Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview with Phillipa Ashley

Welcome to Phillipa Ashley whose writing career was kick started by a television costume drama. Her first book, 'Decent Exposure/Dating Mr December' won the Romantic Novelists Association Joan Hessayon New Writers Award and in 2009 and was filmed as a US TV movie.

Phillipa can you tell us how you got you got started?

I started writing fan fiction in late 2004 after watching a BBC adaptation of North & South. In 2005 I wrote Decent Exposure, my first novel which was made into a Lifetime movie in 2009 and is out in the US now. I call it the book that will never die...

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?

I try and write an outline but usually end up ignoring most of it. I like to get the first draft down while the ideas are flowing and then rewrite several times once I know what should really happen!

Where is your favourite place to work?

I move about the house from bed to office to lounge to dining room, working on a PC and a laptop.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?

I also work as a freelance copywriter so I’m busy writing from 7am-7pm some days and also often write for a couple of hours on Sundays. I usually have Saturday off.

Which authors have most influenced your work? And which do you choose to read now?

Jane Austen, Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde, Christina Jones, Nell Dixon, Rosy Thornton, Jill Shalvis, Liz Fielding. I like reading non-fiction too, especially guidebooks and manuals about wild swimming, camping or surfing.

Do you find time to have interests other than writing? How do you relax?

I find it absolutely essential to get out of the house. Health and family are far more important that writing, much as I love it. I try to go for a swim, walk, spinning or gym class most days and I get into the outdoors as much as possible, cycling, walking or surfing with my family.

How do you promote your books, and how much time do you give to it?

Quite a lot at the moment as I have two US publishers who send me on blog tours and encourage me to interact online with readers. I use Facebook, Twitter and blogging.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?

I submitted the ms of my first novel, Decent Exposure, to the New Writers Scheme in 2005 and got some encouraging feedback. I didn’t get a second read but after revising the book, I sent it to an agent and she sold it to Little Black Dress.

Do you enjoy research, and how do you set about it?

I love doing hands on research and as many of my books feature outdoor activity, so I get an excuse to try them. So far I’ve tried abseiling, surfing, swimming in a mountain pool and spent a week in a campervan.

Who is your ideal reader?

Anyone who enjoys escapist romantic fiction. I have readers from 13-90, of very diverse views in many different countries.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.

My forthcoming worldwide release is Fever Cure available as an e book from Samhain on July 12. It’s a very sexy romance about teacher Keira Grayson who meets The Honourable Tom Carew, dedicated doctor and possibly the hottest man on the planet. Trouble is, his bags are already packed to return to the jungles of Papua New Guinea where he has patients waiting—and amends to make for a terrible choice that left devastation in its wake.
When I was an undergraduate, I once sat opposite an earl’s son who was studying to be a doctor and I wondered why someone so privileged would choose such a tough profession.

In the USA my romantic novel, Wish You Were Here, has been launched by Sourcebooks in print and e-book this month and spent several weeks in the Amazon Romance Top 20. It’s about Jack Thornfield, a new CEO who is shocked to see his long lost love; Beth Allen's resume come across his desk. After 8 years apart they have a second chance at happiness in a story about love and secrets.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?

I’m editing a new romantic novel about a history-loving heroine who manages an island castle. Then the owner, a bad boy Lord returns and wants to sell it. Lots of humour, romance and secrets in this one too!

Thank you, Phillipa. We wish you every success with your new novels.

If you want to know more about Phillipa and her writing, visit her website
http://www.phillipa-ashley.com .

Follow on her on Facebook at

or on Twitter @PhillipaAshley.com

Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview with Sue Moorcroft

A warm welcome to Sue Moorcroft, who writes contemporary romantic novels for Choc Lit. She’s also author of numerous short stories, serials, articles and a how to book, she's edited an anthology, is head judge for Writer’s Forum magazine and a creative writing tutor.

Sue can you tell us how you get started with writing?

I don't know that I ever stopped, right from school, where writing was the thing I did best. But it was the early 90s when I started trying to get my novels published. That didn't go well ... So I took a distance learning course, very similar to the kind I now teach. Around the same time I read that if I could get about twenty short stories published in national magazines, publishers of novels would look on me with interest - so I tried it. Loosely, this route worked. But I'd sold 87 short stories, both in the UK and other countries, before my agent rang to say those magic words: 'I have an offer for you!'

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?

I used to hate and despise planning. It smacked of school, where I had to plan the life and joy out of a story before beginning. But, the more I write, the more I plan, and I don't think that it's a coincidence that the first book I sold, Uphill All the Way, is the first book I properly planned.

I plot in quite a messy way, beginning with character and fundamental questions such as whether the heroine has a quest and what is going to keep hero and heroine apart until I'm good and ready for them to get together. I try and plot tightly, so that one thing impacts upon another and there are plausible gaps in the knowledge of each character. I look into the history of each character for conflict, too. I always know roughly what the ending to the story is before I begin. But when I get to the ending I often find it difficult to get exactly right.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?

Something that will sell.

What that involves in the type of book I write is likeable characters that act out an interesting story, told in a readable style. I try and make the relationship between my hero and heroine one that will captivate the reader and make them yearn to be part of it.

Where is your favourite place to work?

My study. It's packed with my stuff and is pretty well equipped as a communication centre - my beloved Mac, a printer/scanner, phone/fax, loads of cabinets with drawers and piles of paper everywhere that mean a lot to me. It has a view of the garden but I try not to gaze out too much. I keep my library in here and work at a big iroko desk that my husband made. I have some family photos up and a few favourite ornaments, often gifts. And a lot of sticky notes on the wallpaper, which is past saving anyway. If I had a wish for this room it would be for it to be enough for a sofa and a bigger wall for sticky notes.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?

I write most days, although sometimes take a day or two off at the weekend. I work a lot of hours. I'm usually at my desk around 7.30am and leave around 6.00pm, when it's time to make the dinner. I do often have a lunch hour and spend some of those on classes such as yoga and piano. If I work at a weekend I don't get up so early - although some of my weekend work involves conferences, talks, workshops etc so the number of hours I work are dictated by the event.

To balance this heavy schedule, I also have some fantastic days in London or elsewhere when I attend lovely glitzy events such as the RNA's awards - these don't feel like work but they're great networking opportunities.

Which authors have most influenced your work?

Like many writers, I suppose I don't like to think I've been influenced. But I have always loved love stories, right from my first grown-up novel, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. I have all of his books and reread one or two a year. Of contemporary writers, I love Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Judy Astley, Suzanne Brockmann, Linda Howard ... They all write fantastically entertaining stories where a love affair plays a pivotal part. The creative writing tutor in me does read analytically and appreciatively.

I've decided I'm too old to read books I'm not enjoying. Ergo, I pretty much love everything I read past the first 30 pages.

How do you develop your characters?

