own responsibilities are heavy. When war breaks out, evacuees arrive at Fairlyden, and a greedy official tries to deprive her of the farm, but she retains her pride and her sense of humour.

Friday, June 15, 2012

An Interview with Rosy Thornton

Today we welcome Rosy Thornton to the blog. Rosy writes contemporary women’s fiction across a broad spectrum, from romantic comedy through social satire to more reflective work exploring women’s lives and aspirations. Rosy lives with her partner in a village in the Cambridgeshire fens where she enjoys long muddy walks with her two spaniels. 

When not writing fiction, she is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and lectures in Law at the University of Cambridge. Rosy has been an RNA member since 2009. 

Being a lawyer and writing romance couldn’t be more different. Do tell us, Rosy, what made you want to write and how you got your first break?

I never had any great urge to write, as a matter of fact, and made it as far as my forties without putting pen to paper at all (non-fiction apart). I had always thought of myself as poorly endowed in creative imagination. Things changed in 2005 when I watched the BBC’s dramatisation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel ‘North and South’, and was inspired to try my hand at posting some online ‘fanfic’. Within a few months I found I had completed a full-length pastiche sequel to ‘North and South’!

I managed to find an agent to represent me, and although she didn’t manage to sell that novel, I had by then been thoroughly bitten by the writing bug, and my first ‘proper’ novel, MORE THAN LOVE LETTERS was published by Headline Review in 2006.

Your latest book is Ninepins and sounds quite mysterious. Can you tell us more and what inspired you to write it?

‘Ninepins’ is my fifth novel, and its inspiration came from the landscape of the Cambridgeshire fens around the village where I live. It’s a strange sort of country, with its own particular windswept beauty, but also a sense of desolation and even of menace – not least from the omnipresent water which lurks beneath the surface of the soil and threatens to rise up and reclaim this land where no land should be. It is no coincidence that the elements – fire and water, earth and air – as well as ideas of flooding and drowning run like a thread through my book.

Did you plan the structure of the book before you started or allowed it emerge as you wrote?

I’m a confirmed ‘pantser’: I write by the seat of my pants. I begin with some characters – and, in this case, a setting – but only the haziest notion of where my narrative is going to take them. The story emerges as I write.

What point of view do you most enjoy writing: first person or third? Can you say why that is?

I prefer the flexibility of the third person, and all my novels have been written in that form – apart from ‘More Than Love Letters’, which was epistolary. I like the freedom the third person gives to narrate events from more then one point of view. Of my novels to date, only one (‘The Tapestry of Love’) sticks to a single third person viewpoint.

I have even experimented with an unfashionably omniscient approach. My campus novel, HEARTS AND MINDS, is told from the perspective of five main point-of-view characters, with snatches through the eyes of various lesser players. It was quite a challenge to write – but also enormous fun!

What tips would you give an aspiring writer on dealing with rejections, or have you been spared such set-backs? 

I have certainly had my share of rejections and set-backs: for each of my five published novels there is at least one more which has had to be consigned permanently to the bottom drawer. My advice would be boringly simply: never give up.

Are you upbeat or concerned about the digital revolution? How do you think it might affect your own career? 

I see no point in being ‘concerned’ about something as inevitable as the advance of the e-book. That said, its onward march has so far had little impact upon me personally, either as a reader or a writer. I must admit I don’t yet possess an e-reader and none of my friends and contemporaries regularly use one – I think it may be a factor of age! All my novels are available as e-books as well as in print, but to date the numbers sold in digital form have added up to the tiniest fraction of my overall sales. No doubt this will change, either slowly or with increasing speed. One nice thing about being published electronically is accessibility to readers all round the world without the expense of postage and packing.

If you could change the view from your office, what would you choose? 

I don’t have an office. Or rather, I do: I have a beautiful one in Emmanuel College from which I conduct my day job as a Law don, but I make a point of never giving way to the urge of writing fiction there. That could be the thin end of a dangerous wedge! My novels are mostly written at the kitchen table at home, with a spaniel asleep across my feet. The view is of our back garden, and there is nothing whatever about it that I would change – unless perhaps the lawn could miraculously keep itself cut short.

What makes you laugh the most?

My partner and my two spaniels – separately and in combination. Actually, many things make me laugh – old Cary Grant films; ‘Have I Got News For You’; all kinds of fiction from Jane Austen through Barbara Pym to Meera Syal and Phillipa Ashley; David Sedaris monologues; the poetry of Wendy Cope; Radio 4 comedy; re-runs of ‘Blackadder’.

If you were starting out afresh what advice would you give yourself as a fledging writer.

I think the main thing I would say would be, try not to take everything so much to heart: work hard and believe in what you do, but remember to have fun along the way. Never forget to enjoy the process of writing for its own sake.

Rosy’s latest novel NINEPINS was published by Sandstone Press on 19th April 2012. 

Ninepins is an isolated former tollhouse in the Cambridgeshire fens. There live single mother Laura and her twelve-year-old daughter, Beth, in the carefully controlled cocoon that Laura has built around them. But Beth is brittly asthmatic, lonely at school and increasingly distant from her mother. And into their lives like a brisk fen breeze comes Willow, a seventeen-year-old care leaver with a mysterious past, together with her social worker, Vince. Laura must decide: what does Vince want of her, and she of him? Is Willow dangerous or vulnerable, or maybe a little of both? And are all Laura’s painstakingly constructed certainties about to come tumbling down like ninepins? 

Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today, Rosy. We wish you continuing success with you new book. 
Best wishes, Freda

 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:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kate Lord Brown Talks about Romance and Research

It goes without saying that most writers are readers first. Who were the authors that inspired you to write romantic fiction? It’s interesting that many of the top 1000 romance books of all time (link: ) are historical. My reading matured in the 80s, and it’s lovely to see the classics in the top 100, (Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier), alongside the sweeping sagas of Barbara Taylor Bradford that defined the books of that decade for me.

