Monday, March 26, 2012

Author Interview with Evonne Wareham

A warm welcome to Evonne Wareham, who is a contender for the 2012 Joan Hessayon Award. Many congratulations on your shortlisting, Evonne. Please tell us about your novel and how you came to write it?

The novel is called Never Coming Home, and it’s a romantic thriller. My heroine, Kaz Elmore, lost her young daughter in a car crash, six months before the main action of the book. When Kaz receives some disturbing new information concerning the crash, she’s determined to find out what really happened. The search takes her across Europe, and as this is a romance, there is a rather hot guy helping her. He's a security consultant with a very dark past, who is just discovering how to live an ordinary life again, and maybe also how to fall in love. The book has an interesting history, although I really can’t say where I got the original idea from -- it was one of those 'what ifs' that started to unfold in my head without an invitation. The circumstances in which it was written were unusual. The year before I wrote it I came across a copy of the American magazine Romantic Times (now RT Book Reviews) in the late lamented Murder One bookshop, in London. The magazine was running a reality contest for unpublished writers, called American Title, a kind of X-factor for would-be novelists -- 10 finalists, gradually eliminated by public vote. I'd been told that my writing might appeal to the American market, but I didn't know whether they would even accept a manuscript from abroad. I decided that the worst that could happen was that I would waste the postage, and sent in my entry. The contest that year was for a paranormal love story. I was amazed, astonished, flabbergasted, when the letter came telling me that I was a finalist and could they have the rest of the book please? There followed a roller coaster six months, while the contest was under way and finalists were eliminated. I didn't win -- that honour went to fellow Brit, RNA member and fantastic paranormal writer Helen Scott Taylor -- but I had a wonderful time, including a trip to Pittsburgh to attend the RT Booklovers convention -- which was an absolutely fabulous experience. While all this was going on, I was following the classic advice to all would-be published authors. While you wait, write the next book -- and in this case the next book was Never Coming Home. When the contest finished, I had it almost done, as it was to be my submission to the New Writers’ Scheme that year. Then the next and final American Title contest was announced. A friend asked me if I was going to enter again. I didn’t know if they'd accept an entry from a past finalist, but I sent it anyway. No one knew about it, except the friend, and my mum! And I got into the final again. Another roller coaster and I didn't win that time either, but yet another fantastic experience. And I have a claim to be unique, as the only person ever to get into an American Title final twice, possibly because I'm the only person crazy enough to try!

Can you work anywhere, or do you have a favourite place to hide away and write?

I'm one of those old-fashioned types who writes the first draft with pen and paper. So as long as I can balance the pad on my knee and see to scribble, I can do it just about anywhere. I do write quite a lot on trains -- part of the attraction of travelling from Wales to London for RNA events is the four hours uninterrupted writing time on the train. When I was working full-time the morning commute was the only time I could carve out of the day to write and I was only managing about 200 words. I was quite depressed about it, until a colleague, who was himself a well-regarded biographer, pointed out that at the end of the week -- 5 days -- I had a thousand words. So my advice to anyone struggling to make their word count is to write when you get the opportunity and it will eventually mount up.

What point of view do you most enjoy writing: first person or third? Can you say why that is?

Mostly I like to write in the third person. My books include the point of view of both hero and heroine, as Choc-Lit are very keen for the hero to have a voice. I find it very rewarding to write romance from both points of view, instead of only hearing from the heroine. For the thriller plot, writing from the hero’s POV is essential, as he is the one stalking the villain in derelict buildings in the early hours of the morning, leaving the heroine safely tucked up in bed! I also include both the hero and heroine’s thoughts, so it gets quite involved. I have been known to write in the first person. Usually it’s my villain, talking directly to the reader. Not quite sure what that says about how my mind works.

Have you had rejections, and if so, how did you deal with them?

Hah! Many, and varied, from the terse one-liner to the five-star rejection letter, one that gives you feedback on your work from a professional and is actually to be cherished, once you’ve got over the disappointment. There’s not much you can do except dust yourself down and take note of anything that is said that you can use, improve or correct. One of the comments on my work, which I treasure, was given to me by an editor as feedback in a competition, so it wasn't actually a rejection letter. She compared my writing to that of Meg Gardiner, one of my favorite thriller writers. I was delighted when I met Meg at an event last year, and she agreed to give me a cover quote for Never Coming Home, which is now adorning the back of the book.

Do you use prologues or epilogues? Do you like flashbacks?

