She believed she could and she did: An inspirational success story for any aspiring author

Back at the beginning of this month – on April Fool’s Day to be precise – it was the Write Romantics 4th birthday. In 2013, all ten of us were unpublished, aspiring writers, desperate to get that elusive break and put our books ‘out there’. Over the years since then, every time I’ve seen a wishing well – like the one at my local wildlife park – I’ve thrown in a coin for each of us waiting to get published and made a little wish that those dreams would come true.

We thought about doing an anniversary post on the 1st of April this year, but there were too many obstacles in the way – looming deadlines, new releases and those sort of knee-deep edits from which you can’t afford to come up for air. You see, in four short years, all ten of us have become published authors and there’s no need for me to use any wishes up on that these days.

I’m so proud of all of my fellow Write Romantics, but there is one member of our little gang who I want to single out. She was our trailblazer – the first to be published – and she never stopped cheering the rest of us on, loudly pronouncing that ‘you can and you will’ until every one of us could call ourselves an author. Not only is she a wonderful friend, who works long hours in a demanding job, but she’s an amazing mother and doting grandmother too, battling through medical issues for some of her family that would have anyone else on their knees. She really is someone the phrase ‘I don’t know how she does it’ could have been written for.

I’m looking at you, Helen Phifer! She’ll probably be cringing now, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tell Helen what an inspiration she’s been to me and I know I’m speaking for the rest of the Write Romantics too.  Those of you who are already fans of Helen’s work – which just proves what excellent taste you’ve got – will know and love her Annie Graham series, expertly blending horror and crime, which have climbed the best seller lists, giving the rest of us WRs something else to aspire to.

But here’s the thing, Helen took a leap of faith recently, signing to Bookouture to write her first crime novel, The Lost Children, without the horror focus that had always been her starting point.  A departure like this is no easy thing for a writer to do and I’m sure Helen felt an extra frisson of nerves when she put the book out there. Turns out, which is no surprise to the rest of the WRs, that Helen can write the sort of un-put-down-able crime novels that have the five star reviews rolling in and which sent the novel flying into the Kindle top one hundred as a brand new bestseller to add to her growing list. You can check out the reviews here if you want to know what people are saying.

As I said earlier, I wanted to let Helen know how much she’s inspired me. But, more than that, I wanted other aspiring writers to hear about Helen and everything she’s worked for. Taking a job with the police force to get her research just right, writing late into the night and in every spare moment to achieve her dream alongside those work commitments and a very busy family life. One of Helen’s favourite sayings is ‘she believed she could and she did’. So if you’re out there, dreaming of being a published author, then let Helen’s story inspire you too and make it happen – whatever it takes. She continues to inspire me and I couldn’t be more proud of my lovely friend.  Jo xx

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Happy 3rd Birthday to us!

1st April is a special day for the Write Romantics. It’s our 3rd birthday!

When Jo Bartlett and I ‘met’ virtually through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and came up with the idea of blogging together, we were two unpublished writers who weren’t even ready to submit our manuscripts. We realised quite quickly that we were going to struggle to post regularly about our ‘not quite ready to explore being published’ status, so we invited a few more RNA members to join in. The Write Romantics grew from two to ten, dipped down to nine for a while, then went back up to ten again.

One of the fascinating aspects of this group of female writers (other than the fact that we have never all been in the same place at the same time (except virtually) and therefore haven’t all physically met yet), is that we were nearly all aspiring writers when we joined forces. Only one of the group had a publishing deal. Move forward three years and it’s a very different picture.

We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the Write Romantics to tell you about their last three years.

