Friday, March 28, 2014

FOCUS ON: Carmarthenshire Chapter

Today we welcome Sandra Mackness to tell us the latest news from the Carmarthenshire Chapter.

Welcome, Sandra.

The Carmarthenshire chapter was first founded by Liz Fielding but over the years, most of the original members, including Liz, have moved away or no longer belong to the RNA. That left Christine Stovell, Rachael Thomas and me.
In December 2012 we got together with members living in the Vale of Glamorgan and that meeting was attended by Jean Fullerton. 

We have decided to meet again in Cardiff on Tuesday 29th April. This will be an opportunity to look back at how we’ve all progressed since our last Cardiff meeting and I know from experience how generous and supportive the published members are towards those still working towards publication. Liz Fielding is hoping to cross the border from England to Wales and there should be around six to eight of us.

I’d like to take this opportunity and say, if you live within easy distance of Cardiff, we’d love it if you came along too. We will confirm venue and time at a later date but I think a 12.00 to 3.00 pm session is best, as three of us are bound by train connection times.
Cardiff has an awesome castle and museum plus a great shopping centre, all within walking distance of the bus and train stations so you could combine research with lunch and writerly discussion. 

My email address is if you’d like to join us on this occasion or be kept informed of further meetings.

Thank you, Sandra, we hope you have a lovely time at your get together. 

Brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. If you wish your Chapter of the RNA to be featured or you have a book due for release please contact us on:


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pippa Croft on New Adult Fiction

In May 2013, I was lucky enough to sign a three book deal with Penguin Books for a series of sexy ‘New Adult’ romances set at Oxford University. Although the process has thrown up some big challenges, I also think it’s revitalised my writing career and made me far more willing to experiment in future.
New Adult is a genre that focuses on the relationships and lives of young people who are over 18 but just starting out on adult life. They may be students or new to a career but definitely with their adult lives ahead of them. The books often contain gritty themes – they’re definitely not sex and shopping books.  Concerns about parents, siblings and friends, difficult childhoods, uncertainty about the future – all figure, just like in real life. There is also a lot of sex (hurrah.)
The Oxford Blue series tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between Alexander Hunt, an aristocratic British army officer who is studying a Master’s at the fictional Wyckham College, and Lauren Cusack, an American Senator’s daughter doing her Master’s in Art History. While the setting– an Oxbridge college – is very familiar to me, almost every other aspect of the series has been as much of an adventure for me as my characters!

At 21 and 25, Lauren and Alexander are the youngest hero and heroine I’ve ever featured and the novels are the first I’ve ever written in the first person, present. So, I’m now getting inside the head of a character (Lauren) who’s younger than my own daughter. This hasn’t been as difficult as it might seem because I used to write for Little Black Dress books which were aimed at a similar age group to this series.
While NA mainly focuses on the lives of young adults, the readership is much broader because we can all empathise with the joy and pain, and insecurities of early adulthood. I’ve already had a touching comment from a reader in her sixties who said she felt very emotional reading the book because it reminded her of the intense days when she first met her husband.
My daughter and her friends have also been a huge inspiration to me. I’m not suggesting you couldn’t write a series of this type without children of a similar age but the insight and feedback flying between my daughter and me has been invaluable.
Almost by definition, NA books tend to be very sexy, ranging from merely hot to erotic. This aspect was familiar ground to me because all my books have been very sexy.  However... it did take some getting used to writing sex scenes in the first person. There’s no POV ‘safety net’ between you and the character  and it can feel odd to describe lovemaking as it happens (but also a lot of fun.)
Combine the first person POV, the present tense and the young characters and you have an added intensity to the emotions and action. I recently had to go back and edit one of my other 3rd person novels, and the difference was noticeable.  Many people have also said that the new series has a faster pace than my other books, which I also think may be due in part to the POV. I’m never going to be a New Adult but I feel rejuvenated as a writer and I’d definitely do it all over again!

Pippa Croft also writes as Phillipa Ashley.
Follow her on twitter @PippaCroftBooks or visit her page on Facebook. 
Link to Amazon: The First Time We Met

Thank you, Pippa, for joining us today.

Brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article.

Friday, March 21, 2014


Jill Steeples lives in a small market town in Bedfordshire with her husband and two children. She writes short stories for the women’s magazines and romantic comedy novels for Carina UK.  When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, baking cakes, eating them and drinking wine.

Bride-to-be Anna is devastated when she discovers her fiancé, Ed, has been having an affair. Hurt and confused, Anna flees to the seaside in need of some serious soul searching, but should she still go ahead with her wedding or should she just call the whole thing off?

What gave you the idea for your book and how long did it take to write?

I’m fascinated by the idea of temptation and where it can lead you.  I wondered what might happen if you stumbled across your best friend’s diary.  Would you really be able to resist taking a sneaky peek?  And if you did take a little peek, what might happen if you discovered something you really didn’t want to know?  This novel took me four months to write.

How did you find your publisher?

I saw a call for submissions from Carina just as they were setting up.  I was intrigued, knowing they were part of Harlequin, about their new digital imprint and hoped my novel might be a good fit for their line.  I quickly sent off my full manuscript and couldn’t believe it when I received an email some weeks later saying they’d like to call me to discuss my manuscript.  It really was a dream come true.

This is your second book for Carina. How did the process differ from your first book?

The big difference was that I had a deadline to work to which focussed my mind somewhat!  My first novel was written over the course of a year and went through the RNA NWS scheme so I was able to make several changes to it before submitting to publishers.  Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off was written to a much shorter timescale and I’d barely written ‘The End’ before it was sitting in my editor’s inbox.

What is next in your writing life?

I’m delighted to have a further two book contract with Carina UK so I’m currently drafting my third novel which has a working title of My Perfect Boyfriend.  It’s a romantic comedy which I hope will be published later this year.

Website: http://

Thank you, Jill, for joining us today.

Compiled by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Liam Livings: Men and the RNA

Today, we are delighted to welcome new member, Liam Livings. Liam agreed to answer our questions about being a male member of the RNA and what he thinks of the association.

Are male writers welcome within the RNA?

I’ve found two other male members of the RNA: Bill Spence, writing as Jessica Blair, has 23 novels to her name, is more regularly borrowed from UK libraries than King or Le Carre, and was shortlisted for an award at the RoNAs on 17th March. Andrew Shephard, who uses the pen name Robert Fanshaw, said, ‘The RNA is a useful source of information and contacts. I went to the conference in the summer and met loads of fantastic, experienced writers who made me feel very welcome. A man attending the Conference is in a small minority, but a shared interest counts for more than a shared gender.’

I’ve always worked in mainly female workplaces: nursing homes, hospitals, so am well used to being outnumbered by women. I’ve been to five or six RNA London chapter meetings, and every time, being the only man hasn’t really been an issue.

I was welcomed very warmly into the RNA. At the first meeting, one of the women said they used to have a man coming to the London Chapter meetings, ‘but never a gay man, although we did have a gay women once before, if that’s the correct term.’ Some people may have come over all how very dare you at that, but I’ve received enough genuinely hurtful comments to recognise a benign one when I hear it. Another author, during a conversation about Nanowrimo, said that of course I didn’t mind being the only man there did I because I liked the attention? I agreed, and she nodded knowingly with a wink, and we continued our conversation about to plan or not to plan, and how I’d written so much during Nanowrimo. Conversations like that are what going to writers groups are about, not one's sexual persuasion. 

Can men write romance?
I write a niche genre within romance: male/male fiction. Within that niche, as a male, I am a minority. I’m often asked how that makes me feel, being a minority in a genre about gay men, of which I am one. Good writing is good writing, and bad writing is bad writing, whichever gender you are.

I’ve read some awful schlocky romance by both genders. And some marvellous romance by both genders too: men can write romance just like women can write crime/horror.

I’ve also read some great male/male romance by both sexes, as well as some dire male/male romance by gay men and straight women.

It’s about how that writer tells the story, and whether their voice appeals. There are some writers who could write about taking their mum to buy a new fridge, and I know I’d be enchanted by the story and voice. There are others who, despite filling four hundred pages, failed to actually tell me the story, or make me smile, cry or laugh. That skill isn’t determined by gender. More women write romance than men. There are more female midwives than male, by 99 to 1, but it doesn’t mean the male midwives are any worse at midwifery than their female counterparts. 

How have you found the RNA since becoming a member?
I’ve found the newsletters informative, and am looking forward to the RNA conference in summer. I’ve read Robert Fanshaw’s blog about his experience as a man at that conference in 2013, and am looking forward to joining his small minority of men in 2014.

I believe writers need other writers and the RNA does a great job at connecting them, in real, face to face life. I’m all for social media, but there’s something wonderful and human about making connections in real life. And that’s why I come back to the meetings.

Twitter:         @LiamLivings

Thank you, Liam. We hope you enjoy your first conference.

Complied by Elaine and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Suzanne at her Peak

Zanna Mackenzie lives on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with her husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

When Faith meets Zane she enjoys his company even though she can’t help wondering why he’s so reluctant to talk about himself.
Then the past comes back to haunt her in the shape of Zane’s business partner Matt, the guy who broke Faith’s heart years ago.

What name do you write as? If it is not your given name why did you change? If it is would you ever write under another name?

I write under the pen name of Zanna Mackenzie. My real name is Suzanne Farmer and I thought that sounded a bit boring so I wanted to change it to something with a more lyrical feel to it!! My mum called me Zanna when I was little so I went with that as my alternative first name and chose Mackenzie as my surname because my husband and I used to live near Edinburgh and I always fancied being Scottish!

