Monday, November 30, 2009

What Is The Date of Publication? by Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft, the editor of the RNA's Anthology LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT, tells us about publication dates.

The publication date for STARTING OVER is 30th November 2009. So how could it be in the charts at W H Smith on St Pancras station on the 18th November?

Certain retailers ask for stock at times to suit their own plans and it seems that Starting Over fitted into W H Smith Travel’s plans earlier in November. Excellent! They got me off to a flying start.

Stock was in at Amazon and then out again – then in again – then out. Now it’s in. In the electronic age, stock tends to show on websites as it arrives but if the publication date hasn’t arrived yet the status flickers between ‘in stock’ and ‘pre-order’. Other estores show it firmly in stock. All that seems to matter is that if you click on ‘buy’ the book will shoot through your letterbox quite soon afterwards.

For the author, publication day is long awaited. But a box of brand new books has been on the study floor for weeks, the excitement of seeing a jpeg of the cover came months ago and publishing day is more likely to be marked by a flurry of promotion than be heralded in by a choir of publishing angels or a marching band. It’s just one day in the life of my book.
And even though it’s probably not what anyone expects – it’s the most important day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jan Jones Talks About Writing Close to Home

Jan Jones talks about using a location close to home as the setting for her Regency novels.

When I started writing Regencies I was faced with a problem. How to make mine stand out from the very good ones written by everybody else? The answer I came up with was: location, location, location!

I live just outside Newmarket. It occurred to me that while other Regency novels use the town as a convenient plot device for divesting young hopefuls of their ready cash or for ensuring that the hero is out of the heroine’s reach for a week, none of the ones I’d read had actually set the action there.

And yet Newmarket was the horse-acing venue for the elite seven times a year. And it is only sixty miles of good road away from London. And full of historical buildings and great stories. There are even the remains of cock pits to be seen if you sidle down the right paths and peer over the right walls.

So I plunged happily into local research and wrote my first Newmarket Regency, FAIR DECEPTION as an introduction to the town itself. For my second, FORTUNATE WAGER - coincidentally out this month - I leapt into the world of horseracing.

Caroline Fortune simply wants to train horses in an era when women were not allowed to have anything to do with the racing on Newmarket Heath. Like any right-minded heroine, she doesn’t let this stop her. However it does become a teensy bit awkward when Lord Alexander Rothwell - who is investigating shady dealing at the racecourse - is coshed and left for dead on her doorstep.

My goodness, I learnt so much about the history of horse racing in general and Newmarket Heath in particular. For example, there used to be seventeen courses at Newmarket. Seventeen! All criss-crossed around the same basic routes, but subtly different as regards start-points, lengths and end-points. No wonder the adjective most used about the race meetings in accounts of the time was “confusing”.
I could get very boring on the subject, but I won’t. Instead I hope that if you read the books you will benefit from some of the fruits of my research without getting mental indigestion. If you’d like to, you can read more about the background to my Newmarket Regencies on my website at I also blog at and I twitter about the minutiae of life as @janjonesauthor.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Veronica Henry Reports on the Colman Getty Pen Quiz

There were sore heads for more than one reason, when the RNA team entered the Colman Getty Pen Quiz. Veronica Henry tells all.

We had all been swotting for weeks, glued to Mastermind/University Challenge/Brain of Britain in a vain attempt to improve our general knowledge. But nothing could prepare us for the ferociously hard questions at the 2009 Colman Getty Pen Quiz, hosted by the eloquent and efficient David Mitchell of Peep Show and Mitchell and Webb fame.

We had been lulled into a false sense of security beforehand, quaffing champagne in the splendour of the Royal Institute of British Architects and spotting literary luminaries such as Joan Bakewell, Sarah Waters, Deborah Moggach, Daisy Goodwin, Isobel Wolff and Kathy Lette, mixed in with a good sprinkling of publishing movers and shakers.

Then we moved into the banqueting room for dinner and … agonising torture as the questions came thick and fast. We conferred, debated, scratched our heads, reached for the wine bottle and actually put up a pretty good fight in the end, our best rounds being history [where we played our joker, earning double points] and the picture round.

