Friday, September 29, 2017

Sally Quilford: Writing across Genres

It's an absolute pleasure to welcome author Sally Quilford to the RNA blog today for an interview with Helena Fairfax, in which Sally talks about writing across genres, combining writing short stories and novels, and how she began her career as a prolific and successful author.

Welcome to the RNA blog, Sally. It's lovely to have you here!

Please tell us how long you've been writing, and about your published books and stories.
It’s come as a bit of a surprise to me that I’ve been writing for 22 years now! I started in 1995, around the time I took a GCSE in English Literature. I didn’t take it very seriously back then. I just wrote poems, stories, fan fiction. All those things helped me to cut my teeth as a writer and taught me a lot about story structure. It also taught me what I wanted to be. I decided pretty early on that I wasn’t bothered about being taken ‘seriously’ as a writer. I just wanted readers to enjoy my work. Then in 2007, I decided I would work a bit harder at writing, and I made a vow not to work for nothing anymore, unless it was for charity. In that first year I earned £10 for a letter in Woman’s Weekly. Things did improve and since then I’ve written around 25 novels and had nearly a hundred short stories published in women’s magazines. I’ve lost count of exactly how many novels and stories, and there are a few unpublished ones on my computer, which I never know whether to count or not. If I did count them, we’re talking nearer to 30 novels, and something like 300+ short stories!

You write in many different genres, including romantic suspense, crime and sci fi. Do you have a favourite genre to write in?
Romantic intrigue, always. This is because, as a child, my dad always had books by Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsyth in his house. And my mum’s best friend, who I called ‘Aunty Vicky’, always had Mills and Boon and Barbara Cartland books in her house. I devoured each genre whenever I was visiting either house. You can see how I might have mixed the two. In fact, though I doubt Higgins and Forsyth would admit it, they also mixed the two. There’s always a love interest. Even now, the brilliant Jack Reacher novels always include a romance of some sort.

Apart from the length - obviously! - what do you find most different about the process of writing a short story and writing a full-length book? Which do you prefer?
A short story has to be much more self-contained, and you can only deal with one issue. A novel, whilst reasonably self-contained, can have lots of issues to tie up by the end but also can leave questions unanswered. I think I prefer writing novels, because of the larger canvas. On the other hand, there’s nothing more satisfying than telling a whole story in 1500 words.

You've written a lot of stories and books. Do you have a favourite character? And do you find you're drawn to write about certain types of people?
My favourite characters tend to change as I write new books. But I think two of my favourites are May Tucker, from Bella’s Vineyard, which was my first ‘Western’ romance, and Bobby Harcourt from The Steps of the Priory. Bobby was very interesting, because he was only ever supposed to be a secondary character, yet he ended up taking a much more important role in the story. I tend to write about loners and people who don’t quite fit in, perhaps because I’m very much that way.

Who are your favourite romance authors?
I’ve already mentioned Barbara Cartland. I make no apologies for devouring her books time and time again. Admittedly they were of their time, but I always think we have to make allowances for that and not try to enforce modern day standards on old works of literature.  I love Kate Walker’s novels for Mills and Boon. Her characters always behave like proper grown-ups, and that’s what I love about them. And two authors who are sadly no longer with us. Penny Jordan, whose prose was just delicious, and Diane Pearson. Her novel, Csardas, is still one of my all time favourites.

Please tell us about your latest release, and how you came up with the idea.
The Curse of Lakeham Abbey is the follow up to last year's The Secret of Lakeham Abbey (you can probably see there’s a theme…) In the original novel, my young sleuth was just that. Young. He was a teenage boy in the late 1940s, and I supposed that if I wrote more about him, he would remain that age, or at least age gradually. So imagine my surprise when he appeared to me as a man in his eighties and said ‘Psst, I’ve got another story for you.’ I almost resisted, but Percy Sullivan is not a man to be ignored, so I wrote it. The novel carries on from the ideas in the first novel, where Lakeham Abbey is a place of darkness, and builds upon it, but in a modern setting. I like to think of it as modern gothic. If there is such a thing.