What gave you the idea for your book and how long did it take to write?

I love setting my books in my favourite UK locations and have written books set in the Scottish Highlands,North Yorkshire, the Lake District and now, in my latest book, If Only You Knew

Once I had the ‘where’ and the key settings of the cafĂ© and the extreme sports centre, the characters and ideas just popped into my head. The original outline plot idea and the eventual plot share some similarities but there were a lot of changes along the way!

The first draft probably took about four or five months. Then I read it through away from the computer and filled an A4 notebook with comments about what needed to be changed, what bits needed extra information, which aspects of the characters needed fleshing out etc. I spent another few months working all these edits into the manuscript. Altogether it probably took about 8 months, though not working full time on it.

Do you plan your novels? If you do how long will this take?

I start off with a setting, a plot, listing the key plot points and where they occur in the story, and have detailed biogs for the characters. Then I start writing and inevitably things take on a mind of their own and the plot deviates and characters start behaving how they want to! I remember in one book a man who should have been a minor character suddenly started getting ideas above his station and decided he wanted to compete with the ‘hero’ for the attentions of the lead female. I decided to let him try his luck and see if he won her heart or not!

If you would write a book in another genre what would you choose?

Funny you should say that... I’m in the middle of writing my first romantic suspense at the moment. As a child I was a tomboy and loved racing around playing with guns so I’m thoroughly enjoying writing a feisty female lead for the book who can be just as tough as the guy she finds herself working with to solve the mystery.

What’s next in your writing life?

I’m a little torn in a way. I have the aforementioned romantic suspense novella to finish but I also have three incomplete WIPs in the contemporary romance genre. I really need to pick one project and focus on it!

If Only You Knew : Available in paperback/ebook on Amazon UK

Suzanne's Blog:

Thank you, Suzanne

Complied by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.

Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FOCUS ON: Chelmsford Chapter

This month we feature the RNA Chapter from Chelmsford. We spoke to Sheila Norton about the band of members who meet in Essex.

Welcome Sheila, tell us a little about your Chapter.

We meet once a month at The Saracen Hotel in Chelmsford. There are as few as five or as many as eighteen and we have been meeting since 2008.

When do you meet?
We are a luncheon club and meet from midday and are generally finished by three. We don’t have speaker events but meet to discuss our writing, socialise and support each other.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes, anyone is welcome.

What do you have planned for 2014?
We’ve just had our Retreat Day which was very successful. Apart from that we will have more lunch meetings.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special? 
We are basically good friends, who understand each other’s concerns, celebrate each other’s good news and commiserate with the bad.

Who is the contact for new members?
Currently myself:

Tell us more about your recent Retreat Day.
Firstly, on behalf of the Chelmsford Chapter, I would like to thank the RNA committee for the £100 grant which enabled us to hold a really successful and enjoyable Retreat Day on Thursday 13th February.
Our grant was used to hire a conference room at The Saracen Hotel in Chelmsford. Fifteen of us got together there for a day of intense writing-related activity. The morning was devoted to a Q & A session, chaired by Jean Fullerton. Questions about any aspect of writing had been sent to Jean in advance, so that she could compile a list to work through, with questions being put in the first instance to those present who were most likely to have some useful response, and then thrown open to discussion amongst us all.  This led to some really interesting and useful discussions and took us right through to the break for our superb buffet lunch (the cost of which we had shared between us).

After lunch we had a few more questions, followed by a discussion about books we had recently read. We then moved on to a Flash Fiction game devised by Fenella Miller, which resulted in some hilarious pieces of short writing and certainly lightened the tone! We finished at 3.30pm and all who attended have agreed the day was such a success, we’d love to do something like it again sometime.

Prior to the event I contacted the Essex Chronicle, who duly featured a piece about our day, in the paper, together with a picture of some of us taken outside the Saracen Hotel the previous week, holding copies of our books

Thank you, Sheila.

Brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.

If you wish to have your Chapter featured here please contact the blog team on

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lucy Felthouse - Red Hot!

Today Lucy Felthouse gives us her take on stately homes

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres, lengths and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several ‘Best’ anthologies from Cleis Press.

In Stately Pleasures Alice Brown is the new temporary property manager at Davenport Manor. Unfortunately, she screws up and is given a shocking ultimatum by her boss. Stunned, she goes along with it, but when the dust settles she realises there are worse things she could be doing to advance her career.

What gave you the idea for your book and how long did it take to write?

I’ve been utterly fascinated by stately homes for years. For me, visiting them is like being in a different world – imagining how people lived when the building was first inhabited, wondering how current residents live. It’s something that’s always sparked my imagination. The longer I’ve been writing erotic romance, the more I seem to see naughty potential in seemingly innocent objects and places. So putting together a stately home and my imagination produced a very naughty book! It’s the first novel I wrote, so it took a while as I had to conquer the learning curve, but I think it took about five or six months, which I don’t think is too bad for a first-timer!

