Highlights and Highlighters.

We, at Romaniac HQ, have had a busy year, baking cakes and not cleaning the office. In fact, we would go as far as to say it has been quite extraordinary.

The blog kicked off in February and has maintained a steady readership, for which we thank you, and we have been privileged to have met many of you throughout the year. We would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy 2013.

Here are our highlights. We would love to hear about yours.

Laura: The official formation of The Romaniacs is right up there. Bonkers.

Pens and notebooks for Christmas rate quite highly, too.Bar

Attending conferences and writing courses also feature at the top of my tree; Penrith, pitching and kitchen parties – perfect. Tremendous fun was had at the Festival of Romance too – I’ll leave our Celia to tell you about that, and the RNA parties provided great opportunities to say hello to friends in real life. As modest as I would like to appear, I cannot deny I loved achieving two runner-up positions in Choc Lit’s Short Story competitions, and grinned for weeks when six Romaniacs were shortlisted for the FoR New Talent Award. I’ve experienced the thrill of submitting my manuscript to publishers, been fortunate to be in a position to absorb as much information as humanly possible from experienced writers/tutors, and been touched by the unwavering kindness of my fellow writers. Without a doubt, the crowning glory on my tree, is the incredible friendships formed throughout this challenging year. You are all stars, and I love seeing you shine. Glow brightly in 2013.

Celia: I have felt as if I have a huge, all-enveloping Romaniac comfort blanket this year. We have all been through some very emotional times over the last few months – the sort of things that could easily stop you writing for good. But because of the girls’ support, and the fun we’ve had with all of you who regularly visit our blog and join in the banter, nothing has seemed quite so bad. My personal writing highlight was the moment when, with a huge mouthful of bread and planning my next drink, I heard my name called for the Piatkus Entice award for a contract. I’m now in the middle of edits (steep learning curve) and feel like a proper grown up. Sort of.

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It still amazes me that so many people take the time to drop by our blog and eat a virtual cake/biscuit or have a rummage in the Romaniac cocktail cabinet. Love to you all, and I wish you a healthy, happy and truly fabulous 2013.

Jan: The day I became a member of The Romaniacs was a massive highlight for me. I don’t have my own blog so it was a definite leap out of my comfort zone. I can remember my feelings of trepidation at writing my first individual blog post, worrying how it would be received, whether I’d let the side down, etc, and then the huge feeling of elation upon actually publishing it. The support, friendship and encouragement I’ve received from all the girls and, indeed, from all my other fabulous writing and non-writing buddies this year has been tremendous. The RNA summer and winter parties, plus the local chapter meetings I’ve attended in London have been fun too – it’s so lovely to meet up for a good old chat about our writing achievements and aspirations. The advice is always fab and the banter superb.

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It’s also been great seeing so many of my writing buddies either successfully self-publish their novels, or obtain contracts. I’m thrilled to bits for each and every one of them. It’s certainly spurred me on to finally finish my work in progress, that’s for sure. Another personal highlight for me this year would have to be dipping my toe into the world of proofreading. Do you know, I’m really looking forward to 2013. Here’s hoping it does you all proud too :) x

Catherine: My highlight has to be the RNA conference. Not only did I learn lots, I laughed harder than I have all year. It was like tonic. My goal for this year is to concentrate more on writing and finish writing Baby Number Two.

Lucie: My highlight of 2012, writing wise, was definitely the RNA Conference in Penrith. What an amazing time I had and I learnt SO much – don’t drink home brewed wine without preparing your stomach first, don’t stay up too late if you have workshops the next day, don’t do an impression of the gruffalo with Wotsits when there are cameras around….. Oh, I also learnt a lot about writing too!LucieGruffalo
Another highlight for me, was getting my first piece of writing published, in the form of an article for Romance Matters. It was only a small piece, but I will always remember it as being my first ever piece of published work.

Goals for 2013? Write more! That’s a given. And try to meet up with my Romaniac buddies more – we’re still yet to all be in the same room at the same time. There’s always at least one missing ….. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we all stepped into the same room at the same time…..Maybe something magical?

