As regular followers will know, The Write Romantics all met through being members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme. Within the RNA, there’s an incredible amount of knowledge and experience that members are eager to share so we’re always really excited to secure a guest Saturday Spotlight with a fellow-RNA member to hear all about their writing journey and any words of wisdom.
Today, we’re particularly excited to welcome Jenny Harper. Jenny has been published, self-published and is also a very active member within the RNA. We bombarded her with questions about these three different aspects of being a writer and she’s rewarded our curiosity with a really insightful and interesting overview of all.
On behalf of The Writer Romantics and our followers, thank you so much, Jenny, for joining us today. Over to you ….
My writing journey
Back in the early eighties, when I was a young mum trying make my way in the world, I was lucky enough to come runner up in the BBC Woman’s Hour/Woman’s Weekly Romantic Novelist of the Year competition.
I thought I’d got it made. I completed the novel – but it was turned down! Turns out I’d broken a whole load of ‘rules’ for romantic fiction I knew nothing about, and despite kind encouragement from the editors, I didn’t have the time or energy to rework it at that stage in my life.
I was, however, offered a number of non-fiction commissions – three books about Scotland (where I live), several books on aspects of Scottish culture, a history of childbirth. I also did manage to get a romantic novel published (under a pseudonym) and a short book for young children was picked up by Hamish Hamilton.
None of it amounted to a living. I made my money from freelance journalism, writing feature articles for daily and weekly newspapers and for magazines such as Country Living and World of Interiors. I set up a company that produced magazines for big organisations in the oil industry, energy, heritage, banking, insurance and the public sector. I was still writing – but I made real money.
Recently, I was able to free up some time to take up creative writing again– and when my story ‘The Eighth Promise’ was accepted for Truly, Madly, Deeply, I decided I had to get a couple of novels out there. Why waste a great promotional opportunity? I took a deep breath, got my head down, and got to grips with uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space. I’ve also found myself trying to learn the inexact science of ebook marketing.
There are pros and cons of indie publishing. On the plus side, you are completely in charge. You can commission your own cover designs (I love mine, which get loads of praise!). You can price your book as you wish and put it on special offer every so often. You can follow its progress in minute detail – almost hour to hour. On the negative side, you’re on your own. You’re not in a catalogue, you have no expert help on tap. And getting your work visible can eat precious writing time. Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not! It’s fun, rewarding, and I’m making loads of friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Plus, I love learning how to do new things.
Is it for everybody? I can’t answer that one, but I do think that the digital revolution is transforming the lives of both writers and readers. It’s an infant market, and is going to keep on changing and growing, so if you honestly believe your work is good enough, I would certainly encourage you to get it out there.
Would I still like a publishing deal? Yes I would. My writing is getting more accomplished and confident all the time, I’m a grafter, I have loads of ideas, and I believe that any publisher would do well out of me – and the experience I have garnered on my journey. (That’s a pitch, if there are any publishers reading this!).
The RNA and me
RNA stalwart Anita Burgh introduced me to the Association some years ago and I’ve been a member ever since. Soon after I joined I spotted an advert in the RNA newsletter appealing for someone to take over. I’d done well out of magazines and felt it was time to give something back, so I offered my services as designer and production manager, joined forces with Myra Kersner (who was in charge of content), revamped the magazine into the full-colour production we get today, and eventually stood for the Committee.
The RNA was fast approaching its fiftieth anniversary. The wonderful Katie Fforde took up the Chair and we were plunged headlong into a couple of years of whirlwind activity. There were plans for all kinds of celebrations, Jenny Haddon and Diane Pearson wrote a history of the Association, Fabulous at Fifty, which I designed and – quite by accident – I found myself in charge of a complete rebranding exercise. The ‘new look’ RNA, the RONA logos, the pop up banners, stationery and the website, were all part of this exercise. Oh – and I commissioned the beautiful glass bowl engraved by glass artist Julia Linstead that is now the Romantic Novelist of the Year Award.
(One day, I might even win it myself! Sigh…)
The RNA is a non profit-making organisation. It depends on volunteers to keep it going. Under the current constitution, you can’t be on the Committee unless you’re a full member – but there are still plenty of opportunities for helping out on one-off initiatives, at Conference or events, admin tasks, handling tickets and so on. And if you’re not published, it’s much easier to approach an agent or editor and introduce yourself as ‘the RNA member who handles ….’ than just as a wannabe! So if you have a skill, or even just lots of enthusiasm, I would urge you to get in touch with the Chair or any Committee member to offer some of your time. It can be a lot of work, but you’ll make many friends and have a load of fun too.
Many thanks to The Write Romantics for hosting me.
You’re very welcome, Jenny. You can order Jenny’s books through the following links and find out more about her via her website, Twitter and Facebook:
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