In light and shade with Elle Turner

Hidden FaceOur guest on the blog today is friend of the Write Romantics, Elle Turner, telling us how she’s got this self-publishing lark all sewn up. Over to the fabulous Elle…

Hey there lovely Write Romantics! Thank you so much for having me back on the blog. I can’t believe two years have passed already since I was last here. It’s been great to follow your individual journeys over the period – you’ve all done tremendously well.

I re-read my 2013 interview with you guys before writing this post and one of the things I said was that I was mulling over the idea of self-publishing a short story collection. Well, at some point I must have stopped mulling and taken some action because I published Tapestry, my first collection of short stories, in September!

One of the things that struck me when I re-read the interview was how apprehensive I sounded. At that time I was still breaking out into a sweat every time I submitted anything anywhere. So how did I manage to get from there to here – excitedly sending my writing out into the world?

I know with complete certainty that being a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme has played an enormous part100_0740. The annual deadline to submit manuscripts, the readers’ reports, the supportive community and, this year, my first trip to the summer conference have all provided a focus, friendships and the will to keep going. Writing in itself has contributed to my growing feeling of belonging in the writing world, but also the online support through my blog, twitter and other social media platforms has been invaluable. In other words, in no small measure I have all my online buddies, not least the Write Romantics, to thank for helping me get here. It’s not all been plain sailing – self-doubt, rejection, impatience and what have you – but that’s all part of life’s rich TAPESTRY, right? 😉

My collection of twelve short stories went through many titles before I chose Tapestry, but now I wonder why I didn’t think of it in the first place. The stories are a tapestry, exploring the complexities of life and love through what I hope are moving tales, whether happy or less so. I wanted to write stories about love in different guises, whether romantic love, familial love or obsessive love and took the opportunity to explore the darker, sadder sides of the emotion too. Some of the characters appear in more than one story – I wanted to see what happened to them before or after their first story in the collection. I hope, if you read it, you find you wanted that too!

TAPESTRY_front150dpiIn hope, in pain

We lose, we gain,

But always and forever

The human heart braves life

In light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

Available now from Amazon http://hyperurl.co/ymjfs2

Tapestry came out at the end of September and publication day was so much fun! Again it was my online buddies who made it so and I’m more grateful than I can say to everyone who really got behind me. I’ve had some lovely comments about the stories too, so I’m very happy. J

It’s all been very exciting, but it’s back to work now! I’m looking for an agent for my books and am keen to hear what my NWS reader has to say about Book 4. I’m also planning a new project for 2016. That’s the idea anyway, but who knows what will happen? I’ll have to take it as it comes. Part of life’s rich…

Yes, OK, I’ll get my coat… 😉

Thank you so much for having me, Ladies! I hope to see you again soon and, in the meantime, happy writing!

Much love,

Elle J xx

Congratulations, Elle, the WRs are all really looking forward to escaping into your stories! Good luck with the agent submissions and the NWS news and thanks for joining us on the blog again, we hope you’ll come back next time you have some news.

Elle Turner writes contemporary women’s fiction. She lives in beautiful Scotland with her husband and two sons. She has pretty much no sense of direction, if you offer her a 50:50 she will ALWAYS get it wrong and, despite living in Scotland, she rarely manages to wear shoes that don’t leak.

If you would like to find out more about Elle or her writing, she’d love to see you at www.elleturnerwriter.com on Twitter @ElleTWriter, Instagram elletwriter or she’s on FB as elleturnerwriter

 

 

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Five Writing Lessons I’ve Learned by Jessica Redland on the launch of her debut novel

_MG_2776-EditMy debut novel, Searching for Steven, was launched on Wednesday (3rd June 2015) by So Vain Books. My debut novella, Raving About Rhys (set before Steven but written as a stand-alone story), is also out now and I still find it hard to believe that I’m a published author!

What have I learned during the writing process? Goodness me, I could go on for ages, but let me stick to five main lessons and, because I love alliteration in the titles of my books, I’ve set myself the added challenge of making sure they all start with the same letter.