What are you working on right now?
I’m just about to start the second year of my MA in Creative Writing, so am working on ideas for that. Other than that, I can’t say. I find it very difficult to discuss ideas ahead of time. When I do, they tend to die a death. But my notebook, as always, is full of ideas and I’m hoping that one of them will be good enough to get me a pass, or at least another publishing deal.

Thanks so much for joining us, Sally, and for giving up some valuable writing time to talk to us!

The Curse of Lakeham Abbey is out now. Here is the blurb:

Everyone knows that Lakeham Abbey is cursed.
All the stories say so. Throughout the years, there have been mad women, murders, and a general feeling of misery that drives people away. When another murder takes place there, it only adds to the legends. 
Some seventy years after his first visit to Lakeham Abbey, Percy Sullivan returns. He has lost none of his truculence nor his thirst for justice. The Abbey has been turned into luxury apartments, of which down-on-his-luck Percy is one of the first new residents. 
When Julia Marsh is murdered and her husband, fading rock star, Jake, is imprisoned, Percy is determined to find the killer and free the grandson of his greatest friends. Tensions rise as secrets that threaten to destroy everyone are uncovered.
In a place where no one is entirely innocent, how will he ever find the guilty?


If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact Elaine Everest on

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book Bloggers and Reviewers: Rachel Gilbey – Rachel’s Random Reads

 We welcome Ellie Holmes to the RNA blog with the latest in her series Book Bloggers and Reviewers. Today Ellie is talking with well known Rachel Gilbey.

Rachel Gilbey is a proud Londoner and lifelong reader who admits she feels naked without a book. 
Rachel with Helen J Rolfe
Since dropping out of university Rachel has followed a varied career path, working in IT and Brochure design for a travel company, qualifying as a Playworker, and working in after school clubs. She has also spent a few summers working abroad as a Children's rep.
When she returned to the UK her love of books grew to the next level and she started a book blog - Rachel's Random Reads, and has now launched Rachel's Random Resources too.
Welcome to the RNA blog, Rachel.

What made you start to review/blog?
I was always a prolific reader from an early age, leading Mum to have to take me to three local libraries on a regular basis to keep me in books. A few years ago, I was entering a large number of competitions, and discovered many fabulous book bloggers which I still follow to this day, and also Goodreads.
With any book I won from Goodreads, I went on to write a review, as it sounded like a condition on entry, and from there I discovered a few reading challenges some friends were running. At which point, I ended up reviewing almost everything I was reading.
Ultimately after a few others had suggested it, it was Laura Bambrey from Laura Bambrey Books that persuaded me I should blog, as I was doing 90% of the basics anyway.
Two and a half years on, I can barely remember how I filled my time without blogging, and adore being able to share my love of books to what I hope is an appreciative audience.

Are there certain genres you prefer to cover? Could you give us a link to your review guidelines?
Despite being a prolific reader, I'm rather narrow and set in my ways when it comes to the sorts of genres I tend to read, and thus cover on my blog.
I predominately read romance, women's fiction, chick lit with regular forrays over to the dark side of crime/mystery/thrillers and psychological suspense/thrillers.
My full review policy is available here.

Do you meet up with other bloggers and reviewers?
Given how solitary a hobby reading is, you may be surprised to hear that since starting my blog I have a far more active social life than I did before. I often attend the Blogger/Author Shenanigans events that the lovely Kim Nash organises, where I get to chat books with authors and bloggers.
I also attend book launches and panel discussions where there are authors or subjects of interest to me, and often bump into and other bloggers at these too. 
I have met so many bloggers and I love them all, it’s just that there are far too many to name!

What do you expect from the writer when they appear on your blog?
I'm not sure expect is the correct word. In an ideal world I would love an author to supply everything in a timely manner that has been asked for, which includes author bio, social media and purchase links, cover image and author photo, in addition to the guest post or interview.
The other thing in an ideal world would be some acknowledgement when the post is live, be it a thank you, a retweet, share just something.

What’s the best thing about being a book blogger?
Definitely the book events that I get invited too, some of them which appear to be completely star studded where I come over all fan girly and unable to string a sentence together, as I have met authors that I have been reading for 15-20 years in some cases. 
My other favourite thing about book blogging is definitely the direction my life is changing in, which I can answer best in the next question.

