Crime… or romance? Cross genre writing with Linda Huber

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

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

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

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

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

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

More About Baby Dear

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LindaHuber

Baby Dear univ. link: getBook.at/BabyDear

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaHuber19

website: http://lindahuber.net/

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

A day out at the seaside? We all know what that means,

A kaleidoscope of what must be uniquely-British scenes.

Embarrassing socks and sandals sported by your dad,

And sand you find in places that you never knew you had.

**

You pack a range of sun-creams to help your pallor wane,

But find yourself in what feels like a full-scale hurricane.

Instead you need a sleeping bag draped across your knees,

The windbreak at an angle of around fifteen degrees.

**

You decide to cheer things up by buying fish and chips,

Despite the fact the deck-chair can barely take your hips.

Seagulls descend like ninjas, they’re nothing if not plucky,

But being in their firing line feels anything but lucky.

**

Still too cold to take a dip you head towards the pier,

There you find a fun-fair and the kids let out a cheer.

Soon you’re several tenners lighter and then put out your back,

Flying down the helter-skelter on an old potato sack.

**

Heading to the arcades, you know it isn’t wise,

To do battle with the grabber that never yields a prize.

Next on to the pub and a pleasing little red,

Let’s do this again tomorrow, is what you somehow said.

**

Despite the dodgy weather and the seagulls on attack,

You love the British seaside and you’ll soon be coming back.

Just before you head off home, you brave a little wade,

An encounter with a jelly-fish is how memories are made!

**

SEB 3I thought I’d start off today with a tongue-in-cheek homage to the British seaside. Although given the weather we’ve been having in my part of the country this week, it’s got even more appeal and is apparently hotter than the Med.

Now I don’t want this little poem to give you the wrong impression, I LOVE the coast and can’t seem to stop writing about it. Maybe not the type of resorts with arcades, but those filled with the sort of uniquely British charm of places like Polperro and Southwold. But it’s the Kentish coast I love most of all and which features in my stories. Maybe it’s because I was born a stone’s throw from Dover’s white cliffs or because I live about five minutes from the pretty seaside town of Whitstable.SEB 2

I set my first novel, Among A Thousand Starsin the real Kentish seaside town of Sandgate, but my new series was inspired by the fictional town of St Nicholas Bay’s connection to Charles Dickens. As a result it combines the old world charm of Rochester’s quaint tearooms and quirky shops, with the steep high street at Broadstairs, which leads down to a golden bay lined with colourfully painted beach huts. Many people who’ve read the Christmas novella that sparked the series, and which will be re-released by Accent Press in November, tell me that St Nicholas Bay is a character in itself.

Somebody else's boy cover finalSo if you fancy a trip to a beautiful seaside town, with none of the hassle of getting sand in your unmentionables, I’d be thrilled if you checked out my new novel, released today – Somebody Else’s Boy. It tells the story of Jack, a young widower raising his baby son alone and the new life he finds against the odds in St Nicholas Bay, and his house-mate, Nancy, who’s struggling to keep a secret because of the promise she made to someone who no longer knows her name…

Either way, I hope you have some fabulous plans for the bank holiday weekend and maybe a little trip to the seaside is in order after all!

Jo xx

Somebody Else’s Boy is released by Accent Press on 25th August 2016 and available here.

Tears, tombstones and tittle-tattle

1174820_10201404510706309_1859499988_nI went *fake* camping the other day – I highly recommend it, by the way, it has all the benefits of meeting up with your friends who are sleeping under canvas, drinking wine and talking, but you get to go home and sleep in a warm, comfortable bed when they head off to their tents! My friend and her sister had both read my first full-length novel over the summer and we raised a glass or three to the new four-book deal I’d been offered a couple of weeks before. They asked me, though, if I was at all worried about having enough ideas to fulfil the contract. All I could do was smile and hope the red wine hadn’t stained my teeth too much.

Time is probably my biggest writing issue, fitting it around the rest of life’s commitments; ideas on the other hand crowd my brain and pop up at every turn. Some of them spark plots for full-length novels, novellas or even a series, and others for short stories for women’s magazines – a competitive market which I’ve finally managed to crack.

