Saturday Spotlight: Ellie Gray

Ellie Gray Profile PicToday on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Ellie Gray. Sit down, Ellie, and make yourself comfortable, while we turn the spotlight on you. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit…

First things first. When did you start writing?

I think I first started writing not long after I had my first child, when I was working part time. It suddenly occurred to me that, all those stories I had written in my head, the ones that kept me awake at night, carefully planning and constructing, should actually be put down on paper!  I’ve been ‘writing’ ever since I can remember but, up until that point, it never really occurred to me that I should physically write them down.

Yep, always useful to put the words on the paper! What genre do you write in, and why?

I write contemporary romance, erring on the sweet side, with strong male and female characters who have the same flaws we all have – no-one is perfect! I love writing about their hopes, fears and struggles and, best of all, helping them get to that happy ending; something that is not always guaranteed in real life. I also enjoy writing young adult novels with a fantasy-type edge.

Like Sharon, Alys, and Jessica, you’re a Yorkshire lass. Is setting important in your novels?

I think setting is really important and I love setting my novels in Yorkshire. I think readers like to ground the characters they are reading about, to know about where they live and how that affects them. I try to give enough description to enable the reader to really picture the surroundings, without being too prescriptive and degenerating into sounding like a travelogue! Although my debut novel is set in Yorkshire, my current work in progress is set in the exotic surroundings of Egypt and the Nile.

Exotic, indeed! When do you write? Tell us about your writing day.

That’s a tough one. Like many writers, I also have a full-time job and a family to work around. I am also studying for a Masters degree, just about to start my dissertation (gulp!) so it feels like a real juggling act. I try to write on a weekend and, if the writing itch gets too itchy to ignore, I’ll do a couple of hours on an evening, but I really do try to limit my evening writing during the week and spend some time with my family, and to drag myself out of the writing cave after an afternoon’s writing on a weekend.

Yes, we can all relate to juggling writing time with family time. As authors, we also have to get to grips with social media. How do you feel about that?

I know that social media is an important way of raising an author’s profile and I am building up a profile, using Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest etc. I’m also trying to learn as much as I can about how best to build up a following without shoving the ‘buy my book’ message down everyone’s throat. I do worry about how best to utilise social media, particularly when there are so many authors out there promoting their work. How do you get heard over the crowd? I don’t know the answer but it is something that I’m willing to work at and to learn from others.

Do you read much? What books do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

I love reading. With reading comes the guilt complex, though – when I’m reading, there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I should be writing. However, I know that to become a better writer, I also need to read as much as I can – so that’s what I tell that little voice when it whispers in my ear. I like to read a range of genres – contemporary romance, of course, but I also like to read the classics, Austen and Du Maurier, horror such as King, Herbert and Koontz, and I love the Harry Potter and Tolkein books. Oh, there’s the Sharpe series, I love those, and Elizabeth Peters with her Amelia Peabody adventures.

All of the Write Romantics were, at one time, members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Indeed, that’s how we met, so we’re very grateful we were accepted onto it. You were a member of this scheme. Do you feel it helped you? Would you recommend it to other aspiring authors?

Joining the RNA NWS is the best thing that I could have done to kick-start my writing career. I’d toyed with joining for several years but never seriously looked into it until late in 2014. Then, last year I decided that this was the year I was going to take my writing seriously. I knew the NWS is always oversubscribed so I stayed up on New Year’s Day to email my application just after midnight and kept my fingers crossed. Fortunately, I was successful and, since then, I have been overwhelmed by the support offered by RNA members. Even though I can’t always make the planned events down in London, there are lots of other ways to keep in touch and offer support and encouragement, not least via the email and Facebook forums. This year also saw the first RNA Afternoon Tea event in York which I attended and it was lovely to meet up with the people that I’d been connecting with online. Add to this the fantastic manuscript critique that is part of the NWS – I can only say that I would definitely recommend the RNA NWS to any aspiring author.

You recently signed a publishing deal with Tirgearr Publishing. Tell us about your path to publication.