When promoting your books do you prefer radio interviews or blogging - and why?

Because of what I write, I find that the promotional opportunities are different than for mainstream authors. I can’t imagine my local newspaper or radio station would be comfortable covering what I write. I have been on radio once, which was a rather nerve-wracking experience, so I’d definitely go for blogging. I can write and re-write a blog until I’m happy with it, but if I’m on live radio, there’s so much potential to screw up.

How did you carry out your research?
I visited lots and lots of stately homes and gardens, looking at them with the express purpose of figuring out where and how my characters could get up to their shenanigans. The rest, I’m sad to say, is total and utter fabrication.

What is next in your writing life?
I never stop. I’ve always got something on the go. Though I want to write more novels, I also still like to write short stories and novellas, so I’ve always got more than one WIP on the go. I also have my second solo novel (I co-authored a sports romance) sitting on my computer ready for me to go through and edit it before sending it to a couple of beta readers. It’s pretty long, so it’ll take a while, but I adored writing the book and just hope it gets published and that people like it! In the meantime, I have short stories and novellas scheduled to release in coming months.

Lucy's website.

Stately Pleasures
Thank you, Lucy, for joining us today.

Compiled by Natalie and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas
Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Today we are chatting to hard working committee member, Tracy Hartshorn about our annual Summer Party that is an important date on the calendar of The Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Welcome to the blog, Tracy. Sorry for so many questions but we thought our newer members would like to know as much as possible about the Summer Party.

Where is the party to be held this year?
The Summer Party this year will be held at the Royal Overseas League, which is on Park Place, off St James’s Street, London on May 22nd. It’s a lovely venue, with a huge room perfect for networking.

What is your job as part of the team?
My role is to make sure everyone gets their tickets in good time for the event, and I’ll also be on the door on the night, welcoming everyone in. My friend and fellow committee member, Pamela Fudge, will be helping me this year.

Can members bring along family and friends?
Oh absolutely! It costs a little more for non-members (£39) but they are very welcome. And you don’t have to be with a member to attend. If you’ve ever wondered what we do at the RNA, and are considering joining us, you’re welcome to come along and meet us. We’re a nice, friendly lot and we don’t bite!

For anyone contemplating attending for the first time what can they expect?
It’s an informal affair with drinks and nibbles, where everyone, writers, editors, agents and other industry professionals, network and chat with each other.

Are there any speeches or special events during the party?
Generally the Chair will say a few words to welcome everyone, and the Summer Party sees the presentation of the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers Scheme members who have had their first book published. But generally, the emphasis is on people being able to meet and get to know each other.

What is appropriate attire for the party? Long or short? posh or plain?
Whatever you feel most comfortable in. Some use the party as an excuse to buy a new frock and dress up to the nines. Others wear smart casual. I believe there is a dress code for some parts of the club, but as far as I’m aware this doesn’t apply to the Hall of India and Pakistan.

Is there to be formal seating this year?
Not as far as I’m aware. Generally the room is set out with seats all around, with the centre clear (apart from a few side tables) so that people can stand in groups and chat.

What advice can you give for anyone attending alone and for the first time?
Don’t be nervous. There will always be someone to talk to. If you are attending alone for the first time, let me or Pamela know at the door and we will find someone to take care of you. You’ll find that once you’ve broken the ice with one person, the rest comes easy.

Will there be refreshments? If yes do we need to state vegetarian?
There will be one complimentary glass of wine or a glass of orange juice per person, after which there is a bar at which people can buy their own drinks. There will also be nibbles. There is no need to state vegetarian as we always ensure there are a good selection of vegetarian choices.  I should perhaps emphasise that the nibbles are just that. Bite-size portions. It’s a good idea to either eat before you arrive or go out for a meal afterwards.

How can we obtain tickets?
You can find the Summer Party booking form on the RNA website here:  Alternatively I will be attending the RNA meeting in London on 15th March 2014, and bringing plenty of tickets with me, so if you’d like to save on postage, bring along your booking form and your payment and I can give you your ticket on the spot.  I will also bring Summer Party tickets along to the RNA awards ceremony at 1 Whitehall Place on Monday 17th March, so if you’re there you could get your ticket then. (Please note: I would prefer a cheque or a postal order in payment, otherwise it means me travelling home with a lot of cash, which I’d rather avoid if I can).
Thank you, Tracy for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions.

The blogging team will be attending the party so if you have a book to promote or would like to write a craft article for us please track us down have a chat.

Complied by Elaine and brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv Thomas.

Please contact us at if you wish to be featured on our blog or would like to write a craft article.