First, in my head. It could be the hero or the heroine that comes to me first. It might be from a picture or from somebody I've seen in real life. Rarely does their picture in my mind owe nothing to a real person but they can easily be a pastiche of several people or what I imagine somebody would look like older or younger. Their physical characteristics are simple to establish - it's what makes them tick that interests me and I like to examine a central character from many points of view. How does the hero see himself? How does the heroine see him? What do his friends think of him? What about his parents? I have quite a full history and a clear idea of likes and dislikes. I begin to scribble about the character in third person and somewhere in the process I become absorbed enough that I naturally change to first person. I assume the persona of the character, just like an actor does. And I 'get' them.

Sometimes characters have traits and I'm not sure why - but I know I need to find out. In Love & Freedom, a fourteen-year-old, Rufus Gordon, was incredibly clear to me and I knew he was needy and diffident and had low expectations of life. I knew he had the kind of mum who let him down a lot but that his problems weren't all coming from her. Then, suddenly, it came to me - he was being bullied. Suddenly, I understood him completely. Rufus - Ru - isn't a central character but he is pivotal to the book.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?

Getting ideas. Or remembering ideas once I have them! I have begun to write them down prior to evaporation point.

It can be difficult to accept editorial direction, especially if I flat out disagree with what's being suggested. Having to rewrite and revise is part of a writer's life and I can love it or hate it. It depends upon whether I think the change is going to improve my work for the better.

Do you find time to have interests other than writing?

Reading. I read in the same way others watch TV: evenings, spare moments, eating lunch. I'm also a Formula 1-aholic - which is where most of my few TV watching hours go - and enjoy yoga and am learning to play the piano, but learning slowly and just for my own enjoyment. I like to travel but don't get enough opportunity; I love being out in the sunshine.

What advice would you give a new writer?

A) Persist B) Educate yourself. If you don't persist, you're unlikely to succeed. The longer you persist, the more likely you are to succeed. But if you're not succeeding - work out why. Do you need a course? A mentor? To buy some books about writing or the publishing business? Get yourself to writing events such as talks and conferences because you increase your market knowledge and also might meet other writers and, crucially, agents and editors. Joining the RNA and going to events was a huge milestone in my career because it gave me a 'can do' attitude. I met so many people who were already doing it. They showed me what was possible.

What draws you to your particular genre?

That's quite hard to answer. I suppose I like the sensation and excitement of falling in love. Doing it in real life is perilous to my marriage. I do like happy endings, too, and wouldn't like to spend my life conjuring up violence or scary things.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal for you?

Serials, as in magazine serials, were a nice stepping stone for me from getting published in short fiction to long fiction. I quite like episodic writing but it can be a challenge when you have months and months between writing an instalment and getting the approval of the editor - and the go ahead for the next.

In my novels, I don't write in series in quite the same way, but do enjoy setting books in Middledip village, where some of the same characters crop up, such as Gwen at the shop or Tubb at the pub. And in All That Mullarkey, for example, we meet again Ratty from Starting Over, and see that he's still loved up with Tess. I got so much good feedback from it that I wanted to carry on setting some of my books there and my next, Dream a Little Dream, is to be about Liza, the sister of Cleo from All That Mullarkey. Liza was just too naughty and too much fun to leave as a secondary character.

How do you promote your books?

Endlessly and assiduously. There are the obvious things such as book signings and the newsletter and chatting on Twitter and Facebook. (If you want to sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter or Facebook you can do it here.) I have a website at www.suemoorcroft.com and a blog at http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com. I think the blog is interesting. If I blog about something unusual or put up the details of a short story comp, I can get not only a lot of hits but people retweeting it or linking to it. I mention the post on forums and anywhere else I think it might get interest. When I've hit on one of these spikes of interest I often have people contacting me on Twitter, afterwards, to tell me they tried one of my books as a result. I always hope they'll like it enough to buy more and to tell their friends.

I also put up a permanent page on my blog regarding manuscript presentation, because that helps a lot of people, which is good for them, and sends them to my site, which is good for me.

Choc Lit, who publish my novels, are very market savvy. They come up with all kinds of ideas and promotions and I make myself available for all of them, as I do any sniff of a lit fest. I get quite a few readers through my judging work and monthly columns with Writers Forum and also my writing students. I get news items about forthcoming books wherever I can.

And I do on-line interviews such as this one! And guest blogs. And I carry around little business cards with the covers of my books on one side and its details on the other, so if a chance acquaintance expresses interest I can give them a card. And I put my books in the signature line of my emails. And I use postcards containing my covers as notelets. Really, now I list all these things, I feel like Little Miss Push.

I'm lucky to be supported by Choc Lit's publicists, too.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Can't afford it. I'm with Mickey Spillane: 'Inspiration is an empty bank account.' Sometimes, one thing isn't going well and I'll do something else for a few hours - that's about the nearest I get to believe that the writers' block monster exists.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?

Too many to count. As well as the 'can do' attitude I mentioned, it has provided focused conferences to teach me about the industry, parties at which I network, a wealth of information and expertise to mine - the RNA members are ever generous - and most of my friends come from the RNA. Through the New Writers' Scheme I found an agent; I came across three of my publishers; I made almost every contact I used in my 'how to' book, Love Writing.

Are you a specialist of one genre or do you have another identity?

I write quite wholesome stuff for women's magazines, because that's their market. And sometimes, when writing, I have my creative writing tutor's hat on, which has its own 'voice'. Neither of those things are really other genres - I haven't tried to write crime or anything (not clever enough).

Do you enjoy research, and how do you set about it?

Yes, I do. I often begin by looking for general information about my subject, normally on the Internet. But it's better to talk to people who hold the knowledge that I need. For instance, in Love & Freedom, the heroine, Honor, is American but she has spent family vacations in England for much of her life and she comes to England looking for her English mother. Happily for me, I met a lovely American woman, Amanda, who had enough in common with Honor to be extremely useful to me. I was able to chatter to her about what kinds of things alienated her when she came to England to live, even though she'd had all those vacations here, and she read my manuscript and told me where I'd made Honor sound too British or I was coming over like a Brit trying to sound American, rather than a bona fide American.

The Internet is endlessly useful, though. I read case studies for whatever I'm researching or look for classes on the subject on YouTube. I will try and experience what my characters do - I walked all Honor's walks in Love & Freedom and took her bus rides. But I only took one Zumba class and realised that Honor was a lot better at it than I am. Back to Youtube ...

Who is your ideal reader?

One who likes my books so much that she buys them all and then buys them for all her friends. I think I appeal to a wide age range but more women then men. My readers want to be entertained but have the capacity to go with my characters when I tackle a real issue or two.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.

The theme of Love & Freedom is its title. Honor has spent her life living up to her name - being 'Honor-able' - but she finds both love and freedom increasingly important. The novel is set in the village of Eastingdean, near Brighton, where she meets Martyn Mayfair, who is alternately captivated and exasperated by her - but keeps finding himself offering help, when he knows it's not the best thing for his peace of mind. Especially when she takes Rufus Gordon under her wing. Ru's mother, Robina, is Martyn's stalker, so Martyn usually avoids him like the plague.

