Friday, January 30, 2015

The Romantic Novel of the Year Award

Welcome to RNA Chair, Pia Fenton who has popped by to tell us about The Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

For over fifty years, the Romantic Novelists’ Association have been giving out awards for the very best in romantic fiction each year, celebrating excellence within our genre.  The list of past winners of The Romantic Novel of the Year Award includes some well-known and beloved authors – (there is a full list of previous winners on our website here) – so anyone lucky enough to win will be in very exalted company indeed! 

The awards were revamped a few years ago in order to showcase the wonderful diversity within romantic fiction and to give more authors a chance to shine.  Instead of just one main award and one for category romance, six new categories were created – Contemporary, Epic, Historical, Romantic Comedy, Young Adult and the RoNA Rose (for shorter/category romance).  Together they form the RoNAs – Romantic Novel Awards (the name was chosen to reflect the awards’ affinity with the US RWA’s prestigious RITAs and the Australian RWA’s RUBY award), and each category winner receives a beautiful glass star trophy.  They also go on to form the shortlist for the overall prize, the coveted Romantic Novel of the Year Award, which at the moment consists of a cheque for £5,000 plus this beautiful glass trophy created especially for the RNA.
The RNA had a record number of entries again this year and also a huge number of readers wanting to be part of the judging process.  Every entry is read, in the first instance, by three readers – ordinary members of the public who love our genre.  They are sent up to five books each and have to send back scores for each one.  The total of these scores determines a shortlist of six books for each category.  The top six are then read a fourth time by RNA members who have no vested interest in that particular book (the organiser makes sure of this), and the fourth score added to the other three.  This final total gives the winner for each category.
Finally, the six winning titles are read by a panel of independent judges who decide on the overall winner.
The names of the lucky winners for 2015 will be revealed at a sparkling awards ceremony on Monday 16th March, to be held at the Gladstone Library near Whitehall.  Besides being a beautiful, Victorian room overlooking the Thames, it is surely the most perfect venue for a gathering of 230 authors and other members of the publishing industry as it formerly contained around 30,000 books.
Tickets for this event are on sale now (click here for details) and it promises to be a very enjoyable evening.  Not only will the six category winners and the overall winner receive their trophies, but the RNA will also present two Outstanding Achievement Awards.
Last year’s overall winner was Veronica Henry with her fantastic novel A Night on the Orient Express – who will it be this time?  Why not come and join us for some pink fizz, canapĂ©s and exciting announcements? We hope to see you there!

Pia Fenton

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Maureen Stenning on An Army Wife in India

We are delighted to welcome Maureen Stenning writing as Merryn Allingham.

Merryn Allingham grew up reading Georgette Heyer so when she first put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, she gravitated towards the Regency period. Over the last few years, she has published six Regency romances under the name of Isabelle Goddard, but now has a new writing name and a new genre. Her suspense trilogy, Daisy’s War, is set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s. The first in the series, The Girl from Cobb Street, is published on 29th January, 2015.

Historical Research – Starting from the Personal

Research has always been the part I most enjoy in writing historical fiction. I usually have a comfortable ‘nest’ on which I can build, and it’s only the smaller details that I need to discover - what kind of butter churns were in use in the Regency, for instance, or whether madeleines were eaten at the time. But when I came to write The Girl from Cobb Street, my nest was bare. It consisted of one very old marriage certificate and a single visit I’d made to Rajasthan.

The certificate recorded my parents’ wedding. My mother travelled to India in April 1937 and was married in St John’s Afghan Church, in what was then Bombay. Even now India hits you in the face with its difference. But in the 1930s the journey took three weeks and most people rarely ventured far beyond their home. I tried to imagine how it must have been for a working class girl, who had never been further from London than a day at the Southend seaside, to travel to such an alien world and marry a man she hadn’t seen for six years. Out of that imagining came my heroine, Daisy Driscoll. Daisy is reunited with her lover far more quickly, but she faces many of the same hazards in settling to her new life in India.

Memories of my Indian trip and the countless photographs I took gave me the setting – the look, the smell, the colour and texture of the region. But I had no idea what it must have felt like to live in 1930s British India. My mother had rarely spoken of it. I guess she’d filed India away as a past that was no longer relevant. We were an army family, constantly on the move, and there was always another place to get used to – Egypt, Germany, Cyprus. All I knew was that she hated the curry, was terrified of frogs in the bath and loved the cool beauty of the hill station. And that her social life as a sergeant’s wife had been great fun. By the end of the Second World War, though, my father had climbed the ranks to become a captain and she was forced to become a part of the Officers’ Mess, with all its subtle discriminations. Her reaction to this very different social world was stark. She never felt she belonged and every mess ‘do’ was an enormous trial for her.

