Monday, October 31, 2011

November New Releases


Dilly Court
ISBN 9780099562535
Arrow Books
Hardback £19.99

When her feckless mother dies in childbirth, Phoebe Giamatti is left to raise her baby brother, but she must keep the truth about his birth from his gangster father and from her Italian family, or risk vendetta coming to the streets of London..

Julie Cohen
Headline Review
10 November
£19.99 hardback

Wanting to run away from her unhappy past, Alice Woodstock takes a job as a costumed interpreter in a stately home where they are re-creating the summer of 1814. It's all like something out of the pages of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, until her real life and her fictional one start to become entwined…

Jen Black
ISBN 978-0-9570603-0-2
Orchard Hill Books
13th October 2011
£2.30 or $3 ebook

Harry Wharton runs foul of a reivers' raid and though Alina protects him, her father threatens to kill him. An exciting historical romance set in 1543 in which tensions mount and force Alina into a major decision that will change her life.

JL Merrow
ISBN: 978-1-60928-550-0
Samhain Publishing
8th November 2011
ebook, $3.85 for limited time, thereafter £5.50

A stranger could light up his world...or drive him deeper into darkness. A camping trip researching ghosts on the Isle of Wight turns into a rollercoaster ride for Will when he meets Marcus, a reclusive author with a mysterious - and deadly - past.

Available from Amazon or from Samhain - see here for excerpt:

Lesley Cookman
ISBN: 978-1908192028
Accent Press
November 7th

The ninth Libby Sarjeant adventure: Libby and Fran investigate after an uninvited guest turns up dead at a creative writing weekend.

Lynda Dunwell
ISBN 13 978-1-61937-092-0
Aurora Regency, Musa Publishing
November 25 2011
$4.99 ebook

After years fighting the trials presented by the sea, Captain Ross Quentin finds an even greater challenge on land – convincing Bella Richmond to become his bride. But another plans to wed her. Kidnapped, Bella finds herself aboard a sinking ship in a storm. Can Ross save the woman he loves?

Lynne Connelly
Carina Press
£2 ebook

Bellina Mazzanti Forde was the ultimate party girl—until she disappeared with Byron Brantley. Jonathan Brantley tracks Lina to Naples. He vows not to let Lina out of his sight until she agrees to help him find his brother—even if it takes all night. Though he doesn’t trust her, he can’t deny that he wants her—has always wanted her…

Ellora’s Cave
ISBN – 9781419935220
October 28th 2011
$6.50 ebook - Part of the Skin Deep miniseries

Strangers in the dark, meeting for anonymous, hot and dirty sex. That was the way it was meant to be. But Whitney is increasingly drawn to her Stranger, more than she should be. Even if once he sees her face, he’ll run screaming. Then Whitney receives an offer from the Durban Trust for cosmetic surgery. Although she knows looks don’t matter, they’ve cost her too many promotions. She has to change her face to change her life. is the web reference

Maggi Andersen
New Concepts Publishing
Late October 2011
$5.50 e-book

Viscount Beaumont has buried himself in the country since his wife died. As the French Revolution rages, French actress Verity Garnier is ordered to England to seduce him back to France. She despises men, but she must not fail.

Nell Dixon
October 21st
ebook - £2.17

Fae Heath wants to be on TV, but not just any show. She wants to be on Ghost UK. She intends to win the contest to find the next presenter. Tall, slim and blonde and access to a haunted Welsh Castle on Halloween – how can she fail?

Christina Courtenay
ISBN: 978-1-906931-71-1
Choc Lit
1st November 2011
£7.99 paperback

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start, but when he takes over the family estate in the Scottish Highlands, there’s trouble and he finds himself unwelcome. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Link to extract - 

Sheila Newberry
ISBN: 978 184262859 1
1st November, 2011
£11.99 paperback, L.P

The In between years, 1942-50. Dip into my memories which include - Dried egg, doodlebugs, Disraeli, Daydreaming, and, of course, Dancing in the Street, which indeed we did on VE night...


Chrissie Loveday
ISBN 978-1-4448-0892-6
Linford Romance
November 3, 2011
Large Print Paperback £8.99

Nellie is a talented paintress in the pottery industry in 1920s. She is forced to take work where she can to support her parents and 3 siblings. She loses her heart to the wrong man. Can she ever move into his world of wealth and power? (First of the Potteries stories)

ISBN n/a
People's Friend Pocket Novels
November 3, 2011
£1.99 Cheap Paperback

The third story set in the Potteries featuring Nellie and her family. The youngest sister is now grown up and has ambitions in journalism. She encounters prejudice and feisty and determined, she forms a plan. Ever the matchmaker, she meets the man she wants to marry ... eventually!

Paula Williams
ISBN n/a
My Weekly Pocket Novels
3rd November, 2011
Cheap paperback. £1.99

Following the death of her mother, Jenna Manning discovers she’s inherited an isolated farmhouse in the Lake District. But she’s shocked to learn she’s joint owner with the man responsible for her mountaineer father’s death some years earlier. Among the shadows of the mountains Jenna is forced to face up to some old fears and long held prejudices.

Short Stories

Annie Burrows
ISBN 9780373296637
Harlequin Mills & Boon
November 2011

Paperback - Anthology of Christmas novellas featuring governess heroines.

Please note prices may vary.
To have your new titles included on the RNA Blog, please contact

Friday, October 28, 2011

Author Interview with Fiona Harper

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona Harper to the author interview hot seat today. Fiona writes funny, heart-warming romances for Mills and Boon. Her first novel won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon New Writers Award and since then her books have gone on to win numerous other awards.

