Friday, February 26, 2016

Who is Number One?

To quote the well-known television series The Prisoner, ‘who is number one?’ Here at the Romantic Novelists’Association our first applicant for independent membership was Alison Morton. We welcome her to the RNA blog to tell the story of her writing career so far.

“Independent” could be defined as the freedom to act and to have control over your destiny, and the responsibility and power to make your own decisions.

“Independent author” has grown out of the self-publishing movement. Originally, self-publishers
Alison with Carole Blake

wrote their book and posted it on Amazon. Job done. Before then, and if you had the money, you could contract with a subsidy publisher to produce a garage full of hard or paperback print books. Now, self-publishing has matured, professional services such as editing, cover design and formatting have grown as have assisted publishing services offering full support packages.

Inevitably, there are a lot of substandard, and frankly rubbish, books out there for sale as a result of this democratic revolution. Some originators of content (I’m not calling them writers) don’t care or don’t know any better; they’ve produced words in a file, sometimes with great emotion on their part, and sent them off into the digiverse without any check.

However, serious self-publishers know better. Alongside other writers (however published or aspiring to be published) they will have joined writing groups, listened to other authors, read magazines, self-help books, had their work critiqued, attended conferences and gone on courses.

I’ve always been a ‘wordsmith’. Translating professionally for much of my career has made me nit-picky about words, grammar, punctuation, document cohesion, theme and structure. After selling my translation business in 2009, I started writing my first Roma Nova novel. Next, at the urging of my new critique partner, I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in January 2010; this led to courses, parties, conferences, parties, meetings, parties, London & SE Chapter meetings, parties…

After that a six day writers’ boot camp, an Arvon Foundation course on commercial fiction (Mavis Cheek and the late, great Paul Sussman as tutors), the
Festival of Writing at York where I met mentor (and first endorser) Adrian Magson, multi-selling crime and thriller writer. Tumbling after that were memberships of the Historical Novel Society, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), International Thriller Writers, Society of Authors and visits to the London Book Fair. The crucial thing is to interact continuously with all these associations and writing and reading colleagues within them.

And the books?
The first two were launched at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells in 2013 and the third in London in 2014 at the University Women’s Club when broadcaster Sue Cook interviewed me. The first two books were joint runners up in Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year award, the third and fourth both Editor’s Choices of the Historical Novel Society (HNS). The first three have qualified as B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees and the third was an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller’s inaugural indie preview ("this classy thriller"). And the latest AURELIA has just been shortlisted for the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award.

More importantly than any of this, readers have been kind enough to say they enjoy diving into the world of Roma Nova and following Carina and Aurelia’s adventures and tangled love lives. Now I have sealed the deal with Blake Friedman Literary Agency to represent me for foreign and ancillary rights  – an indie/traditional partnership that’s first for them and pretty damned exciting for me!

This is not to boast. This is to illustrate that serious indies put in the time and effort to develop the skills of professional authors. But how to separate the dross from the diamonds? Several new quality organisations are appearing, such as IndieBRAG which rejects 90% of its applications and the HNS review system which analyses new historical fiction and runs an annual indie fiction prize. If your book is eligible, do go in for these! But books are about readers and many indies in this association have enjoyed best selling success because their well-written books are loved by their readers

What are the criteria for independent membership?
The RNA has studied, consulted and debated internally about the self-published/independent question. An author must have self published at least two works of romantic fiction over 30,000 words in length. At least one of those works must have achieved sales in excess of 1000 copies in a single 12 month period and/or generated income from sales over £500 in a single 12 month period.
As a proud member of the RNA, a place where I have found friends, colleagues, support and champions and where I am able to give back to newer writers with talks, panels and posts, I was delighted to transfer from the New Writers’ Scheme to became the first ever Independent Author Member.

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth book, INSURRECTIO, will be launched on 12 April at the 2016 London Book Fair.


Twitter: @alison-morton

Thank you, Alison and good luck with your latest book.

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FOCUS ON: The Yorkshire Terriers

As the series progresses it is time to introduce another of our Chapters and I began by asking how they chose their name.
We decided on Yorkshire Terriers, because we’re in Yorkshire of course, but also because Yorkies are feisty, lively and determined. It seemed an appropriate reflection of our group and our aims which are to be very focussed on our writing and becoming published.

I love Yorkies and will forever have a vision of each of you tugging a pull or chewing at a bone which is, after all, the way most writers work. How long has your Chapter been running and how often do you meet?
It’s been running for about 6 years. We started it because we couldn’t make day meetings due to work. We meet on the third Thursday of every month.

Do you have a regular meeting place?
We meet in the centre of Doncaster within walking distance of the station, usually at the Old Angel Wetherspoons pub. Our members come from as far as Sheffield and North Yorkshire. Some don’t drive so we like to keep things as accessible as we can.