Jessica xx

book14Jo Bartlett

Three years ago, I was unpublished and dreaming of one day walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on the cover of a novel on sale there. I’d just finished my debut novel and was sending it out to publishers… Fast forward three years and my novel, Among a Thousand Stars, has now been out for nine months with So Vain Books and I have my coveted paperback! I’ve also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson, so I got to see my name on a book in WHSmiths on several occasions. Both novels were picked up by Ulverscroft, a third pocket novel has just gone in to DC Thomson and I have also had a short story published with them in The People’s Friend. In the second half of last year, I signed a women’s fiction four book deal with Accent Press, the first two books will be coming out in 2016 and the second two next year. AATS CoverIn October, I finished second in the WHSmiths/Kobo/Harlequin romance writing competition and I am currently working with an editor at the world’s most famous romance publishing house on something that will be a significant departure for me and hence is being written under another name. Most of this has happened in the past twelve months and I definitely don’t appreciate how far I’ve come in three years for the vast majority of the time. Seeing it all written down like this makes a big difference though and, for once, I feel like there’s something to celebrate. The WRs birthday is the perfect excuse!

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100% genuine *cough*

Sharon Booth

Gosh! Three years ago I wasn’t part of the Write Romantics. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them (sorry!) I started writing my first full-length novel in November of that year, for NaNoWriMo. I met Jessica and Alys in June of 2014, having connected with Alys on Romna, as we were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I had a half-baked, patchwork story called Angel in the Marble, and was convinced it was rubbish. Jessica and Alys persuaded me to work on it and submit it to the RNA. I did, and got very positive and encouraging feedback. That September, I was invited to join the Write Romantics This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)(yay!) and in November, we released a charity anthology, Winter Tales, which included my short story, The Other Side of Christmas. I got Angel in the Marble edited and proofread, changed its name to There Must Be An Angel, and it was published in March 2015. Now I’m on the brink of publishing my third full-length novel, This Other Eden, having also had a pocket novel published by DC Thomson, and another short story in print, this time for The People’s Friend. Things really started to happen for me when I met the Write Romantics, so I’m very grateful to be part of this lovely group.

Jackie Ladbury

conf 2014 12In April 2013 I was faffing around with at least three half written books on the go. I now have three fully written books and am still faffing around! Have decided to pitch three novels as airline series and am finally getting my act together with A Plan! (I think!) Was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon first chapter competition and that complete novel is now part of The Plan. Am considering self-publishing another novel, but thinking about it makes me want to have a lie down, or take to the bottle. Could do that in reverse order I suppose!

my pic for blog postDeirdre Palmer

When we began, I was in the midst of submitting my novel, Remarkable Things, which has themes of motherhood, family relationships and later-life love. More revisions and another year on, I finally secured that elusive FINAL FINAL COVER with taglinecontract, and the book was published by Crooked Cat. Meanwhile, I’d written a 1960s’ comedy drama called Dirty Weekend, which Crooked Cat also published, a few months after the first. An excellent year! Now I’ve just finished another novel and started on another, the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Looking back, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved in the last three years 🙂

 

DSCN1701Lynne Pardoe

I had barely started my first novel three years ago when my mum became ill. Stuck for things to speak about mum and I talked about my plot, the more it took shape, the quicker I wrote it! That was eventually sold to D.C.Thompson and it came out in January 2015 as ‘Made for Each Other.’ Since then I self published ‘Please Adopt Me‘ on Amazon at first. Now I’m just waiting for my second to be edited and am well into my third! I’m loving having a cottage industry all to myself and so are my readers, judging by the quantity of good reviews I have!! 🙂

helen phiferHelen Phifer

Three years ago I’d been offered my first two book contract with Carina and I was busy working on the rewrites for my debut novel The Ghost House. Which was to be published in October. Now I’m in the middle of writing my sixth Annie Graham novel. Book five The Girls in the Woods was published in January and I have a paperback of The Ghost House on my shelf, plus I have a standalone horror story that will be published by Carina in September and Annie book six will be published around December 2016. I’m in the process of something very exciting for next year which will take me in a whole different direction as I’m working on a brand new crime series. Which I’ll share with you once it’s all finalised. All in all, I’m one very busy, extremely happy writer.

