Saturday Spotlight: Diane Saxon talks to us about bringing the dream alive – and the cowboys in her head…

DSC_0066 author pic

Today we’re delighted to have as our guest Diane Saxon, author of spicy contemporary romance novels including the best-selling Loving Lydia, published by Liquid Silver Books.

Diane lives in an enviably beautiful part of the Shropshire countryside, not far from last summer’s RNA conference venue, Harper Adams University, as I discovered when I happened to sit next to her in one of the conference workshops.  Diane’s books sizzle with devastatingly attractive heroes but they wouldn’t have come to life had not her own real-life hero, her husband whom she describes as tall, dark and handsome, insisted she give up the demanding day-job and follow her dream of becoming a writer.

I asked The Write Romantics what questions they’d like to put to Diane and, surprise, surprise, the spicy side of things was uppermost in their minds!  Over to you, Diane.

Hi, thank you so much for asking me to join you here today. It was an absolute pleasure to read the questions from The Write Romantics and I had fun answering them.

When did you first have that dream of becoming a writer, and what was the demanding career you gave up in order to fulfil it?

I’m not sure I understand myself when I had the “dream”. I can only say it came alive the day I put pen to paper and made it happen. I’m not one of those people who can say I’ve written all of my life. I haven’t. But I have read all of my life, and I have fantasized and when we moved house last year, I found a small scene I had in my drawer from when I had my eldest daughter. Twenty-two years it took me to turn that small amount of scribbling into a book – Flynn’s Kiss, published in April 2014.

The demanding career – an Office and H.R. Manager. Two hours travel a day, plus phone calls every evening and with the ability to work from a home computer, submitting PAYE etc, I was frequently up until after midnight, or on-line before six in the morning.

As relatively new writers, The Write Romantics are well used to clawing their way through the submissions process and we’re always intrigued to know how others achieved their ‘breakthrough’ and what happened when they got ‘the call’.  How was it for you?

lovinglydia_(5)Unbelievable. Really.  I made several submissions of Loving Lydia and had two American publishers interested within three weeks.  I was on my own when I received the news and I still hippy chick danced around my house. The first stage was a request for an R&R and I can confess, I worked my socks off to make that manuscript right. Next came the contract and the boogie dance became even more frantic. I cannot describe the thrill of getting that first contract, but seeing the front cover of the book made it a reality. Loving Lydia’s front cover was exactly what I imagined.

I would advise any new writer to do their research. This is not a standard CV you are sending out to employers to see if their criteria matches yours. It is far, far more complex and if there is one thing I can lay claim to, it is the ability to put my “business head” on.  When you send in your submission, check what THEY are asking you for. This could make the difference between an automatic rejection and a contract.  Every single submission I have made has been different. Read and re-read their requirements. I cannot emphasise it enough.

Why did you choose your particular genre and what appeals to you about it?

Romance has always appealed, from the moment my sister, Margaret, read The Princess Bride to me when I was ten. Even then, the slight naughty thrill and humour struck a chord and perpetuated when I realised those slim books my mother took from the library each week contained stories to melt a young heart. I can’t tell you every teenager does this. In my class at school nobody seemed to know the whispered words of Mills & Boon. It was my secret thrill, my escape. By the age of fourteen, I’d moved on to Wilbur Smith – great volumes. I didn’t read his books, I lived them.  An avid reader, I took advice and books from Margaret, read them with as much enthusiasm as she did and fell into the romance. As we matured, so did our choice in material. When we discovered Nora Roberts, we opened a whole new world of American authors, where romance, like real life could be naughty.

Did the genre in any way influence your decision to sign with a US publisher?

To be honest, not really. Like any author looking for a publisher I did my research. I sent my manuscript to the publishers I believed would be best for the book I had written. My Atlantic Divide Series is based on one American protagonist and one English.  When Liquid Silver signed me, I re-wrote the entire story in US English.

Your books so far have been published within an impressively short time-scale.  How many hours do you spend writing in a day, and do you have set times when you like to write?

I write every day. My best time is between 7.00 am and 1.00pm. Revisions and editing take place in the evening, but my artistic flow seems stronger in the morning. Thinking time, developing a scene, creating dialogue comes when I walk my Dalmatian, Skye, for hours at a time. I always take a notebook and have been known to record scenes, but I find this less natural than writing it down.

On your blog you say you write ‘contemporary romance, stories with humour, and quite often a cowboy or two’.  OK, so, why cowboys?