It was into this milieu that I plunged an ill-prepared Daisy. Her husband is a very junior officer but still part of a world in which hierarchy and status are all important, and where iron backed memsahibs rule. I spent weeks reading first-hand accounts of life in the Raj: a huge amount of fascinating material most of which, readers will be relieved, plays only a minor role in the trilogy. Army life, at least in India, was narrow and insular, the main topics of interest being sport and gossip. Intellectual discussion was largely absent. The occasional Gilbert and Sullivan musical evening was about as cultural as it got. Some of the women were highly intelligent but had to pretend they weren’t, and I felt genuine sympathy for them. Admiration, too, for their fortitude in making a home often miles out in the bush, coping with the intense heat and the disease, bearing children and seeing them die.

Their attitudes to the colonised, however, though orthodox for the time, made me cringe and I couldn’t let Daisy share them. So I read on – trying to get a handle on the political situation in the late Thirties, when Europe was threatened by war and Indian nationalism sensed an opportunity to throw off the yoke of empire. Daisy’s sympathies were clearly going to lie in this camp, so for all kinds of reasons she was never going to fit the world into which she’d married. Add a deceitful and desperate husband, and you have the seeds of disaster. In comparison, my mother’s marriage was blissfully uneventful!

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What an interesting nugget of history, Maureen. Thank you and good luck with The Girl from Cobb Street

The RNA Blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Friday, January 23, 2015

Carla Caruso: Thoughts from Abroad

Carla Caruso tells us about her adopted writing home

I have a confession to make: I’ve barely set foot inside Britain. I’m Australian, with Italian blood, thanks to my parents. There was one time, a few years back, when I was travelling through Europe with my younger sister and we were meant to stop for a few days in London. But we got the timing muddled at the travel agent’s and, after booking everything, had to make a last-minute change. Which meant we wound up catching a plane from Rome to London, heading straight to the Tube, and journeying on a train to Paris. That was it. Our big glimpse of London. All I can remember thinking was the weather was warmer than I expected and the city was so, so BIG. Much bigger than Sydney back home.

Now I have one-year-old twin boys, so another trip to Europe is off the agenda for quite some time (yikes!). Still, I’d love to give the UK a longer try at some stage. Especially because – weirdly – I’ve been mistaken for a British author before, even though I’ve hardly breathed in a lung-full of London air. Some book bloggers have admitted to thinking I was a Brit…perhaps it’s my wordiness…until they’ve stumbled across an Australian town I’ve mentioned in a story. One even likened me to Sophie Kinsella (and I promise I didn’t pay her to do so!). A book editor has also described my writing style as having a ‘gentleness’. If Americans have been generalised as ‘loud and brash’, I’m the exact opposite, which I guess makes me a little more British-sounding!

I also like to drop in words like ‘rather’ and ‘quite’ and am partial to an adverb, although many elsewhere turn their nose up at them. I just can’t do that short, sharp and snarky style.
So where has this all come from (aside from my country sharing your Queen)? Well, I put it down to the ‘diet’ of books I’ve been brought up on. It started off with Enid Blyton. The Magic Faraway Tree, The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, Five on a Treasure Island, The Secret Seven, The Wishing-Chair…I’ve read them all. Sometimes until the characters’ voice started turning cartoonish inside my head because I’d been reading far too long! I didn’t have time for the Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew books my big sister read. (Although, I did go on to enjoy the Yankee Sweet Valley and Baby-Sitters Club series – oh, and Judy Blume!)

Now I’m 35, I always cite Sophie Kinsella and Maggie Alderson as my favourite authors. (Okay, Maggie lived in Australia for a time, but she’s a London fashionista through and through.) Plus, I also adore the dry wit of British films like Love Actually and Death at a Funeral (the original UK version, please, not the American!). And no one does my beloved chick-lit better than the UK…which leads me to why I’ve recently joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’ve decided it’s time I embraced my ‘adopted’ writing home with gusto. The Americans may never understand my slang. Just, shhh, don’t tell my Aussie cohorts!