Everyone loves people watching, right? But my husband certainly thinks it’s a bit weird when we’re watching people inSS102271 a coffee shop and I start guessing what they do for a living, what their backgrounds are and giving each of them a life story. My mum tells me that even when I was tiny, she’d constantly lose me in supermarkets and shops and find me standing between groups of other mothers, listening to their conversations and asking them extremely nosey questions. Now, when my husband discreetly taps the side of his nose, to let me know that my eavesdropping is getting just a little bit too obvious, I tell him that I’m not just being nosey, I’m working!

SS102290Ideas can come from anywhere, take this past week for instance. Last Monday, I took the children to London and, standing-up on the tube, we noticed two impeccably dressed and made-up women with tears silently streaming down their faces. They weren’t talking to each other or wearing black, like they were on their way to a funeral, and they didn’t appear to have just received bad news on their phones. If it had been one woman, I might have imagined a relationship break-up but, with the silent tears and the two of them sitting side-by-side, my imagination was working overtime, trying to work out what scenario that had led to this point. Even the fact that everyone noticed, but no-one said anything, sparked an idea for characterisation – why we act the way we do? Maybe it was because if felt wrong to intrude on their grief, to check they were okay, or because there were two of them, but we all obeyed the unwritten rule of the tube… don’t talk to a stranger, whatever the circumstance.

Later in the week, my husband and I set off for a rare weekend away without the children and we spent a lot of time inAAA IMG_0226 restaurants and pubs, leisurely reading the papers over breakfast and avidly eavesdropping over bottles of Prosecco come the evening. Listening-in to the pub conversations of others is like sprinkling glitter on your imagination and the heated discussion one couple were having, about how there was no way they were letting their son borrow their camera for his trip to Paris with his girlfriend, who they clearly couldn’t stand, left me imagining another host of scenarios. Maybe he’d propose out there, then what would happen to the family dynamic? Or perhaps the girlfriend would prove to be as obnoxious as the parents clearly thought she was and the city of Paris would be anything but romantic! Of course, I’ll never know how the story panned out, but it sparked off an idea for a possible story about what happens when a family member brings someone new into the fold who just doesn’t fit it. Torn between your first love and your family, who would you choose?

IMG_0222Taking a break from eating and drinking, we decided to have a walk up to the Epsom Downs and, on the way back down, the phone’s sat nav directed us through a cemetery. It was quiet and leafy and, as I can never help doing when I find myself in one of those places, I just had to read the grave stones. There was one that really struck a cord – the burial plot of Luke and his Lily. He’d been killed out in Italy in the last year of World War II, she’d died some forty years later, clearly not having remarried. There was a whole life story on that stone, particularly as their three children had left a touching dedication, and she’d obviously raised them alone during a time when being a single mother was even more of a challenge than it is now. There’s definitely a novel in that.

For me, inspiration can be found anywhere and, whilst none of my characters are based on real people, conversations with friends definitely spark off ideas too. If they make a really funny comment, there’s a chance it might appear in some form or another somewhere along the line. So, as the sign says, be careful what you say or you might just find yourself in an eavesdropping writer’s next story!

Jo x

A Sexy Saturday Spotlight with Siobhan Daiko!

We are delighted to welcome good friend of the Write Romantics, Siobhan Daiko back on the blog today, to tell us what has been Siobhan 3happening since the release of her first fantastic five-star novella in the Fragrant Courtesans series, which we’ve been thrilled to see hit some of the Amazon bestseller charts. Over to you, Siobhan.

It’s a real pleasure to be a guest of the Write Romantics this Saturday. Thanks for having me back again!

Teaser #5I’d like to introduce you to Veronica, a high-class sex worker in 16th Century Venice. Known as courtesans, these gifted ladies of the night were well-educated and highly sought-after. They were trained, usually by their mothers, not just to have sex but also to entertain their patrons by singing, playing music, dancing, and witty conversation. I came across them when I was researching my romantic historical novel Lady of Asolo. My fantastic editor, John Hudspith, suggested I play to my strengths which, for him, is the way I can convey gritty realism when writing sex scenes. So I decided to write a series about the most famous of these women, and Veronica is the first.

I watch him watching us, imagining how he would take me.

I send him the message with my eyes.

This is who I am.

I am Veronica Franco.

