Friday, September 30, 2011

October New Releases

Juliet Archer
ISBN: 9781906931216
Choc Lit
15th September
£7.99 paperback

This contemporary re-telling of Jane Austen’s last completed novel is the second book in Juliet Archer’s Darcy & Friends series, offering fresh insights into the hearts and minds of Austen’s irresistible heroes.

Available from Amazon

Linda Hooper writing as Sarah Mallory
ISBN: 978-0263888003
Harlequin Mills & Boon
September 2011 (UK)
£3.99 paperback

Kitty Wythenshawe must marry well to help her family – Daniel Blackwood is an industrialist not the lord that Kitty hopes to catch, but they can't resist each other. "Pride & Prejudice meets North and South" Cataromance

Sarah Mallory
ISBN: 978-0263218404
September 2011 (North America)
$6.25 paperback

The Earl of Darrington positively revels in his dangerous reputation, but when he meets the lovely widow, Beth Forester he becomes embroiled in a scandal that threatens them both…..

Wendy Soliman
Aurora Regency at Musa Publishing
14th October
$5 ebook

When Clarissa Hartley discovers that her late husband had a son she knew nothing about, she fears she has lost everything. But Luc Deverill suspects fraud and sets about investigating...

Wendy Soliman
26th October
$5 ebook

When Suzie Alexander catches her husband cheating on her she runs away to Shalimar, the country house where she grew up. She's befriended by a weird assortment of people and strange things happen...

Wendy Soliman
Carina PressISBN: 9781426892448
17th October
$5.99 ebook

First in the Hunter Files series in which Charlie Hunter, retired cop living on his boat, finds his old unsolved cases coming back to haunt him.

Susan Palmquist writing as Vanessa Devereaux
Total E Bound
October 10, 2011
$4.36 ebook

Connor O’Riordan had his heart set on Gillian Matthews the first day she stepped onto his ranch but the only problem was she had a boyfriend. When Connor finds she’s now available he’ll do anything to woo and romance the lady of his dreams.

Margaret Moundsdon
ISBN: 978 144 480 8490
October 2011
£8.99 Large Print

It was not a good career move of Emily Sinclair's to spray the details of James Bradshaw's indiscretions with Madame Zora all over her fortune telling booth in bright pink paint, especially not when six years later he becomes her new boss.

Mary Nichols
ISBN 978-0263218381
Mills and Boon Hardback

Returning wounded from Waterloo, the last thing Viscount Cavendish wants is trouble in his home town, but that is what he gets when he comes up against Miss Helen Wayland, local newspaper proprietor and tireless campaigner for the underdog.

Lynne Connolly
Loose-Id Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-61118-639-00
$6 approx.

Cerys is happy working in the bar in her home time of Llandudno, Wales. Nobody knows her secret until she meets dark, brooding Rhodri Tryfanwy. He knows her at once, because he’s like her, a vampire.

Melanie Hilton writing as Louise Allen
(Danger & Desire trilogy 3) ISBN:0263888045
Harlequin Mills & Boon
October 2011
Paperback £2.99

Sophia Langley’s betrothed Daniel Chatterton is lost in a shipwreck of the Bengal Queen. Without the marriage her family faces ruin. Callum, Daniel’s twin, out of duty, offers for her. Can she marry a man she does not love? And has Callum made the biggest mistake of his life?

Louise Allen
(Transformation of the Shelley Sisters trilogy 3)
ISBN: 0373296606
Harlequin Mills & Boon
October 2011
Paperback $6.25

Celina Shelley finds herself on the run from the law. No-one will believe that the girl from a top-flight brothel can be innocent in every sense of the word. Only adventurer Quinn Ashley can save her – for his own ends.

Liz Fielding
ISBN: 9781444808469
Linford Romance Library
October 2012
£8.99 Large Print Kate

Thornley's catering business is struggling and a contract to set up a tearoom in a stately home sounds just the job but if she'd known Jay Warwick was part of the deal she'd have turned it down flat. By the time she finds out, there's no escape.

Delys Court writing as Lily Baxter
ISBN: 978-0099562641
Arrow Books
27 October 2011
Paperback £5.99

Working as a maid in London at the outbreak of war, eighteen-year-old Susan Banks longs to fly an aeroplane, but that seems like an impossible ambition for a girl raised in an orphanage. She could never have imagined that falling off her bike would change her life forever.

Jane Pollard writing as Jane Jackson
ISBN: 978-0-7090-9308-4
Robert Hale Ltd
31st October 2011
Hardback £18.99

After a devastating betrayal, Jenefer Trevanion fights her way out of destitution by becoming a bookeeper and smugglers’ agent. When Charles Polgray arrives with plans that promise local prosperity, attraction is instant and powerful. But Charles has a secret that could destroy any hope of a future together.

Maureen Stenning writing as Isabelle Goddard
ISBN: 978-0 263 88808 9
Harlequin Mills and Boon
7 October 2011
Paperback £3.99 and ebook £3.19

Richard Veryan was heartbroken - and bitter after Christabel Tallis jilted him three weeks before their wedding. Six years later, and toughened by adventure overseas, Richard meets Christabel again and decides to teach her a lesson. He’ll prove that he can command her body and soul – then he’ll walk away.

Available from Amazon:

Benita Brown writing as Clare Benedict
Magna Large Print
1 October
£20.99 Hardback

‘A scheming gold-digger! Her wealthy husband scarcely cold in his grave and she embarks on a torrid affair!’ That’s how the gutter press see Gina. Is it any wonder that Sam Redmond agrees when he remembers how badly she behaved in the past? How can Gina prove her innocence?

Chrissie Loveday
October 3rd 2011
£16.49 large print edition

A shared passion for horses brought them together but her career in the same law firm may make any future together, look out of the question.

Anna Jacobs
ISBN: 978-1444711257
13 October 2011
£19.99 ebook: £10.99

1865 Singapore: Penniless and alone, Isabella works for a Chinese family. Bram is looking for trading goods. Mr Lee persuades them to make a marriage of convenience, linking him to Western Australian trade. But the past casts a long shadow. Can their business succeed? And what about their hasty marriage?

Anna Jacobs
ISBN: 072788106X
27 October 2011
Hardback £19.99

A collection of romantic short stories, mostly modern with a few historical. A pelican plays cupid; a woman is tricked into attending a Bachelors’ and Spinsters’ ball in outback Australia; avoiding Christmas throws two people together; a family emigrates to Australia in 1924; a widowed mother’s rebellion leads to romance.

Tricia Jones
ISBN: 1-60154-975-X
The Wild Rose Press
14 October 2011
ebook $6.00

A hard-nosed businessman’s plans are thwarted when an old Fairy Gate and local superstition stand in the way of a lucrative development contract. With his hands full, he could do without the unexpected—and unwanted—attraction to the feisty redhead leading the revolt.

Extract link:  

June Francis
Harlequin Mills & Boon
ISBN 9780263222975
Large Print £14.50

Tudor period: Bridget McDonald is in fear for her life and her virtue-on board a slave ship. Having plunged over the side, she's rescued by rugged Captain Henry Mariner.

June Francis
Harlequin Mills & Boon .
ISBN 9780263218411
Hardback £13.99

Tudor period: After her father's murder, headstrong Beth Llewellyn finds herself under the reluctant guardianship of Sir Gawain Raventon.

