A Place in the World ~ Resisting Mr Rochester

I know it’s a crazy thing to do. Take a much-loved work of literature, beloved by millions—not least yourself—and use it as a springboard for a new book. And a romcom at that!

Then again, when have writers ever pretended to be sane? You have to have a little bit of madness, or how are you going to live all those lives? Inhabit all those characters? Sometimes, you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway…

Why did I write Resisting Mr Rochester? Because I couldn’t resist. Seriously. Jane Eyre is my favourite book, and Mr Rochester is my favourite Brontë hero. Who could ignore the pull of such a fabulous character? You can read my post, Revisiting Mr Rochester, over on the Fabrian Books’ blog today.

So, why did I write this book? Well, the title came to me first. It sprang into my mind one day, and just refused to budge. That’s unusual for me. Highly unusual. It’s only happened to me three times, and all within a single day. I’m currently working on the second novel inspired by a title, and making notes for the third. Usually, though, the title is just about the last thing to come to me.

Once I had the title, the main outline for the story came very quickly. I knew I wanted to write a contemporary romance with humour, and I knew a modern version of Mr Rochester was the hero.  Who, though, would be the heroine?

I considered, briefly, the idea of calling her Jane, or Janie, but dismissed the idea. A search on the meaning of names told me that Jane means “Beloved of God”. I quickly found a name meaning “Beloved”. Cara. I liked that name, so my heroine became Cara. As for her surname…

I wondered where the name Eyre came from, and what it meant. A search online brought this fascinating legend to my attention, and so, Cara Truelove was born.

Having studied Jane Eyre, I was well aware that it’s a mixture of genres: The Bildungsroman (dealing with the formative years of a character); the gothic horror of the madwoman in the attic, the ripped veil, the maniacal laughter; and finally, there’s the romance – the unexpected and overwhelming love between plain, small Jane Eyre, and the wealthy Mr Rochester.

In Resisting Mr Rochester, I’ve tried to combine those same three elements in a humorous way. Cara Truelove reflects back on her childhood, growing up in the shadow of her clever brother Redmond, and pretty sister Tamsin. Her relationships with her siblings have definitely affected her, and have shaped her character. Adding a gothic element was tricky, but I think I managed to add that sense of danger and menace without detracting from the overall light-heartedness of the story. Finally, the love story—my favourite part. Watching the blossoming romance between the insecure Cara and her passionate suitor was great fun and quite emotional. Like Edward Rochester, Ethan wears his heart on his sleeve, and makes no secret of his desire for Cara. But will his real secret drive them apart? And is Cara herself even more of a threat to their happiness?

Jane always struck me as a feminist. She raged against the suppression and forced expectations of behaviour women endured; she loathed the fact that women were supposed to be meek and mild, spending their days in “feminine pursuits” while men were allowed to build careers, have fun, use their minds. Debate and education were not for women. Jane hated that. She knew that women had the same intellectual capacity as men, and that they were being stifled. The frustration of having no choice and no voice must have been torture. Jane Eyre provided a voice for those women. No wonder it was once considered a dangerous book!

Although there is still a long way to go, and the same freedoms do not apply in every culture, many modern women can pursue careers, and can be assured that they will have their voices heard. Cara’s problem, therefore, is different to Jane’s. She has too many choices, and feels she’s failing because she hasn’t got some glittering career. She’s not an academic like her brother, Redmond, and she’s not a yummy mummy like her sister, Tamsin. Where does Cara fit in, in a world that insists that women can, and should, have it all?

Ethan Rochester, on the other hand, does have it all—or so it seems. Like the original Mr Rochester, he is rich and has a large house on the moors, and takes care of a young child. Like Edward, Ethan is married. Unlike Edward, he doesn’t hide the fact. Even so, there is no sign of the mysterious Mrs Rochester, and the marriage hardly seems to be a conventional one…

I knew that, to have a real flavour of Jane Eyre, there had to be some gothic element in there, and so I wove in a storyline of noises in the attic, a housekeeper who seems determined to make sure Cara is never alone, and even a rather alarming incident with a knife and a midnight visitation!