I am a COURTESAN.

I court the cultural elite for fame and fortune, giving my body to many.

And I’m good. So very good. After all, I was taught by my mother, and mother always knows best.

How else to please the future King of France than with the imaginative use of Murano glass? How else to fulfil the desires of all yet keep my sense of self-worth?

But when disaster strikes and my life begins to unravel, I’ll have to ask myself one question:

Is it too late to give my heart to just one man?

Set in Venice 16th Century.

Advisory: sensuously erotic. 18+

 

My novella is based on a true story. Veronica was married off young, as women were in those days, for financial reasons, but the union endedVeronica Courtesan Cover LARGE EBOOK badly. To support herself, she learnt the tricks of the trade from her mother, who’d also been a cortigiana in her youth. Veronica was a talented poet and writer – able to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men. The fact that she loved to write made me feel an affinity with her. When I read her poems and letters, I was struck by the force of Veronica’s feisty, forward personality and decided she would make the perfect protagonist. She had a string of lovers, but there was one man, a fellow-poet, with whom she had the most amorous affair. His poems to her are published in her Terze Rime in the form of a poetic debate, and I enjoyed adapting them and using them as repartee between the two characters. Veronica was a talented seductress, able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms. I’m sure she loved each and every one of them in her own way, as evidenced by this quote from one of her poems:

So fragrant and delightful do I become, when I am in bed with someone who, I feel, adores and appreciates me, that the joy I bring exceeds all pleasure, so the ties of love, however close they seemed before, are knotted tighter still.

Veronica became the most sought-after courtesan in the city. Writing an erotic novella about a woman who practised ‘free love’ has been exciting. Veronica was promiscuous, yes, she had to be; how else to please the King of France but with the imaginative use of Murano glass? She was a self-promoter, but she also loved deeply and was loved in return. In the following excerpt, Veronica is entertaining two of her patrons, aiming to be invited to a literary salon. There she meets Domenico Venier, who becomes her editor. Even in the 16th Century, having an editor was vital to a writer.

***

Teaser #6“We make polite conversation throughout the meal, but, as soon as we progress to the portego for after-dinner drinks and entertainment, I get right to the point. ‘My lord, Signor Ludovico tells me you frequent a literary salon.’

‘That’s right. Domenico Venier’s. ’Tis the most important gathering place for intellectuals and writers in Venice.’

‘Are courtesans welcome there?’

‘I’ve noticed a few. Why?’

I’m seized by a sudden shyness. Will he think I’m being forward? Thankfully, Ludovico answers for me.

‘I’ve told you about Veronica’s abilities. Don’t tease the girl!’

The count laughs and drains his glass. I reach across to refill it, my gaze meeting his. ‘I write poetry. My greatest desire is to learn from others and improve my own work.’

‘Will you read me one of your poems?’

‘With pleasure.’ I go to my desk and return with the verse on which I’m now working.

Teaser 1If you are overcome by love for me,

Take me in far sweeter fashion

Than anything my quill can describe.

Your love can be the steadfast knot that pulls me towards you,

Joined to you more tightly than a nail in hard wood;

Your love can make you master of my life,

Show me the love I’ve asked for from you,

And you’ll then enjoy my sweetness to the full.

 

‘Very good!’ Andrew Tron rises from his chair and bows. ‘You have talent, Signora Veronica. I shall be delighted to introduce you to Venier. Pray tell me, in what far sweeter fashion can a man take you than your quill can describe?’

I laugh. ‘Ah, that’s something I have yet to discover – which is why my quill cannot describe it.’

***

It was a joy to bring Veronica to life on the page. I did have some issues when publishing to Amazon. My book cover, for the paperback, usedVeronica Cover Paperback PRINT2 (2)-page-001 (1) a famous old work of art, The Venus of Urbino, by Titian. I chose it as it’s supposed to be the painting of a 16th Century Venetian courtesan, even if she wasn’t Veronica Franco.

The cover was accepted by Create Space, but rejected by Kindle which doesn’t allow nudity in any form. A banner placed across her breasts just didn’t look right, so I commissioned a new cover for the e-book version from my wonderful designer JD Smith.