Vanessa: I’ve been lurking around the edge of this post, putting off adding my bit, because after a very difficult couple of months, I just wanted 2012 to be over… Then I was reading the other bits of the post and thinking – has it really only been a year the Romaniacs have been together? Surely not – surely I’ve known these lovelies for ever…

They’re the biggest highlight of my year – for friendship, support and sheer daftness, every one of the Romaniacs is a highlight. I’m smiling as I read about memories of the conference because – yes, of course, 2012 wasn’t all bad, was it? The conference was amazing, I laughed until I cried (more than once) and learned so much from so many wonderful people. And the RNA summer party – being there to see my lovely friend Evonne Wareham win the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award. A definite highlight. I had a short story published in Writer’s Forum, got shortlisted in a few competitions, finished a book I love, started another.

I’m ready to look forward to 2013 now – my agent should be sending my book out, so it’ll be nail-biting time again, I’ve got the next one to finish, another conference to attend, more parties to go to. All of which I get to share with my fellow Romaniacs.

Debbie : My highlight is an easy one, when so many of the Romaniacs were shortlisted for the New Writers’Award at the Festival of Romance this year and then seeing Celia’s face when her name was read out for winning a publishing contract with Piatkus. As for a new year’s resolution, well, I’m going to spend more time on myself, doing the things I like to do (include writing in that!).

Sue : So many highlights this year, it’s hard to pick one that really stands out. At a push I would have to say the RNA Conference. Not just because I learnt so much from the workshops and being able to meet up with lots of great people I had got to know through Facebook and Twitter, but also because of the fun we had – I don’t think I have laughed so much for so long in one weekend. The same could also be said of a weekend I spent at Tetbury with the author/reader group Love A Happy Ending. I have made some truly lovely friendships this year, which has been an on-going highlight. On the writing front, two big occasions are up there – publishing my book and getting short-listed for the New Talent Award. So, what of the new year? More efficient use of my time so I can get more writing done.

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Would love to know what your highlights of the year have been and any resolutions you have for the new year?

In the meantime, from all of us here, have a fantastic 2013.

Merry Christmas!

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Here at Romaniac HQ, we consumed our body weight in flaky pastry mince pies, matched our body fluid levels in wine, champagne and strawberry milkshakes, and rocked around the Christmas tree until nothing but a twig remained. Now it’s time to return home to our families and produce an annual feed that’ll keep them going for another year.

Before we pull shut the door and turn the lock, we are taking this opportunity to thank you all for your amazing support, brilliant interviews and wonderful comments.

We wish you a very, Merry Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and successful 2013.

See you next year.

Take care.

With love from

Romaniacs Group Montage

xxx xxx xxx

Tuesday Chit Chat with Lizzie Lamb

Hi Lizzie, welcome to Romaniac HQ. The kettle’s on, the biscuit tin’s restocked, so let’s get started, shall we?

Hi Jan, can I just check that the coffee is strong enough and that the biscuits are coated in milk chocolate? If you can’t get biscuits, I quite like giant chocolate buttons.

Lizzie, you’ll be pleased to know it’s a yes to both and we’ve even got chocolate buttons too :)

Great! I’m sitting comfortably, so let’s begin.

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Having successfully self-published your debut novel, Tall, Dark & Kilted (cracking title, by the way!) tell us a bit about what inspired the story.

I thought up the title (it was initially called BIG BAD WOLF) and the two main characters Ruairi and Fliss, and thereafter the novel wrote itself.  I originally wrote the novel for Little Black Dress (Headline) after attending my first RNA conference in Leicester. I’d attended a seminar given by then editor, Cat Cobain, who told me that LBD were looking for new writers. She gave an inspiring talk and said she wanted a book that was small enough to fit in someone’s handbag so they could read it on the tube/bus, etc, on their way to work. I had a 1:1 session with her and told her I’d written a book about a therapist who tries to set up a therapy centre in the highlands of Scotland. She said to finish it and send it to her. It took me a year to finish the novel which I sent to the RNA New Writers’ scheme where it almost received a second read. I then made some changes to it and sent it off to LBD.