 

_MG_4982Jessica Redland

‪In April 2013, I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It had gone through the RNA’s NWS once and I was preparing to put it through the NWS for a second time later that year because I’d made significant changes to it. The idea of becoming published was a distant dream. Eighteen months later, I received two publishing deals and decided to go with a new UK-based publisher Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14called So Vain Books. In June 2015, Searching for Steven was released. It’s the first book in a trilogy of romantic comedies with deeper issues set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. The follow up, Getting Over Gary, was released last month
and the final part of the trilogy will be out in August this year. I’ve also released a novella, Raving About Rhys, which is set in the same town but with a different cast of characters. I have a deadline for submission of book 3 in about six weeks’ time then I get to write something new which is incredibly exciting. It’s been an amazing few years. Eek! Dreams really can come true 🙂

 

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe

Three years ago, I was getting ready to send my second attempt at a novel to the RNA NWS. As I was living in Australia this was always interesting at a cost of more than a hundred dollars plus an anxious wait to find out whether it had arrived in the UK safely. But it was so worth it! ‪Three years on and that novel, The Friendship Tree, was the first of three I have had published. I went on to indie publish Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next  and I have another two novels already in the pipeline. ‪It’s been an interesting and busy time but a lot of fun. I’ve learnt so much about writing and the publishing industry and I’m hoping the next three years bring just as much success for all The Write Romantics!

CoverTheFriendshipTree

Handle Me with Care final front cover - for KDPWhat Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version

 

 

 

 

 

photo (10)Rachael Thomas

In April 2013 I had just had my latest rejection and as usual was gutted. After the customary sulk, I began work on my next book, which I submitted to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition in September 2013. That book made it to the Top 10 at the end of the year and Christmas 2013 saw me working on revisions which I submitted early in 2014 and within two weeks, I The Sheikh's Last Mistress-UK covergot ‘the call’. My debut, A Deal Before the Altar was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in October 2014. Now three years on from the launch of The Write Romantics blog my sixth book, The Sheikh’s Last Mistress is about to be released. What is even more special, is that this book is a rewrite of the one rejected in April 2013, which just goes to show, nothing you write is ever wasted. Happy Birthday everyone!

Alys West Christmas 2015Alys West

Three years ago, I was working on the first book of an urban fantasy trilogy, Beltane. My dream was to secure an agent and I was thrilled in summer 2014 to be invited to London to meet an agent who wanted to represent me! Since then, Beltane has been published and I’ve been working on the rest of the series. I’ve also discovered a new passion for steampunk and wrote a story called The Dirigible King’s Daughter which I released on Wattpad. It’s been fascinating reading feedback from those who’ve followed the release of each chapter. The Dirigible King’s Daughter will be available on Amazon in the early summer. My novel writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the Beltane finalmoment because I’m studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’ll be back to it very soon.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the last three years. If you’re just starting your writing journey, or you’re submitting and dealing with rejections at the moment, please keep on believing in your work because, as you can see from our summaries, dreams really do come true xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to a Writer

Conf 2014 3I had one of those conversations the other day, where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. My head was wedged into the porcelain torture device more commonly known as a hairdresser’s sink and the young girl washing my hair was talking about her sister who’s studying English at uni.   I asked, as you do in these situations, what her sister wanted to do when she finishes. “She quite likes the idea of writing books, so I think she’s going to do that.” Did I tell her how difficult that was? Or ask her to pass on to her sister that she should have a back-up plan, a postgraduate certificate in teaching perhaps? Of course I didn’t, I just nodded and laughed inwardly. Drawing here on a melting pot of WR experiences, this is what I should have said!

 

Ode to a Writer

You want to be a writer and your mum’s your biggest fan,

Poems penned at eight-years-old convince her that you can.

Your dreams you keep them quiet, until you’re Brahms and Liszt,

You tell your friends who laugh-out-loud and soon you get the gist.

“A living as a writer? I suppose there’s always hope,

You stand about as good-a-chance to get elected Pope.”

 

You read a lot of ‘how to’ books, but not quite ready yet,

You spend enough on stationery to beat the national debt.