You have just launched an exciting new venture Rachel’s Random Resources. Can you tell us about it?
Rachel's Random Resources is my brand new business offering assorted services to authors to make their lives easier when it comes to publicity of their books, old and new.
I organise blog tours, shorter blog blitzes, 1 day publication day pushes, or Book Birthday Blitzes , to get a real buzz going on your special day, as well as cover reveals, which my growing family of bloggers will be eager to help out with.
I've got my Review Vault, which is where I will gain you potential reviewers without them having the pressure of a blog tour. This is open for reviewers that just review on Goodreads and Amazon too, to increase the exposure of the book on all the major outlets.
I'm also doing assorted graphic design for social media. This include header graphics for Twitter and Facebook, blog tour banners if you have organised your own, special offer graphics, images with quotes from the book or from your favourite reviews, all to enhance your social media, with a some variety.
Essentially, I am aiming to connect authors with bloggers, do the asking on your behalf, do the organising or graphic design on your behalf, freeing your time up to write the next book!

I saw on your blog that you are big West End musicals fan (a woman after my own heart). How else do you spend your free time when not reading?
Rachel with Sheryl Browne
I'm supposed to have free time when I'm not reading? Not sure I was ever told that!  As you spotted, I am a huge fan of musicals and will try to visit the theatre as much as I can in a year, although it’s a rather expensive habit to have. That does remind me I don't have any more shows lined up yet to see, I must go and buy some more tickets!
Cheaper than my other main love which is going on holiday, I love spending time abroad, sitting, relaxing soaking up the heat, and oddly reading at the same time!
I'm also a huge fan of sports, watching not participating, and events such as The Olympics or the Football World Cup will see me stuck to the TV no matter the time difference to soak up as much as I can.  I try to get to some live events each year.  I'm lucky enough to live near Wembley, and also within an easy enough journey of The Olympic Stadium (or The London Stadium, or The Queen Elizabeth Park, or whatever it is currently being referred to as). I was lucky enough to attend the World Athletics Championships recently, and had a wonderful time cheering on Team GB!.

We often ask agents and publishers what they consider to be the next 'big thing' - what do you hope to see more of in 2018?
That has to be the hardest question on the whole interview, especially tricky as let’s face it most of the lists for at least the first half to the year from traditional publishers are likely to be finalised already! 
So how to answer this question?
At the start of 2017, two other bloggers and myself embarked on a massive challenge, to between us see if we could read around the UK in 144 books, and see just how much of the UK we read about in books. Although we seem to have stalled, what I have discovered is a large amount of the UK just doesn't necessarily get featured in books often if at all.
I would love to see more variety of location in the books that I read. So often I spend most of my time virtually in Cornwall and Devon, despite there being pretty coastline all around the UK.
Thank you so much for inviting me to be interviewed today. It is a great honour and I really appreciate the opportunity.

It was a pleasure to talk with you Rachel. Thank you for giving us an insight into your world and good luck with your new venture Rachel’s Random Resources.  I’m sure you’ll have lots of RNA members beating a path to your door.

Links to Rachel’s Random Reads:

Links to Rachel's Random Resources:

About Ellie:
Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction with her heart in the town and her soul in the
country. Ellie’s debut release was The Flower Seller. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Ellie’s latest book, White Lies is out now.


Thank you Ellie and Rachel for a most enjoyable interview. Good luck with your new venture, Rachel!

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Festivals and Workshops: Yeovil Literary Festival

Welcome to Elaine Roberts with another in her interesting series about literary festivals and workshops. 

This month Elaine interviews Liz Pike from the Yeovil Literary Festival.

Welcome to the RNA blog Liz. Can you tell us something about the Yeovil Literary Festival, how it came about and how long its been running?
We had been talking about developing the arts in Yeovil for many years and really wanted a Yeovil
Literary Festival, but all dreams need something else to make them come true.  It was a case of waiting for the right people to be in the right place at the right time.  Our wonderful theatre, The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, was developing into a major venue for the West Country with a vibrant new manager, Adam Burgan.  Adam, Marcus Bishop, our Waterstones’ manager, and me, Chair of a local group of volunteers the Yeovil Community Arts Association, who do their best to promote the arts locally, came together and talked.   The seed was germinated.  With complete backing from South Somerset District Council we had our main venue, our theatre.  This is now our fifth Yeovil Literary Festival and it’s growing at a thrilling rate. We have other venues now to add to our theatre, making this a festival to come to for the duration moving between events in The Manor Hotel, The Library and the fantastic Brimsmore Gardens. We can also hold major events in our latest venue Westlands.

