Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September New Releases

Prices given are list. Cheaper prices can generally be found.

Charlie Cochrane
Cheyenne Publishing
(e-book and print)

Two stories, two couples, two eras, timeless emotions. This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense: The Great War is underway. When the call to arms comes, Nicholas Southwell won’t be found hanging back. The Case of the Overprotective Ass: Stars of the silver screen Alasdair and Toby try playing Holmes and Watson offscreen, too.

Chrissie Loveday
DC Thomson ...
My Weekly Pocket Novel
22/9/11 £1.99

When Adam asks Sophie to accompany him to a family wedding (no strings) it is the start of a new life for her. Her dreams of starting her own fashion business are launched. It’s a scary, rocky business but she is determined to make it succeed despite attempts at sabotage.

Dilly Court
ISBN 978-0099538851
Arrow Books
29 September 2011
£5.99 Paperback

Keeping house for her older siblings and aged grandfather, Lily's dream of becoming an artist seem unattainable until a fire on board ship brings a mysterious young Frenchman into their lives...

Elizabeth Chadwick
ISBN 978 1 4022 5092 7
September 1st
$14.99 or less. Paperback and e-book formats.

One queen, one Empress and the crown that would define them both. The story of Matilda, iron-willed daughter of Henry I, and her young stepmother, Adeliza of Louvain.

Freda Lightfoot
ISBN 9780749008291
Allison & Busby
26 September
£19.99 Hardback

Chrissie Kemp visits her grandmother and discovers a shocking family secret. Georgia Briscoe is in love with British sailor Ellis Cowper but unwillingly betrothed to Drew Kemp, a businessman mired in the San Francisco underworld. Georgia plans escape to be with the man she loves, but then comes the earthquake…

Freda Lightfoot
ISBN 978-0727880925
Severn House
29 September
£9.99 Hardback

Henry IV marries Marie de Medici to provide riches for France. But Henriette d’Entragues has a written promise of marriage and intends to declare the royal marriage illegal. All she has to do is give Henry a son, and by means of intrigue and conspiracy, set him on the throne.

Kate Hardy
ISBN: 9780263886061
Mills & Boon
2 September
£3.30, paperback (also available as an ebook)

A whirlwind affair, an unexpected pregnancy and a whole load of complications...

Kate Harrison
ISBN 1780620063
Orion Indigo
September 1
£9.99 Jacketed Paperback/Hardback

When Alice Forster receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick practical joke. Then an invitation arrives to the virtual world of Soul Beach, an idyllic online paradise of sun, sea and sand where Alice can finally talk to her sister again - and discover a new world of friendships, secrets and maybe even love . . .

Kate Walker (Cathy Wade)
ISBN 9780263886894
Harlequin Mills & Boon
2nd September
£3.30 paperback

The wild boy Kat knew from her childhood is back, but as a very different man – a stranger. And with one passionate, furious kiss ten years of scandals and secrets are unleashed.

Liz Bailey
ISBN 978-0-425-24289-6
Berkley Prime Crime, Penguin US
6 September
Trade Paperback $15, ebook $9.99

First in a new Georgian mystery series. Lord Francis Fanshawe discovers his sister-in-law strangled and his brother the marquis gone. But his mother’s new companion, Ottilia Draycott - intelligent and exceptionally observant - commands his admiration and affection as she doggedly sets about finding the real culprit.

Liz Fielding
AN ORDINARY GIRL AND A SHEIKH (The Sheikh's Unsuitable Bride)
ISBN 978 0 263 884463
Harlequin Mills and Boon
£5.99 paperback.

By Request Zahir's new chauffeur was talkative, detour taking, enchanting girl. But at home a dynastic marriage was being planned...

Louise Allen
ISBN 0373296568
September 2011
Paperback $6.25, UK Kindle £2.65 The second title in the Transformation of the Shelley Sisters trilogy.

Dutiful daughter Bella is doomed to life with her tyrannical father until she falls in love, is seduced and abandoned. She will do anything to protect her unborn child – but can that possibly include marrying her dead seducer’s brother?

Read an extract at 

Louise Allen
ISBN 0263887987
Mills & Boon
September 2011
Paperback £2.99 Kindle £3.99 Danger & Desire no.2.

Returning from India to an arranged marriage, Averil Heydon is shipwrecked on the Scillies. Found by a gang of ruffians her only hope is their enigmatic leader. Dare she follow her heart and abandon her duty when the man she desires may be a French spy?

Read an extract at

Lynne Connolly
ISBN 978-0-85715-712-6
Total E-Bound
Sept 26th £2.49 E-book (will be part of a print anthology later) Novella length


Margaret Mounsdon
ISBN 978 1 4448 0799 8
August/early September
£8.99 Large print paperback

Andi Cox lands a dream job looking after the daughters of pop music icon Jas Summers. The girls become the target of kidnap attempts. To add to her troubles Andi acquires Hermione, an eccentric stepmother and then she loses her heart to Jas.

Portia Da Costa
ISBN 9781426878923
Harlequin Spice Briefs
1st September 2011
$2.69 ebook

It's been a long time since Maud Piper has had a lover who can give her what she wants: the masterful hand of a strong, powerful man and the stinging pain that turns into pleasure. Can William Graves, a handsome estate manager give Maud the experience she craves? 