Fiona, please tell us how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I sold my first book through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. I joined the RNA in 2005, with one fully-polished book under my belt, and sent it off for my NWS critique, just hoping for some positive feedback. I was both amazed and delighted when not only did the manuscript get a second read, but it was then sent on to Mills & Boon and they offered me a contract a couple of weeks later.

Where is your favourite place to work?

Anywhere without interruptions (the family-related kind and the self-induced kind)! I often find I have to get out of the house and any possible displacement activities so I can hunker down and write. Most of the time I like to write longhand and then type up what I’ve written later, so coffee shops are a favourite. What's not to like? A table all of my own to write at and lattes on tap!

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?

I'm a plotter. Or I am in the sense that I like to have a good idea of where I'm going in terms omy characters and their development. I quite often know the emotional journey my hero and heroine are going to take before I start, and then I dive in and work out what plot elements are going to push them in the right direction.

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

The beginning of the second act of the story – you know, that point where you've had fabulous fun setting everything up, and then you have to decide what on earth you're going to do next.

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

I think editors are looking for the same thing as the rest of us – a gripping story, the kind we continue to think about when we put the book down and can't forget once we've read the last page. Of course, skill with words is important, but I think the ability to spin a good yarn with an engaging voice is probably more essential. We can always learn more about the craft of writing by reading books, going to workshops, attending conferences, but the unique storytelling voice is something we have to develop on our own.

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

Reading, of course, but I also enjoy cooking, dancing (when I get the time) and good films. I seem to spend a lot of my spare time reading books about writing, or listening to audio recordings of workshops. To be honest, I think I'm slightly obsessed with the subject! My family would wholeheartedly agree. They can't seem to watch anything on the television without me dissecting it and analysing it – even the adverts!

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?

I'm not sure I've ever suffered from a full-on writer’s block, but I definitely have patches where I feel as if I'm wading through treacle. I find the only thing to do is to make myself keep writing. Often it'll only take a thousand or so words before I'm back in the swing again, but sitting down to make myself write those thousand words can take a couple of weeks! If I feel completely dry creatively, I go and do something else for a bit – read a book, watch a film, go for a walk – anything that'll let my creative right brain start to buzz. The solution will often present itself, like the proverbial bolt of lightning, when I'm not actively looking for it.

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

As I mentioned earlier, the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme led directly to my first publishing contract, but since then I've met fabulous people going to RNA events and have learned more than I could ever recount attending some of the annual conferences. I certainly wouldn't be where I am today without the support and friendship of the RNA and its members.

Is there a particular period of history that you enjoy writing about? Why is that?

I love writing about the present day. We live in such a complex society, with so many demands on our time and energy, values and emotions that pull us in opposite directions. There is a wealth of rich emotional material to be found in the everyday challenges of modern life.

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

My current release, Swept off Her Stilettos, is about a vintage fashion shop owner who thinks her little finger isn't properly dressed unless it's got a man wrapped around it. The heroine, Coreen, had appeared as a secondary character in two other books of mine and I wanted to give her a story of her own. I wanted to write about a woman who was very confident in her own sexuality as it wasn't something I had done before. Coreen seemed the obvious choice, since she demanded the male of the species should fall at her feet and worship. Of course, I gave her a hero who refused to do exactly that and then stood back and watched the sparks fly!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Fiona. We wish you every success with your new book, Swept off Her Stilettos.

To find out more about Fiona visit her website at

Or follow her blog at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RNA Members Sweep the Board

Hooray! The winner of every author award at the inaugural Festival of Romance was an RNA member.
Sue Moorcroft, Jean Fullerton and Jenny Barden, Awards Organiser

Best Romantic Read Award: Sue Moorcroft, Love & Freedom (Choc Lit)
Best Historical Read Award: Jean Fullerton, Perhaps Tomorrow (Orion)
New Talent Award: Henriette Gyland
Henriette Gyland receives her award from agent Jane Judd

And bestselling author Carole Matthews was inducted into the Romance Reader Hall of Fame.
Kate Allan, Festival Organiser, with Carole Matthews

The Festival took place in a lovely Regency house at Hunton Park, Hertfordshire from 21-22 October 2011, and the awards were presented on the final evening at the sparkling Have a Heart Ball, rounding out a packed programme of workshops, talks, panels, debates and one-to-ones, a chocolate-making demonstration, swimming pool party, cupcake party and an authors’ fashion show, where authors dressed as characters from their books.
Authors' Fashion Show

As just about every sub genre of romantic fiction was catered for, it’s not surprising that an inspired programme and comfortable venue should attract so many RNA members as delegates.

Or that they should have swept the board.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Author interview with Laurie Sorensen

A warm welcome to American author, Laurie Sorensen who writes historical romance. Her road to publication was a rocky one, but her persistence and determination have paid off. Laurie, please tell us how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I spent 5 years writing, polishing and editing my first book, Ravenwood: Night’s Salvation. I had no intention initially to seek out publication. I let friends and family read the book, and every one of them told me that I should go for publication. So I submitted my book to a whopping 329 agents who worked with Historical Romance. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, and that sending it to so many agents was basically a set up for disappointment.

I got my very first envelope in the mail from one of the agents and I was so nervous I refused to open it. It sat on my kitchen table for almost a week until my husband came home for the weekend, and found it. He asked why I hadn’t opened it. I told him that I was afraid of what it would say. So he opened it. I will never forget what it said if I live to be 100 years old, I will always remember the heart wrenching words the man had to say to me. He told me that I had wasted his time and my own time in sending such c*** to his office. He told me that I shouldn’t quit my day job because writing was not my forte. I was so devastated by his words that I gathered all my notes, floppy discs and files and threw them away. I wanted no more of this hurt in my heart. Later that day, several of my writer friends, some published, some not, convinced me to retrieve the materials I had thrown away so I could put them away for a few weeks and try again. All in all, I got 179 rejections within a years time. None of them as harsh or mean as the first. Many of them actually gave me advice to improve.