I'm not sure where I got the idea for the book. I was visiting Brighton at the time the book was percolating in my imagination and I knew I wanted an American heroine. Bringing her to England was the obvious way for me to go - although I do take her home to Connecticut for a while, too - so I had to begin looking for a reason for her to be here. So I decided she wanted to know more about her English mother, who abandoned her when she was a baby.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?

Once I'd decided that I couldn't leave Liza stuck in secondary characterland forever, I had a starting point, because I already knew her, a little. For example, I knew she was a reflexologist. The obvious way to have her meet Dominic was to have him consult her professionally. I remembered something outrageously rude my brother said when he was dragged to a reflexologist and thought that it would set up a funny opening conflict if Dominic were to say it and Liza overhear. (I had to clean it up a bit, first.)

I wanted Dominic to have a medical issue that really wasn't going to be cured by reflexology. In a discussion with a fellow writer who works in an entirely different genre, I mentioned that certain words work well in titles for the type of book I write. I said that 'dream' might be a good word, for example. And Dominic's illness came to me - narcolepsy! It can be incredibly debilitating but lots of people make jokes about it, so it has all kinds of plot potential.

This book will be set mainly in Middedip village, like Starting Over and All That Mullarkey. So there's a little bit of continuity work to be done, but I love being back

Thank you Sue - you've given us some excellent writing advice. We wish you every success with Love and Freedom.

If you want to know more about Sue and her writing, visit her website
http://www.suemoorcroft.com or her blog at http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com

TO VOTE FOR Want to Know a Secret? (Choc Lit ISBN 9781906931261) at THE PEOPLE'S BOOK PRIZE, click here!

Love & Freedom (Choc Lit ISBN 9781906931667)
Want to Know a Secret? (Choc Lit ISBN 9781906931261)
All That Mullarkey (Choc Lit ISBN 9781906931247)
Starting Over (Choc Lit ISBN 9781906931223)
Love Writing - How to Make Money Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press ISBN 9781906373993)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview with Chrissie Loveday

Chrissie Loveday lives in beautiful Cornwall where she has built her dream house. As is the way of life’s happy little coincidences, her son lives in the same mountain village as me in Spain, so we’ve gossiped about writing looking out over the Mediterranean, a glass of chilled wine to hand. Her first writing effort was at age eleven when she sent in a play to Children's Television in which Pamela Brown, (Swish of the Curtain et al) was then a producer. Even though the piece was rejected, she gave Chrissie the encouragement to keep on writing, so tell us Chrissie, how did you first get published?

I think I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember but life got in the way of serious writing until I moved to Cornwall in the early nineties. I had a bit more time and the inspiration of a beautiful place to live. Short stories were my first published works and various educational materials followed. Then came the day when I got a call from Scarlet and my first novel was published. "Go and sit down and make a cup of tea" was the advice from the Editor. All I could do was mutter "But I don’t drink tea." I wrote two more for Scarlet but then they ceased publishing. I also wrote for Black Lace and recently, for DC Thomson. Thirty, for both My Weekly and People’s Friend Pocket Novels. The one ‘I had to write’ was a novel based on the life of my Father. I published "Rough Clay" as a print on demand initially but it is now in large print with Audio-Go.

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
I usually meet my characters and the setting first and then start to discover what is happening in their lives. The plot evolves as I begin writing and they take over. So what does that mean? I sort of plot initially but then they take over and my original plot often gets a bit lost. I have done some novellas with little or no advance plotting. It’s actually much easier if you have proper guidelines but not nearly as much fun.

Where is your favourite place to work?
I have a corner of my bedroom set out as my ‘office’. It has dual aspect windows so I can see down the drive if anyone is coming, and the horses in the field. In front of me I have a view over the sea with towering cliffs. It is very beautiful and a complete distraction when the waves are huge and interesting birds fly by. But it’s really very practical as I often wake early and can get lots done before anyone else wakes up. During the day my three dogs sleep around me in their beds. They often manage to creep into my books and one likes to impede my typing by sitting on my knee if she’s a bit under the weather.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
I usually write like fury when I’m into a book but I take time off between. We have lots of visitors so I will have a blitz before they come and then a complete break. It’s a useful cooling off time and I can come back to do the final read and edit. I usually write three or four novellas a year, all are now 50,000 words.

How do you develop your characters?
My characters usually begin to invade my life at odd moments. Some of them demand to have a voice early on and gradually, I suppose, I listen to them and decide how they fit into the plan. I have conversations with them and imagine what they would be saying as I go about various tasks. Gardening is good for listening and so is swimming. I suspect there’s probably a little bit of me somewhere in many of my characters as they say things I believe. I enjoy writing slightly nasty people best!

Do you find time to have interests other than writing?
I enjoy gentle gardening and try to swim most days, and walk the dogs. We probably watch too much television but I love dramas, property programmes and The Apprentice! Visitors are good and make us visit the lovely places around Cornwall. I also love travel and have visited many countries. I have a particular love of New Zealand, which I have visited several times.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Keep writing and never be too discouraged by adverse criticism. I suspect we’ve all had rejections but if you’ve started the next one, the first is no longer your precious baby. Mind you, rejection still hurts and never take previous success for granted.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so what is the special appeal for you?
I have just completed my first trilogy for People’s Friend Pocket Novels. It’s the first time I have written books in a series and I loved it. I knew the main characters for a long time and watched the youngest sibling grow from a small child into a young woman. Fascinating. I hope to write more of this type.

Do you enjoy research and how do you set about it?
Many of my books have grown from places I’ve visited. I usually buy lots of books about special sites and take pictures and make DVDs. This is the most enjoyable research. I lived in the Potteries during childhood and my father had his own china factory so topping up my knowledge of the area is also enjoyable. I find the Internet an amazing tool. Information is so easily found but it can also be a terrible temptation to read more and more and wham, the morning’s disappeared. Of course, the writers on ROMNA know just about everything between them!

Tell us about your latest book and how you got the idea for it.
As I mentioned earlier, my latest book is the final part of a trilogy set in the Potteries. This one is set in 1938 and tells the story of Lizzie, the youngest daughter of the Vale family. She aspires to become a journalist but as a young woman, is considered only suitable for secretarial work. Of course she falls in love and the rest of the family also have their tales to tell. I started with the oldest daughter Nellie, a talented painter in the Pottery industry. My editor asked for more about the family and then a final part came from this. Part two is just available and Part Three is due in November this year. They will also be available in large print later.

Thank you so much, Chrissie. I’m sure everyone will be inspired by your professionalism, and I love the idea of writing with a view of the sea. For more about Chrissie and her books visit: http://www.ChrissieLoveday.com http://www.Rough-Clay.com

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: mailto:freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Times, Good Times

For those attending for the first time, whether as aspiring or published novelists, members or non-members (and speakers!) the Conference can be a strange mix of exciting and daunting. This year I'm co-ordinating the First Timers' Network, a simple e-mail loop designed to put first timers in touch with each other, answer questions and generally make it easier for new attendees to get the most out of the Conference.
I remember my first RNA Conference as a blur of impressions. Kind people taking the time to answer my questions about what they wrote, even if I could have found that out by studying the best seller lists... the sheer volume of dinner-time conversation... inspirational speakers... and the sure and certain knowledge I was making lifelong friendships.