  1. PURPOSEFULNESS: Writing can be a slow process … especially when, like me, you have a full-time job too. It took me a decade from writing my first words to submitting Steven to a publisher for the first time. I did learn my craft during that time, close a business, change jobs several times, get married, have a baby and move house twice so I had huge writing-free periods. I promise I’m not that slow a writer! My advice would be to always keep that end goal – that purpose – in mind and keep going. Even if you only have time to write small amounts like five hundred words a few times a week, it will soon add up. A 100,000-word novel is just 274 words a day for a year. Obviously, there’ll be re-writing and editing needed, but doesn’t 274 words a day sound achievable?
  1. Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESPATIENCE: I’ve said that writing can be a slow process but the journey to a publication is not exactly speedy either. A couple of publishers to whom I submitted Steven took nine months to return a decision, and they were publishers I’d met, had pitched to, and who had asked for my full MS. I’m actually not a very patient person. I’m exceptionally patient with other people, but not with anything that affects me, so waiting for news from publishers or agents was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was a little obsessed with checking the mail and my emails, but I finally managed to relax and accept that everything would happen in its own sweet time.
  1. PERSEVERANCE: Unless you’re one of the very fortunate few, you will get rejections. I was surprised to find that they weren’t quite as traumatic as I expected. Okay, so they’re not the most wonderful things to receive. I certainly wasn’t doing a happy dance each time one landed through my letterbox or in my inbox, but they certainly didn’t reduce me to tears like I’d expected. You see, I had a plan. I knew whom I’d submit to next so I could look at the rejections as the closing of one door and the opening of another. There must be very few authors out there who haven’t got a stack of rejections behind them, including incredibly successful authors like Stephen King and JK Rowling. It’s part of the process. It took me a year, 14 publisher submissions and 12 agency submissions before I got my break and, if the offer from So Vain Books hadn’t come along when it did, I’d have gone indie. There are so many opportunities out there to get your work published so don’t give up at the first hurdle. I will just point out that my publisher, So Vain Books, were incredibly quick with their response to my submission so not all publishers take so much time.
  1. CoversPROCRASTINATION: As anyone who regularly uses social media will know, social media is a massive distraction. Some evenings, I can have gone into my office with the intention of writing after a quick catch-up on Facebook. I glance at the clock and realise it’s nearly 10.00pm and I still haven’t written a single word of my WIP. Oops! I have to limit myself because working full time, being a Brown Owl, being a mum and being an author is a lot to fit in. If I’m meant to be spending the evening writing, I’ve learned that it’s best to close my emails, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter or I’ll procrastinate big time. I’d like to think that, if I was ever fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, I’d be really structured in my approach to social media e.g. an hour first thing and an hour mid-afternoon. But I bet I wouldn’t. I bet I’d find that it’s a case of the more time you have to write, the less writing you actually get done!
  1. PASSION: I’d hope it goes without saying that anyone thinking of writing must be passionate about it because it can be all consuming. I couldn’t imagine not writing. But it’s not your own passion I want to address here; it’s the passion of others. I’ve really touched by the time some of my friends and family have given to beta reading and supporting me. They’ve demonstrated as much passion and excitement about me being a writer as I feel myself. Saying thank you feels inadequate. I’m also very fortunate to be part of a writing collective called The Write Romantics. We all met through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and have been blogging together for two years. It’s amazing being able to share the highs and lows with nine other like-minded passionate women.
Scarborough - the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

Scarborough – the inspiration for Whitsborough Bay

However, there are those who don’t share the same passion. The day job is a classic example to illustrate this. I’d like to think that I don’t witter on about writing because I know that many work colleagues won’t be readers and, as I work in a male-dominated environment where the age profile is mainly 50 plus, they’re not exactly my target market. I’ve occasionally made a passing comment at the water cooler when asked how I’ve spent my weekend and I’ve watched eyes glaze over with absolute disinterest. I’d like to think that, if anyone told me they did something a little unusual, I’d express surprise and interest, and then ask a few follow-up questions. What I’ve experienced instead is that they either change the subject, nod and continue making their coffee in silence, or they tell me they’d like to write a book because hasn’t everyone got a book in them? They probably do but capability of getting it out is another matter entirely! Of course, I don’t say that. I grin, ask a few questions, and return to my office with my drink, knowing that it wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time that happens.

That concludes my five lessons for now. I’m sure I’ll continue to learn as time progresses because I suspect I’ve only just scratched the surface of the writing experience so far.

Happy reading everyone 🙂

Jessica xxx

The Blurb for Searching for Steven which can be found on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats here

601685_10151958992299073_754441455_nWhen Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.

Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online?

On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven…

During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

‘A warm and witty tale of one woman’s search for love, with a brave and feisty heroine you can’t help rooting for. SEARCHING FOR STEVEN is a compelling debut by a talented author, and I highly recommend it.’ Talli Roland, bestselling author of The No-Kids Club

‘Searching for Steven is a wonderful, uplifting story about the magic of true love that will put a smile on your face and happiness in your heart.’ Suzanne Lavender

‘Amusing and engaging, Searching for Steven is the story to make you believe in your one true love, with or without fate leading you there’ reviewedthebook.co.uk

The blurb for Raving About Rhys (novella) which can be downloaded from Amazon here

_MG_9950Bubbly Callie Derbyshire loves her job as a carer, and can’t believe she’s finally landed herself a decent boyfriend – older man Tony – who’s lasted way longer than the usual disastrous three months. Tony’s exactly what she’s always dreamed of… or at least he would be if he ever took her out instead of just taking her to bed. And work would be perfect too if she wasn’t constantly in trouble with her boss, The She-Devil Denise. 