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. These days, she writes romantic comedy novels in between playing mum to her one-year-old twin boys. Her books include Catch of the Day, Cityglitter, Second Chance, the ‘Astonvale’ rom-com mystery series starting with A Pretty Mess, and more.

Twitter: @CarlaCaruso79

Thank you for joining us today, Carla.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Romance AND Suspense with Vonnie Hughes

Today we welcome Vonnie Hughes - all the way from the Antipodes. Vonnie was born in New Zealand and now lives in Australia.

As a child she won several writing competitions. She won a pony once but her parents encouraged her to take the substitute prize. After all, there’s not a lot of room in utopian suburbia for a pony. 

After attending teachers’ training college where they encouraged her writing, Vonnie began writing in earnest – poetry and short stories mainly. Now she writes novels and novellas in the Regency and contemporary suspense genres. She will, she says, probably write until the day she dies. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but just cannot let it go.

I asked Vonnie a few questions:

I believe you haven’t always been a career writer. Can you tell our readers what brought about the change in your career?
I’ve always been a writer, just not a full-time writer. As a seven year old I won a writing contest to name a pony and I’ve been writing ever since. At first it was mainly articles and poetry. In my early fifties when I became a self-employed researcher with a houseful of overseas students, I needed a break from real life and began to write Regencies. As the Regency market has become more and more crowded, my stories are seguing more into the Victorian era. (I’ve been reading in that era since I was eleven years old and I love the sense of order and responsibility). But my preference is for writing contemporary suspense novels where I can indulge my love of convoluted plots and forensic clues.

I see from your website that you’re a ‘panster’. How does this work in conjunction with writing suspense? Don’t you need to know beforehand where your story is going?As for being a pantser and knowing where my plots are going – I think about my books for some weeks. Then I do a very small outline of the story generally, about five or six sentences. But the real planning comes from the characterisation. I spend a lot of time working out the characters’ backgrounds, motives and the likely consequences of their behaviour. Then I jump into writing the book. But I never do chapter plans or story arcs. Just go where it leads me.

Writing any period novel must entail considerable research. Is it something you enjoy and do you have any methodology?
As for the research for my historicals, I have to admit I have a LOT of hard files which I’ve compiled over the years. They contain things like bridge building in Britain, the slums near the Thames, maps of old roads etc. Also I belong to Beaumonde, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America and their archives are amazing.

Do you have a typical day?
I have no typical writing day. I write every day, but sometimes for no more than an hour. Sometimes I get restless and bored so I relax by walk/jogging with the dog, going to the gym and reading, reading, reading.

Innocent Hostage was published in December 2014. Is its successor in the pipeline?
At present, although I am part way through another New Zealand set book about a negotiator with one of the Armed Offenders’ squads, I also got started on an idea put forward by The Wild Rose Press about a mythical town in Maine called Lobster Cove. Since I’m not American I had to do some intensive research.  At the request of the Carmichael family’s accountants, their son takes over a lobster packaging business to investigate the reasons behind a consistent drain on the company resources. At the same time he is coming to terms with the fact that he is adopted and that at least one of his natural parents comes from the little town of Lobster Cove.

Innocent Hostage is published by The Wild Rose Press in both paperback and e-book form. In an Alice in Wonderland world where everything is tipped upside down and every value questioned, how do you save the innocent? Two years ago, Breck Marchant handed his son, Kit, over to his ex-wife, Tania, even though it tore him apart. She knows all about kids. Thanks to his own upbringing, he hasn’t a clue. But when the boy is held hostage, Breck steps up to the plate.


It's been lovely talking to you, Vonnie. Thank you. 

The RNA Blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Friday, January 16, 2015

Margaret Kaine: From Sagas to E-books

We are delighted to welcome Margaret Kaine as our guest today.

You won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer Award in 2002 and the Society of Author’s Sagittarius Award in 2003 with ‘Ring of Clay’. How did this affect your writing life?
There is no doubt that it affected my writing career. When I won the New Writer’s Award, then sponsored by the Readers’ Digest ‘Of Love and Life’ series, I managed to make a coherent acceptance speech - let no-one be misled, it’s a hugely emotional moment - and made my way through the crowd to be greeted by Carolyn Caughey, the then senior editor at Hodder & Stoughton. She asked me if the UK rights were available (Ring of Clay was first published in Ireland by Poolbeg). And as a result Hodder bought the UK rights to my first four novels. I remember her delight when the following year, Ring of Clay went on to win the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize of £4,000. Would my writing career have taken off as it did if I hadn’t won the above awards? Who can say?

