How to Catch a (Rock) Star…

Today we’re delighted to welcome the lovely Gabrielle Aquilina to the blog, to tell us all about her fabulous debut.  Over to you Gabrielle…

Gabby cover 2First of all, I’d really like to thank the Write Romantics for having me – it’s a real pleasure and I’m thrilled to be publisher buddies with two of them!

So, I have my first book, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ coming out in a few days which is incredibly exciting but also really, really scary. Pretty much everyone I know has said they are going to buy a copy and read it and that is, quite frankly, terrifying. Great but terrifying.

I’ve been really busy writing guest posts for various blogs as well as getting together a short story for my website but, for this guest post, I want to tell you how ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ came to be.

As with most authors, I’ve pretty much always written – picture stories when I was a kid, awful poetry when I was a teenager, mostly journals, diaries and letters (I know – old school!) when I was in my twenties and, finally, a novel when I hit my thirties.

Actually, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ started out life as a completely different story to the one it ended up being. Originally, it was going to be a story about a group of friends and the dynamics of those all important female relationships. I wanted to explore what happens when one friend amongst a group of close friends becomes envious of another friend and how that impacts on the entire group.

But once I wrote Jed in, he wouldn’t leave the story and it became a novel of love, lust, mistrust and betrayal set against a backdrop of rock music! And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good love story? Especially one that involves super hot rock stars, relatable heroines and some good old drama and tension…

The drama in ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ comes from people keeping secrets and the fallout that happens when that secret explodes. I’ve experienced this myself in a relationship although it wasn’t quite as dramatic as either of the secrets Married Matt or Jed are keeping, thank God!

I hope a lot of readers will be able to relate to Lillie’s reaction and her subsequent downwards spiral. I’ve tried to make her a realistic heroine, one who makes mistakes and has flaws but, ultimately, is strong and picks herself up in the end.

I’m sure she’s frustrating at times, but isn’t everyone? Even my most favourite people annoy me sometimes and I try to write characters who are as real as possible because I prefer to read books where the protagonists are less than perfect. I find that makes for a more compelling and interesting story than perfection!

I enjoyed writing the characters from ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ so much (and quite honestly, they just will not leaveGabby 2 me alone!), that I’m currently writing a follow-on novel, which will star Johnny, Jed’s best friend, and I plan on writing a third which will be all about Lillie’s best friend, Kate. So, if you read and like ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then keep an eye out for the next two books!

If you do read ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then first of all, thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed it! And secondly, if you have the time, please leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon…

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Write Romantics! x

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Saturday Spotlight with Publishing House So Vain Books

Happy Easter! We hope that you’re having a lovely, relaxing time and haven’t overdosed on the chocolate eggs. If you’re working this weekend, we hope your time to relax comes really soon.

Squared_BLACK_logoMost of our Saturday Spotlights feature other writers, but every so often we bring you a different insight into the world of writing and today is one of those days.

About a year ago, Alys shared with The Write Romantics an advert she’d spotted for a new publishing company called So Vain Books. They weren’t looking for the genre of books she writes (urban fantasy), but she wondered if they might be a good fit for others in the group, particularly Jo and possibly myself. Jo submitted her MS and was offered a publishing deal with them. ‘Among a Thousand Stars’ will be out on 17th June. However, I didn’t submit. I felt that my novel didn’t really match the request for glamour/fashion/sex.

I was so impressed by the way So Vain Books were working with Jo that I remember joking that I should change parts of my MS to fit more with the glamour/fashion/sex element as they sounded like a company with whom I’d really like to work. Instead, Jo asked Publishing Director, Stephanie Reed, if there was anything else they were looking for. Steph said they were after books with heart where the protagonist changes their partner/life/career and learns from it. That was exactly what my book was all about so I submitted and was delighted to secure a publishing deal too. ‘Searching for Steven’ will be out on 3rd June.

Today, we welcome Stephanie to the blog and thank her for a valuable insight into the world of a new publisher.

Jessica xx

image_stephanieWhat’s your background?

My background is mainly in magazines and PR. I worked for over 5 years in the field of magazine editing, writing, fashion styling and PR, whilst in the meantime studying Publishing and getting some experience in the book publishing industry as a freelance editor.

What inspired you to start So Vain Books? How did you go about it?