When the new gardener, Mikey, discovers her in a rather compromising position at work, Callie knows that her days at Bay View Care Home could be numbered. Can she trust him not to tell Denise? If she was issued with her marching orders, who’ll look out for her favourite client, Ruby, whose grandson, Rhys, seems to constantly let her down? What does Ruby know about Tony? And what is Denise hiding? 

Surrounded by secrets and lies, is there anyone left who Callie can trust?

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Facebook: Jessica Redland Writer

Website: www.jessicaredland.com

The Writing World of Maggie Reid

Today the Write Romantics are delighted to welcome Maggie Reid, as our guest blogger. Maggie is the author of novels in a range of genres and across both self-published and traditionally published platforms. Take it away, Maggie!

Maggie ReidMy writing journey has been turbulent to say the least! I began by taking the traditional route in the sense I bought a “Writer’s and Artists” Yearbook and sent the first three chapters of my books out to literary agents. I got disheartened by those agents who, to this day, have never replied, or even sent a standard form rejection letter. I found rejection difficult to take at first. The books, after all, are an extension of the writer’s thoughts, feelings and ideals; so to be rejected when you feel the work is to a high standard was challenging and in the early days shattered my self- esteem.

However, I soon had faith in my own ability and decided that an agent was not necessary for me. What was important was getting the Maggie Reid name out there and having an audience to read my work. As a result, I decided to self-publish, which many well respected writers have done, in order to showcase my stories and it was the wisest decision I have ever made. The decision was momentous for me, as I was struggling through a divorce and losing my home, so in a sense I felt I had nothing to lose. I also felt that doors would open if the work could be read globally.

After I took this decision and was able to read reviews on amazon for ‘The Quiet Life of Marta G Ziegler’, I felt really heartened. I have wonderful readers from all over the world and I think it is so important to thank the audience who supported me when no literary agents believed in me.

I write in different styles and both the ‘Fearless Frangipan Circus Pie’ and ‘Michaelmas Angel’ are literaryMike angel fiction and challenging reads. They contain powerful characters and plot, and love endures through adversity. ‘The Quiet Life of Marta G Ziegler’ and ‘The Sinister World of Zac Spyro’ are for the children’s/adult crossover market. Marta Ziegler has a huge adult audience because, I believe, the novel is a timeless story about following your dreams whatever age you are. I try not to worry about my ‘market’, but rather focus on the strength of the story. I think it is good not to be categorised as a writer and be free to explore different styles. I like to produce exciting and individual stand-alone pieces of work, instead of following a pattern.

The traditional vs self publishing question is a big debate at the moment, when the financial market is so uncertain. Traditional publishers want ‘big names’ and return on their investment so as an emerging writer it is near impossible to break through into a traditional publishing house. As a result, many amazing manuscripts are turned down, because they are too inventive, imaginative or unique and publishers may see originality as a ‘risk’. This is heart-breaking for the struggling writer. Indeed I always dreamed of being published by Penguin, but without a powerful literary agent it is difficult. Maybe one day …

pieNonetheless, I felt it was important for me to showcase my work as an emerging writer through self-publishing and regaining control. If you have a great story to tell, self publish and build a readership. Indie writers are exciting and powerful voices in the industry at the moment and it is all about what is right for the individual writer. ‘The Quiet Life of Marta G Ziegler’ was rejected several times by traditional publishers for having a profoundly deaf heroine, which I think shows lack of insight and vision, and I believe Marta Ziegler has huge potential for screen.

For me, my biggest influences for my writing are my children, my family and the chance meetings with people who say a few words to you about their lives that can spark a story. I find inspiration in the smallest of things, a broken shell on a craggy Scottish beach, a solitary figure in a trilby hat, a mother with a distant look in her eyes. The biggest influence has to be real people, and human emotions that you can see if you really learn to watch and listen. A good writer is an observer and, at the moment, I am working on a new children’s’ book which adults can read too, which I hope will be a powerful, thought provoking read.

