Friday, May 29, 2015

ANNE STENHOUSE: Heart's Desire

Today we welcome Anne Stenhouse

I’m really pleased to be offered the chance to post on our RNA blog, but I won’t pretend it’s easy because I’m very conscious of all the distinguished folk who’ve gone before and the thousands of words of wisdom they’ve written.

When I was puzzling what I could bring to this, I had in mind the difficulties I experienced when writing Daisy’s Dilemma, my new book from MuseItUp, as an unplanned follow-on. That was fairly miserable, but I can’t think anyone wants to read about incompetence. You’re here to find out what works.

What works for me is drama as I used to write plays. I like to hear the words. I like to craft a scene. I once went on courses…Screenwriting courses are keen to impress that in a good story the central character may be pursuing something they want desperately, but the resolution will be them arriving at something they need desperately. And so it often is in life.
I remember desperately wanting my mum to buy a packet of Cornish wafers when we were shopping one Sunday morning. She rightly sussed that what I wanted was the elaborate concoction pictured on the side, but pride made me deny it. Then I had to eat my way through a packet of Cornish wafers which did not have slices of cheese and olives neatly piled thereon. Of course what I really needed was something different. I was curious about the foods that were increasingly arriving in the newly established supermarkets. My poor mother must have been so caught between the different demands of the generations as my dad had very conservative taste.

Daisy’s Dilemma, e-pub 16th June, is my third book from MuseItUp and has the want/need conundrum at its centre. Mr John Brent is Lady Daisy’s heart’s desire. She has plotted, manoeuvred and fought for the right to marry this man. She wants him so much, she can’t think sensibly. She wants him so much she’s made everyone else’s life miserable and they are very happy to oblige her. Is betrothal to Mr Brent as good as she imagined? Will the heroine have to lie in the bed she’s made?

Real life in earlier times meant that young people thought long and hard before defying their ‘friends’ when it came to choosing a partner. Hence the wonderful romantic and dramatic possibilities for the novelist of a desperate ride to the Scottish border when that became the only way to secure one’s heart’s desire. Of course, the repercussions inflicted by irate parents when such a ride was successful or the emotional mayhem when the scales fall from the heroine’s eyes are both rich sources for the author. Pity this poor author, then, when Lady Daisy’s dramatic needs are frustrated by success. What next? What is truly her heart’s desire and was this author be able to understand what her needs were so she in turn might, too?                                                                        

About Anne
Multi-published historical romance author, Anne Stenhouse, lives and writes in Edinburgh, Scotland. She shares her house with her husband and dancing partner of over thirty years and enjoys having children and a grandson in fairly close proximity. When not plotting Regency style mayhem, Anne enjoys Scottish country dancing, theatre and the company of good friends. She plays badminton poorly and reads a lot of books. Anne has recently joined the RNA committee and expects to read even more books as a result.

Thank you for joining us, Anne, and good luck with Daisy’s Dilemma


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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JOHN JACKSON: Waterloo - My Family

We are delighted to welcome John Jackson back to the blog today with another gem from his past.

Yet Another Ancestor – we all have them. This year it’s the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and my great-great-grandfather was there.

Henry Dumaresq was then a twenty three year old Major in Wellington's Army. He joined the Army as an Ensign in Portugal in 1807 and served without a break, rising through the ranks and finishing up as Major and ADC to General Byng of the 2nd. Brigade of Guards. He fought at all the major battles in the Peninsula and in France.

Henry had no fortune behind him. His father had served in the Army for twenty years in Canada. He returned to England, married and settled down, running the militia in Worcester for some years before dying of liver cancer.

Because of his service in the Army, the War Office offered to educate Henry and his brothers and they all went into the Army as “Ensigns, without purchase”. Henry went into the 9th. Foot, now the Norfolk Regiment.

Henry was also at the Duchess of Richmond's Ball, on the eve of the battle. The news of Napoleon's advance over the border reached Wellington at the ball late at night. He borrowed a map from his host, and decided then and there that he would stop him at Waterloo.

The officers famously all left the ball and returned to their duties. Henry would have been inordinately busy as ADC to a brigade commander.

He was involved with the defence of Hougoumont, a large farmhouse which spent a long time being assaulted by the pick of Napoleon's troops. He took a musket ball through the lungs, but stayed on his horse long enough to deliver a despatch to Wellington. The musket ball was never removed and led to his premature death twenty three years later

Castle of Hougoumont

Dumaresq is a Jersey name, and Henry was the only Jerseyman recorded as being at the Battle.