Oh, now this is where I start to sound a little mad, but authors out there will understand. Loving Lydia is the first in my Atlantic Divide Series. When I started to write, I had the idea that a young woman with a horrific background would join her sister in America and her life would change. I had no pre-conceived ideas, but when she landed at the airport, a cowboy was waiting.  That cowboy, gorgeous, gentle, understanding Sam, dictated the rest of the book to me and when I write, I have a cowboy in my head.

Do you enjoy writing your series books more than singles titles, and is it something you plan to continue in the future?

Absolutely, my cowboys and I won’t be parted. I’m currently writing the next in my Disarmed and Dangerous Series, where cowboys are always present, and even now, I know where the next in that series is coming from.  As for my single titles, I love them just as much. But where they are a flash of imagination, content to end, my Series are a dream intent on visiting me every night and expanding to the horizon, and beyond.

Do you have a tried and trusted approach to writing a brand new novel?  Do you invent the characters before the plot, or vice versa, and do you have to know the ending before you begin?

I am what’s classed as a panster. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants. Or so I thought, until recently when I realised I do have a system. I may not sit and plot and scrawl notes, but my stories are character driven. I meet my main character on one of my long walks and we get to know each other very well before I put pen to paper. I know the start of my story, I know my character, and I know the end. What happens in between, is more often than not a surprise.

Are there any other genres you’d like to try in the future?

Oh my goodness, where to start? First of all, I have a new short story, part of an anthology due which is now out on pre-release (see below). I’ve never been one to stick to a single reading genre – read twelve historical and I want to see a thriller, a paranormal, a comedy. So why should I keep to one sub-genre for writing? Romance is romance.

My new release – For Heaven’s Cakes – is a humorous paranormal with a shape-shifting wolf.  Following on from this, I have a full paranormal romance novel with a shape-shifting dragon and a screaming banshee that I’ve just finished. And in January, my time-travelling sci-fi/dystopian short story Short Circuit Time is due for release by Hartwood Publishing.  I’ve also just finished an historical romance, more about that another day.  And between you and me, I started writing a thriller long before Loving Lydia was conceived. It’s far longer than the others, and much darker. This is my goal for 2015. To finish the thriller.          (Read more about Diane’s latest books below).

And finally, can you give us any advice on how to write good sex scenes?  (Well, we had to ask!)

Yes. But it’s not sex. It’s love. I write romance, first and foremost, with happily ever after endings and sex is an integral part of that relationship. I imagine a camera rolling, a beautiful film playing out for our hearts to become involved in, our imaginations to fill in the gaps.  Even when my main characters have not declared any love interest in each other, if they have sex, they are already emotionally involved. The reader will know that, even if the character doesn’t yet.  Don’t be afraid. Grab a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate. (Not at 7.00 am obviously) Close your eyes and let your own imagination roll. Write what comes into your head and flows through your fingers. If you don’t like it later, you can delete the scene, but if you restrict that imagination, allow the thoughts of “what will people think?” and “is this sentence construction correct?” interfere, then it will show in your writing and your scene will feel contrived.  Just as I write humour in my stories, I don’t exclude it in my love scenes. If something wants to be funny, let it.

***

You can find out more about Diane at http://dianesaxon.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter here:  www.facebook.com/authordianesaxon   @Diane_Saxon

And if you’d like the chance to win one of Diane’s books, see the end of this post!

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Paranormally Yours, is available on pre-release right now.  Find it here:

Amazon UK:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paranormally-Yours-Anita-Cox-ebook/dp/B00Q5HSMFC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417164452&sr=8-2&keywords=Paranormally+Yours

Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Paranormally-Yours-Anita-Cox-ebook/dp/B00Q5HSMFC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417164513&sr=8-2&keywords=Paranormally+Yours

All Romance: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-paranormallyyours-1686491-340.html

For Heaven’s Cakes by Diane Saxon

Twelve years of living in Ireland smoothed Beau’s rough edges, and hard work as a construction worker made him a wealthy man. The call of his pack is stronger than he can resist though, and he isn’t averse to returning to show his small home town in America what he’s made of himself.

What he doesn’t anticipate is meeting the local pharmacist’s daughter – in his wolf form. By day, he renovates the pharmacy, and tries to cajole the lush assistant into having dinner with him. By night he watches Catherine bake her fantastic creations and blossom through her art.

Sleeping on her bed each night in his wolf form isn’t exactly ideal, but how does he tell her the wolf she’s come to love, is the man she lusts over?