New titles from members of the Romantic Novelist Association authors appear on this blog on the 1st of each month. Please contact for more details.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Author Interview with Annie Burrows

A warm welcome to Annie Burrows, who writes Regency historical romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her first published book “His Cinderella Bride” became the year’s top seller for the Mills & Boon’s historical line. Annie, tell us how you sold your first book and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I’d been writing with a view to publication for about 10 years before I got a contract. At first, I wasn’t very savvy. I wrote what I felt like writing, and sent sample chapters off to publishers at random and never got any response at all. I had no idea if my stories were sitting on a slush pile somewhere unread, or if what I was writing was so bad editors were bursting out laughing and throwing my manuscript into the bin without even bothering to let me know it was utter drivel.
Eventually, I heard a rumour that if you sent a manuscript to Mills & Boon, somebody would eventually read it, and give you some kind of response - but that it would be advisable to read their recent output, to see what kind of things they were currently publishing. Sounds common sense to research the market, but I’d no idea, when I started writing, that I was trying to get noticed in a very competitive field. Before this, I had never, knowingly, read anything from Mills & Boon, but when I did, it was a real light-bulb moment. Every single book I picked up really hit the spot, having everything I wanted, as a reader, from a work of fiction. Passion and adventure, and sometimes moments that moved me to tears, but always ending on a distinctly upbeat tone. Why had I never read any before? These were the kind of books I wanted to write!
I stopped fiddling around with science fiction, and “worthy” literary efforts, and began to write my first love story. Are you expecting me to say it was accepted straight away? Afraid not! I sent in 5 manuscripts before I got anything more than a standard rejection slip. By this time, I’d discovered there was an organization called the RNA, and that if you sent in a manuscript, a professional author would read it, and let you know where you were going wrong. If the story I had submitted to Mills & Boon, featuring a Regency heroine who had been abused as a child got rejected too, that was going to be my next step…joining the RNA and getting someone to give me a few pointers. But then I got a letter from Mills & Boon saying that they liked my first three chapters, and would I send in the rest? Six months later, another letter arrived saying that they could see “potential” in my writing, but would I consider doing a few revisions? At that stage, I didn’t expect to get a contract, but at least a rejection with explanations would be a step in the right direction. To my utter shock, the book, with just that one set of revisions, was accepted, and “His Cinderella Bride” went on sale in October 2007. And I joined the RNA anyway! I’d been struggling on my own for such a long time, it was wonderful to find a community of like-minded people out there who totally “got” me.

Where is your favourite place to work?

I have recently moved into a house that has a spare bedroom. It’s a tiny room, which I rather grandly describe as my study. It feels even smaller with all the bookshelves lining the walls. I treated myself to one of those ergonomic chairs to sit on, after a spell where I felt as though I was spending all my income at the chiropractor, and work on a laptop, with a coffee table to one side, smothered with notes and teetering piles of reference books. At certain stages of a w.i.p. the floor is also carpeted with stacks of paper, annotated with bright pink post-its marking crucial points I must NOT leave out of the next round of revisions. It’s a wonderful feeling when a book is finally accepted, I can pick up all the paper, and hoover.

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?

As I am now a consummate professional, my schedule is as follows: having seen my family off to work I breakfast, tidy up the kitchen, do my back exercises, and arrive in my study by 9am. I work for an hour at a time, getting up to stretch out that cranky back by pottering around doing household chores for ten minutes or so. I finish about four, when I prepare the evening meal for those residents of my home who go outside to work for their living…Oh, who am I trying to kid?
Once my family have gone off to work, I crawl back to bed with a cup of tea, to treat myself to “just one chapter” of whatever book I happen to have on the go at the time. I do usually make it to my study, washed, dressed and back stretched by about 9.30, when I put in an hour’s writing until the Popmaster quiz comes on radio 2, when I stop for a coffee break. (I do the breakfast dishes while I’m listening.) Then I get another hour’s work in before lunch. For some reason, I often feel as if I’m writing such rubbish after lunch that I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to delete it the next morning. So I usually give up about 3pm. Which co-incides with the start of Countdown on. So, (like Fred) I have another cup of tea, and join in. If I find myself shouting “rat” and “dot” at the screen while the contestants are smugly suggesting “leotards” I know its time to stop writing for good, and I go and hoover something. And only once I’ve reached my self-imposed target on my w.i.p, and done at least one household chore will I permit myself a game of spider solitaire. Well, I have to stick to some standards, don’t I?

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

Revisions. I absolutely adore doing the first draft of a story, where I pretty much sit down and let it all flow out. I’ve heard other writers describing this part of the writing process as “playtime”. Even re-writing, which is what turns the bare bones into something fit for a reader to look at, is a rewarding process. I polish and polish until my story is something I am proud of… And then the editor wants me to change it! Ouch. That is the point when I have to remind myself that if I want payment, I have to produce a product fit for the market. And that the editor knows what sells. And take her comments as professional advice, not personal criticism.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?

Well, I’m an avid reader. I read extensively within my genre, to keep abreast of the market, but I love thrillers, and science fiction too. I enjoy pottering about in the garden too, getting out in the fresh air and seeing things grow. And a few years ago, I started going to ballroom dance lessons, as a way to keep fit, and also as an activity that my husband and I could do together. Now we have a regular dance lesson each week, and a club we have found where we can “practice” to a live band. There is nothing more romantic than a waltz…Unless it’s a steamy tango.

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

I absolutely adore the historical works of Georgette Heyer. I re-read my collection until they drop to bits and I have to buy new editions. But then I also read Dick Francis, Dean Koontz, P.G. Wodehouse, Harlen Coben…

How do you develop your characters? In historicals, how do you keep them in period yet sympathetic to readers?

Writing for Mills & Boon there is not a lot of time to develop the historical backdrop. In fact, a backdrop is all it can be, with the vibrant romance taking centre stage. I try to create authenticity by creating characters with a regency mindset. They are people who routinely go to church, have no knowledge of the technology we take for granted, and who are much closer to the land than we are today. If they have a problem, they have no recourse to Oprah, or Cosmopolitan. They just have to muddle through on their own, often without being able to share their deepest, darkest woes with anyone at all. So things which nowadays could be straightened out relatively easily, can become huge stumbling blocks to personal growth.
My first heroine, as I’ve already mentioned, was abused as a child, and grew up thinking it was all her own fault. She was afraid of, and disliked men, but also bore a huge burden of guilt herself. But it’s like walking a tightrope, striking just that right balance between authenticity and readability. I am writing for a modern audience, who would find it hard going ploughing through the tortuous sentence structures that writers of the period would have used. But I do try very hard to avoid glaring anachronisms. So, in effect, I write in a style I have heard described as “bygonese”. Which suggests the period, whilst remaining accessible to a modern reader.

What advice would you give a new writer?

Well, if you’re reading this, you’re already aware of the RNA, which is a great start. Keep your dream alive by talking to, and mixing with other writers. Keep practicing and honing your craft. And don’t give up.

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

The next story of mine which will be out is a novella in a Christmas anthology, called “Gift-Wrapped Governesses”. I was really thrilled by the way that this came about, as I didn’t have to pitch a proposal in the normal fashion, but on the contrary, my editor emailed me to say they were putting together an anthology of Christmas stories featuring governess heroines, and would I like to contribute? I always have loads of ideas stashed away in notebooks, of openings for stories, or dramatic scenes, or interesting characters with nowhere to go. I browsed through my collection, and pretty soon came across two characters that I had known for a while ought to be together. The idea of making the heroine a governess was like the final piece of a puzzle slotting into place. A schoolroom was the perfect setting for her, and would also solve many of the problems I’d had with bringing her hero into her orbit.
But, like so many of my heroines, once I gave her room on the page, she took off in a slightly different direction. And the hero wouldn’t behave himself at all! But they did gel together remarkably swiftly, and what followed was a joy to write. I hope readers get as much fun out of Honeysuckle and Lord Chepstow’s fiery courtship as I got describing it. (Because, I have to tell you, there was no way to control either of them, I just had to stand well back and describe what they got up to.)

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?

Currently I’m working on the story of an Earl who is very, very reluctantly searching for a wife. He doesn’t really like or trust women (because he had no Oprah to consult about his traumatic childhood!) Then he encounters Miss Gibson. Far from throwing herself at him, she makes it clear she has no interest in him whatsoever. Piqued, he decides to make her fall in love with him, just to teach her a lesson. But during the course of his cold-hearted seduction, he will discover that Miss Gibson could just be the woman he’s been searching for all his life, but never believed existed.

Thank you for talking to us Annie. Good luck with your latest book.

To find out more about Annie and her books visit her website at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Author Interview with Elizabeth Bailey

Elizabeth Bailey is best know for her Harlequin Mills and Boon historical romances set in the late Georgian and early Regency period. She’s recently changed direction with her latest novel, the first in a new historical crime series, which is set in the late Georgian world of intrigue, elegance, aristocrats and rogues.