In the meantime, I got on with writing another novel. I also entered a competition to write the jingle for the LBD website, winning a year’s supply of books. I then learned that the publication was no longer taking on new authors and was closing down. My novel came back to me and I sent it to The Hilary Johnson Authors’ Advisory Service where it was reviewed by a former senior editor of a publishing company. I didn’t agree with her critique, so I put the novel in the drawer and had a go at writing a Mills and Boon.  

I also won another competition to have the first three chapters read and critiqued by Carole Matthews, who sent me a mug which changed colour and advertised her latest novel when I poured tea or coffee into it. We’ve been friends ever since; she’s been very encouraging, as has Trisha Ashley and Kate Hardy, telling me to keep going as I’ll get there in the end.

Describe that moment (words and actions) when you first saw your novel available to download on Amazon, and later, in paperback.

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I would still be writing and rewriting the novel ready to send to agents if it hadn’t been for Amanda Grange (author of Mr Darcy’s Diary, etc). Mandy had lunch at my house where she encouraged me and three other NWS members: June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan and Mags Cullingford to put our books on Amazon. It was then that we decided to form THE NEW ROMANTICS 4 and have a paperback version of our book as well as a kindle download, so that we could hold roadshows and sell the novel to friends/general public.  We had to get our American tax code (that’s another story!), design the front cover, etc, and finally send it up to Create Space. By the end of the process we were all shattered. We were having lunch with Mandy in a nearby café when my lovely husband, Dave (aka Bongo Man) turned up with my proof copy, which had just arrived. By then I was so exhausted, I just looked at it, feeling numb. It took me a couple of days to realise what I had achieved. Only then did I really begin to feel excited.

Did you draft each chapter out beforehand or did your characters have free rein to take you wherever their stories led them?

I must admit I’m a plotter rather than a pantser. I knew where the story was going but wasn’t totally sure how to get there – I also lengthened the novel to 120k words. June Kearns is my writing buddy/beta reader and she suggested another plot thread whereby all my ideas fell into place. I had a 1:1 with an editor at another RNA conference and she said that the title of my novel wouldn’t work and suggested a change. Tongue in cheek, I suggested Tall, Dark and Kilted and she said she LOVED it but wasn’t taking on any new authors. So, I followed Mandy’s advice and self-published because life’s too short to wait for agents to get back to me.

Do you have a set writing routine or any literary rituals? 

Luckily my time is entirely my own, and after 34 years of getting up at 6am to get ready for school, I’m definitely a morning person. I try to be at the PC for about 8am and answer emails, put a post on Facebook and write something on Twitter. THEN I begin writing until about 11am or thereabouts – normally my parrot Jasper calls me to let him out and he plays in his cupboard all day. I tend to write for some of the evening, too, as there are very few programs on the TV that I enjoy. I also try to plan to see friends a couple of times a week, otherwise I’d stay in my study writing and never venture out.

In addition to being part of The New Romantics 4, you run the Leicester chapter of the RNA, as well as belonging to several online writers’ groups. How beneficial has that writerly support and camaraderie been for you and how big a part would you say social media has played?

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I would say that the best thing I ever did was to join Facebook a few years back, before my novel was finished and ready for publication. Most of the people I’ve made friends with are writers, aspiring writers or avid readers – in this country and in the USA. I’ve been encouraged by Facebook friends (many of whom are in the RNA NWS) to finish the book and lots of them have bought the download/ novel and posted a review on Amazon. They helped make my tweet-a-thon (where I held a virtual picnic in the highlands of Scotland) a great success. Twitter actually blocked me because I sent too many tweets. I tweet about my novel three times a day in order to catch the UK, East coast of USA and then the West coast of the USA before I go to bed. My lovely twitter friends retweet for me and I return the favour.

Can you give us a teaser about what you’re working on at the moment?

I’m writing a new romantic comedy about a rookie reporter (a rebel without a cause) who goes undercover in a boot camp for brides. Her partner is an infuriating photographer who has a hidden agenda and is on the trail of a drug smuggling gang. That’s all I’m saying . . . for now! I want to have it finished for the end of summer and will then decide whether to submit it to the NWS or not.  