It came out of the blue, which sounds ridiculous because, of course, I had sent the manuscript off for consideration. Beauty and the Recluse is a novel I wrote several years ago and which has been revised several times. Harlequin M&B requested to see the full manuscript about two years ago and, although they passed on it, they did give me an excellent and detailed critique.  As I was already well on with my next novel, I took it on the chin, put it in the proverbial drawer and kept on working on my new novel. Once I had drafted that, I took a break from it and pulled out Beauty and the Recluse and decided to re-work it, taking on board the M&B advice.  Once I had done that, I left it for a while and went back to editing my next novel. It was only when, during one of the email forums, one of the other RNA members mentioned that they had a new novel out for release with Tirgearr Publishing that, out of interest, I had a look at their website, liked the look of their titles and their approach and, on the off-chance, decided to send them Beauty and the Recluse – not holding out much hope. However, less than two weeks later, I had a response from them telling me that they loved the book and the characters and offering me a contract on the spot. I was at work at the time and thought that it must be a hoax!

Loving the title of your first novel! Can you tell us a bit about it? When is it due for release?

As you might guess from the title, it has elements of Beauty and the Beast and, while it isn’t a true, modern day re-telling of the tale, it does have certain similarities to the fairy tale.

Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment.  She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.

St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone.  They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be? 

It is due for release in February 2016 and I am so excited, although nervous about how it will be received.  I can’t wait to get the first sight of my cover which should be fairly soon.

Very exciting times ahead! What are you planning next? Is there another book in the pipeline?

Yes, I am currently editing my next novel which is set in Egypt and follows the themes of love, loss and letting go of the past.

Thank you for being such a lovely guest, Ellie. Hope the spotlight didn’t shine too brightly in your eyes! Good luck with Beauty and the Recluse. We look forward to reading it. 

You can find out more about Ellie at:

https://elliegrayauthor.wordpress.com/

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/elliegray58

Pinterest:  https://uk.pinterest.com/elliegray71/

 

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Don’t forget the oldies! by Lynne Pardoe

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Nine times out of ten when people mention classic women’s books they mean Jane Austen, or one of the Bronte sisters. It’s the same with art, there’s really only a few top of the top artists who ever get a mention in any sort of media, Picasso, Monet, Holbein.

But there’s so much more to the world than somebody else’s limited perception, to dive into the world of the lesser known mortal is like a foray into the wilderness, to enter a world that is completely unknown. I used to love hunting in secondhand bookshops but not long ago and thanks to my mother in law, I discovered a little treasure.

Thankfully I’m not the only one who has spotted the treasures of the out of print book. In 1998 a woman called Nicola Beauman began a little business printing a few out of print books every year from a basement in Clerkenwell.

I don’t think she could have predicted the success she has had. Named after the goddess of female creativity, Persephone books long since moved out of its basement beginnings into a beautiful little shop in Bloomsbury. All of their books are cloaked in grey, (not fifty shades, just one pale shade) but inside is each is a copy of some beautiful fabric and a matching bookmark.

The whole shop and website are a treat for the eyes and there’s even a beautiful free newsletter produced twice a year which is a delight in itself.

I guess all of us authors have to face that one day, we’ll be long gone and so will our books, but I only hope mine end up at Persephone, its a lovely way to be remembered!

Find out more about Persephone Books at http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk

Find out more about Lynne at http://www.lynnepardoe.com

Have you been booked?

One of the treats of a British summer is the plethora of literary festivals around nowadays. There can be few pleasures more engaging than being in our wonderful historic country listening to an author talking about their book whilst supping a glass of something delicious.

Indeed, they are now so popular that major authors can now command big money and getting a look in on the schedule is out of the question for lesser authors like myself. This can make the bigger events feel less personal, as event officials rush their writers off to private areas giving us little  opportunity to talk to the authors in person.

But if you choose a new event, one that’s still in its early years and has plenty of authors who are early on in their writing career, you can get the best of both worlds. Small enough to still maintain their house party atmosphere, you can hear first-hand from a variety of authors, some new, some not so new, about their work, their inspiration and what drives them.

Hawkesbury Upton is one such event. In its first year, the venue alone is a perfect place to spend time in. It’s in a beautiful south Cotswolds village called Hawkesbury Upton, close to the famous Badminton estate in a gorgeous pub called ‘The Fox’, with its own Italian restaurant. The event will be opened by best-selling novelist Katie Fforde and best-selling literary novelist and poet Orna Ross, who is also founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors. There are a variety of talks starting at 7pm, author readings, an exhibition and a shop open all evening, something to entertain everyone. The event will feature local charity, Readathon, aimed at encouraging children to read and even a literary calligraphy exhibition.

