Friday, September 30, 2016

Festivals and Workshops: Folkestone Book Festival

Welcome to Elaine Roberts and the first in her new monthly series ‘Festivals and Workshops’.

This month I have interviewed Geraldine D’Amico, Spoken Word Curator, from the Folkestone Book Festival. Welcome to the RNA blog, Geraldine. Can you tell us something about your festival, how it came about and how long it’s been running?

The festival has been running for more than 50 years in different locations. It took a
Victoria Hislop
new life when it moved to the Quarterhouse, under the auspices of the Creative Foundation, and is now part of the regeneration project to make Folkestone a better place to live, create and engage with other creative people.

It takes place at the end of November, the darkest time of year, but is a beacon of light, the place to gather round the metaphorical fire and exchange stories, be enlightened, make new friends and celebrate community spirit. It symbolically starts with our opening-night speaker switching on the Christmas Lights, this year Jonathan Coe.

Who are your main speakers this year?

In alphabetical order: Jonathan Coe, David Crystal, Margaret Drabble, Marcus du
Shappi Khorsandi
Sautoy, Victoria Hislop, Shappi Khorsandi, Martin Rees, Lemn Sissay, Rose Tremain, Alison Weir and for the kids: Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler.

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?

I think they would enjoy attending the talks, especially by such wonderful writers as Margaret Drabble, Rose Tremain, Victoria Hislop, Shappi Khorsandi and Alison Weir who are all expert speakers on their writing.

Is there anything to enter (maybe a writing competition), if so could details be provided?

Yes, there are quite a few competitions to enter:

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?

Finding a place to stay in Folkestone is not a problem. It is a lovely town and there is a lot to see beyond attending the festival such as the artworks from the previous three Triennals along the Leas, the Harbour Arm or along the seaside and there are many
Kristin Hersh
lovely, quirky and orginal shops to visit on the Old High Street and fantastic caf├ęs where to sit and write or just enjoy life.

What does it cost to attend?

Tickets are not very expensive compared to other festivals (£7 to £12) and the more you buy, the less you pay (individually) or you could come as a group to get a discount.

Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?

Yes, they do so hurry if you want to book.

How much time does it take to organise the festival?

It’s an ongoing project and I’m already thinking of next year!

The dates for this year and possibly next.

18 to 27 November in 2016. The next one should also be the last week in November.

Link to website

Email for queries:

About Elaine:

Elaine Roberts
Elaine Roberts is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and is currently working on a family saga set in the1800s. She has sold short stories worldwide and enjoys attending RNA events such as the London chapter and our annual conference. Elaine is a great fan of writing retreats either week long by the sea with friends or one-day retreats with fellow writers in her home town of Dartford. Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called WriteMindWritePlace.

Thank you Elaine and Geraldine. The Folkestone Book Festival certainly looks interesting!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Christie Barlow – Still pinching herself!

Today we welcome Christie Barlow to the blog. her route to publication reads like a writer's dream.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself that in less than two years, I have four books published and working on my fifth! For much of my adult life, I had spent dedicated to the care of my children, but
then there’s nothing like one’s 40th birthday to shake things up a bit! A couple of years ago, we were discussing their career options one afternoon and I blurted out that I’d always wanted to write a book. Wanting to prove to them that you really can do whatever you set your mind to, I knew I had to follow through with my statement. But the dilemma was, what would I write about? There is an old adage that says ‘write what you know’, and I certainly know how to be a mother. Hence the idea for A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother was born.

I began to write every afternoon, along with the support of my trusty side-kick Woody, (and a few packets of Haribos) and a year later, I self-published. I will always remember that proud moment when I showed my children the finished product – a book that had MY name on the cover. Simply self-publishing my book was not the end of it though, – I knew that a strong Social Media presence would be necessary to promote it – and sure enough, it circulated quickly and became the talk of the town. Within a few months, this book I wrote to prove a point became an Amazon bestseller in the UK and the USA.

I am now a full-time author, signed with an agent, and have a book deal with publishers Bookouture. I’m in the midst of writing my 5th book which will be released in 2017.

My characters are purely fictional and contain a pinch of humour as well as some romantic interludes. I’d say it takes me about 5 months to write a book, and often the storyline takes me in a slightly different direction that I had originally planned! For the last couple of books, I’ve taken part in a charity auction where people can bid to have their name as one of my characters. This has been very rewarding as I’ve seen how much this means to people, particularly Ann Sandeman, a cancer sufferer, who was one of the main characters in Lizzie’s Christmas Escape.