How did you get started?

I always wrote, but writing was a second career. I’d written short stories and attempted novels, but it was only when I decided to write a Mills & Boon historical romance that things took off. It took me 8 books to write one that was publishable, though.

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

In the early days, I plotted a lot. Once I realised the plot changed while writing, I let myself go a little and did less. Now it seems to depend what I’m writing, but mostly I plot less. I have an idea of the story, jot down a few incidents and then let the characters take me where they will. In my first historical crime novel, just coming out in the US, I didn’t even know who the murderer was until nearly halfway through the book! But that was fun.

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

It’s that elusive thing – page-turning quality (PTQ). If a novel has that, then minor matters can be handled. Otherwise it’s a matter of luck whether a writer’s voice appeals. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to move towards PTQ, I’d say: don’t waffle around – cut to the chase, get to the action.

Where is your favourite place to work?

I don’t have one. It’s my office-cum-bedroom at the moment and the door is open. I tend to write first draft with my Alphasmart on my knees and the PC open at my cue sheet (ie such plot as I have, plus cast names and places, ideas, etc).

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

Unfortunately not because I also have “life”. I try to get three working days in the week and usually write best in the afternoons. I tend to turn out around 2000 words, but when pushed I can do 5000+ if I have enough day and I’m going well.

Which authors have most influenced your work?

Georgette Heyer mainly because she was the inspiration behind writing historical romance (I write late Georgian/Regency). But I’ve also been influenced by Daphne du Maurier in my mainstream work, and I suppose Agatha Christie and Ellis Peters would be my main crime standards. I’d love to think I write as clever a mystery as Christie and as deep a sense of period and place as Peters in Brother Cadfael, but I wouldn’t bet on it!

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

Getting the first draft out. Rewriting and editing is much easier. It’s much easier to write a first draft if I can dedicate at least four long consecutive days in a week to doing it. The faster I write the better I write, because I don’t think too much and the story takes over.

How do you promote your books?

Well, that’s a toughie. I’m not very good at it, but I’m learning the ropes with Twitter and building an online presence. I do now have some journalist contacts, so hope to use them with this new book. Luckily, I have a publicist with my new publishers, so I get a lot of help.

Do you have interests other than writing?

Many. I think you need them to feed your imagination and develop your knowledge of the human condition. Having been an actress, and then a theatre director, I’ve had a lot of basic training which helps to create characters and build their emotional life.

What advice would you give a new writer?

Just get it down. Don’t worry too much about rules and doing it right. The only way to learn to write is to write. So write. Then you’ll learn what worked and what didn’t and how to make it better. You can’t edit a blank page.

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

The Gilded Shroud is a new departure for me, entering the crime arena. I’m writing in the same period as I did for my historical romances, so it makes the research easier. An aristocrat is murdered in her bed, her husband is missing and Lord Francis, her brother-in-law, has to pick up the pieces. He finds unexpected help in his mother’s new companion, Ottilia, who in this story becomes a sleuth of no mean order. There’s more data about it on my website at The original idea was intended for a big historical series, which I thought of ages ago. My brother suggested it could work as crime, but I just left it on the back burner for years. When I decided to change genre, this was the obvious starting point.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?

It’s the third in the series. Ottilia and Francis are caught up in the mystery of a girl who is alleged by her guardian to be deranged, whereas she claims he wants her money and won’t let her marry the man she loves. When the guardian turns up dead, Ottilia is on hand once again, with Francis in support, to find out whodunnit.

With the way publishing works, I shall soon be moving on to book four!

Thank you for talking to us, Elizabeth. We wish you good luck with your new crime series.

To find out about Elizabeth's writer's advice service see

Follow her blog at

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interview with Viola Russell

I’m delighted to have as a guest with us today, American author Viola Russell. Viola Russell is the pseudonym of a native New Orleanian who is a true romantic. She says she is an English teacher who lives with her dog and is happiest when creating at her computer. So tell us how you sold your first book, Viola, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I've had other books rejected, but not BURIED TRUTHS, my first published ebook. My local RWA chapter, SOLA, sent out an e-mail that Sapphire Blue Publishing was looking for authors. I sent BURIED TRUTHS to Sapphire Blue Publishing, and, happily, I received an e-mail and contract shortly after. I've been writing steadily ever since. Nothing builds confidence like an acceptance notice.

Where is your favorite place to work?
I work in a room I call my study. My computer is hooked up to the internet, and if I need to do any quick research, I'm able to switch from my typing to the internet quickly. For example, when I wrote my second book, LOVE AT WAR now available through Red Rose Publishing
I sometimes needed to verify what certain uniforms looked like or what kinds of weapons were used by the various military units. My dog sleeps at my feet while I type, and when I'm writing a particularly difficult scene, I often keep my mother's rosary at my side. It's my special talisman.

Do you have to juggle writing with your day job? What is your work schedule?
I'm an English teacher, and I nearly always have papers to grade or lessons to prepare. Consequently, I'm writing well into the night. My summers and my holidays are very important writing times.

How do you develop historical characters? And how do you keep them in period yet sympathetic to readers?
I research the history of the period a great deal before I even begin writing. I look up information and pictures on the internet to see important sites if I haven't been there. I don't think it's hard to make characters sympathetic. Situations and time periods may vary, but people have always experienced joy, sadness, or doubt. They have conflicts with others, experience hardships, and suffer turmoil. You can bring these human issues to any time period. In LOVE AT WAR, my characters are caught in the midst of WWII. They're no more than high school kids when the novel begins, but they have to grow up fast. I placed Nuala and her husband Keith in wartime, and they experience the trauma and loss of that period. Their experiences shape them, but they also share a love that any lovers from any period can understand. I loved that my family saw so much of themselves in Nuala's family while they sat at Sunday dinner. Nearly everyone I've talked to has appreciated the intense love Nuala and Keith share, and my cousin Jim paid me a great compliment. He said that my battles scenes were some of the best he'd ever read, and Jim is a Vietnam veteran.

How do you promote your books and what tips can you offer other writers?
I promote my books through Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. I offer contests, and I even took an ad in a local newspaper/magazine. I also take out RT ads promoting my covers. For the latest book, LOVE AT WAR, I also commissioned a book trailer designed by Betty Ann Harris. I use my current book cover as my Facebook profile picture. I think I'd tell new writers that they should set up these types of accounts as soon as possible. You need to make friends through these social networking sites to promote yourself. I also have a very nice website designed by a wonderful webmaster, Judah Mahay. Plus, promote yourself through book markers that have a picture of your cover as well as any other promotional tool you can afford.

What draws you to a particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I love historical literature in any genre. LOVE AT WAR is set during WWII, and I've always been fascinated by that period because my parents were adults during that area. I'm a history buff, and I love different periods of history. For example, I'm a great fan of C.S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr books set during the Napoleonic Wars. My dissertation was on Romanticism, and I love the era of the French Revolution. The impact of that revolution on Europe and America was profound. It influenced literature, politics, and social mores. I also enjoy contemporary literature as well, and I don't want to be defined by a particular genre. BURIED TRUTHS showed the impact of Katrina on my hometown as well as the way decisions made long ago impacted people later in life. Heather Kerry gave away her baby and the love of her life, but she never quite lived until she found them both again.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I used to be very spontaneous and fly with the wind. Consequently, I had a very loosely constructed plot. Now, I outline and take extensive notes. I plotted each scene of LOVE AT WAR, juggling human emotions and historical content.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal?
I haven't written a series yet, but I enjoy C.S. Harris' St. Cyr books. I love the period, and I'm invested in the characters. I also love James Lee Burke's mystery series featuring Dave Robicheaux. I think that's the key to a good series. You have to love the characters and want to know what happens to them.