I asked a few RNA members what their Top Tips for first time attendees were. Our illustrious President was quick to highlight that potential for making new friends. "Speak to everyone," said Katie Fforde. "Everyone is friendly and everyone is in the same boat. One of the joys of the conference is getting to know friends better and to make new ones. Break out of your posse. If you knew a few people it's easy to just stick with them, but if you can, sit at another table and find a new posse."

Annie Ashurst, RNA Chair, said, "I think I'd advise people not to try and go to everything on the programme, however tempting, or they'll be worn out, brain going into overload etc. Choose your events carefully and remember you'll learn a lot simply through social contact with the rest of us in the bar and at meals."
Julie Cohen, a past first timer of the same vintage as myself, agrees. "Although the workshops are great, don't feel you have to take in absolutely everything. It can be good to take breaks, too, and let what you're learning sink in. And Leave extra room in your suitcase for books."

On the subject of packing, a passion of mine, do take a look at Kate Walker's post on the subject from last year which is full of great advice. Since I'm a graduate of Kate's original group of first timers back in 2002, I asked her again for a Top Tip. "Enjoy yourself!" she said. "Don’t worry about meeting up with all those ‘names’ from the spines of the books you’ve loved – every one of those authors had her time of being unpublished and trying to make it. And every one of them is a human being!"

So there you have it:
· Speak to everyone.
· Make friends.
· Don't try to do everything.
· Leave space for books (good advice for life, I think...).
· And enjoy yourself!
But I think it's Jan Jones, Conference organiser (and all-round saint and superwoman) who sums it up best. "Don't be shy," she says. "And take biscuits."

Anna Louise Lucia has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, but first sat down to write a novel in 2001. She rewrote it in 2002. And 2005. And 2006. In between rewrites, she wrote three other books, but the first one just wouldn’t go away. It was published as Run Among Thorns by Medallion Press in 2008. She loves to write stories where ordinary people do extraordinary things, where they face up to risk, temptation and death. Anna lives in Cumbria with a sympathetic husband and four demanding cats.

If you have anything interesting you'd like to put on the blog please contact me at: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk  
or Liz Fenwick at: emfenwick@gmail.com

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview with Wendy Soliman

Wendy grew up on the Isle of Wight but now lives in Andorra with her husband and a rescued dog of indeterminate pedigree. He’s named Jake Bentley after the hero in one of her books on the basis that they’re both good looking mongrels with independent spirits and naughty streaks. She divides her time between Andorra and the west coast of Florida. She writes Regency romance for Carina Press and Aurora Regency, marine crime novels for Carina and contemporaries for Aspen Mountain Press. So tell us, Wendy, how did you get started?

‘When,’ would be a more accurate question and the answer is when I was very young. I wrote my first full length novel at age fifteen. Needless to say, it was crap but it showed an intent that refused to die. My second effort was a Regency which I wrote in my early twenties. It then languished in a cupboard for years whilst life took over. I came across it when we were selling up in England about eight years ago and that rekindled the flame. The characters in that book take leading roles in my third novel for Hale so I guess you can say that nothing one writes is ever wasted!

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
With my regencies I don’t plot at all. I’m a great ‘what-if’ person. I started one book with a sentence, with no clear idea where it was going. My what-ifs took over and turned it into 75,000 words. I rely heavily on my characters to get me in and out of scrapes. They hardly ever act sensibly but fiction would be pretty boring if everyone we read about was level-headed!

However, with my crime books I’m finding it necessary to do pretty detailed outlines before putting fingers to keyboard. Old habits dies hard and I tend to deviate quite a lot from those outlines but at least I have a pretty good idea where the story’s going and how it will end. I’m still getting used to not being surprised!

Where is your favourite place to work?
In an ideal world I’d be at my desk, surrounded by my research books, with shelves of my all time favourite reads lining the wall, offering comfort and inspiration. But we’re nomads so that seldom happens. Right now I’m in Florida, in a rented condo, sitting at a glass-topped table with my laptop, feeling naked without just a few research books close at hand to reassure when my mind stalls. On the plus side, I’m looking straight out onto the inter-coastal waterway so it’s not all bad! Besides, we’re buying a house here, all my things are in a container ploughing its way through the high seas as I type and I fully intend to nab the best room in the new house as my domain when the time finally comes.

Do you find time to have interests other than writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m reading. I have a three-book a week habit to feed and that’s where my ebook reader comes into its own. I no longer have to panic if my supply of print books runs low. I also walk for miles every day with my dog, plotting my next scene in my head and generally enjoying the exercise. I love all animals, especially dogs and horses but my riding days are over now that we travel about so much.

And...er, anyone who follows me on twitter will know that I’m partial to the odd glass of decent wine or six. Good food is important to me as well. I hate cooking but fortunately I have a husband who feels quite at home in the kitchen. Just as well or he’d probably starve! Enjoy life and make the most of it; that’s my motto. No one knows what’s lurking round the corner.

What drew you to your particular genre?
I guess growing up on the Isle of Wight has a lot to do with my love of history. We lived a few minutes from Osbourne House, Queen Victoria’s Island retreat. Carisbrooke Castle was a stone’s throw away and castles, grand Georgian houses and Roman villas abound. I reckon I must have absorbed the vibes for bygone days like osmosis without being aware of it. Anyway, historical romance was a natural gravitation for me. For a long time it was the only genre that interested me but nowadays I’ve got enough confidence to spread my wings.

How do you promote your books?
Having decided, partly because of my lifestyle and also because the way the market’s going, to dedicate myself to ebooks, that’s easy. On-line promotion can be done from anywhere in the world. Blogs, tweets, Facebook, interviews, on-line reviews...whatever it takes to get your name out there. Having said that, I don’t actually have my own blog, which might sound kinda contradictory but there has to be a line drawn somewhere, otherwise they’d be no time left for writing. I participate in joint blogs, use publishers’ blogs on or around publication dates and shamelessly hijack other people’s. That’s not as selfish as you might think because I only do so if authors are actively seeking guest bloggers.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
Without them I’d probably still be floundering. Nicola Cornick was running the NWS the year I joined and went above and beyond helping me to get my very first novel published with Hale. I’ll never forget how much time and effort she put in on my behalf. As well as that, I think it’s a case of the camaraderie that I appreciate. Living abroad I seldom get to any of the organised events but I always know what’s going on thanks to ROMNA and the friends I’ve made in the RNA. Only other writers truly understand the agonies and ecstasies associated with the business. And if you need help, even about something obscure, someone always knows.

Are you a specialist of one genre or do you have another identity?
My crime novels are being written by W. Soliman. I don’t want to hide my identity and there are links to both my persona’s on my website. It’s just that I don’t want people who read my historicals to buy the crime books thinking they’re going to get a Regency.