And for me at the time, luck was with me all the way. For instance, the Sagittarius Prize is awarded to the ‘the best first novel by an author aged over 60’, and for the first time it was sponsored by the wonderful Terry Pratchett, that fact alone bringing extra publicity. And on a purely personal but important point, the uncertain self-confidence that I think we all feel on occasions about our writing, received an enormous boost. That doesn’t mean that I don’t doubt my ability at times, but I have a framed letter from the SoA above my desk, think of how good the RNA Rose Bowl used to look on my hall table, and feel a surge of encouragement.
Would you advise writers to enter competitions?
I think some writers find these invaluable, especially at the beginning of their career. A competition, judged by a writer or writers you respect, can provide a useful challenge, an inspiration to perhaps attempt a different genre. Or even the incentive you need to write at all. And the word count required is often quite short, giving a budding novelist a breather from a long manuscript. But I do believe that if your ambition is to write a novel, then it is best not to allow yourself to become distracted by other writing ventures. Having said that, I know there are several writers in the RNA who combine both with enormous success, so it’s a question of finding out what suits you best.
What is it about writing sagas that you enjoy so much?
For me, it’s the nostalgia. I began to write Ring of Clay just after my mother died, and writing about my childhood in the Potteries and basing the character of Rose on her, proved to be the therapy I needed to get through that first year. It astonished me how many details of the industrial life there I could remember. How many facets of the people and area had seeped into my unconscious. Those years were good times.

Is there another genre that appeals to you enough to ‘have a go’? Would you ever write another genre?
I feel that I have already moved into a different genre with Dangerous Decisions, as it is definitely not a saga, and set in the Edwardian era, whereas my first seven novels were set in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Maybe a time-slip might appeal, but I am proud of being a romantic novelist, that will never change.

What sort of impact have e-books had on your back catalogue and your readership? Has it changed the way your work?
I’ve embraced the concept of e-books, and love both my Kindle and print books. As for my backlist, it’s lovely to see that some of my out of print Potteries sagas are now enjoying a new lease of life and attracting new readers. I don’t think the digital side of publishing has affected the way I write at all.

Tell us about Margaret Kaine and Choc Lit.

Ah, the lovely Choc Lit, who are the publishers of Dangerous Decisions, my romantic suspense novel set in the Edwardian era. Berni Stevens, who designs many of their covers, has given me my favourite cover of all time. If one can be in love with the cover of your book, then I’m afraid I must plead guilty. And it’s a good feeling to be ‘part of a publishing family’. 

I notice you are running a competition on your website. Is this a first and how do you hope it will impact on your readership?
Now this is a tricky subject for me at the moment. I’ve run a competition on my website for many years, and it’s promoted by leading competition forums. This means that hundreds enter my competitions, and the hope is that this leads to new readers. But I confess to feeling a little disillusioned, as it is rare that a winner gives feedback on a book. Meanwhile postage is increasing all the time . . .

As an established author, what advice would you give to new writers?
To write what you enjoy and to join a good writers’ workshop. I still attend mine and read out my chapters and value highly the constructive critiques and loyal friendship. The best tip on writing I can give is to read your work aloud, edit it, put it aside for three weeks then read it aloud again before another edit. This will give it a final polish.

What is next for Margaret Kaine, the author?
I have almost finished another Edwardian novel, set initially in a workhouse, but again with the well-loved ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, scenario. I so love the elegance of this era, although as my grandmother was sent to be a scullery maid at the age of 13, I suspect that my own place in the hierarchy would have been strictly ‘downstairs’. Sigh!

Margaret Kaine began by writing short stories which were published in the UK, Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Her debut novel, Ring of Clay, won two literary awards. Seven of her romantic sagas about life in the Potteries have been mainstream published, translations including German and French, and all are available in LP, Audio and Digital. Dangerous Decisions, her most recent novel, published by Choc Lit, is a romantic and psychological suspense set in the Edwardian era.

Twitter - @margaretkaine

Thank you so much for joining us today, Margaret.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Carol Townend - Hot...or What!