I love historical research – in fact it’s hard to stop sometimes, and actually get down to writing the story. Each book takes years of work, and I try hard to get the details perfect. There are always files and files of notes – I only end up using a small amount of the research, but think (as Hemingway said), the reader can almost see between the lines, and get a feel for the depth of the work that supports the story. ‘The Perfume Garden’ weaves a contemporary and historical storyline, and I loved learning about the modern perfume industry just as much as researching the Spanish Civil War. I’ve put heart and soul into this book, and it’s my most personal yet – it draws as much on the years we lived in the orange groves near Valencia as it does on historical research.

The books are – I hope – unapologetically romantic as well as historically accurate. (My favourite bad review on Amazon for ‘The Beauty Chorus’ was titled: ‘Whoops, it’s a romance’!) I’m sorry the reader was obviously hoping for a dry book about aviation, but the true stories of the brave young women who flew Spitfires are peppered with romance. I loved reading their wartime diaries, and learning about their social lives as much as their daring day jobs. They were my kind of women – brave, rebellious, proving themselves more than equal to the male pilots, and then they would change into gorgeous evening frocks and dance all night at the Riviera. The wartime women of ‘The Perfume Garden’ – a soldier, a war photographer, and a nurse are all based on factual accounts, but each has their own, sweeping love story too. For me, research and romance go hand in hand – no ‘whoops’ about it.

 ‘The Perfume Garden’ by Kate Lord Brown is published by Atlantic on June 1st 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interview with Toni Sands

Today we welcome Toni Sands to the RNA Blog. Toni lives near the Black Mountains in Wales. Many of her ideas arrive while she’s walking by the river. She also finds inspiration when travelling by train or when visiting London where she enjoys roaming galleries and gazing at colourful window displays. She drinks too much coffee and often talks to strangers. Toni enjoys networking, especially getting to know fellow RNA members. She’d like to keep on writing as long as her readers keep on reading. Describe your journey as a writer. How did it begin? 

I have to thank my late, lovely mum for instilling in me a love of words. I seem always to have enjoyed writing but my first success with short stories was when I was asked to record two for BBC Wiltshire Sound in the late 1990s. Hearing my work broadcast kick-started me, I suppose.

You write fairly steamy romance which feature in collections by Virgin Black Lace and Xcite Books. What inspired you to choose this genre? 

I blame my mum again! She read a lot of Mills and Boon, some of which were rather steamy. I used to ‘borrow’ them, often reading by torchlight under the bedclothes. It was a chance remark, many years later that triggered my first erotic romances though. Someone at the writers’ group I attended told me he detected ‘a sensuous quality’ in my writing. Then a well-known author (RNA member) gave a presentation in my local library and when I chatted with her afterwards, she recommended I pitch to the Black Lace imprint.

Here is Toni's favourite 1950's doll, which her mother bought her. I love her little vanity case.

The RNA attempts to raise the profile of romantic fiction. 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? 

Probably, though I believe Richard and Judy and certain local radio presenters have helped authors of romantic novels and hopefully will continue. For what it’s worth, I believe the RNA has enhanced its street cred over the last decade.

Were you in the NWS before getting published, and did you find it helpful?

Yes. I submitted one partial and three complete ts to the scheme and received positive feedback and helpful critiques in each case. I’m convinced what I learnt helped me towards achieving publication of my novel.

With the increasing popularity of e-books, how do you think digitisation has helped or changed your own career as a writer?

My ‘romantica’ as some people are now calling erotic romance is mainly e-published. It’s probably the genre most likely to benefit from digitisation, considering it’s the one most difficult to find on that highest or lowest shelf in Waterstones. Which craft tip has helped you the most? Definitely hearing and reading Liz Fielding’s and Fiona Harper’s advice about bringing emotion to the page has helped me unstiffen my upper lip! But I don't think I shall ever stop learning.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer, and the least? 

Creation of new characters and hearing their voices in my head does it for me. Before they come to take me away, quite simply I enjoy entertaining people. I don’t want to sound precious but that’s huge motivation for me. Least enjoyable – oddly enough not rejection but comments from people who class all erotic writing as ‘smut.’ Don’t let me get started.

If your book could be a movie, who would play the hero? 

As my novel ORCHID PINK has no conventional hero, I think Ben Barnes, best known for Chronicles of Narnia is best fit for sexy smuggler Jac from TRADED INNOCENCE. It was of course very difficult for me to research the answer to this question …

Can you tell us something of what you are working on now?

I’ve just finished first draft of a WW2 romance pocket novel. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing light kisses and hand holding. In fact I’m so jolly pleased with this era I’m fast turning into Celia Johnson. But I’ve been approached with a view to writing a trilogy which I hope will feature some very hot knights. (The K is intentional.) So it’ll be off with the winceyette pyjamas and on with the black satin robe again soon.

Demure Adelaide hides a passionate nature beneath her elegant gowns. After hiring a delicious new maid, Daisy, she can’t wait to initiate her into the delights of the orchid house. Though resenting paternal pressure to marry businessman Thomas, Adelaide finds excitement in his touch and his erotic whisperings. Yet, when he reveals his sinister side, she seeks solace elsewhere. Christmas brings snowflakes, also a vivid reminder of a heart-wrenching past. Intrigue and obsession rock this Victorian household as Adelaide’s poignant search for love leads her into storms. Will she ever bask in the sunshine? 

Thank you Toni for sparing time to talk to us today, and we wish you continuing success with the books. 
Best wishes, Freda 

Details of all Toni Sands publications can be found on Amazon where she has an author page. 
You can follow Toni on Twitter @tonisands 

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: