Friday, August 23, 2013

Interview with Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax lives next door to Brontë country in Yorkshire. She has a half-crazed rescue dog and together they tramp the moors every day - one of them chasing story ideas, the other chasing pheasants. 

Welcome to the blog, Helena. We’d love to know how getting published has changed your life? 

I’ve made some real friendships all over the world. I didn’t expect this at all. It’s absolutely the best thing that’s happened to me since being published.

If you could pick up your house and move it, where would you relocate it? 

Well, I like where I live, near Saltaire, which is a preserved mill town. The weather’s not so good here on the edge of the moors, though, so in winter I’d go to the south of France, where I’d spend Christmas drinking red wine and eating gateau des rois.

What is your favourite guilty pleasure? 

Drinking red wine…but to be honest, I don’t feel that guilty about it .

If you could star in a movie, who would you choose as your male lead? 

If I could time travel, Paul Newman

Which authors do you choose to read for pleasure? 

I’m a total bookslut. Anything. I’ve just read a brilliant book by 1930s author Angela Thirkell, and I’m about to start Richard House’s multimedia thriller The Kills.

One rainy day in London, Wyoming man Kurt Bold walks into an antique shop off the King’s Road and straight into the dreams of its owner, Penny Rosas. Kurt seems every inch the romantic cowboy hero…but he soon brings Penny down to earth with a thump. His job is in the City, in the logical world of finance—and as far as Kurt is concerned, romance is just for dreamers. 

Events in his childhood have shown him just how destructive love can be. Now he’s looking for a wife, right enough, but what he wants is a marriage based on logic and rational decisions. Kurt treats Penny like he would his kid sister, but when he hires her to refurbish his Victorian house, it’s not long before he starts to realise it’s not just his home she’s breathing life into. The logical heart he has guarded so carefully all these years is opening up to new emotions, in a most disturbing way… 


Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today Helena. We wish you continuing success with your books. 
Best wishes, Freda 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members only. If you are interested in an interview, please contact: 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interview with Robert Fanshaw

Robert Fanshaw is a barrister specialising in commercial law. He started a blog when his wife Caroline was away on business trips and it became the on-going story of the dilemma faced by many working couples today - how to balance the competing demands of work, marriage, and supporting a football team. 

Shameless Ambition is, I believe, your debut novel. Do tell us what made you want to write, and how you got your first break?

Writing is an essential part of my job; the side that wins is the one that tells the most convincing story. When Caroline started telling me about the people she met in Frankfurt, I realised I would need a fictional vehicle because no one would believe it. Shameless Ambition was much more fun to write than my case file notes. It was not meant to be published; it was insurance that Melody Bigger would not blacken my wife’s reputation. I looked for a publisher when Melody went public, to put Caroline’s side of the story.

What do you think was the special ingredient which caused it to be picked up? 

I think it is the fascination we have with watching other people make small mistakes that lead them into big trouble. Women readers say they feel a connection with Caroline’s flawed decision making. It’s full of action, and, despite the terrible behaviour of businesspeople, bankers, and politicians, humorous. It’s also rather sexy in places, so ideal material for an e-reader.

As a busy lawyer how do you manage to find time to write? Tell us about your work schedule. 

I think being a barrister is like being in the army. Nothing happens for long periods of time then all hell is let loose. The idea is to keep things from reaching court, but I’m delighted when they do because so much time is wasted and I can tap away in the room provided for counsel, apparently hard at work. I also have an e-Agent, Ajay, who does editing and promotion for me. That’s his picture – I prefer to remain in the background.

The pseudonym you use is also the character of the book, what gave you the idea to use that method?

It does get a little complicated. I use a pseudonym because my colleagues already call me ‘that lazy b******’. And I changed most of the names in the book because I don’t want to attract more work for the legal profession. But Caroline is really called Caroline; I can’t think of her by any other name. And I meant to change Antonia Anderson’s name but the ‘find and replace’ missed her nickname, Toni, and her real name went back in on the final edit. I blame Ajay.

How much do you plan before you start, or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I write a book like I prepare a case. I collect all the evidence – phone calls, emails, video clips – and conduct interviews with the major protagonists if possible. I cross-examined Caroline forensically, but had to use my imagination in the places where she refused to go into details.

How did you hear about the RNA, and has it benefited your career? 

I heard about the RNA from my publisher, Steam eReads, who have been fantastically supportive. Since my book was published, I have learnt something new every day, and am looking forward to absorbing more from the incredible talent and experience contained within the Association. Like some other writers I know, I want every book to be better.