We love reading about Bongo Man and, indeed, about the famous Bongo itself, which we know you’ve taken many a literary trip in, so if you could take three famous travelling companions along for the ride one day, who would they be and why?  

Dave (aka Bongo Man) has been fantastic and given his life over to my book launches with the other New Romantics 4 because he knows this is my dream come true. He even bought full highland dress, sack wheelers, stepladders and an old Imperial typewriter off eBay for our launches. Who would I take along with me for the ride? Well, Jan, you would definitely be one of my companions because we’d have such a laugh together, wouldn’t we? You know, I can’t think of anyone famous I’d like to come along with me – isn’t that strange? Perhaps that’s because I spend so much of my life dreaming up plots, etc.

Dave (aka Bongo Man)

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Any other creative passions, Lizzie? 

I love taking photographs, as you might have noticed on Facebook. My ambition is to buy a new PC (hopefully a Mac) and an iPhone when my present contract runs out, and synch them together with my iPad. Then it’ll be whole lot easier taking photos, sharing them with friends and setting up a blog after Christmas.  I also want to make a video of me reading Tall, Dark and Kilted and put it on YouTube after Christmas, too. Not to mention joining an online newspaper for Indie writers.

And finally, whilst I make us another coffee and grab the mince pies, a few quick-fire questions for you:

Actor you’d most like to see in a kilt?

Owen McDonnell – he played the Garda in Single Handed on TV

Haggis or Clootie Dumpling?

Clootie Dumpling! I shudder at the thought of haggis, although I do like neeps (swede) and tatties that accompany it. It’s a funny thing, we lived in Scotland until I was eleven-years-old but we never ate haggis until we moved to Leicester. LOL.

Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig?

Daniel Craig. Pierce is gorgeous but a bit too smooth for me.

Dream holiday destination?

IF we ever find anyone willing to babysit the parrot (he’d never cope with being sent to the parrot equivalent of kennels/cattery) I’d love to go back to Greece or Italy and tour in the Bongo. We did it years ago. Failing that, I’d like to stay in a bungalow on a beach and have my every need catered for while I write.  

Singer you’d most like to serenade you?

I’d love the former lead singer in RUNRIG to sing An Ubhal as Aire (the highest apple) to me in Gaelic. I played it over and over when I was writing Tall, Dark and Kilted.

Cocktails or champagne?

Oh, champagne every time, dah-ling.

Novel you could read over and over again?

Can I be greedy and choose all the Jilly Cooper novels she wrote in the 70s: Imogen, Prudence, Emily, etc, and Georgette Heyer’s Friday’s Child?  

Fave Christmas Carol?

In the Bleak Midwinter – it always makes me cry.

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Lizzie. It’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you. Merry Christmas! X

Merry Crimbo to you and all the other Romaniacs. And can I say: if you have a dream, go for it…

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www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter

Follow Lizzie on Twitter: @lizzie_lamb /or @newromantics4

email: lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

Tall, Dark and Kilted – Amazon Paperback UKhttp://tinyurl.com/cn8fylt

Tall, Dark and Kilted- download Kindle UKhttp://tinyurl.com/cdjyec6

 

Tuesday Chit Chat with Alison Sherlock

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We’re getting ready for Christmas at Romaniac HQ and today we have author, Alison Sherlock joining us. Alison, can I get you a mulled wine and a minced pie?

Just the mince pie, thanks.  Or maybe two.  After all, it is nearly Christmas!  I’ll pass on the mulled wine, though.  I’ve always felt there’s something a bit compost-y about it.  So, a nice cup of tea would be lovely.  Unless you’ve got some champagne stashed away back there …?

As your debut novel is The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club, we wanted to know if you had any dieting tips?  We Romaniacs have failed miserably on that front this year.

I would love to tell you that I am the next Rosemary Conley but my waistline will show you otherwise!  I do really think it’s a case of eating sensibly and exercising frequently.  The slimmest I have ever been was when I was a cleaner.  Eight hours of physical work a day and the weight just dropped off!