Georgette Heyer wrote of both the ball and battle in her impeccable historical romances, An Infamous Army, and The Spanish Bride. (two of my personal favourites of any books)

After the battle, Henry made a remarkable recovery, all be it with the ball still in him. One of his sisters, Elizabeth, married General Ralph Darling who went out to Mauritius, and thence to New South Wales, as Governor. He took Henry with him as his Military secretary. Darling's name is perpetuated in New South Wales, with Darling Harbour in Sydney and the Murray-Darling River complex. The Dumaresq River separates Queensland from New South Wales.

Henry Dumaresq

In June 1827 Henry returned to England and married Sophia, daughter of Augustus, Earl of Lanesborough. They went back to Australia and bought land in the Hunter Valley and ran sheep. (Now, if only they had made wine!) This was never a success, and Henry's physical condition worsened. He eventually died and is buried at Muswellbrook. The local town, Armidale, is now called Armidale Dumaresq after him.

They had three sons and four daughters. There are still Dumaresqs in Australia, mostly in Victoria and Tasmania. I've met some of them over the years. One of them, Martin, still farms on the family farm in Tasmania, on one of the oldest farms there. They still have the convicts’ quarters on the farm, now unoccupied.

The Duchess of Richmond's Ball was revived some years ago and is held in Brussels under the auspices of the British Embassy. It is VERY posh and raises substantial funds for charity. This year's Ball is completely sold out, and the waiting list closed.

Thank you, John. A fascinating look into the history of your family.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

FOCUS ON: ROMNA - Cyber Chapter of the RNA

In our series of Chapter posts we are joined today by Kate Johnson, helping us to dispel the myths and conquer the fear of online groups. Kate, together with Catherine Jones, is the is co-administrator of ROMNA, the online chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Kate Jackson
How long has ROMNA been running?
Since 2000, which is well before I joined the RNA. I believe before the Yahoo group it was a ListServ, back before forums had really got off the ground.

Who decided there was a need for a cyber chapter?
It was set up by Anna Jacobs and Shirley Wells; by common consensus I think since even in those heady early days of the Internet everyone could see its value.

What can new members expect from the online forum?
It's a pretty lively forum for debate. We encourage members to ask anything about writing, the industry, and the RNA, and to respond likewise. Our members range from authors who have been publishing longer than I've been alive, to new writers still working on their first manuscripts, and quite literally everything in between, so it's quite a varied forum. It can seem intimidating to begin with but if you ease yourself in gently and read a few comment threads you'll soon get the hang of it. Don't be shy!

What's lovely is you can get anything from a research query to industry advice, and far beyond. For instance, I remain very grateful to the respondents who helped me pick out a reading for my grandmother's funeral. People are very friendly and there is a lot of support for all levels of the industry.

How many members do you have and are many of them active?
We have over 400 members. It's hard to say how many are active: by my estimation about a quarter are fairly regular, with a small core even more eager than that; probably about two thirds post every now and then. Some are more readers than respondents, but every now and then we hear from someone in 'deep lurk' who has something to say. Of course, just because not everyone posts doesn't mean they're not listening, and you can get a lot from the forum just by reading along.

Can NWS members join?
Yes, absolutely. I think ROMNA is incredibly valuable to NWS members. I learned a huge amount from it when I was a new member.

ROMNA is run through Yahoo. Are there any plans to change this as we now have private Facebook groups that are so much more user friendly?
Not so far. For one thing, not all our members are on Facebook and migrating over could be more trouble than it's worth. We'll keep an eye on this though as things do change.

Do you have set days/dates for topics?  
No, anybody can post any topic on any day. The exception is promotional posts, which we only allow on Sundays.

ROMNA by its very nature is different from other RNA Chapters. What in your opinion makes it so special?
I think it's the absolute inclusivity. Not just in terms of experience, but in geographical diversity it's really wonderful. Not everyone can reach a local chapter, or have the time and means to do so, but interaction with other authors is absolutely invaluable. Plus, it's a continuous, rolling loop, so questions get answered quite quickly and conversations evolve all the time.

Do the administrators ever get together like the Chapters or do you meet in cyber space?
Mostly cyber space! We email and of course we usually see each other at RNA events.