The crime novels feature Charlie Hunter, a live-board ex-policeman. We’ve had boats for years and I’m a great believer in writing about what you know. Saves on the dreaded research. Anyway, Charlie’s all for a quiet life but his old cases keep coming back to haunt him and he can’t seem to break away from sleuthing. The first one in the series, Unfinished Business, will be published by Carina Press on October 17.

Do you enjoy research and how do you set about it?
No, I look upon it as a necessary evil. I learned a hard lesson with my first book with Hale. Part of it was set in Alexandria two hundred years ago and I diligently researched the period, making sure I got absolutely everything spot on. I was very proud of the results, until my editor told me to get rid of it. ‘This is a novel, Wendy, not a history lesson!’ Yeah, okay, point taken. I’ve never forgotten that and now I do only enough research to add authenticity and drive the story forward.

But I do think it’s important to get whatever facts you do include absolutely right. I was reading a book recently by a very well known author, not a member of the RNA, who made an assertion that was just plain wrong. She hadn’t done her research and that one tiny error put me off the entire book. Moral of the story, if you’re gonna say something, make sure you know what you’re talking about!

Tell us about your latest book and how you got the idea for it.
My historical persona is writing about two childhood friends – one’s a titled lady and the other a seamstress. I saw something about identical twins on TV which inevitably got me asking, ‘what if…?’ My friends look alike and change places for a week, the seamstress attending a house party where, she’s assured, no one will know she’s not kosher. Naturally, the real lady’s husband unexpectedly turns up and the imposter has to avoid sharing a bed with him. Oh, and the lady’s former beau is there as well and knows immediately that she isn’t who she claims to be.

W. Soliman is writing about a betting scam. A man is in prison for murder but his daughter’s convinced he didn’t do it. Charlie had his doubts at the time as well and gets dragged into the murky world of rigged betting rings. And don’t ask me how I dreamed that one up because I haven’t a clue. All I can tell you is that it’s definitely not from personal experience!

Visit her website at http://www.wendysoliman.com She also hangs out on Facebook and can be found on twitter as wendyswriter.

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: :freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview with Janice Horton

Janice Horton lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women's fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland's ‘Write Here Write Now’ project. Have you always been interested in writing, Janice? Tell us how you got started.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have many books at home, so my favourite place was the local library. Reading inspired me to write creatively from an early age. I remember getting into terrible trouble with my teacher at school, when she discovered that all the letters I’d written to my American pen-pal were complete fiction. As a young adult with a career, my writing had to take a back seat. When I started writing again, married and with three small children, I wrote freelance lifestyle articles for magazines and reviews for the local paper. Eventually, I realised that if I wanted to write the novel I’d always promised myself I would write one day, I’d better make a start. So I wrote while the children slept and eventually finished a full length contemporary novel. I sent it to a small publisher from The Writer’s Handbook and it was accepted straight away. Now that might sound unusual and amazingly lucky, but I didn’t realise it at the time. Unfortunately, just as I finished writing my second novel, my publisher went out of business. So, it wasn’t getting published I found difficult, but staying published.

Where is your favourite place to work?
My favourite place to write is at the kitchen table with my back to the Aga and the dogs snoozing by my feet. If the kids are home (raiding the fridge and being terribly noisy) then I’ll choose the sitting room, by the fire, with my laptop on my, um, lap. I actually do have a proper desk in a small book lined study but my husband is self employed and has a desk there too, so if he’s on the phone or working, you’ll find me anywhere it’s quiet and warm!

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
I work in admin and accounts for my husband’s business. I run a small graphic design business of my own, and I work as a part time legal secretary four afternoons a week. So I don’t write every day, I write in spurts when I’m not tired, which means it might take me longer than I’d like to finish a project. Although I never lose motivation for my writing as it is always such a joy, a real treat, for me to get back to my writing.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I’m a pantser. I start with a contemporary setting and two main characters and then, as if by magic, a few supporting characters will pop along just as my main characters need them. The positive side of writing this way is that I’m often surprised by my characters’ behaviour and that’s when I get really excited about the story. Of course, if you try to explain how this happens to a non-writer, they think you are completely mad. The negative side of working this way is that things can often go astray. I’ll often write myself into huge plot holes or dead ends. For example, when I finally finish the manuscript I’m working on at the moment, my conflicts will be resolved and my characters will have their happy endings, but I will be left with a ‘dumped ms’ file longer than the finished novel. Not a very efficient way of working! I recently brought up the subject of plotting for discussion on my blog. I’ve decided to try my hand at an outline before starting on my next novel to see if it saves time and angst.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Undoubtedly, it’s the first draft. I find I’m constantly going back over old ground, sewing in new plot threads and getting disgruntled. Things can get very messy. Once I get past that stage, however, I’ve got so much to play with that I’m suddenly having fun and it all seems a lot easier.

Do you enjoy research, and how do you set about it?
I love to do lots of research in preparation for a novel and I always do it in advance of the actual writing. Usually, I research and create characters for the next WIP while I’m writing the current one, which is the case at the moment. As I write contemporary novels, the research I do gives me a real feel for the setting, any practical issues, and possible conflicts my characters might face. First of all I get the background information I need from biographies, film, and studying anything relevant. Next I find people to interview who are doing the job my protagonists will do, or I actually go and get a temporary job working in the industry myself. In my next book, not yet written, the female protagonist is a lawyer, so I have been working part time at a local firm of solicitors as a legal secretary to get a handle on her world. In my current novel, which is set in the world of top chefs, I didn’t go so far as working in a restaurant but I did get permission to spend some time observing top chefs in their kitchens. On this occasion, I inadvertently attracted the interest of local media and had an ITV film crew following me around, who then made a short film about my writing and my research methods. Great publicity for my forthcoming book!

I must emphasise at this point that only a tiny fraction of the factual information I glean ever makes it into the novel. The meticulous research I do goes into groundwork - creating a realistic sense of place. I feel it’s particularly important in books where humour can make characters seem far larger than in real life.

How do you promote your books, and what tips can you offer other writers?
In the past, I’ve hosted book launches and signings in bookshops but when Bagpipes & Bullshot came out as an e-book on Amazon Kindle, I had to completely rethink promotion. I asked my writer friends for ideas (promotional tip #1) and was advised to do a blog tour, to host a virtual launch, and to advertise the event on social networks. Not easy when all I had to start off with was a neglected website. Undaunted, I set up a blog, subscribed to Twitter and Facebook (promotional tip #2), and gave myself six weeks to prepare. Then, having attracted a modest following, I hosted the event from my bagpipe playing blog and went ‘on tour’. Throughout the event I held prize draws for those who commented, retweeted, or who were just jolly good sports (promotional tip #3). Thanks to all this support, Bagpipes & Bullshot reached number nineteen in Amazon bestselling women's fiction and twenty-four in Kindle’s Top 100 bestselling romance list on launch day.