Yes, you may find reference to some of my loves in these books (chickens, music festivals and Gary Barlow) but that is where the similarities end – I promise! I really enjoy creating my characters and writing stories that bring pleasure to readers. My novels are light-hearted but often have a serious story-line running through them. I draw from my own experiences and memories. Writing is a lonely occupation – that’s why Woody is so important to my sanity. We’ll often start the day ambling across the fields to clear my head and then get settled at the computer with numerous cups of tea to keep me company.

I love to interact with my readers and encourage you to get in touch.

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow
Facebook: ChristieBarlowAuthor

About Christie:

Christie lives in Staffs with her 4 children, husband and her mad cocker-spaniel, Woody. Her days, when not writing, include managing her little mini-zoo which includes horses and chickens. She is also a piano teacher and has a number of students.
Christie’s first novel was self-published in 2014 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller. While writing the sequel to ‘A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother’, Christie was signed by agent Madeleine Milburn and signed to publishers Bookouture for a four-book deal. Thus followed ‘The Misadventures of a Playground Mother’ in 2015, Kitty’s Countryside Dream in February 2016 and her latest, ‘Lizzie’s Christmas Escape’, out on 21st October 2016.
Christie spends a lot of time, when not writing, to supporting charities. She is an ambassador for The Zuri Project Uganda, and will be travelling to Uganda early next year to see how the funds raised are being implemented.

Thank you Christie. You are certainly living the dream of a successful author. Many thank for visiting the RNA blog and good luck with your next book.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Chatting with Publishers: Kate Bradley

Welcome to the first in our series, Chatting with Publishers. Today Natalie Kleinman interviews Kate Bradley, Senior Commissioning Editor at Harper Fiction, who was kind enough to answer her questions. So, for all you writers who would like an insight into another side of the industry, here it is.

Can you tell us something about your journey to your present job?
I’ve been really lucky to have a second career as an editor. I worked in retail and direct mail bookselling for many years, picking up valuable experience about readers; what people buy and why. It’s all helped me as a commissioning editor – I always think about who the end consumer is when I’m acquiring a new novel or writer.

What is a typical day like as a busy editor – if there is such a thing as a typical day?
Yes, there is definitely such a thing as a typical day – it’s characterised by editing and publishing mostly. Editing is where you work with an author to help make their book as good as possible; we can do umpteen edits before the book is ready for the world. Publishing is really the strategic and tactical process of getting people to buy the book; it’s about the jacket design working with the copy to make the book appealing to potential readers; using social media to reach out directly to consumers; working with our Sales and Marketing teams to engage retailers; all of this is often the hard graft; editors love editing and sometimes find it hard to stop!

Have you ever wanted to write a book?
Occasionally, but I know I’m best at helping writers to realise their ideas and to get their brilliant stories down on paper (or laptop!).

When not surrounded by books in your job what do you like to read for leisure?
Books about the sea.

What are you looking for at present?
The next big thing! Honestly, I just really like books that take me on an emotional journey, whether that be historical or contemporary.

If you receive a submission that is not a genre you handle, do you pass it to another editor in your company?
Yes, always. I’ll often have a read too, even it if isn’t an area I handle. It’s good to see what’s out there and all of the editors at Harper work very closely together, we read each other’s book all of the time and share the things we’ve loved.

Does your company accept un-agented submissions?
No, we’d be deluged. Better that agents do some of that ground work for us, it’s what they’re really good at; sifting for gold – we’re the polishers.

Do you have a crystal ball? What do you feel will be then next 'big thing’?'
If I knew that…at the moment, our genre is very volatile and anything can happen. One thing’s for sure, readers will always want books that speak to the heart, but perhaps with books that subvert the idea of the traditional heroine.

If you have one piece of advice to give to anyone submitting a manuscript, what would it be?
Write a very brief introductory letter; no life stories! Make what you send as good as it can be – work tirelessly on it. Be patient and take the feedback you are offered positively; it will all help you to hone your craft.

Thank you for answering my questions, Kate, and for giving our readers so much helpful information.

About Natalie:

Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romance novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her current wip. She is accumulating a nice collection of Regency works to help with her research. You can follow her blog at

Thank you, Natalie
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interview: Juliet Greenwood

Today on the RNA blog we are thrilled to have Karen King interviewing author Juliet Greenwood about her writing life and latest novel The White Camellia. Huge thanks to Karen for asking so many interesting questions and to Juliet for allowing us to take a glimpse into her world.

Your new book, The White Camellia, is published today, 15th September. Can you tell us something about it?