Courtesy of Mills & Boon
Today we are delighted to welcome Carol Townend. We put some questions to her:

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
The first book I finished was Sapphire in the Snow which I probably wrote in 1987. I can’t quite remember because it’s so long ago! After some revisions Mills & Boon published it in 1989 and to my delight it won the RNA New Writers' Award. I think it took around six months to write, although I’d been thinking about the plot for a while before I began. It was written on an Amstrad, which was entirely different to a modern computer. I loved my Amstrad, but it struggled to cope with files larger than about 10 pages. Also, the novel took an age to print and came out in one long sheet. You had to separate the pages manually! I wrote about five novels on an Amstrad.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, although it took me some time to really get down to it. I played about with various writing courses which were great except they kept trying to make me write articles when all I really wanted to write was medieval romance. When my daughter went to school, I wrote three romances quite quickly and was thrilled when they were accepted by Harlequin Mills & Boon. I guess the message there is to write what your heart tells you to write!

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
It’s a job and I treat it as such. After various displacement activities in the morning – putting on the washing machine, tidying up, dealing with mail etc – I try to get started on the WIP around coffee time. Ideally this is five days a week. I finish at 6. Sometimes I write at week-ends, but it’s important to have a life too…

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
A lot of planning goes in. I have a set of coloured school notebooks and pick one for each novel. They say ‘Oxford’ on the covers, but we buy them in French supermarkets on research trips. By the time the notebook is full, it’s usually time to start writing. Having said that, the story never goes to plan! My characters are wayward and tend to run off in all directions. In The Stone Rose, a medieval saga I wrote for Headline, one character got up and walked out of the book half way through. I tried to pin him down by breaking his leg – ha! It kept him in place for a short time, but as soon as the leg was healed he was off again. I let him go and in the end he came back again, and the book was better for it. So I’ve learned that the characters know best, and let them have their head. It makes for a more interesting journey. It also makes me wonder why I do all that planning!

Do you enjoy research?
I love it. I read history at university, so the interest in anything medieval has always been there. A great joy of writing medieval romance it that it give you an excuse to visit castles all over Europe. I like to explore the town/area where a book will be set and get the medieval map firmly in my head. It’s not always possible, but a visit to Istanbul resulted in the Palace Brides trilogy set in eleventh century Byzantium. Places are very inspiring. When visiting QuimperlĂ© in Brittany, a whole novel popped into my head. An Honourable Rogue was inspired by the church at the confluence of two rivers.

What did you enjoy most about writing your novel and how do you relax when you're not working?
Finishing it! Writing is hard work and I am lazy…then I can enjoy reading, walks in the countryside, chatting with friends, cinema.

If you were a guest on Desert Island Discs what would be your chosen book?
This varies. This year it’s Transcendence by Shay Savage, an unlikely time-slip romance between a teenager of today and a cave-man. The cave-man cannot speak or understand language, and the idea that the heroine comes from the future is quite beyond his grasp. The entire novel is told from his point of view and there is no dialogue. It’s hard to pin down why I adore this book, but the fact that the hero constantly misunderstands the heroine makes for an extraordinarily poignant and moving read.

If your next title Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress was turned into a film who would you like to play the main characters?
Pass. I think it’s important to let readers make up their own images of the characters. Suffice to say that Lord Gawain has sun-streaked hair and brown eyes. He’s a knight, so he is strongly built. Elise, aka Blanchefleur le Fay, is dark, the cover image fits her very well!

What is next for Carol Townend?
I’d like to write two more stories in the Knights of Champagne mini-series. After that, Sicily is throwing out lures. Spain is too. Who knows? I can’t plan too much in advance, but it’s likely to be medieval. And romantic, naturally!

Publication day of my next title: 1st March 2015, Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress. It is Book 3 in the Knights of Champagne mini-series.

Carol Townend writes medieval romances set in England and Europe. Born in Yorkshire, she went to a convent school in Whitby and studied history at London University.
Her first novel, Sapphire in the Snow, won the RNA New Writers' Award. In 2013, Betrothed to the Barbarian was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award.
Carol's non-fiction writing includes dozens of articles for Writing Magazine and Writers' News, and a portrait of the Romanovs using photographs from the Imperial albums. Carol lives in London with her husband and daughter.
Lord Gawain’s Forbidden Mistress will be published in March 2015, it is the third book in the Knights of Champagne mini-series set in twelfth century France.

Thank you for joining us today, Carol.

The RNA Blog is brought to you by
Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman.

If you would like to write about the craft of writing or perhaps be interviewed about your writing life please contact us at

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sheryl Browne: It's Been Quite a Year!

We are delighted to welcome Sheryl Browne to the blog today.