Are you into social networking, and in what way do you feel it helps your career?
Whether you are published in paper or e-formats, I feel it is essential to have some kind of social networking platform. Not only are forums and blogs a really good way to get your product (book) out there and establish yourself as a brand (author), they are really good fun. I have met some really nice people through Twitter and Facebook. My latest online venture is an exciting and innovative writer/reader website that I’m involved with called loveahappyending.com which is launching on 29th June.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
Bagpipes & Bullshot twists an everyday love story with a whole cast of village eccentrics into an entertaining play on rural life. When handsome Scottish Laird Innes Buchanan meets beautiful Texan cowgirl, Orley McKenna, and brings her over to his impoverished estate in Scotland, it's for more than her expertise with cattle. But before their romance can properly begin, Orley has to contend with a run-down country mansion, a frosty Lady of the manor, and a vengeful ex-girlfriend.

Now, you may think a contemporary novel with a cowgirl and a laird is a little far removed from what it is to be American or Scottish today, and you would be right. However, the premise of the story is about opposites attracting and the emotional, cultural, and geographical differences between two people who come from opposite sides of an ocean. It is intentionally larger than life and that’s what makes it entertaining and fun. I’m told there are many laugh out loud moments in Bagpipes & Bullshot!

I got the idea for this novel while I was in America, standing on a Gulf Coast beach at sunset, thinking of how the warm breezes, blue waters, and southern lifestyle, were a world away from my own life in Scotland.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I’m busy writing a novel with a backdrop of fine food and steamy kitchens entitled ‘Reaching For The Stars’. It's the story of a disillusioned celebrity chef who gives up his hard won accolades, three Golden Stars, and fearful of marauding paparazzi goes into a self imposed exile. The heroine of the tale is a rising star in the culinary world. So, when these two characters get together, the knives are out and the heat is on. ETA Autumn/Winter 2011.

Bagpipes & Bullshot is available to download from Amazon.co.uk at the fabulous price of £1.38. “It’s Monarch of the Glen meets Miss Read...”

For more information on Jancie visit her blog at: http://www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.com
and you can follow her on Twitter @JaniceHorton

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Friday, June 10, 2011

Author Interview with Victoria Connelly

Victoria Connelly grew up in Norfolk before attending Worcester University where she studied English Literature. After graduating, she worked her way through a number of jobs before becoming a teacher in North Yorkshire. It was in Harrogate that I first met Victoria at our Flying Ducks meetings. We were sorry to lose her when, in 2000, she got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales and moved to London. I know you worked hard to get published, Victoria, so tell us how you got into writing?

I’ve always written stories and attempted my first novel when I was fourteen, passing it under the tables at school for my friends to read – usually during maths lessons! I didn’t finish a full manuscript until I was 22 and I really thought I’d be published straightaway. However, it took many years and many more manuscripts before I found a publisher!

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
I think I plan more in my head than on paper. I can often think about a novel for years before writing it. But I do write a brief outline of key scenes before I begin. It’s very patchy and often changes but I know roughly where I’m going. I don’t like to be too prescriptive as I like the surprises that can happen when you’re writing. There’s nothing more fun than when a brand new characters pops up from out of nowhere!

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
A page-turner. A book that grabs you from page one and holds your attention through an exciting plot and engaging characters.

Where is your favourite place to work?
I work best at my desk in a study I currently share with my husband. I throw him out, shut the door, try to avoid Facebook and Twitter and get on with my writing.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
I try to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. I work best late morning after all the animals have been fed, walked, cleaned and tickled. I also work well late afternoons and early evenings if I can avoid being distracted by the internet, that is!

Which authors have most influenced your work?
There are so many authors whose work I admire. My favourite books are H. E. Bates’s ‘Darling Buds of May’ quintet, and Miss Read’s ‘Fairacre’ series. Both are warm and highly-amusing portrayals of country life. Jane Austen has also been a huge influence. I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ when I was seventeen and fell in love with it. But I think I’m influenced by films as much as books and watching all the wonderful romantic comedies of Doris Day, Gene Kelly and Marilyn Monroe whilst growing up nudged me in the right direction and I knew I wanted to write romantic comedies of my own.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Definitely the waiting! I’ve always loved writing but there is so much waiting involved. In the early days, it was waiting to see if an agent or publisher was going to take you on and that can take months. I would often have written another whole book by the time a rejection finally came through! Once published, you wait for feedback from your editor which is agonising. Will they like it? What do they want changing? You just have to get on with your next book and try to be patient.

How do you promote your books?
I do all sorts of things from interviews online and in magazines to talking at literary festivals and on the radio. I do events at bookshops and in libraries and talk to writing groups too, and have a competition on my website to win a signed book and goody bag – so do come along and visit! This year, I’ll be giving a talk at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton which is a real honour for me. I’ll also be talking about the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s first published book at the Worcester Literary Festival.

Do you have interests other than writing?
I adore animals and I’m passionate about animal welfare. I’ve got a springer spaniel from rescue and have just rehomed some ex-battery chickens and they are an absolute delight. I also love films, conservation, walking and baking which is just as well as we now have a regular supply of eggs!

What advice would you give a new writer?
Work hard and never give up. If you really want to get published, keep at it. Keep reading, keep writing and keep sending your work out to agents and publishers. Write as much as you can. Don’t spend five years writing one book – that won’t improve your story-telling skills. And believe in yourself. I had sack loads of rejections for a book that was later sold in an auction between five publishers and then made into a film!

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.

The Perfect Hero is the second in my trilogy about Jane Austen addicts. I’m a huge fan of Austen’s books and came up with the idea of a trilogy based on three different Austen locations: Hampshire, Lyme Regis and Bath. The Perfect Hero is set in Lyme Regis – the beautiful coastal town in Dorset famous for The Cobb. I wanted to write about a new version of Persuasion being filmed there and just knew that my heroine would fall in love with the dashing actor playing Captain Wentworth. But is he the right hero for her?

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I’m just finishing the third in the trilogy, Mr Darcy Forever, which will be published in the US in 2012. This one is set in Bath during the Jane Austen Festival. Then I’m finishing a book I began a while ago called The Runaway Actress about a famous actress who swaps Hollywood for the Highlands. It will be published in the UK in July 2012.

Thank you Victoria for being so frank and so inspiring for other writers struggling as you did in the beginning.

For more about Victoria and her hens, please visit her website:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview with Hazel Osmond

Today we have Hazel Osmond who lives in Northumberland with her husband and two teenage daughters. She has been an advertising copywriter for over 20 years. In 2008 she won the ‘Woman & Home’ short story competition (sponsored by Costa), then the Yeovil short story prize. Her stories have also appeared in the Sunday Express magazine, My Weekly, and the anthologies: ‘The Book Lovers’ Appreciation Society’ published by Orion and ‘The Ways of Love’ published by Liz Bailey. Tell us, Hazel, how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call.