My husband suggested that I didn’t need an agent, and to try to submit to publishers outright, so I did. I queried 13 publishers. I was offered two contracts from two different publishers. One was for an E-book and the other for Print. I wanted so much to see my name in print, so I turned down the e-book contract and signed the print book contract with Light Sword Publishing which later turned their name into LSP Digital instead. I now had a print book and was very excited about it. But the sales of it were mediocre at best. The publisher did nothing in way of advertising or promoting their books, it was left up to the authors to do that. I was new to the fray, and unsure about anything dealing with promotion, and consequently sales on my book were minimal. I tried, but I just didn’t have the flair it required, nor the computer knowledge to do promotion effectively. Once my contract was up, LSP Digital didn’t renew, and I hadn’t thought they would. I was left with a few copies of my book and a head full of stories in the series I no longer had a publisher for.

A good friend and fellow author suggested that I submit the story to a publisher she was with, using her name as a reference. So I did. They accepted the book, but I had to agree to change the cover, and re-edit the work. I spent the next few years struggling with re-editing and my non-author life intruding upon my editing time. But once it was done, I had a book that was so very different, a new cover, new scenes and scenes taken out to make a much tighter story that is a better story to read. The new publisher, Sapphire Blue Publishing, put out Ravenwood: Night’s Salvation with a beautiful cover in an E-book version, and soon there will also be a paperback version people will be able to buy. I have since written another book through Sapphire Blue Publishing, a Novella in an Anthology called “Ladies of the Jolly Roger.” My story is the first one in the book with the title “The Pirate Princess.”

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

I am not sure you can call it a day job, I sell Tupperware, and most of the parties I do are during the evening. My writing schedule is haphazard most of the time. I try to write when my husband isn’t home, (he drives truck all week) and when my children are at school. That leaves me with writing from the time I get up until my daughter walks in from school. I also take my son to college three times a week and spend the four hours waiting for him at the nearest McDonalds using their free WiFi to research things for my writing. When I’m not running around doing errands and when no one else is home demanding my time, I use every bit of the extra me time, writing.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?

I have tried to plot my stories, but my characters usually have other ideas and things never go like I plan them. I tried once to use an outline, it didn’t work. I have been known to write chapters out of sequence, and then put them together to make them work.

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

I have written to Catherine Coulter most of my romance reading life. She has been the one author that has influenced me in my writing. I have given her a copy of each version of my first book, and she will get a copy of each book I put out. She is the world’s most wonderful romance writer, I adore her historicals and I love the FBI books as well. I have had the pleasure of meeting her in person, and she was everything I had expected and more. When it comes to reading for pleasure, when I have the time to do so, I read Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts and Diana Gabaldon, each in their own right a tremendous talent and each so very different from the other.

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

My characters come from dreams I have had, or from people I have seen or spoken too. I write historical romance, therefore some of the characters in my books are based on actual people in history, although, when it is an actual person in history, their part in my story is minimal. In the case of my novella, The Princess Pirate, Princess Alvilda was real, however, her story had very little real accounts of her life, which gave me license to pretty much make it what I wanted to make it. With historicals, it is difficult to make a hero sympathetic to readers, mainly because the way things were done in history is so very different than what it done in today’s society. An example would be the fact that today’s women are independent, whereas the women in our history were simply viewed as property to be bartered for in marriage. I do my best to make all of my characters likeable, even my villains start out that way, at least for the most part.

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

Relax, what on earth does that word mean? I think I don’t know how to do it until my body tells me I have had enough, and it forces me to take stock of myself, and slow down. Being the wife of a truck driver, and the mother to 5 children keeps my life moving. I like doing things with my family, and for my family. In my spare time (what little I have of it) I make and decorate cakes, a read and I love watching a few good shows on TV.

What advice would you give a new writer?

The advice I would give to someone else who wants to write would be this. If you have to write because without it you can’t breathe, then do it. Don’t let anyone stop you, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t worth their time. Write from the heart, write what you want to write, not what is most popular. There is an audience for every book, you just have to find yours. Most of all, don’t take the horrible things an agent tells you as gospel. Let it be like water off a ducks back, read it, file it, if it’s useable, use it, if not, throw it out.

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

Ravenwood: Night’s Salvation is a book one of a series of what will be five books. I’m not sure at this point if I like to write them or not, I am working on book 2 in the series now. I only brought this out as a series because each of the minor characters in the book seemed to scream out for a story of their own. The stories come to me easily for the series so we shall see if this will be the only series I write or if I will begin another. I can tell you that I like the idea of someone reading my book and then asking me something like “Hey, does Storm get her own story?” It makes me smile as I answer them with “But of course she does.”

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

I love doing research, and I have been known to be waiting on my librarian to open the library and then get annoyed that I have stayed all day long and they need to close when I am not yet done doing my research. I have used the internet for some research, but I certainly love the feel of old books on my fingers while I browse through all the pages of countless books.

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

My latest book is the novella inside the anthology “Ladies of the Jolly Roger – Buccaneer Women – “ The story's title is The Princess Pirate, and it follows the adventures and misadventures of Princess Alvilda as she escapes the chains of marriage and becomes the captain of a Pirate ship. She plunders the waters of the Danish seas, trying to deal a crippling blow to the Prince that would have been her husband. Only to get caught by the very same Prince she had escaped before. She is given an option and well, I won’t tell you how it ends…lol. The book is coming out soon, and indeed should be out by the time this interview hits the RNA Blog. You will be able to find it on my publisher’s website,

Can you tell us something of your work in progress?