To truly soak up the literary connections you could stop over at The Bodkin en route. This beautiful local restaurant in the village of Petty France near Hawkesbury Upton was visited by Jane Austen, who is reputed to have scratched a message with her diamond ring on an upstairs window. She   commemorated her stay in her novel ‘Northanger Abbey’.

The day is on World Book Night on April 23rd. Interest has been so great that who knows, in a few years the event might be taking its place amongst the biggest of the book world.

And for one final treat, Write Romantic’s Helen Rolfe and Lynne Pardoe will be making their debut in the literary festival world at the event! For the full programme, see the webpage.

http://hulitfest.com

Wednesday Wondering – Life Swap with a Fictional Character

Hello there and welcome to the first Wednesday Wondering of the year. Hope the first two weeks of 2015 have been good to you and, if not, there are still 50 to go so plenty of time for improvement.

How many times have you read a book and recognised yourself in the protagonist? Or perhaps one of the characters says or does things that you’d love to do if you were older/younger/prettier/slimmer/taller/more daring/less self-conscious and so on. What if you could swap lives with that protagonist? How exciting would that be?

With this in mind, my question for The Write Romantics this month is:

If you could leap into any book, current or historical, which character would you like to be and why?

P1060112I’ve read hundreds of books in my time and I have definitely related to characters (particularly Bridget Jones) and I’ve definitely been envious of where other characters get their happy ever after (particularly  classics brought to life on the big or small screen like Emma and Pride & Prejudice) but there is only one occasion in my life where I’ve absolutely wanted to be someone else. So much so that I used to actually write her name in books and on other possessions. The name of the character was Darrell Rivers which will probably bring back memories for so many of you as the protagonist of Enid Blyton’s wonderful Malory Towers series.

I loved Darrell right from the start as a rather sullen judgmental character who made quite a few mistakes right through to the mature, popular individual she became at the end. Talk about a major character arc! I would imagine she went on to be incredibly successful with a wonderful partner and perfect children and never had to diet in her life. So who wouldn’t want to be her!

Here’s what the rest of the WRs said …

Alys says …

photo-1When I started thinking about this I realised that although I’d love to say Elizabeth Bennett if I actually had to live her life I wasn’t sure I could handle Regency plumbing. So it had to be someone post-1900 and then the answer was obvious. You’ve all heard me bang on about Dorothy L Sayers and my love of Lord Peter Wimsey. If I was going to live a character’s life then I’d want to be Harriet Vane, the crime novelist that Lord Peter falls in love with. Harriet has an amazing life. She’s a very successful writer, she studied at Oxford, goes on healthy walking holidays in Devon (where obviously she finds a corpse!) and has dates in glamorous nightspots with Lord Peter. There is just one complication which is that she also gets tried for the murder of her former lover. Obviously she’s not guilty as Lord Peter proves but she spends rather a lot of time in prison and the penalty for murder at that time was hanging so I’d really rather avoid all of that. So if I could take over just before the start of Have His Carcase then that’d be great, thanks!

Lynne says …

It wasn’t till I thought about this post that I realised that many of the heroines of books I’ve enjoyed are tragic heroines!

But there is one who is totally not a tragic figure, more a very lucky person indeed, and this is Elizabeth Bennett, heroine of Pride and Prejudice, who learns during the course of the story to ditch her pride and prejudice and take up with the totally dashing and handsome Darcy who comes complete with a huge and very beautiful home.

Anyone who knows me will know that I love ancient buildings and help run the Gloucestershire group of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings which was started by William Morris. I also had a couple of false starts in the relationship department, it took me a while to find someone who was a worthy partner.

Together they make an irresistible package, handsome and kind man with a ready made property ready to fill with babies, what more could any girl ask for? So, without a doubt, Elizabeth Bennett is my choice!

Jo says …

P1060110I thought about trying to come across as intellectual when answering this question, but then I thought “stuff it, I’ll be honest instead!” I think, at times when I need comfort, there isn’t anything better than returning to the books I read and loved as a child – nothing quite gives me that cosy feeling and sense of home. If I had to have one feeling for the rest of my life, it would be that and so it is one of these characters I have to choose. My dad always read Wind in the Willows to me and I wouldn’t mind being Mole. He’s got a close group of friends and he overcomes his fears but ultimately loves nothing better than his home life. Sounds, good to me.

