Friday, June 23, 2017

Karen Aldous: Under a Tuscan Sun

We welcome Karen Aldous to the RNA blog as she celebrates publication of her fifth book.

Karen this is your fifth novel. Can you tell us something about your path to publication?
Number five, since 2014. I still can’t believe it! My path to publication however began in 2012. I’d
begun The Vineyard, the novel that had been in my head for years, whilst I was sat with Mum during her chemo in 2011 when she would nod off, and with that time, I began the first chapters. As it grew, I made a conscious decision to attempt the RNA New Writer’s Scheme which luckily I got on to in January 2012; a great impetus! The following day, I saw in Writer’s News, a local creative writing class, The Write Place, and immediately phoned and joined. Both organisations provided so much expertise and encouragement, perfectly syncing with my journey, that it wasn’t long before I found the confidence to start sending my work out. At the same time I sent my partial for critique with the RNA NWS, I also sent it to a novel competition, and although I didn’t win, I was contacted and got the opportunity to meet an editor who asked me to send it once complete. I did so a year later and eight weeks later, received a two-book contract. Mum had passed three months earlier to that offer, but having the chance to chat about the fact that she had followed her passion for dancing, I’m so grateful that she inspired me to follow mine.

You have such beautiful settings for your books. Are these based on your holidays or your dreams?
Both actually! I absolutely adore Europe and travel inspires me enormously. The stunningly beautiful French Riviera, and Provence inspired both the first The Vineyard, and third, which is titled, The Riviera, but in-between, I wrote The Chateau, which was inspired by a dream. I saw a woman repeatedly being dunked in deep water by a guard in a medieval doorway. Although the dream didn’t indicate the actual location, I instinctively knew why Montreux in Switzerland was constantly calling me. The Chateau de Chillon was the perfect setting for Agnes-Francescia, the unsettled spirit.
The main character in One Moment at Sunrise I met when I arrived at a beautiful villa close to the Canal du Midi, again in southern France. Her sadness prompted me to ask her questions and her story tumbled from her mouth and into my notebook. And, similarly with Under a Tuscan Sky, Elena, my main character’s nonna, voiced her troubles to me when I was on a recce for my daughter’s wedding - we stayed at a medieval farm with a beautiful villa and, the character Elena introduced me to her daughter Roz and her abandoned granddaughter, Olivia. Imagination is a wonderful tool that can take you anywhere, I happen to love immersing myself in beautiful locations – as long as I have a notebook in my hand!

How do you plan your books? Do you start with your characters or the plot?
Definitely characters - as you gather from the last answer, but once I have that character’s problem firmly fixed in my head, the other characters emerge to help and I begin to get create the outline. Once I’m happy that I have an interesting story, or plot if you prefer, I begin my character profiles and plan my scenes.

Tell us about your writing day.
Rarely do I have a typical writing day. I run a small business which I mainly only service now, but am blessed to be in a position to also care for my grandchildren, so my writing gets done on my days off mainly. If I’m not planning or researching, I like to shut myself away to get into the zone, starting early and walking the dog in-between which is great thinking time as well as much needed exercise when sitting all day.

Have you thought about writing in a different genre?
I’ve begun two dual-timeline novels which I’ve researched and aim to pursue, I love reading this genre and the way two lives can become so interwoven. It’s a difficult genre to do because you want your reader to fall in love with both characters from two eras, so yes, it’s my new challenge.

Have your readers met the character’s from Under a Tuscan Sky before and can you see yourself returning to this lovely part of the world in your writing?
Some readers may have met a few of the characters in a short-story I wrote recently for My Weekly magazine. It was published at the beginning of June. However, Under a Tuscan Sky is a stand-alone book. Having said that, I would love to write another story set in Tuscany, it’s such a beautiful region.

If we could jump forward five years where would you like to see your writing life?
Bearing in mind just how quickly the last five years have flown, five years are not so far away in the publishing industry. Of course I would love to keep writing, improving as I go and entertaining readers. I would love to hold my own paperback in my hand, but if I wrote a novel that readers loved and recommended to friends and, more ambitiously, it hit the Sunday Times Bestseller List, that’s where I’d love to be in five years.

Twitter: KarenAldous_

Book blurb:
When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her nonna’s home in Tuscany.
Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter …
And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realizes things might be about to change forever!

About Karen:

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Thank you, Karen and good luck with your book.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Liz Fenwick: Finding ideas...

We are delighted to welcome Liz Fenwick to the blog today. Liz writes about unlocking ideas for our novels - something we all need  help with at times.

One question that writers are frequently asked is where do their ideas come from? The creation of stories is a mystery to many - even writers but is never a mystery to any child I have ever met. Those wonderful days creating magical worlds in the woods or playground. It's as if once you learn to drive a car a switch in the brain is flicked and the magic is gone. That switch seems to remain 'on' for writers. However, even their ideas can sometimes become exhausted and too stretched to let their own 'magic' imagination work.