Scarlet Wilson
ISBN-13: 978-0263886054
Mills and Boon
2 September
£5.30 paperback

Dr Cooper Roberts has a new job and the chance to begin a new life. What's most definitely not in his plans? Waking up with his new colleague, Melissa Bell. And having to hold his head up above the dropped jaws of his fellow docs as he escorts Missy to buy a pregnancy test!

Talli Roland
ISBN: 1907504141
Prospera Publishing
14th September
ebook, £1.71

One country girl is about to discover that fame can cost a fortune. Link to extract:

Wendy Soliman
ISBN 978142689221-9
Carina Press
September 1
ebook $5.99

When Major Lord Adam Fitzroy rescues a beautiful woman from a difficult situation at an inn he doesn't realise that she's employed as companion to his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Southsea, anymore than he suspects her links to the local house of ill-repute.

Wendy Soliman
ISBN na.
September 20
ebook price unknown

Opposites attract in this contemporary romp when an impoverished titled lady attempts to keep her ancestral family home out of the hands of a boy made good from the East End.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Author Interview with Sheila Newberry

A warm welcome to Sheila Newberry who has been a story teller from an early age. Her books, published by Robert Hale, are heart warming stories set in the past, some of which were inspired by real events in her own or her families lives.

Sheila, please tell us how you got started?

I have been writing since I was three years old, but I told myself stories when I was even younger. My parents listened to these outside the bedroom door, after they tucked me up in my cot. I was always a day-dreamer. I wrote my first book at ten years old, well, all of sixty pages, in purple ink. I continued to tell stories, too, especially as a small girl during the war when we lived at various times in a Suffolk village with my mother's family. On Friday afternoons I entertained the whole school with a long-running saga about black-eyed Bill, a pirate. These years were the basis of my first memoir Come You On Inside. Later, at Lady Edridge School for Girls, I was encouraged by two wonderful teachers in my love of writing and history. When a careers adviser asked the girls what career they had in mind, the majority answered, nurses or teachers. I said shyly, "I want to be a writer." "But Sheila, don't you know there is a shortage of paper?" I have been conscious of that fact ever since!

How did I get published?

I could only manage to write short pieces in our Knee Deep in Plums days
(Magna/dales p. back and audio) John and I have nine children whom we brought up on a smallholding in Kent, with a fruitful orchard and many pets. When the children were young, I blew the dust off the mantelpiece and joined in the fun - and I wrote every single day: stories for the American bible classes; hopefully humorous articles on family life for My Weekly. There are always children in my books, and often, one of my favourite Jack Russell terriers. My stories and songs were taped for play groups, there were bedtime stories for the Hull telephone service, and local radio. I wrote pantomimes for W.I and the school. Later, I was a runner up in a Woman's Own writing competition. I wrote regularly for the now sadly defunct Woman's Realm, and had much lovely feedback. Plums was serialised in People's Friend, and I was touched by the response from readers. Sally Bowdem of WR urged me to write full-length books. Tilly's Family was published by Piatkus in 1996. I haven't stopped since and have now written eighteen books and memoirs.

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

No, I don't plot, but I do research thoroughly. The name of my heroine comes first, and before I know it, the story is unfolding. To me it is a magical process. I do enjoy description, but remind myself to involve my main characters in any action - "show not tell".

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

I think editors are looking for believable characters, good narrative pace, emotions the reader can identify with, and a happy ending. Not perhaps the one the author initially envisaged, because I often surprise myself...

Where is your favourite place to work?

In a quiet place, but now the kitchen table has been replaced by a desk and computer. My first typewriter was a long-carriaged machine which John lugged home from work and told me "now you can get into print!" So I did...I'd just given birth to my eighth baby at the time!

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

Yes, I do write every day, although as we have just moved home, it has sometimes been only a few sentences. I often lay awake at night, with the story "moving on" in my mind, which is my my problem solving period. Early mornings are my most productive time. I write on until lunch time, although when I am reading proofs I will stay at my desk all day. John, being retired, is a great support, he enjoys cooking and I relish the results. He is also involved with my research, and so we jog along together very comfortably after fifty-plus years together.

Which authors have most influenced your work?

HE Bates - I read the Jacaranda Tree when I was eleven. Betty MacDonald - I love the humour and her take on family life, Nina Bawden, Nevil Shute, L.M. Montgomery, Rumer Godden, Mary Stuart, and Norah Lofts. Of the classics, Jane Eyre is my favourite. Dickens translates so well to T.V and film.

How do you develop your characters?

I can only say they seem to do this independently of me! I "hear" their voices, and I even become fond of the less attractive ones - hence Granny Garter in my latest novel for Hale, The Poplar Penny Whistlers.

Do you find time to have interests other than writing?

I am an avid reader. I like amateur dramatics, art. Family are of course a great pleasure.

What advice would you give a new writer?

Go with the flow! Believe in yourself! Inspiration, imagination and faith, you need these to succeed.