Thank you so much for helping me to share the latest news in my up and down writing journey. After a trying year, which saw my partner diagnosed with prostate cancer (I mention this, because I ended up having to apologise all over the place for my constant state of befuddlement. I should also mention that his prognosis is extremely good after early diagnosis - and that he is now very positive, agreeing to share his progress with Prostate Cancer UK in hopes of encouraging other men to seek help early), I finally DO have some lovely news to share.

Having written seriously for fifteen years, mystified agents, and achieved several near misses, I am also super-pleased to announce that I have recently signed with Choc Lit for my upcoming novel, currently titled The Rest of My Life. This development is all the more special because Choc Lit read the book on recommendation of someone who restored my faith in my writing. Excitingly, the news was announced first in The Bookseller! Wow! Little me rubbing shoulders with Burt Reynolds and Julian Clary (form an orderly queue, guys). I owe this person a huge debt of gratitude for picking up my book, loving it, and being prepared to say so in the right ears.

As mentioned, I have been ‘at it’ for some time. Although I’ve been a little bit shy, I have been a member of the RNA for some years. I was originally a member of the New Writers’ Scheme, which offers invaluable advice on where your manuscript might be flagging (or shining!) and generally encourages and supports new writers. My manuscript was sadly flagging, something I was aware of. However, writing definitely being a journey in my mind, I listened and learned, redrafted and rested that manuscript, and I couldn’t be happier that that book, Warrant for Love, is finally published and currently “touring”.

I therefore also owe huge thanks to the NWS, an editor recommended to me by the RNA, and to Safkhet Publishing. I have six books published with Safkhet, who not only commissioned me to write my first book for them, having read and loved my writing, but opened an imprint for three further novels. Despite my determination, I was at a point then where I wondered whether continuing to pursue my dream was sheer self-indulgent, and rather exhausting, madness. Safkhet believed in me.  Bloggers, readers and reviewers believed in me, cheering me every step of the way. I really can’t say thank you enough to those wonderful people, who give of their time and work so hard for authors.

For me, being published with Choc Lit is a dream come true. The best part of that dream is that it allows me to do what helps me through, during good times and bad – and we ALL have the latter, the one thing that keeps me sane (though some would question that!). It gives me the impetus to keep writing. Maybe I would have kept going anyway. It is my passion (can you tell?). I do know, though, that having a support network counts for an awful lot. Published or self-published, there are some extremely talented authors out there. I’m proud to know many of them and share in their publishing journeys.

COMING SOON from Choc Lit
The Rest of My Life - Two damaged hearts, a sizzling sexual connection. Can love find a way to bring Adam and Sienna together? 

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal - and a little Ohhhh la la! Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has six books published with Safkhet Publishing and has now been signed with Award winning Choc Lit Publishing.

Author Links

Thank you, Sheryl, and good luck with The Rest of My Life. 

The RNA blog is brought to you by Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to contribute during 2015 please contact us on

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Clare Chase: Settings in romantic suspense

Today we welcome Clare Chase to the blog.

I’ve always found novels with a strong sense of place compelling, and been fascinated by the powerful effect setting can have on an unfolding story. Of course, it’s a crucial aspect of all forms of fiction, but where suspense is involved, the right setting can help the writer in all sorts of ways.
A character’s immediate surroundings – the house they live in, for instance – can point to a person who’s off balance. Suspense builds as the reader anticipates the effect their skewed world view might have on developments. You don’t have to go as far as Dickens went with Miss Havisham to introduce unease.
Wider setting is also a huge bonus when creating mood and tension. Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn comes to mind. Mary Yellan’s awful journey in appalling weather, from her familiar village, to the remote moorland home of her aunt and uncle, remains vivid. The reader is immediately sucked into a threatening and oppressive atmosphere.
And then there are the physical practicalities of a location. Because Mary’s geographically so far away from help, and the landscape around her is so harsh and unforgiving, we’re intensely conscious of her isolation.
In my own debut novel, You Think You Know Me, I used two locations: London and the Lake District.
When the novel begins, Anna, the heroine, has just moved to the capital. London was a good location on practical grounds. It allowed her plenty of glamorous opportunities to pursue her career as a freelance journalist, and was a realistic setting for a story focussed on crime in the art world. But beyond the practical, it was also perfect in terms of atmosphere. I love the bustle of London, the frenetic pace, the crowds and the buzz. And as Anna’s caught up in a passionate love affair, pulled along by excitement, uncertainty and the first hints of danger, this pacey backdrop worked.
And then, as the mystery deepens, her desire to find out the truth leads her to the Lakes. You Think You Know Me is set in winter, and Anna finds herself driving through dark, deserted lanes, caught in torrential rain, her mobile dropping in and out of coverage. I’m always staggered by the beauty of the area when I visit, but on dark, stormy days, the awe-inspiring masses of mountains like Skiddaw and Blencathra become menacing. The hairpin bends, steep inclines and the narrowness of the roads mean any escape is going to have to happen at an agonisingly slow pace. What’s more, there are plenty of places where there’s no mobile coverage at all, so calling for help can be tantalisingly out of reach.
My next novel is the start of a mystery series, and has a Cambridge setting. I find the city endlessly intriguing, but realise there are dangers with writing about somewhere I know well. I need to make sure I can still see what’s unique about the city, even though I’ve become an insider. Luckily, Cambridge is full of surprises, and sometimes things that shock, so it’s not hard to see it afresh, even after all these years.