Back in 2009 I founded So Vain Magazine, a now well-established online fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine. After four years in the industry, I started thinking of how to expand the brand in different ways. Given my love for books and my background, an idea was very soon formed: we were going to start publishing books. What I always wanted to do was to bring my unique approach to the book publishing process. The fact that I didn’t come from years and years working for any big book publisher meant that I did not have a “standardised” way of seeing things, and had the luxury of being able to shape the publishing house in a way that I thought could work. We publish unique books that we really believe in and market in non-traditional ways. All the So Vain Books team members come from different industries and we are all very young and full of fresh ideas. After a few months spent planning, getting funds, focusing our editorial direction and recruiting new members for the team, So Vain Books was launched on the 13th of February 2014 with a very glamorous and successful event in Central London. Ever since then we have spent all our time reading manuscripts, signing up very promising authors (including the fabulous Jo Bartlett and Jessica Redland from The Write Romantics), meeting with industry experts, building up our database or bloggers and editor, etc.

It’s a very stressful job, full of long hours and no holidays, but also a very rewarding one, as now we have had the pleasure of signing up some talented authors and we really can’t wait for what’s to come in the future.

What sorts of books are you looking for? How might a potential writer submit to you?

3d CoverSo Vain Books is always looking for a great story to publish! We are passionately interested in anything to do with fashion, beauty and romance no matter if it is a light and entertaining fiction novel or an insightful guide on how to be part of the fashion elite.

  • Fiction: we publish light fiction romance novels, specifically in the genre of chick-lit, erotica and New Adult that are funny, witty and quite glamorous.
  • Non-fiction: we publish memoirs, how-to guides, coffeetable books and DIY books all written in an entertaining and informative way by bloggers, celebrities and industry experts.

We only accept submissions from authors based in the United Kingdom.

We require a minimum of 3 chapters for the non-fiction guides and a full manuscript for the fiction books. For both of them, we will ask you details about yourself, a full synopsis and how you see your book positioned.

Sometimes, even if you have not written anything yet but have a fantastic idea you want to explore with us and see if we might be interested in it, we will read it and give you feedback and maybe work with you to develop it, but we will wait until we have the right amount of words to consider it for an actual contract.

For all submissions, you can refer to our dedicated page: http://www.sovainbooks.co.uk/are-you-an-author

How quickly do you know whether a book is for you or not?

Depending on the number of submissions we have at a given time, it may take us up to 8 weeks to come back to any author who has submitted a full manuscript to us. We do provide feedback both if it is a no or a yes.

Many of your books are set in a glamorous world. Is your world glamorous?

Not at all! There might have been a time when I think I led a pretty glamorous life, going to fashion shows and parties, always wearing super high heels and red lipstick wherever I went. But I soon realized that life was not for me. I am more of a tea-and-duvet kind of girl, and I prefer spending my evenings reading a good book rather than going out to glamorous events. Plus, that’s what books are for: they provide an insight into a world in which everything is glitzy and sparkly, without having to leave the comfort of your home (or bed)! Plus, often, when you end up living “the dream” you do realize it’s not always how you expected it and it’s just better to read about it in a book!

book 3dWhat do you do to support your authors?

We pride ourselves to be a very author-centred publishing house. We won’t publish anything that we do not passionately believe in, and for this reason we only publish a limited amount of books per year, focusing on quality over quantity. We dedicate to each author and each book the right attention to detail, offering editorial support, creating stunning designs, planning bespoke marketing and publicity campaigns, and being by their side every step of the way, supporting their own initiatives and ideas for the production, publication and promotion of their books.

Our bespoke publicity campaigns include a customised author’s website, social media campaigns, email marketing, blog tours, reviews, and much more. We don’t want to simply publish great authors, but we are committed to creating a brand around them and bringing them to success, so all our plans are about thinking long-term and ensuring a bright future for all our authors.

In a very competitive market, what do you think authors can do to promote their work and get themselves noticed?

It is really hard nowadays to get yourself noticed. There are hundreds of new books published every day, so finding a way to stand out from the crowd is no easy matter. The main thing people value when deciding whether to read a new book or not is recommendations. They have been proven to be the most influential factor, so having a large number of reviews on Amazon and on websites like Goodreads is key. Once you achieve that, it opens up a world of possibilities. So get as many beta readers as possible (including your friends and family), contact book bloggers and Amazon reviewers, and offer them your book for free in exchange for an honest review. If your story is a good one, it will take no time to start getting some very positive feedback and building that network of recommendations and “social proof” that is fundamental to get people to buy the book!

What sort of books do you read for pleasure?

I love romance, but you might be surprised to know they are not the only kind of books I read. I love fantasy almost as much as I love chicklit! I adore books by Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Sophie Kinsella, Cecelia Ahern and also from some far less-known authors.

I am currently reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.

horizontal BLACKWould you ever consider writing a book yourself?

No, definitely not. The more I read the manuscripts we get submitted by authors, the more I realize I would never be able to do that, or at least not as well as they do it. I also would not have the patience an author must have, as it can take a very long time to write a book and get it perfect.