I know that people have strong feelings about prologues and some agents and editors will not countenance them. Never Coming Home has a prologue, because a key event, a fatal car crash, happens six months before the main action. Devlin, the hero of the book, becomes involved, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve never used an epilogue, but I must admit that as a reader I do have a weakness for short scenes at the end of a romance that show hero and heroine actually enjoying their Happy Ever After. Flashbacks are not always easy to handle. I'm currently experimenting with re-writing an early novel so that it has a middle section which will be an extended flashback, showing the hero and heroine when they were in their teens -- I'm hoping it will work, as I love the story.

Which do you find the hardest part of the novel to write, and how do you cope when the going gets tough?

Having been in the New Writers’ Scheme for a number of years, I have a drawer full of completed and partial manuscripts, and I found with all of them that there was at least one point where I hit a wall. As I've usually got a strong idea of how I want the book to end, focusing on that usually gets me through. I find that sometimes, after you've stalled, the characters have a surprise waiting for you, something you didn't know you were going to write. Maybe the pause is time for your subconscious to sort out where the book is going.

Is a sense of place important to your writing? How do you set about researching it?

Location and the sense of place are very important to me. I like to say that I write books set in glamorous locations. In common with a lot of other members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I count Mary Stewart as one of my literary influences and many of her romances were set in Europe -- places that must have been impossibly exotic in the austere times when she was writing, in the years after the Second World War. So Europe features in my books too, and London, where I lived for nearly 20 years, and I also like to set a least one scene in my native Wales. I try to use places that I've visited and as I don’t much like flying, that rules out long haul destinations. The Internet is invaluable for reminders of how a place looks. I love those virtual tours that take you along streets and inside buildings.

Are you involved in any writing related tasks other than the actual writing or promoting your writing?

I’ve always had jobs that involved producing reports, minutes and briefing papers, which sometimes left very little room in my head for creating romance. At the moment my ‘day job’ is studying for a doctorate in history, which involves writing an academic thesis. It is a very different style, and I have had remarks made about my history reading like a romantic novel. My response to that is just to smile. As long as it doesn't start working in the other direction …

Tell us about your first acceptance and what you hope to write next?

Never Coming Home is my debut, but I'm pleased to say that Choc-Lit have also accepted my second novel, which was also a finalist in the American Title competition. It's a paranormal story called Out of Sight, Out of Mind -- not the paws, claws, fangs, fins type of paranormal, but a romantic thriller that features two human protagonists who happen to read minds -- with all the problems that might bring. I had a great time writing it and it will be out from Choc-lit in March 2013. After that? I’m re-working a favourite story that went off the rails and got put into a bottom drawer and I’m also doing in-depth research for what I call my treasure hunt book – missing paintings, a Victorian mystery, cryptic clues and any number of dead bodies. Lots of research about art and the Arthurian legends, which is keeping me busy.

If you won the Award how would you celebrate your success?

I have no idea. I’ve waited a long time to be in the award line up and haven’t thought any further than that.

What is the mantra that has helps you to maintain faith in yourself?

Patience is a virtue.

Who is your favourite hero and why?

Athos from Dumas’s Three Musketeers – a man of action, with a mysterious and possibly tragic past. Still a good pattern for the hero of a modern thriller.

Please share with us your favourite recipe.

Writing for Choc-lit, it should probably be a chocolate recipe, but any chocolate that gets into the house doesn't last long enough to be cooked! This recipe is courtesy of the Glamorgan Archives, who found it in a notebook dated 1795 – 1813, belonging to John Perkins, a gentleman farmer, of Ty-draw, Llantrithyd in the Vale of Glamorgan. Not exactly what we would call healthy eating.
To make sausages Take a pound of lean pork and the same amount of ‘fatt’. Mix in a marble morter and season with salt, cloves, mace, pepper, ginger and a ‘little sage’. Bind together with 4 egg yolks and 1 egg white and roll up ‘in what form you please'.

Thank you for talking to us, Evonne. We wish you success with ‘Never Coming Home’ and the Joan Hessayon Award.

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

Friday, March 23, 2012

Author Interview with Gina Rossi

A warm welcome today, to Gina Rossi, who is a contender for the 2012 Joan Hessayon New Writers' Award. Gina was born and grew up in South Africa. She now lives on the French Riviera.

Many congratulations on being short listed for the award, Gina. Tell us about your journey as a writer, how you got started. How did the NWS help you get published?

It’s been said that life begins when the kids leave home and the dog goes to that big basket in the sky. I’m not sure I entirely agree but, at this stage of life, you certainly have more time to yourself. I started writing properly in 2008, submitting as much as I possibly could with great determination, while devouring books on the craft of writing along the way. I developed a thick skin pronto and took all criticism on board, always aiming to make each submission better than the last. When I’d finished writing my historical romance ‘The Wild Heart’ I submitted it to several agents / publishers and was delighted when The Wild Rose Press approached me with a contract. The New Writers’ Scheme has been indispensible. The biggest advantage is that – when you submit your full manuscript as an unpublished writer – you are told what you are doing wrong but, crucially, also what you are doing right. If you build on that, believe me, you will be published!