Clare Chase writes fast-paced romantic mysteries, inspired by what makes people tick. She reads everything from Jilly Cooper to Sue Grafton, and finds romance complements crime perfectly, doubling the intrigue.
Clare wrote dodgy whodunnits in primary school, read English at London University, and honed her creative writing skills working in PR.
In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, cooking and wandering round the pubs and galleries of Cambridge, where she lives with her husband and teenage daughters.
Twitter: @ClareChase_

Thank you, Clare!

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Nicola Cornick: Changing Times, Changing Genres

Welcome to Nicola Cornick who writes our first blog post for 2015.

Thank you very much for inviting me to the RNA Blog today. It’s a great pleasure to be here!

It was with something of a shock that I realised in 2013 that I had been writing Regency historicals for fifteen years. From the publication of my first traditional Regency, True Colours, by Harlequin Mills and Boon in 1998, I have had a wonderful time living in an alternative historical world. Along the way I have changed from a UK to a US publisher and now back again. The stories have become longer, more sensual and have ranged in setting from the ballrooms of London to the Highlands of Scotland to the far north of the Arctic.

It’s been an amazing time but for more than ten of those fifteen “Regency” years there was something else that I also wanted to write, a book with paranormal elements where the past and the present are entwined, and secrets and mysteries from centuries past are brought to light. I’d been promising myself for years that one day I would write this story but it always got squeezed out by contracts and deadlines until last year I thought that if I didn’t stop and write it now, maybe I never would.

I work as a guide and historian at the National Trust house Ashdown Park, a place with a rich and vivid history that has given me so much inspiration. It was a given that if I wrote a timeslip book then Ashdown and its history would take centre stage. So I started to plan a book set at Ashdown with three intertwined stories. One takes place in the 17th century and involves Ashdown’s owner, the Earl of Craven and Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, to whom it is rumoured he was secretly married. A second strand of the story is based on the notorious love affair of the 19th century Earl of Craven and the courtesan Harriette Wilson, and there is a contemporary thread revealing the connections that link the characters through the centuries.

 When I first started to write the book (as opposed to it being a collection of ideas in my head) I also started to have dreams in which I took on a series of ever more bizarre challenges (organising a competition for racing pigeons was one!) I felt scared. I had doubts. I think that maybe I was afraid deep down that I didn’t know how to write something so different. It was exciting to have the time and space for this new project but it was also disorientating because suddenly, after years of promising myself that this was the book of my heart, I actually had to prove it. I had to write it.

With three intertwined stories the book required a lot of planning, a detailed structure and a complex plot, three things that have never been my forte. My books usually arise out of the characters or from particular historical events. I get an idea and write off into the blue. This time, though, I was mixing fact and fiction and also mixing three time periods. When I tried to plan in detail my brain froze up so in the end I did what I always do and just plunged straight in and waited to see what happened. The whole book was a very, very steep learning curve as I struggled to create three stories that were individually compelling yet also wove together to create a much bigger canvas than anything I had ever written before. It was also a huge amount of fun!

Ashdown Park

Now the book is written and I am revising it to layer in some more character depth and texture, smooth out the wrinkles in the plot and tighten the pace. At the moment the most difficult thing to decide upon is the title – something suitably historical and a tad mysterious!  Please look out for the book coming in September from MIRA Books – by which time it will definitely have a name!

Thank you, Nicola for writing such an informative piece.

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