The idea for the Desperate Bride’s Diet Club actually came from some online bride-to-be forums I was loitering around when I was getting married.  There were all these crazy women just drinking juice in a desperate attempt to lose three stone because they had bought a wedding dress three sizes too small!  It was madness.  Everything in moderation is the key.  If a carb-free diet works for you, then great.  Although for me personally, a life without a slice of buttered toast or a crunchy roast potato just isn’t worth living!

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I love the opening scene when Violet grabs the last remaining M&S Chocolate Cake out of a stranger’s hands to go home and eats the whole thing herself.  Have you ever done anything similar?

Let’s just say there’s a certain branch of Waitrose that I’m no longer allowed into …!  No, just kidding!  One of the best things about writing is that your characters can go anywhere and do absolutely anything that you could never get away with in real life!  I may be physically sitting at a battered Ikea desk in deep Surrey with a snoring dog next to me but in my mind I’m wandering through an Italian delicatessen or going to a Valentine’s Ball in a stunning dress.  Writing is, quite frankly, bonkers and I think only other writers can truly understand the madness that lies within us all!
Your second novel has been retitled The Desperate Wife’s Survival Plan – was it your idea to change the title and what led to that decision?

It was the lovely sales team at Arrow who have declared me the ‘Desperate’ author!  Everyone reacted so positively to the title of The Desperate Bride’s Diet Club that they thought it prudent to carry on the theme.

As it happens, the title covers the story line very well.  The Desperate Wife’s Survival Plan is about Charley Summers whose pampered life suddenly spirals out of control when she is declared bankrupt.  She loses everything but her friends and her love of making ice-cream.  The next twelve months are all about survival – from becoming a cleaner to discovering money can’t buy you love.  All with a little help from her friends, of course!

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m in the early stages of my third book.  It’s set in the same village as the previous two novels and I’m still considering bringing the ghastly Trudie from the diet club into the story somewhere!  She was evil but so much fun to write!  I don’t want to jinx it but at the moment the writing is going quite well.  However I’m sure that the doom and despair part of writing every novel is lurking just around the corner.  As always, I shall fight my way through the darkness by lurking on Twitter, playing Spider Solitaire, baking homemade cookies and any other displacement activities that I can think up!

Could you tell us more about the ‘chance’ meeting with a literary agent at Winchester’s Writer’s Conference?

The Winchester Writer’s Conference is held every Summer and is a great meeting point for writers of all abilities.  They also set-up 15 minute one-to-one sessions with agents – sort of like speed-dating but far more scary!  I had two sessions booked by the organisers – but both agents cancelled at the last minute so they squeezed me into a quick timeslot with Judith Murdoch who had a fearsome reputation for speaking bluntly.

Trying to be brave, I handed Judith the first couple of pages of a book I had been working on.  It was long, flowing prose – my attempt at the Booker Prize!  She shot me down in flames and told me outright that it was complete rubbish!  Of course, she was right!  I wasn’t listening to my inner writing voice.  I was trying to be something I wasn’t.

Judith then asked if I had any other work with me so I shakily handed her one page of a story I had been messing about with.  I’m still not even sure why I took it with me.  But she giggled at a funny line I had inserted about half way down the page.  ‘This is much better,’ she told me.  ‘Go away and write like this.’  So I did.

My first two manuscripts were almost signed by various publishers but never quite made it.  Then my third book, The Desperate Wife’s Diet Club, was snapped up by Arrow.  I owe everything to Judith.  She stuck by me for eight years and three books, continually assuring me that I would be published.  And, as always, she was right.

You have a dog called Harry. What’s the daftest thing he’s ever done?

Dear Lord, where to start?  So, here is the beast …

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As you can see, he is the living example of beauty but absolutely no brains.  The other day he literally walked into a lampost.  We have a low childgate at the kitchen door – Harry is the size of a small pony and could quite easily jump over it but he hasn’t worked out that he can.  He is scared of the hoover, the loft ladder, tin foil and, currently, the Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, he isn’t scared of mud.  This is the ‘after’ picture.