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

I am drawn to writing about late Victorian times, the Twenties, thirties and war time sagas. (Mostly WW2, but Tilly's Family covered the Great War.) My father was much older than my mother, so I was privileged to learn about life in the 1890's. My mother's father was Irish, but my grandmother was a Newberry (hence my writing name.) On Dad's side there was a Spanish connection - lots of dark eyes in the family.

How do you promote your books?

I promote my books in the media, including Romance Matters, give interviews on local radio as well as talking to various organisations.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

No. I find it difficult to stop, once I start a new chapter.

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

I am very fond of the RNA. Di Pearson encouraged me to join and I have made good friends. I wish I could attend the big events, especially the conferences - however, I enjoy all the accounts of these that others write and I learn a lot too. I have had the same agent, Judith Murdoch since my first book was published - I have never forgotten something she said then, "You will be the English Maeve Binchy!" Well, it hasn't happened yet, but I am still hopeful, Judith - thank you for all the years of encouragement.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?

I am writing at present a novel entitled Young May Moon. I would rather surprise you with the content than reveal too much at this point...

Tell us about your latest book.

My first ebook is due in August, The Watercress Girls - Hale published the original, too. (Also coming out shortly in large print, Magna, and already in audio version, read by Tara Ward.)

Thank you for talking to us, Sheila. We wish you every success with The Watercress girls.

To contact Sheila or find out more about her books go to the Robert Hale website

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interview with Shirley Wells

Having had several hundred short stories, ten serials and ten novels published, Shirley Wells is finally getting the hang of this writing lark. She’s lived in Orkney, Cyprus and the Cotswolds, and now lives in Lancashire, UK, where the Pennines, with their abundance of great places to hide bodies, provide the inspiration for her popular mystery novels. She shares her home with her husband, two dogs, two cats and any other stray animals that fancy being pampered. So tell us how you sold your first book, Shirley, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

‘The call’ sounds wonderfully exciting - and I’ve never had one. I’ve had letters and, more recently, emails that I’ve needed to read a dozen times before giving a loud whoop and rushing out to buy champagne, but never a physical call. I’ve never - touching several wooden items here - had a book rejected either. I’ll qualify that last statement by saying it has nothing to do with an amazing talent, but everything to do with the way I started. I began writing short stories for the women’s magazine market and, in those days, I had a lot more rejects than acceptances. It was when I’d had a couple of hundred short stories published that the editor of The People’s Friend asked if I’d like to write a serial. The idea of exchanging 2-3,000 words for 50,000 words and upwards was daunting to say the least, but I struggled through that and ended up writing ten more. They were later published in large print format and I had my first book in my hand. I’d been writing as Shirley Worrall but when I married and became Shirley Wells, I decided the time was right to pen the sort of novels I wanted to write. I’d done contemporary and historical romances, a mystery romance and an erotic novel so I decided to try my hand at a crime novel. When the first one, Into the Shadows, was taken off the slush pile and accepted by Constable & Robinson (by letter!), I’d found my true calling.

Where is your favourite place to work?
My small, untidy and very cluttered study. I share it with two dogs and it’s crammed with stuff that makes me feel good - a display case for the books I’ve had published, plants, photos of family and dogs, research books, a stuffed dog called Dog. It also has a fabulous view of the hills and I can spend hours gazing at sheep and horses while claiming to be working. Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule? I was lucky enough to give up the day job 20 years ago and, these days, I try to keep office hours. It’s impossible, of course, because I don’t think writers ever switch off, but I do try to escape the desk at evenings and weekends.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
My natural style is to dive straight in. I like the freshness and spontaneity than comes from an unknown destination. We don’t live in an ideal world though and, more often than not, I now sign a contract on a very detailed synopsis. Plotting it all out in advance does save me a lot of time, but I’m always open to those flashes of inspiration that come along. I just have to hope my editor is equally open to them.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Writing a synopsis. I loathe the things. I’ve never mastered the art of delivering something that a) makes sense and b) would entice anyone to read the book.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
One of my publishers, Carina Press, has as its tagline: “Where no great story goes untold”. I love that and I still believe that, despite constant claims that certain genres are no longer selling, a good story with strong, interesting characters will sell.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
If I’m not writing, I’m reading - anything from fantasy romance to hard-boiled crime. I love to go for long walks in the countryside with my dogs. I’m also a season ticket holder with Burnley Football Club and can be seen on the terraces, rain or shine, taking out my frustrations on short-sighted referees and soaking up the language nuances of the day.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Write. Write every day. I’m always banging on about this but I firmly believe that writing is like a muscle. The more it’s exercised, the stronger it becomes. Reading is important too. Soak up the words. I would also remind new writers to persevere. Write from the heart, write the book you’d love to read, and never lose faith.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Deadlines don’t allow the luxury of writer’s block. There are days when the words don’t flow as freely as I’d like, but I just keep writing in the knowledge that I can edit bad words. I can’t edit a blank page.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
Enormously. I don’t think anyone understands a writer’s lot as well as another writer. I don’t get to as many conferences or parties as I used to or as I’d like to, but I rarely miss the Northern Chapter’s meetings. There is nothing quite so inspiring as talking shop with a bunch of writers. The RNA offers everything we need - support, advice, inspiration and, sometimes, sympathy. The friendships I’ve made thanks to the RNA are priceless.

