Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interview with The Romaniacs

Clockwise from bottom left: Vanessa and Debbie, Lucie and Celia, Catherine, Laura and Sue, & Liz and Jan
Today I'd like to welcome the Romaniacs, a group of writers who decided to get together and offer each other support and encouragement. They are Vanessa Savage, Debbie White, Lucie Wheeler, Celia Joy Anderson, Catherine Miller, Laura E. James, Sue Fortin, Liz Crump, and Jan Bridgen.

Do tell us what decided you to form a support group
Celia: Most of us met for the first time in November 2011 at the Festival of Romance. As aspiring authors and members of the NWS, we all needed encouragement and a healthy shot of cheer-leading to build our confidence. The friendship element of the group evolved quickly, first as a private Facebook page - after this the more computer savvy amongst us suggested a joint blog to give us momentum. It’s hard to meet face to face as we are spread over the length and breadth of the country (very bad planning - virtual hugs, wine and cake are never quite as good as the real stuff.)

How do you encourage each other as writers?
Debbie: This is easy to answer. We can best help each other by being honest and open. The girls don’t dish up any Pollyanna feedback! They all tell it like it is. I think this is because we all have different strengths and different skills and feed off each other, and because we’ve grown to know each other so well, we have huge respect for one another. We can say what we think without fear of it being taken the wrong way. Because of this the girls have made me think outside my comfort zone, and I’ve sometimes had to do things I don’t want or like to do. That’s very important as a writer.
Onwards and upwards

How did you hear about the RNA, and has the NWS benefited your career?
Sue: I found out about the RNA in a roundabout way. At the same time as working on my first manuscript, I read a Sue Moorcroft book which led me onto a writing handbook she had published and to Sue's website. I saw that the RNA was mentioned quite often, and a quick Google of RNA soon took me to the website and through there I found the NWS.

Laura: My mother introduced me to the wonderful books of Jill Mansell, the first I read being Good At Games. At the time, I had an arm in plaster, and related to one of the characters in the story. I enjoyed the book so much, I read it from cover to cover. Towards the back, Jill mentioned she was a member of the RNA. I went online, checked it out, and discovered the NWS. And what a discovery. What a find! Thank you, Jill, for not only entertaining me and tugging at my heartstrings, but for leading me down this most exciting path. The friendship, advice and support of the members is priceless. The RNA is a very generous organisation in terms of help and time. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a member.

Debbie: I heard about the RNA on a Caerleon course a few years ago and managed to get on the scheme the following January. The NWS has been a huge benefit. In the time I’ve been a member I’ve served my ‘writing apprenticeship’ and really honed the craft in every aspect; structure, plot, dialogue, etc. I’m embarrassed to look back at old work; how I thought I could write when I started! Of course I’m still learning and perfecting all the time but as a direct result of feedback from the NWS, I entered the first
Having a giggle
chapter of my novel in a competition and have an agent waiting to see the finished MS.

How would you describe your own books? Under what genre or sub-genre do they come, and what is its special appeal for you?
Laura: I write women’s fiction with a strong element of romance, focus on an issue, and develop the story from there. I like to get into the nitty-gritty of a problem and delve into the psychology behind it, and I enjoy the challenge of turning weaknesses into strengths. It’s the way I tackle life, and it possibly stems from me living with a disability.

Debbie: I like to think of my own work as gritty, kitchen-sink dramas (remember the angry young men – John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, Stan Barstow) so definitely women’s fiction/sagas. I love writing about ‘real’ people with ‘real’ issues, the complexity of relationships and what makes people act the way they do.
What do you think is the most essential element of a good novel?

Jan: Great characters with all their many varied, weird, and wonderful quirks and emotions that make us all human, people you care enough about to root for, love or loathe, just as long as you FEEL something. Plenty of secrets, conflict and character growth, and I’m hooked.

Catherine: As The Romaniacs are obsessed with cake, I thought I'd compare a good book with a good muffin. First, it has to be appealing on the eye. If the cover stands out, I'm practically sold. Then the taste has to be good. A good book has to have me in its grip within the first 50 pages. (I know some would say first, but I have to feel involved by page 50.) Of course the texture has to appeal. Paul Hollywood might describe it as a good consistency. Then there needs to be a nice surprise in the middle, preferable gooey chocolate, but equally something gritty will do. By the end I need to feel satisfied as in 'that was yummy, when can I have another?'

Should writers follow the latest hot fashion or write what they love?
Jan: Personally, I’d say write what you love, what stirs you and sings to you, as that passion, excitement and strong voice will shine through in your writing.
All glammed up and places to go

Have you suffered rejections, and if so, how did you deal with them?
Vanessa: Yes! At first I did NOT deal with rejection very well. I started sending my first novel to agents just after my mum died, when I was probably least prepared for rejection. The first came in – lovely, polite, form rejections, one actually personalized with a couple of suggestions – and I thought it was the end of the world. I think that was the first time the book went away in a drawer. I got the dusty MS out again after joining the NWS, carried out a massive re-write after receiving a hugely helpful report and started submitting again. This time, I found I was getting requests to read the full manuscript, and eventually I signed with a literary agent. Of course, I thought that was it, the end of rejection but… the book didn’t sell. That, I think, was harder than the agent rejections, because it really was the end of the road for my poor book, which, for now, has gone back in the drawer.