Thanks for joining us on the blog today, Maggie, and giving us an insight into your writing world. To find out more about Maggie and her books, please check out the links below:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maggie-Reid-Scottish-Author/211711985625805?fref=ts

Twitter: @MaggiReid

Or at Amazon here.

Short Stories are in the Saturday Spotlight with Margaret Mounsdon

 

The Write Romantics are compiling an anthology of short stories to be released later this autumn in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust and Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Several writing friends have kindly given their time and talent by providing short stories and we’ve all contributed ourselves. For some of us, this was quite a challenge as we’re novelists; not short story writers. We were therefore delighted to welcome prolific short story writer, Margaret Mounsdon, to The Saturday Spotlight.
 
CIMG2091Over to Margaret …
 
As I said to Jessica the two things I love talking about most in this world are myself and writing! So I am honoured to be a guest on the blog and hope everyone finds what I have to say is interesting.
 
A little introduction for those of you who’ve never heard of me.
 
My name is Margaret Mounsdon and I have been published in the womens’ magazines, namely Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, People’s Friend, The Lady and Take A Break’s Fiction Feast. Apart from the UK my short stories have been published in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway and Sweden.
 
I have had 25 light romance novels published and I’m in the process of putting my backlist on Amazon ebooks.
 
img078I have won or been placed in several short story competitions and the reason I am telling you all this is not to blow my own trumpet but to let you know it is possible to do this without knowing a single soul in the publishing industry or having an agent, or being able to pull strings with editors, publishing assistants, whatever.
 
Unlike mainstream fiction when the publishers want to know all about you for publicity purposes, in the short story market it doesn’t matter. You can quietly sell your stories with as much or as little publicity as you like. Different rights to short stories can be sold several times and can become ‘nice little earners’ over the years.
 
About 14 years ago I had no idea how the published short story business worked. I knew I liked reading them in the in magazines and sometimes I thought I can do as good as that. Eventually I decided to have a go.
 
I have to say I was not an overnight success. I started writing in the 1990’s and my first short story acceptance was from Woman’s Weekly in 2000. Having said that a lot of my rejected stories have since been re-worked and most of them have found a home so it pays not to throw any of your work away.
 
Thanks to all those who posted questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.
 
What do you think makes a good short story?
I like to have a good opening line. It’s important to make the reader want to read on. Some examples of mine are:-
  • ‘You find out who your true friends are when you appear at a party dressed as a trifle and custard.’ WWFS
  • ‘Don’t I know you?’ ‘ Yes I was once your wife.’ WW
  • ‘Private detective seeks assistant – must be discreet, practical and flexible.’ WWFS
  • ‘Vanessa stopped stalking Kevin after she left school.’ TAB FF
As you can see from these examples there is a broad range of choice and, as long as you follow the bounds of decency, almost nowhere you can’t go
 
Do you have any advice on how to crack the short story market?
One way is competitions. They are an excellent way to get in. The Lady magazine unfortunately no long publishes fiction but they used to have a short story competition which I duly entered one year. I didn’t win and I wasn’t placed but I received an email from their fiction editor who liked my story and offered to buy it and it was duly published. All because I entered their competition. Apart from that you must study everything in the magazines, including the adverts. I even completed the crosswords! Up to date market study is very important.
 
Also Woman’s Weekly run fiction writing days at their London office. I am going on one for serials (a market I’ve never been able to crack) in October.
 
img077Any tips on creating a believable romance in a short story?
Believe in your characters. Make them as genuine as possible. Make their problems creditable. Don’t create a situation ‘just  because’. Every action has to have a reason.
 
Do you create characters for short stories differently from the way you create the characters in your novels?
The characters in my novels are much more in depth. I do histories for them and cut pictures out of magazines and supplements etc. In short stories I work more on an idea and go from there.
 
What type of short stories do you enjoy writing the most?
I’ve been asked by People’s Friend to write a 10,000 long/short story for one of their ‘specials’. They wanted a ‘cosy’ type crime caper. These are great fun. Think Midsomer Murders meets Miss Fisher.
 
Do you plot your short stories or have an idea and start writing?
I usually get an idea then sit down and get typing. I managed to get a story out of a trip to our local recycling centre, and another when I was in a queue in a charity shop and I eavesdropped on a conversation. Inspiration can strike anywhere so take a notebook with you at all times. Coffee shops are good places to get ideas.
 
What gives you the most satisfaction; writing short stories or a novel. Why?
I have no preference but if I’ve just done a 42,000 word novella for People’s Friend, I like to take a break and a 1500 word short story makes a nice change.  
 