Are you into social networking, and in what way do you feel it helps your career?
At first, I went into social networking because I thought it was what writers “ought” to do. And I hated it. Now, though, you’ll find me blogging or chatting on Facebook or Twitter because I love it. I’ve made many virtual friends and look upon it as my daily ‘office gossip’ fix. Without doubt, I can attribute a few sales to my online presence but whether it’s helping my career in any big way is difficult to say. I think if people see you constantly peddling your books, they’ll ignore you. If they see you adding something worthwhile or fun to a conversation, they’ll become friends. As friends, they’re more likely to want to read your work.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
I’d sold the first Dylan Scott mystery, PRESUMED DEAD, and the publisher wanted the second in the series ASAP. The ideas tub was empty so I went out for the day for some retail therapy (if in doubt, buy a new handbag). I was in a coffee shop when I saw a young girl sitting outside with a small, scruffy dog at her feet, and she was eating the biggest cream cake I have ever seen. I was green with envy. I mean, how could she eat that and stay so thin and attractive? She had long, red hair and there was something of the tomboy about her. I looked away briefly, looked back, and she and her dog had vanished. I had a good view of streets in all directions but it was as if she’d vanished off the face of the earth. She became Samantha Hunt, the inspiration for DEAD SILENT.

Ten months ago, Samantha Hunt set off for work… and was never seen again. Despite the statistics of cold cases, Dylan Scott wants to believe the young woman’s alive – and not just because her father, his client, is desperate to find his missing daughter before he dies of cancer. By all accounts Sam was a lovely girl, devoted to her younger stepsisters, well-liked at her work, in love with her boyfriend.

But as usual not everything is as it seems in sleepy Dawson’s Clough. Sam’s boyfriend has a violent past. She may have been having an affair with her boss. And Dylan can’t shake the feeling that her stepfather is hiding something. Meanwhile, someone is trying to scare Dylan off the case. Who wanted to silence Sam, and why? The truth turns out to be worse than anyone expected… 

For more information, visit Shirley’s website:

follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook. Her latest Dylan Scott mystery, DEAD SILENT, is available from Carina Press, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book retailers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Interview with Mary Nichols

Born in Singapore of a Dutch-South African father and an English mother, Mary came to England when she was three. She says that her father, like many who learn English as a second language, was far more precise in its use than many English people and he would have no sloppiness, either spoken or written. She puts her love of the language down to him. He was also a great reader and there were always books in the house, so that she learned to read at a very early age. By the time she was nine or ten her one ambition was to be a famous writer. So tell us, Mary, how did you get published, and did you have any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I had loads and loads of rejections, mostly accompanied by a letter telling me where I had gone wrong. RNA members won’t be surprised at the number of ways you can go wrong, but I seem to have tried them all. But I learned from them as I have a reputation in the family for being obstinate. I prefer to call it perseverance. One of my friends once said to me: ‘Mary, you don’t know when you’re beat.’ My perseverance paid off in 1981 when I sold my first book to Robert Hale. Over fifty published books later, I’m still learning.

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
Being a pensioner, I no longer have a day job but I do have to care for an invalid husband, so my time at the computer is precious. I try and squeeze in a little time in the mornings, but that is usually what I call admin, answering emails, keeping accounts up to date, ditto my website, proof-reading, promo etc. My new writing is done from two until six in the afternoon, when I try to produce at least a thousand words.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I’m a planner. I start with an idea which usually includes the background or a particular historical event, then work on the characters until they are so firmly fixed in my head they become real people to me. Then I work on a synopsis and follow this with a detailed plot before I start writing. By chapter three or four, the characters have taken over and are going off on their own and introducing new ideas. It usually happens in the middle of a dialogue and I find myself saying, ‘Now, why on earth did he (or she) say that?’ I hadn’t planned it and then I have to decide whether to let them go or haul them back into line. I usually go with the flow. In my head, they are real people and they are acting and speaking in character, so forcing them back doesn’t work. I keep the original premise and ending in mind though.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Readability, in other words the ability to keep the reader turning the pages and caring about the outcome for the characters.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
I play golf, not so well as I did which is frustrating, but I enjoy it. Until recently I went to the gym two or three times a week, but that went by the board last year when I had pneumonia and I haven’t taken it up again. I walk as much as I can though.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Read, read and read some more, especially the genre you are interested in. And don’t give up.

What draws you to your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I write for two publishers; Mills & Boon historical and family sagas for Allison and Busby. They are very different and I enjoy writing both. I’ve also written a biography of my grandmother, which was a labour of love but which has done very well for me.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal for you?
Yes, I do when writing for Mills & Boon, because sometimes a minor character in one book is strong enough to need a story of their own. And sometimes a background lends itself to more than one book. I found this with my Piccadilly Gentleman’s Club series, about a group of gentleman who go about solving crime in Georgian society. Each book is about one member of the Club dealing with a specific crime and finding love along the way. The research was great fun. The sagas, so far, have been one-offs but who knows?