Excerpt:

Beau dipped his head…

Just as he thought. She tasted of warm spices and honeyed wine. He moved his lips against her full, soft ones, and closed his eyes in ecstasy. Yes. He’d known she’d taste that way. He deepened the kiss, and pulled her lush body in closer so he could feel every rounded curve pressed against him.

He cupped the back of her head in his hand and twined his fingers through her silken hair. He tilted his head to get a better angle, slipped his tongue inside her mouth, and rejoiced at the faint mewl she emitted. The woman was full of little sounds. He squeezed her, and delighted as the mewl turned to a groan.

He smoothed his hand down her back, took a hold of one cheek of the fine ass he’d admired, and molded it to bring her hips flush against his.

Coming Soon…  Short Circuit Time

In the year 2086, Zaphira is alone, the last survivor of biological warfare on Earth. Before he died, her scientist father promised other survivors would come. Nobody has. So when a horribly mangled android shows up claiming to be her father’s assistant, Aiden, who has been sent through time to rescue her, she’s both frightened and astounded.  The last time she’d seen Aiden, she’d been sixteen, head-over-heels in love with him and had literally thrown herself at him, leaving her devastated by his rejection and him running for the hills. The following day, she’d been told of his death.  Eight years later he’s miraculously back, this time asking for her help. Without it, he won’t survive. But can she really put a dead man back together with tweezers?

***

Thank you, Diane, for being our guest today.  It’s been fun and we wish you continued success with your books.

Deirdre

But before we go, today’s Saturday Spotlight comes with an exciting bonus and I believe it’s a first for us on the blog!  I’ll leave Diane to tell us all about it:

First, I’d like to thank Write Romantics for inviting me along. I’ve had a blast answering these questions. Then I want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to drop in and visit.

Leave a comment telling me what your favourite sub-genre is with your contact details (email address) and I will send one lucky winner an e-copy of either my anthology or any one of my backlist.

(To leave a comment, click on Comments at the end of the tags below)

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Anyone for tea?

Anyone for tea?

Today I’d like to welcome Josephine Moon to the blog. She is the author of ‘The Tea Chest’, published by Allen & Unwin, and she’s a self-confessed tea lover!

Josephine, tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be a novelist?

I was born in Brisbane and now live on the Sunshine Coast with my husband, toddler and an unreasonably large collection of animals. I write fiction and non-fiction, with a different publisher for each. I love good food, aromatic wonders, nature and animals, and am a self-diagnosed spa junkie. My aim in life is to do all my work from the spa.

I took the long route to novel writing, and wrote ten manuscripts in twelve years on the way. I studied journalism at Uni, taught English and Film and TV in schools, worked as a technical writer and then five years as a professional editor, all the while writing and hoping to one day be published. Finally, in 2012, I got a literary agent and three book contracts soon after.

The title of your debut novel, “The Tea Chest” makes me want to open up the book and delve inside…what’s the book about and how did you come up with the idea?

I am a mad tea woman. I just love tea, teapots, tea rituals, high teas, doilies, silver spoons and teeny tiny cakes. One day, I was wandering through a T2 tea shop (around 2007), inhaling aromas and shaking bowls of tea, and I thought, ‘What an awesome job! Who gets to design all these teas?’ And with that, the character of Kate Fullerton, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest, arrived.

In the book, Kate Fullerton has just inherited fifty per cent of the company from her mentor and must decide what she will risk, both for herself and her young family, in order to take a chance to follow her dreams. Along the way, she’s joined by Elizabeth and Leila, two women at crossroads in their own lives, who join Kate’s venture to help realise The Tea Chest’s success. Set across Brisbane and London, with a backdrop of delectable teas and tastes, lavender fields and vintage clothes, The Tea Chest is a gourmet delight you won’t want to finish.

What are your plans for your next book?

My next book is currently sitting with my publisher and I’m anxiously awaiting her feedback! It is due to be published next year. It’s called The Chocolate Apothecary, and is set across Tasmania and France, is a family drama with a strong, classical romance structure, and continues my fascination with artisan food, lavender fields, sensory delights and chocolate, which wasn’t so good for my waistline and I’m now carrying the kilos of two years of hard research.

Which writers have had the greatest influence on you both as a reader and as a writer?

James Herriot, Monica McInerney, Liane Moriarty, Nick Earls, Kimberley Freeman (Kim Wilkins).

As a reader, what do you expect from a novel that you pick up?