After learning twelve new swear words and an awful lot of graft,

Your book’s more holes than Swiss-cheese, but at least you’ve got a draft.

A hundred versions later, to submit it you’re all set,

And stop hiding from friends’ demands if it’s been published yet.

 

Out to publishers and agents, sure the slush pile it will ride,

But what if they all want it? How on earth will you decide?

You start to stalk the postman, your relationship you taint,

He’s forced by your obsession to an order of restraint.

He just brings pizza flyers, not a flaming other thing,

Your email’s also empty and your phone it doesn’t ring.

 

Then a meeting with an editor! To pitch it in one line,

It takes deep consideration and a bucket-load of wine,

A teenager in hot pants rejects the book as “out of style”,

You’d like to run her over, but you force yourself to smile.

“Your target market’s disappeared, your genre in the past”,

Another pitcher full of wine? You swear this is your last.

 

Who needs a publisher anyway? Self-publishing’s the key,

To notice it amongst the rest, you start the book for free.

You don’t let stats stand in your way, you know you’ll be the one,

To earn enough, once you charge, for mansions in the sun.

Your statement comes from Amazon, the sales they do amaze,

Enough to buy a whole doughnut, but only without glaze.

 

A fab five-star reviewer puts the smile back on your face,

But then there is the one-star for that comma out of place.

Mad to be a writer? We’re afraid that much is true,

Take comfort that you’re not alone, as we’re all crazy too.

And if we weren’t still writing, how would we spend the time?

Now pass us back that laptop and another glass of wine.

 

I probably could have written another twenty verses, but despite all this the WRs wouldn’t – or more accurately couldn’t – swap writing for anything else. Happy writing all you crazy fools! Jo x

Please, sir, I want some more

IMG_0910I’ve become a bit Oliver Twist lately. I keep wanting more. Okay, I confess, it’s not just been lately. The desire has always been there. Ten more minutes in bed? Ooh, can I have an hour more please? One lottery number in the draw? No, thanks. I’d rather have all six! One jaffa cake? No, thanks. I’ll take the whole packet instead! And when the tendency to munch my way through too many full packets of jaffa cakes (or tubes of Pringles … or pieces of cake; they’re interchangeable!) takes its toll and I toddle off to Slimming World or WeightWatchers for the millionth time, step on the scales and discover I’ve lost 6lbs in my first week, I feel disappointed that I haven’t lost 7lb or 8lb or, let’s face it, five stone in one week!

And I suspect I’m not the only one.

I decided to ask Google the question, “Do humans always want more?” A multitude of links came up offering thoughts and opinions, but all of them pointed to just one thing: it’s human nature. Good. Because I feel a little less guilty about it knowing that I’m not alone and that my “Please, sir, I want some more” attitude is not about me being greedy. Well, my desire for the extra jaffa cakes may be about me being greedy, but I hope my writing-related desires are purely human nature.

IMG_0900It started when I submitted my first manuscript Searching for Steven to the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in 2012. Like every aspiring writer who submits to the Scheme, I prayed that I’d get some positive feedback. I did. But I found myself wishing my MS had been good enough to be put forward for a second read. Please, sir, I want some more! Maybe the following year? I re-submitted Steven the following year as I’d made some significant changes. Perhaps I’d get my second read then? As it happens, the second read system was scrapped so I’ll never know.

The next big moment came when I clinched a publishing deal in September. Woo-hoo! It was an eBook only deal and, you’ve guessed it … Please sir, I want some more! Whilst absolutely astounded, flattered, and thrilled to have secured a publishing deal, I found myself wishing it was for a paperback as well as an eBook. Doesn’t every writer long to hold their own paperback in their paws? Sometimes wishes come true and, before I’d signed, another publishing deal materialised and, this time, it was for an eBook and paperback. Double woo-hoo!