Who are your main speakers this year?
We have events by some major speakers on sale early as people tend to come to several events, so buying some tickets in June and July leaves time for when the main programme is published in early September to add to the list of speakers.  Our early speakers are Christopher Biggins at the YCAA Literary Dinner in The Manor Hotel.  There are two major gardeners in Sarah Raven and Monty Don this year.  For children there will be Jacqueline Wilson and Cressida Cowell; for crime thrillers we have Martina Cole, Mark Billingham and David Young. We add Michael Portillo, Joanne Harris, Polly Toynbee, Paddy Ashdown, Suzi Quatro, Jay Rayner, Alan Johnson and Jeremy Vine.  In addition there are the popular Professor Robert Winston, Bon Fogle, Dame Harriet Walter, and three well-known actors George Costigan, Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws.  Those are the early speakers and I know there are many more to follow.

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?
The Yeovil Community Arts Association administers annually the international Yeovil Literary Prize writing competition.  When we hear that people who have been published after entering and doing well in our competition are nominated for Romantic Novelist of the Year, then we are proud.
We hold an event for Yeovil Literary Prize Past Winners at our Yeovil Literary Festival and we meet people who are now published and doing extremely well in the world of books.  Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who won our poetry category a few years ago and is judging our Writing Without Restrictions category this year, has won the Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Year with The Girl of Ink and Stars.  David Young has gained literary success with his books Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf.  Babs Morton and Sophie Duffy are brilliant writers who have several books published.  There are many more who tell us their success stories.

Is there anything to enter, if so could details be provided?
The Yeovil Literary Prize is linked with our theatre and the festival as the people who run our writing
competition are also involved in organizing the festival.  This competition opens on January 1st each year with a closing date of 31st May.  Our entries come to us from all over the world and it’s wonderful to hear the voices from other countries and cultures in the entries.

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?
One of the festival venues is The Manor Hotel, situated opposite the Octagon Theatre.
There is Yeovil Court Hotel and two Premier Inns in the town.  We have The Keep sleep boutique and several B&Bs locally.

What does it cost to attend?
Ticket prices range from £6 up to £25 for the Literary Dinner with Biggins.  We often do an inclusive ticket price with a book, and always have a Members’ rate for people who are members of the YCAA, The Footlights Club at the theatre, hold a Waterstones’ card, or a Somerset Libraries card.  We also give Discovery Tickets for some events that people may not be familiar with when they purchase tickets for major speakers.  To listen to an ‘unexpected’ speaker really widens horizons and these tickets are appreciated.

Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?
Yes. We are now mid-July and many tickets for our early events have been sold. Once the main programme is launched in early-September there are queues out of the door at The Octagon, and, of course, tickets can be bought on-line.

How much time does it take to organise the festival?
It’s rather like a jigsaw. It starts immediately after the last one. We each beaver away using our own skills and contacts, then by May we know how the whole festival is coming together. There is still time for last minute speakers to become available and then we promote them alongside our programme.
We like to include local groups with a Mini-Art exhibition, the Yeovil Floral Society with Yeovil In Bloom enhance the festival with floral contributions. Our local library always supports magnificently, and we have pop-up Waterstones at every event.  It takes teamwork and Yeovil is blessed with people with the ‘can do’ attitude needed to launch a successful festival.

Dates for this year and possibly next.

Thursday 26 – Sunday 29 October 2017.
2018 dates TBC.

Link to website:

Email for queries:

Elaine Roberts
Elaine is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and the SWWJ and is currently working on a family saga. 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 hometown of Dartford. Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called WriteMindWritePlace.