My current work in progress is Ravenwood: Storm’s Destiny, book 2 of the Ravenwood series. Storm is the sister of the hero Night Ravenwood, from book 1. Her destiny is to help young women who have been attacked by someone, while her loving husband hunts the criminal down. Book 2 will be a stand-alone book as the first one was, however, like the first one, it introduces the character who will have book 3 in the series.

Thank you for talking to us, Laurie. Your determination to succeed is an inspiration. We wish you good luck with The Princess Pirate.

To find out more about Laurie and her work visit her website at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Interview with Dee Williams

It is a delight to introduce Dee Williams as she is a great friend of mine. She was born and bred in Rotherhithe, south-east London, where her father worked as a stevedore in Surrey Docks. Having left school at 14 to become a hairdresser’s apprentice, she claims her father accused her of not being able to spell. But here she is, a bestselling writer. So tell us Dee, how you sold your first book, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call?

I have been very lucky. I have never had any rejections. I sent my very first M/S to Headline and after a couple of rejigs it was accepted.

Where is your favourite place to work?
My study, it overlooks my lovely garden. When we first moved here after returning from Spain we had an extension added so it was purpose built.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? 
The middle. I'm full of enthusiasm at the beginning as I know where the story’s going and how I want it to end, but sometimes I feel the middle lacks a bit of get up and go, so I throw another problem at my heroine or bring in another character. This must all tie up with the story and all be resolved properly by the end.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing?
Reading and gardening. Gardening is great for just going over your story in your mind. It is also helps to keep you fit and get a bit of exercise and it’s cheaper than going to the gym.

What advice would you give a new writer? 
Stick at it. Never leave your work at the end of a chapter. It’s best to leave it when something interesting is about to happen and you can’t wait to get back to it.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
A different, thought provoking well-written story. What draws you to your particular genre? Headline only like me to write about the years between 1900 and 1960. This is a wonderful era for writers as there were two World Wars and a depression, so there’s a wealth of stories to draw on. As I lived through part of World War Two, I can use some of my own experiences like in my latest book LIGHTS OUT TILL DAWN, which is about children being evacuated from London. I too was evacuated, although I wasn't as old as Hazel.

Is there a particular period of history that you enjoy writing about?
I love writing about the 1920’s for its fashion and hardship.

Do you enjoy research, and how do you set about it?
I enjoy research very much. I phone people who might help. Go to the library. I’ve been to Tower Hamlet’s and Southwark research library to go through old local newspapers. Be wary of the Internet which can be really great and helpful, but it can be misleading sometimes.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?
Not really. Perhaps when I’m trying to find an historical fact and rather than hold me up for too long I put a row of XXXs and move on. 

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.
LIGHTS OUT TILL DAWN comes out in paperback in October. It’s about a brother and sister who get evacuated and the things that happen to them. It’s something I know about first hand. Can you tell us something of your work in progress? I’ve gone back to 1924. The fashions and lifestyle of some of the young things of the day were very interesting, and then the depression came which is rather topical at the moment.

You can find out more about Dee Williams by visiting 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, October 14, 2011

Interview with Anna Jacobs

Anna Jacobs is a prolific writer of historical sagas and modern family relationship novels set in the UK or Australia. Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it.

THE TRADER’S WIFE had an unusual start. I usually ‘see’ a woman character and follow her story, but this time it was Bram, who appeared in ‘Destiny’s Path’ as a groom. He was such a vivid character, I couldn’t forget him, and in the end I had to give him his own book. So he is ‘the trader’. He’s an Irish groom who’s going to try to make his fortune in Australia, and because he’s stopped off en route in the Middle East and East, in Singapore too.

It’s surprised me that Bram has become one of my favourite, most romantic heroes. Move over, Mr Darcy! Bram isn’t handsome and he’s only of medium height, yet he’s such a warm, loving man, so good at dealing with people that you can’t help liking him.

And having written THE TRADER’S WIFE of course I had to follow it up. THE TRADER’S SISTER is now finished and in production, and I’m planning the third book.

Most of your novels for Hodder & Stoughton are based in the north-west, the story set against a part of the region’s social history. What made you choose this particular place and setting?
My early novels are indeed set in Lancashire, because I grew up there. Strangely, it wasn’t until after I emigrated that I got interested in its social history, not just the mills, but the other facets of northern life. I lived in a mill town and never went into a mill till I went back as a tourist to Wigan Pier.

But there is a lot more to Lancashire than the cotton mills that people associate with it. I also grew to admire my native county, not only for its economic ‘get up and go’ but for it’s social fairness. The first viable Co-operative shop was founded in my home town, Rochdale, and I played in its front yard as a child, because it was five shops up from my grandpa’s barber’s shop. When the government passed a dreadful Poor Law Act in 1834, the people of Lancashire, rich and poor alike, refused to implement it and continued to treat the occupants of poorhouses kindly. They were supposed to live in conditions ‘worse than the worst outside’ but the people of Lancashire defied the government for decades about it. I’m so proud of that.

A common characteristic of your sagas is a strong and feisty woman, do you think that is essential for this genre? 
It’s essential for me in any story I write. Why would I write about someone I don’t like and/or admire? I could never spend months of my life writing about a flawed heroine whom I didn’t like. I do sometimes portray women finding themselves, though, getting their act together as many women do in their middle years in real life. I think readers like to see women/characters triumphing over the misfortunes life throws at all of us.

You seem to be expanding your horizons with your sagas, away from Lancashire. This latest book is set in Singapore. What made you decide to do that?