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

My latest book is LOVE AT WAR, available through Red Rose Publishing. As I said, I'm a history buff and love that period, but this story was also very personal. After my beloved mother died, I went through her things and found letters her brothers had written during the war. LOVE AT WAR doesn't tell the story of my family specifically, but I wanted to tell the story of that period. Four of my uncles fought. One died in Germany and is buried overseas. His unit's job after the war was to collect unexploded bombs and ammo. The prison where they were stored exploded, and he was killed. My cousin Sandy never knew her father. When I wrote LOVE AT WAR, I named Nuala and Keith's daughter Sandy as a tribute to my cousin, who is also my godmother.

Can you tell us something about your work in progress?
Currently, I'm working on a novel set in Ireland during the 1500s. This is the era of the chieftains, and it also was the time of Tudor expansion into Ireland. I love the West of Ireland and have been there several times. What fascinates me about that period was how crafty the chieftains were in dealing with English officials. My protagonist is Grace O'Malley, a pirate in her own right and the wife of two powerful chieftains. She was shrewd, daring, and a match for government officials as well as for men in her own clan.

To find out more about Viola 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, September 16, 2011

Interview with Caroline Bell Foster

Today we welcome Caroline Bell Foster to the blog. Born in Derby she claims to have fond memories of sitting in fields daydreaming of faraway lands. Then when she was 12 she went to Jamaica for a six week family holiday and stayed for many years, returning to England eleven years ago with her husband and two children. She now lives in Nottingham. So tell us how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?  

The writing chose me. Growing up, I’d always enjoyed writing short stories and dabbling in poetry, but I never actually set out to be a writer. I was living in Jamaica at the time and happily pursuing a career in Travel and Tourism when my idyllic life was struck by personal tragedy. Three close family members died within months of each other. In my grief, I started to write and several months later, I had a massive 140,000 word manuscript, a pretty good story, a worn out keyboard and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I sent the manuscript off, ‘just to see’ without proper margins, single-spaced and bound. Exactly how a manuscript should not be presented. They read it, liked it and asked me to knock off several thousands words and clean it up. They didn’t give me a time limit, so I enrolled in a creative writing class, read every ‘How to write’ book and honed my skills writing LADIES’ JAMAICAN with my newfound knowledge. That very first manuscript became my second novel CARIBBEAN WHISPERS.  

Where is your favourite place to work?
I tend to be more creative in the wee hours of the morning and can write fluently and consistently for several hours. I need complete silence and like to be surrounded in darkness so I can ‘see’ my story. So the very best place is tucked up in bed, with my laptop propped on my knee and a woolly blanket over my shoulders. Luckily my husband has learned to appreciate how soothing the tapping of the keys can be and sleeps peacefully.  

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule? 
I work part-time for an Insurance Company in the evenings, which allows time for me to write when I get home, and sleep when the children are at school. I’ll write for 4-5 hours from around 1am, maybe sleep, get the kids off to school, sleep properly for a few more hours and then do all the mundane household chores before picking the kids up. I’m a champion at delegation (much to my families’ annoyance). And to free up even more time I shop online.  

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
My life is wonderfully chaotic. But I do love to read and I’m presently re-reading The Great Gatsby. I‘ve been learning the art of belly dancing for the past three years as well. Trying to isolate one part of your body whilst your hips are shimmying off the Richter scale takes a lot of concentration. We also moved house last year and have a large garden that was left unattended for several years. It was a jungle, needless to say I had no choice but to learn how to garden, but I am enjoying this new creative process of planning and planting and seeing the end result. There’s also several fruit trees, so at some point I would like to learn how to jam all those plums and berries that are growing.

What draws you to your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I should really open up a dating service as I’m all about the romance. I like to explore the relationships of friends, families and lovers and all the drama that goes with them and I do this naturally. Nevertheless, a few years ago I did try to write something a lot darker. The writing was comical. So now I trust myself to stay within my natural theme, romantic drama in a contemporary setting.  

How do you promote your books, and what tips can you offer other writers? 
Being called ’The Caribbean’s Leading lady of love’ is a great help and I use the phrase on all my promotional material. I have a small suitcase filled with copies of my books, promotional material, including simple business cards, my favourite A5 postcards with an snazzy image of my books, a picture of myself and all my contact details on them. Bookmarks, posters with the same images, colour scheme and information, two plastic napkin holders from Ikea which make great bookstands and a table cloth. This suitcase is always in my car. Be prepared to sell yourself.

Make use of free printing promotions online and stock up. When giving out cards, I cheekily ask if they can pass a few onto their friends for me. I’ll sometimes go into a shop and ask if I can leave a few post cards, this usually gets a conversation started about my books. On occasion I’ve been asked to sign the post cards and take a few photos. Remember every person you meet is a potential sale and can help your career. Your publisher will expect you to self promote.

I’m on Facebook and also have a Facebook Fan page and I maintain my own website I’m not yet on Twitter but I’ll get there eventually. Even if you don’t Blog ask if you can do an interview or article with other writers. Everyone wants to increase their online presence. I’ve landed a few interviews with online magazines by simply sending off an e-mail introducing myself and my work. Beware the internet though, as it gobbles up hours and before you know it the day has gone. I’ve inadvertently become the go-to person with the media when it comes to love, romance and relationships within the African-Caribbean community. If you specialise in something, put a spin on it and make it work for you.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Shh, to talk about it is to give it power. Before I start writing I’ll sometimes write a letter to myself to warm up my fingers and get my creative juices going. Waxing lyrical about how fantastic I am works every time! But on those days when my characters aren’t jumping off the page, I’ll simply work on another manuscript and visa versa. I always have more than one project going at a time and colour code everything. With so much going on in my imagination, my office is very neat.  

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
Last year I attended a writer’s conference at Loughborough University. Sue Moorcroft, Lynn Connolly and Mary Nichols were the panellists and they were discussing commercial fiction. I sat there in awe. Here were three people who spoke straight to my soul. After their talk I went to meet them. Sadly Mary had left, but I had a lovely chat with Sue and Lynn whose passion and enthusiasm matched my own. Even now when I think about that first meeting I become teary. Writing is such a lonely, solitary business and there are so few people who really understand what we put ourselves through and why. The RNA understands. I became a member the following month.   What craft tip helped you the most? Look at everything with ‘the writer’s eye’. I don’t remember where I first came across the phrase, but it’s something I’ve trained myself to do swiftly and automatically. I look at everyone and everything in minute detail, whether it’s a person crossing the street or a chair in a restaurant.  

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
My latest novel is called SAFFRON’S CHOICE and was released December 2010. I was a little apprehensive about writing it as for the very first time I didn’t set the story exclusively in the Caribbean but started in my home town of Nottingham. Saffron, my titled heroine is loyal almost to the point of stupidity. She has been engaged to one man for many years yet has lusted after another for almost as long. Torn between loyalty to one man and the passion for another Saffron leaves England to simplify her life in Jamaica. Both men follow.

LMH publishers

For more information 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:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview with Margaret Blake

I’m delighted today to welcome Margaret Blake to the RNA Blog who I see from her website loves history and travel, having back-packed her way around Australia and New Zealand following retirement. So tell us, Margaret, how did you sell your first book, and did you have any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I sold my first book in l978 and that was to Robert Hale. I had sent them a previous book that was not right for them. They asked for anything else that I had, so taking a different tack, I wrote an historical, A SPRIG OF BROOM. Actually, this novel will be coming out later in the year via Whiskey Creek Press. I had spent a lot of time in the local library studying various published books, so I was aware of the kind of books Robert Hale published. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing this. I had always written but it was only with John, my late husband, nagging me to send something off that I gave in and did so.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
Funnily enough, I was giving a talk last Thursday and this question came up. I never plan, I just do not have that kind of mind. I love the risk of not knowing where I will be going. For instance in one novel I completely changed the ending. This strange feeling came to me – this is not right, look at such and such – and I did something that some people have found quite shocking! The novel is SHADOWS OF THE PAST published by Robert Hale, it was such an odd thing to happen but I am sure it works!

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
One of my great pleasures is walking in the Lakes or Dales. I go with a group of people three times a month; it really chases the cobwebs away. It’s good to talk to different people too and this can be so inspiring. I love to travel but recently I have been going to Florida twice a year, so that has curtailed my trips to the European mainland.