At the heart of this story, though, as in Jane Eyre, is the developing love between two people.  Ethan and Cara meet in the middle of an unexpected cloudburst, and it’s sunshine and storms for the two of them for quite some time!

Resisting Mr Rochester is about finding your place in the world, accepting yourself as you are, and allowing yourself to dream…I hope you enjoy it!

You can buy Resisting Mr Rochester here.

Get Writing in St Albans

St Alban's Cathedral

The sun decided to disappear the moment I got out my camera!

The lovely St Albans was the setting for this year’s Verulam Writers’ Get Writing day which, as usual, did not disappoint. There were some names I’d already heard of, the incredibly talented historical fiction writer, Emma Darwin (the great-great-granddaughter of Charles and Emma Darwin) for one.

Emma Darwin on Recreating the Past

I attended Emma’s two-hour workshop ‘Recreating the Past’ and was introduced to something called “psychic distance” which I confess I’d never heard of before and would probably get totally wrong if I tried to repeat it, so here it is as Emma explains it: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/psychic-distance-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it.html.

The fabulously upbeat Lucy V Hay who is a novelist, script editor, screenwriter and blogger of www.bang2write.com discussed loglines and taglines, the three ‘C’s namely, concept, clarity and character, and how to pitch your screen-play or novel. We discovered that there really is something called ‘the saving the cat, scene,’ written to make the audience see the softer side of an actor who is a ‘bad ass.’ It was coined from Ripley in Alien who wouldn’t leave the ship without Jones the cat.  And apparently a ‘fridge woman’ in a film is the name of a woman brought on simply to get her killed. Who knew?

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It reminded me of a different Get Writing talk a few years ago when a BBC screenwriter discussed how they decide the ‘duff, duff’ moment, ie: the closing scene when the ‘duff, duff, duff’ music at the end of Eastenders starts to play. Love it!

Cambridge academic Andy Martin amused us with tales of when he sat with Lee Child for seven months watching him write one of his books, drink gallons of coffee and smoke lots of cigarettes. Still not sure why he did it but he produced a book from his experience called, ‘Reacher said Nothing,’ which I think is a great title.IMG_1420

He made an interesting point as to why Lee Child was happy for Tom Cruise to play the part of Jack Reacher in the film, when, in the book, he’s a six foot something bit of a hard man. The reason it seems, was simply that he knew Tom Cruise would be a dead cert to get the film made and that Tom was such a good actor that everyone would forget the height of the original Jack Reacher within five minutes of watching Tom Cruise on the big screen.

The day was rounded off off with a couple of book bloggers who get hundreds of books sent through their door- sounds like heaven, but wow, what a lot of hard work to try and review them all – oh, and their postman hates them!

And just for the ‘aww’ factor here’s a nest with baby coots living on Heron island in St Albans park. (or they might be moorhens – hey, I’m a writer not an ornithologist!)

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Jackie xx

Air Guitar and Caviar out now.

agc_front_rgb_150dpi-copy  http://amzn.to/2jLPZsU

When Chris De Burgh’s eyebrows were totally on fleek

It’s funny isn’t it, how hearing a certain song can take you back to a time and place in a way almost nothing else can? Every time I hear Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’ (deeply uncool I know), I’m reminded of my first ever slow dance. Yes, that magical night when Justin finally asked me to dance! I can’t remember his surname now but, whatever it was, I’d spent at least a term writing Mrs Justin …… all over my text books at school – extra uncool points, but that’s just the type of girl I was.  I was a bit of a late starter and, if you want the real story, even this turned out to be a false start. Justin almost immediately danced with one of my friends who also liked him. Turned out he wasn’t interested in either of us, but just wanted to be nice and dance with anyone who fancied a shuffle around the dancefloor. Oh the heart break; excitement to humiliation in less time than it took the DJ to play the next song.