In the end it was a tie between The Times, The Guardian and Harper Collins [the competition was pretty tough!], so the final winner was decided by a quick fire round, with The Times emerging as victors after correctly answering the question ‘In 1519, the French King Francis 1 bought which painting to put in his bathroom?’ [The Mona Lisa].

Coming last was softened by Liz Harris winning four bottles of fine malt whisky in the raffle, and the knowledge that we had contributed to an excellent cause – the evening raised approximately £20,000 to support PEN’s work defending freedom of expression, campaigning on behalf of persecuted writers worldwide and promoting literature and literacy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fenella Miller Talks About the Pleasure of Research

Researching is part of the pleasure of writing historical fiction. I am much more familiar with the Regency era than I am of the Second World War. My current work in progress is a romantic suspense set in 1941 near Debden, which was an RAF base at the time. a female protagonists is a land girl, the hero an RAF pilot and the other male protagonist a German fighter pilot shot down over Debden.

Saffron Walden, so called because it was the focus of the saffron trade in mediaeval times, is the nearest town, about 3 miles away. It's a pretty, unspoilt town, with most of the buildings listed. The photo is of the Victorian building that was the hospital during the war, it is now the council offices.You can see from the aerial view taken 10 years ago that the airfield is exactly as it was, apart from the fact that hangars have been demolished, the air traffic control tower gone and an army barracks now with the main buildings used to be. The buildings on either side of the main gate were built in 1934, originally they had flat roofs but they are pitched.

I was privileged to be taken on a conducted tour by a very friendly local farmer. He had arranged to drive me around the airfield. It was awesome to look down the 1 mile long runway and think that the bombers ( Blenheims and Beaufighters) had trundled down this very concrete.

I was astonished to discover that Debden Village had no electricity until 1954, and my guide pointed out the place where one of the standpipes was positioned. They must have lived like Victorians even though 3 miles down the road they had everything in the way plumbing and so on. I've yet to discover where the nearest telephone was, the farmer told me his family had had one but he didn't know if anyone else had.

Debden airfield is over 400 acres, until I drove around the perimeter where the fighters and bombers used a taxi to get in position to take off, I had no idea it was so big.

The best story I discovered was that a German fighter landed on Debden airfield in error, he even got out of his plane and went to speak to someone in the control tower. He managed to taxi round and take off before he could be shot down or captured. Further investigation has led to the discovery that this pilot had also landed in two other places - he was either a shockingly bad navigator or the very brazen spy.

I'm going back to spend the day at Saffron Walden next week, I didn't have time to do more than go to the library to collect some books I'd ordered. I must visit the art gallery and museum and go on the historic walk before the weather becomes too unpleasant.

Fenella Miller

Two Gentlemen From London

Robert Hale

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gill Stewart on The Evolution of a Story

Gill Stewart, writing as Gillian Villars, tells us about ‘Tomorrow’s Promise’ – The Evolution of a Story

In her recent post , Kate Harrison discussed the task of re-writing a story once the novel had actually been published. That really is quite a challenge and it was fascinating to read about it. The evolution of my story has been slightly different and probably easier as it has not taken place ‘in public'.

The story I’m referring to is ‘Tomorrow’s Promise’, my second People’s Friend Pocket Novel which is out now. The title was new to me and made me think about all the evolutions this story has been through to reach eventual publication.

Firstly the title – it started off in my head as ‘Lara’ and stayed with that title for years. Then when PF accepted it, it was as ‘Lara of Ladybank Row’. And now it is published under the completely different title of ‘Tomorrow’s Promise’.

But it’s not only the title that has been evolving. The story itself has changed many times, although as always been essentially the same – the story of Lara, a teacher, who takes on the challenge of a new job and run down house, who is quite happy thank you and certainly isn’t looking for love or reconciliation with her parents, but through the novel finds both…

In its original incarnation the story was intended to be the first of a trilogy, each centring on the love story of one of three friends. The second incarnation was as a novel in its own right, with some of the friends’ stories woven in. The third and final version was altered to suit the format of the People’s Friend Pocket Novel and had to be considerably shortened (it helped having to take out all the swear words and sex!).