I was trying to find a slightly different setting for my next historical story. I’ve visited Singapore a few times, so looked into its history. Since I found it fascinating, I felt my readers might enjoy it, too. The series is set partly in Singapore and partly in Western Australia. Most novels set in Australia are in the Eastern States e.g: Sydney or Melbourne. That’s as far away from where I live as Moscow is from London, and I feel the history of the West has not been given its due in books. So for quite a few years I’ve been setting my stories there. We deal a lot with Singapore from Western Australia, which is about the same distance away from its capital, Perth, as Sydney is.

You also write modern fiction. Tell us something about these books, and in what way does the writing experience differ from your historicals?
I’m still writing about people and relationships, but I’m setting the stories all over England. And, obviously, its today’s world that gives the characters their problems. I started writing modern stories for variety and stimulation, to keep myself fresh. I’m always afraid of growing stale and telling the same old story, so I vary it as much as I can. At the time we were house swapping with English families every year or two, as an easier way to visit our families, and I’ve set stories in many of the 11 places we’ve visited that way.

Everything is a potential story to a writer! For example, CHANGE OF SEASON is set in Dorset, our first house swap, with an Australian family following their father/husband to England because he’s working for an international company. I had a friend whose husband was a ‘Chairman’s International Rover’ ie he went trouble shooting for the head of an international company, so I based the heroine’s husband on that. THE CORRIGAN LEGACY is set partly in Cheshire, and has one character with ME (chronic fatigue syndrome). I suffered from that myself for a few years, and always said I’d put it in a book. The heroine of THE WISHING WELL has a mother suffering from Alzheimers, as a friend of mine did at the time. And the scene in the bed and breakfast with the window that didn’t fit its frame was based on what actually happened to my husband and myself. But all my modern heroines get their happy endings, just as the historical ones do. It’s my choice and I choose happiness not tragedy.

I also have another book coming out: SHORT AND SWEET, which is a collection of my short romance stories, originally published in women’s magazines. I was a little surprised at the cover chosen by the publisher, which is attractive, but doesn’t look like a romance cover. See what you think.

How do you begin when you start a new novel? 
I usually have the start-up situation in my mind, often found while researching. I picture my heroine by making her different in height, hair colour, age and temperament from my last heroine. And then I write the first scene. I picture the hero and do the same. I write and rewrite the first three chapters till I know my hero and heroine and have got some sub-plots in place, then off I go, experiencing the events with my characters. Often I dream of the next few scenes as I’m just waking up in the morning. It’s like seeing movie shows.

What craft tip helped you the most when you were starting out?
‘Put your heroine up a tree and throw stones at her.’ It’s still the best advice of all. If there are no problems, there is no story to tell. Big stones, little stones, they’re all in there. I feel sorry for my heroines sometimes, poor things!

What advice would you give a new writer? 
Write several books to learn your trade. One won’t be enough. And don’t self- publish your first stories as ebooks. Wait until you’re much more skilled and then persevere till you find a publisher, because you’ll learn more from the editing and being guided through the process. Slapdash books, or practice books won’t do anyone’s reputation any good. But the early books won’t be wasted because you can rewrite them with your improved skills.

Do you believe writing is a skill anyone can learn?
No, I don’t. It’s not the writing that counts most, it’s the gift for story-telling that makes a novelist. Not everyone has it. I couldn’t have been a sporting person with my faulty eyesight. Nor could I climb mountains when going two rungs up a ladder gives me the collywobbles.

Your home is in Australia but you spend part of the year in England. Does this present any particular difficulties for you? What are the pros and cons of a split life-style?
It takes a lot of organizing and sheer hard work to run two houses. But it gives us both a lot of pleasure. I have food intolerances and can’t enjoy doing holiday tours, as I may not get food I can eat. But I can change countries and keep on feeding myself safely in my own homes. Besides, England is beautiful in the warmer months and we absolutely love living there. I think it’s the most beautiful country on earth. Australia is beautiful too, but in a different way, and I love living there as well. I don’t call myself ‘lucky’ for that, because I’ve worked hard all my life and been careful with money. But I do wish someone would find a way to eliminate jetlag. However hard I try, it hits me for over a week each time we move countries.

Do you find the increasing amount of time a writer has to spend on social networking and blogs a distraction from your writing, or of benefit? Have you any secrets to pass on for coping with the pressure?
Oh, yes. It’s very time consuming and frankly, I’d rather be telling new stories than talking about the books. It’s lovely to meet readers, but I’ve always communicated with readers, ever since emails came into existence, and I’ve been putting out a monthly email newsletter for my readers for many years. Social networks seem to be for entertainment, but I don’t need entertaining. Let’s face it, with my job, I’m an entertainer not an entertainee, and after a day writing and doing business on my computer, I don’t want to spend the evenings on line as well.

I know you are putting up your back list as ebooks. As well as it being good for them to see the light of day again, do you see any other advantages? And how do you see the future for writers?
It’s lovely to see my stories being read again, and I think bringing out my backlist as ebooks has helped my frontlist books too, the ones publishers are still producing. I used to write historical romances and they’re selling really well as ebooks (eg Mistress of Marymoor, Marrying Miss Martha, Replenish the Earth). They’re sweet romances, not sexy ones and there seems to be a demand for this type of story that isn’t always met by some publishers, who have this focus on sex and vampires and violence. I’d like to republish my historicals in paperback – they never did come out in paperback format, only as hardbacks. Maybe one day! But that would take away more of my precious story-telling time. I sometimes feel like a juggler who’s trying to keep too many balls in the air.