Is ROMNA open to non-members of the RNA?
No, just current members. We politely request ex members to leave, and it's not open to people who have never been members. This keeps things confidential to the membership.

Catherine Jones
Are there any popular topics on ROMNA?
We return perennially to subjects like preparing submissions, the need for an agent, and advice on self-publishing. Of course since the industry changes all the time, so does the advice, and so does the membership so these things pop up quite frequently. Quite often someone will have a research query, usually historical or geographical. We do of course encourage people to look things up for themselves, but sometimes the easiest route is to ask "What do 13 year old girls read these days?" for instance, or "How much of this dialect should I use?" Usually someone will know, or know someone who does!

Who is the contact for new members?
Myself ( or Catherine Jones (

Many thanks, Kate, for a very helpful and informative post
The Blogging Team

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TEACH ME TO WRITE: The National Writing School of Wales

 In the first of a new series Lynne Pardoe takes a look at The National Writing School of Wales and what is available for RNA members.

There can’t be many better ways of honing skills in our craft than joining a retreat designed with just that purpose in mind, led by talented and creative experienced authors.
One such event is to be held in July in north Wales, in a beautiful ancient house called Tŷ Newydd, in a village called Llanystumdwy, near Cricieth on the southern side of the Llŷn Peninsula.

Originally the vision of National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke, the house is now a centre dedicated to literature and writing of all sorts. It’s funded by Literature Wales, the national company that promotes literature in Wales, through the Wales Arts Council and the Welsh Government. The building is an inspiration in itself. Dating from the 16thc with the part most in use by the course as Georgian, its list of occupants, each with their own story is irresistible to an author.
Tŷ Newydd’s most famous occupant is Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Lloyd George bought Tŷ Newydd in 1942 and lived there until his death in 1945. Lloyd George died in the room that is now used as the library, and it is said he asked for his bed to be moved by the window so that he could look out over Cardigan Bay.

A wide variety of creative writing related activities take place there, from residential writing courses and retreats to meetings of young people’s writing squads and international translators groups. There are world-renowned mentors (Carol Ann Duffy amongst them), information and advice about writing, and unusual courses such as writing and yoga and writing for theatre and performance and just about any sort of writing you can imagine. There are bursaries too.
Of particular interest to us is the course ‘Writing Women’s Popular Fiction,’ 20th-25th July run by Julie Cohen, Rowan Coleman and Katie Fforde, the latter is guest speaker for one day.
I asked each author for their thoughts on the course and this is what they said.
Julie Cohen
‘Rowan and I have taught writing courses together before and we love working with both new and experienced authors to really get to the heart of their novels. There will be a mixture of practical exercises, inspiring talks and detailed input on the participants’ writing. Between the three of us, we have a wealth of writing and publishing experience which we’ll share with the writers on the course. And of course it’s a chance to meet mega-author Katie Fforde and pick her considerable brains. Mostly, it will be good fun.’
Rowan Coleman
What we want most is for everyone who comes to the course to feel inspired and empowered. So much about making it as a writer is about having the tools and willpower to see it through. Julie and I are experts at arming the writers we work with with both. Also we are very good at laughing and having fun and wearing hats.’

Julie and Rowan
Kate Fforde 
Katie says; ‘I love teaching writing, or rather talking to other writers about writing and hoping that I might say something that will cause a leaner to nod and think, ah, I get that now.  I do think writers are born not made but even if you know you’re a writer you can save a lot of time by going on courses, learning things it might otherwise take you a while to pick up. It’s also good to read your work aloud to others.  It may be hard, but you learn such a lot.’

It sounds like a brilliant way to spend a week, especially since the centre has offered us a special discount of 10% off groups of four people attending.

For more details and information go to or get in touch with Tŷ Newydd: / 01766 522 811

Thank you, Lynne for a most informative article and thank you to Tŷ Newydd for the generous offer to our members.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Gwyneth Williams: Joan Hessayon Award Contender 2015

Today we welcome Gwyneth Williams to the blog. Gwynneth is another of the Contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award2015

Congratulations on graduating the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. Can you tell us when you first decided that you wished to become a romantic novelist?
I don't think I ever made a conscious decision to write romance, although looking back my first attempt at an adult novel was very definitely in that genre. After having my daughter I wrote picture books and then a children's fantasy adventure novel, but I had no success finding an agent or publisher with these early attempts and decided to write another adult novel with a romantic theme. It was during this time I was encouraged to join the NWS by members of my writing group, who already belonged to the RNA.