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Oh, do I! It usually comes in the middle of the book. I’ve gone rattling along and suddenly come to a full stop and have a crisis of confidence that it’s just not going to work. I find it does no good sitting over it, I have to walk away and do something else. Having a long soak in the bath usually helps.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
The RNA has certainly helped me personally. Writing is a lonely business, you are writing in a kind of vacuum and it’s lovely to meet others in the same boat, who can understand the ups and downs. I’ve made many staunch friends through my membership and would not want to be without them. And of course being long listed for The Summer House and short-listed for the Love Story of the Year with The Captain’s Mysterious Lady this year was exciting and cannot have done my career any harm at all.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
The Kirilov Star, published by Allison and Busby, came out in hardback in April this year. It had been in the back of my mind for some time, ever since the Russians admitted they had found the bodies of the Tsar and his family murdered in 1918. I had read of the Grand Duchess Anastasia surviving (which has since been disproved) and also read and loved Dr Zhivago and many other books about the Russian Revolution. Lydia is four years old and the only survivor of her aristocratic family when they try to flee the civil war. Too traumatised to speak she is adopted by an English diplomat and grows up in England. But the pull of her roots is strong and that forms the basis for the story. It is, of course, a romance.

I also have a new Regency for Mills & Boon, called Winning the War Hero’s Heart, coming out in October. The heroine for this is a feisty, independent woman who inherits a provincial newspaper and runs foul of the local aristocracy because of her outspokenness.

Mary Nichols, who joined the RNA in the sixties, began her writing career with articles and short stories before turning to novels. After writing ten for Robert Hale between 1981 and 1985, she went on to write historical romance for Mills & Boon. Mary also writes family sagas for Allison and Busby. The Summer House published in 2009 was long-listed for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award. The Fountain came out in 2010 and The Kirilov Star this April.

Mary is also the author of The Mother of Necton, a biography of her grandmother who was a village nurse and midwife from the early years of the 20th century until the formation of the National Health Service in 1948.

You can learn more by visiting her website at:

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Interview with LIndsay Townsend

Lindsay Townsend lives in Yorkshire. She has a first class honours degree in history from Bangor University where she specialised in the Middle Ages. She currently writes both medieval romance for Kensington, and romance set in the ancient world published by Bookstrand. She has also reissued her earlier romantic suspense title, Night of the Storm as an ebook. LIndsay, what do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?

I think an editor is looking for intriguing characters, a distinctive author voice, and slightly different 'takes' within a genre so that a story follows the conventions but is also fresh and engaging.

Where is your favourite place to work?
I work upstairs in a small study bedroom with my computer in the corner away from the window.

How do you develop your characters? In historicals, how do you keep them in period yet sympathetic to readers?
I develop my people by considering their cardinal virtues, their main vices (often it can be one and the same, such as single-mindedness leading to stubbornness.) their secrets and their main aims in life. In historicals I try to keep characters in period by showing their reactions, settings and situations very different from the customs of modern people. When it comes to falling in love, though, I feel that people have not changed much through history and readers can identify with that.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Writing the end of a book is always hard for me. I find it hard to let go of the characters I have grown to understand and like. The end always feels like a cut off point, too, and rather arbitrary. I tend to have several intense final scenes, where situations are revealed and resolved as far as possible, and then a wind-down scene.

Do you find time to have interests other than writing? How do you relax?
I relax by spending time with my husband, reading - often thrillers - watching TV, listening to music, walking and (wonderful therapy, this!) weeding the garden.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Read widely in fiction and non-fiction. Write a genre that you love. Let work rest before you have a final read through and polish. Read on a paper copy, not on the computer - it does alter the experience. Join groups such as the RNA for support, information and feedback. Don’t send out work too early - if you feel something is not quite as you want it, work on it until it is. Don't give up. When sending work out, consider the new electronic publishers, not just the traditional print houses.

What draws you to your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I love historical romance and romantic suspense for the chance both give to write about exotic settings (to me the past is also an intriguing, a foreign setting) exciting, slightly larger than life characters, high-stakes situations and adventure.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I sometimes suffer from what I call cloudy head, which is a sign that I'm a bit stale. I take the hint, drag myself away from the computer and go for a walk in woodland, go to visit friends - do something different. I also write away from the computer on a simple writing pad with a pen.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
The RNA has helped me by putting me in contact with other romance writers.

Is there a particular period of history that you enjoy writing about? Why is that?
I'm strongly drawn to the medieval and ancient worlds because they are so different from the modern age, while still helping to shape the way we live.

Who is your ideal reader?
Someone who will try my books, enjoy them and tell all her friends about them so they will buy them, too.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
My latest is a medieval historical romance, To Touch The Knight, published by Kensington Zebra in July and appearing in the UK in August. I got the idea for it from two historical events - the Black Death, which struck England in 1348 and killed off almost a third of the population, and the later real-life story of the Princess Cariboo - a woman in the 18th century who faked being an eastern princess. I put those two things together to create my heroine and her story.

To find out more about Lindsay, visit her blog:
Twitter: @lindsayromantic

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with RNA conference organisers, Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson

The RNA’s conferences are well known for being great fun, informative, a place to meet old friends and make new ones. This year’s conference at Caerleon was no exception. Today’s interviewees, Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson, are the two amazing organisers who make it all possible. They are already working towards next year’s conference.