I want to escape to another place, meet new characters that I love, and be taken on a journey. I avoid anything that is stressful, dark, involves violence or misery — I think there’s too much of that around us in real life and I’m not interested in spending my leisure time living it through books. So I want something nurturing and entertaining.

What are your most favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?

Good question! I truly think I have the best job in the world and I would be doing it (and indeed I did do it for twelve years prior to a publishing deal) even if I wasn’t being paid. So I’m blessed to be excited to ‘go to work’ each day and I feel stressed when life gets in the way and I can’t work. I never feel happier than when I’ve had a great writing day.

There are of course moments of pain, too. I explain it like that moment when you’re running, or swimming or on the exercise bike etc. and you hit that pain barrier where you think, oh man, I’m not enjoying this and I want to stop now. But if you keep going, you reach another level and if you’re really lucky you’ll hit that zone where you’re just flying and scoring goals and nothing can stop you. I used to get that playing netball and it was a magic place. Some people call it a ‘runner’s high’. I now call it a ‘writer’s high’ 🙂 I’ve learned that when I hit that moment of pain in writing, when I really want to stop there, that’s the moment to just wait it out.  And so often (so often!), I’ll get a second wind and some really great words.

So, in summary, that moment of pain where I feel like I’m pathetic and this is hopeless and I’m never going to be able to finish this scene let alone this book… that’s unpleasant. But getting into ‘the zone’… that’s magic!

What did you learn from writing “The Tea Chest”?

Before writing The Tea Chest, I’d written ten manuscripts across a huge range of genres and styles. It took me a long time to really find my voice and know what I wanted to put out into the world. So the biggest thing I learned from The Tea Chest was to write the book I wanted to read.

Do you see social media as key to reaching your readers?

These days, I think you have to embrace social media as a keystone in relationship building and connection with everyone from all walks of life. For me, social media is a double-edged sword. It can be wonderful for that instant communication and feedback, entertainment and promotion and socialising… but it also takes up a LOT of time and, more concerning for me, headspace. I recently discovered ‘Freedom’ a computer program that blocks the internet for you. Whenever I find myself ‘looping’ on social media (you know, you check stuff, post something, move on, but then someone comments and you feel you have to reply, then you have to check if they replied and on and on) I switch on Freedom, go through a few moments of panic that I might actually NEED the internet for the next two-and-a-half hours (!!) and then get over it and write some great words.

Have you had reader feedback about “The Tea Chest”? Are there any responses that you have particularly treasured?

I have had so many lovely readers contact me to tell me how much they love The Tea Chest. And I really treasure each one. I mean, at the end of the day, you write so someone will read it, don’t you? So that kind of validation is really meaningful to me. I do remember one woman wrote to me and said she hadn’t read anything since leaving high school and The Tea Chest was the first book she’d bought since then and I’d turned her back into being a reader. I mean, wow.

Do you find some scenes harder to write than others? Are there any types of scene that you do your utmost to avoid writing?

Yes! I’ve definitely found racy scenes difficult to write in the past, but just in the past two years I think I’ve worked out what my style is and how I should approach them and so they intimidate me less now. A huge re-write happened in The Tea Chest in the first couple of drafts and during the structural edit I took out a lot of racy scenes. They just weren’t me and weren’t working. Liane Moriarty writes brilliant sex scenes, I think, and I’ve learned a lot from her writing.

The other thing I try to avoid are emotionally painful scenes (such as when someone has died). But that’s because I don’t want to feel all that pain. I do get back to them eventually; it just takes me a while to face them.

And finally…Do you have any strange writing habits? (That you’re willing to share of course!)

I don’t think so (other needing my ‘writing pants’ to work in… which are generally pyjama bottoms). But I do seem to need chocolate to edit. I don’t know what that’s about but it just seems to be as necessary as the red pen.

Thank you so much for having me along. I’ve really enjoyed these questions! Jo x

Thank you Josephine for talking about yourself and your book. I’m just over halfway through ‘The Tea Chest’ at the moment and it’s a great read…I don’t like tea but you never know, you may have converted me!

Helen R 🙂

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)

 

Annie Burrows tells us she’s rubbish at blogging. But we don’t believe her!

We’re delighted to welcome another first-time guest to our Saturday Spotlight. Annie Burrows writes regency novels for Harlequin Mills & Boon and has sold a staggering half a million plus books in 21 different countries since 2007. Impressive! As writers just starting our careers, we were keen to know more. Over to Annie …

 

thinking on the beachWhen Jessica put out a request for any authors who’d like to do a guest post for the Write Romantics Saturday Spotlight, I emailed, “Yes please! Me, me, me!” Well, you see, my eighteenth book comes out in September, so this is a great opportunity to do a little bit of promotion for it.