How many years were you a member of the NWS scheme and did you submit a different book each year? Which year’s book did you graduate with?
I was a member of the NWS for four years and in the first and second year I sent in a partial and then a full typescript of Echoes in the Sand, the novel I graduated with. In my third year I was looking for an agent and sent in the very beginning of a new novel which I have to admit I abandoned, and in my final year I was so busy editing for my agent I didn't have time to send in my next book.

How did you find your publisher?
I found my agent first through the RNA Winter Party! Kate Burke from Diane Banks Associates took me on in July 2013 and after working on the novel together for nine months, she sold foreign rights to a Serbian publisher and digital rights to Endeavour Press in September 2014.

Promotion is a big part of an author’s working life. How did you promote your novel?
Echoes in the Sand was published three months after its acceptance, so I didn't have very long to promote it. I already had a Twitter account and I created a Facebook Author page and joined a very active Facebook group for readers and authors. I also joined two author promotion websites, one in the UK and one in the States. And Endeavour Press put the novel on an Amazon free promotion for a week in February.

What has happened to you as an author since that first sale?
I have been very busy promoting Echoes in the Sand whilst continuing to write my second book and working full time at my day job, and because of this I am considering reducing my hours. I have been trying to raise my profile on social media and networking by meeting up with other authors at my agency's regular gatherings in London. I am also considering setting up a blog or website when I can find the time!
How did you celebrate your first book sale?
Initially I celebrated it at work during a coffee break with my colleagues, which was nice as they have all been very supportive of me in my writing endeavours. And then I went out for a lovely meal with my husband and daughter when she came home from university for the Christmas holidays.

About Gwyneth:
Gwyneth works fulltime as a Scientific Officer in the University of Leicester’s medical school, and writes in her lunch breaks and any other time she can find. She had her first poem published at the age of eleven and has such a passion for all things Greek that she was inspired to learn the language and is quite proud of the grade B GCSE in Modern Greek she attained several years ago. One day she dreams of owning a villa on a Greek island and writing all day by the pool. In the meantime she lives in Leicester with her husband and daughter when she’s home from university, and two stray cats who moved in one day and refused to leave.


Thank you, Gwyneth, and good luck with your writing career.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jules Wake: Joan Hessayon Award Contender 2015

Today we welcome Jules Wake to the blog. Jules is another of the talented contenders for this year’s Joan Hessayon Award.

Congratulations on graduating the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. Can you tell us when you first decided that you wished to become a romantic novelist? 
I remember quite clearly the moment, age of 12, when I decided I would write a book one day. Of course one day didn’t materialise until I was in my thirties and I was given six months gardening leave.   It never occurred to me write anything but romance. Looking back now, what I wrote then was laughable … despite being an avid reader, I didn’t have a clue!  Luckily Melanie Hilton came to talk to the writers’ group I’d set up and told us about the NWS – that was the real turning point for my writing.

How many years were you a member of the NWS scheme and did you submit a different book each year? Which year’s book did you graduate with?
I was a member for six years, submitting five different books in that time.  Ironically the very first book I submitted, which got a second read, was the one that got published first.  Despite writing another four books, I never gave up on that one.  I rewrote it five years later to target a specific publisher, and having learnt so much more about writing, I was able to improve it further. 

How did you find your publisher?
Through being a member of the RNA and networking at the parties and going to the conference, I heard about Choc-Lit.  Having met a few of their authors on and off-line, I read their books and really liked the production values of the paperbacks they were producing at the time. 

Promotion is a big part of an author’s working life. How did you promote your novel?
I’d already built a bit of a profile on Twitter, so I used that but tried not to do the ‘buy my book’ thing.  I’m a big believer in a picture is worth a 1,000 words, so created a couple of Infograms and used those on social media.  I also did several blog interviews, again trying to approach each one with a different creative hook to make them stand out. 

What has happened to you as an author since that first sale?
I signed my publishing contract after I’d signed up for the NWS, so could still submit a manuscript.  This received the best review ever with my reader urging me to find an agent. To my great delight, Broo Doherty at the David Hedley Literary Agency took me on and she sold my book From Italy With Love to HarperImpulse. Having someone who is enthusiastic and supportive about your work has been such a revelation.