When and how did you become an RNA conference organiser?

Roger: I started helping when Marina Oliver organised the first residential conference in Stonyhurst in 1998. I have co-organised each one since (with Marina, then Jenny Haddon, then Jan), learning a bit every time.

Jan: I ran away to my first conference in 2000 and enjoyed it so much that I’ve booked for every one since. Between 2004 and 2005 I naively asked Jenny Haddon if she would like any help with pre-conference paperwork - and nearly had my hand bitten off. The rest is history...

This year’s conference has just taken place, when will you start organising next years?

Jan: We’ve already started! Running the annual conference is pretty much a year-round job. For a start we have a rolling programme of site visits because we need to size up places two or three years in advance in order to get the dates we want at the right price.

Roger: Yes, for any conference, the first thing is to decide on a venue this means combining accessibility, suitability and PRICE. We like to move around the country so no region feels left out and all RNA members have a sporting chance of getting to at least one conference relatively easily. Before making a decision we might visit four or five promising sites to look at what is on offer and to work out exactly what it would cost. Costing can be quite complicated.

Jan: Costing is extremely complicated! Some places charge per person per 24hours and include the seminar rooms. Some places we have to pay separately for the conference centre and for the accommodation. Some places we have to add up every single item individually. It’s important to get the finances right because writers in general don’t have much spare money, so we have to keep the cost to our members as low as possible whilst still breaking even. We've already booked Penrith for 2012 and Sheffield for 2013. We are currently looking at options for 2014 and 2015. Once decided, we'll visit each site at least twice more before the Conference to make detailed plans and to make sure that the team on the campus know what to expect from 150 or so romantic novelists.

Roger: that’s one part of the conference groundwork, the other is the programme. We don’t work quite as far ahead there, but already have two or three talks booked for next year’s conference.

Tell us what goes on behind the scenes how do you go about organising a conference so it runs as smoothly as Caerleon's?

Jan: For me, it’s attention to detail. We’ve been running the conferences together for several years now, so we can remind each other of previous snags. No site is perfect, but we work with the venues and compensate for any peculiarities they might have that could prove awkward.

Roger: Solving potential difficulties before they occur, in other words. But even then, there’s always some last minute problem that needs prompt action. Speakers fall ill, the rooms we have been faithfully promised can't be used, members find at the last moment that yes, they can make it to the Conference and are there any places left? We do what we can. As the conference date draws nearer we'll be exchanging 10/20 emails a day.

Jan: So yes, in the main it is preparation, but the main reason why things flow nicely during the conference itself is that we have a fabulous mix of delegates who enjoy the company just as much as they enjoy the business side of things. Problems aren’t nearly so insurmountable if people are having a good time.

Right - A well organised Goody bag filling line at Caerleon.

How do you choose the speakers and

Jan: We like to keep the programme fluid until the last minute. We pick up or are offered speakers throughout the year, so we know the majority of the items, but often we don’t decide the actual timetable until just before sending the packs out at the end of May. This means we can pick up on trends and new topics and slot speakers in quite easily, for example Freda Lightfoot on ‘kindling’ this year.

Roger: We like to have different subjects from year to year, we also ask interesting speakers when we come across them - that can be quite late on. This year we met - and propositioned - Simon Petherick of Beautiful Books at the shortlist breakfast in February. In 2010, we asked Joanna Trollope to be out headline speaker just after she’d been awarded her Lifetime Star at the Awards ceremony in March.

Jan: As a general rule, we aim to have talks across all genres and for all levels of the membership. When we lay all the sessions out we can spot what is missing from the mix and hopefully rectify it (eg we turned out not to have so much on research this year, so prevailed on Louise Allen to talk about what historic prints can tell the writer).

Where's your favourite conference venue?

Roger: My favourite venue is Penrith. The staff have always been great, the site is compact, the food good. Of course the setting and the programme and the weather at Greenwich were all superb (not the accommodation). But we can only afford that once every fifty years.

Jan: Penrith, without a doubt. It’s compact, reasonably priced, the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. The accommodation has seen better days, but you can park right next to it and the kitchens are a brilliant size for socialising.

What do you most enjoy about the job?

Roger: I'm tempted to say that what I enjoy most is the first glass of wine at the end of the day. If you have a successful start, a good second and third day, a good last day then that is a relief and is very satisfying. Other than that I like meeting people (usually when shooting from one job to the next|) and I always learn something.

Jan: I really enjoy the planning, and I get a huge buzz of satisfaction when things go well. I’ve got such a lot from the RNA and it pleases me greatly to be able to give something back that I know I can do well. And then, of course, I really enjoy being able to get back to writing when it’s all over for another year!

Thank you Jan and Roger for all the hard work you put in to make the RNA’s conferences so wonderful. It is greatly appreciated by everyone who attends. We're looking forward to next year's conference in Penrith.