Do you buy the editions of magazines in which your short stories appear or do you get sent a copy?
Woman’s Weekly send copies. TAB Fiction Feast, My Weekly and People’s Friend don’t, but you do usually get told when your story is coming out. I tend to browse in WH Smith or the supermarket, just in case they’ve changed the dates. Also titles can get changed so you need to double check the magazines.
 
Fountain.Tell us more about getting “the call” for your first novel
It was with the defunct Heartline publisher. I’d met Sue Curran at a writing day. She agreed to look at my NWS submission. I was actually out when the call came. When I got back there was an answerphone message asking me to call her. She explained about Heartline and what they were planning to do. I still didn’t really ‘twig’ that they wanted to publish because they were only starting up. When she called back several times more, the penny finally dropped. I was ‘in’. I did a dance round the room and the joy of acceptance never goes away fourteen years later!
 
Why did you write under a pen name? Have you used this for all your novels?
I only wrote as Clare Tyler for my two Heartline novels. They had another Margaret on their books at the same time and suggested I used a different name. I have only used it once since when People’s Friend had two of my stories in one edition of their magazine and they wanted me to use another name for the second one. These days it’s Margaret Mounsdon all the way.
 
I have a People’s Friend novella coming out on 28 August. I entitled it Angela’s Return Home. The titles do get changed but it will be under the Margaret Mounsdon name.
 
Details of my novels can be found on my blogYou can follow me on twitter @SwwjMargaret and on my website through which I can be contacted if anyone’s got any more queries.    
 
Thank you for inviting me to be your guest today.
 
Margaret 
 
 
Thank you for joining us, Margaret. It’s been really fascinating to get a much deeper insight into the short story market which we haven’t really explored on our blog before. We appreciate your time and your advice.

For anyone interested in finding out more about our anthology of short stories, please see our earlier post. We’re running a competition for a book title and you’ve got a little over a week to get your ideas in to win a gift voucher so get your thinking cap on and get emailing!

 
Enjoy your weekend
Jessica
 
(We’d love your questions/responses to this post. Comments can be left my clicking on the button at the end of the tabs below)

 

Guest Spotlight with Helena Fairfax: How my imaginary characters became real people, and everything else I learned from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme

We’re delighted to welcome another guest to the Saturday Spotlight in the form of Helena Fairfax. We have interviewed several published and aspiring writers in the past but asked Helena if she’d like to be interviewed or go ‘freestyle’. Helena decided to give the latter a whirl so, as the title says, this is everything she’s learned from her time in the RNA’s NWS and an insight into her writing world. Over to you, Helena …

Image

Have you ever sat on a grimy commuter train, looked round at all the other pale, exhausted commuters, wet clothes gently steaming in the fug, then closed your eyes and thought, ‘I wish, I wish I was in the south of France?’

A few years ago I was escaping inside my own head in this way, when I had an idea for a romance novel. Every morning after that, rammed next to my fellow sufferers on the 7.25, I’d try and make my idea come alive in my notebook. In my lunch hour, I’d sit round the back of my factory, joining the lads from the estate on the canal. Whilst the boys fished in the drizzle for whatever lurked in those murky depths, I’d be crossing out everything I’d written that morning and scribbling down some more. Instead of dealing with production deadlines and irate customers, I was in the south of France with my red hot boss. It seemed like a sort of game – my characters were something to keep me amused during the dreary nine to five.

And then I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, and to my surprise, my gorgeous French hero was no longer just a pleasant daydream in my head. To my reader at the RNA, this was a real, breathing character, who needed a motivation and a goal. My wispy daydream was a mere outline, my reader told me, and needed to shape up. This was my first, delightful experience as an aspiring writer. I’d found a reader who was taking my character seriously, and was helping me put solid flesh on his fragile bones.

I submitted twice to the New Writers’ Scheme. Here’s a list of some of the other lessons I learned that changed me from a daydreaming scribbler to one who finally became a published author:

 To the readers who buy your book, your characters aren’t just ideas in your head. They are living and breathing people. They MUST have clear motivations and reasons for their behaviour. Readers expect to know WHY they act the way they do.  What is it in the characters’ past that has made them this way?

 A romance story has to contain emotional tension.  As my reader said, ‘It’s about why the hero and heroine, so obviously attracted to each other, not only won’t admit they have fallen in love but feel that they can’t….Your hero and heroine should have goals that are in direct opposition to each other.’

 There must be a situation which forces the hero and heroine together.  If not, why don’t they just say goodbye on page four, if their goals are in opposition to one another?  What will force them to stay together throughout the course of a whole novel? 