How did you celebrate your first book sale?
I phoned Donna Ashcroft, fellow NWS buddy, She has been with me every step of the publishing journey and her support has been unconditional. With every rejection, she has encouraged me to go on.  I think we probably shared a bottle of bubbly… but then we do that frequently!

About Jules:
Since the age of four when my Dad first taught me to read, I’ve been an avid reader and my idea of hell is being stuck somewhere without a book.  I studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia, sadly a time before creative writing was offered to undergraduates.  By day I’m a School Business Manager, champion shirker of housework, world class jelly-herder, mother to two amateur thespians, one of whom is also an aspiring rock star, and married to Nick, who keeps the family supplied with hair products and wine.   I earned my writing stripes in public relations writing incredible fiction about the merits of lipstick and organic bacon.


Thank you, Jules, and good luck with your writing career.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Joanna Courtney: The Chosen Queen

We are delighted to welcome Joanna to the blog today to talk about her fascination with history.

What fascinates me about history is the gaps between the dates – what the people, including the kings and queens, did on the non-headline days. In researching the rich and exciting Anglo-Saxon period I have often found far more gaps than dates and whilst for the earnest historian in me that is a frustration, for the cheeky novelist it is a joy to fill those gaps with my own imaginings.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, our core primary source for this period, can happily cover a whole year of events in a single paragraph. In between the monks’ carefully and sometimes rather randomly selected events, however, were hundreds of men, women and children, getting up every single day – feeling warm or cold, eating, drinking, going to the loo, arguing with each other, falling in love, and getting every bit as shy, embarrassed, excited and nervous as we do today. In the evolution of mankind a thousand years is a tiny length of time and although social customs and day-to-day experiences were certainly different back in 1055, I refuse to believe that core feelings have changed much and it is that connection to the people of the past – to their minute-by-minute existences – that I wish to capture in my novels.

In every instance I have tried my best to stay within the boundaries of the known facts but it is not my intention here to create a history as much as an interpretation. I am certainly not saying that this version of Edyth’s life did happen, but I hope I have researched deeply and carefully enough to able to assert that it could have happened. There are several points in my story, however that people might wonder about, so here are a few more details on some of the key historical customs, moments, people and places.

About Joanna:
Joanna has wanted to be a writer ever since she could read. As a child she was rarely to be seen without her head in a book and she was also quick to pick up a pen. After spending endless hours entertaining her siblings with made up stories, it was no surprise when Joanna pursued her passion for books during her time at Cambridge University - where she combined her love of English and History by specialising in Medieval Literature.

Joanna continued to write through her first years of work and then, married and living in Derbyshire, in the sparse hours available between raising four children. She has written over 200 stories and serials published in women's magazines, some of which have been broadcast on BBC radio. Joanna has also won several fiction prizes and written and directed an award-winning play. She teaches creative writing across the country and for the Open University.

Joanna is fascinated by defining moments in history, of which the Battle of Hastings is certainly one. The outcome of that momentous day is one of the big 'what-ifs?' of England's past and she has loved being able to immerse herself in the world of the Anglo-Saxons, Normans and Vikings whilst writing The Queen's of the Conquest trilogy.

The Chosen Queen:
He looked like a king that day, Harold. Even in a simple bridegroom's tunic of darkest green he looked like royalty as he stepped up to take the Lady Svana's hand. There was no gold in sight, just flowers; no parade of bishops, just a smiling monk in a sack-robe and bare feet. There was no betrothal contract, no formal prayers, no exchange of lands or elaborate gifts, just the linking of hands joining two people for a year and a day.

Edyth had said nothing but it had seemed to her then that Harold glowed when he was with his handfast wife and it was that glow, more than any gold or land or title that drew people to him. 'Love prefers to be free,' Svana had said and Edyth had carried that with her ever since. It had been her ideal, lit up by firelight and scented with meadow grass, and now, on the brink of womanhood, she craved such a passion for herself.

As a young woman in England's royal court, Edyth, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, dreams of marrying for love. But political matches are rife while King Edward is still without an heir and the future of England is uncertain. When Edyth's family are exiled to the wild Welsh court, she falls in love with the charismatic King of Wales - but their romance comes at a price and she is catapulted onto the opposing side of a bitter feud with England. Edyth's only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana.