Where do you find inspiration for your characters?

All over the place. For my WIP I had an idea in my head for about a year, then suddenly I saw a photo of a Georgian rugby player in a French newspaper (yes, really) and I thought that’s him! He’s divine! That’s my new hero! I cut out the picture and started writing. For me, the heroes are always easier than the heroines. The heroes come at me, fully formed (!), always tall, dark and handsome, though not necessarily rich. The heroines are more complex and I often resort to a character questionnaire to make sure I really know who they are and what they want out of life, and love, before I start writing.

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

I am so, so fortunate - at the moment - to be able to write full time. While the interest has always been there, I started writing properly late in life, so I need to catch up. I always mean to get up at the crack of dawn and plunge into writing but my brain just won’t work creatively first thing in the morning. So, I spend the early part of the day on my ‘social networking’, such as it is, chores and admin then force myself to write. From 1pm, I’m at my best. 2000 words an afternoon seems to be my comfort zone but I can push it up to 4000 when I’m on a roll, though quality suffers!

Can you share with us the craft tip that has helped you the most?

Absolutely. In Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’ he talks about the relationship between the writer and the reader and how writing is telepathy. That was a real light bulb moment for me. That was the ‘show don’t tell’ part of the craft sorted, at last. I also loved what he said about stories being ‘found things’ like a fossil you have to get out of the ground, intact. Sometimes it’s small, like a seashell (short story) and sometimes it’s enormous like a dinosaur (1000 page novel), but the excavation technique is the same. And no matter how good you are, it’s probably impossible to retrieve the entire fossil without breaking and losing bits. You need delicate tools and time to get the best result, and don’t use plot like a jackhammer. That made a lot of sense to me.

Are you a plotter or pantster?

A bit of both, to be honest. I plan the scenes of a new story in a series of large squares on A4 paper. Then I use post-its (mainly because I love post-its and have all the sizes and colours) to add bits that jump into my mind, usually at the most unsuitable moments. Once I get going and the story has momentum I leave the paper and post-its and ‘pants’ it. If I get stuck, I go back to my plan for direction. I use a year planner for the year in which my story is set because it helps me balance the pace and keep the timeline consistent.

Left - The view from Gina's writing desk on a winter's morning.

Does your cat or dog help with the writing?

Unfortunately, I don’t have pets at present but dogs feature in my books. ‘The Wild Heart’ has two farmyard specials, Tinker and Tailor, and ‘To Hear you Smile’, currently under consideration by The Wild Rose Press, features a Welsh terrier called Muffin in a starring role.

Do you work with the door locked?

Seldom. I believe if you can write alongside life’s little distractions, you can write anywhere.

How does chocolate help you in your writing?

Too much, so it is banned from the house or I eat the whole bar, box or both. And it’s the same with biscuits.

What is most likely to stop you from writing?

My gorgeous 18 month old grandson, Samuel. He can make me do (or not do) anything!

What would represent a romantic gesture to you?

Oh dear. The big, grand gestures, I’m afraid. I’m rejuvenated by wet weather, and one of those strange people who prefer winter, so I’d love to be whizzed off to drizzly Venice or snowbound St. Moritz (chalet with a huge log fire, please!).

Thank you for talking to us, Gina. We wish you every success with The Wild Heart . Good luck with the Joan Hessayon award.

Gina can be contacted by at and followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Beth Elliot

Beth Elliott was already making up stories before she could read. Later, the only girl in a tiny Lancashire village, she read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and so began a lifelong love of Jane Austen. Beth says that writing her own tales set in the Regency era is much more fun than her previous career of teaching modern languages. So tell us, Beth, what is it about the regency period that so excites you, and how do you set about your research? 

I was twelve when I first read Pride and Prejudice. It opened the door into a world I found entrancing, perhaps because there is still so much evidence of that period all around us. For research I read biographies, visit stately homes and museums, study pictures - and enjoy all the Austen films. I’ve paced out my characters’ journeys in Bath, Brighton and London and even in Istanbul! I love travelling and where I go, so do my characters. Tourism is not just a modern phenomenon. After reading about Byron’s travels in the eastern Mediterranean, I set my latest story in Constantinople.

Are you ever inspired to write about real people in your historicals?

I love doing that. It’s an exciting challenge to put real people in my stories and blend them in, while respecting what we know about them. The Prince Regent appears in The Rake’s Challenge; in fact, the heroine nearly poisons him. And Lady Hester Stanhope plays a vital role in the story I’ve just finished.

Much as you may love writing, what do you do when the going gets tough?