What advice would you give a new writer?
I meet quite a few aspiring writers, it’s always a pleasure to talk with them and to look at their work. Sometimes it is difficult to offer constructive criticism as writing is so personal and it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings. But although positive, I do try to be reasonably truthful. I always advise them to study the market, use The Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book to find the right publisher for them, never to lose heart at the rejection letters but to try and try again. They have nothing to lose but the postage!

What draws you to your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?
I enjoyed reading romance and historical novels, that was my inspiration for writing these. It was only recently, seeking a fresh challenge, when I started to add suspense to the romance. First with Robert Hale and then with my latest book for Whiskey Creek Press. If you enjoy writing in a particular genre, I think this will shine through. For instance I could never write a science fiction novel as I am not interested in that particular genre. I would not consider myself a specialist in any field. I did study history at college but I’m not an historian.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
I had not suffered from writer’s block until recently. I lost my husband eighteen months ago and it has been so hard for me to write about falling in love, lovely places ad being happy. I am slowly getting back but it is a painful process. I saw online advice for writer’s block, this was to just keep writing, no matter what it was or if it didn’t eventually work. I have found that doing that is of help.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
It was great to discover the RNA. I don’t get the opportunity to go to meetings but I did go to the very first conference at Stonyhurst college. I made friends and had lots of good advice. I find that anyone in the RNA is happy to help. It really is a very supportive organization.

Is there a particular period of history that you enjoy writing about? Why is that?
My favourite historical period is the l480’s. I have written three books in that period. Originally I wrote A SPRIG OF BROOM to promote the idea that King Richard the Third was not a monster. The period is fascinating and I had done so much research it seemed a good idea to keep using it. Every one of these books is very different but I do generally try to get a plug in about Richard, who is one of my all time heroes.

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

My latest book available is A FATAL FLAW. This is a contemporary romantic suspense. I was inspired to write it by my many trips to Florida. It tells the story of a Cornish girl, Kerensa, who discovers that her mother was not quite the person she had imagined. She travels to Florida to find the truth about her mother. Here she meets Ned Rochester, a cop, who offers to help her. They both uncover something that leads them into danger. I really enjoyed writing this book. It just ran away with me.

Can you reveal something of your work in progress?
I have three books coming out between December and June (2012). A SPRIG OF BROOM from Whiskey Press, as I mentioned, and then two new books – a romantic suspense and a contemporary romance. I was half way through these books when John died, so it took me all my time to complete them. However, it was a very cathartic thing to do. Currently I am writing a romantic suspense but it is very early days. I have just managed 5,000 words but am optimistic!

Thank you for sharing that with us Margaret, it was quite inspiring. To find out more, please do visit Margaret’s website: 

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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

RNA Regency Celebration

Do you like historical romance, and in particular the Regency/Georgian period and novels set in that era?  Are you a fan of Jane Austen and/or Georgette Heyer or books inspired by them?  Then the RNA’s upcoming Regency Celebration is for you!
It is being held on Saturday 8th October at the Royal Overseas League, near Green Park in London, and the day will be a mixture of serious talks and fun activities.  Here is a selection of what is included:-

-       A talk by Dr Jennifer Kloester on “Georgette Heyer and Her Life”
-       Regency dancing
-       Regency clothing demonstrations
-       Panel talks, such as “The Celestial Bed – Sex and the Georgians”
-       A guided walk around St James’s
-        “Sniff’n’tell” – talk about Regency scents
-       Parlour games
-       A quiz
-       A raffle (with some fabulous prizes!)
-       Book stall and author signings 

Dressing up in Georgian or Regency costume is optional, but we’re hoping to see some lovely outfits on the day - including military uniforms on attendant soldiery who have signed up!  Can you rival the lord and lady in the print shown here?  Could be difficult, but not impossible!

  1. A Regency Celebration - Saturday 8th October 2011 between 9.00am-6.00pm at the Royal Overseas League, Park Place, off St. James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR (near Green Park tube station).  For more information, please see the RNA website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @RNARegencyDay 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Interview with Scarlet Wilson

Scarlet Wilson lives on the West Coast of Scotland with her fiancé and their two sons. She wrote her first story aged 8 and has never stopped writing since. Her family have fond memories of SHIRLEY AND THE MAGIC PURSE with its army of mice, with names all beginning with the letter m. An avid reader, Scarlet started with every Enid Blyton book, moved on to the Chalet School and many years later found Mills and Boon. She trained and worked as a nurse and health visitor and now currently works in public health. For her, finding medical romances was a match made in heaven. She is delighted to find herself among the authors she has read for many years. Lovely to have you with us, Scarlet. Can you tell us how much of a plotter and planner are you?

I have my best ideas when I’m lying in my bed at night. Often in that little space of time between sleeping and almost-sleeping. You know the time where if you get up to write it down you won’t get back to sleep? I’m planning on starting my next book with an email. I usually have a clear idea of the beginning of the story, the conflict and a rough idea of what will happen in the end. Mills and Boon are always going to have a Happy Ever After, but my editor has made significant changes to end of both my original stories. What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel? Something a little different. My editor told me I captured her attention with my ending to Chapter One. And even though that book went through four sets of revisions, the end of chapter one never changed!

Do you write every day? What is your work schedule?
I try to write at least 1000 words a day, five days a week. The thing is, I need peace and quiet to do it. I can write around 1000 words in half an hour, so sometimes I do it in my lunch break at work. I can do it straight onto the computer but I actually prefer to put pencil to paper, so often I print out the previous day’s work, make a few amendments and then just start to write again. I have a fairly quick typing speed but my brain often works quicker than my fingers and I tend to miss little words out. I work full time and have two young sons with a wide variety of after-school activities. That, plus making dinner, washing and ironing can make me wish I had more hours in the day.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
With my first book I found the revisions really difficult. At one point I wanted to give up – I was asked to do something that I really didn’t agree with. So I phoned Kate Hardy in tears and she gave me the best advice ever – find a way to give the editor what she wants - but do it differently. So I did.

What draws you to your particular genre?
I’m a nurse and have always had an interest in creative writing so I guess medical romances were really made for me. I love the medical detail in a story – it makes it so real for me. But I have been told on occasion to lose some of the detail from my story. I find it a little frustrating.

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal for you?
My first story is an absolute stand-alone story. My second book THE BOY WHO MADE THEM LOVE AGAIN has a sequel. It is set in a fictional place called Pelican Cove in Mendocino Valley in California and features the Presidential Medical Service. My third book is a follow up to that.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
I joined the RNA after haunting the websites of Kate Hardy and Kate Walker and hearing both of them talk about it. Then I bought Kate Walker’s 12 point Guide. I found out about the New Writers Scheme, and knew it was exactly what I needed. I went through the NWS twice. The first time I had also submitted a partial to Mills and Boon which got a form R. The feedback from NWS was very kind and pointed me in all the right directions – after all I’d written a 50,000 word manuscript with virtually no Point Of View! It had parts of the manuscript circled and highlighted saying “this is what you need more of.” My second manuscript went through NWS at the same time as a pitch opportunity on eharlequin. So I had some comments from my editor at Mills and Boon requesting a full, as well as feedback from NWS. I combined both when I resubmitted. I just want people to know that book earned me The Call, and it never got a second read from NWS. So don’t be put off or downhearted if you don’t get a second read. It’s what you do with the feedback that’s important.

How do you set about your research?
My medical research is pretty easy as I still work in the field. I have lots of hands-on experience, but now work in public health where I have lots of access to consultants in different specialities. Other research, like regarding the White House Medical Unit required some online email research and searches. My only real concern is that medical treatments can be different in the UK, US and Australia. I have a critique partner from the US and that can help if I have a story set there.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
My first Mills and Boon medical release is called IT STARTED WITH A PREGNANCY. It’s about Missy, a diabetic midwife who has a one night stand with a colleague and ends up pregnant. Missy is a control freak and finds it really difficult when she starts to have hypoglycaemic attacks with no warning signs when she’s pregnant. Cooper Roberts lost his wife and baby daughter to a pregnancy-related complication a few years before. He is horrified that his first foray back into the land of dating ends up like this – a woman with a high risk of potential pregnancy complications.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I’ve just finished my third manuscript for Mills and Boon medicals. This story is about Amy and Lincoln. They met five years earlier on an Amazon Aid Boat and had an amazing affair. Five years later Amy turns up looking for help – she’s pregnant and suffering from pre-eclampsia, Lincoln is the best neonatologist she knows and she wants him to look after her baby when it is delivered early. This book focuses heavily on the topic of a young woman who has suffered from breast cancer and the emotional journey she is on.