So why am I telling you all this? It’s not, as it might seem, a cheaper alternative than therapy for discussing my fairly tragic teenage years. It’s to remind my fellow children of the 80s what an amazing decade it was. Even though I do give thanks every morning for the invention of GHDs, it was a time when you could embrace your big hair and someone who looked and sounded like Chris De Burgh could be on the same episode of Top of the Pops as Boy George.

It never ceases to amaze me how I can remember all the lyrics to every song Wham ever released, but I go upstairs these days and forget what I went up there for.  That said my recollection of the 80s is infinitesimal compared with that of one of my oldest friends, and prolific writer on the 80s, Sarah Lewis.

As well as knowing everything there is to know about 80s music – go on, challenge her, she’ll prove me right – Sarah was always much braver than me when we were growing up in that very decade. Whether it was throwing the satchel of the local bully out of the train window, or blagging her way into summer parties at Bob Geldof’s house, Sarah would do it. No doubt there were huge stars back then she never dreamed she’d interview for her collection of books on the 80s, much less become friends with, but Sarah has gone on to achieve all that.

So what can I say? If you’re in the mood to be taken back to the 80s for even a little while, if you were mad about the music of bands from back then or would love to read an interview with one of the popstars whose posters used to be pinned to your bedroom wall and hear what life was really like as a celebrity in the 80s, then Sarah’s books are definitely for you. Her latest release ‘More Eighties’ features interviews with Soft Cell, Heaven 17 and Dave Wakeling to name just a few.

As for me? I’m just going to pop upstairs now to download ‘Lady in Red’ on my phone, but I’ll probably forget what I went up there for. Wish me luck!

Jo Bartlett

 

Crime… or romance? Cross genre writing with Linda Huber

Today, the Write Romantics, are handing over to one of our favourite authors – Linda Huber – to tell us what it’s like writing across more than one genre. It’s something we’ve been interested in for a while, and a great way to increase your readership and the scope to earn from your writing, so we hope you enjoy hearing Linda’s take on it as much as we did.

The nice thing about writing in different genres is, you can write to suit your mood of the moment – as I discovered last year. Up until then, my books had all been crime fiction. Not police procedurals, more character-driven psychological suspense novels. It’s very satisfying, creating bad guys and then making sure they come to a sticky end. Of course, sometimes the bad guys aren’t bad, they’re just ordinary people, in the wrong place at the wrong time – and that’s when the plotting really gets interesting. In my new book Baby Dear, we have a woman who desperately wants a baby. Another who isn’t sure if she wants the child she’s expecting. A third with a small boy and a baby, struggling to make ends meet and give her children the best possible start. And then there’s Jeff. His world collides with all three women, and the result is – in the book! The big advantage of writing crime fiction is, when people annoy you in real life, all you have to do is imagine them in the role of the victim in your next book. Also, there’s a certain macabre satisfaction in choosing creepy cover images. Or maybe that’s just me. I was quite happy with my psych. suspense writing, but then last year I discovered that the rights to some old feel-good women’s mag stories, published in the nineties and noughties, had reverted to me. I had the idea of putting a little collection together, self-publishing it, and donating profits to charity.

And so The Saturday Secret was ‘born’. As I chose my stories, and licked them into shape to republish, it dawned on me that working with feel-good texts can be balsam to the soul in a way that psych. suspense writing just isn’t. For one thing, your feel-good characters don’t go through quite the same horror-scenarios as your psychopath and his victims. It’s less exhausting. Doing your research is a lot less harrowing, too. (There’s little I don’t know about the decomposition of dead bodies in air-tight containers.) And your elderly relatives are more likely to approve of your new book.

Writing romance does have downsides, though. I need a third cup of coffee some mornings to get into a suitably feel-good mood, for one thing. And my characters seemed to end up with everything I’ve ever wanted. Hm.