 Emotional conflict must be sustained throughout the course of the novel.   To quote my reader again: ‘When you’re structuring a romance, you should be thinking about the plot not so much as moving your characters from A to B but as a series of situations that test their fears and bring their goals into conflict.’    I learned how much skill is involved in keeping this emotional conflict sustained in an interesting way! 

 The synopsis.  It’s vital that the synopsis shows: characterisation, motivation, cause of emotional tension, and reason why the characters are forced together.

 The dreaded rewrite.  After taking my reader’s advice the first time I submitted, this meant that I had to substantially rewrite my manuscript.  But I took heart from my reader’s last words:  ‘This is a story with lots of potential and although it does need some restructuring, and yes, some extra work, I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you think once you get started!’  And my reader was right.  At first, I was daunted, but now I never mind rewriting.  As a perfectionist, I enjoy the feeling that I’m manipulating the words to get the best story I can.

 Handling rejection.  Of course I was disappointed the novel wasn’t right at first, but the accompanying letter from the RNA’s president gave positive advice: ‘Always bear in mind that most published authors have experience of rejection.  All writers, published and unpublished, need to be tenacious and determined…Have faith in yourself!’

 I resubmitted the entire novel the next year.  This taught me another great lesson – in order to get a book written, you have to sit down and WRITE.  No excuses or prevarication.  If I’d missed the scheme’s deadline, that would have been it.  Now it wasn’t just a pleasant hobby. I had to force myself to write, whether I felt like it or not, in order to get the book finished on time.

In May last year my daydream finally became reality, with the release of The Silk Romance. The months of agonising and toil over my novel, times in which I felt inadequate and had moments of swearing I’d never try and write a book again, were all forgotten that day, and I had a massive smile on my face.

Of course I’m still agonising over my notebooks, but now I write much faster, with fewer rewrites, because through the RNA I’ve learned several work-changing lessons.

The Silk Romance is a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award at the RNA’s summer party in May, and I intend to be there, partying my party stilettos off!

Image

If you’d like to find out more about the French hero I daydreamed about, here’s the blurb to The Silk Romance:

How do you choose between the people you love most?

Sophie Challoner is sensible and hard-working, and a devoted carer of her father.  The night her grandmother throws a party for her in Paris, Sophie does something reckless she can never forget. 

Jean-Luc Olivier has retired from his glamorous life as a racing driver to run a silk mill in Lyon.  Years after they first met, fate reunites Jean-Luc with Sophie in this most romantic of cities, and he’s determined not to let her go a second time.

But is Jean-Luc still the same man he was? It seems he has a secret of his own.  And when disaster strikes back home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this wonderful city with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep a sacred promise she made her mother.

BUY LINKS

Available as an e-book.

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/The-Silk-Romance-Helena-Fairfax-ebook/dp/B00CYHVI1W/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Silk-Romance-ebook/dp/B00CYHVI1W/

MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=664&category_id=8&keyword=helena+fairfax&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1

Nook: http://www.nook.com/gb/ebooks/the-silk-romance-by-helena-fairfax/2940045347501

Also available from iTunes and lots of other e-book places

SOCIAL LINKS

You can find Helena on her blog: www.helenafairfax.com

on Facebook www.facebook.com/HelenaFairfax,

on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7082986.Helena_Fairfax

or on Twitter @helenafairfax

 

Thanks very much for having me today, lovely Write Romantics. It’s good to get to know you all, and thank you for being such welcoming hosts!

 

Thank you for joining us Helena. And good luck with the Joan Hessayon!

Julie & The Write Romantics

Face the Fear … But do it Anyway!

Fear. It’s a funny thing. An estimated 10 million people in the UK alone have phobias. That’s about 1 in 6 of us. Claustrophobia and its opposite, agoraphobia, are amongst the ten most common phobias. Fear of flying (aerophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia) are in there too. No surprises there. Not in the top ten list but coulrophobia is quite common and at least one of our Write Romantics has it … fear of clowns. Having seen Stephen King’s ‘It’, I’m not surprised!

But there are some strange phobias out there too. Did you know that alliumphobia is the fear of garlic, Dutchphobia is the very un-PC fear of the Dutch (why?!) or that geniophobia is the fear of chins (yeah, not sure I get that one either). And I have two absolute classics for you here – hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is the fear of the number 666 and hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words. Oh the irony that someone suffering from this can’t tell anyone what they’re suffering from because the word itself would fill them with fear!

Have you ever heard of novelrejectionphobia though? No? Well, that’s probably because I’ve just made it up but it’s a very real affliction that I’m facing right now. And I don’t like it.