What does the future hold for So Vain Books?

I am confident that it will become a well-established publishing house, full of successful and exciting books, ensured by the fact that we dedicate all our passion and creativity to each title and we have a mix between fiction and non-fiction, with an array of celebrity books that will help with promoting the less famous and first-time authors.

In the future we also aim at becoming an online store, with many books and other items revolving around our core brand. I want the company to also expand into things other than books, organizing events, conferences, etc.

Jo and I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure working with So Vain Books and we’re both very excited about our June releases. Thank you for joining us today, Steph.

If you’d like to leave a comment or ask a question, please click on ‘comments’ at the end of the teeny weeny tag-words below this post xx

Saturday Spotlight: Lynda Renham

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Today on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Lynda Renham, author of romantic comedies with the emphasis on comedy, including Pink Wellies and Flat Caps, The Dog’s Bollocks, and Coconuts and Wonderbras.  Welcome, Lynda.

I’m thrilled to be featured on The Write Romantics blog. Thanks so much for inviting me.

Your latest book is called Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers. You come up with some great and unforgettable titles, but does the title come first? Or is it characters, or plot?51OsJLaPmJL._AA160_

Ooh, there’s a question. My writing process is quite odd actually. I can be in the car, in bed, or sitting in the doctor’s surgery, when ideas come to me. So often the characters come first. It may be someone I meet or hear about and then the plot kind of unravels in my head. My husband often chips in with ideas and then I’m off. The title is always the last thing to come to me. Quite often right after the book is finished.

Do you ever find it hard to write such fast-paced, laugh-out-loud books, particularly when you’re struggling with real-life problems?

blog picAbsolutely, I struggle a lot during personal difficult times. Although I do feel that often my best work is written when under stress. I do make myself work no matter what though and wrote ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ when my house was in bits around me and a huge extension was being built. That book was my biggest seller.

 

 

You excel at romantic comedy, but do you think you’ll ever write in another genre?

I have. I wrote ‘The Diary of Rector Brynes’ which is a serious contemporary novel. I have written another called ‘The Cello’ which is unpublished. It is also a serious novel. I would love to write more but I’m not so sure they would sell.

Comedy is very difficult to write, but you make it seem effortless! Do you use beta readers to test their reactions?

Yes, I have two beta readers. I love them to bits for their honesty and constructive criticism.

Is there any subject matter you’d shy away from?

I don’t like violence, so that would not feature in my books. I’m very tongue in cheek about sex in my novels and make it humorous. But I never go over the top with the sex. I would love to write erotica one day. That is a genre I would love to try.

You seem to have a very loyal following on social media. Do you get a lot of feedback from readers?

Yes, I get a lot of feedback from my readers and I love it. I adore them. They are very loyal and lovely to boot. I answer every message I get and am in touch with a lot of my readers.

With so many novels on the market, it’s difficult to make new releases stand out in the crowd. What approach do you use in marketing your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter and blogging. That’s about all. I have done the odd book blog tour but not often. I feel I could use Goodreads more. I send newsletters to my readers and email them when a new novel is out but that’s about it really.

You’re quite a prolific writer. Do you write full-time, or have you got another job as well?

I write full time and love it.

What would you say has been the best thing that’s happened in your writing career so far?

Having several top writers review the books and having Fay Weldon, one of my all-time favourite authors like my author page. That made my day. And, of course, seeing my books hit the top 20 humour chart when they are released.

Finally, if you could have one writing-related wish, what would it be?

It would have to be to see ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ made into a film.51-Pi1yAbuL._AA160_

I can just imagine what that would be like, having read The Dog’s Bollocks and laughed out loud throughout!

 

 

Thank you very much for joining us on the blog today, Lynda.

Lynda’s latest release, Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers, is available now and can be bought here.

You can find out more about Lynda on her blog here.

Write Romantics Bookclub – The School Gate Survival Guide

IMG_2074Bringing humour and emotional buy-in to a story in equal measure takes a real gift, which Kerry Fisher has in bucket loads. We’ve been featuring her debut novel ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’on our Goodreads Book Club for the last month and have discussed everything from fellow parents who are at least 50% Botox, to going back to feeling like the new kid in the playground all over again.

The novel itself tells the story of Maia Etxeleku, a character whose down to earth intelligence and humour shines out from the first page. Maia works hard, in a cleaning job, to keep her family afloat, whilst her partner, Colin, could earn a part in Shameless and does very little at all – apart from blaming Maia for their problems.