I’ve learnt a lot about publishing an erotic novella through my experiences with Veronica. My next book in the erotic courtesans series is “The Submission of Theodora”, based on another real character. Set in 6th Century Constantinople, it’s inspired by a courtesan who became involved with the most powerful man in the world: the Emperor’s nephew and heir apparent. So far, it’s coming along nicely and I expect to publish it in early November.

Thanks again, Write Romantics, I’ve loved sharing Veronica with you. Here are my social media links.

www.siobhandaiko.wordpress.com

www.fragrantpublishing.com

Facebook Page

Fragrant Courtesans Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Twitter

You Tube Book Trailer

Inspiration and making it happen with Siobhan Daiko

Siobhan 3Today we’re delighted to welcome Siobhan Daiko to share her writing journey with us and, hopefully, to bring a little bit of Italian sunshine with her. Over to you, Siobhan…

I’m really honoured to be hosted on the Write Romantics blog today. Thank you so much for having me! I met Jo online two years ago and have been enjoying reading the posts ever since. So it’s fab to be here.

Writing wasn’t something that I’ve always done, unlike most other writers I know. Yet I’ve always been creative. My father was an artist and encouraged me to paint when I was a child. I loved it, but I was also a linguist, and that’s the direction my life initially took.

My passion for writing only started when the empty-nest syndrome kicked in. My son had left for uni and an old friend had become a published author. Naively, I thought I could become one too. So I wrote a novel about a school-teacher in Wales (I was a school-teacher in Wales at the time). I thought it would be the next Bridget Jones. Ha! I did complete it, and sent it to the RNA NWS. My reader was encouraging, but I would have needed to have completely re-written it, and my heart wasn’t in the story. Instead, there was a different story in my head, clamouring to be told.

The idea for The Orchid Tree had come to me while I was researching my grandparents’ experiences in the notorious The Orchid Tree Cover MEDIUM WEBStanley Civilian Internment Camp in Hong Kong during World War II, and the first part of the novel is set there. To lighten the darkness of the subject matter, I focused on two very different romances. I’d grown up in the ex-colony, and the post-war section is inspired by a place I know and love.

Fast forward to 2014, and I’d written several drafts, taken early-retirement, and had moved with my hubby and two cats to my family’s second home in Italy. I’d started submitting, and, after the book had been rejected a few times, I heard about a fantastic editor, John Hudspith, who helped me get it into shape. A small publisher in Edinburgh then asked for the full manuscript, and I waited, and waited, and waited for their decision.

By then, another story had started clamouring in my head, and, in six months, I wrote my next novel, Lady of Asolo, a time-slip historical romance set in the area where I now live. I’m definitely inspired by locations that touch my heart!

Lady of Asolo Cover MEDIUM WEBA couple of nudges to the publisher in Edinburgh produced the same response: The Orchid Tree was still under consideration. Rapidly losing the will to live, I decided not to submit Lady of Asolo anywhere. I set up Fragrant Publishing to publish my Fragrant Books, found a fantastic cover designer, JD Smith, organised a Facebook launch party, learnt how to format for Kindle and Create Space, and started my self-publishing journey.

Becoming an indie author, for me, was definitely the right decision. I’m not getting any younger, as they say, and I wasn’t prepared to play the waiting game any longer. So far, I’ve loved everything about the self-publishing experience. Publishing Lady of Asolo taught me a lot about the process, which I could use when I withdrew my submission from the Edinburgh publisher and launched The Orchid Tree myself. And I’m still learning. There are so many opportunities out there for Indies. The best thing I did was to have my work properly edited and to commission a professional cover design. I still have to get to grips with marketing, but my books are selling and it’s great to log onto my Create Space and Amazon Kindle Direct accounts to check their progress, and even better to get a monthly royalty payment. Lady of Asolo is being translated into Italian via Babelcube. The Orchid Tree is being produced as an audio-book via ACX, and, just last week, I heard that it has been accepted by Fiberead for translation into Chinese.

My next project is a series of erotic historical novellas, inspired by the lives of famous courtesans. Why erotica? It’s an fragrant havenexperiment, to see if I can pull it off. There’s a lot of hard-core BDSM erotica on the market at present, and I’d like to publish something different. There might be a niche-market of readers who would enjoy what I’m writing. And, if there isn’t, at least I’ll have given it my best shot. Book 1 is based on the life of Veronica Franco, one of the most talented courtesans in 16th Century Venice, another of my favourite places, and should be ready for publication this summer.