I thought of the idea for my novel in 2002 and first put fingers to keyboard in 2003 so this year signals the culmination of a decade of work during which time I’ve learned so much about writing. I’ve written and re-written my novel (especially the start) more times than I care to remember. I’ve received several positive beta-reader reviews and two great NWS reports. So, armed with a box of freshly-printed business cards, a folder of synopsis print-outs for Novel 1 and the remaining two in the trilogy, and a handful of CDs containing Novel 1 should any agents of publishers ask for the whole thing, I attended my first RNA conference with a positive attitude that I was about to take my next step on the road to becoming published.

But things didn’t quite work out as my imagination had planned. I didn’t ‘fall naturally into conversation’ with any agents or publishers in the dinner queue and the two editors I met in my booked sessions didn’t throw their arms round me squealing, “I loved it. I MUST have the whole MS. NOW! And here’s fifty grand to secure the publishing deal!” I came home with all the business cards, print-outs and CDs still intact.

Don’t get me wrong; the two editors I saw really liked my MS. They were really positive about my voice and my style and the plot but one wanted the story to start at a slightly earlier point with some more action (both my NWS reports had said to start it later) and the other just wanted to make sure certain points came out in the MS. To be fair, they did, but a conversation with her gave me an epiphany on making a change to the start that would give my protagonist a really strong reason for seeking The One which would also provide the action the other editor sought.

All I needed to do was one more edit then get it sent off to agents. That wouldn’t take long.

Except it has.

Schools go back next week which means summer is over. Which means six weeks has passed. Six weeks during which I have been unemployed, having lost my job in late July so, in theory, have had all the time in the world to write. OK, so I spent a week on holiday and we had a weekend camping, I decorated the lounge, I cleared out the garage, I had a major clear-out of my daughter’s toys, books and clothes (which took several days) and I’ve had various appointments like doctor, dentist, hygienist etc. Not to mention actually spending time with my six-year-old and taking her out on a handful of day-trips. But there have been ‘spare’ days. Days where she’s gone to her Nana’s. Days where I’ve had cooking and cleaning to do but where I could have done it quickly and dug out my manuscript.

Yet something has stopped me. Yes, novelrejectionphobia has reached out its inky paws and slapped me about with a copy of Jane Wenham-Jones’s ‘Wannabe a Writer?’ “Yes,” I’ve cried, “Yes I do! But what if I’m not good enough …?” And so we get to the crux of the problem. Sending a previous incarnation of my MS to a few friends and family members last year was a little bit scary … but they were never going to be brutal about the feedback (I hoped) and, if they did, I’d be able to convince myself it wasn’t their genre/it wasn’t quite ready/they’re not experts or whatever excuse I decided made me feel better. Sending it to the NWS was also a slightly nerve-wracking moment … but all I was going to get back was a critique which would make me feel good about some parts (I hoped) and give me some constructive guidance on improving other parts. Even sending the first 6,000 words to a Harper Collins/Marie Claire competition has only made me feel mild apprehension … because I’ll probably read an article in a couple of months announcing the winner and realize I wasn’t short-listed because I’m assuming there will be far too many entries for them to reply personally to say “no”.

But if I send it out to an agent or a publisher, I’ll get a response. I’ll get a letter or an email. I’ll get a “no”. Or perhaps I won’t. But I’ve convinced myself it will be a no. Perhaps that’s because I’ve lost my job and had little success in finding a new one so I’m feeling like a big fat reject all round just now.

So I’ve spent the summer avoiding the final edit. Yes, I’ve had days where I couldn’t write; daughter to entertain, appointments to attend. But I spent half an hour sitting on the landing yesterday with a pair of tweezers picking out stuck bits of paper in my office shredder. Was that really the most important thing I could have done with that time? It’s not like the shredder was even jammed or going slow! I have several other examples of such procrastination that I won’t embarrass myself by sharing.

My other half put his foot down this summer and said that I didn’t have to rush out and get a temporary job (I have a few irons in the fire I’m waiting to hear on) but he expected me to do things around the house if I wasn’t working. Fair enough. But after a few days of hard graft painting the lounge, I could have put my foot down too and said I was writing for a day. But I didn’t. Because it’s easier to blame him than me for not finishing that MS. And if it’s not finished, then I can’t send it off … and nobody can tell me it’s not good enough!

At the RNA Conference, there was a session called, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” It was all about identifying what stops you doing things (usually yourself) and finding ways to overcome them. The leader of this session is a life coach. It was a good session but, as a coach myself, I was familiar with everything covered … yet it’s so damn hard to apply it to myself. I could coach and support anyone else who needed it but it would be a case of do as I say, not as I do!