As writers, we observe the world, notice and store things that interest us, or simply catch our attention. Most of the time we don’t even realise we are doing it. That overheard conversation of the woman snapping into the phone; ‘That’s a decision for your wife to make’ leads the brain onto many scenarios.

1.     Is she the mistress?
2.     Is she the PA?
3.     Is she the daughter talking to wife number two or three…

Why not play with that to encourage your writer’s brain to work…ask why, ask what if? Take a snippet of overheard conversation…my mother never wore knickers…write for ten or twenty minutes and allow yourself to be surprised.

With each of my books it took one idea to unlock all the other saved gems I had collected. For my latest novel, The Returning Tide, it was my mother-in-law’s experience during WW2. That became the key event around which I built the story. My mother-in-law, June, had been a telegraphist working with Morse Code transmissions to and from boats. She never spoke about it in any detail until one night over dinner we were discussing Exercise Tiger, aka the Slapton Sands incident. There had been something in the paper that morning. June suddenly said; ‘I was working that night with the Americans. It was awful. The men on the boats went from using code to plain language. I heard them die.’ I shivered then and I still do now. I pressed June for more details and she said she would write them down, but never did. She was still under the Official Secrets Act.

So when brainstorming with my editor for book five that moment returned and it pulled out my fascination with sisters - that love and hate that binds them. Putting the two together, The Returning Tide was born.

If stuck for an idea think of things that have intrigued you. The young lovers in the park with matching tattoos, that article you read, the news item that stayed with you… they can all be the starting point. Frequently while researching something else I discover the ‘seed’ for my next book. With A Cornish Stranger, it was finding the old Cornish saying, ‘Save a stranger from the sea, he’ll turn your enemy.’ It was like lightning had struck. I knew the location - the cabin at the mouth of Frenchman’s Creek, and I knew it would be about a grandmother and granddaughter. Until the saying arrived I had no idea that I wanted to write a story set there about a reclusive artist.

Taking time away from actual writing to fill the ‘well of creativity’ with listening, reading, looking and researching means that ideas will always be waiting for the writer who is open and always asking what if. That and remaining an adult child who still likes to create magic worlds. Children know that stories are everywhere, even under the bed. Where will you look for your next story?

About Liz
Writer, ex-pat expert, wife, mother of three, and dreamer turned doer....
Award winning author of The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, A Cornish Stranger, Under A Cornish Sky, A Cornish Christmas Carol (a novella) and The Returning Tide. After nine international moves, I'm a bit of a global nomad. It's no wonder my heart remains in Cornwall.


Thank you, Liz. We all love your books and hope you never run out of ideas.

If you are an established author who would like to write for the RNA please please contact us on

Monday, June 19, 2017

Lesley Cookman: A Road Well Travelled!

Today we welcome Lesley Cookman to the blog. Many of us can relate to Lesley’s ‘journey’ to becoming a full-time writer. Being in the right place at the right time or perhaps just falling into the job – whatever the reason this is how many of us became jobbing writers. Hats off to Lesley for her wonderful achievements. 

I still find it slightly startling to see myself alluded to as a “well-established writer”.  I suppose I am,
but there’s part of me that feels I should be as well known as, say, Neil Gaiman, or our own Katie Fforde before I lay claim to the sobriquet “well established.”

For those young things (or maybe not so young) who have come to the RNA more recently, I shall explain myself.  I started off almost by accident. Married to the art editor of Which Computer magazine when desktop computers were still practically in the foetal stage, let alone infancy, I had scribbled away since I was a child, like a lot of us. One day, husband brought home a great big cardboard box and said: “Open that, put it together, read the instructions and then write an article on it saying how easy it was.” 

I did it. Not without difficulty, but I did it. I can’t even remember what flavour the computer was now – could have been Apricot. (Yes, there was one.) That led me to becoming a freelance for the whole group, which included Which Computer and Business Matters. This, bear in mind, is over 35 years ago. So I carried on. I wrote for them, I edited two magazines, The Call Boy – the journal of the British Music Hall Society – and Poultry Farmer Weekly. Yes, I know. I wrote for anyone who threw me a commission. I was a writing whore. I did a lot of PR, particularly for musicians and local theatre, I branched out into writing pantomimes for the other side of my life, the theatrical side. One day, after having  been commissioned to write a book on how to write a pantomime, I was asked by a Comedy Writers’ Convention to be a key speaker – on panto. Naturally. I met Marina Oliver, who was also there and remembered my name from when I, along with thousands of others, had thought perhaps I could write a Mills and Boon. “Join the RNA again”, she said. “It’s fun.” So I did. How she squirrelled me past the NWS watchdogs I can’t now remember – I think I dug up the partial I’d sent off previously and sent it again, to comply with the rules.