High-flying executive Caroline and barrister Robert have been married for three years, and the demands of work have left little time for their relationship. Caroline is angling for a promotion, which will mean spending more time away in Germany. On a management development course in Spain, Caroline is tempted into indiscretions with some of her colleagues, a fact that is noticed by course leader and former chief executive Melody Bigger. 

As Caroline is drawn into a seedy world of private parties for bankers and politicians, she soon realises she has damaged her reputation and her marriage. How will she ever be able to face her colleagues and her husband again?


Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA members only. If you are interested in an interview, please contact:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Interview with Tracy Bloom

Tracy Bloom started writing when she moved temporarily to the USA with her husband's job. She enrolled in an evening class and began work on her romantic comedy, NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY, writing mostly during her son's afternoon nap. She acquired an agent who secured several foreign rights deals but never managed to get a deal with UK publisher. 

Back in England Tracy decided the time was right to self-publish and her novel was released on Amazon in April 2013. During June it was the #1 Best Selling e-book for three weeks gaining over a thousand reviews. Tracy has since released her second book, SINGLE WOMAN SEEKS REVENGE, which so far has achieved the #2 ranking. 

Welcome to the RNA Blog Tracy. How frustrating to be published elsewhere but not in your home country. Would you say you always wanted to be a writer, or did it happen by chance? 

It was never a dream as a child. I grew up a farmer’s daughter and encouraged to be much more practical about career aspirations! As an adult however I think it was always at the back of my mind but until someone asked me when I was in my early thirties what I would do if I could do anything, I’d never articulated it. That was a turning point. It was out there. I’d said it out loud so suddenly I did have a dream and eventually I beat a path to realizing it.

In what way has your childhood influenced what you write? 

I grew up on a farm and that very much influenced me towards writing humour. Farmers are the most witty, sharp mickey takers I know. Being surrounded by that on a daily basis as a child I soon learnt the only way to get any attention was to be funny. The other thing I would like to say is that living on a farm my parents were always too busy to read to us and yet I grew up to love books and became a writer. I say this because I think parents today are put under incredible pressure to provide every opportunity for their kids and made to think they will ruin their lives if they are not the “perfect parent”. My parents taught me many things that helped me achieve my dream such as a good work ethic, tenacity and honesty. They let me discover books for myself.

Do you have a critique partner, or share your work with anyone before you submit to an editor?

My husband is usually my first reader but I brief him very carefully on what type of feedback I’m after before he starts obsessing over commas. I also know him well enough to know when he’s talking utter rubbish! I do write from a male and female point of view so he’s great when I need to know how a man would talk about football for example. The words and phrases can be very specific I have discovered.

Which temptation do you find the hardest to resist?

Food. Any food pretty much. Washed down with a nice glass of wine wherever possible and maybe some nice stilton and port to follow and then you clearly would need something sweet and chocolatey….see what I mean…..

What is the most embarrassing fashion item you ever wore?

I was an 80’s teenager so my wardrobe was one big embarrassment. I wore lace wrapped around my head during my Madonna phase complimented by white stilettoes and a fake gem encrusted white belt…nice!

Do you talk to your plants?

Plants don’t talk to me. I’ve tried but they have no interest in me whatsoever, preferring to whither and die. I can kill a cactus, and indeed have!

What do you do when you find your love-life in ruins? Get revenge on every man who ever broke your heart of course.... 

Suzie Miller, a disillusioned agony aunt, can't believe she's got dumped from a great height yet again so she decides it's about time she made all her exes feel the pain she felt when they carelessly cast her aside. Her methods are unusual but humiliation on a grand scale is no less than they deserve. Euphoric that she's finally stood up for herself she starts suggesting outrageous ways for her readers to deal with their relationship nightmares too. 

Suddenly everyone wants Suzie's advice. Finally content with being single and enjoying her blossoming career it seems as though happiness is within her grasp. That is until a man gets in the way.

Twitter: @TracyBBloom 

Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today Tracy. We wish you continuing success with your books.

Best wishes, Freda 
Interviews on the RNA Blog are carried out by Freda, Henri and Livvie. They are for RNA full members only. If you are interested in an interview, please contact: 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Interview with Livvie Thomas

Today we welcome Livvie Thomas to the blog. Livvie says she has grown-up children, a less grown-up husband ;) and a Westie. She works at a Gynae hospital, loves reading, writing, (but not ‘rithmetic). She lives on the south coast but is quite obsessed with Ireland, has travelled extensively without setting foot on a plane. Oh, and she has a passion for Kelly’s ice-cream. 

I can echo that addiction, Livvie, having once lived in Cornwall, now what would you look for in a romantic hero? 