A copy of Scarlet’s book will be given away to one of the commenters.

Find out more about Scarlet Wilson at her website:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Interview with Cara Cooper

Cara Cooper was born in South Kensington, and now lives in south London. For fifteen years she worked in the civil service, her roles included being a conference officer at the QEII conference centre in Westminster, and a Diary Secretary to three different Secretaries of State. Weekends often find her tramping around London where there is always something new - recently she turned the corner and there was a naked bike ride! Covent Garden is inspirational and one day she plans to write a Georgian historical although research at present has only got as far as sitting in coffee shops consuming dangerously high levels of caffeine. So, Cara, coffee cup in hand, do tell us how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I had my first success with a short story for a teen magazine now sadly defunct called, 'Loving'. I was practically dancing on the ceiling because it finally meant that I could persuade someone that my scribblings were worth buying. Many years before, I'd written the first three chapters and a synopsis for Mills and Boon and sent them off. They said they liked what I'd done and could they see the rest. The only trouble was, I hadn't written any more! Being totally naive, I thought I'd made it and dashed off the rest only to receive a very standard rejection. That was a blow and taught me never to make assumptions but always to keep on trying. Now, I accept rejection as part of the deal and I never throw anything away. Years later I submitted and had accepted a couple of short stories to People's Friend. Success breeds success and noticing that they published pocket novels which I could buy in my local supermarket, I bought and studied half a dozen of them before having a go myself. They accepted my first, 'Safe Harbour' without revisions, thank goodness, and I have never looked back. D C Thomson have taken a further five novellas of mine, some under the People's Friend imprint, others as My Weekly pocket novels. The latest, TANGO AT MIDNIGHT, like the others has just come out in large print published by Ulverscroft.

Where is your favourite place to work?
I have worn a very large bottom-shaped dip in the sofa in my lounge where I work with a laptop on my knees (great for warming them up in winter!) My black and white moggy often sits next to me on a cushion and earns her keep as a useful arm rest. I am though happy to work almost anywhere and find changing location can really help to kick-start the imagination. My husband bought me an ipad for my birthday together with a natty little keyboard dock so you can stand the ipad up anywhere, plug it into the keyboard and off you go. I have written in the dark in the car on November evenings waiting for my daughter to finish her 11-plus tutorial sessions and in coffee shops where a cappuccino and a chocolate tiffin are my drug of choice! The writing brain is a curious thing because although I find in coffee shops the buzz of strangers does not distract me, at home I have to have solitude and silence. If there are people in the room at home I just pack up my ipad and go and work with the spiders in the shed at the bottom of the garden. I also sometimes go to a writing retreat in the country - no telly, no internet, perfect.

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
I work full time as a human resources manager for a charity but I am very lucky in that my office is just ten minutes from home. This means that once the family have set off for school and work there is one glorious hour each morning when I have the house to myself in which to write. To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in? Oh my, I wish I was a plotter! I dream of having beautiful coloured post-it notes neatly placed, or mind-maps, or character schedules all typed up before I begin and I must have tried every possible method of controlling my butterfly mind. But, it won't have it and I really find that the way I write best is just to sit down with a blank screen and get typing, working the story out as I go along. This means that synopses are the devil's work as far as I'm concerned. I always get into trouble with them. At the moment I am writing a serial for People's Friend which is a new process for me and where you work very closely with an editor. I keep having it gently pointed out that my synopsis has gaping holes but they are lovely people to work with and are putting up with me so far.

Which authors have most influenced your work? And which do you choose to read for pleasure?
I have hugely wide reading tastes and love browsing bookshops and coming out with half a dozen that have taken my fancy. The shelf in our bookcase broke under the weight recently so I am trying to buy a few more ebooks these days. Among authors who I always snap up when their new ones issue are the crime writer Ruth Rendell. Her novels are fascinating in that you very often know who has committed the murder from the start but hers are more whydunnits than whodunnits and I think the psychological angle and the way she digs deep into character's motives is fascinating. It's also useful for any author to study even though hers aren't exactly romance! Stephen King is another author whose writing I love because it feels very intimate - almost as if you have him in the room sitting opposite you telling the story. I like reading around books too, and discovering what has inspired authors. For this reason, just after reading 'Fingersmith' by Sarah Waters which is a real tour de force of plotting and characterisation, I read 'The Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins which inspired her novel. As far as romance writers are concerned, my favourite is Marian Keyes.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Finishing. I like a crisp ending and often agonise over whether I've achieved it, going back and rewriting to get just the effect I want. If I'm satisfied with it, then hopefully the reader will be. I also think that with many things in life, finishing is 90% of success. It's so easy to begin something, so easy to ride on that wave of starting something new but often difficult to finish it and accept that you cannot make it any better but that you have to send it off into the big wide world and risk possible rejection.

What advice would you give a new writer?
When stuck for ideas, make a point of noticing things around you which can spark your writing. In order to do this, you HAVE to be exercising your writing muscle regularly, and you will find that things that you see on television, read in the news or just see walking around will trigger the idea for a scene, a character trait or a whole novel simply because your imagination, like an antenna, is receptive to those opportunities. So it was when, one winter's morning I woke up to find that in the night it had snowed so hard that trains were confined to sidings and international airports were closed. Everybody who had planned journeys had them turned upside down. This gave me the starting idea for, LEAVING HOME where my heroine's bags are all packed for a new life in New York. When she is delayed by a few days her choices are turned upside down. If I hadn't been open to looking on the weather disruption as a writing opportunity it might have passed me by. I think this is the same process which means that when you end a love affair, every song on the radio seems to have relevance - it's simply that you are super-aware, things have meaning-and that is a useful trait to be able to cultivate to inform your writing. My second piece of advice is to try writing out of your comfort zone. I have dabbled in the following: science fiction; historical; paranormal and crime and have sold short stories in all those genres but even had I not sold them, I enjoyed doing them and kept my writing muscle exercised.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Not so much writers block but insecurity as to whether what I'm writing has any merit at all. The only cure is to keep writing. I used to finish a piece of work, send it off to a publisher and wait before starting something else. Sometimes you can wait a very long time so now I always start something new as soon as I've finished and dispatched something to a publisher. Or I'll have two or three things on the go so that if I experience writers block working on one thing, I can visit another and come back almost having given my writing brain a holiday from a difficult manuscript. Short stories I find are a great way of clearing writers block if I'm stuck on something longer. Also, being out and about and doing something new is a perfect way of clearing a blockage. My latest novel from Ulverscroft, TANGO AT MIDNIGHT was inspired by going to tango lessons.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
The RNA has helped hugely. Writing is an incredibly lonely business. You have to be antisocial, locking yourself away to dredge something up from nothing with only four walls and the hum of a laptop for company. Family and friends tolerate me chatting about writing, but it's difficult for people to understand who aren't writing themselves. The RNA has given me writing friends who I chat to at their wonderful conferences, it has led to me hearing of opportunities and new publishers and it has given me the London chapter meetings to attend. I have seen others who have gradually gained success and gone from being unpublished to published and we all face the same demons and experience the same terrific highs when things go well. The RNA is a wonderful organisation with helpful, hugely knowledgeable individuals and their new writers scheme which I went through is a very practical way of helping people along the rocky road to publication.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
For me, one of the things that will really unblock the imagination and get a story going is location. A place I have visited that has certain resonances will seep into my consciousness so that I almost have to write it out of my system to be free of it. Very often on holiday I will be inspired. I take loads of photos and keep things like maps, train and ferry timetables, ticket stubs and concert programmes so I come back with a portfolio of memorabilia to inspire me. I also like to work on more than one thing at once so that I can chop and change and refresh myself. So, at the moment I am working on a serial set in Italy as well as a pocket novel located in a manor house in deepest rural France. The French story had to be written following a week's stay as a member of a house party in a manor house which oozed echoes of the past and had me thinking it would be perfect for a ghost story..... I'm 10,000 words in and having great fun with it.