At the moment, I’m enjoying the best of both worlds. I’m working on another crime novel, and also a trio of vaguely romantic novellas, and I really couldn’t tell you which I’m enjoying most. As I said, it depends on the mood of the moment…
Bio

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but has lived for over 20 years in Switzerland, where she teaches English and writes psychological suspense novels. Baby Dear is Linda’s sixth psychological suspense novel. She has also published The Saturday Secret, a charity collection of feel-good short stories. (2017 profits go to Doctors Without Borders.) After spending large chunks of the current decade moving house, she has now settled in a beautiful flat on the banks of Lake Constance in north-east Switzerland, where she’s working on another suspense novel.

More About Baby Dear

Caro and Jeff Horne seem to have it all, until they learn that Jeff is infertile. Jeff, who is besotted with Caro, is terrified he will lose her now they can’t have a baby.

Across town, Sharon is eight months pregnant and unsure if she really wants to be a mother. Soon her world will collide with Jeff’s. He wants to keep Caro happy and decides that getting a baby is the only way.

Then Caro is accidently drawn into an underworld of drugs… Meanwhile, Jeff is increasingly desperate to find a baby – but what lengths is he prepared to go to?

Baby Dear is released on 16th May 2017 and available for pre-order now.

Find out more about Linda and her books at the links below:

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LindaHuber

Baby Dear univ. link: getBook.at/BabyDear

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlindahuber

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaHuber19

website: http://lindahuber.net/

New release: Bear With Me by Jessica Redland

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)I’m really excited to be releasing my 5th book, Bear With Me. I particularly wanted to launch it today on 1st May because it’s my birthday; perfect birthday gift to myself!

Working on Bear was a little bit scary because I’d lived with my Whitsborough Bay Trilogy and the cast of characters I’d created for about fifteen years! Bear With Me is still set in Whitsborough Bay but with a new cast of characters, although a few of the characters from the Trilogy do put in cameo appearances which I really enjoyed being able to do.

As well as new characters, I’ve written from two points of view for the first time. And one of them is male. So it’s all change for me.

The title, Bear With Me, works on a couple of levels. Firstly, it’s the name of the teddy bear shop that the protagonist’s mum, Julie, owns which is the setting for part of the book. Secondly, it’s about needing to ask someone to “bear with me” because you’re not ready for a relationship.

I used to have a teddy bear shop so it was perhaps inevitable that I’d set one of my stories in one. My teddy bear shop was called Bear’s Pad and I’ve given a nod to that in Bear With Me by calling Julie’s cottage Bear’s Pad. Jessica is my pen name. My real name is Julie so there’s a little nod to me in there too.

P1050693Whilst I had the shop, I attended a workshop where I learned how to make proper jointed mohair teddy bears. These are known as artist bears. I kept my very first one, sold my next two and then the next two I made were presented to my mum and my mother-in-law on my wedding day. My brand for these was Ju-Sea Bears because of my name and my home by the sea. So, of course, I decided that the bears that Julie makes would be called Ju-Sea Bears. I like to put little touches like that into my writing.

Bear With Me is available for Kindle download now. I absolutely love the cover which is courtesy of my very talented husband, Mark.

Here’s the blurb:

Sometimes love finds us when we least expect it. But sometimes love leaves us, just as unexpectedly.

Everything changes for Jemma on the weekend of her 28th birthday. An unexpected proposal from boyfriend, Scott, is overshadowed by her mum’s diagnosis with a life-changing condition. After the weekend, she needs Scott’s support more than ever. So why isn’t he returning her calls?

Everything was meant to be changing for Sam that same weekend. He should have been walking down the aisle with Nikki. But she’s not around anymore and Sam’s struggling to face the future. Did he do the right thing by moving to London to escape the memories of their life together?

When they’ve loved and lost, can they bear to let love in again?

Bear With Me, and all will be revealed …

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside … but perhaps when it’s a bit warmer!