Physically, I do love blue eyes and nice hair – preferably dark, but sun-bleached blond is a good alternative. Muscles aren’t especially important. A hero is often more attractive if he’s vulnerable, and even a tad damaged, as long as he’s kind, honest, has a sense of humour, and can demonstrate that he cares.

What do you find the most fun part in writing? 

When I write with a partner, I enjoy the fact that I get to read huge chunks of my own novel without prior knowledge. My own writing is a doorway to another world – one where I rule, and can create people, places and events. I can ‘live’ something I always wanted for myself and never had. (If I ever write about vampires or zombies, strike that last remark).

Which of your possessions do you prize more than any other?

As I can’t really call my family possessions, I presume we’re talking material things. I love my laptop, but if I had to rescue something from a fire, it would be my children’s photographs. Although I suppose my dog is a possession, in which case it would be her.

What makes your hackles rise the most? 

I hate injustice of any kind. So much so that I find it hard to watch movies, or read books, where someone is being blamed for something they haven’t done. Reading “The Help” made me really angry and so frustrated at what was tolerated not that long ago. And I hate all kinds of cruelty or blood sports.

On a lighter note, I get really frustrated by supermarket items being placed behind the wrong price tickets. I’m very cynical and wonder if it’s always accidental. It’s very easy to say it’s a mistake, or blame other customers! They must make a fortune that way.

Are you a tidy person or prefer to live in chaos? 

I have a very tidy mind, but my body doesn’t seem to keep up. I can’t bear things being in a muddle, but always seem to be.

Which song moves you to tears?

I have cried at quite a few songs but usually because of memories I associate with them, and not the actual lyrics. I do remember crying buckets at Two Little Boys though! The most recent song to actually make me cry is probably “I’ll See You Again”, by Westlife. I’ve also had a few tears at the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, which is so moving. (I’m not exactly high-brow, but I do watch a lot of commercials.)

Different worlds collide when young Irish Traveller Luke is thrust into the alien world of affluent village life after the death of his mother. Lives are changed forever and a family torn apart when Luke’s arrival uncovers the lies and deceit of the past. 

Published by ChocLit

Beneath an Irish Sky, was co-written by two people, Liv Thomas and Valerie Olteanu, who have never met and live on different continents.

Available from Amazon
Twitter as @Livbet 
Facebook Author page 

Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us today Livvie. We wish you every success. 
Best wishes, Freda 

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

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice

This year sees the bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice, probably the most famous and well-loved romantic novel of all time.

I remember the first time I read it at the age of thirteen. To begin with, I was convinced that poor but charming Mr Wickham was the hero. But just when I was sure he would somehow inherit a fortune and marry Lizzy, there was a brilliant twist in the plot and Jane Austen revealed that Mr Darcy was the hero and Mr Wickham the villain. Elizabeth was mortified at her mistake, but the estrangement between her and Darcy was complete. Yet despite all the problems, Jane Austen managed to bring them together again in a completely convincing and satisfying manner.

The book is so well loved it’s no wonder it has spawned many adaptations. Notable screen versions are the 1940 film with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson; the 1980 BBC miniseries with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul; the iconic 1995 BBC miniseries, which cast Colin Firth in the role of Mr Darcy and immortalised him the minute he stepped out of the lake in a wet shirt; and the romantic Joe Wright film with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.

It has also inspired numerous novels, known usually as Austenesque fiction. My first Austenesque novel was Mr Darcy's Diary , which looks at Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Mr Darcy. (The UK kindle edition is known as Darcy's Diary). I adored writing the book and readers took it to their hearts.

Other notable Austenesque novels by RNA members are A Weekend With Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly, a contemporary novel about a lecturer who finds love at a Jane Austen conference; Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe, a Regency romp about the youngest Bennet daughter; The Other Mr Darcy by Monica Fairview, matching Mr Darcy’s American cousin with the infamous Miss Bingley; and Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley by Fenella Miller, which explores Jane Bennet’s love for Mr Bingley.

Visitor attractions such as the Jane Austen Centre in Bath carry a wonderful range of gifts for the discerning fan; Lyme Park (the location used for Pemberley in the Colin Firth miniseries) has a wide array of Austenesque gifts and the Jane Austen House Museum attracts visitors from around the globe; showing that, two hundred years after it was first published, Pride and Prejudice is still as popular as ever.

I sometimes wonder what Jane Austen would make of it all, if she could see how her book has woven its way into our hearts and our culture. And I also wonder what the next two hundred years will bring. Whatever new media are invented, I’m sure Pride and Prejudice will be at the forefront, inspiring passionate devotion in its audiences as it does today. Maybe some future member of the RNA will be writing a blog post (or twenty-third century equivalent) about the enduring appeal of Pride and Prejudice in another two hundred years’ time!

Amanda Grange