The novel is set around a ladies’ tearoom in Covent Garden in 1909 called ‘The White Camellia’, and a dilapidated old mansion in Cornwall. It’s about a woman who has taken the perfect revenge on the family who destroyed her own – but revenge is never that simple, and now she must find a way of living with herself and the consequences of what she has done. There’s love, mystery and danger, and a Cornish mine promising riches, but with a terrible secret held in its depths…

I see you write historical novels, what is the most interesting fact you’ve discovered during your research?

Definitely the revolutionary role of ladies’ tearooms in the fight not only for the vote, but also for so many of the rights for education, work and independence that we take for granted – and the freedom they gave by providing the first public loos for women! (it really is the little things that count)

How much planning do you do before you start to write?

My stories always contain a mystery, with plenty of twists and turns, and intertwined lives along the way. They are also set against a historical background, so I need to make sure the story doesn’t clash with any historical events.  This means I need to do quite a bit of planning before I start. But I don’t like to be rigid, because so much can change once the characters start to take on a life of their own, and so many new possibilities appear. I also don’t want anyone to guess – so I stay open to any fiendish twists that might appear!

Do you work in long-hand first or write straight onto the computer?

When I first start a book, I start long-hand for the first few pages. It’s my way of finding myself in. It means I don’t go in cold when I start on the computer – there’s nothing like the stare of the blank screen! Once I start, however, I type straight onto my ancient Mac laptop, which I love, and is far too creaky for anything else. I save everything in a paranoid fashion, I’m terrifying of every machine I own crashing. I write straight through the first draft without stopping. Characters appear out of thin air, vanish, and change sex with abandon. It’s getting the bones down and getting to know the characters – there are always several further drafts to go until the story goes to my editor, and the final refining work begins.

How important do you think it is to have an agent?

I think agents are very important. They negotiate with the market, have their fingers on the pulse, and are also the first line of the editing process. When you are starting out, however, there are plenty of magazines and publishers who don’t require an agent, which is a good way of developing yourself as a writer, finding your niche, and giving yourself a chance to become an attractive client. Most writers are in this for the long haul, very few are an instant success. Like wine, the mature ones are the best!

Facebook or Twitter? Which is your preferred promotion tool?

I love Facebook for the friendships and the sense of community, and because I’m always taking plenty of photographs it great to share. At the same time I enjoy the quick-fire conversations of Twitter, which can be great fun, and I find it’s possible to have a much wider reach – very important when you have a small publisher.

How do you relax when not writing?

I live amongst the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia, so I love walking my dog in the hills and on the beaches – and meeting friends for afternoon tea within the shadow of a medieval castle or so, of course! I also have a large garden, with a polytunnel holding a grapevine. I love gardening – and also letting it grow wild and sitting amongst the lavender, deep in a book.

What’s next for author, Juliet Greenwood?

I’m finishing my next book, set in the grimy underworld of Victorian London, and there’s also another brewing, so there’s lots of exciting research planned – but that’s top secret!
Watch this space …

The White Camellia

1909. Cornwall.  Her family ruined, Bea is forced to leave Tressillion House, and self-made businesswoman Sybil moves in. Owning Tressillion is Sybil’s triumph — but now what? As the house casts its spell over her, as she starts to make friends in the village despite herself, will Sybil be able to build a new life here, or will hatred always rule her heart?

Bea finds herself in London, responsible for her mother and sister’s security. Her only hope
is to marry Jonathon, the new heir. Desperate for options, she stumbles into the White Camellia tearoom, a gathering place for the growing suffrage movement. For Bea it’s life-changing, can she pursue her ambition if it will heap further scandal on the family? Will she risk arrest or worse?
When those very dangers send Bea and her White Camellia friends back to Cornwall, the two women must finally confront each other and Tressillion’s long buried secrets.

About Juliet Greenwood

Juliet Greenwood is a UK historical novelist published by Honno Press. Her books are set in Cornwall, London and Wales in Victorian and Edwardian times, reaching #4 in the UK Amazon Kindle store. Juliet lives in a traditional cottage in Snowdonia and has a passion for history, in particular the experiences of women, which are often overlooked or forgotten. She loves gardening and walking, and exploring the upstairs and downstairs of old country houses.


Thanks for taking the time to chat to us here on the RNA blog. It is always fascinating to peek into the lives of fellow writers and here about their work. Good luck with The White Camelia!

About our interviewer Karen King

Karen writes sassy, contemporary romance just right for reading on the beach. She also writes YA and children’s books and is a writing tutor.

When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

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This post was set up by Virginia Heath