Your meetings must be good if people are prepared to travel so far. How many usually attend?
On average about 8 or 9 although it can be as few as 4 and as many as 14 when we have a full house. The majority of our members are in the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) or New Writers Scheme (NWS).  There are a few who are either lapsed members or writers waiting for a place on the NWS.

Do your meetings include a meal?
Yes, we usually like to order something while we talk. J The food is standard pub fare- tasty and reasonably priced and they do great desserts. The hot chocolate fudge cake is particularly popular. It’s well worth coming to the meetings just for the dessert.

You may have a few takers if hot chocolate fudge cake is on offer. Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes although they must be writing romance or associated sub genres.

How long do your meetings last?
We usually start at around 6.30pm. There is no formal end time- the meeting is over when the last person goes home (or the pub closes).

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you’ve had in the past year?
We don’t tend to have speakers or guests as our normal focus is mutual support and goal setting. Our meetings are relaxed and usually involve discussion around writing related issues. Between courses we discuss our progress on our targets and then set new ones. This helps us to be more disciplined and we support each other when things get tough.

What plans do the Terriers have for the rest of 2016?
We will continue to meet on the third Thursday of every month, supporting each other and setting targets around writing. We occasionally meet on Saturdays (about two per year) for write-ins. We are also hoping to run a subsidised event with a speaker.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
The relaxed, informal atmosphere, the welcome, the information exchange that takes place and the all-heads-together approach to problem solving if things aren’t going well. Generally the supportive culture.

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account and who is the contact for new members?
We have an invitation only Facebook group.
To join or visit contact Angela Wren ( or John Jackson (

My thanks to Vasiliki Scurfield who so kindly answered all my questions

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on

Friday, February 19, 2016

Workshops and Groups: Developing Your Novel

Welcome to Nikki Moore who is back with another in our Workshops and Groups series.

It’s hard to believe that we’re already well into February - the year has flown by so far but at least the
evenings are starting to get lighter... With the longer days in mind, if you’re thinking about how to fill your time and are an aspiring writer or published author with a novel-in-progress, why not check out a workshop run by two multi-published RNA members?

Here’s what you need to know;

Workshop Title: 
Developing Your NovelTutored Writing Retreat with Alison May and Janet Gover.

Workshop Details: 
Friday 6th May to Sunday 8th May 2016 at Ettington Chase near Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Workshop Brief / What the Tutors Say: 
The weekend is all about having time and support to work on your novel. There will be a mixture of group workshops, exercises, one-to-one tutorials, and lots of individual writing time, in a fantastic country hotel in the heart of Shakespeare country. We have two tutors leading the workshops who will be on hand all weekend to provide a sounding board, chat about writing or offer a pep talk should you need one.

Aimed at: 
The weekend is aimed at anyone who has a novel-in-progress – whether that’s a finished draft or an idea they want to get started on. Workshops will cover vital writing techniques including character and dialogue, plot structure and setting, self-editing and how to present your book in the best possible light to an agent or editor. Bring your questions and problems. We’ll tailor the weekend to your needs.
Each participant is also invited to submit the opening of their novel for a detailed analysis and one-2-one discussion with Alison or Janet.

Course Tutor Biographies:

Alison May

Alison May is a qualified teacher and writes romantic comedies and award-winning short stories.  She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham, and has taught creative writing for colleges and universities, writing conferences and literary festivals. You can find out more about Alison here.

Janet Gover

Television journalist turned award-winning novelist Janet Gover writes women's fiction, romance and
short stories. From horse riding instructor to university lecturer, Janet loves teaching and leads workshops at writing conferences in the UK and abroad. You can find out more about Janet here.

Booking details:
The weekend costs £395, which includes the tutorials, workshops, accommodation, meals and access to the hotel gym and swimming pool. For RNA blog readers, there’s a £25 discount if you book before end of February and quote ‘RNABLOG’ in your email. Bookings close on 7th March.

Full details about the weekend, and Alison’s other courses, can be found here or email Alison  for more information.

Why not treat yourself to a weekend devoted to your novel in beautiful surroundings with like-minded people?

Nikki Moore - Bio
A devoted Dorset girl, Nikki Moore has a HR day job, two kids and a lovely boyfriend to keep her busy alongside the writing. Published mainly by HarperImpulse, she’s the author of the #LoveLondon series, which has been in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart. Some of her books have also been nominated for awards. Nikki is a strong supporter of aspiring authors, loves to chat about writing and reading, and can often be found on Twitter when she should be writing.

You can find out more about Nikki via her blog. or Twitter @NikkiMoore_Auth

Thank you, Nikki and good luck with your workshop, Alison and Janet, we hope you have a great weekend.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the blog please contact us on

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Time to welcome back Francesca Burgess for the Competition Monthly Feature

In my first competition monthly, back in October, I mentioned the importance of reading the rules. Looking through some competitions recently, I realised there is another aspect to this, and that is to make sure you qualify, not just your work. Often you have to be a certain age, gender, ethnic group or to hail from a particular area of the UK. There are also competitions that have a separate prize if you live in a certain area, especially if it's connected to a festival.I've seen a competition where you have to be over forty, another for under twenty-fives. Sometimes comps require you to be unpublished, others the opposite.