It’s essential to keep writing through these sticky patches and not put it off. The characters won’t leave me alone, anyway. Mostly, writing seems like going away on holiday with my characters. But when they dig their heels in I get so frustrated. After a brisk walk and a bit of bad language I write what I hope is the next scene - and sleep on it. In the wee small hours I wake up, knowing that it’s all wrong. So I try a different viewpoint or an alternative place or reason. One hero was left with his elegantly booted foot on the fender for nearly three weeks until the way forward was suddenly obvious.

Tell us about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.

THE RAKE’S CHALLENGE is set in Brighton in summer 1814. The idea for the story began when I saw a magazine advert for a costly leather jacket. The model’s pose was so arrogant, I knew at once who he was. And at an open day at Chawton House, someone demonstrated the language of the fan, which gave me a plot idea. I also wanted to have a poisoning in the story, so why not make the victim the Prince Regent? My arrogant rake, bored with London, is on his way to Brighton when he is obliged to rescue a damsel in distress. But she’s one hell of a determined damsel and so for once he has to exert himself for another person - and she takes a lot of keeping out of trouble. It’s obvious where it’s going, but it’s the journey that makes it an enjoyable story.

Have you ever won or been short-listed in any competitions or awards, and do you think they help with a writer’s success?

My first story, THE WILD CARD, (which went through the NWS and was bought at once by Robert Hale), was shortlisted that year for the RNA Romance Prize. And the second one, IN ALL HONOUR, got into the final for the RedRosesforAuthors Christmas Award. I think it helps a lot for an author to be nominated and especially to win an award. It’s a big recommendation to the public and to publishers, as well as a huge boost to the writer’s morale.

So who is your favourite hero? 
Am I only allowed one? Apart from Mr Darcy and John Ridd, it’s Rupert Carsington in Mr Impossible. Tall, strong, too handsome for anyone’s good, irresistibly attractive, practical and always fights fair.

What was your favourite book as a child? 
The Hills of Varna by Geoffrey Trease. It was set in about 1510, and had a marvellous there and back quest across Europe, with a bold, brave heroine. No wonder I love travel and languages.

I loved Geoffrey Trease too. He wrote such exciting stories. Apart from writing, of which accomplishment are you most proud? 
My metallic bead embroidery, because I love all the sparkle and the gold thread. Each piece takes months to do and I make it all up as I go along. Here’s one called ‘East-West’.

Which authors do you choose to read for pleasure?
Loretta Chase, she’s so witty; Mary Balogh; Roisin McAuley; Wilkie Collins; Jane Austen, I can always find something new in there.

Lastly, if you could escape somewhere, to write, where would it be?
Ax-les-Thermes in the foothills of the Pyrenees would be a good place. Beautiful scenery, walking through history, local cuisine - plus the spa when needed. And the chateau which features in my new novel is close by. Thank you so much for sharing your pleasures in writing with us today, Beth. I’ve so enjoyed talking with you, and wish you every success for the future.
The Rake’s Challenge
Robert Hale
Giles Maltravers, the rakish Earl of Longwood, is weary of society life, duels and even his mistress. Anna Lawrence, nineteen and inspired by Lord Byron's poems is determined to seek a life of travel and adventure. Both decide to flee society. They meet when Giles rescues Anna from her first escapade. Anna is resolute in demonstrating her independence, but, somehow, she always ends up in trouble. His own pleasures forgotten, Giles rescues her from one potential disaster after another. He knows he cannot live without her, but he meets an unexpected obstacle, for Anna has a secret that means she can never be more than a friend to the man she has come to love with all her heart. Is there any way for their love to prevail? 

To hear more about Beth’s books, you can find her here:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview with Catherine King

I’m delighted to welcome to the RNA Blog today, talented author Catherine King. Her current life as a novelist is far removed from her work as a lecturer and academic, teaching the postgraduate certificate in teaching skills to university lecturers. Having trained as a scientist, she taught for many years but did find time to publish a handful of short romances. In 2005 she became a full-time author, and thanks to the excellent networking parties of the RNA, quickly acquired an agent. She gained a two-book contract within a year and has published one novel a year with the same publisher ever since. 

That all sounds wonderful, Catherine, so tell us about your first book and the excitement of getting that call?

My agent phoned me on my mobile with news of their interest in my book while I was out shopping for soft furnishings. Thank goodness I was in the beds department! I collapsed onto the nearest bed and can remember very little of her conversation. I do recall phoning a novelist friend immediately afterwards and whooping with her at my good fortune. I didn’t buy any of the very stylish bed-coverings that I had crumpled and creased. My first 100,000 word novel, was WOMEN OF IRON, published by Sphere, the commercial imprint of Little, Brown, in 2006. I was already writing my second book, SILK AND STEEL, which when published, was shortlisted for The Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008. SILK AND STEEL is still my favourite book.