An hour ago, we got back home from some commitments we’ve had today and hubby said he’d look after Ashleigh so I could work on my MS. Crikey! I think it’s because he’s made a decision to join the local archery club through whom he’s been attending a trial course. This will take time and commitment so I think this is his way of recognising I need time for my ‘hobby’ too. Only I don’t want it to be a hobby. I want it to be a career. Which means I have to send my MS off … which means I have to finish it … which means I should be working on it now instead of writing this blog.

Will someone slap me about with a cold wet kipper please and make me get my act together before novelrejectionphobia turns me into one of those writers with a PC full of manuscripts that have never seen the light of day just in case someone says they’re not good enough. Because what if I am good enough? What if they love my work? What if they want to represent/publish me? What if I become a bestseller? It could happen to me, couldn’t it? I could have the talent and timing to make it?

Right, that’s it. I’d better get my MS out now and polish it off. Could be in an agent’s inbox by the end of the week if I get my finger out.

Mind you, it’s only 20 minutes until teatime and that’s not enough time to do anything now … or is it?! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 Julie xx 

The Monday Interview with Henriette Gyland

Henriette Gyland grew up in Denmark but moved to England after she graduated from university, and now lives in West London with her family. She wrote her first book aged ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt, fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express. When she’s not writing, she works as a translator and linguist. Her first book, “Up Close”, was published by Choc Lit in December 2012, and her latest book “The Elephant Girl”, is out now.

author-photo-henriette-gyland-low-res

We know that, like us, you were once a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you have been a member, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?

When my son was about two, I had a few loose story ideas, and joined a writers’ circle. One of the women in my group pointed out that I was technically writing romantic fiction, and when I looked more closely at my work, I could see she was right. So I decided to look into it and bought a How To book by Marina Oliver, a long-standing member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. At the back of the book she mentioned the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, and I joined up.

My genre is romantic suspense, sometimes also called psychological thriller, and I tend to deal with quite dark themes – e.g. in “The Elephant Girl” the heroine suffers from epilepsy – but I do try to give my characters a happy ending. They’ve overcome their difficulties, internal as well as external, so they deserve it!

Please can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication and how ‘The Call’ came about?

My journey is probably the same as anyone else who’s ever been a member of the NWS. Basically it goes along the following lines: write a novel, send it to the NWS, get an honest but fair critique, despair, rewrite, send out to agents/editors, get rejected, despair some more. Then do the whole thing all over again. Yet along the way the NWS reports became tougher and the rejections nicer, which in the midst of my despair told me I was getting closer. This culminated in being awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2008, and winning the New Talent Award from the inaugural Festival of Romance in 2011. I also received a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize that same year. Two months later I signed with Choc Lit.

The Elephant Girl

What’s next for you, Henriette?

At the moment I’m experimenting a bit, both with format as well as genre. My sweet romance novella, “Blueprint for Love”, came out as an e-book in June, and my next full length novel will be a swashbuckling historical romance set in the Georgian period. This is my favourite historical period because I just love the dresses!

Have you got any advice for others who might be hoping to emulate your success in securing a publisher or perhaps an agent?

Keep writing, and keep submitting your work. Take on board the professional advice you’re given. You may not always agree with it at the time, but when you look back over it, you’ll often realise that the person critiquing your novel was absolutely right. A bit of distance usually helps. Also, look at your rejections objectively (not easy, I know) and see what you can learn from them. Try to resist self-publication if you can – it’s true that some people have done so successfully, but this is a lot easier once you’ve built up a name for yourself with a traditional publisher. Regard your writing career as progressive.

What are your dreams and aspirations as a writer, in terms of your long-term career?

Easy enough question to answer: to be able to give up the day job and earn a living as a full-time writer!

What was the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?

I treasure everything I’ve learned, and strange as it may sound, I’ve learned more about the craft of writing from what I did wrong than what I got right. The very frank, but constructive NWS critiques and the many rejections over the years have, with a bit of distance, taught me something. Every time I jumped up and down in frustration that I wasn’t going to get published, like, today, I learned the most important thing, that as valuable as feedback and suggestions are, if they spark off different ideas and different ways of solving writing issues, you’ve found something unique: your own voice. That’s worth its weight in gold.

Then there’s all the friendships I’ve made, both among published as well as unpublished members of the RNA. Only a fellow writer understands what you’re going through when you’ve received a rejection or a bad review, or what it feels like when your editor is putting you through your paces. They speak the same language as you.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?

I think it’s important to remember that getting a novel published isn’t the end of the journey, but a continuation of it.

Find out more about Henriette at:

Website: http://henriettegyland.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/henriette.gyland
Twitter: @henrigyland