As the years pass, Edyth finds herself elevated to a position beyond even her greatest expectations. She enjoys both power and wealth but as her star rises the lines of love and duty become more blurred than she could ever have imagined. As 1066 dawns, Edyth is asked to make an impossible choice. Her decision is one that has the power to change the future of England forever . . .

The Chosen Queen is the perfect blend of history, fast-paced plot and sweeping romance with a cast of strong female characters - an unforgettable read.

Thank you, Joanna. We look forward to reading, The Chosen Queen.

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If you would like to write something for the blog please contact us on

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Heather Rosser: Joan Hessayon Award Contender 2015

Today we welcome Heather Rosser to the blog. Heather is another of our contenders for the 2015 Joan Hessayon Award.

Can you tell us when you first decided that you wished to become a romantic novelist? 

I have wanted to be a romantic novelist since reading romantic sagas as a teenager. My first novel was shortlisted for the Constable Trophy but not published. After my mother died I realised I had my own saga to tell based around the house in North Wales that had belonged to our family for nearly a century. I knew that I needed a structure for my story with its family secrets and colourful characters so I signed up for a ‘starting your novel’ course which is where I had the good fortune to be told about the RNA.

How many years were you a member of the NWS scheme and did you submit a different book each year? Which year’s book did you graduate with?
I graduated in 2013 with In the Line of Duty. I was a member of NWS for six years and submitted a partial manuscript of this novel under the title Shadows Across the Mountain and a full length manuscript titled Feathers in the Wind. I also submitted Rebel Causes, a stand alone sequel to In the Line of Duty.

How did you find your publisher?
I met most of the publishers who were interested in my book at RNA events. I also had recommendations about my current publisher from friends in the Oxford Writers Group.

Promotion is a big part of an author’s working life. How did you promote your novel?
I sent personal emails to all my friends, set up an author facebook page, was interviewed by local radio and had features in local newspapers. I persuaded local bookshops to stock my novel. I gave away copies on Goodreads. Since publication I have given monthly talks to libraries, WIs and other local groups. I always carry postcards promoting my novel which people enjoy receiving.
What has happened to you as an author since that first sale?
Metaphorically I have grown taller.
How did you celebrate your first book sale?
By opening a bottle of bubbly with my family in Oxford. And another bottle later with my family in New Zealand.
About Heather:
During my childhood I spent summers at the family home above Conwy in North Wales. As a student, I returned for weekends in Snowdonia with Leicester University Mountaineering Club. I was posted to Ghana as a VSO teacher and travelled to Timbuktu with Adrian: Reader, I married him. We spent twelve years in Africa and I became a writer for the Botswana Guardian newspaper and for British magazines with an interest in childcare issues. Later we bought a smallholding in Lincolnshire where I set up Wold School of English for international students. Since moving to Oxford, I have written Social Studies text books for Africa and short stories published by OxPens. I am working on my next novel set in Africa and North Wales.

Thank you Heather and good luck with your writing career.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Deirdre Palmer: Remarkable Things!

W are pleased to welcome Deirdre to the blog to tell us about her journey to be published.

It was a happy day when I received that magic email from Crooked Cat Publishers telling me that
they’d like to publish ‘Remarkable Things’. It had been a long wait, during which I darkened the doors of the NWS more times than is decent, but we won’t go into that! The wait had its advantages, though, because it gave me time to learn something about the industry, and I soon realised that it wasn’t enough to write the book to the best it could be. I needed to connect with world of writing so that I could show to a prospective agent or publisher that I was deadly serious and was intent on performing more than the proverbial one trick.

I went to some writing workshops, and although some had limited usefulness, they were fun and I learned how to write to order, and fast, something I’ve never found easy. Then I took a part-time creative writing course at the University of Brighton, where I worked, and learned how to write outside my comfort zone and how far the writing possibilities could stretch. I also made my first writer friends, one of whom became a trusted beta reader. You do need writer friends, whether they read for you or not; it’s a lonely business otherwise.

I tried entering competitions. My first attempt resulted in a ‘Highly Commended’ from Writing Magazine, and I won a small prize for flash fiction, but the most exciting success was being placed fourth – twice - in the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, which had over 1000 entries each time. The six winners had lunch in London with the judges, including such literary stars as Fay Weldon and Deborah Moggach. I say ‘stars’ but we winners were the stars because they treated us as such, and I came away not only with more tips than I could write down on the train journey home but feeling like a proper validated writer. The MoS comp no longer runs, unfortunately, but the organiser, from the Society of Authors, is hoping to get another competition off the ground before long.