Seastrand

Over the past couple of years, I’ve undertaken a few library talks and even visited a local writers’ group to speak, but I had an opportunity to participate in something a little different yesterday …

Agenda BlackboardA friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. A café in Scarborough was going to be hosting a Writers’ Day where they were looking for local writers and poets to talk about their work, their journey, and/or read from their work. And this wasn’t just an “ordinary” café. The Seastrand is based on a corner on the seafront with amazing views. But it’s not just the views that are amazing. The café itself is pretty amazing because it’s actually built at the base of a disused cliff lift! The cliff lifts can still be seen further up the cliff and the tracks run into the café, as do the metal steps. The kiosk is what I’m assuming was the ticket station. Very quirky!

Empty RoomThere were once five cliff lifts in Scarborough connecting the town or cliff top to the sea front but there are only two in use now. The Seastrand is based at the foot of the St Nicholas Cliff Lift. It opened in 1929 but sadly ceased trading in February 2007 when the council couldn’t afford to spend the amount needed to bring it up to new health and safety standards. Their loss was The Seastrand’s gain. Tess and Stuart have been running the café for 2 years and have expanded the space to include a roof terrace with stunning views. Sadly, the very, very cold wind meant we couldn’t use the terrace yesterday but the writers had a cosy setting inside.

Table Set Up CloseMy worst fear for any talk is whether anyone will turn up. I knew I was guaranteed an audience when I spoke at Scarborough Writers’ Circle because having guest speakers is part of their session plan, but I’ve always had a modicum of nerves when a library talk has approached in case of no takers. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with an audience each time. Phew!

Jessica with Steven BearFor my event at The Seastrand yesterday, Write Romantic, Sharon, kindly came along to support me. So did another Scarborough-based writing friend, Sarah, and her partner. Which is just as well because nobody else did! Poor Tess did her best to coax in some passing trade, only there really wasn’t much passing trade. I think the grey day and the bitter winds had put paid to that. Eventually she talked two women into popping in. They said they only had ten minutes to spare, sensibly buying themselves an escape route. I was therefore extremely flattered when they stayed right until the end and said that they’d found it very interesting. Who knows? Maybe one or both of them may download one of my books, borrow one from the library, or spread the word to their friends.

View to CastleIt’s disappointing that there weren’t more and I have to confess that, for a brief moment, I nearly cried. Then I pulled myself together and reminded myself that it’s just one of those things and it was nothing personal. It helped when Sarah said that J K Rowling had nobody turn up for her first few book signings. I also managed to convince myself that the slot I’d gone for wasn’t the best. I’d picked 1pm because my daughter goes to drama between 12-2pm so this meant I could do the drop off, do my talk, and be finished to pick her up. This also meant that I was speaking bang on lunchtime. I suspect that part of the reason there was no passing trade is that people were on the seafront munching their fish and chips!

Jessica Outside LandscapeDespite the limited audience, I still really enjoyed myself. Tess couldn’t have done more to make me feel welcome and it was a really lovely and unusual setting. I know this is the start of what they hope will be more involvement in creative activities, and perhaps I might speak at a future one to a crowded room instead. I’ll definitely go back on a warmer day, though, to have a drink and a cake on that roof terrace, soaking up the sun and enjoying the views.

My next talk is in a couple of weeks’ time at my local library. Here’s hoping for a slightly bigger audience!

Hope you’re all having a fabulous bank holiday weekend.

Jessica xx

Carol Cooper on why being indie and seeing your book in a High Street chain aren’t mutually exclusive

As regular readers of the blog will know, we like to celebrate the success of our writing friends whenever we get the opportunity. Carol Cooper has been a great friend to us over the years and wrote the introduction to our charity anthology ‘Winter Tales’. So we are delighted to announce that Carol has another reason to celebrate. Her second novel ‘Hampstead Fever’ has already been featured in several shops, including as a featured book in Waterstones Piccadilly, alongside David Nicholls no less. However, Carol’s latest success is to secure a deal with WHSmith for ‘Hampstead Fever’ to be part of a high profile promotion with a special offer of buy one, get one half price.