P1060111I loved Paddington and Winnie the Pooh growing up too and, if I became a bear, I could give up the battle to try and lose weight that I’ve tried to fight (mostly unsuccessfully) for my whole adult life. Plus, who doesn’t love the cover-all-qualities of a duffle coat? However, I think it’s Pooh’s friend, Tigger, I’d most like to be. His boundless energy, capacity for bouncing and, as AA Milne put it, “love for everything” has to be a recipe for happiness, so I’ll take that.

Rachael says …

This is a great wondering, but the question is whether to go for a modern character or a historical one?

School_Gate final jpegIf I were to choose a historical character it would have to be Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, a favourite for many I’m sure. Her constant denial of Mr Darcy throughout the story holds you from the beginning to the end. But what did she really think? Stepping into her shoes would be a fascinating experience. Check out this link.

On the other hand, to choose a modern character, I’d like to leap into Kerry Fisher’s The School Gate Survival Guide, a book we reviewed last year in our book group. I so want to be Maia and sort that no-good-for-nothing husband of hers out. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

Deirdre says …

Friends at Thrush GreenI’ve always thought I’d like to be Miss Read.  Miss Read is the pen-name of Dora Saint, and she appears as a character/narrator in many of her own books which are based largely on her own life experiences.

The stories are set deep in the heart of1950s rural Oxfordshire. Miss Read is headmistress of the village school at Fairacre and lives in the adjoining school house with her cat, Tibby. Despite her friends’ attempts at matchmaking, she has never married (although Dora herself did), but she is no lonely spinster. She leads a busy and fulfilling life among the lively inhabitants of Fairacre and the neighbouring village of Thrush Green, and there’s no shortage of children in her life as generations of them have passed through her capable teaching hands.

Fairacre AffairsMiss Read’s life has its moments of high drama but any troubles she encounters always resolve themselves, and then it’s all about jam-making and jumble-sales, tea at the vicarage, and the yearly round that constitutes country life. Post-war Britain was a peaceful yet celebratory time and the villagers needed little excuse to put out the bunting. As the headmistress, Miss Read is a well-loved and respected figure who plays a key part in village life, but at the end of the day she shuts her door, lights the fire and turns to her many books for company. Yes, I’d definitely like a taste of that.

photo-2Helen P says …

If I could be anyone it would be Bella Swan from Breaking Dawn. Who wouldn’t want Edward or Jacob fighting over them. Plus I’d get to be a vampire, I love vampires. I’d also get to drive a really nice Mercedes and sparkle every time I stepped into the sunlight. What more could a girl ask for 😉

Helen R says …

If I could leap into any book I’d like to leap into The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, as any of the children, Jo, Bessie and Fanny! They had such amazing adventures, even just climbing the tree in the first place. What fun it would be to meet Saucepan Man, Moon-Face, and run from Dame Washalot when she pours water down the tree. I’d love to discover new lands at the top of the tree, forever guessing what we would come up against next.

Sharon says …

FollyfootThis is a tricky one. At first I tried to be sophisticated and thought of all those classics – Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca…then I thought, fascinating as those stories are, would I really want to live the life of Jane, Elizabeth or the second Mrs DeWinter? The truth is, I wouldn’t.

So then I tried to think of characters who I thought had fabulous lives and that proved more difficult than I thought, too. The trouble is, of course, that fictional characters have such rollercoaster lives. The very thing that makes them interesting – all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations that they have to endure – is the very thing that makes me think, no thanks. I have quite enough problems to deal with without going through all theirs.

My initial reaction was, I’d like to be Dora from Monica Dickens’ Follyfoot books. Then I thought, but hang on – Dora was ever-so-slightly over-emotional, highly sensitive, suffered the endless angst of worrying about all those poor ill-treated horses, and seemed to spend most of her time in tears. So I scrapped that and tried to think of someone else. But you know what? I kept coming back to Dora, and I think it’s Dora I would choose finally.