Problem is, I didn’t have a clue what to write about. I’ve spent an awful lot of my summer holiday sitting on the beach racking my brains over what I could write for this one – before eventually deciding to just own up.

I am officially RUBBISH at blogging.

websize costume croppedI don’t mind doing the ones where someone sends you a list of questions to answer. Because the questions are all about me, (the one subject on which I’m actually an expert.) Though I always feel rather sorry for whoever then gets to read the results. What have I got to say that every other single writer who’s answered those same questions hasn’t already put?

For example:

Q – Why do you write?

A – Because I can’t stop.

Q – Where so you get your inspiration?

A – I have a head full of characters doing far more interesting things than ever happen to me in real life.

(You must have read dozens of blogs just like that.)

So – although those blog posts are easy for me to do, I always suspect they make for dreadfully tedious reading. Which makes me a bit uncomfortable. The last thing I want to do is bore my readers.

So on the whole I prefer to have a stab at the type of blogs where someone like Jessica gives me carte blanche. “Write whatever you like!”

Trouble is – what I like writing is fiction. I’m a story-teller, not a blogger. When it comes to writing snappy little articles designed to show you all what a scintillating person I am, and thus tempt you to sample my book, I’m never sure quite where to start.

wet poppyShould I talk about a bit of research I did? Unfortunately, I am hampered by the fact I write historical romance. I can’t say, like someone who writes contemporary romance, that I’ve just come back from a walking trip up the Alps where I went to get flavour for my next Swiss-set romance, featuring a financier and a mountain rescue worker can I? I can’t physically visit the Regency era.

And how interesting would you be in hearing how many hours I spent scouring etymological dictionaries trying to make sure my hero could “make a run for it” in 1815 (yes, he could, since it has been used as a term for taking flight since the 1640’s), or browsing the website of Westminster Abbey to see which poets had already got monuments that Regency sightseers could have seen?

And I don’t think anyone would be fascinated by an account of my writing life. I sit down in my chair. And I write. That’s it. That’s pretty much my writing day (apart from coffee breaks timed to coincide with pop-master on Radio 2, Let’s do Lunch with Gino and Mel, and Countdown.)

I don’t even have any fascinating hobbies. When I’m not writing, I read what everyone else is writing. (Though I have taken to borrowing a dog on Mondays to make me go out for a walk as I’m a bit worried I’m going to turn into blancmange if I don’t get a bit of exercise. 

But lack of inspiration isn’t my biggest problem when it comes to blogging. No. It’s my mother. She was terribly strict about good manners. And one of the worst offences I could commit was to “swank”. So basically, I find it very hard to push myself forward, or blow my own trumpet.

LHLWhich is what this type of promotional blog should be about. Whatever content I create, I always have that nagging feeling that what I’m really trying to say is “buy my book”. Which makes me cringe. And yet I do want you to buy it. Because I think a lot of you will enjoy it. If you like Regency set romances with a hero who has never wanted to get married suddenly finding he has no choice, and a heroine who would rather hide behind a potted palm than get whisked out onto the dance floor and into his chaotic lifestyle, you should find Lord Havelock’s List a fun book to read.

Oh, and if you’d like a chance to get your hands on a free copy, I’m doing a giveaway on Goodreads from 2nd to 16th August. You can find out more here

 

You can buy Annie’s latest novel on Amazon here, read more about her on her website, or find her on her Facebook page.

 

Thanks for joining us Annie. We wish you continued success.

Jessica on behalf of The Write Romantics

 

Everything Changes with The Write Romantics

Welcome to our newly-refurbished blog. We hope you like the new design. The photo is temporary although we’ll probably keep changing the image over time.

It’s not just the design that’s changed, though. Here are three major changes we’ve made:

Change 1 – Our Names

There are nine Write Romantics and some of us write under our real names (maiden or married) but others write under pen names. Over the last week or so, Julie and Deirdre have taken the decision to write under a brand new pen name.