This is a story I am very fond of and I’m delighted I didn’t give up on it and that it has eventually found a home. For me it shows that the saying ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’ is very true, especially when it comes to writing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

RNA Winter Party 2009 - Glitz, Glamour and Fun

The Winter Party was a huge success. The atmosphere in the library was buzzing and the pictures here give a small glimpse of the evening... (your scribe apologizes in advance for any mispellings of names or lack of names as the scribe enjoyed the evening far too much - which also means the format of this post will leave much to be desired!)

(Liz Fenwick, Anne Bennett Janet Gover)

(Lesley Cookman and Sue Morrcroft)

(Emma Beswetherick and distinguished gentleman)

(Maddie and Julie Cohen)

(Henri, Pia and brave man)

(Katie Fforde)

(Carole and Monica)

(Carol Townend, Linda Fildew and Evelyn Ryle)

(a bust and Kate Johnson)

(Two brave men)

(Sophie King, Teresa Chris and Cat Cobain)

(Broo and Evelyn)

(a brave man and editors from Sphere and Little Brown)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Loves Me, Loves Me Not Launch Party

Last night saw the launch of LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT. The wonderful chairman of the RNA, Katie's Fforde, shares her thoughts:

'It's briliant that we've now got this wonderful anthology to celebrate our 50th anniversary. It's a delight. Having it by my bedside reminds me of one of those wonderful old annuals, full of good things and surprises. And its wonderful cover really makes it stand out. People keeping asking me about 'that gold book.' It's a really great present for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day - you name it. (The dads might not be quite so thrilled so better get the giant chocolate bar as usual for them.)

Last night there was a suitably gold-filled and glittery launch party at the Cavalry and Guards Club. Such a lovely location! Just perfect for such an elegant occasion. Almost all of the contributing authors and their guests were there, looking glamorous, and allowing themselves to be photographed like the true celebs they are. Launch parties are rare in the publishing world so it was fabulous that we had such a good one. The journalists and PR people seemed to enjoy it too. It was particularly joyous to all be together to celebrate together. We must try to do more collaborative things – the parties are so good!

And if anyone else wants to know about my gold necklace, it was in a sale and very well reduced! The heart-shaped earrings with bits of gold in them were another matter all together, but I did buy them in Venice. It’s part of my job to buy gold things in our 50th year, isn’t it?

Rewriting History by Kate Harrison

Kate Harrison is the author of six novels, including The Secret Shopper Unwrapped. She lives in London and Spain, blogs at Chicklit Work In Progress and Read Like A Writer and her website is Kate Harrison. She shares with us the experience of rewriting her first published novel:

In the last seven years, I’ve written approximately 800,000 words of fiction. Actually, make that more like a million, by the time I’ve edited my novels with the savagery of a butcher with severe PMT.

I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things over that time, but I didn’t really given much thought to what, until my publishers said they’d like to relaunch Old School Ties, my debut novel.

That book, inspired by the Friends Reunited school reunion craze, follows the supremely bitchy Tracey, who believes herself to have been the most popular girl in the school – until she organises a big bash and finds most of the guests are keener on revenge than reunion. I wrote the novel very quickly – it took three months, plus one more for editing – and after the usual newbie writer’s round of rejections, I won a competition, a publishing deal and an agent. To say I was excited is the understatement of the millennium.

Old School Ties was picked for the WH Smith Fresh Talent selection, which was hugely encouraging for me. And it went on to sell in respectable numbers, though certainly didn’t hit the bestseller list. So in one way, the idea of the book having a second outing was an appealing one...

And yet the thought terrified me. In the end – and against the advice of almost all my writer friends – I asked my editor for the chance to rewrite it before publication. She said yes, I gulped. And then I avoided re-reading the book for as long as I possibly could.