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People were literally pointing and laughing as we headed home after our walk recently.

He’s daft and, on occasion, extremely smelly, but I wouldn’t be without him for the world.

FB or twitter?

Twitter.  I’ve only been on there a year and I love it!  The gossip, the chat, the funny quips!  Writing can be such an isolated living and Twitter is great from bringing that office chatter to your desk.  I truly wish it had been around when I first started writing all those years ago.

Hawaii or Norfolk?

Norfolk.  I’m sure Hawaii is lovely but the whole heat factor is a nightmare in the style stakes.  Humidity + naturally curly hair =  barely being able to fit through doorways.
Chocolate cake or mince pies?

Chocolate cake.  Mince pies are for christmas but chocolate cake is for life!
Hot chocolate or mulled wine?

Hot chocolate. Yum!

Thank you so much for inviting me to the fantastic Romaniac HQ and Happy Christmas everyone!  Now, how about another mince pie?  With all that fruit, surely they only count as one of our five a day?!

Oh, yes. They must be, right? Thank you so much for joining us, Alison and getting into the Christmas spirit with us. We look forward to your second novel and  I can recemmend your first as a great Christmas present.

Catherine x

Christmas? And writing? Together? You are kidding…aren’t you?

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Here at Romaniac House, we’re getting seriously bogged down with heaps of sticky tape, rolls of wrapping paper and stacks of melt-in-the-mouth mince pies. Yes – the festive season is bearing down upon us in a big way.

So how can we keep normal life (or what passes for it) ticking over, and still get some writing done, amidst the chaos of shopping, wrapping and sprouts? I went out into the crowded Christmassy streets and asked some real life writers for their tips on coping with Yuletide and still managing to get some work done. Well, actually that’s a big, big lie. I sat in my warm and cosy chair and sent some messages out into the ether. Then I got out my favourite Christmas photos and had a large glass of Baileys. And this is what those kind authors told me:

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Talli Roland – I’ve found the best way to work through Christmas comes down to one thing: denial. Forget the mince pies, the carols, the Christmas cards… just put your head down (with perhaps a sip of mulled wine, if you’ve been good) and focus on the manuscript. I like to look at my growing holiday to-do list as a challenge, sometimes leaving it as late as Christmas Eve. It always gets done, and when the big day rolls around, I can finally relax in the smug knowledge my MS is where it should be AND I completed my shopping in one day!

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Liz Fielding – My December involves writing at the kitchen table, surrounded by drifts of wrapping paper and my notebook blotted with mincemeat. The only way to get any writing done is to get up at 5 am, lock myself away in my writing room on the top floor and get the pages done before the first “Did you organise…” puts the dh in danger of his life.

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Emily Harvale – have an advent calendar pinned to the wall above my desk and I’m only allowed to open each day and have the chocolate inside, when I’ve written at least 500 words.

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Debbie Viggiano – I got half way through writing the Christmas cards and then abandoned them to get my writing fix. I have yet to return to the task .  They are currently scattered all over the study floor after the new kitten divebombed the previously neat pile. I hope to complete the task before next Christmas!

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Fenella Milller –  I do everything on line, so that cuts down on time – have wrapped presents and written cards in the middle of the night when up watching the cricket. Then I have all day to write.
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Sue Moorcroft – Christmas? It’s no bother. I just get worse and worse tempered until people leave me alone, I suppose! Then I give in and have a week off.
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Lucy Felthouse – Hehe, that one’s easy. I just look at the deadlines I have – and think of the money I need to earn to pay for the presents! That makes me write faster.

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Phillipa Ashley – I’ve had a very busy and at times very stressful year, and have achieved some writing goals – now I need to space to think about what to write next and mull over new ideas. I really think my motto is Give Yourself the Christmas Gift of Stopping Writing if you need to.

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Rose McClelland – Oh dear! Lol. I am not doing any writing at the moment so I can’t answer that! Not only is Christmas on the go but I’m also moving house! So I’m afraid my writing is on hold!