Life starts to change in a way that Maia could never imagine when her favourite client, a professor, dies and leaves her a legacy that leads all the way to the school gates. Despite her surprise at the inheritance, and the stipulation that the money can only be spent on private education for her children, Maia carries out the old lady’s wishes.

School_Gate final jpegMaia soon discovers that appearances at the school gate, as everywhere in life, can be deceptive. Meanwhile, life at home becomes increasingly tense as she battles to fit in to a world where money spent on education is just the tip of the iceberg. Throw into the mix Zachary Peters, a teacher at the school who is everything that Colin isn’t, a very unhappy teenager and secrets that have been buried for a generation, and you have all the ingredients for a cracking good read.

Don’t just take my word for it though, here is what some of the contributors to our Goodreads thread had to say:

‘Loved this book…so much fun to read and very true to life!’

‘There is a real warmth in this book and lots of humour! Anyone considering reading it should go for it.’

‘Finished reading this brilliant book last night. The characters were amazing and I so wanted everything to come right in the end. You’ll have to read it to see if it does!!!’

If this has convinced you to read Kerry’s book, you can access it here. Kerry will also be a featured author in The Write Romantics’ anthology ‘Winter Tales’, due for release on 8th November.

Our next featured novel on the blog and for the Goodreads book club will be chosen by Lynne, who will be leading the discussions over there, as well as posting a review on the blog at the end of November.

Happy reading

Jo

Take a seat in Karen’s Reading Corner

karencocking faceOur guest on the blog today is Karen, from ‘My Reading Corner’. Karen loved reading from a very young age and over the years this passion has grown, now her idea of bliss is to curl up in a comfy chair with a good book.  Karen runs her book review blog alongside working full-time as a legal secretary and uses some of the commute from Essex to London to read up-to two books a week. In the picture below you can see Karen’s heaving ‘bookwall’, which she keeps in her spare room, but she admits she has overflowing bookcases elsewhere in the house too! So we’re really glad that Karen has been able to find some time to be our guest today and here she tells us all why books and blogging about them are so important to her.

Why is that you love reading so much
?

I’ve always loved reading, and can remember from a very early age reading the Ladybird books and then progressing to Enid Blyton and then as a teenager turning to Agatha Christie. Other favourite authors of the time were Jeffrey Archer, Rosamund Pilcher and Maeve Binchy. I love to escape into a book and to use my imagination which is why the film adaptations of books rarely work for me as it spoils the image I have in my head. Apart from the occasional biography, I rarely read non-fiction.

What made you decide to turn that passion into a regular book-review blog?

I’ve been adding short reviews to various online book sites for a number of years and although sites like Goodreads are very useful for keeping track of books that I own, the cover pictures change (I like to have a record of the correct book cover too) and there’s no control over the site content. I decided to start my own book blog so that I could keep my reviews in one place and keep my own note of which edition I had read. I also wanted to share books that I had enjoyed and if my review helps someone to choose their next read, then that’s wonderful.

What are the best and worst things about blogging?

It’s always a pleasure to be asked to review a book by a new author and finding a little gem that otherwise might have passed me by – and to be ableKaren cocking2 to tell others about it. Some of my most enjoyable reads this year have been found this way and there are some indie authors that are now on my favourites list. Another is being given the opportunity to read books before they are published. I feel privileged that publishers allow me to access ARCs of their ebooks from sites such as Netgalley and of course it’s always exciting to receive paper books in the post – whenever I receive a book shaped package, I feel like a kid at Christmas!

One of the worst things is feeling under pressure to read and review quickly. I have a huge library of my own of both paper and Kindle books which I am longing to read but struggle to get to because much of my free time is spent trying to keep up with review books. I need to find that balance of being able to read both my own and review books.

What is your favourite genre?

I don’t have a favourite genre. My first love was crime fiction but over the years my tastes have widened. I enjoy reading women’s contemporary fiction just as much as crime and suspense.   I also enjoy reading YA books and some historical fiction, especially dual time novels. The one genre that I am really picky about is ‘chick-lit’ and I tend to stick to the same trusted authors or authors that have been recommended by book friends.

Has there been a book that you’ve been put off reading, perhaps by the cover or blurb, and then have finally read and really loved?

No, although there have been many books which I haven’t enjoyed despite the hype surrounding them. One that immediately comes to mind is The Time Travellers Wife. So many people loved this but I disliked it so much I couldn’t finish it.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I have to be comfortable. I have a reclining armchair in the corner of my lounge (this is why my blog was named ‘My Reading Corner’) which is my favourite place to read, although sitting on the bed propped up with pillows comes a close second!

Have you ever considered being a writer?