I’ve never read my novels again after publication, on the grounds that I would hate to spot stuff I’d like to change when it’s too late. But this time, I had the chance to rewrite if not history, then the story itself. More than that. I felt I HAD to rewrite – it wouldn’t be fair to republish the book and expect people to pay good money for it unless I had a chance to apply what I’ve learned in the six years since I was first published.

Finally, I had to dive in. It was peculiar to read it in book form, and gave me a distance I needed. Alas, I also cringed. I spotted over-writing, incomprehensible similes, moments when characters said things no one would ever say in real life. Before I started re-reading, I’d hoped that the solution would be simple: that I’d just want to rewrite the last chapter, or remove a scene or two. Instead, I made thousands of tiny changes, and a few major ones. But I hope that the spirit of the book, the quality that my first publisher and agent recognised, is still there. Tracey, my ‘anti-heroine’, is still a bit of a cow (or a lot of a cow, depending on how far you can empathise with her struggles) – and I haven’t added any sumo wrestling or grisly murder sub-plots. It’s a bit like the ‘director’s cut’ – well, if the director had been new to the business when the film was first made, and then went back to it with a more vicious cutting edge.

There’s a theory that to master any art or craft – music, painting, writing – one needs to spend 10,000 hours on it. link here and here This works out at eight hours per weekday for five years. I haven’t kept a timesheet, but I would say I’m approaching that now. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered fiction by any means, but I find out something new about craft or story-telling with every book. I definitely edit far more now than I did at the beginning.

So apart from being more of a devil with the delete button, what exactly have I learned over the last six years? I think the single thing I’m clearer about now is the need to create an emotionally satisfying journey for the reader. When I first wrote about Tracey, I believed that for the most part, people didn’t change significantly – which, I realise now, fundamentally misses the point about fiction, which is that it is all about change. ‘Emotionally satisfying’ in women’s fiction doesn’t necessarily mean a trip up the aisle (or even up and down the aisles of Selfridge’s), but it does need to have some form of redemption or resolution – a sense that the story tells us something about human nature, and perhaps about ourselves, even if it’s just that we want to laugh in the face of adversity.

It might surprise some people that a writer in a genre that’s often derided as ‘dashed off’ or ‘written to order’ would bother to go back to a first book. Maybe I’m crazy, or a perfectionist – most likely a combination of the two. I’ve tried my best to make it a more enjoyable book, which is what I think all readers owe writers. Author and former editor Harriet Evans wrote an interesting blog this week on how women’s fiction is perceived and reviewed – and the comments that follow certainly prove that you can’t please all the people all the time. guardian books blog

But we can do our best in our chosen field – and in commercial fiction that means trying to tell the story in the most satisfying, entertaining way possible. Every edit brings something new to a manuscript – and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend leaving six years between edits, it’s a salutary reminder that a writer’s work is never done...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nell Dixon Talks About Writing What You Know

For a long time Nell Dixon resisted writing a romance set in a medical background. As a qualified general nurse, midwife and health visitor of many years standing she had the perfect credentials. Somehow though, the idea had never held much appeal, despite her fondness for reading Betty Neels, Kate Hardy and Fiona Lowe’s books.

Then at an RNA conference she got talking to Sheila Hodgson, from Mills and Boons medical line who also suggested Nell should give it a try. The story, then entitled Charlie Darling, after the little boy in the book, was duly submitted. Time went by, revisions and tweaks took place until eventually almost two years later it was rejected.
So, what to do with a category length romance in a medical setting with a domestic violence subplot? Too short for Nell’s other publishers and too niche market for her American e publisher, the manuscript lay forlorn and neglected in a drawer. Then a writing friend suggested she try Freya’s Bower, a small American electronic and print press.

More revisions followed, but finally success. His Darling Nurse will be released by Freya’s Bower on the 17th of this month three years after the original version was finished. Proving, determination, being willing to revise and writing what you know really can pay off.

Juliet Darling needs a fresh start. With the end to her disastrous marriage, she hopes that moving to the village of Chandler’s Gate—where she landed a job as a practice nurse—will give her and her small son Charlie just such an opportunity. Her ex-husband, however, doesn’t plan on allowing them to escape his clutches quite so easily.