Long-term, I would like to write a sequel to The Orchid Tree. Then, perhaps, another historical romance. Sometimes, I wish there were more hours in the day…

Thanks again for having me on your Saturday blog spot. I wish all the Write Romantics and their readers every success, but, most of all, continued enjoyment of this wonderful passion that we all share.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Siobhan, your passion for writing, and those places you love, really shines through in your post.

Now is a brilliant time to check out Siobhan’s atmospheric novels, as they are both on offer:

The Orchid Tree is discounted to £0.99/$1.99 until Monday 27, and Lady of Asolo to £0.99/$0.99 until 1st May.

Siobhan is also currently offering a wonderful short story called Fragrant Haven completely free.

To find out more about Siobhan and her beautiful base in Italy, you might also like to visit her blog. You can also follow Siobhan on Twitter – @siobhandaiko – and Facebook.

Finally, we’re thrilled that Siobhan has chosen the Write Romantic blog for the cover reveal of the first novella in her erotica series, Veronica:

“So sweet and delicious do I become, when I am in bed with a man who, I sense, loves and enjoys me, that the pleasure I bring exceeds all delight, so the knot of love, however tight it seemed before, is tied tighter still.”

Veronica Cover MEDIUM WEBMarried at sixteen to an abusive husband, feisty Veronica Franco escapes his cruelty by taking the only option open to her. Soon, she’s feted as one of the most beautiful and sought-after courtesans in 16th Century Venice.

A talented seductress, she’s able to create desire in her patrons under her own terms, giving them her body but not her heart. She courts the cultural élite for fame and fortune, publishing her poems and letters, while battling to maintain a balance between her sense of self-worth and the need to win and keep the support of men.

But when disaster strikes, and her life begins to unravel, will she be strong enough to hold her own in a man’s world?

Never Mind the Quality – Feel the Width! says Deirdre Palmer

Image

I had better begin by explaining the title of this post, in case, ahem, you are too young to remember.

Never Mind… was a TV sitcom broadcast from 1967 – 71.  It was about two tailors, one Catholic and the other Jewish, and featured some great actors who would go on to become well-known faces of comedy and drama.  It would never get made today – far too un-PC – but it was a huge success at the time.  The title worked its way into the culture of the day as a saying referring to all kinds of things, some, as you might imagine, more polite than others…  I’m borrowing it now to talk not about cloth but about books.

Something odd has happened to my reading habits, a change that crept up on me while I wasn’t paying attention.  Now, as I’m scanning the shelves in a bookshop or library for my next fix, I’m not only waiting for an author’s name, an intriguing title or a fetching cover to jump out at me, I’m also considering, a bit shame-facedly, the physical properties of the book itself.

How much space does it take up on the shelf?  Has the publisher had the luxury of fitting several lines of large-font text on the binding?  How heavy does it feel in my hand?

In other words, how long is it?

Because therein lies the rub.  If the book still appeals I’ll flick to the end to check that appearances are not deceptive and it does indeed run past the 400 page mark or thereabouts, and if it does, then back it goes.

It’s a nuisance really because I may be missing out on some cracking reads but even if the story’s truly gripping and the writing pacy, by the time I get beyond 350 pages or so I’m just wishing it would be over.  If it’s an actual book, I’m constantly checking the depth of the remaining pages for signs of serious thinning out.  If it’s an ebook, I become weirdly obsessed with the little slider at the bottom of the screen and am stupidly relieved when it gets to 80% and I know I’m on the homeward straight.

 Actually there’s some literary merit to be drawn from this because all too often I come across books which are woefully over-written and make me want to shout ‘You’ve told the story, now stop!’ to the author, but that’s another topic entirely.

So why is this happening?  Is it pure physical stamina I’m lacking due to the short, dark days of winter, or a sharp dip in concentration brought about by my ageing brain cells?  Could it be that there are so many other distractions my attention span has shrunk faster than a woolly jumper on a boil wash?

Or am I, subconsciously, simply following a trend?