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nFirst Julie …

I’m excited to say that I’m now writing as Jessica Redland. I’ve been toying with a pen name for some time and made the definite decision whilst at the recent RNA Conference. It’s not that I don’t like my real name; far from it. I actually consider myself to be very fortunate in that I’ve always liked the name Julie and I love the surname of Heslington that I married into. So why change it? For me, there are three main reasons for using a pen name. I wanted to have:

  1. A timeless name that wouldn’t date me and potentially alienate me from my target market (my characters are all a good decade or more younger than I am)
  2. A separate social media presence, particularly on Facebook, to keep my family photos and personal information separate to my writing identity
  3. A product to market. I don’t consider myself a good salesperson. The thought actually gives me the fear. Yet in my day job in recruitment, I’ve regularly promoted the companies I’ve worked for to potential candidates and I’ve been good at it. If I created “Jessica Redland The Writer”, I figured I may have a more detached mindset where I’d find it easier to promote Jessica instead of me

So why Jessica Redland? I wanted the surname to mean something and the most meaningful writing-related moment for me was coming up with the idea for my debut novel and realising I wanted to become a writer. At the time, I was living in Reading, Berkshire, on a road called Redlands Road. I simply dropped the ‘s’. As for Jessica, it’s a timeless name, one I love, and it is still the same initial as my real name so doesn’t feel too detached.

So, from now on, all my posts on this blog will be as Jessica and all my writing activity will be through my Jessica Redland persona. It feels like absolutely the right decision.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd Deirdre …

A pen-name wasn’t for me; I was adamant about that.  If ever I wrote a book worth publishing I’d want everyone to know it was me. A kind of ‘so there’ attitude if you like. Then I went to the RNA conference and all around me were these successful writers who wrote under one or more different names, carefully chosen to match their genres and intended audience. Belatedly, it dawned on me that inventing a pen-name wasn’t a pretentious flight of fancy or something to hide behind but a business decision in the name of that all-important buzz-word – Marketing.

‘Deirdre’ is not a commercial-sounding name, hardly anyone spells it right and it’s not a name that people are drawn to unless they’re stalwart Coronation Street fans. Anyone will tell you that. I kind of wish somebody had told me…  Anyway, having had a complete turn-around, I trawled my family tree and came up with Harriet James. It sounds like a writer’s name, I think, and there’s a nice touch of gravitas about it.  All I have to do now is remember what it is so that if the call comes, I won’t say ‘wrong number’ and hang up!

Change 2 – The Content of This Blog

Our menu bar used to be full of sections which we didn’t update very regularly. We each had a page devoted to our writing journey and, whilst some of us had updated them, this had been quite some time ago. We’ve cut this back to much shorter bios to give a snapshot of who The Write Romantics are with links to our individual blogs or other social media platforms for those who have them.

We’ve removed the writing samples as this wasn’t a regularly-used section and we’ve removed our book reviews section BUT we have replaced it with The Write Romantics Book Group over on Goodreads. We all love to read and, although we’ve occasionally reviewed books on the blog, we haven’t had a space to discuss them and find out what you think. The Book Group will be like any other book group in that we’ll read a book each month and then discuss it. The only difference is that we won’t all be meeting up for tea and cake. Each month a different Write Romantic will chose a book and take care of the Goodreads group. And as we all write and read different kinds of romance you can be sure we’ll be selecting some interesting books. We’re also very open to suggestions so if you’ve read any good books then let us know and your suggestion might be the next on the list. We’ll be announcing the book for August on Wednesday 6th August. We really hope you’ll join in and get the discussions going. You can find the Goodreads group here so please do pop over and join us.

As you can see, we’ve also added an Anthology page which we’ll regularly update as we get closer to the launch in November.

Change 3 – What We Post

For most of the history of this blog, we’ve run a Saturday Spotlight and a Wednesday Wondering. We’ve occasionally made a Mega Monday Announcement when there’s been big news to share (like this post or a publishing deal) and we’ve also posted the occasional mid-week entry.

We’re keeping the format of regularly posting on Saturdays and Wednesdays but with the following adjustments:

  • The Saturday Spotlight will be purely for guests. We used to do a mix of WRs and guests but have so many writers we’d love to host that we’ve decided to make this slot purely theirs
  • The Wednesday Wondering will be a once-a-month slot on the 2nd Wednesday of the month
  • The last Wednesday of each month will be the review of the book of the month and the announcement of the next one
  • The remaining Wednesdays will be slots for The Write Romantics who will talk about writing or anything but writing; depends what they have to say at the time

We hope you like the changes and really appreciate all the support we’ve had since we launched last year. Long may it continue.