But, please sir, I want some more. It wasn’t enough for me to have a paperback available via Amazon or my publisher’s website. I wanted people to be able to walk into a bookstore and buy a copy of Searching for Steven. My publisher is new and small and they don’t have the links to make this happen … or at least not just yet. So it was down to me to be brave, like Oliver, and ask for more myself. Waterstones in Scarborough were my target and, although a change in manager meant that the enquiry slipped through the net several times and we missed the summer market completely, they stocked Steven. I knew they’d placed an order, but I didn’t know how many or when it would arrive so I kept popping in during my lunch hour at work. It was on my third or fourth visit that I finally spotted him nestling on the bookshelves and …

Please, sir, I want some more! It’s human nature to imagine scenarios and many of us will imagine the best possible scenario. IMG_0911My best possible beyond my wildest dreams scenario was a huge quantity of paperbacks piled up with pride of place on one of the tables rather than the shelves, with a sign beside them reviewing the book and pointing out that I was a local author and that Steven was set in a fictional version of Scarborough. Realistically, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment that there was no signposting whatsoever. I’ve seen little review cards before pointing out recommended and local books, but Steven didn’t have one. I had to admonish myself to be grateful that (a) they’d stocked it, (b) there was more than one copy (there were 4 or 5) and (c) it was on the shelves forward-facing. I wanted to take a selfie of this amazing moment, but this would have involved an embarrassing lying on the floor moment because it was on the second from bottom shelf so I had to settle for a shelfie instead!

My next drama was whether it would sell. Four or five copies, not signposted, not on the tables, probably most likely to be selected by someone actually looking for my book rather than browsing on the shelves … would Waterstones be doing a return to distributor? I was therefore stunned and excited when Michelle, with whom I do a bootcamp, said to me a week gone Friday, “I bought your book in Waterstones yesterday. It was the last one on the shelf!” Eek! There’d been 4 or 5 on the Monday that week! I know where another two of them have gone – two of my work colleagues made a purchase – but I don’t know where number four and five went which is very exciting.

Of course, this has brought on another please, sir … moment because I now want Waterstones to restock! I want them to say, “Goodness me, those Jessica Redland books flew off the shelves. We must stock some more. And put them on a table in the middle of the sales floor. The best table. Ooh, and let’s add one of those review signs. In fact, let’s put some in the window too and flag up our local talent.” Hmmm. Might be getting a bit carried away there!

Yes, I think it’s human nature to always want that bit more. Yet that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with everything I’ve achieved so far. When I started writing, I had an idea and felt compelled to put it to paper. I didn’t really imagine that I’d be a published writer one day; I just needed to write a book. It’s amazing to think I managed that, never mind that it’s now out there for the general public to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’d love more. Who wouldn’t? I’d love to be top of the charts in Amazon, I’d love to appear in bookshops nationally, I’d love to have my books translated into other languages and available around the world, I’d love to sell the film rights. I doubt any of these things will ever happen and that’s fine because my main dream has already come true and I’ll be forever grateful.

Speaking of wanting more, though, where’s those jaffa cakes?

Jessica xx

Dealing with Rejection by Alys

I got two rejections last week.  One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore.  But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy.  I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.

Doubt Kills More Dreams

I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing.  But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them.  One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character.  It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is.  What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them.  And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’?  Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book.  Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?

I’m getting better with rejections though.  These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days.  Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well.  One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.

I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections.  Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:

‘There’s an awful lot I like about it.  However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”

rejection

Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:

‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’ 

Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.

And we’ve had some of those.  Helen R received:

‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’

Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time.  My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.

photo (5)

I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling.  Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot.  Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out!  Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.

So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company.  Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down.  Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us.  Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!

If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them.  You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Mega Monday Announcement – It’s Helen J Rolfe’s turn to sign a publishing deal!

Mega Monday Announcement – It’s Helen J Rolfe’s turn to sign a publishing deal!

In 2011 I wrote my first novel. Of course I thought it was fabulous, I thought that I’d be an overnight success and that I’d have publishers falling at my feet. However, reality soon hit after I submitted it to a few agents and was of course rejected. Realising what a feat it really is to not only write a book but write a book that people would want to read, I joined the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in 2012 and began to get serious.