Dora and SteveWhen I was a child, she was my absolute heroine, and I thought she had the perfect life. Really, when I look at it I think she did. Okay, she worried endlessly about the fate of all those horses, but we all have to worry about something and I can’t think of a better thing to worry about. Plus – she was surrounded by horses! And she got to rescue so many of them! And she lived at Follyfoot Farm which seemed like pretty much the perfect home to me. She had an uncle who doted on her and friends who shared her compassion and beliefs – even the tearaway, Ron. And she had Steve! I mean, Steve! Even if he did mysteriously change his name from Paul (I suspect something to do with the television series) he was a bit of a sweetheart wasn’t he? And he loved horses, too, while being calm and rational enough to balance and steady Dora who sometimes let her heart rule her head far too much.

So yes, I’d be Dora from Follyfoot. Not the most sophisticated choice, but I think I’d have a jolly nice life!

We’d love to hear from you. Which character would you be and why? What do you think of our choices? Would you go for one of the ones we’ve chosen?

Thanks for reading.

Jessica xx

J Keller Ford on the Art of Make Believe

JKellerFord-web-301Our guest today is J.Keller Ford (aka Jenny).  With a father in the army, Reader’s Choice award winner Jenny, spent much of her childhood travelling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive.  Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Jenny also had a YA short story, Dragon Flight, released December 2013 as part of the ONE MORE DAY anthology  When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading.  She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life.   With a fascinating bio like that, of course we have loads that we want to ask Jenny…

Why did you choose to write young adult and new adult fiction?

In a nutshell, I don’t want to grow up. When I was young, so many people told me, ‘Enjoy your youth.  It’ll be gone before you know it and you can’t get it back.”  Like a typical teen, I snarked at those words.  Now that I’m a grown-up, I don’t want to be.  I wish I could go back and change things. I wish I’d been a bit more daring, maybe prettier, stronger, more adventurous.  In writing YA and New Adult fiction, I can do all the things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do as a teen. I can re-live my youth vicariously through my characters.  Every day holds endless possibilities for my young characters.  Love is new and fresh.  Heartache is raw. Dreams aren’t wasted.  It’s fun to see my characters do what I always dreamed of doing if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up.

What gave you the idea for In the Shadow of the Dragon King?

Oh wow, there are so many factors that came into play, but I suppose it boils down to my brave, knightly dad, and a soldier who wanted a little bit of fairy dust to save the world.

My dad was in the Army, and on the rare occasions he tucked me into bed, he would tell me stories of how he battled dragons and protected us (his family) and his lands from bad magicians and evil-doers. I knew better.  I watched the news, but my dad’s version was so much better, and thus my love for fantasy began. Between the ages of 6 and 8, my dad was stationed in Germany. My mom, knowing of my dad’s stories, made sure she took my brother and me to as many castles as she could, thus solidifying my love for fantasy.  Sadly, my father died a few years later, slain by a figurative ‘dragon’, and a very sad story began to churn in my mind.  It wasn’t until after the end of the first Gulf War in 1995 that the story resurfaced and started taking shape. I saw an interview with a soldier who said he wished he had magic and fairy dust because he’d sprinkle it everywhere to make the world a better place to live. I saw these brave men not as soldiers but as chivalrous knights battling evil for the sake of humanity, and if they had a choice, they’d prefer a little magic, rather than lives, to save the world.  Over the course of several years, I toyed with plots, characters, and ideas, finished my first draft, and then let it sit for a very long time.  I picked it up about 3 years ago, dusted it off and allowed it to breathe.  Soon it will be ready to present to the world, thanks to my dad and an unsung hero who wished for a little magic and fairy dust to save the world.

perf5.250x8.000.inddWhat advice would you give to aspiring writers looking for publication?

First thing:  never, ever, ever give up.  I don’t care how many rejections you get, how difficult the process may seem. Never throw away your dream of being published.

Second, as time passes, more and more paths to publication are opening up.  I’m of the old school.  I like the traditional publishing route.  I like being vetted before my work gets out in the world.  On the other hand, I have some lovely writer friends who have been very, very successful in self-publishing, hitting best-seller charts on Amazon all the time. There are so many avenues to travel and so many doors to open that make it easier now than ever before to be published.  I do recommend, however, if you choose to self-publish, please produce your work to professional quality.  Yes it costs money, but if your book is worth publishing, it’s worth publishing correctly.  Get a professional editor.  Make sure your book looks like a mainstream book.

