Gondolas, cover bans and affirmation – It’s all in Siobhan Daiko’s writing life

Siobhan Daiko AuthorToday we are thrilled to welcome back friend of the WRs, Siobhan Daiko, to the blog. Siobhan was born in and raised in Hong Kong. Before becoming a writer, Siobhan had a range of jobs from post office mistress to high school teacher. Siobhan now lives with her husband and two cats in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, where she spends her time writing, researching historical characters, and enjoying the dolce vita. We had loads of questions to ask Siobhan when she came back to visit us and, as always, she has a lot going on!

What’s the best bit of feedback you’ve had about any of your novels so far?

An Amazon USA review of The Orchid Tree which said my characters were now a part of their life. That absolutely made my day.
You have had considerable success as a self-published author, but would you ever consider an offer from a traditional publisher or an agent to sell other rights, for example?

I would love for an agent to sell the film rights of The Orchid Tree to a Hong Kong movie mogul. That would be awesome!

You write across a number of sub-genres of romance. Do you ever find that a challenge and do you have a favourite sub-genre?

I’m writing a contemporary erotic romance at the moment, and I do find it a challenge as I’ve been writing romantic historical fiction up until now. It’s a good challenge, though. Just hope I can pull it off!

What has surprised you most about publishing your novels and has it lived up to the dream?All books banner

I’m surprised how much I love connecting with readers. And also how much I enjoy all that’s involved with publishing – from working with my editor, John Hudspith to choosing a cover design and even promotion. I dreamt of finding readers for my work and for them to enjoy what I write so, yes, publishing has fully lived up to the dream.

Your full length novels have love stories at their heart. How would you define love?

I absolutely agree with the definition in 1 Corinthians 13.”Love never fails.” I’ve used this quote in my latest erotic novella, The Submission of Theodora, which is based on the romance between Justinian (c. 482 – 14 November 565) and Theodora (c. 500 – 28 June 548), probably one of the greatest love stories of all time.

We love the range of covers you have for your novels and novellas. Do you start with a title or decide it later on? And how much input do you have to the beautiful cover designs you use?

I’m useless at titles. I must have changed the title for The Orchid Tree about ten times before publication. And I changed In My Lady’s Shadow to Lady of Asolo after I published it. Veronica became Veronica COURTESAN at the last minute, and I’m still not 100% happy with that title. I’ve been working with a fantastic cover designer, JD Smith, who has always been happy to follow the brief I’ve given her. She used photos of oil paintings done by my father Douglas Bland Artist for The Orchid Tree and Lady of Asolo, incorporating royalty-free images. I came a cropper with Veronica, when Amazon Kindle vetoed the cover I used for the paperback, a painting of an authentic Venetian courtesan by Titian, because of her bare breasts. A banner covering them just didn’t look right, so we used royalty-free images instead. Regarding The Submission of Theodora, I must have driven my designer mad as it took umpteen proofs before I was happy.

The Submission of Theodora Cover Paperback Proof 2 (1)-page-001Can you tell us a bit about the plot for The Submission of Theodora please?

Rather than do that, I’ll copy and paste a review I received on Amazon, which totally “gets” what I’m trying to convey in the story:

Smoking hot and passionate story of a love deeper than most of us will ever experience!

By Sheila73 on October 27, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition

This story is about a couple who really did exist in history, but the author made up her own story of their intimate relationship. Theodora is a strong young woman, despite her past of being forced to perform demeaning tasks to survive. Many women would’ve broken under some of the abuse she endured, but instead Theodora was always finding the good in everyone and worrying about what she could do to help her people. The Christian Church had been split into two opposing factions and times were difficult between the two. When she had the opportunity to help bring unity by advising the emperor’s most likely next successor, Justinian, she was delighted to be given the chance to do something worthy of her knowledge and talents. What neither Justinian nor Theodora expected was the intense physical attraction between them, which blossomed into a deep and unconditional love. Justinian’s dark dominant needs and desires aren’t something she initially feels comfortable with. She’s experienced too much unpleasantness from so-called dominant men in her past. But Justinian gains her trust and the relationship that develops between them is beautiful and pure. They really do complete each other, as cliché as that sounds. She not only entrusts Justinian with her complete sexual submission but also stands by his side as a strong partner in his politics. Theodora goes from being among the lowest rungs of society to being an Empress, which was very rare in that time. Justinian respected her opinions and they worked together to reduce conflict between the opposing factions of the Church and also included the common people in celebrations, making everyone feel more included. This was the perfect love story, one I could read again and again.”

What’s the most romantic place you’ve ever been to or thing you’ve ever done?

A gondola ride through the Venetian canals at midnight. Venice is magical under the moon, and sitting next to my husband, to whom I’ve been married nearly 37 years, I was taken back to the early days of our relationship. A real tingle moment.