I found an agent, Broo Doherty, relatively quickly after finishing Mr Wolfe, but it was almost twelve months before Quercus offered me a two book deal. In that time I had about 10 rejections which did get demoralising, but as I write short stories too, I had those to fall back on and won a couple of competitions during that long wait. I remember exactly what I was doing when I got the call about Quercus – stirring the sauce for the pasta. I think by the time I’d stopped leaping round the room with my daughters, the whole meal was overcooked.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
With ‘Mr Wolfe’ I didn’t really plan much at all. I knew what the major events were going to be in the plot, but once I’d got the characters, the rest of the story just evolved around those events. In my next book the plot is more complex and I had to get the timelines right so there was a lot more planning.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
To be honest, stopping! I have to fight the urge to keep adjusting and titivating. Deadlines are great for me because it means I eventually have to let something go.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
I like to get out and walk. Northumberland is a place of big skies and wide open spaces and fantastic beaches and if I need to really relax I put on my walking boots and head as far away from other people as I can get. I get some of my best ideas while I’m walking and I haven’t encountered a problem yet that didn’t unravel itself on a good walk.

The other way I relax is through acting – being someone else for a while. I’m part of an Amateur Dramatics Club, not the wobbly scenery and fluffed lines kind, it’s a good one. We’ve performed at the Edinburgh Fringe twice and over the years I’ve had the opportunity to play Lady Macbeth and Helen of Troy. Not a lot of women can say that. I find acting helps a lot with my writing – it teaches you about pace and plotting at first hand. You soon find out what makes people in the audience sit up and listen, or conversely, drift off.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Find an objective, kind person who reads a lot, particularly in the genre in which you write and ask them if they would be willing to give you feedback. It’s important that they are both objective and kind – you don’t want someone who tells you what you want to hear, but on the other hand, feedback from someone who is abrasive can do lasting damage to a writer’s self confidence. Once you’ve found your person, listen to anything they say carefully and ask yourself honestly if you need to act on it. Don’t be proud. People like this are as rare as hen’s teeth and to be cherished if you find them.

What draws you to your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that you can be living one kind of life and then suddenly you meet someone and everything changes. Even if nothing comes of it, everything you thought was solid and immovable in your life gets shifted. That’s a powerful kind of magic, so that’s why I write romance. And why romantic comedy? Well I tend to try and see the humour in most things and those who don’t take themselves entirely seriously, even in serious situations, are usually the kind of people I gravitate towards and therefore want to write about. I don’t have another identity, but my short stories allow me to experiment with different voices and sometimes bleaker subject matter.

How do you promote your books, and what tips can you offer other writers?
Although my experience of promoting my book is limited, I have worked as an advertising copywriter for over twenty years, so I’ve picked up some ideas along the way. I did my own press releases for the papers and magazines in the area in which I live and didn’t go for the big claims or over the top exaggeration – I found a funny headline, a little bit about the book and then details about what my links were to the area got the best response. You can try the same approach with any area you’ve lived or worked as long as you emphasise what your link is. A bit of humour and humility doesn’t go amiss.

I’ve also visited all the shops selling the book and asked them what I can do to help sell them, and that’s resulted in a few signing opportunities. It’s worth seeing if there’s a book festival on in your area, whether local radio interviews local authors and if your libraries or local book clubs would be interested in having you come along for a chat. People are often eager to fill slots and if you show you’re willing to ‘sing for your supper’, you can find all kinds of doors opening.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
I had writer’s block until I was about 45!! I spent my days writing adverts and brochures but it honestly didn’t occur to me to try my hand at story-telling. When I stumbled on writing fanfiction and discovered that I could not only keep people coming back for the next episode, but also sustain a story over forty chapters, it was like being given a new lease of life. If I ever do have slow days with a book, I switch and have a go at a short story and I find that usually helps.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
It’s introduced me to some lovely people nationally and locally. In my experience writers are generous people and members of my local chapter of the RNA have helped promote my book by writing reviews and putting me in contact with booksellers and given me the benefit of their experiences with their own publicity efforts. Hearing how other people are getting along with their writing or how they deal with setbacks all helps you feel that you’re not alone.

Tell us more about this first book you've had published, and how you got the idea for it.
I wanted to write a traditional romance in the sense it would have an Alpha male, but I’ve always been fascinated by lone wolves – not simply how fierce and wild they are, but also the sadness that seems to hang about them. So that was my basic idea – a strong man who might not be as strong as he seemed and a woman who had to get a bit braver than she was. I wanted to make their story a powerful one but also funny, and I set it in an advertising agency because advertising is full of quirky characters.

Can you tell us something about your work in progress?
It’s set in Northumberland and involves an ex-journalist who arrives from London pretending he’s writing a walking book but really plans to get the inside story on a famous actress by befriending her cousin. He gets a huge shock when he arrives and his life and a lot of other lives get turned upside down as a result. It’s giving me the opportunity to explore yet another thing that fascinates me – how people are judged on their appearance, and it features an Amateur Dramatics Club!!

Hazels' first novel, Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe (Quercus Books) was published in April 2011
Further information about Hazel can be found at http://www.hazelosmond.co.uk

Publicity photo to Jill Jennings.

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at:freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Friday, June 3, 2011

Interview with Fenella Miller

Fenella lives in a small riverside village in North East Essex, England, with her husband and ancient border collie. She has two adult children and two grandchildren. She has been a nanny, a waitress, a hotelier, primary and secondary teacher and a restaurateur. However she always knew one day she would achieve her ambition of becoming a published author.

So tell us how you got started, Fenella.
"Writing is my life, I write because I have to and would continue even if I were no longer fortunate enough to be published. However, the fact that my stories are bought and read is the best thing about my profession. It’s a privilege to know that my books are taken into people's homes and give pleasure to those who read them.

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
Initially I planned every chapter in detail, wrote biographies of the main characters and had complicated timelines. However nowadays when I'm writing a Regency romantic adventure I start with an idea, work the story through in my head, and then just get on with it. When I'm writing a longer book, a World War II romantic suspense or a Victorian family saga, I go back to fairly detailed planning. There is also far more research involved which can take three or four weeks.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Story, first, last and always; if the story is compelling and the characters grip from the opening page than a few technical difficulties will not put an editor or agent off. To be a story teller, is a rare gift – most of us have to work at it

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
Yes I work every day, I don't always right anything new, but I spend four or five hours working on something related to my writing seven days a week. The only time I don't is when I'm away from my study.

How do you develop your characters?
I have a good idea in my head who these people are but I let the characters develop themselves. Sometimes I have to go back and tweak things because the motivation is not clear. Usually in the kind of light-hearted books I'm doing at the moment my characters appear fully fledged on the page without too much interference from me.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Starting a new book is always difficult. You hear so much about the crucial opening page, opening chapter, sometimes it is almost impossible to begin. I overcome this by writing whatever comes into my head even though I know it will almost certainly be cut. It gets easier after the first chapter and then more difficult again in the middle. The last 20,000 words always the easiest.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Write. Like anything else the more you do it the better you get. However busy you are if you really want to write then you'll find a space somewhere in your day to do it.