What is it that you enjoy most about writing sagas? Would you call yourself a specialist or do you have another identity?

I write gritty historical sagas set mainly in a fictional South Riding, a region now known as South Yorkshire. My heroines find themselves in difficult situations and have to draw on all their strength and resilience to overcome their adversities. The books are not especially romantic although there is always a romance or two in the story and a hopeful, sometimes happy, ending. My first six titles are set in the mid-nineteenth century.

I know you do a great deal of research for your books, do you enjoy that part of the craft, and how do you set about it?

I adore doing the research. I have a doctorate which means I am a trained researcher but I have to restrict myself to the research necessary for the book I am writing. This is sometimes difficult! I begin by general reading around the time and place to find ideas and stimulate my imagination. I may write a few scenes as a result of what I find, to help me develop my characters. I do not consciously plot. Instead, I allow my characters to direct the story. It is their story after all, but it means that I have to do more specific research to verify (or otherwise!) the scenes that emerge. It is a high risk strategy because I never know what is going to happen. As I have a deadline to meet, it is also scary!

Where is your favourite place to work?

I work at home and have an office to organise research and admin but I do not write in it. I write on a portable computer in front of a view. The view varies and different seasons find me working at different windows or in my writing lodge in the garden. My lodge is my creative thinking space and I use it all year round as it has a fire grate in the middle where I can burn logs or barbecue my dinner. If I get stuck, my way of releasing the block is to move to another place and I have one or two other ‘bolt holes’ that serve this purpose. I don’t know how or why, but it works for me.

Tell us about your latest book, and what you are writing now. 

THE LOST AND FOUND GIRL is the story of a mother and her daughter and how they overcome the difficulties that their different lives present. It begins in the Yorkshire Dales and moves to Redfern Abbey in the South Riding. Redfern Abbey is a fictional stately home based on Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. I must stress that I had named and started writing about this house long before Downton Abbey appeared on our televisions, but the book does involve ‘upstairs’ as well as ‘downstairs’ characters. I enjoyed writing about the English aristocracy and their servants so much that my next book, which I am writing now, continues this theme in the Edwardian era. For my next two books I am writing about the early twentieth century, with some settings that move further afield from Yorkshire.

Do you cry over your own emotional scenes?

I find that writing my sagas can be exhausting because they explore the emotions of characters in tough situations and I have to feel these emotions myself to be convincing on the page. When I am well into a book, the main characters have become my friends and I worry about what is happening to them. The villains, too, stir my anger so I have to be sure I give them a fitting end. If I am crying at my keyboard, whether from sadness or joy, I regard this as a good sign and hope that no-one drops in to see me!

Are you very disciplined, or do you get side tracked by displacement therapy, such as the ironing?

I am very good at ignoring the ironing, or indeed anything than can be described as a domestic chore. I am also very good at not feeling guilty about this. In fact, since becoming a full-time writer, I have improved at these useful skills! After a morning’s writing steeped in another century it is a real effort to return to the present day. Then, I actually enjoy the exercise of my housework or gardening, although I have to say I am not very good at either. My family tell me I need more practice.

Lastly, who is your favourite hero?

What I really need is one of my heroes. They are such strong, handsome and resourceful men! My favourite is Patrick from A MOTHER’S SACRIFICE because he is mentally resilient as well as physically tough. He suffered hardship in his early life but endured it with determination. As an adult he is very much his own man, knows what he wants and is steadfast in his affections. A MOTHER’S SACRIFICE has a country setting and deals with rural poverty in the industrial revolution. In all my books I try to address situations that resonate with present day issues. Several of my characters, both male and female, are damaged by their life experiences; some struggle to overcome them and move on, others are not so lucky.


That was fascinating, Catherine, and I wish you continuing success. 
If you want to hear more about Catherine King and her books you can find her here:
TWITTER: @cathkingauthor 

1 March 2012, in time for Mother’s Day. 

Beth thought she had been rescued from a life of servitude by an offer of marriage from gentleman farmer Edgar Collins, but her future would be bleaker than she could ever imagine and the married life was far from bliss . . . When the legitimacy of her twin babies with Edgar is called into question, the tiny infants are taken from Beth and sent far away. James is adopted by Edgar's uncle, the very wealthy Lord Redfern, master of Redfern Abbey.

But little Daisy is sent to a cold-hearted childless couple who raise her to be a maid rather than a daughter. When Daisy, at sixteen, finally escapes her hard life with her adoptive brother Boyd, they arrive at the Abbey to seek work and refuge. Little does Daisy know that her flesh and blood is the next in line to be Lord of the Abbey. There is a strange connection between Daisy and James, something they can neither explain nor ignore. But will the truth be discovered in time?