Then I met another writer who had written for the same “How To” publisher I had – only she was writing about Twist In The Tail stories. She gave me a copy of her book, which also contained a list of current fiction editors. I read the book, got an idea while reading it, sent it off, and bingo.

And finally (at least, I hope it isn’t finally) I decided to go off and do a Master’s Degree. The only good thing I got out of that was that Hazel Cushion was also on the course. Together, after we finished the course, we produced a charity anthology, Sexy Shorts For Christmas. I, by now, had a lot of writer friends, whom I cajoled into giving me short stories for Breast Cancer, my husband designed the cover and I typeset. It was all a great success, and Hazel decided that’s what she wanted to do with her life.

Two years later, she asked me if I’d written any more of the dissertation I’d written for the MA. I hadn’t, but I wrote a little more, she bought it and asked if it could become a series. We both took a chance, and luckily, it paid off. I can say quite definitely that I would not have become an author if it wasn’t for Hazel and Accent. No one else would have taken a chance on a gentle(ish) amateur sleuth novel – they weren’t even called “cosy” in those days.

So, keep going. There are many roads to travel...


Thank you, Lesley. What an exciting ‘journey!’

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Bloggers & Reviewers: Amanda Moran – One More Page

We are delighted to welcome Amanda Moran to the RNA Blog’s monthly series where we speak to book bloggers and reviewers and get an insight into their world.

Welcome Amanda, tell us a little bit about yourself and One More Page.
I'm Amanda and I blog at One More Page. I grew up in the north east of England but have lived in
London since 2001. I’m a librarian and Mum to Max and Sam who both love stories as much as I do. I love the seaside, crochet and of course reading. My ultimate dream is to own a bookshop by the sea one day!

What made you start to review/blog?
I started One More Page in July 2010; my husband had a blog and kept telling me I should start one on books. I’ve always loved books and reading and used to keep a paper book journal to record what I read and my thoughts. The blog sprang from there (it’s subtitled, ‘Diary of a Book lover’) and is my online book journal. What I didn’t expect when I started blogging was to fall so in love with it. It has become almost as much of an addiction as reading and I’ve met some truly lovely people as a result.

What’s your review policy?
It still amazes me that people want to send me books to review! My review policy can be found HERE
I update it regularly so please do check back often to see what availability I have. I review most genres but especially love romance, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction.

I know you are about to celebrate a wonderful 'blogaversary' for One More Page – Seven Years this June – Congratulations. What is the most important thing you have learned about blogging during that time?
Thank you - I don't know where that seven years has gone! The most important thing I've learned is to not put too much pressure on myself. It's very hard to say no when lovely authors and publishers offer so many wonderful books but it can be very stressful to see that review pile mounting and I've learned the hard way that there are only so many books one person can review in a month. It's taken me seven years but I think I've finally got the balance right.

If you could give one piece of advice to authors what would it be?
Be creative when approaching bloggers; even when I'm fully booked for reviews I'll often accept cover reveals, guest posts, Q&As, giveaways and other features. I really appreciate it when an author takes the time to read my blog or get to know me on Twitter, Instagram etc. and then contacts me.

I see from your blog that you are a librarian – tell us a little bit about a typical day in the life of a librarian.  Do you ever get to recommend books to visitors to your library or take part in author events?
I work in a corporate library so there aren't many chances to recommend books but I do love to share and recommend books with my fellow librarians and I'm part of a lovely book club with some of the other mums from my sons' school so I do lots of recommending there! I love author events and although I don't get to do them at work, I love to go along when I can. I'm lucky living in London that there are often lovely author events at bookshops locally.

You say that your dream would be to move back to the North East and open a bookshop by the sea which sounds idyllic – (If you want a business partner, I’m in!) What do you like to do in your spare time however when not reading?
That is my dream and in the last week I've moved a step closer to making it a reality. If all goes well I'll be relocating back to the North East coast over the summer (please cross your fingers!) The book shop bit is still a dream but you never know! I've recently discovered a new love and hobby - crochet. I am quite literally hooked (pardon the pun) and have even taken to listening to audiobooks so that I can fit in more crochet time!

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see in 2017?
Oooh tough question! I think we all need a bit of magic in our lives.  I'm a huge fan of books that use magical realism. Sarah Addison Allen does it brilliantly and I'd love to see more from UK writers.

Thank you so much for having me!

You are very welcome, Amanda.  Thank you for your being a lovely guest and best of luck with the move. I hope it all goes smoothly for you.


Ellie Holmes:
Ellie writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book, The Tregelian Hoard, set in Cornwall, is the first novella in her Jonquil Jones Mystery Series and her next book White Lies is due for release on 27th June.