As more and more authors are taking the decision to go indie, and some feel the main sacrifice is missing out on the chance of seeing their book on the shelves of a bookstore, we asked Carol if she could give us some insight into how she’s achieved all she has with ‘Hampstead Fever’. Here’s what Carol had to say:

*****

I knew I had to have a quality product. Not one that was just good enough, but that would really hold its own amongst other titles from the biggest and best publishers. So I used professional editing and proofreading, and an experienced designer for layout. The inside was, in short, the best I could make it. Then I commissioned a really eye-catching cover from designer Jessica Bell.
 
When it came to WH Smith, I got in touch with their buyer for their travel shops, and asked nicely. That was it. Or nearly it, because it takes more than a quality product – an author has to think about distribution too. It helps that “Hampstead Fever” was printed by Clays, a market leader in print books, and is available through Gardners’ distribution network.
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We’d like to thank Carol for sharing both her great news with us, and some insight into how being indie and achieving that dream of seeing your book on the shelves of WHSmiths don’t need to be mutually exclusively. If you are an indie author who wants to see how it’s done, or just someone looking for a really great read, check out the details of Carol’s WHSmith’s offer below.

WH Smith Catches “Hampstead Fever”

 
 
Carol Cooper’s self-published novel Hampstead Fever has been chosen for a prestigious promotion in WH Smith travel bookshops from March 30th.
 
This outstanding novel will be available in over 30 of their key bookstores at airports and rail stations throughout the UK on a buy one, get one half price offer over the busy Easter holiday period.
 
The perfect read for a voyage, Hampstead Fever follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners as they struggle to keep relationships from falling apart during one hot summer.
 
As a well-known media doctor and award-winning author, Carol Cooper has been a regular in print and on TV and radio over the last 20 years, giving her medical opinion on a range of topics.
 
With Carol’s in-depth understanding of people gleaned from medical practice and the media, Hampstead Fever wittily captures modern urban living.
 
About the book:
 
In a London heatwave, emotions reach boiling point…
 
Ex-con Dan has it all. The perfect job and a new baby with his dream woman. So why is he still an outsider?
 
Laure had baby Jack late in life. It’s only natural she’s a little over-protective. Motherhood is terrifying.
 
After surviving serious illness, Sanjay’s got his life back. Now he wants adventure. Where does that leave girlfriend Harriet?
 
Karen’s love life is reduced to casual sex with the football coach. As a divorcee with four kids, romance is on her to-do list, just below the laundry.
 
Doctor Geoff’s relationship with actress Daisy is bound to be a bit dramatic. But why all the mystery?
 
A slice of contemporary multi-cultural life to make you laugh, cry, and nod in recognition.
 
“Combines the observational wit of Nick Hornby, the emotional depths of Anna Maxted, and the complex cast of Armistead Maupin.” JJ Marsh, author.
 
“Cooper has an impressive way of evolving her characters until you feel you’re reading about your own friends.” Sue Moorcroft, author.
 
“Fun and frolics, racy and pacy. The good doctor has done it again!” Matt Bendoris, The Sun.
 
About the author:
 
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author.  Between Cambridge University and general practice, she spent years in hospital medicine, worked at supermarket checkouts, typed manuscripts in Russian, and proofread manuals on rebuilding dual-diesel engines. 
 
Following a string of popular child health titles and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to fiction with her acclaimed debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda
 
Carol lives in Hampstead and Cambridge with her husband. She has three grown-up sons and three step-children.  She wrote Hampstead Fever while co-authoring another medical textbook.
 
Hampstead Fever was first published on 30th June 2016
Hardwick Press, £7.99
ISBN 978 0 9954514 0 7