Only in my dreams! The reality is that I know my limitations and I would not be good enough. I greatly admire people who can turn their hand to writing but it’s not something that I would consider doing.

How do you promote your blog?

Mainly on Twitter and Facebook. A few months ago I set up a Facebook page for my blog where I post reviews, share competitions and all things bookish. https://www.facebook.com/myreadingcornerblog.

Karen cocking1How many requests for reviews do you get in typical week/month and what’s your criteria for deciding which to review?

It varies, some weeks I can get several – both from authors and publishers. I suppose on average I get about 2 – 3 requests a week.   I always look at the book description to see whether it’s something I would enjoy reading and if it appeals then I say yes. Otherwise I politely decline. It also depends on how I’m asked. If a request is polite and unassuming then I am more inclined to say yes. If I receive an obviously ‘copied & paste’ email request with the book attached on the presumption that I will want to read it then that is an immediate turn-off. My blog has a review policy listing the genres that I read and it is often quite clear that many authors/promoters haven’t even bothered to read it before requesting a review.

Do you give bad reviews or only review books you’ve liked?

I will only review on my blog books that achieve a minimum rating of 3 out of 5 stars – if I really don’t like a book then I won’t include it on the blog. I want my reviews to be an honest opinion but I don’t want to be unkind. It’s extremely rare for me to rate a book as 1* (- it has to be REALLY poor) however very occasionally a book achieves a review rating of 2* and this would only appear on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads.   I don’t review every single book I read – if I’m reading one of my own books then sometimes it’s nice to just read for pleasure and not feel obliged to always post a review.

Have you got a top three of your all-time favourite books?

My favourite books change all the time. There are however two that have remained firm favourites over the years – To Kill a Mockingbird and Rebecca.

What sort of interaction do you have with fellow reviewers, authors and readers?

I think Twitter is wonderful for interaction with fellow book lovers and authors – what did we do without it! I love to see authors interacting with readers and it’s still a thrill when an author retweets one of my reviews or replies to a tweet. The downside of sites like Twitter and reading other book blogs is seeing all the new book recommendations which add to my ever increasing wishlist and ‘To be Read’ pile.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Just to say thank you for inviting me onto your blog. Having sent out my own questions for authors to answer, I can now see that it’s quite different being on the other side!

Thanks again for visiting us on the blog, Karen, we’ve loved having you stop by and it’s been great to hear what life is like as a book reviewer. If you want to find out more about Karen and her reviews at ‘My Reading Corner’ please following the links below:

https://www.facebook.com/myreadingcornerblog

http://myreading-corner.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter @karendennise

Rachael’s release day.

My first book, A Deal Before the Altar is now available, online and in store. It is the realisation of a dream I’ve been seriously chasing for the last seven years and I still have to pinch myself!

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Since ‘the call’ in January offering me a two book contract, I’ve encountered all sorts of new experiences, from doing revisions to seeing my first cover. I’ve held a Goodreads giveaway and Romantic Times gave my book a 4star review, saying Thomas’ high-society romance is a terrific debut. I’ve also appeared in my local paper. Even more excitingly, today I am returning from London and my first Mills and Boon author lunch – but that’s a post for another day!

This is the first cover I saw, the North American cover and I was totally blown away by it, but somehow it still didn’t feel real. I was after all, used to seeing the UK covers. I finally realised it was real when I opened the parcel with my UK books inside.

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It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was just about to enter Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write. It was the start of something special and I’d like to thank everyone who supported me in the competition.

From my experience, I would definitely advise aspiring writers to enter competitions. Success isn’t guaranteed, but perseverance and love of writing will certainly help.

 

Thursday Friends of The Blog – Kerry Fisher and The School Gate Survival Guide

School_Gate final jpegApologies for making Kerry sound like a book from the Harry Potter series in the title of this post, but she is, after all, capable of magic. Her debut novel The School Gate Survival Guide, published by Harper Collins, is available as a paperback from today, Thursday 11th September.

The magic lies in Kerry’s ability to create characters who can make you laugh and cry with them, on their journey through the novel, and you’ll be rooting for the protagonist, Maia, from the first page.

We’ve all had those moments when we realise that being a parent entrenches you straight back into the playground politics you thought you’d left behind with your navy-blue gym knickers and Bunsen burners. The School Gate Survival Guide is a great read that will help banish those back-to-school-run blues and make you realise things could be a heck of a lot worse!

You can order Kerry’s novel here or pick one up in your local bookstore or supermarket. Kerry is also one of the contributors in our charity anthology and you will be able to read a sneak peak of her second novel, The Divorce Domino, there.  The School Gate Survival Guide will also be our Goodreads book club, book of the month in November.