To name-drop shamelessly here, I was lucky enough to meet the eminent novelist Fay Weldon recently, and the first thing she said was that readers today want short books with short chapters; quick, satisfying bites they can devour along with their Pret sandwich and take-out Americano.  She was generalising, of course, but it’s easy to understand the logic.

As an aspiring author I see this as a gift; I can at last set aside my worry that 80,000 words do not a novel make because, after all, it is all about the quality and not the width.

As a reader, I don’t have to feel guilty that there are lovely books on my own shelves that remain unread purely because of their length.  There’s The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton which has no less than 645 pages, and the print’s not that large either.  Yet it’s not so long ago I sailed through The House at Riverton by the same author which has 599 pages with no trouble at all.  My collection of Catherine Alliott’s novels (such pretty covers!) all stretch almost to the 500 page mark but I suspect if I re-read them now I’d find them about a hundred pages too long – no disrespect to CA intended.  I’m dying to have a go at Jeffrey Archer, as it were, as I’ve never read any of his and people tell me he writes great stories but the one I have is near enough 600 pages, so dear Jeffrey will have to wait a while longer for my verdict.

By now you might be thinking, why doesn’t she just read short stories and be done with it?  Strange as it may seem, my tastes aren’t working their way towards those, and yes, I may read the odd one that draws me in for some reason, but generally speaking I’m not a great fan of the short story, which is probably why I don’t find them easy to write either.

Novellas, then?  Call me prejudiced but there’s something about the word ‘novella’ that I find distinctly off-putting, although in reality I’m sure there are some excellent reads in this format by some brilliant writers.  The novel’s little sister may be sweet but she’s not what I need right now either.

Luckily there are plenty of books of just the right width to keep me happy and if all else fails I can re-read some old favourites.  Joanna Trollope tends to nudge the 400 page mark but the large print keeps them turning fast. Deborah Moggach hovers gracefully around the upper 300s and some of hers, like the hugely enjoyable In the Dark, are even shorter.  When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman has 335 pages – now there’s an example of the perfect novel if ever there was one.  And then there are absolute gems like Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn and Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, each less than 250 pages.   

 ‘She’s going through a phase,’ as my mother used to say, all mothers, in fact.  Well, phase or trend, it looks like I’m stuck with it for the time being.  But that’s fine because I’ve never fancied War and Peace anyway.

Much Ado about Alison

Alison May is a good friend to the blog and some of us were lucky enough to share accommodation with her at last year’s RNA conference.  So we’re delighted to welcome her back for a second chat, now that she has had not only her first novel published, but also a Christmas-themed novella.

AliMay

Hello again Write Romantics. It’s lovely to be back. I come to bestow the wisdom of the published writer. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing has been published for nearly 7 whole weeks, and therefore, of course, I now know EVERYTHING. Literally EVERYTHING. What do you want to know?

We are really all keen to hear about your experience of the marketing side of things – particularly how much you do and how much help you’ve had from your publisher.

I’m published by Choc Lit (www.choc-lit.com) and they are great, but obviously things will vary from publisher to publisher. I’ve had lots of support on social media, not just from the Choc Lit team themselves, but also from other Choc Lit authors. Choc Lit also do things like setting up local media interviews and sending out press releases on your behalf.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be at the centre of your own promotion though, especially on social media. And marketing and promotion are hard – that’s why people who are good at marketing get paid the Big Money. It’s particularly hard if, like me, you’re fundamentally a bit reserved and English. I use twitter and facebook a lot (you can find me here: www.twitter.com/MsAlisonMay and here: www.facebook.com/pages/Alison-May/310212092342136) and constantly worry that I overdo the promotional tweeting and am massively annoying people or that I underdo it and should be selling more books. It’s definitely an acquired skill.

Do you read your own reviews and how do they make you feel?

Of course I read them – I’m human! Generally I’m pretty chilled about reviews either way. It’s lovely when someone loves something you’ve written, but inevitably not everyone will, and either way, it’s just one person’s opinion.

I actually find ‘middling’ sort of reviews more troubling than really terrible ones. At least someone hating your book is a reaction. If they just find it a bit ‘meh’ that’s quite hard to deal with.

Has anything that’s happened since being published surprised you in either in a good or a bad way?