Cara blogs at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Interview with Kate Walker

Kate Walker has been writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon since 1984. During that time she has had 58 novels published, with three new titles coming up. Her novels have been published in over thirty-five countries and around twenty different languages worldwide. Her January 2010 release THE KONSTANTOS MARRIAGE DEMAND was recently awarded the Reviewers’ Choice Best Presents Extra 2010 by the American Romantic Times magazine.Tell us, Kate, how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call.

My first book THE CHALK LINE was published way back in 1984 so I got a letter, rather than an exciting call. But that was exciting enough. I came home one day from shopping at the local market to find a big white envelope with a pink rose on it waiting on the doormat. I had sent in two submissions to Mills and Boon. One was totally rejected – and quite right too! It was pretty bad. I had made the classic mistake of not reading any of the current books that Mills and Boon were publishing – so it was nothing like the sort of thing they were looking for. The second one earned me a letter from a Senior Editor but it had the classic mistake of ‘lacking emotional punch’ so they didn’t accept it, but asked me to try again. I took that as a commission rather than a rejection and wrote THE CHALK LINE. They asked me to go to lunch and talk about it – they wanted just a few revisions – nothing very much to be honest – I think that was one of my easiest books to get accepted - and that was my first acceptance. I found it harder to get my second book through!

Where is your favourite place to work?
We moved to this house because it has the former garage turned into what was originally the grandma’s sitting room, and which we planned would be my office. I can see the street from the window and decide whether to answer the door or not if anyone comes by. It’s also big enough to have lots of bookshelves that just about manage to contain my books – the ones to read and the international translations of my novels. Grandma was a heavy smoker, and when we first lived here I would sometimes go into the room early in the morning and it smelled as if someone had been smoking in here – but she’d been dead for years! That has faded away now so perhaps she’s decided I can have the room as mine!

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
My writing is my full time job, so I try to work office hours. The reason I say try to is that I tend to be an all or nothing writer. When things are going well with a book I can work from about 6am to 10pm. One of the things I miss about having time away from my desk – when I was a stay at home Mum – is the free time you have to think and let a story develop so that when you sit down again there is so much waiting to be written. Thinking time is vital to a story. These days I do more ‘juggling’ with the demands of publicity, promotion and the internet. I love keeping in touch with everyone and learning more about what is happening with author friends, publishers, etc., but there is much more to this side of the job than there ever was when I first started out. Then I wrote the books, submitted, revised – and moved on to the next. The most publicity I did was a few talks to women’s groups etc. Now I need to schedule time for blogs.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I’m a mixture of both – I plan a fair bit in my head – the characters, the conflict, where the story is heading – but then I tend to jump in and see where my characters take me. I need to know them well and then introduce the situation between them after which I tend to give them their heads to see how they will react. I have a notepad beside my keyboard where I jot down notes and plan ahead if I need to or an idea comes to me. Sometimes I need a pencil and notes to work out the way things are going to go and put events in the right order. Other times I just plough on with what I’m writing. There was one book once: SATURDAY’S BRIDE, where the ending had a twist that turned everything on its head so I had to work back from that to make sure that everything fitted with the misleading explanation and also the correct one – that took some careful planning and plotting.

Mostly, I have a very good insight into my characters and an idea of the situation – I might also have a few staging posts along the way that will lead me through the mist ahead in my telling of their story. But after that it’s largely a case of ‘what if . . .’ and answering the important questions ‘and then what?’ and ‘why.’

Which authors have most influenced your work? And which do you choose to read for pleasure?
It was reading The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart that made me want to write romantic stories with ambiguous heroes. I had seen the (bad) film version with Hayley Mills and hunted down the book. Then I read every Mary Stewart I could lay my hands on. I was also heavily influenced by the Bronte sisters- I grew up not very far away from Haworth and we often visited the Parsonage Museum. I literally moved on to Wuthering Heights from Enid Blyton – Emily Bronte was the next author along the shelves in the children’s library – and I wrote my MA thesis on Charlotte and Emily’s juvenilia and their adult books (which came in very handy with my latest novel – see the last question.) One of the most influential books of my childhood was a very old novel (it was old even when I first read it) called Simona’s Jewel by Marjorie Phillips – I read it first when I was about 11 and again there was a dark, ambiguous hero. I read it several times and always loved it. Recently I found it again through Bookfinder and managed to get my hands on a copy – it was amazing to see how vividly I remembered it, even the illustrations were clear in my mind from years ago. I also loved all the Georgette Heyer books and read through every one I could get my hands on – didn’t every romantic novelist?

For pleasure I read anything and everything – I love Dorothy Dunnett’s books, specially the Game of Kings series, my sister got me started on Jodi Picoult and I think her books are amazing, I have to be very careful when I start reading one of them as they grab me so tightly and keep me absorbed so that I don’t want to put the book down and as they are usually very emotional books, I get so involved that I don’t want those emotions to colour what I’m writing. And of course I read romances – to see what themes everyone else is writing and because I really enjoy what the late great Charlotte Lamb called these ‘complicated little books’. I love romances by Michelle Reid, Anne McAllister, Liz Fielding, Marion Lennox . . . so many good writers to choose from.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
Believable, sympathetic characters that the reader can empathise with. A readable, easy pace to the story and a distinctive voice from the author. That’s always easy to say but so hard to define. In writing for Mills & Boon, I always say that they are not looking for a new Michelle Reid or Liz Fielding – or even a new Kate Walker – they have one of those . They’re looking for what Jane Smith or Mary Brown can give to the stories so that they appear fresh and revitalised. It’s not really possible to be original when writing romances, but it is possible to be authentic, to write your own personal, individual version of the tried and tested stories. And of course to quote one Senior Editor when asked what they were looking for and what was selling well - the answer was ‘There are three things that always sell well – emotion, emotion, emotion.’

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
I love to read and never get enough time for that so that would be my number one form of relaxation. But I also love films and plays, dramas that feed my imagination and give me ideas for new stories so I get to the theatre at every possible opportunity. I love learning about antiques and I have a special collections of old embroideries. Most of them are ‘Samplers’ the embroideries that young girls were set to do to learn their stitches, with the letters of the alphabet, some designs of flowers or animals, and a text from the bible. The oldest of these dates from 1789, I have a tiny bookmark that my mother made for her mother – the original Kate Walker whose name I use as my writing name - and the most recent ones are ones I’ve done myself. I used to have a lot more time for knitting and embroidery and I have a tablecloth that I embroidered with roses, daffodils, tulips that we use for special occasions. I still love to wander round antiques fairs and stalls thought samplers are becoming very rare now, and very expensive.

I’m actually surprised to find that I now spend quite a lot of my time teaching. When I left school I was determined to become a librarian because I just didn’t want to become a teacher like my mother – or my husband, my friends, even my son, now. But after I wrote the 12 POINT GUIDE TO WRITING ROMANCE, I found that I was asked to do a lot of workshops, writing courses, residential weekends, teaching writing romance. Mills & Boon often ask me to run workshops for their New Voices contests or other events. Each year I teach at Writers’ Holidays at Caerleon, I run the Advance Romance Writing course at Fishguard residential writing weekend every February, and next year I will be teaching a week long course on writing Romantic Fiction in the glorious setting of theWatermill at Posara in Tuscany. I now find that I enjoy teaching writing and that I get a real buzz from discussing craft with would-be authors – and an even bigger one from knowing that I’ve helped some of them reach the status of published writers.