Many thanks Anna for sharing your writing methods with us. We wish you every success with the new books. Visit Anna Jacobs at 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, October 11, 2011

Interview with Deborah Swift

Deborah Swift has worked as a set and costume designer for film and TV, and later as a freelance lecturer in theatre arts. She says historical fiction was a natural choice for her as a writer because she has always enjoyed the research aspect of her work in theatre, not to mention the attraction of boned bodices and the excuse to visit old and interesting buildings! She lives in the glorious countryside close to the Lake District, home to the romantic poets Coleridge and Wordsworth, in a house which used to be an old school. I believe THE LADY’S SLIPPER is your debut novel, Deborah. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

I was inspired by the flower itself, the extraordinary orchid, the lady’s slipper, which at the time of writing was the rarest wildflower in Britain. A friend and I came across it by chance when we were out on a walk, being guarded by a man from Natural England. I’d never come across a flower with its own guard before! It is a very unusual-looking orchid, with a shoe-like central petal surrounded by more petals like twisted red ribbons. It looks unlike any of our other native species, and because it was so rare there was a sort of plant mafia - the Cypripedium Committee - set up to protect it. It piqued my interest, and research led me to discover it was also over-collected in the 17th century because it was used medicinally, and the seed of the novel was sown (if you’ll excuse the pun!).

I read about the novel on the blog and was intrigued as it was set in the Lake District where I lived for many years, and have used as a setting in many of my own books. How much is a sense of place important to you in your writing?

I spent many years designing scenery for the theatre, so a sense of atmosphere and accurate period architecture is very important to me. I don’t think of it as a backdrop, more like an interwoven texture to the plot and characters. In THE LADY’S SLIPPER I was able to indulge my love of the natural environment too as it is set in rural Westmorland, with its fells, lakes and rushing waterfalls, and I love the great outdoors.

What do you think most influences you as a writer?

I am an avid reader, so other writers have always inspired me. Not just novelists, but poets and playwrights too, particularly poets as their crafting of words needs to be meticulous. And I owe a big debt to the theatre where I worked as a designer for a large part of my life, so I tend to treat the book as a drama and think in terms of a three act structure. For me it was natural to think of writing period fiction as it allows me to continue the research which I enjoyed so much as a designer, and I am always very concerned with the visual elements of my storytelling.

I found the tribulations of the Quakers, and the historical detail and political intrigue in the book meticulously depicted, how did you set about your research? Is it a pleasure or a chore?

A pleasure, if not an obsession! I used libraries a lot, interviewed orchid experts and made visits to seventeenth century houses. Geoffrey Fisk’s house was based on Levens Hall in Cumbria. For certain aspects of my research, such as life on board a sailing ship, I made use of the expertise of the Maritime Museum, and I spent many days in the Quaker collection at Lancaster University reading old manuscripts and diaries by early Quakers. I sometimes like to sit in a real location to write - I wrote a scene in the Quaker Meeting House at Swarthmoor Hall, the actual home of George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. The main male character is a newly-converted Quaker and it really helped me to see it through his senses - the smell of oak panelling, the quality of light through the windows.

What is it about this particular period of history that makes you want to write about it?

It was a time of great upheaval. The Civil War was the only time when English people have taken up arms against themselves. So after it ended the country was still riven by religious and social divides, and I thought this period would give me great scope for conflict within the book. The natural order in England had been undermined by the fact that we no longer knew how to govern ourselves, did not know if we wanted King or Parliament, and I wanted this to be reflected in the individuals in the novel.

In some ways the orchid is a symbol which embodies our passion for the land, and represents our desire to own our territory. And I also thought it might be interesting if someone who is a sworn pacifist has to choose whether to take up arms to protect the woman he loves.

Your style of prose is quite emotive. I know that you are also a poet. How do you think this has affected your style of writing?

I hope it gives me more rigour when I’m choosing words, but I don’t want it to be too evident to my readers. It would be embarrassing if ‘poetic’ writing took people’s attention away from the story!

Alice is an intriguing character. I wasn’t terribly sympathetic of her at first, in view of what she did, but I warmed to her quite quickly. Did you plan her before you started the novel, or did she develop as you wrote?

I planned her a little, as I needed someone who cared about plants in more than one way for the plot to be believable. So I made her an artist, who is also the daughter of a plantsman. So she has both an artistic and botanical interest in the lady’s slipper which fuel her obsession. Because of the Civil War and personal tragedy she has lost all her family, so she is looking for something to protect and nurture, as well as craving love and affection for herself. Although of course she does not know this at the beginning of the book. She grew as I worked with her, and I found it fascinating to watch her develop through her experiences in the novel until at the end of the book she is much less reserved and much more open to love, and to what life brings.

You’ve said that you often work out in the field, as it were, but where is your favourite place to hideaway and write?

I have an office, which is just a desk surrounded by bookshelves, but it has a lovely view of the garden where I can see my two cats basking in the sun (when there is any, up here in the North.) But I am working all the time in my mind. I keep a pencil in the car because I often get ideas when I’m driving!

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

Yes, I have a day job, or rather an evening job. I teach adult education classes in the evenings. So I write in the mornings, five days a week from about nine till about one. That includes quite a bit of fiddling on Twitter and Facebook, things that seem to be a big part of a writer’s remit these days. But it’s quite flexible, so I can juggle the time a bit if I’m researching for example, to fit in with people I might be interviewing.

How much of the story do you plan in advance? Do you plot, or just dive in? No, I just dive in.

When I wrote my second one THE GILDED LILY, I got scared at the thought of producing a book to a schedule, and thought I’d better try plotting to make sure I hit the publisher’s deadline. But in the end the characters developed in other unexpected ways, and I kept finding more interesting sidetracks and ended up jettisoning the original plot! So now I recognise I’m a "seat of the pants" writer, and for me that’s a large part of the excitement , not knowing exactly what will happen. Though I always have a last scene in mind that I set my sat nav towards.