Two of the competitions featured here have requirements. The Mslexia comp is only open to women (sorry to the men reading this!).  The BBC Short Story Award asks for entrants to have a history of publication in creative writing. I would assume this includes short stories.

Buona Fortuna!

**Closing soon** Felix Dennis Creative Writing Competition

Theme: 'For All Time', up to 2,000 words.
Prize: 1st £1,000, 2nd £300
Competition deadline: 22 February 2016
Entry: Free

BBC National Short Story Award  
Theme: Open, up to 8,000 words
Prize: 1st £15,000, 2nd £3,000, 3 runner-up prizes of £500
Competition deadline: 11 March 2016
Entry: Free

Mslexia Short Story Competition
Theme: Open up to 2,000 words
Prize: 1st £2,000, 2nd £500, 3rd £250, 3 runner-up prizes of £100
Competition deadline: 14 Mar 2016
Entry: £10

Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition
Theme: Open, up to 1,500 words
Prize: 1st £800, at least 2 runner-up prizes of £100
Competition deadline: 31 March 2016
Entry: £10

Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition
Theme: 'An extra day', up to 2,500 words
Prize: 1st £100
Competition deadline: 31 March 2016
Entry: £5

The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition
Theme: Ghost story between 1,000 and 7,000 words.
Prize: 1st £500, 2nd £250, 3rd £100, 3rd £100
Competition Deadline: 31 March 2016
Entry: £8

Short Fiction Journal Short Story Prize
Theme: Open, up to 6,000 words
Prize: 1st £500, 2nd £100
Competition Deadline: 31 Mar 2016
Entry: £7

About Francesca:

Francesca Burgess has been placed or shortlisted in a number of competitions including Twyford Writers, Winchester Writers' Conference, Chorley and District Writers' Circle, , Flash a Famous Phrase, Meridian Writing, People's Friend and those run by Writers' News and Writing Magazine. She's had stories published in magazines worldwide and in three anthologies, including Diamonds and Pearls. She is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme.

Thank you, Francesca!

Don’t forget to let us know about your competition successes plus any comps you are organising.

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you’d like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Friday, February 12, 2016

Meet The Publisher: Catherine Burke of Sphere

Welcome back to Sally Quilford who this month is talking with Catherine Burke of Sphere.

Catherine has worked in publishing for fifteen years, first as a bookseller at BCA (Book Club Associates), then as an Editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon where she ran the MIRA list and published the RNA anthology, Loves Me, Loves Me Not.

In 2010, Catherine was approached to join Little, Brown Book Group as Editorial Director and she is
now publisher of their commercial imprint Sphere and Executive Director for Group Rights and Hachette Audio UK. Catherine told us, “Sphere publish many wonderful authors across all genres, including RoNA winners and nominees including Elizabeth Chadwick, Jenny Colgan, Emma Fraser, Carole Matthews and the much-missed Catherine King.”

How many titles does your company publish each year and where are your books sold?

Little, Brown Book Group has an incredibly diverse list of fiction and non-fiction titles and we publish approximately 1700 titles per year. At Sphere, we publish around 180 novels per year, across all commercial genres.

What do you look for in a romantic novel?

Characters I believe in, a conflict that must be overcome, a story that leaves me in tears – I am partial to a weep!

How might writers improve their chances of being published by you?

Read, read and read some more. Know what it is that you love about your favourite books and write the book you want to read. 

What reason might you reject a novel/author?

If it doesn’t compel me to keep reading – I look for real page-turning, immersive qualities in the novels I publish.

How long can writers expect to wait for a response to their submissions? This includes acknowledgements or acceptances/rejections.

We work directly with agents and we would aim to be back in touch with an agent within two weeks of receiving the submission – often sooner.

How do you see the future for writers of romance and the romance publishing industry in general?

Love absolutely does conquer all and readers are always going to want to read romantic fiction – I can’t imagine fiction without love and romance, it’s an absolute fundamental of life itself! As for the wider industry, it’s hugely exciting to see the variety of ways readers choose to enjoy their romantic fiction now – whether through audio downloads or CDs, ebooks, HBs or PBs – all routes are open and the genre has never been more in demand. There are some sensational authors out there and incredibly talented new authors emerging, too.

Do you attend RNA events? (so that our readers might have the chance to meet you)
I was at the RNA Conference last year and regularly attend the RoNAs and the Summer and Winter RNA Parties. If you spot me, please do come and say hello!

Thank you, Catherine, for those informative answers. 

If you have anything you want to ask Catherine, please feel free to do so in the comments and I will point her in your direction.

Sally Quilford:

Sally is the author of over 20 novels, all involving a central romance, with a bit of intrigue on the side. 

You can read more about Sally here.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to write for the blog please get in touch on