Who was your first hero and how do you think he’s influenced your writing, if at all?

Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre. I totally fell in love with him when I was in my early teens. He’s a heart-stopping, emotion-wrenching, all consuming hero, especially as he isn’t instantly lovable. I wish I could write a hero like him.

Do you think it’s true that you should ‘write what you know’ and, if so, to what extent have your experiences influencedTheo teaser 3 your writing?

My first two novels were definitely influenced by my own experiences. The Orchid Tree is based on my family history in Hong Kong during and shortly after World War II. Lady of Asolo is influenced by the area where I live in Italy. I think that, now I’ve grown more confident with my writing, I’m able to write convincingly about experiences I haven’t had. At least I hope so!

What are you working on at the moment?

A contemporary erotic ménage romance, set in Rome. That’s all you’re getting for now!

Do you ever think about writing in a completely different genre, if so, what would you choose?

I would love to write a thriller one day. Mainly because I enjoy reading them. But I would be hard-pressed to come up with a good plot.

Thank you so much, Write Romantics, for interviewing me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. Here are my social media links:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/siobhandaiko

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7091256.Siobhan_Daiko

Amazon: http://viewauthor.at/Siobhan_Daiko

Blog: https://siobhandaiko.wordpress.com/

Books website: http://fragrantpublishing.com/

 

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Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

miniaturist

I chose to go way out of my comfort zone for this month’s book review, and chose a  historical novel.

The Miniaturist was an amazing debut novel by Jessie Burton. The sense of time and place were astounding with minute details drawing me in to a completely different era and world in Amsterdam. Burton’s descriptions in scenes were powerful and evocative and fitting with the time period. At no point did I lose faith as a reader at this author’s accurate portrayal of the character’s story.

I admired the heroine, Nella, tremendously. She went from being a quiet, innocent girl at the start of her marriage to a woman in control. And believe me, she was faced with plenty of unimaginable challenges along the way.
Each character had a story to tell and themes ran deep in this book – I won’t list them all as don’t want to spoil the plot!

Throughout the entire novel was the hook of the miniature dolls house which was a mystery as much as the characters’ lives. The book had excellent chapter hooks which kept me reading late into the night and my only criticism was that the story sometimes left me drained and emotional. But I guess that’s what powerful story telling can do.

Jessie Burton is definitely an author to watch out for. I’m excited to what she’ll write next!

Next month, join us again when Jackie will be reviewing Jill Steeples’ Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.

Helen J Rolfe.

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

Another Mega Monday announcement: Lynne Pardoe ‘pockets’ a deal!

Who could have believed the speed with which the Write Romantics have been landing book deals recently. First there was Jessica Redland’s 467141_105087346295108_93731370_oexcellent (I know cos I’ve read it) ‘Searching for Steven’ and her three book contract with So Vain books. Then Harriet James ‘Remarkable Things’ to be published by Crooked Cat, then Helen J Rolfe’s ‘The Friendship Tree’ also to be published by Crooked Cat.

I thought the good luck was bound to run out there. I’d sent a partial of a pocket novel I’d been working on to D. C. Thomson in Dundee around that time. I’d been working on it for months and lacked confidence to send it to them. Then I had an email conversation with one of their staff on their editor’s fiction blog which was really helpful. The next day I saw a blog post by another of their fiction staff, Tracey Steele talking about how to write pocket novels and I thought ‘fate is trying to tell me something, send it off fast!’ So I popped three chapters and a synopsis off one morning and got a request for a full later that day. I was delighted and sent the rest straight away.

I thought it would be months until I heard and prepared myself for a long wait. I knew how many submissions they must have and tried my best to be patient. You see, to me it wasn’t just an ordinary book because my mum helped me write it. Mum has been very poorly lately. She contracted flu many years ago and the virus got into her heart muscle and infected it. That caused the muscular layer of the heart to stretch, get thinner and to work more slowly. Bolstered by tablets you’d hardly have noticed any difference in her for over thirty years, but she’s now 85 and time is catching up with her. She was very, very, poorly for a while recently. Going out was a thing of the past and it was a major effort for her to even walk across the room.

I?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? can only imagine how painful that was, and boredom soon set in too. But then I thought I’d talk to her about the plot for the novel I was then about to write, and her world lit up. She totally followed me into my imaginary world and we chatted for ages about the characters I’d described and why they were behaving as they were. Mum suggested a couple of scenes and the motive for one person’s actions that were crucial to the story. Spending time with mum in our world of make-believe was a tonic to us both.

Now I haven’t told you what happened to this story once I’d consigned it to paper. I’ve left you in the lurch a bit about the outcome of this tome. I thought with the rush of publishing contracts coming to the Write Romantic’s there would be no way I would get one, so I got ready to slog in with my trilogy of social work books. Then about a week later, I saw an email from Tracey from D. C. Thomson. I opened it fully expecting to see a ‘..thanks but no thanks,’ sort of comment.