Well, obviously it’s a bit disheartening to discover that I’m not suddenly rich beyond my wildest dreams, and that I don’t automatically earn the right to lie on a chaise longue in my nightie and dictate my next book to a topless male model who, for reasons never fully explained, moonlights as an audio typist.

I am slightly surprised, and disappointed in myself, to discover how obsessed I am with checking my amazon sales rank. One piece of advice – just don’t start down that route. It’s weirdly addictive, occasionally deeply depressing and it’s almost impossible to kick the habit once you’ve started.

MAASN_small final cover

We’ve all heard about the difficult second album scenario and we wondered how true that’s turning out to be in relation to the writing of your second full-length novel?

Well just in case my publisher reads this, I’ll start by saying that novel 2 is coming along absolutely fine. Completely fine. It’s totally going to be submitted soon. Definitely. Almost certainly. Probably. Errr…

Honestly, for me writing novel 2 is properly hard work. There are all sorts of reasons for that. Much Ado About Sweet Nothing was my first completed novel, and while I was writing the first draft I basically knew nothing about how to write a novel. Now I know a little bit, and a little knowledge is, as the cliché goes, a very dangerous thing. Having completed and edited one novel you know more than you did when you wrote novel 1, and ignorance is really helpful when writing a first draft. It stops you from trying to correct stuff as you go along, and stops you tying yourself up in knots of anxiety over whether it’s good enough. That tiny bit of knowledge can be paralysing.

So yeah, novel 2 = really hard. Sorry about that.

How are you finding the development of new characters and new themes, do you have any concerns that you might find yourself inadvertently sticking with ‘favourites?’

This is something I’m very aware of, but I’m trying not to think too hard about it, because it’s another anxiety that can become paralysing. If you look at every character, every plot point, every choice you make about narrative voice or tense, or about setting or structure, and think ‘Oh, have I done that before?’ it stops you from progressing. I think you just have to write the best book you can and put everything else out of your mind.

What are you most looking forward to/most anxious about as you move onto the next phase of your writing career?

Looking forward to finishing book 2! Hopefully that will be published in paperback as well as ebook, which would be great. Print publication is a big outstanding ambition. After I’ve finished novel 2, I’m committed to writing a sequel to Holly’s Christmas Kiss, which I’m excited about. Holly really exceeded my expectations in terms of the sales and reaction over Christmas, so I’m looking forward to revisiting that world again in time for next Christmas. I’m also excited about building up work alongside the writing. I used to teach creative writing and I’m really keen to get back into teaching and critiquing.

In terms of anxiety I guess it’s just the awareness that my current situation could change. Novel 2 might not be good enough. All sorts of stuff could go horribly wrong. Again, you can’t spend time thinking about all the stuff that might go bad, because it’s another of those paralysing voices. You’ve just gotta keep writing.

So there you go. Sorry it got a bit long but there are my honest answers to your very insightful questions. I hope you found them enlightening, or if not enlightening at least passably interesting. That sounds more realistic. I hope you found them passably interesting.

And now you should all go and buy my book. If you want to. Or not.

Much Ado About Sweet Nothing is in the current Kindle 100 deal and is only 99p during January!

About Much Ado About Sweet Nothing

Is something always better than nothing?

Ben Messina is a certified maths genius and romance sceptic.  He and Trix met at university and have been quarrelling and quibbling ever since, not least because of Ben’s decision to abandon their relationship in favour of … more maths! Can Trix forget past hurt and help Ben see a life beyond numbers, or is their long history in danger of ending in nothing?

Charming and sensitive, Claudio Messina, is as different from his brother as it is possible to be and Trix’s best friend, Henrietta, cannot believe her luck when the Italian model of her dreams chooses her. But will Claudio and Henrietta’s pursuit for perfection end in a disaster that will see both of them starting from zero once again?

This is a fresh and funny retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in the present day.

About Me

Alison May last visited the WriteRomantics in September. Since then her first novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, and her Christmas-themed novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss, have been published by Choc Lit Lite, and she has almost learnt to say ‘I’m a writer’ when people ask her what she does for a living. Her next goal is to be able to say it without giggling uncontrollably and spluttering drink all over poor innocent question-asking strangers.