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

I think everything I read influences my writing directly or indirectly. Some of my favourite historical writers are Rose Tremain, Mary Renault, Barbara Ewing, CJ Sansom. And I love historical blockbusters such as Ken Follett’s "Pillars of the Earth" and Robyn Young’s "Brethren". For pleasure I’d head to the Richard and Judy shelf in the local bookshop. Some people knock their choices, but I’m a fan because I’ve found some great reads from their lists.

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

When I’m about a third of the way through, and suddenly have a crisis of confidence! Was this a good idea? Maybe I should start again with different characters, a different idea... But I’ve found that if I press through that part then I can soon regain enthusiasm for my plot and concept. I also find that the novel seems to sprawl for quite a while and I need to spend time afterwards drawing all the threads together and cutting unwanted material.

I find promoting books an increasingly time consuming activity. How do you go about it, and what tips can you offer other writers? 

I am not a natural marketing type, but I recognise that it has to be done if people are going to get to hear of my books, so I do a lot on-line. Something I have learnt is to not join too many things, because you have more impact if you are truly present, even on-line. And I believe personal recommendation is still the best way to sell books. I am still feeling my way with new technologies like Twitter, but you can follow me @swiftstory to find out what I’m up to and what I had for lunch. I’m currently attempting to make a book trailer. I got my daughter and her friends dressed up in period costume and we had a day "on location" which was great fun and thank goodness the rain held off. If the video turns out to be awful, at least we had a good day out! I sometimes think my attempts at marketing are a little amateur, but hey, you have to start somewhere! I blog about my writing life at, and have a site to promote historical fiction at

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

The book which will be out next is called THE GILDED LILY and tells the story of Ella who is a minor character in THE LADY’S SLIPPER. She cheekily demanded her own book. Ella is a character full of contradictions, part bully, part loving, ambitious and brazen, but underneath not nearly as sure of herself as she looks. Just the sort of character that can sustain the reader’s interest, especially when teamed with her timid but stubborn sister, Sadie. THE GILDED LILY will come out in September 2012.

Can you reveal something of your work in progress? 

The one I’m working on right now is a stand-alone historical adventure/romance set in Seville. I’ve just come back from there after a wonderful time getting to know the city. After the wet of Westmorland and frosty London in the other two books, I felt like I needed a bit of sunshine and a change to an earlier time period. Historical fiction is time-consuming to write so I’m only at first draft stage with that and wary of telling you too much, except to say I’m loving it and hope it’s the best yet.

You can find out more about Deborah's books at her website Her contact details are there and if you’ve read THE LADY’S SLIPPER she’d love to hear from you.

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Annie Burrows Reports on The RNA Regency Readers' Day

Saturday 8th October saw enthusiasts of all sorts – readers, writers, re-enactors, and dancers - gathering to celebrate all things regency.  So many people had such fabulous costumes, that I hadn’t been in the Royal Over Seas Club for long before I felt like a provincial schoolmaster’s wife, rather overawed by the glamour and excitement of life in the metropolis.

Christina Courtenay
As it is the bicentenary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility, the programme naturally included some serious discussion of Jane Austen’s works.  But there was also a display of reproduction costume, parlour games, and walks around St. James with a most authentic military escort, while a guide pointed out the gentlemen’s clubs and the site of Almack’s.  The soldiers attracted a lot of interest.  (And lapped it up!)  I can quite see why Lydia Bennet lost her head to a man in a scarlet jacket.  There is something very appealing about a man in uniform.

Julie Cohen
I refrained from following the drum, instead staying decorously indoors to listen to a fascinating talk given by Georgette Heyer’s biographer, Dr Jennifer Kloester.

In centre Christina Courtenay and Annie Burrows
Then followed what was the absolute highlight of my day.  I learned to dance a cotillion.  Well, perhaps to claim I learned it is a bit of an exaggeration.  There was a dancing master who showed us the steps, and encouraged us to have a go, to the music he provided, but there was a good deal of giggling and bumping into each other going on.  It was all the more confusing as people forgot, halfway through a set, whether they were supposed to be a lady or a gentleman.  Still, I feel as though I have a much better idea of what it would have been like to attend a regency ball.  Nowhere near as elegant as I’d pictured, but a lot more fun.  At the end of our session, I also understood why the older ladies sat on the sidelines watching.  I felt as though I’d had a workout.  That kind of dancing requires a good deal of stamina.
Preparing to dance

I also learned that travelling around in full length dress, with luggage, is quite a struggle.  When I grumbled that I did not have enough pairs of hands, as I was struggling up the stairs with my skirts rather indecorously hitched up to prevent myself from tripping, and more bags than I could manage, the utterly charming Roy McMillan, of Naxos recordings, promptly volunteered to act as my footman.  We then had a discussion about the appeal of the regency rake.  It is, I told him, the enduring fantasy of being the one woman in the world capable of redeeming a bad boy.

Book signing with Annie Burrows and Nicola Cornick
In the afternoon, several of us walked to the East India Club, where we were treated to a re-enactment of the moment Major Percy (played by Miles Barden) arrived in a post-chaise - several captured eagles sticking out of the windows - with dispatches from Wellington about the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo.  He’d come straight from the battlefield in his torn and bloodstained tunic, and had barely slept for six nights.  Gripping stuff – though I could perhaps have done without the graphic description of the matter which fell off his tunic when he finally got into bed, which he thought must have been particles of somebody’s brains.

The leaders of the Regency dance
I shall gloss over the talk about sex in Georgian England, and contemporary novels set in that era, since I was participating - except to say that because one of the soldiers was sharing round snuff immediately before the session, whatever we said was greeted by a chorus of hearty sneezing.