The main way I dealt with rejection, though, was to just get on with writing something else. Read the rejection, learn from it if it offered any critique and move on. My latest book is now with my agent and a NWS reader somewhere (eek!) And while I wait, I’m planning my next. Here I go again…
In the bar!

Sue: It’s horrible the very first time but if the reasoning behind the decision is constructive then you can turn the rejection into a positive. I try to avoid any knee jerk reactions, letting the 'No' settle for a couple of weeks, then going back to it once I've put a bit of distance between it and my feelings. That way I can then be objective about taking on the comments.

Liz and Lucie also send their regards, and all the Romaniacs would like to thank the RNA for inviting them on the blog.

Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today. We wish you continuing success with your writing.

Best wishes

Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk


Katherine Garbera said...

I love your group and how you've all bonded together and support one another. I am a part of two informal writing groups and I can't tell you how much I have leaned on them over the course of my 16 year writing career. We are all at different stages of our careers so that's nice too...there's always someone in our group who's experienced something before.


Chris Stovell said...

Lovely interview with a great group of writers who not only help each other but are generous in their support of others too. All best wishes to them.

Shani Struthers said...

Very informative interview - everyone not only seems determined but lovely too. Writing is sometimes a lonely occuation, it's great to have such a supportive network.

Laura E. James said...

Thank you Katherine and Chris. It seems unreal that the nine of us have known each other for 18 months only. I wouldn't be without my fellow Romaniacs. Writing support group? Yes. Life support group? Most definitely :-)
We love meeting, chatting and learning about other writers, new and established, and we have made so many friends through the RNA.
Thank you for commenting, and for your continued support. xx

Laura E. James said...

Shani - what a lovely comment. Thank you. We are never alone. Not even at ridiculous o'clock. :-)

Nicky Wells said...

Ladies, you know how much I adore the Romaniacs. I think you all rock, I love hanging out on your blog (and with the lot of you on the odd occasion when we're all in the same room...although maybe we best draw a veil over that!), and I think it's wonderful how you support each other AND share your thoughts, insights and guidance with the rest of the worlds. What can I say but... rock on, Romaniacs?

Helen Phifer said...

I met a few of you at my very first RNA conference last year and I remember thinking what a lovely bunch of ladies you all were. Good luck with your writing, I can't wait to read your novels :)

Helen x

Margaret James said...

A bunch of very lovely ladies - looking forward to seeing you at the RNA Conference this year!

Laura E. James said...

Thank you, Nicky - we really appreciate your comments, your support and your friendship. xx

Helen - thank you. Will you be at this year's conference? x

And thank you, Margaret. Unfortunately not all 9 can make conference, but all 9 will be there in spirit. Kitchen party at ours? xx

Liz Fenwick said...

Hi All,

loved reading about how you all banded together! Brilliant!!!


Anonymous said...

It is so lovely to have met you all. I love your blog, And look forward to catching up with all at the conference.
Lorraine x

Gina Rossi said...

Loved reading this and LOVE the name 'Romaniacs' :D says it all, really!

angela britnell said...

There's nothing better than discovering other people as mad as you are! Best of luck to you all and I'm sure we'll be enjoying your books soon.

Laura E. James said...

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on our interview. We appreciate your support here and on our blog.
We look forward to seeing you at conference and at Romaniac HQ.

Linn B Halton said...

Look at those smiling faces! A great bunch and you made me laugh a LOT when I met you at last year's Festival of Romance. See you at the conference ladies!

Mandy said...

Great post and I adore you ladies!! Can't wait to catch up with some of you at Conference!

Mandy :)

Jane Lovering said...

You are such a wonderful group of ladies! Becoming the Romaniacs was a fantastic idea, some bad things are much better faced with friends beside you, and triumphs always need someone to celebrate with.
Long may you continue, and may all of you prosper, together and individually.

Toni Sands said...

You're obviously all good for one another! I have the feeling that even when you flee the NWS nest, you'll still be enjoying virtual cake and wine and meeting whenever you can. Warm wishes for your future.

Laura E. James said...

Linn - we make each other laugh a lot too. So pleased it's contagious. Laughter is the best medicine. Look forward to seeing you at conference :-)x

And you, Mandy. Romanic Kitchen Party? x

Jane - thank you. You've summed it up perfectly. x

Toni - there's always time for virtual cake and wine, and satnavs are wonderful for getting us around :-) I dropped in on Celia at the weekend. We had lovely scones, and fruitcake that had the recommended five portions in one slice. xx

Margaret Cullingford said...

Lovely blog, Romaniacs. Think it's great how you all got together. Writing is so solitary, support and encouragement from others who understand is beyond measure.

Lizzie Lamb said...

Very late joining the party, but just wanted to add to the above comments. I love receiving the Romaniacs' posts in my inbox and have learned lots about the writing process through their pages. Long may they reign and I hope they all receive publishing contracts/agents/self publish very soon.

helen shapiro said...

Nice one I liked it. All the best.
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