10 March 2012 Waterstones Fareham Shopping Centre 12 noon-3.30pm 
Free leather bookmark with every Catherine King book purchased. 
13 March 2012 Victoria Hall, Settle, Yorkshire, Readings at 10am, 12noon & 2pm followed by free coffee and biscuits PLUS Free leather bookmark with every Catherine King book. 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Independent Releases for March

March 2012
A scheming little gold-digger! Her wealthy husband scarcely cold in his grave and she embarks on an affair with a toy boy.  That’s how the gutter press see Gina.  Is it any wonder that Sam Redmond agrees with them when he remembers how badly she treated him in the past.  Is there any way Gina can prove her innocence?

March 2012
£3.86 / $6.05
Thoroughly researched historical romance set on board Titanic.
"Excellent" - Historical Novel Society

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Rosemary Morris

Today I’m delighted to welcome Rosemary Morris to the RNA Blog. She says she has woven stories since childhood, and subsequently immersed herself in historical fiction and non fiction, and claims to own so many novels and reference books, her birthday present of a Kindle will hopefully save shelf space. She likes to visit places of historical interest such as Hatfield House, enjoys needlework and knitting, and her organic garden. While engaged in these activities she plans her novels. Tell us about your journey as a writer. I believe you suffered a hiccup, so how did you manage to keep faith in yourself? 

My path to publication began when I was in my late teens. In my early twenties, while living in Kenya, cut off from the ‘writing world’ I signed contracts with two publishing houses. Both of them reneged. Subsequently, I found out through the Society of Authors that the date of publications should be stated in the contract; otherwise a publisher can refrain from publishing the book indefinitely. Two countries and many years after this false start, my late husband encouraged me to write. Subsequently, I received many rejections, some impersonal, some negative and some which offered praise. My love of writing, determination and perseverance has led to three new releases this year.

I’m delighted to see that you weren’t put off entirely by this disappointment. How did you hear about the RNA, and how has the organisation been of benefit to you?

I joined various writers groups, and completed three parts of the Open College of The Arts writing course, which gave me credits I can use for The Open University. I subscribed to magazines and read books on How to Write. Through these activities I heard about the RNA and joined as the new writer’s scheme. Each reader’s report helped me to improve my submission and helped me to improve my writing skills.

Which particular period of history do you most like to write about and why?

It’s not so much a particular period of history as a period which resulted in change. TANGLED LOVE is set in Queen Anne’s reign when international trade accelerated and Marlborough won the War of Spanish Succession. I also have two new releases, set in the period of the Peninsular Wars and the Battle of Waterloo. You say you enjoy visiting old houses, what else is involved in your research? Looking at landscapes, reading about them, making notes and imagining what they looked like in times past. Reading extensively and asking questions such as: What did people eat? What did they wear? What were their religious beliefs? In other words, getting to know the background to my novels.

Can you tell us a little about your next book?
SUNDAY’S CHILD is set in the Regency era. While researching, I thought about modern soldiers suffering from and being treated for Post Traumatic Stress. When the future George 4th was Prince Regent how did men deal or not deal with it? (Tears came to my eyes when I read about a gently bred boy plagued so badly by fleas that he committed suicide.) Both the heroine, and the hero, an army officer, have their own personal demons to conquer before they come to terms with them.

And now to some lighter questions. If you could be something other than a writer, what would you choose to be?
I’m tone deaf, so I’d ask my fairy godmother to gift me with a delightful singing voice.

What would lure you from your writing den when in the heat of writing? 
A grandchild phoning me to ask: ‘Please may I come to your house right now.

Do you feel that life is a song or a lament? 
It is a ballad recounting happiness and distress.

What would represent a romantic gesture to you? 
 A soppy Valentine’s card and a bunch of red roses plus romantic gestures throughout the year.

Lastly, if you were fortunate enough to win a RONA who would you wish to thank? 
Too many people to name. My late husband and my children for their encouragement. RNA readers who commented on my submission, many authors who have offered kind advice, members of Watford Writers and members of the online critique groups who are very helpful.

That was fascinating Rosemary, thank your for sparing the time to talk to us today. 
For more information about Rosemary’s books, you can find her here:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Interview with Juliet Greenwood

We welcome Juliet Greenwood to the RNA Blog today. Juliet lives in a traditional Welsh cottage halfway between the romantic Isle of Anglesey and the beautiful mountains and ruined castles of Snowdonia. After studying English at Lancaster University and King’s College, London, Juliet worked in a variety of jobs, from running a craft stall at Covent Garden Market to teaching English. She began writing seriously ten years ago. Juliet’s first novel, ELISSA’S CASTLE, was published by Transita. 