Thank you

Jessica, Harriet & Alys

The Saturday Spotlight with Jenny Harper – A Journey of Publishing, Self Publishing & The RNA

As regular followers will know, The Write Romantics all met through being members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme. Within the RNA, there’s an incredible amount of knowledge and experience that members are eager to share so we’re always really excited to secure a guest Saturday Spotlight with a fellow-RNA member to hear all about their writing journey and any words of wisdom.

Today, we’re particularly excited to welcome Jenny Harper. Jenny has been published, self-published and is also a very active member within the RNA. We bombarded her with questions about these three different aspects of being a writer and she’s rewarded our curiosity with a really insightful and interesting overview of all.

On behalf of The Writer Romantics and our followers, thank you so much, Jenny, for joining us today. Over to you ….

Julie

 

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My writing journey

Back in the early eighties, when I was a young mum trying make my way in the world, I was lucky enough to come runner up in the BBC Woman’s Hour/Woman’s Weekly Romantic Novelist of the Year competition.

I thought I’d got it made. I completed the novel – but it was turned down! Turns out I’d broken a whole load of ‘rules’ for romantic fiction I knew nothing about, and despite kind encouragement from the editors, I didn’t have the time or energy to rework it at that stage in my life.

I was, however, offered a number of non-fiction commissions – three books about Scotland (where I live), several books on aspects of Scottish culture, a history of childbirth. I also did manage to get a romantic novel published (under a pseudonym) and a short book for young children was picked up by Hamish Hamilton.

None of it amounted to a living. I made my money from freelance journalism, writing feature articles for daily and weekly newspapers and for magazines such as Country Living and World of Interiors. I set up a company that produced magazines for big organisations in the oil industry, energy, heritage, banking, insurance and the public sector. I was still writing – but I made real money.

Recently, I was able to free up some time to take up creative writing again– and when my story ‘The Eighth Promise’ was accepted for Truly, Madly, Deeply, I decided I had to get a couple of novels out there. Why waste a great promotional opportunity? I took a deep breath, got my head down, and got to grips with uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space. I’ve also found myself trying to learn the inexact science of ebook marketing.

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There are pros and cons of indie publishing. On the plus side, you are completely in charge. You can commission your own cover designs (I love mine, which get loads of praise!). You can price your book as you wish and put it on special offer every so often. You can follow its progress in minute detail – almost hour to hour. On the negative side, you’re on your own. You’re not in a catalogue, you have no expert help on tap. And getting your work visible can eat precious writing time. Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not! It’s fun, rewarding, and I’m making loads of friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Plus, I love learning how to do new things.

Is it for everybody? I can’t answer that one, but I do think that the digital revolution is transforming the lives of both writers and readers. It’s an infant market, and is going to keep on changing and growing, so if you honestly believe your work is good enough, I would certainly encourage you to get it out there.

Would I still like a publishing deal? Yes I would. My writing is getting more accomplished and confident all the time, I’m a grafter, I have loads of ideas, and I believe that any publisher would do well out of me – and the experience I have garnered on my journey. (That’s a pitch, if there are any publishers reading this!). 

 

The RNA and me

RNA stalwart Anita Burgh introduced me to the Association some years ago and I’ve been a member ever since. Soon after I joined I spotted an advert in the RNA newsletter appealing for someone to take over. I’d done well out of magazines and felt it was time to give something back, so I offered my services as designer and production manager, joined forces with Myra Kersner (who was in charge of content), revamped the magazine into the full-colour production we get today, and eventually stood for the Committee.

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The RNA was fast approaching its fiftieth anniversary. The wonderful Katie Fforde took up the Chair and we were plunged headlong into a couple of years of whirlwind activity. There were plans for all kinds of celebrations, Jenny Haddon and Diane Pearson wrote a history of the Association, Fabulous at Fifty, which I designed and – quite by accident – I found myself in charge of a complete rebranding exercise. The ‘new look’ RNA, the RONA logos, the pop up banners, stationery and the website, were all part of this exercise. Oh – and I commissioned the beautiful glass bowl engraved by glass artist Julia Linstead that is now the Romantic Novelist of the Year Award.

(One day, I might even win it myself! Sigh…)

The RNA is a non profit-making organisation. It depends on volunteers to keep it going. Under the current constitution, you can’t be on the Committee unless you’re a full member – but there are still plenty of opportunities for helping out on one-off initiatives, at Conference or events, admin tasks, handling tickets and so on. And if you’re not published, it’s much easier to approach an agent or editor and introduce yourself as ‘the RNA member who handles ….’ than just as a wannabe! So if you have a skill, or even just lots of enthusiasm, I would urge you to get in touch with the Chair or any Committee member to offer some of your time. It can be a lot of work, but you’ll make many friends and have a load of fun too.