What advice would you give a new writer?
Read. Read. Read. Read the sort of books that the publisher you’re aiming for is currently publishing You’d be amazed how many people think they can just ‘dash off’ a ‘little romance’- because how hard can it be – without ever reading any of the books the publishers are buying right now. They have no idea what a contemporary romance is like because they have never read one - or they read one once 20 years ago and think they are still the same. Respect the genre. Don’t think of it as something that you can’ churn out’ very quickly. You have to ‘get’ what a romance is all about – the focus on the emotional journey and write that from the heart. And as I said above, be authentic to you – don’t try to copy any other already successful author.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
It’s a rare book that I don’t get part of the way into it and think ‘this stinks . . .I’ve never written anything so bad.’ Sometimes it stalls and drags so much that I think I’ll never finish it. And sometimes it’s so bad that I think I’ll never ever write another book again. I don’t think these are real writer’s block – but I do think they come close to it and they’re a form of it. Real writer’s block is when you can’t actually write another word. I get close sometimes, and my husband will tell you that in almost every book I’ll say I don’t think I can do this again. He always tells me that I know I can do it – and he’s always right!

But even after 60 titles, it doesn’t get any easier. I totally understand unpublished authors when they struggle to get a book right and the nerves that set in when you send a book in. Because each new submission has the potential to be the one where the imposter syndrome I’ve been living with is finally exposed and I’m revealed as a fraud! I suppose it’s the knowledge that I’ve done this before, been through this before that keeps me going. I stick at my desk, write words, even if they are then words I delete – as Julie Cohen so sensibly advises ‘give yourself permission to write crap.’ At least crap can be edited and improved, an empty page can’t be. The time when a book stalls, when I’m on the verge of a block are usually there because I don’t know my characters well enough. Nothing is more likely to make my writing grind to a halt than to discover that I don’t know why a character is behaving in a certain way or how they got there. This is probably because I’ve been pushing my characters to act as I’d planned in my novel plan or synopsis, when now their characters show they’re really far more likely to be heading down a different path. So one of the best ways I’ve found of dealing with a block is to go back a scene or maybe two, to see where I’ve taken the wrong turning, ‘question’ my characters and find out why they are behaving as they do.

Very often a change of pace in my day – moving on to something practical for example – will relax my mind and let me think things through without the pressure of staring at the keyboard and the empty screen. Ironing or gardening are great for this because you can do them with your hands while your mind is occupied. And I’d do anything to get out of the ironing so I’m pretty fast to find a way to get back to writing instead. One other system that works for me is to get my husband to do what he calls asking idiot questions – I give him a brief resumĂ© of the story and he’ll say something like ‘So what if he/she was to drive into the nearest town . ‘I usually respond ‘no!’ pretty fast and then, because I have to say exactly why he/she wouldn’t do this or that, I come up with an idea of what they would do.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career?
I didn‘t join the RNA until I’d been published for a few years. I’ll admit that I didn’t know about the New Writers’ Scheme or that unpublished authors could be a member of the Association. So I missed out on what I think could have been one of the most valuable parts of joining the RNA – learning from published authors, from the conference and from the articles in the magazine. Though when I was first a member there wasn’t even a conference either. I remember I went to a couple of one day seminars – at Castle Howard and in Bath before the conferences were set up. Those occasions were great for mixing with other authors, meeting agents, publishers, writers of all the different types of romantic fiction – and making friends. I loved learning more about the industry I work in, getting to know more people who have this same rather strange, lonely career that I had taken on. It was fascinating and valuable to learn how other people work, how they manage their careers.

The first couple of awards lunches I went to made me feel that I wasn’t just an isolated author sitting in my workroom in a small northern town, in touch with very few people. Authors I’d read and admired for years became real people and then real friends, and the ‘New Writers’ asked questions, wanted to learn so much. I’ve always found that talking to new writers, those who are not yet published but working hard to get there is so inspiring and invigorating. I’ve come home from every conference revitalised and with a renewed enthusiasm for my own writing. This was particularly so when I started the ‘virgins’ – the First scheme for the RNA conferences. Each year I saw that there were more newcomers signing up for the conference, half scared, half excited, and that reminded me of how I’d first felt when I started out.

The RNA has enabled me to give something back to a profession and an industry that has been very good to me over the years I’ve been writing. By running workshops at the conference, or acting as a reader for the NWS, I can put something into the development of new authors, help them learn about their craft. I don’t think anyone can teach someone who doesn’t have the talent already, but teaching and critiquing can help people refine their skills and hopefully get them on the right path. I’ve been thrilled when new writers I’ve worked with and hopefully helped have had their first acceptance, their first published book. Years ago, a friend of my mother, Marguerite Lees, was a writer for Mills and Boon in the 60s and a member of the RNA I think – she was one of the few people to encourage me in my early writing and I’ve been able to pass on her kindness to others. And above all else, I have made some wonderful lifelong friendships of writers of all ages, writing all types of romantic fiction, at all stages of their careers through the RNA.

Are you into social networking, and in what way do you feel it helps your career?
I have a web site and a blog and I try to keep both of those as up to date as possible. I also have regular blogging spots every month on The Pink Heart Society web site (A Date With Kate) We Write Romance (Kate’s Corner) and Tote Bags ‘N’ Blogs. I find that these help me get in touch with readers and are ways that they can keep up to date with me. Because writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon has such an international market, I want to find a way to keep in touch with readers in America, Japan, Australia, India, France, Spain. . . My blog has had visitors from 161 countries and these are readers I couldn’t speak to or do a signing for so this is my only way to reach them. I think that my blog statistics show that it’s worthwhile and I have a lot of regular visitors who come back again and again to see what I’m doing, and find out about my books. I can also talk about writing and run Q&As which are popular with people who have read my 12 POINT GUIDE TO WRITING ROMANCE.

I do have a Facebook page which I update with my regular blog posts but I don’t use Twitter. I have too many demands on my time as it is and I just know I’d get distracted by chatting and keeping in touch. I am far too tempted by procrastination as it is and I don’t need any more distractions. I’m not sure that it would help my career when the thing that helps it most is writing the books and getting them published. That’s what’s kept me in this business for 26 years.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
The answer to this question connects up with the answer to question 5. My latest book has the title THE RETURN OF THE STRANGER and it’s part of a special four book mini series in Mills & Boon Modern Romance. Last year, editorial came up with an idea for a mini series of romances reworking some of the classics of romantic fiction – not copying them but using them as inspiration for new, Modern Romances that fitted with what the line promises but kept the spirit of the classics. I was asked to write the ‘Wuthering Heights’ for this series. It was both a joy and a struggle. I loved the chance to revisit my favourite Bronte novel, the book that had haunted me in my childhood ever since the day my junior school teacher had started telling us the story of this great book one day when a thunderstorm had fused all the lights. He only told us the first part, where Mr Earnshaw brought the gipsy boy home, as far as the day that Heathcliff runs away, but I was hooked and wanted to know more. I always knew that Heathcliff and Cathy, for all their ardour and passion, were not people who would stay together in any happy ever after sort of ending.

In many ways this was the hardest part of writing a book inspired by Wuthering Heights – I had to create a love story that would give them a happy ending and yet keep it true to the spirit of the original book. I had to take wild, strong-willed Cathy and dark, brooding, dangerous Heathcliff and let them learn about love in a way that the originals never managed to do. It was a challenge and thrill and I hope I’ve come up with a story that stands on its own but has the spirit of the original.

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I've just completed my 60th title for Mills & Boon Modern THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES so now I’m working on a brand new story. I haven’t ever written a ‘royal romance’ before but this spring, because of the royal wedding ( and then the second one in July) I was asked to run a workshop on writing a royal romance. Preparing for that, and thinking about what made a romance with a king, a queen, a prince or princess as a hero or heroine different from other types of stories. I found myself getting intrigued – and then inspired. Characters started to grow in my thoughts – a hero and a heroine. I won’t tell you which one is royal as that would spoil things – and I always find that if I tell people too much about a story I’m writing then it loses that exciting ‘what if . . .’ feeling that I talked about in question 4. I feel as if I’ve told the story already. But from someone who never thought I’d write a royal romance, I find I’m intrigued and fascinated by the characters I’ve created and I want to write their story.

Kate Walker’s book the 12 POINT GUIDE TO WRITING ROMANCE (Aber publishing) won the CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Best Book for Writers’ 2004 Award. Two editions have sold out and a third edition is now also available on KINDLE.

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