Under her pen name Heather Pardoe, she has had six pocket novels published to date, and numerous short stories. Together with Jean Fullerton she is chair for the RNA London and SE Chapter. What made you want to write, Juliet, and how did you get your first break?

I began writing seriously about ten years ago, after a severe viral illness in my mid-thirties had left me with debilitating ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for years. M.E was the worst, and the best thing that ever happened to me -although I could see nothing positive at the time. One the one hand, it sent me from being able to walk up mountains with ease to struggling to do the simplest of everyday tasks for more than a few minutes at a time. At my worst I could barely walk and my brain was a foggy haze. But on the other hand, this forced me to re-evaluate my life and my priorities. When you are only able to think clearly and do any physical activity for half an hour a day, it doesn’t half concentrate the mind!

I’d always been lost in a book, and the only thing I’d ever really wanted to do was write, but although I’d tried in my twenties – when I was far too young and self-absorbed to have anything to say – I’d allowed a sensible career to take over. So with nothing to lose, as soon as I began to recover I found a part-time job I could cope with, and slowly began to work on my writing.

As I worked, I found my brain starting to clear, so learning my craft also became part of the healing process. I started with competitions, and a few of my short stories were short-listed, which was a huge morale boost. But my real breakthrough came when a friend told me about the RNA and the New Writers’ Scheme. I only had the chance to have one novel go through the scheme, as my first pocket novel was accepted that same year, but I learnt an incredible amount from my reader. And it was through the RNA that I first heard about Transita.

What a heart-lifting story, Juliet. Some writers need silence, others prefer the bustle of a coffee shop, TV, or music playing. What is your favourite mode of working?

I find I need absolute silence. I live in a traditional Welsh cottage, so the only upstairs room is a tiny ‘crog loft’, which would once have been reached by a ladder. This is my writing room. It means I can return to my work exactly as I left it, which is great for getting yourself back into the scene. And I can shut the door and leave it behind at the end of the day.

From my desk I have views over the garden and some spectacular sunsets over Anglesey in the distance. I work on a Mac, which I love, and I mostly write straight onto the computer. When I’m working on a first draft I try not to look back or to edit, but concentrate on getting the bare bones of the book down. I prefer to edit when I can stand back a bit and see the story a bit more objectively. And see where it’s taking me.

You say you took a part time job. Do you still have to juggle writing with that? What is your work schedule? 

I work two days a week for a small community enterprise called ‘Tape Community Music and Film’ that creates films and music with people who’ve had problems with drugs and alcohol. The main part of my job is filling in funding applications. Although I do also get to do some oral history work, which is great for research. My employers are amazingly supportive and flexible. Most of the time it works really well, although there are occasions when deadlines clash, and then I just want to stick my head in a bucket of ice. I’d love to be a full-time writer – but then I wouldn’t be working on a history project within the romantic medieval castle and walled town of Conwy, with who knows what stories waiting to be uncovered as inspiration for my next book.

Describe how you begin when you start a new novel.

I usually find the idea for the next novel begins to appear when I’m about halfway through the current one. Writers are like magpies – we’re always collecting shiny possibilities wherever we might find them! Then it brews away quietly in the back of my mind for a while. I find it really hard to let go of the last book and begin to get to know my new characters. It always feels so demoralising to start at the beginning of the process once more, wondering if I can ever do it again. I tend to stomp around for a few weeks blitzing the house and the garden, while scribbling notes every now and again. Then I start with the first chapter and just write. I usually throw that chapter away, but I find it a really important process in getting to know my characters- and meet those unexpected ones who just pop up from nowhere and take the story in quite a different direction.

Tell us about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.
My latest book, EDEN’S GARDEN, is a time slip, with the story weaving between the present day Cornwall and Snowdonia and late Victorian London. At the centre is Plas Eden, a dilapidated mansion with a collection of half-forgotten statues in its overgrown garden. The setting was inspired by Brondanw Gardens, in southern Snowdonia, home of Clough Williams Ellis who created the famous Italianate village of Portmeirion. This is a picture of Juliet enjoying some quiet reflection in the gardens.

The story was originally inspired by the Celtic myth of Blodeuwedd, a woman created out of flowers by a magician for a man cursed to never have a human wife. Blodeuwedd is beautiful. Perfect. Until she falls in love on her own account and is punished by being turned into an ugly owl to live her life hated and despised. It seemed to symbolise the way women are still only valued when we are young and eager to please, and disregarded as we grow older and begin to know our own minds. As a woman, I began to wonder if, for Blodeuwedd, being turned into the owl was the beginning rather than the end of the story. That maybe this was the moment she began to gain experience: to learn about loss and struggle and empathy with others, and all the things that make us truly human.