Many thanks to The Write Romantics for hosting me.

 

You’re very welcome, Jenny. You can order Jenny’s books through the following links and find out more about her via her website, Twitter and Facebook:

Loving Susie

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1pfOeR2

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/1gtESsk

 

Face the Wind and Fly

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1hGByxC

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/1gueVZu

 

Please Like me on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/authorjennyharper

 

Follow me on Twitter

https://twitter.com/harper_jenny

 

Visit my website at

http://www.jennyharperauthor.co.uk/

 

Saturday Spotlight Guest Slot – Writing a Novella by Liz Harris

Happy Easter! The Write Romantics hope you’re having a lovely, relaxing long bank holiday weekend and, if you’re working, we hope you do have some time off.

We’re delighted to welcome Liz Harris as our guest on today’s Saturday Spotlight. Liz is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association through which all The Write Romantics met virtually. 2012 was her big year when she saw publication of both her first novel and a novella and she’s joined us today to specifically talk about novellas.

As someone who tends to write a lot of words, I’m toying with a novella myself as I feel it will be good learning to really focus and limit my word-count. One of my fellow Write Romantics is currently writing her first novella and a few others have shown interest so we’re all extremely interested in Liz’s tips.

“So what exactly is a novella?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll leave that question in Liz’s capable hands….

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With A Western Heart, set in Wyoming 1880, my second novella for Choc Lit Lite, soon to be published, I thought I’d say something about the differences between writing a novella and writing a full length novel.

Getting to grips with novellas is well worth doing as they’re increasingly a big thing in the digital world. The more material out, the better, is the mantra today – and ‘the better’ means more money. Novellas lend themselves to fast writing and to books that form part of a series, and that leads to healthy sales.

Not surprisingly therefore, both self-published and traditionally published authors are now slipping novellas out between their full length novels, or may even be focusing solely on the novella market.

At 50,000 words, my first novella, The Art of Deception, was at the top of the word count for a novella, which ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 words (50 to 100 printed pages). But 50,000 words is the same length as some Mills & Boon novels, so it didn’t feel like a novella to me.

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Because of that, when I decided to write A Western Heart, and was going to aim for around 30,000 words, I thought I’d begin by checking out the differences between writing a novella and a full length novel.

I did this in a very pleasant way – I read as many novellas as I had time for in the genre in which I was writing – in the case of A Western Heart, it was the historical genre. At the end of my reading, I’d found that:

  1. The tone of a novella was lighter, and it should be fast-paced. The period detail should be authentic, but there shouldn’t be too much of it. The same is true of descriptive details, be they for character or setting. There should be enough specific detail to make it believable and create a sense of place, but not slow the story. The reader of novellas wants a page-turning, speedy read.
  2. There should be a single plot, although it can have – and probably will have – complications. A 30,000 novella is too short for sub-plots. Generally, a single story line keeps aids clarity and pace. Having said that, if you’re aiming for 40- 50,000 words, you may feel that your novella would benefit from a sub-plot; if so, it should be easily resolved. It might even have been the cause of the main conflict. It should never be there, however, merely to help the word count.
  3. Point of view. Only show one POV unless there’s a really good reason for having more than one. Too many POVs could bring confusion to a short novel.
  4. Have a few clearly and succinctly defined central characters, and a few supporting characters, but not too many of either. You will need to know the same sorts of things about your characters as for a full-length novel, such as their background, character traits and secrets, but there will be fewer characters and they will appear early on in the novella – there is less time to spend on introducing, developing and building up each character. Your minor characters should add interest and move the plot forward, but they shouldn’t detract from putting across your story line.
  5. Dialogue, as with a full-length novel, should define the character(s) and forward the story. It shouldn’t meander, unless that’s part of the plot.
  6. As with a full length story, you’ll need a conflict, but not too complicated a conflict for there to be a satisfactory resolution. You’re working within a limited word count.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing A Western Heart, and will definitely write more novellas in the future. Good luck to everyone who decides to give novellas a go!

Finally, many thanks, Write Romantics, for giving me a chance to talk to you.

 

Thank you, Liz, for joining us. You can find out more about Liz on her blog at: http://www.lizharrisauthor.com/

You can access Liz’s material on Amazon through the following link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Liz-Harris/e/B009V1G8UA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1397897588&sr=1-2-ent

 

Enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend everyone!

Julie