Dr. Neil Forrest finds his quiet and orderly life disrupted both at work, with the arrival of Juliet and her new ideas about what a practice nurse should do, and at home when the accident-prone Juliet and her son move in to the house next door. Neil has deep-rooted insecurities about life and relationships since the premature death of his wife. The loss has left him clinging to his precious routines in an attempt to protect himself from further pain.

It takes a very special little boy, an out of control barbecue and a terrible accident before Neil and Juliet can finally get together and Neil can make Juliet his very own darling nurse.

Freya's Bower

Monday, November 16, 2009

Music and Memories - Jane Odiwe Shares Hers

Jane Odiwe writes of the music that helps to bring the emotion of past times:-

My book Willoughby’s Return is all about the power of love – that heady, swept away, first love, and the love that comes from an enduring devotion over time. In the book that inspired my novel, Sense and Sensibility, music plays a part in the romances between Marianne, the heroine, and her lovers – dashing but ruthless Willoughby and the grave but heroic Colonel Brandon. It got me thinking about the music that’s been important in my life, and how when you hear that ‘special’ song the years roll back and you’re there again.

Here’s a list of a few of my special songs:
You to me are everything – The Real Thing I met my husband at college – he wore a beige leather coat that just swept the floor – I was smitten!

There must be an angel playing with my heart – Eurythmics Memories of sharing a flat in Maida Vale with my sister and brother-in-law, living on Taramasalata and spending every night in the local
My baby Just cares for me – Nina Simone Birth of my firstborn, it was the song that got him off to sleep
Nothing compares to you – Sinead O’Connor Birth of my daughter, memories of my newborn’s full head of hair in contrast to Sinaed’s!
I can’t help falling in love with you – UB40 Birth of my youngest son, my family complete!
So many songs and too many pieces to list here, from classical to contemporary, music is a wonderful trigger to many fantastic memories!

Willoughby’s Return - A lost love returns, rekindling forgotten passions…
In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby in the past.Three years later, Willoughby's return throws Marianne into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing couldn't be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of a previous love be too powerful to resist?

My website:

I’m also doing a blog tour and to celebrate publication there will be giveaways, competitions to win books and paintings, plus interviews over the next couple of weeks – information on my blog:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lost and Found in Translation

Janet Gover regales us with tales of translation trials....

I grew up in the Australian Outback. Well… we did have some trees, and it rained more than once a year, so I guess technically, it was the bush, not the outback.

After a couple of years in Hong Kong (where I met an Englishman) I moved to West London, whereupon I found myself surrounded by the strangest things.

A car boot sale? I'd never heard of such a thing.

Bread sauce – was my mother-in-law crazy? You don’t make sauce out of bread!

And why wouldn't the stores sell me a doona or a refidex?

I learned to translate. I bought a duvet instead of a doona, and a road atlas instead of a Refidex. At the same time, these differences started to inspire my writing. It's amazing how interesting the commonplace can be to a stranger.

I've published two books set in Australia with Little Black Dress (the third is with my editor now). E-mails with my editor tend to go a bit like this…

Editor: What is a feral ute?
Janet : A sort of flat tray work vehicle – a bit like what the Americans call a truck, but smaller, covered with lots of stickers from B&S Balls.
Editor : And B&S Balls are..?

….. and so on. (For the answer – you'll have to read my November release The Bachelor and Spinster Ball)

It never ceases to surprise me that so many things I take for granted are apparently out of the ordinary. Don't people spray food dye out of their mouths at country dances in the UK? I guess not.

As the books sell all over the world, including Australia, the challenge for me is getting the Australian setting right – using the right language – but at the same time not confusing a reader who might have trouble picturing a person with thongs on their feet. (If you are from the UK, think of flip flops.)

I now divide my time between two places, both of which I call home. Each time I get of a plane (at either end) I see new things, however small, which delight me, and it's not long before I start thinking… what if? At that point, there's a scene in a book not too far behind.