I think it’s also important to be present in some fashion of social media.  You don’t have to be on all of them, but you should have at least one prominent presence. You need to make sure people out there know you.  Be yourself. Be someone that others want to interact with. Help others promote their work whenever you can.  Once you have a following and have established yourself as someone trustworthy and helpful, they’ll do everything they can to promote your work when the time comes.  Always be thankful.  Always be respectful.

Do you have any advice for UK based writers looking for a publisher in the US?  Are there any things we should think about or avoid in our writing?

First, check tax laws.  Self-published U.K. Author, Karen Inglis, wrote an extensive blog post on taxes, ITIN and EIN numbers and paying U.K. Tax on book Royalties.  You can find that article here and I recommend everyone from the U.K. to take a look at her very informative blog on the matter.

I would also pay attention to local colloquialisms.  Some words or phrases may be viewed differently in the U.S. than in the U.K.  I’m aware of a few words that mean nothing here, yet are frowned upon or mean something completely different in the U.K.  Of course, if a book is set in Britain, some words and phrases might add flavor and color. Just make sure they don’t make the book confusing or distracting.

As to covers, U.S. publishers usually do not consult with the author.  American publishers will usually write their own blurbs for the back of the book. They may also change your title to suit the market.

It may be worth your while to get an agent to sell your rights to a U.S. publisher who will ‘translate’ and sell your books.  Always ask any publisher or service to give you full details of their plans for your book, especially how they intend to use the rights. Never give world rights as standard.  Works published in the U.S. are subject to U.S. copyright laws, not those of the country of origin.  Always be aware that if an agent sells your book in the U.S., they are entitled to all subsequent income on that book in the US even if you part ways with the agent somewhere down the line.  Always do your research and try to stay abreast of the latest international publishing laws. It’s a lot to take in.  A lot to do.

Who are your favourite writers?

OMGosh, I have so many.  There are the classics:  Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Jack London, John Steinbeck, and the list goes on.  More recent favorite authors would include J.K. Rowling, Kristin Cashore, Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Kiera Cass, Cassandra Clare, Jocelyn Adams and Julie Reece.

perf5.250x8.000.inddWe see from your blog that you love visiting castles and we wondered which was your favourite?

Neuschwanstein, by far.  The first time I saw it, I forgot how to breathe.  It was more grand and opulent than anything I could imagine.  It was (and remains) the epitome of everything I ever imagined a fairy tale castle to be.  Not only that, the “Mad” King Ludwig only lived in this magnificent palace for 172 days before his body was found, along with the body of his doctor, floating in a nearby lake.  While his death was ruled a suicide, the demise of this romantic and popular German king remains a mystery to this day.  There is so much history in this castle and is a must-see place of beauty and serenity.  It is a reminder that no dream is too big. Anything can be accomplished if we set our minds to them.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today Jenny, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you and we hope you will come back again and see us really soon.

Find out more about Jenny and her stories at the links below:

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Make-Believe-J-A-Belfield-ebook/dp/B00ACMPEGQ

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832198.J_Keller_Ford

http://www.amazon.com/J.-Keller-Ford/e/B00ADKZTJO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_3

Follow Jenny on Twitter at @jkellerford

 

The Wednesday Wondering: You’re Fired!

If you share my (dubious) tastes in TV programmes you won’t be a stranger to the title of this week’s Wondering.  Yes, that’s right.  The famous phrase comes out of Alan Sugar’s mouth at the end of every episode of The Apprentice.  Whether you find it compulsive or repulsive viewing, you’ll be sure to know what it’s about.  Hard to avoid, isn’t it?

You may remember I was grabbing inspiration for this month’s Wonderings from March itself, in which case you may be thinking I’ve wandered off piste here.  Not so, because next Monday, March 24th, is Lord Sugar’s birthday. (He happens to share the same birth year as me but we won’t go into that if it’s all the same).  A bit obscure as a remarkable event, perhaps?  Well, yes, all right, but at least you’ve gathered a new bit of useless information…

But back to The Apprentice theme before I lose the plot entirely (and none of us wants to do that, do we?).  I asked my fellow Write Romantics this question:

If you could be apprenticed to a well-known writer, have access to their innermost thought processes while they write and have them mentor your own novel, who would you choose? (Time machines permitted)  And what would you hope to learn from them? 

The Write Romantics were spoiled for choice, as you’ll see.