What draws you to your particular genre?

I was told by Katie Fforde six or seven years ago the reason I wasn't enjoying what I did was because I needed to write what I read. Twenty years ago I read a lot of contemporary romance, now I read none at all unless it's been written by someone I know. My preference is for thrillers and historical, therefore it makes sense to write in one of these genres.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so what is the special appeal for you?
My Victorian family saga, For Want of a Penny, is a stand-alone book that has two more books to complete the series. I should love to write them, but unless I sell the first in a series I don't suppose I shall.

How do you promote your books?
I'm writing mainly for e-publishers at the moment and that involves an hour or two every day twittering, blogging, facebooking, and joining in live chat rooms and doing interviews like this. I certainly spend as much time promoting as I do writing; I need to adjust this as it's not an efficient use of my time.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so how do you cope with it?
The only way round this is to find some point in your story that you can continue and just write that – then go back to the part you were stuck on. Sometimes it's better to put the book on one side and do something else that day and go back to it fresh. Of course, if you're writing to a deadline with editors etc., waiting for the manuscript then you have no choice. You don't have time to have a block of any sort

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
I think the NWS scheme is excellent; although it didn't lead to publication for me as I achieved that on my own. However what the RNA has done is introduce me to other writers who have become dear friends. I've learnt so much from the expertise of others who are so generous with their time and knowledge. I now try to do the same thing and any new writer who wants advice and support will always find me ready to help.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
At the moment I'm editing the fourth of six books sold to Aurora Regency/Aspen Mountain Press. I'm also writing a long novella for People's Friend called Wed for a Wager. I usually write five books a year - one 100K historical and four shorter Regency romances. This year I don't think I shall be writing any long books - far too much going on with my new publisher. Wed for a Wager is likely to be my only new work - but with three Linford romances, one People's Friend and six Regencies with Aurora it will still be a successful year.

Fenella has been writing on and off for most of her life but only in the last six years has had time to polish a manuscript so that it was ready for publication.
There are now more than twenty three titles available, all of them Regency romantic adventures, and several more waiting to be released. To find out more, please visit her website - http://www.fenellajmiller.co.uk

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Releases

Anne Whitfield
The House of Women
ISBN 0956790186
Knox Robinson Publishing
June 9th
£9.99 paperback (Amazon)

Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?


Carol Townend
Bound to the Barbarian
ISBN: 9780263218626
Mills & Boon
3rd June 2011
£14.50 large print

One line synopsis: Once a slave, maidservant Katerina has promised to convince Commander Ashfirth Saxon that she is an Imperial princess, but the longer she keeps up the deception, the less she wants to deceive him…

Dilly Court
Cinderella Sister
ISBN 9780099538844
Arrow Books
3 June 2011
£19.99 Hardback

She was born the youngest, and expected to keep house for her five elder siblings instead of following her heart and studying to be an artist like their errant mother.

Fenella J Miller
Miss Bannerman & The Duke
ISBN tba
Aurora Regency/Aspen Mountain Press
$5.29/ £3.50 (e.book)
20th June 2011

The Duke is proud and Miss Bannerman prejudiced - can they reconcile their differences and find true happiness?

Janet Woods
Lady Lightfingers
ISBN: 9780727880567
June 30th
Severn House UK
£19.99 Hardcover

1850s London. Pickpocket, Celia Laws, accepts a monetary advance against a promise of physical love, then flees. Four years later her admirer turns up, and when they fall in love Celia's conscience begins to burn.

Julia Williams
The Summer Season
ISBN 978-1847560889
June 23 2011
£6.99 paperback

In the village of Heartsease a garden lies neglected, its griefstruck owner, Joel unable to move on. Until a stranger called Kezzie bursts into his life and turns it upside down...

June Francis
Pirate's Daughter, Rebel Wife
Mills & Boon
ISBN: 9780263887693

Bridget McDonald is in fear for her life and virtue on board a slave ship. Having plunged over the side, she's rescued by rugged Captain Henry Mariner. And he knows the only way to protect her is to marry her.

Kathy Lewis/Tanith Davenport
The Hand He Dealt
ISBN : 978-0-85715-570-2
Total-E-Bound Publishing
13 June 2011
£3.49 - EBook

When Astra Scott’s boyfriend confesses a desire for men, the actions Astra takes lead to unexpected developments with best friend Sasha and her boyfriend Ash, whose outwardly cool demeanour hides secret desires of his own.

Liz Fielding
Tempted By Trouble
ISBN 978 0 263 88384 8
Mills and Boon - RIVA
£3.99 June 2011 - paper and eBook

“Life is like ice cream: you have to take it one lick at a time.”
For an excerpt -

Liz Fielding
Old Desires
978 1 4448 0687 8
Thorpe LP Linford Romance Library
£8.99 June 2011 - LP

When you learn that your life is a lie, who do you trust?

Phillipa Ashley, Nell Dixon, Elizabeth Hanbury
Brief Encounters
E-Scape Press
May 2011 digital, Sept 2011 print
e book £2.10

Brief Encounters is a sparkling new anthology of six romantic short stories. Sweet and sexy, contemporary and historical – the collection has something for everyone.

Nicola Cornick
Whisper of Scandal
ISBN: 0778304647
17th June 2011
£6.99 paperback

Society widow and polar explorer travel to the Arctic together to claim her husband's illegitimate daughter.


Sandra Mackness/Toni Sands
The Perfect Italian Wife
ISBN 9781908192233
Xcite Books
26 May 2011
£2.25 (lead story in ebook collection)

Melissa persuades her Italian husband she needs a girly holiday. He offers the family yacht, propelling three gorgeous women into uncharted waters as Melissa produces exotic pirate costumes for the bounty hunters to seek out prey...

Sue Moorcroft
Love & Freedom
Choc Lit
1 June
£7.99, paperback, ebook price tba

Honor Sontag flees America, reputation in tatters, searching for her English mother. Mysterious Martyn Mayfair is irresistibly drawn, though he's sworn off women who have strings attached. Will Honor be Honorable? Or choose freedom?

 JL Merrow
Sex, Lies and Edelweiss
Amber Quill Press
19th June 2011

A lawyer on holiday—and a handsome waiter. With both their pasts
riddled with secrets and lies, is there any hope for the present?

Link to publisher:

Chrissie Loveday
Out of the Blue
Linford Romance

Bryher meets her match when racing her motorbike. But fall for him? Never! He's an accountant for starters but when he offers her a job she learns that accountants don't always live up to their image.

Chrissie Loveday
Loving is Never Easy
D.C. Thomson (People's Friend Pocket Novel)

Nellie is married, with a baby, trying to cope with her work, running a large household, where she was previously a maid. Wealth brings its own problems and her siblings always rely on her.(second part of a Potteries trilogy)

Short Stories:
Kate Jackson
Dandelions and Daisies
People's Friend Summer Special
June 2011
A garden full of dandelions and daisies brings a new love into Charlie's life.