Janet's latest book THE BACHELOR AND SPINSTER BALL is out now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Working in the Garage

Jane Jackson tells us about her unique work space.

We've all heard about working in shed but I work in a corner of the garage. I wanted to go "out" to work, so I wasn't available to callers or the phone. As we have a double garage, my beloved husband got to work and after measuring the space to allow for the van to be parked inside with sufficient room to open at least one of its doors so he could get in and out, he built a block wall partitioning off almost half the space. He then installed a floating floor, insulated the walls, put a ceiling up, installed a small nightstore, then covered one wall with bookshelves. I have a large double-glazed (opening) window that looks over farm fields to the woods on the hill. Before the farmer died and his wife had to lease the fields to crop contractors, he had a dairy herd, and every summer I watched the cows making up to the bull, then calves being born. My ancient desktop computer is not connected to the internet, so no risk of viruses, and no time diverted from the wip to checking and answering e-mails. I have to come into the house to do that on my laptop. This means I have to walk from my office around the back of the house and in through the garden patio door at regular intervals, ensuring frequent fresh air and exercise. I LOVE my office, it's a combined work space, bolt-hole and comfort blanket.

Her latest historical romance HEART OF STONE published by Severn House £18.99, is out now.

How Do You Write? Sabrina Philips Shares Her Love of Paper and Pen

Author Sabrina Philips explains her writing process:

I’ve always enjoyed the physical act of writing. As a child I adored handwriting classes at school, loved writing long letters to pen friends, filling both sides of the notepaper until it curled up. One of the things that attracted me to my day job working at a Register Office was the prospect of writing marriage certificates with an old fashioned pen and ink.

I also feel at my most creative with a pen and paper, and when it comes to writing a book, I do a huge amount by hand – all my ideas, character sketches and planning. The story itself I do write straight on to screen though – for two reasons. My writing process involves pounding out a hideously messy rough draft to begin with, which isn’t always written linearly, so being able to just copy bits and paste them where they need to be as I go along is so much more practical. Likewise, the only way I can make any progress in the early stages of a book is by forcing myself to write a certain number of words a day. If I didn’t have a way of measuring word count and just told myself I needed to fill a certain number of pages in my notebook, I know the naughty child in me would just write bigger to fill the pages more quickly.

However, when I get stuck on a particular scene or piece of dialogue, I always go back to pen and paper. Maybe it’s because it’s slower than typing and it gives me more time to consider the words. Maybe it’s because if I hit a brick wall, doodling while I ponder the problem it’s far more likely to result in a solution than me quickly checking my email/Twitter/a blog ‘while I think’. Or maybe it’s because a pen scribbling over the page is the image I still most associate with being a writer. I’m not sure, but I do know it never fails to give me a fresh perspective.

So how about you, do you still write with a good old-fashioned pen and paper? Or has the image of ‘being a writer’ long been replaced by keyboard and screen in your mind? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Sabrina’s third book, Prince of Mont├ęz, Pregnant Mistress is now on the shelves.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An RNA Treasure - Mary Nichols

Jenny Haddon writes of RNA Treasure, Mary Nichols:

When Mary Nichols submitted her first novel to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme, it was returned by Miss Helen McGregor, the fierce publishers’ reader who then ran the scheme, with ‘This is not a Romance’ the first point in her dense, handwritten notes. Mary remembers, ‘They were very difficult to read because she wanted to keep her comments to one page, so she used the margins. One had to keep turning them round!’ She adds wryly, ‘I later (much later) sold it to Robert Hale who called it a delightful romance.’

Her second attempt, The Poacher’s Daughter, was turned down also. Orion published that one, too, many years later and much re-written, as a saga. Then in 1985 Mills & Boon bought an historical romance, her first love, and she has been writing for them ever since.

Mary says she is addicted to writing. (Her first novel was written while her parents thought she was revising!) She has published more than forty books, including a biography of her beloved grandmother, sagas, and a mainstream novel set in the twentieth century. And she did it while running a day job and caring for her husband and three children, now joined by four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Oh, and she plays golf. Multi tasking? Piece of cake!