When I had the chance to join a blog group called The Write Romantics, there was another experience within my grasp. Not only did I find a brilliant bunch of friends to share this crazy world of writing, I had another ‘string’ to add to the CV. There’s a growing trend among agents and publishers to request a CV and if you can boost a submission with experiences like competitions, courses and blogging, all to the good. You don’t have to win a competition to mention it – a shortlisting or near miss will do just as well.

Like the proverbial buses, a second contract from Crooked Cat Publishing came hot on the heels of the first, and I’m pleased to say that my second book, ‘Dirty Weekend’, will be released later in the summer.

‘Remarkable Things’ is published by Crooked Cat Publishing, initially as a Kindle ebook.

 About Deirdre:

Deirdre lives in Brighton, on the south coast.  Most of her working life has been spent in administration, mainly in the public sector, and most recently at the University of Brighton.  She ‘graduated’ from the NWS to full RNA membership last September when she received her first publishing contract from Crooked Cat Publishing.  Before that, she successfully self-published a romcom, set in Brighton, called ‘Falling to Earth’. She belongs to a thriving blog group called ‘The Write Romantics’ and contributed to their anthology, ‘Winter Tales’, published last November.

Thank you for visiting the blog today, Deirdre and good luck with your writing.

The RNA blog is brought to you by,

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to be featured on the blog please contact us at

Monday, May 11, 2015

Caroline Roberts: Joan Hessayon Award contender 2015

Today we welcome Caroline Roberts to the blog. Caroline is another of our talented contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award.

Congratulations on graduating the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. Can you tell us when you first decided that you wished to become a romantic novelist? 
I have always loved reading and have written since childhood; keeping a journal, writing poetry. I wanted to be a romantic novelist from the age of 18, but went the long route - working in a bank, bringing up my family and helping to run a holiday park. I am intrigued by relationships. Love is such a powerful, beautiful and complex emotion. The Torn Up Marriage is about messy, real-life love, warts and all, where life gets hard and relationships crumble - but the love here is no less intense than in traditional romance novels.
How many years were you a member of the NWS scheme and did you submit a different book each year? Which year’s book did you graduate with?
I have been in the NWS scheme for 6 years, and I have submitted 4 separate books, so two were edited and then re-sent. I first submitted “The Torn Up Marriage”, which was then titled “Live, Love, Learn”, in 2012, and my 2013/2014 novel submission was also taken on by HarperImpulse in the same book deal and should be out later this year, so I graduated with two novels from the NWS Scheme!
How did you find your publisher?
I found my publisher through attending the RNA Conference 2013 where I pitched in a 1:1 interview with Kimberley Young (Harper Collins), who had come to chat to the RNA about their recently launched, digital-first Romance imprint, HarperImpulse. It was nerve-wracking but she was lovely, and at last I had found someone who believed in my work.

Promotion is a big part of an author’s working life. How did you promote your novel?
Promotion is ongoing! It’s been a steep learning curve, as most publishers expect you to do a lot of self-promotion.
I use Twitter @_caroroberts, Facebook: and I have a blog. Reviewers and book bloggers have been a great help too. I have been featured in my local newspaper and interviewed by the NE lifestyle magazine, Living North. I have recently taken part in an author panel for a library talk, and am always on the look-out for promotional opportunities.

What has happened to you as an author since that first sale?
It’s been such a busy time with promotion and proofing the paperback version which comes out on 7th May, as well as keeping up with the day job. I have been writing a further novel, set on beautiful Bamburgh beach in Northumberland, and any time now the edits for my second book will be hitting my e-mail box.
How did you celebrate your first book sale?
I had a hectic and lovely publication day back on 5th March. I celebrated with family as it was my daughter’s Birthday too. We had champagne at home, then cocktails and a meal out. It was a fantastic day, and a dream come true at last!
About Caroline:
Family, friends, food, a glass of bubbly and, of course, a good book make me smile. I love writing emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. I also like to write romantic comedy, letting the characters have a bit of flirty fun too! I believe in following your dreams and working hard towards them, which led me to Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and a publishing deal (woop!) after many years of writing. Stunning Northumberland is my home – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that have inspired my writing.
Twitter: @_caroroberts

Thank you, Caroline and good luck with your writing career.