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Sarah Tranter: I’ve been known to take my hearing aids out when I’ve been attempting some sneaky writing. But that isn’t a particularly helpful tip for most – and neither is it particularly effective as it doesn’t stop DSs from spinning me around in my chair and yelling in my face. Therefore, I’m afraid – I’ve no helpful tips. I could do with tips myself!

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Nicky Wells – Ruthless time management. I’ve had to scale back how much time I can dedicate to my authorly being during the festive season, what with baking, decorating, shopping and school plays; but when I’ve allocated a morning to writing (or proofing) I stick with it relentlessly. I do a little, as often as possible. Oh and there’s the occasional late-night or very-early-morning shift.

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Chris Stovell – I escaped to the depths of the country to get away from the madness of Christmas! Sheep graze in the field behind me and the sea stretches out in front; there isn’t a fairy light in sight, but I can still find excuses not to write! My tip is to try to take a little time for yourself every day in the build up just to stay in touch with your writing, then, when Christmas comes and you’ve got a house full, like me, you can celebrate with a clear conscience and several glasses of fizz! It’s only once a year – thank goodness. Cheers, and here’s wishing you a very merry Christmas and a writerly New Year!

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Mandy Baggot – Christmas? What? Is something going on? Do I have to lift my butt off the typing chair and shop for gifts? What’s that you say? I’m hosting Christmas dinner this year? HELL! My tip for carrying on writing as Christmas looms is to carry on writing and ignore the frenzy! I have a new wintry novel coming out on 13th December and I have concentrated my efforts on that rather than hanging garlands and wrapping gifts. So my ultimate tip is INTERNET SHOPPING! I know lots of you love the hubbub of looking for gifts when it’s cold and icy, you can smell the German sausage and mulled wine and hear the school choirs sing, however I get terribly frustrated with people who have no clue what they want to buy and browse…very slowly…painfully slowly! So Lady B’s tip is to go a little Scrooge and shop from home. You’ll write more and you won’t stamp on anyone’s toes! Or push them into the tinsel display.

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Christine Courtenay – I try to organise myself and I make endless lists – who to send Christmas cards to, what presents I’ve bought and still need to buy, what food I need to buy/make and so on.  Then I try to write in between actually doing the stuff on my lists – well, you have to sit down sometime!  And as long as I’ve ticked something off each day, I feel I’ve earned some writing time.
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Cara Cooper – I can give you one which  a journalist friend told me she did. When it all got too much and she was under a deadline, she would take her baby out of the playpen and sit in it herself with her laptop so she could finish the story in peace!

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So, there we have it - a small sample of sanity in the madness of Christmas. Thanks to all these helpful writerly people. I’m getting a great overview of all of us slowly giving up the battle and just letting Christmas happen! What do you think? Any more tips? I’m off to do my Christmas dance now. It was inspired by a pair of new and very festive slippers. We all have our own ways of getting ready…on the other hand I might just go and sit in my playpen.
Celia x
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Tuesday Chit Chat with Henri Gyland

henri G Hi Henri, so lovely to have you here at Romaniac HQ. We hope you are well? The place is actually looking rather tidy right now, but that was because it was my turn on the rota and I do have some ‘Monica’ tendencies about my person.

So, you are welcome to indulge in the cake that Celia made for you but please, any crumbs must be tidied up at once. Not that there will be crumbs, it is Celia’s baking after all, there’s never any crumbs…

A huge congratulation’s is in order. Up Close, your début novel with Choc Lit publishing, is due for paperback release on the 7th December. What an amazing achievement, you must be so proud – I know we all are!

Where did the idea for Up Close come from and what inspired you to choose Norfolk for its setting?

The idea was born out of several different strands – visiting the North Norfolk coast, reading about soldiers returning from the Gulf, and imagining Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ophelia in a slightly different set-up.

How long, from concept to final edit, did it take you to write it?