Then, this autumn, all this industry caught up with her and she found that she had three books, from three different publishers, coming out in the space of six weeks. Did she say, ‘Who’s the bozo with big bean, then?’ Did she even say, ‘All that work was worth it’? She did not. She said, ‘Greedy, or what?’ (And that’s another reason why she is an RNA Treasure.) And it’s her Diamond Wedding on November 3rd.

First out of the trap was The Summer House, published by Allison & Busby in August 2009. It is a two-generation story that embraces two world wars, a lost baby and a secret love affair and it had one reader ‘crying my eyes out before I’d finished the prologue’. But don’t worry. It has a thoroughly satisfying ending.

Then came The Mother of Necton, subtitled a century of Norfolk life, published by The Larks Press. These days Mary lives in Ely, just over the border from the village where she used to stay with her beloved grandmother, Eliza Ong. Eliza moved to Necton when she married in 1904 and eventually became the much loved village midwife. This is her story. But it is also the story of the trials and deprivations of a rural community in the twentieth century, through the first World War and the Depression, then the second World War, post war austerity and beyond.

And then a novel in her favourite Regency Romance form, is given an original twist in Honourable Doctor, Improper Arrangement published by Harlequin Mills & Boon in October 2009

Advice for new writers, who have not yet made their breakthrough to print? She says follow her example: keep your rejected works and cannibalize them for other books. ‘I hate to waste what has taken hard work to produce!’

Mary says ‘I am not happy if I haven't got a book on the go and if my readers enjoy what I have written, that is an added bonus.’

We do, Mary, we do. Have a good one!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anna Jacobs on Writing in Several Genres

Author of over forty books Anna Jacobs explains a bit about writing in several genres:

I never quite know how to explain myself when people ask me what sort of books I write. I can’t really call myself a romance writer at the moment, except in the broadest terms, because I’m writing in two neighbouring genres: historical sagas and modern novels about families and relationships. All contain romances, but they’re not ‘pure’ romances.

What does that mean? Well, in a ‘pure’ romance, the developing romance is itself the story, while in a romantic novel, there is another story, in which a romance is included. In my books I often include subsidiary romances as well. You can’t have too much of a good thing.

I have written ‘pure’ historical romances in the past, including two regencies (Jane Austen style). And I wrote fantasy/science fiction for a few years as Shannah Jay.

People often ask why I write in several genres. Why not? doesn’t seem to satisfy them as an answer. Basically, I get ideas for different types of story, so why not use them?

There is also a very big spin-off for me: the variety keeps me from getting bored. I don’t have a very high tolerance for boredom, you see, which is why I like hanging out with RNA members, who are a very lively and interesting bunch, like their books.

The variety also stimulates my creativity. I write three longish novels a year, which means coming up with lots of new plots. Moving from one era to another, one type of novel to another, helps, for some reason. I don’t struggle to find plots, my future characters wake me up in the night and show me ‘movies’, then I rush to take notes.

The biggest problem with writing in two genres is when I get an idea for a new story while I’m in the middle of something else. Then my imagination may have to move from the 1860s to the modern day - and quickly back again. It keeps me on my toes.

What I regret most is that I don’t have time to write in the genres I’ve ventured into in the past, because I still keep getting ideas for them. But I’m afraid I need to sleep every single night, and to spend time with my own personal hero.

If I do find a way to speed up my writing, however, watch out. I’ll turn my imagination loose on the entire universe again.

Anna has two novels coming out this month, both modern. The hardback is a brand-new story IN FOCUS, which has an IT background. When a new feature on Pete Newbury's popular TV programme shows his adult image digitally transformed to that of a young child, Beth is shocked to realise he's her 'baby' brother, who vanished without trace 38 years ago.

The other book is SAVING WILLOWBROOK which is out in paperback. Ella turner is struggling to save the farm which has been in her family for hundreds of years, with the help of the hero, her daughter and the friendly family ghost.