‘The Friendship Tree’ was my second completed novel and just over a week ago on a Saturday evening I received an email from Crooked Cat Publishing. Glass of wine in hand at eleven o’clock in the evening I decided to turn off the iPad and relax but of course, I quickly checked my emails first. Skimming the mail I noticed there was a reply from Crooked Cat but totally missed the title which said that this was an offer of a contract. I clicked on the email fully expecting a rejection but what a lovely surprise it was to receive that offer.

‘The Friendship Tree’ will be published in 2015 and I am beyond thrilled to have become part of the team with Crooked Cat Publishing and to be so warmly welcomed by the other authors. I join fellow Write Romantic Harriet James who will also be publishing her novel, ‘Remarkable Things’, with Crooked Cat in 2015.

A very timely article appeared in the Romance Writers’ of Australia’s Hearts Talk magazine recently titled ‘Living the Dream’. In the article Anne Gracie writes about how the learning curve of a writer never stops whether you’re just starting out or whether you’re writing your next book, or the one after that. My writing journey has been both fun and exhausting along the way. At times I’ve written for hours on end, at other times I’ve wondered whether it’s all worth it. But those ups and downs, I now know, are all a part of a writer’s life. And it’s the life that I really want.

Yesterday I celebrated my publishing deal and the realisation of my dream in the only way I could…with a few glasses of champagne overlooking Sydney Harbour 🙂

 

Anyone for tea?

Anyone for tea?

Today I’d like to welcome Josephine Moon to the blog. She is the author of ‘The Tea Chest’, published by Allen & Unwin, and she’s a self-confessed tea lover!

Josephine, tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be a novelist?

I was born in Brisbane and now live on the Sunshine Coast with my husband, toddler and an unreasonably large collection of animals. I write fiction and non-fiction, with a different publisher for each. I love good food, aromatic wonders, nature and animals, and am a self-diagnosed spa junkie. My aim in life is to do all my work from the spa.

I took the long route to novel writing, and wrote ten manuscripts in twelve years on the way. I studied journalism at Uni, taught English and Film and TV in schools, worked as a technical writer and then five years as a professional editor, all the while writing and hoping to one day be published. Finally, in 2012, I got a literary agent and three book contracts soon after.

The title of your debut novel, “The Tea Chest” makes me want to open up the book and delve inside…what’s the book about and how did you come up with the idea?

I am a mad tea woman. I just love tea, teapots, tea rituals, high teas, doilies, silver spoons and teeny tiny cakes. One day, I was wandering through a T2 tea shop (around 2007), inhaling aromas and shaking bowls of tea, and I thought, ‘What an awesome job! Who gets to design all these teas?’ And with that, the character of Kate Fullerton, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest, arrived.

In the book, Kate Fullerton has just inherited fifty per cent of the company from her mentor and must decide what she will risk, both for herself and her young family, in order to take a chance to follow her dreams. Along the way, she’s joined by Elizabeth and Leila, two women at crossroads in their own lives, who join Kate’s venture to help realise The Tea Chest’s success. Set across Brisbane and London, with a backdrop of delectable teas and tastes, lavender fields and vintage clothes, The Tea Chest is a gourmet delight you won’t want to finish.

What are your plans for your next book?

My next book is currently sitting with my publisher and I’m anxiously awaiting her feedback! It is due to be published next year. It’s called The Chocolate Apothecary, and is set across Tasmania and France, is a family drama with a strong, classical romance structure, and continues my fascination with artisan food, lavender fields, sensory delights and chocolate, which wasn’t so good for my waistline and I’m now carrying the kilos of two years of hard research.

Which writers have had the greatest influence on you both as a reader and as a writer?

James Herriot, Monica McInerney, Liane Moriarty, Nick Earls, Kimberley Freeman (Kim Wilkins).

As a reader, what do you expect from a novel that you pick up?