Now for some lighter questions: Does your dog or cat help with the writing? 
My dog is my essential sidekick for my writing. Because I’ve had ME, I need to keep fit – and being a cross between a collie and a spaniel, with a need for long walks come rain or shine, Phoebe certainly does that! There’s many a plot twist been found halfway up a muddy hillside. My cat sits on my lap and helps with the typing. She thinks she comes up with all the best ideas. I don’t argue as she’s very comforting to cuddle when I’ve been writing a really sad bit.

Are you into family history? Have you discovered any villains among your ancestors?
I love family history. My mother’s side of the family - the Pardoes who gave me my pen name - were nail makers from Lye Waste, at the heart of the industrial Black Country. No floating about in silks and fainting for my foremothers.

Who is your favourite hero?
Arthur Clennam, in Little Dorrit. I’ve always liked the way that he is older and more battered by life than many heroes, and is a true gentle soul without being prissy about it.

Finally, what is the mantra that helps you maintain faith in yourself?
That you create your own luck. I feel that the more you keep going and learning and getting your work out there, the more chances you give yourself to be in that right place with the right book.

Please share with us your favourite recipe. 
This is my mother’s chocolate cake recipe, which she taught me to make when I was a little girl. It’s the one I always make now, and it never fails.
I also make a vegan version by substituting vegan margarine for the butter, and two mashed bananas for the eggs. And using vegan chocolate, of course.

8oz/225g sugar
8 oz/225g butter
6oz/180g flour
2oz/55g cocoa powder
3 eggs

2oz/55g butter
2 Tablespoons Cocoa,
Icing sugar

One large bar dark chocolate (200gr)

Cream sugar and butter together until smooth. Slowly beat in eggs, one at a time. Add flour and cocoa powder. Spoon into a greased 7inch/ 18cm tin and bake in the middle of the oven at 180 degrees (160 for fan assisted)/ Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Allow to cool and slice in half. Cream together butter, cocoa and icing sugar to form the filling and spread on lower part of cake. Replace top half. Melt the bar of chocolate slowly in a bowl over a pan of water. Smooth over the cake and allow to set. For added luxury, 4 chopped pieces of preserved ginger, or the grated rind of an orange, can be added with the flour. Ginger is especially good for cold winter days!

Sounds delicious! I do hope it is calorie free. Thank you for talking with us today Juliet. I wish you every success and oodles of good health in the future.
To learn more about Juliet, you will find her here:

Eden’s Garden 
Honno Press 

Carys agrees, with mixed feelings, to look after her mother after a fall. Once home she is haunted by old memories of a childhood sweetheart. How will she feel when they meet again? 1895 - Ann , destitute, stands on London bridge. She remembers her last visit to London, a spoilt aristocratic bride, sure of the power of her youth and beauty. Now the river seems like her only option...A powerful tale of two women struggling with love, family duty, long-buried secrets and their own creative ambitions. Can Carys follow the clues left by Ann and find her true path?

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The RNA RoNAs...the pics

Here are the pictures snapped at the RoNAs on Monday was fabulous and glamorous. Extra photos provided by Kate hardy and Christina Courtenay....apologies that all the photos aren't labeled but blogger was playing up....

The winners were...

Katie Fforde SUMMER OF LOVE - Contemporary Romantic Novel
Rosie Thomas KAShMIR SHAWL - Epic Romantic Novel
Christina Courtenay HIGHLAND STORMS - Historic Romantic Novel
Jane Lovering DON'T STOP THE MUSIC - Romantic Comedy Novel
Caroline Green  DARK RIDE Young Adult Romantic Novel
Karin Stoecker received the RNA's Lifetime Acheivement Award for her innovation, commitment and contribution to romance publishing.

Anne Ashurst

Liz Fenwick and Jill Mansell

agent Shelia Crowley and Freya North

Katie Fforde

Rosie Thomas
Liz Fielding

Peter James

Rebecca Leith, Christina Courtenay and Sue Moorcroft

Julie Cohen and Jean Fullerton

Fiona Harper and Kate Hardy
Kate hardy and Lizzie Lamb
agent Carole Blake and Liz Fenwick

Jan Jone and Jill Mansell

Tamsyn Murray

Anne Ashurst and Peter James

Sarah Mallory

Sarah Mallory

agent Broo Doherty

Jenny Barden's shoes

Liz Fenwick's shoes

Liz Fielding and Julie Cohen

Julie Cohen and Judy Astley
Kate Johnson's shoes

Christina Courtenay's boots

Liz Fenwick and Carole Matthews
Jane Lovering

Julie Cohen and editor Cat Cobain

Liz harris, Henri Gyland and agent Carole Blake

In the bar

Rebecca Leith's shoes