Thank you Elaine and Liz for an interesting interview and good luck with the festival, Liz.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Rachel Burton: Living with chronic illness

Today we welcome Rachel Burton to the blog to give an insight into writing when one has a chronic illness. Thank you, Rachel for such an insightful piece.

Writing through Chronic Illness

I work full-time as a paralegal in a large law firm in Leeds and I also struggle with chronic illness -
fibromyalgia and endometriosis in my case. As you can imagine, writing books as well is very much a case of careful management of both time and energy. I know a lot of writers, particularly those writing their first novel are in a similar position, so I thought I'd share a few things that I discovered, mostly through trial and error, that helped me.

Write little and often
When I was writing my first novel I set myself a writing goal of 300 words a day. I know that seems a very small amount but it felt manageable alongside balancing my work and my health. And here's the thing. I often ended up writing more than that, but knowing I only had to sit down and write 300 words meant that I sat down and wrote nearly every day. And sitting down and writing nearly every day is how you get that first book written!

Move as much as you can
This is important for all writers but perhaps the most for those of us with chronic illness who feel too exhausted to go to the gym or for a walk. On days when I know I'll be sitting at my desk writing for a long period of time, I set a timer for every 45 minutes and when it goes off I get up and walk around the room, or have a stretch or dance around the kitchen for a couple of minutes. It really helps get your energy moving again!

I don’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on the floor in silence (although if that floats your boat I highly recommend it - nothing beats it for a restorative practice in this crazy busy world). By meditation I mean allowing yourself to find time to just be, to let your brain slip into neutral and have a rest. Not only is this restorative but it's also the place where I unravel the most plot holes. Otherwise known as daydreaming, it can be done in the bath, while staring out of the window, sitting in the garden or on a gentle walk.

Don't forget to do things you love
It can feel sometimes as though every spare minute that you have should be spent writing. I tried to do that and didn’t find it particularly conducive to either my health or my writing process in the end. Give yourself time to do the other things you love as well. Read, knit, crochet, watch TV, cook, go to a yoga class. We can load the guilt on ourselves sometimes and buy into the idea that a lot of time spent doing these things is wasted time but balance is important for your energy levels and your creative brain.

Make sleep a priority
It's tempting to stay up late writing, or to get up early to write before work, especially if we see other writers doing the same. But when we are living with a chronic condition, good quality rest is important - don't compromise. Your first novel will be done when it's done, enjoy the process because this will probably be the only book you write without a deadline…. And speaking of deadlines, one last little tip…

Be honest with people about your health
I used to try to hide my illness and pretend I was "normal" (whatever that means). It doesn't help, and 99.9% of people will support you in any way they can. My agent and my publisher both know that I need flexible and generous deadlines because of my health. I was really nervous when I broached the subject with them but they were so helpful. So always be honest, always ask for what you need - you'll be surprised how much people want to help.

About Rachel:

Rachel Burton has been making up stories since she first learned to talk. After many false starts she finally made one up that was worth writing down. 

 After graduating with a degree in Classics and another in English, she didn't really know what to do when she grew up. She has worked as a waitress, a paralegal and a yoga teacher.
 She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Leeds with her boyfriend and three cats. The main loves of her life are The Beatles and very tall romantic heroes.
She is currently working on her second novel in which the heroine is a yoga teacher. It has no autobiographical elements at all.....maybe. 

Find Rachel on Twitter & Instagram as @bookish_yogi or search Facebook for Rachel Burton Author. She is always happy to talk books, writing, music, cats and how the weather in Yorkshire is rubbish. She is mostly dreaming of her next holiday....

Can finding yourself allow you to follow your heart?
Julia Simmonds had never been bothered about not knowing who her father was. Having temperamental supermodel, Philadelphia Simmonds, as a mother was more than enough. Until she discovers she’s the secret love-child of the late, great artist Bruce Baldwin, and her life changes forever.
Uncovering the secrets of a man she never knew, Julia discovers that Bruce had written her one letter, every year until her eighteenth birthday, urging his daughter to learn from his mistakes.
Julia begins to dig deeper into the mysterious past of her parents she also begins to unravel her future. With gorgeous lawyer Edwin Jones for company Julia not only begins to discover her roots but she may just fall in love…


If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact Elaine Everest on