LYNNE:

I’d love to be apprenticed, Write Romantics excluded, to Jojo Moyes. I loved ‘Me Before You,’ and am now totally loving ‘The Peacock Emporium,’ recommended by Deirdre. Her stories are so good, yet what I really love is her emotional descriptions. You really feel like you are there with the characters, learning first hand what they’re seeing and thinking. I love tales that are rich in emotion and these you just can’t beat!

HELEN P:

It would have to be my hero, the amazing Mr Stephen King. I would love to see how he plots his books, how he comes up with his ideas, where he stores them but most of all I would love to sit behind the desk that he writes at and just soak up the vibes. It would be even better to have his personal input and advice into a story I was writing. The only thing is I fear that if I ever did get to meet him I wouldn’t be able to speak because I’d be so in awe of him or I talk a load of absolute rubbish and bore him to death. I would hope to learn just how to keep on going and producing book after book which was a best seller around the world so that I too could have a writing room just like him.

JULIE:

Can I only pick one? It would be between five people (all women) – Enid Blyton, Virginia Andrews (the original one who passed away), Catherine Cookson, Jill Mansell, Marian Keyes, so a time machine would be needed for 3 out of 5! All of them have had a lasting impression on me for getting me engrossed in books at different ages with the latter two being about my discovery of romantic comedy. For all, I’d love to explore where their ideas came from, how they develop their characters and how they plot out their books because all of them, in my opinion, have written page-turner after page-turner. What an amazing talent to have!

HELEN R:

I’d like to be mentored by Alexandra Sokoloff. She’s an award winning author of thrillers – not my genre and even the book jacket blurbs scare me, but I think she has such a wealth of knowledge about techniques in both film and novels. I attended the online RWAus conference in 2013 where Alexandra Sokoloff hosted a workshop and since then I have read and re-read her book “Writing Love” many times as it helps to plot a new story, prevent it from having a “saggy middle” and give readers what they want. She also advocates watching films to help us master storytelling techniques, and this works really well for me, I’d definitely recommend it.

ALEX:

I’m really glad I can have a time machine for this one because I want to go back to the Thirties and apprentice myself to Dorothy L. Sayers.  For me she is the real queen of Golden Age detective fiction and I’ve loved Lord Peter Wimsey since I was about 17.  Sayers is an amazing crafter of stories.  I’d love to learn the techniques of mystery writing, her knack of producing realistic dialogue and how she makes her characters so real and so complex.  From what I read about her I think she wouldn’t suffer fools or mince her words and so being her apprentice could be a bit daunting.  However, it also seems she had a fine sense of humour as shown by this quote:

“Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.”

DEIRDRE:

I’d choose to spend my apprenticeship with Ian Rankin because although I’m not a great lover of crime fiction, I do admire his writing.  It never feels forced or over-written; he never rambles but makes every word count.  That’s the kind of writing I’m aiming for and hopefully something of that would rub off.  I saw a documentary in which Ian agonised over his plot and confessed he had no idea what came next in the book he was writing.  Heartening to note that even the famous ones can be plagued with self-doubt!  It would be fascinating to be with him at those moments and see how he gets around them.  Also I’d get to see Edinburgh which I understand is a beautiful city, and, from what I’ve gathered of Ian’s lifestyle, spend a lot of time in the pub!

JO:

This is an easy one for me.  It would definitely have to be Charles Dickens.  I’d want to learn how he created such memorable characters and wrote such a range of stories that could transcend generations and give quite moral messages, yet avoid being cheesy or overly sentimental.  If an apprenticeship with Dickens could give me a cat in hell’s chance of writing something that leaves a legacy as embedded in our culture as say A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist, then it would be well worth risking particle displacement on a trip in a time machine for!

JACKIE:

I would quite like Jilly Cooper to mentor me because I know I'll never write literary novels so would be happy with learning how to have a page turning quality. I also think she's be a good laugh as wouldn't like someone who took it all too seriously (although I would love to write like Anita Shreve and have deep understanding of emotions).  Hopefully it would be gin time at four in the afternoon and I would roll home sozzled and happy. 