Jenny Barden, Miles Barden and Sarah
To round the day off, there was a lively discussion about whether Austen and Heyer were better than they thought they were.  Neither of them received recognition from the literati during their lifetime, though their work itself has endured and grown in popularity.  Austen was diffident about her work, speaking of it as being akin to that of a miniaturist.  And although Heyer knew she was good, she would have thought it vulgar to say so.

What blew me away, was to learn that Heyer never had an editor.  Not only that, but she sometimes just sat at her typewriter, and produced a completed novel in two months.  Nobody suggested revisions.  You can imagine the collective groan from the assembled authors on receipt of that tidbit!

We all agreed that it was about time somebody produced the works of Heyer for the TV or film.  There is so much action and comedy, as well as the central romance, that they would make for really entertaining viewing, and bring her works to a completely new audience.

By this end of the day we’d got over our initial shyness, and were soon not only putting forward the case for why our favourite works would make the best visual drama, but also naming which actors we’d like to play the various heroes.

The panel who were leading the discussion all favoured The Grand Sophy, although Dr Jennifer Koestler also put the case for Cotillion.

Personally, I’d love to see The Foundling made into a film.  There is all the drama of the Duke of Sale burning down the inn where his kidnappers try to hold him to ransom, the ongoing battle of Belinda to get her purple dress, and the side issue of Gideon Ware, striding about in his regimentals, absolutely refusing to tell anyone what his cousin is up to.

I propose Greg Wise for the part of Gideon Ware.  Or maybe James Purefoy.

Annie's next book, GIFT-WRAPPED GOVERNESS is available in November 2011

"Lord Chepstow hasn't seen Honeysuckle Miller since she was a plain, awkward schoolgirl.  Now she's not so plain and is looking after the host's children at a lavish Christmas house party.  And the last thing Lord Chepstow expected to want on his Christmas list is the prim governess!"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Interview with Nell Dixon

Nell Dixon is a Black Country author, married to the same man for over twenty-five years. She has three daughters, a tank of tropical fish and a cactus called Spike. Winner of the RNA’s prestigious Romance Prize in 2007 and 2010, she writes warm-hearted contemporary romance for a number of publishers in the US and the UK. Do tell us the secret of your success, Nell, and if you had any rejections before getting that exciting call? 

Crikey, I could paper my lounge with the rejections I had before I sold The Cinderella Substitute to the now defunct Moonlit Romance e press. I was determined to sell THE CINDERELLA SUBSTITUTE to someone – it had been right up the chain at Harlequin Mills and Boon, and almost acquired by three other publishers before Moonlit Romance bought it. It’s still available as an audiobook from Audiolark and has just been bought for large print so my persistence paid off eventually. Where is your favourite place to work? I work in a small office upstairs at home, it’s an alcove off the landing with a view of the garden and the fields beyond.

Do you have to juggle writing with the day job? What is your work schedule?
Excuse me while I laugh hysterically at this one. My work schedule is crazy, all my friends and my colleagues at the charity where I work are used to me now. I work three days for Ideal For All, a disabled people’s charity managing a therapeutic horticulture project. I have three teenage daughters who all seem to have a busy social life and extracurricular activities and my husband, Mr Nell, works shifts. I have a white board in my office with my deadlines on and a word target for each week which I do my best to keep. I’m very disciplined and time management is key to getting everything done.

To plot or not to plot? Are you a planner or do you just dive in?
I’m a pantser. I know the beginning and I know the end but the middle is sort of fuzzy until I work my way through. My characters often surprise me.

Which authors have most influenced your work? And which do you choose to read for pleasure?
I’ve been influenced by lots of writers. Agatha Christie, Liz Fielding, Jessica Hart, Elinor M Brent-Dyer and Andre Norton are all superb story tellers with a warm sympathetic way of writing which totally draws me in every time I pick up one of their books. I read all of them. I also love Betty Neels, those are my comfort reads. I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, Jennifer Crusie, my friend Phillipa Ashley’s books, and Katie Fforde amongst others. I also read a lot of autobiographies. How do you develop your characters? My characters arrive in my head as a voice. I seldom see them but I hear them. They are always named and fully formed with their own quirks and conflicts.

What do you think an editor is looking for in a good novel?
I’ve worked with a lot of editors at lots of publishers both here in the UK and in the US. I think the common thread is that they want a great story, compelling, believable, warm. Something that speaks to them and makes them want to keep reading, told with a distinct voice. What advice would you give a new writer? Read. Read a lot. Which authors do you love? Why? How do they make their stories great? Then polish your mss. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get it out there. Take your time to make it the best it can be before you send it off.

In what way has the RNA helped you or your career? 
Where do I start? There are so many ways. The generosity of my fellow writers in giving advice, and support. The NWS scheme which helped me so much when I was starting off. Most of all for me it was The Romance Prize. Winning the prize was such a huge thing for me. I still have to pinch myself. It helped publishers and agents to notice me but most of all it helped me to finally believe that I could write.

Tell us about your latest book, and how you got the idea for it. 
RENOVATION, RENOVATION, RENOVATION is a contemporary rom com with a twist. It combines my passion for historic buildings with my love of writing independent but down on their luck heroines.

Nell’s latest relase is Renovation, Renovation, Renovation published by Myrmidon. After renovating twelve houses in seven years Kate wanted a ring on her finger and the forever house. Instead of her dream home and her dream man, she lands house number thirteen, Myrtle Cottage. A crumbling seventeenth century money pit. Trapped by the credit crunch on yet another renovation project with her now very ex boyfriend, Steve, will she ever find the forever love she’s after or will it just be more renovation, renovation, renovation?

To find out more about Nell and her books, do visit her website at or follow her on Facebook or Twitter

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