Look out for Jan’s serial ‘An ordinary gift’ currently running in Woman’s Weekly magazine. For more details see Jan's blog

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Interview with June Francis

I have known June for many years as our careers have rather run in parallel, so it is with great pleasure that I feature her on the blog today. She was born in Blackpool after the local maternity hospital in Liverpool was blitzed. In 1946 her father returned from the war and it was he who introduced her to the joys of storytelling and taught her the alphabet from a sign-writer's book. The house had no running hot water, her mother cooked meals on an open fire and in the side oven, and the lavatory was down the yard. Until she was seven June would creep up in the dark to bed, as the family had no electricity. She shrugs all this off by saying it is all grist to the mill for a saga writer. You’ve come a long way from there, June, so tell us how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I actually had my first two books accepted at the same time and was offered a contract by letter from Judith Murdoch, now an agent, who was an editor at Mills & Boon in the late eighties. In my ignorance I had sent the first draft of one book and then the other three months later. Both were rejected but I rewrote them and sent them back at intervals. This went on for two years and would never happen today. Judith never said to me I don’t want to see these books again! They were set in medieval times and I remember several comments she made. First rejection - ‘we do not use archaic language’, second - ‘your characters are one dimensional’ - and the comment when I nearly gave up ‘We are increasing our word length from 60,000 to 80,000!’ But I persisted, not knowing that my published writer friend who wrote Medicals as Jenny Ash, and had introduced me to Judith at a Southport Writers’ seminar, told her not to give up on me because I would make it.

I was thrilled to bits when I received the letter because Judith also told me to telephone her secretary and make an appointment to have lunch in London. I had longed for over two years to be able to tell someone that I’m going down to London to have lunch with my editor.

Where is your favourite place to work?
We have an alcove in our bedroom where I have the desk my husband bought in a cruise liner sale when I first began writing. It is situated against a wall beneath a small hexagon window. Ideal for a writer because all I can see through it is a chimney pot, a bit of roof and patch of sky. I work on a flat screened Dell computer and have a calendar, a photo of my parents smiling at me pinned to the wall. On my desk I have a scented candle and a model of a fairy in a pea green boat with a pot of honey and a bee. I feel this is very much my place, although, since my husband retired as soon as I finish for the day, he asks can he use my computer despite he has his own little laptop.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I don’t plan the whole book but neither do I just dive in. I generally start thinking of the next book before I finish the one I’m working on. I generally know the where and when and an idea what the book is about. But I find I need to write myself in to get to know my characters and enter their world. Research is essential for that and helps with plot ideas.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The first draft and in particular the middle part when I have decided on the ending, but have to delay my characters getting there. Sometimes I don’t know how they’re going to get there. I find that introducing a new character isn’t a bad idea to get me over the hump. I enjoy doing the third draft because by then I know most of what’s going on.

How do you develop your characters? In historicals, how do you keep them in period yet sympathetic to readers?
I never forget what Judith Murdoch said about my characters being one dimensional, so I try to make sure they are rounded characters and that they are seen in different situations that bring out different aspects of their personality. I also call upon my own experience of people and my own life. I write two kinds of novels: Twentieth century sagas and historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. My readers require different realities from the different genres. Sagas are supposed to present more realism in the depiction of the heroine and hero’s situation. My roots being Liverpool working class I don’t find that so difficult, although my heroines are generally fiesty and not victims. My heroes are kind, not overly handsome, bossy or rich, and sometimes truly heroic and sensitive.

My Mills & Boon stories need to fulfil a reader’s fantasies. When I write about a well-born, rich, kind, attractive hero, and a feisty heroine who can read and write and give as good as she gets in a era when women were very much under men’s thumb, I always think there were exceptions to the rule. E.g. Sir Thomas More’s daughter was very well educated. There were also women who ran businesses when their fathers died and there were no male heirs to take over. Women wrote books and composed music. I also believe that men and women did fall in love and would talk to each other and make love as we would today, despite the church rules of the day.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Page turning qualities that will hit the market at the right time and hopefully that the writer is capable of producing more of the same.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
I swim, walk, and enjoy watching documentaries about ancient history. I also love old musicals and doing my ancestry.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Know what you want to write, listen to advice, don’t lose faith in yourself, persist but be realistic in your expectations.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal for you?
Yes, I do enjoy writing sequels because at the end of certain books I have felt there were still things I wanted to know about the characters, and I didn’t want to say goodbye to them. I’d created a world that I wasn’t ready to leave.

Are you into social networking, and in what way do you feel it helps your career?
I’m not really into internet social networking, and yet I do feel it might help my career. But I’d have to put a heck of a lot of time in. I have a website and I’m reluctantly on Face book. The difficulty is that at the end of a working day spent at the computer there is a limit to how much my eyes can cope with on screen. During twenty eight years of writing, and thirty books, I’ve done the signings in shops, the talks to libraries and various groups, been in the local press at least a couple of dozen times, on radio, even on telly once, and I’m still just a journeyman mid-list writer. I accept that there’s only room for so many people at the top and I’m not ambitious enough to go all out to get there.