RACHAEL:

If I could take any writer, go back to any time I would chose two. Greedy I know, but there you go. Firstly I’d love to be an apprentice to Maeve Binchy. Each time I’ve picked up a book of hers, I’ve been hooked and that is what I’d love to learn from her. How to hook the reader and keep them hooked. Not only that, but how to make your story have such an impact that the reader can still ‘see it’ in their minds many years later. I have two favourite books of hers, Circle of Friends and Tara Road.

Once that was done, I zip back in time to sit with Jane Austen. Now that would be something. I’d just love to be with her as she wrote Pride and Prejudice, I’d love to know what she thought of the characters she was creating and did she ever believe it would be such an everlastingly popular story.

Well, it’s a bit of fun, isn’t it?  Perhaps you’ll find a moment to tell us where your dream apprenticeship would take you.  We’d love to know.

Deirdre

The Wednesday Wondering – Walking in Whose Shoes?

Another great Wednesday Wondering from our lovely Write Romantic in Australia, Helen R:

 If you could walk in the shoes of one author for the day, who would it be and why?

Ooh, how exciting! Would our Write Romantics go for someone with a wad of earnings, living a celebrity lifestyle? Would they select the person who first inspired them to read? Perhaps someone who develops brilliant characters or is the master of the twist in the tail to explore how they do this (and hope some of the magic rubs off!) Let’s see, shall we …

JULIE:

I would want to turn back time a bit and step into the shoes of someone I’ve not mentioned on this blog before but who was a prolific writer whose books I have loved … the wonderful Catherine Cookson. My mum used to read her novels and was a great fan and I borrowed most of them. I would love to understand how she wrote so many, how she kept them all different and how many ideas she still had ready to be formed into books. I’d also be fascinated to see her research. I’m no historian but I believe her books are historically accurate and she didn’t just write from within her own lifetime so she must have been quite a research demon … in the days before you could Google it! RIP Catherine J

 

HELEN R:

I would love to walk in the shoes of Judy Blume. Looking back I realise just how much her books helped me in my teenage years. They helped me to realise that I wasn’t alone in the everyday challenges that I faced, from adolescence and discovering boys to friendships and family relationships. 

I would love to witness Judy Blume’s research journey from developing a strong idea and themes for a book, to the development of characters, and how she got the dialogue of those characters just right. She is an amazing, strong writer and I am also curious about how she coped and how she defended her writing when she faced hate mail and arguments that her books should be banned from school and library shelves.

Judy Blume is an incredible, strong writer who has stood up for what she believed was right. I will always admire her honesty in her books and her willingness to discuss real issues faced by so many of us growing up.

Secretly I hope that if I was walking in Judy Blume’s shoes, then it was during the time she rented an office above a bakery…

 

DEIRDRE:

Good question…  I would turn back the clock, bring Barbara Cartland down from the great blue yonder and be her for a day. Why? Because she gets to lounge about wearing a lot of pink whilst dictating her books to some other poor soul who then has to hit the keys on her behalf and make it all into something presentable. AND – a big ‘and’ – it looks very much to me as if she also gets to eat a lot of cake 😉

 

ALEX:

When I first read this week’s Wondering I couldn’t think of any authors that I admired who had the kind of interesting lifestyle that I’d like to experience for a day. Then I thought there is someone and he’s a screenwriter so does he qualify? So I did some Googling and discovered that he’s written comic books so he is actually an author as well. 

The person whose shoes I’d like to walk in for a day is Joss Whedon. I think he’s a genius. I loved Buffy and more recently Firefly. I don’t know anyone who can write dialogue that’s as fresh and quirky and yet realistic. He’s also good at the big concepts too. Some of them don’t work too well and he admits that and moves on and I admire that about him. I’d love the chance to experience his working life and I’m sure I’d learn a huge amount about character development and how to tell stories.

 

HELEN P:

Another great question. I think it would be Stephen King, I would love to walk in his writing shoes for a day and if he didn’t want to share then I’d love to have spent the day as Jane Austen to see where her inspiration came from and to meet the original Mr Darcy although he’d have a tough time beating Colin Firth.

 

So, that’s what some of the Write Romantics have to say? What do you think? Is there anyone who you’d like to stalk be around for a day or swap lives with for a day? We’d love to hear about it. Please post a comment. If you’re new to the blog and don’t know how to do this, click on the heart to the right of the title and that will bring up a comments section at the end of the posting. Thanks in advance for joining in.

Julie

xx