I want to escape to another place, meet new characters that I love, and be taken on a journey. I avoid anything that is stressful, dark, involves violence or misery — I think there’s too much of that around us in real life and I’m not interested in spending my leisure time living it through books. So I want something nurturing and entertaining.

What are your most favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?

Good question! I truly think I have the best job in the world and I would be doing it (and indeed I did do it for twelve years prior to a publishing deal) even if I wasn’t being paid. So I’m blessed to be excited to ‘go to work’ each day and I feel stressed when life gets in the way and I can’t work. I never feel happier than when I’ve had a great writing day.

There are of course moments of pain, too. I explain it like that moment when you’re running, or swimming or on the exercise bike etc. and you hit that pain barrier where you think, oh man, I’m not enjoying this and I want to stop now. But if you keep going, you reach another level and if you’re really lucky you’ll hit that zone where you’re just flying and scoring goals and nothing can stop you. I used to get that playing netball and it was a magic place. Some people call it a ‘runner’s high’. I now call it a ‘writer’s high’ 🙂 I’ve learned that when I hit that moment of pain in writing, when I really want to stop there, that’s the moment to just wait it out.  And so often (so often!), I’ll get a second wind and some really great words.

So, in summary, that moment of pain where I feel like I’m pathetic and this is hopeless and I’m never going to be able to finish this scene let alone this book… that’s unpleasant. But getting into ‘the zone’… that’s magic!

What did you learn from writing “The Tea Chest”?

Before writing The Tea Chest, I’d written ten manuscripts across a huge range of genres and styles. It took me a long time to really find my voice and know what I wanted to put out into the world. So the biggest thing I learned from The Tea Chest was to write the book I wanted to read.

Do you see social media as key to reaching your readers?

These days, I think you have to embrace social media as a keystone in relationship building and connection with everyone from all walks of life. For me, social media is a double-edged sword. It can be wonderful for that instant communication and feedback, entertainment and promotion and socialising… but it also takes up a LOT of time and, more concerning for me, headspace. I recently discovered ‘Freedom’ a computer program that blocks the internet for you. Whenever I find myself ‘looping’ on social media (you know, you check stuff, post something, move on, but then someone comments and you feel you have to reply, then you have to check if they replied and on and on) I switch on Freedom, go through a few moments of panic that I might actually NEED the internet for the next two-and-a-half hours (!!) and then get over it and write some great words.

Have you had reader feedback about “The Tea Chest”? Are there any responses that you have particularly treasured?

I have had so many lovely readers contact me to tell me how much they love The Tea Chest. And I really treasure each one. I mean, at the end of the day, you write so someone will read it, don’t you? So that kind of validation is really meaningful to me. I do remember one woman wrote to me and said she hadn’t read anything since leaving high school and The Tea Chest was the first book she’d bought since then and I’d turned her back into being a reader. I mean, wow.

Do you find some scenes harder to write than others? Are there any types of scene that you do your utmost to avoid writing?

Yes! I’ve definitely found racy scenes difficult to write in the past, but just in the past two years I think I’ve worked out what my style is and how I should approach them and so they intimidate me less now. A huge re-write happened in The Tea Chest in the first couple of drafts and during the structural edit I took out a lot of racy scenes. They just weren’t me and weren’t working. Liane Moriarty writes brilliant sex scenes, I think, and I’ve learned a lot from her writing.

The other thing I try to avoid are emotionally painful scenes (such as when someone has died). But that’s because I don’t want to feel all that pain. I do get back to them eventually; it just takes me a while to face them.

And finally…Do you have any strange writing habits? (That you’re willing to share of course!)

I don’t think so (other needing my ‘writing pants’ to work in… which are generally pyjama bottoms). But I do seem to need chocolate to edit. I don’t know what that’s about but it just seems to be as necessary as the red pen.

Thank you so much for having me along. I’ve really enjoyed these questions! Jo x

Thank you Josephine for talking about yourself and your book. I’m just over halfway through ‘The Tea Chest’ at the moment and it’s a great read…I don’t like tea but you never know, you may have converted me!

Helen R 🙂