What is your latest book?
My very latest book is a HMB set in 1520. My heroine Beth inherits her father’s printing business in London after he is murdered at what we now called The Field of the Cloth of Gold. My hero is Sir Gawain Raventon, who is married but whose wife is missing with his children, and he becomes Beth’s guardian. He has the task of finding not only a husband for her but a murderer, as well. The Unconventional Maiden is out in hardback in October and paperback, January.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I have just finished a sequel to The Unconventional Maiden and it is now with my agent but I am also writing a saga that is a sequel to my last one: It Had to be You that was set in the Fifties. This one involves a family in Liverpool, where the father is a policeman and whose son and eldest daughter are also in the force. There is a tyrannical grandmother and a teenage daughter. The story opens with Jeanette who witnesses a violent crime and meets the hero who vanishes. She eventually leaves home and meets up with some of the characters from the last book. One of them is a married policeman who ends up having an affair with her sister. I have some other plot ideas but I’m waiting to see how it goes.

To find out more about June 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:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Interview with Nicola Cornick

Bestselling author Nicola Cornick studied history at London University and Ruskin College, Oxford. She writes historical romance for Harlequin HQN Books in the US and MIRA Books UK. She is also a historian working for the National Trust at the seventeenth century hunting lodge, Ashdown House. Her book Whisper of Scandal won the 2011 Romance Writers of America National Readers’ Choice Award. So tell us Nicola, how did you get started?

I’ve been writing since I was a child but I started writing Regency romance when I was about 18. The library had run out of historical fiction for me to read so I thought I would write my own book. I wrote on and off for years, combining it with a job as a university administrator, but I was only published in my thirties. Mills & Boon turned down my first attempt, telling me there was too much adventure and too little romance in the story. I kept re-writing the same book over and over again. With the benefit of hindsight I’d probably tell my younger self to try something new and different, but I got there in the end.

To plot or not to plot? How much of a planner are you?
I’m pretty much a seat of the pants writer. I usually start with an idea, whether it be a place, a character or an incident, and then I write into the mist. I do have to provide outlines for HQN Books but my editor understands that the finished book may bear little resemblance to the synopsis. I have tried to plan more because I’m a very organised person in the rest of my life and so it goes against the grain that I can’t be as efficient in my plotting, but I have been forced to accept that it just doesn’t work that way for my writing. As long as the book gets written, that’s fine! One thing I have learned is that there is no right or wrong way to do these things.

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
I try to work every day because I get very grumpy and frustrated if I don’t. I also find it a useful discipline. I start work early in the morning and write until lunchtime or until I have completed that day’s word count. Then I will do promotion or other work-related jobs in the afternoon.

Which authors have most influenced your work?
Like many Regency authors I think I was quite heavily influenced by Georgette Heyer when I started out but as my career has progressed I have moved away from Heyer’s style to the point that some reviewers now comment on how unlike Georgette Heyer my writing is! I think that some of the most influential authors on me have been Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier and Alan Garner because one thing I love is creating atmosphere and a sense of place and that comes over so strongly in their books. Every author I’ve read has taught me something in one way or another.

Do you find time to have interests other than writing?
I do! I worked in an office before I became a full time writer and I enjoy having other people around me and get lonely if I work on my own 100% of the time. So I volunteer for the National Trust as a guide and historian at Ashdown House, I work at my local heritage centre and I also do species protection work for the RSPB and a number of other wildlife projects. It gets me out meeting people and of course that provides me with lots of ideas for characters!

What advice would you give a new writer?
First of all I would tell them never to give up. It took me about 12 years to get published and you have to be determined and believe in yourself. I’d also encourage new writers to keep reading and keep polishing their writing skills. I’m still learning and developing as a writer and I hope I always will be.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal for you?
I enjoy writing series very much which is fortunate since my publisher is very keen for me to write them. A lot of readers seem to enjoy them too. For me the appeal is the continuation and development of the characters. For example I love taking a secondary character from Book 1 who has behaved very badly and seeing if I can redeem him or her in book 2. It’s a challenge and it’s fun to show a different side to the character. It also means that I don’t have to say goodbye to them straight away!

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
I find being a member of the RNA useful in so many ways. I only wish I had known about it when I was an aspiring author because I think the NWS would have made a huge contribution to helping me develop my skill as a writer. I joined just after I was first published and have been a member for about 12 years now. It’s a wonderfully supportive and encouraging organisation and a great way to meet with like-minded authors and people who understand the challenges and excitement of being a romantic novelist. It’s brilliant for networking and a very useful source of expertise.

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

My latest UK book is called Mistress by Midnight and it is book 3 in my Scandalous Women of the Ton series. This was a book that sprung out of an idea; I read about the London Beer Flood of 1813 when the vats on top of the brewery in Tottenham Court Road exploded and flooded the streets with beer. It was such an extraordinary and quirky event that I wanted to write it into a book.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I’m currently working on the sixth and final book in the Scandalous Women of the Ton series. It’s called Forbidden and it’s a classic rags to riches story of a housemaid who finds herself to be the heiress to a title and grand estate. It will be out in the US next year and in the UK in 2013. In the meantime there are two further Scandalous Women stories to come out here. I’ve loved writing this series. With each book I have tried to explore a different angle of what was “scandalous” in Regency society, whether it was a lady travelling abroad alone, or working for a living, as my heroine Merryn does in Mistress by Midnight, or being involved in politics. Not all scandals were romantic ones, though there is plenty of that as well!

You can find out more about Nicola by visiting her website:
Twitter: @NicolaCornick

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