I wrote the first draft quite a few years ago, and it then “did the rounds” with agents and editors, but with no takers. So I put it to one side because I didn’t know what else to do with it, and wrote other books in the meantime. When I later heard of Choc Lit, I thought, “Aha!” because it sounded like my novel might be suitable for them. I dug it out again, sent it off, and got the verdict that, yes, they liked it, but there were various elements I needed to work on in order for it to fit in with their remit. I did what they asked, sent it again, with my fingers (and everything else) crossed, and in 2011 they accepted me. I realise this is a very long answer to a short question, but what I’m trying to say is that, with perhaps 4 rewrites over the years, in total it probably took me 3½ years to write it. So a lengthy process.

You were the 2011 winner of the Festival of Romance New Talent Award, with the opening chapter of Up Close, I believe? What effect did that have on your career?

I was already in communication with Choc Lit at the time, but perhaps winning the New Talent Award tipped the scales towards an acceptance…? What I can say, with absolute certainty, is that it gave my confidence a massive boost. There’s nothing quite like winning a prize which comes with the seal of approval from the industry.

The cover for Up Close, as with all Choc Lit novels, is amazing. Did you have a lot of input into it? Can you explain the contents of the cover to us up-close-main-cover1and its relevance with the story?

We’re very lucky at Choc Lit that the cover artists read the books and listen to input from the authors. The cover for Up Close started out as four very different concepts, and I commented on each of them, explaining why one particular concept worked better for me than another, and also gave my input to colours, fonts, etc., until we found something everyone were happy with. The picture on the cover is of a sea defence, a so-called groyne, which disappears into the mist, and the lone seagull represents how desolate and wild the North Norfolk coast can be in winter. The main character Lia is lonely and isolated, and I feel that this is reflected beautifully in the artwork.

The Elephant Girl is your next book out with Choc Lit, can you tell us a little about it?

the elephant girl HGMy next book is the story of a woman who, as a young child, witnesses the murder of her mother. 20 years later she begins to question what she actually saw and whether she might have been an unreliable witness…. Oh, and there’s lovely hero in it too!

How have you found juggling writing a new book and promoting your current one? Is it much harder/easier than you imagined?

Much harder than I imagined! At the moment I’m juggling two jobs besides writing, as well as promoting my book, and my To-Do list is as long as my arm. Not kidding.

What’s the biggest challenge you have come across when writing?

Being told that something isn’t “quite right” and needs changing, but without any clear indication on how to tackle it. That’s really difficult, but I guess it comes with the territory.

On your website you explain how you wrote your first book aged ten. Do you still have it? Will you ever do anything with it?

Er, no, except perhaps pass it around among my friends so we can all have a jolly good laugh!

Do you like to listen to music as you write? Who are your favourite artists to listen to?

Actually, I tend not to listen to music when I work. I know some writers do and swear it makes them more productive. They even have CD compilations for tender scenes or fight scenes, or what-not, and I’m in total awe. I’m a fairly organised person, but there’s no way I could ever be that organised.

Quick Fire round:

If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, where would it be? By the sea.

What would you put in room 101? Spiders.

Red Wine or White Wine? White when I party, but red is great with food (except fish).

Chocolate or Sweets? I love licorice. The stronger, the better.

Birthday or Christmas? Birthdays are less stressful.

Strictly or X Factor? Neither, but give me programmes like “Who Do You Think You Are?” or “Time Team”, and I’m hooked.

Shoes or Handbags? Am I allowed both? Pretty, please! Oh, all right… shoes, then.

Early Bird or Night Owl? Somewhere in between.

Left hand or Right hand? I’m right-handed.

Thank you so much for dropping in, Henri, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you.

The pleasure is all mine. I love what you’ve done with the place, it’s so neat and tidy!

Aw, thanks! My inner ‘Monica’ is glowing with pride!

Now, all that is left to do is for everyone to raise a glass of bubbly – help yourself there’s plenty – and join me in congratulating Henri on the release of her début novel, Up Close.

Well done, Henri :-)

As I said before, but hey, lets say it again, Henri’s debut novel Up Close is released in paperback on 7th December - Just click on the book cover and it’ll take you to Amazon!  She has a very interesting website at www.henriettegyland.wordpress.com and is also on Twitter, here

Lucie x