The first sentence yielded nothing of the sort. Nor the second. Then the third seemed to say she liked it and would like to buy it! I could hardly believe my eyes but when I saw the word ‘Congratulations!’ later on I knew what I read was true! It was all confirmed the following day when a paper contract arrived in the post. I quickly signed it and sent it back before they could change their minds!

D.C. Thomson is a bit special to me. My dad was Scottish and always spoke very highly of them. He was a printer at The Daily Telegraph and cameauthor 2 home with ‘The People’s Friend’ and ‘Beano’ every week. I loved them and read every word. As I grew older I read ‘The Friend’ in the nursing homes I worked in, often with the patients. I kept reading it when I left nursing, so getting published by them is very special.

Now I won’t keep you much longer, you must have plenty to do. But do check back soon because I’m hoping this lucky spell will continue. I’ve read some of my fellow WR’s work and know how good it is and how close to publication they must be!

Lynne x

In The Name Of Research.

Research- for some the thought of it is a joy. Maybe you are an author who loves to spend time in the library going through the reference section, and loves every minute of what you are doing. Or are you someone who would prefer to be practical in their research, to be on the scene and experience what it would feel like to be in the place you are writing about, to walk the path that your hero or heroine will be journeying on. To imagine being in their shoes.

I wanted to know how far an author would go to research their novel. So I asked Sue Moorcroft and Henriette Gyland about how far they would go. They have both been good enough to give me an insight into what research they are doing for the novels they are currently writing.

Sue. I do keep thinking that I ought to write about things I want to do (fly a helicopter, drive a car around Silverstone circuit, drink very expensive wine) but it never seems to work out that way. Soon I’m going on a 42′ seagoing boat when, usually, I avoid boats on the sea like the plague. But I want to know more about the boat than I can get from the brochure-how it feels/smells/moves, how easy it is to get up on the flight bridge and stuff like that. This book, ‘In the same boat’ (working title), is also making me scuba dive this September, when I haven’t been down for six years. But I’m looking forward to that a lot more than going on the boat.

For my next book, I think the heroine is going to have a face lift and find a toy boy….Maybe she’ll get be the one who drinks expensive wine, too.

Sue, I take my hat off to you. Now I wouldn’t mind going on the boat, even though I can’t swim, but the thought of scuba diving just sends a chill down my back. Being under water must be an incredible experience, I’m not sure I could do it. I can honestly say if you need help to do any research regarding the possible novel about the heroine who drinks expensive wine, gets a face lift and finds a toy boy, I would only be to happy to help, I know sometimes this can be a burden, so just want to be there to lend a helping hand.

Henri. Good question. As far as it takes, bar actually murdering someone! (people do tend to get killed in my books)  When I was researching my historical novel (out May 2014) which is set on Hounslow heath, I went to stand on the heath itself to get a sense of the sounds and smells of the place. Although there is not much left of it now, and what you hear is mainly traffic and the aeroplanes from Heathrow, I still learned what the ground felt like to stand on and what sort of vegetation grows there. Also, one day when I can afford it, I may get a costume designer to make a Georgian dress for me 🙂

Henri. I know what you mean. There is nothing better than to stand in a place where your novel is set, to feel the atmosphere, to picture the place it used to be, and just be a part of it. To visualise your hero or heroine walking or riding across the heath. Sometimes you may hear voices that seem to whisper to you from the past. It brings the past to life. And to have a dress from the Georgian period would be something special. I hope one day to see you in it Henri. What better way to do research, than to live it.

My novel is set in the world of lingerie, so it has been an interesting time for me, as I have had to go into some rather interesting shops, to have a look at what my heroine would be looking at to wear and sell. So when I went into one well known shop (my friend advised me not to go to the back, just stay at the front) I nearly fainted when a very helpful male assistant smiled and asked how I was today! All I wanted was to sneak quietly in and have a look around, and also feel the material of the lingerie. This due to a scene in my book, and leave. Yes. Thinking about that particular day, I think scuba diving is becoming rather appealing. Also I have been fortunate due to living abroad I have experienced the tail end of a typhoon. to sit on a balcony with a cup of coffee, as the wind begins to blow ferociously, almost bending the tree branches to the ground, watching as the rain lashes the ground, sending its spray against my skin. All this is going to be a part of what is going to be in my novel.

It seems that Sue and Henri love to research in a practical way, to experience and feel what their hero/heroine would experience. To put themselves in a different pair of shoes. To go as far as it takes. And I confess I am more a practical researcher, and it is fun, and sometimes a bit scary.

Thanks Henri and Sue for sharing your answer to my question, and telling us about how far you would go for your novel.

So, having read everyone’s answer to my question, I just want to ask you, How far would you go to research your novel?