Wannabe a Writer? Jane Wenham-Jones tells us how we can get there.

Wannabe A Writer TV Show Title Card

So you’ve written that novel that has been consuming your brain for years. Finally written it down and typed those magical words, The End. What now?

Or maybe you have written novel number 15, but still don’t have the courage to send it out to anyone for feedback.

Or even, you’ve written numerous novels, had other people read them and give you feedback, but still don’t know what to do with it.

If any of these scenarios describe you, then Jane Wenham-Jones is the perfect person to help you.

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

Jane has piloted a TV series called, ‘Wannabe a Writer.’ As part of this series, Jane takes an unpublished writer and introduces them to a top literary agent who reads their first three chapters and gives feedback. What an amazing opportunity! In the first episode, Delphine (the unpublished writer) is introduced to Carole Blake, of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, and Carole offers some extremely important advice about Delphine’s manuscript. She highlights key points in Delphine’s story that are not working and tells her where it is going wrong. There is no sugar coating with Carole, but I loved that. As an unpublished writer myself, I don’t want to be blinded by happy smiles and ‘well done’s’ (although those are nice to have, too!) but I want to know how it really works. I want to be prepared for when I meet agents and be told just how blunt they may be. As Carole says in the film, she gets in excess of 20 manuscripts a day, so they don’t have time to think about how to say to someone that A,B and C needs changing in a nice way that wont hurt their feelings. That’s just the nature of the industry and that’s why every published author will say that you need to have the stomach for writing. So when I watched this first episode, I felt refreshed that it was putting forward an honest account of the writing/publishing industry.

Saying this, Jane does a very good job of making sure the writer feels supported afterwards. She is very encouraging and arranges a meeting with a bestselling author – I wont disclose who in case you haven’t seen the video.

Meeting the bestselling author was enjoyable to watch. She gave advice and tips to Delphine about her novel and answered all of her questions with expertise. I particularly liked the fact that Jane also got involved with giving advice and would throw in snippets as and when. So essentially you are getting two for the price of one! Fabulous!

Jane and Delphine

Jane and Delphine

The episode ends with Delphine returning to literary agent Carole Blake, with a revised opening chapter. Carole then gives her feedback on the new piece and is quite encouraging – showing that even though she was hard on Delphine at the start, it was all so Delphine could improve an already promising story.

Jane presents the programme extremely well. She is a very friendly person and this comes across on screen brilliantly. She is encouraging the whole way through the programme and makes the whole process relaxed and positive.

I do find sometimes, with things similar to this, that advice is sort of pushed upon you. You have asked for advice so here it is and you must listen. But with this programme, this is not the case. Advice and tips are offered constantly throughout but never at any time is it forced upon you. The bestselling author even says at one point about you having to use your judgement with the advice you’re getting and basically pick what is best for you and your work.

I absolutely love the whole idea of this TV series and I think it will do really well. There are so many people out there, like myself, who desperately want to break the barrier into being published and I think programmes like this are both informative and real and are exactly what we, as writers, need to help prepare ourselves better.

I asked Jane for a few words about her new venture and he is what she had to say…

It’s here! The fluffed lines, fits of the giggles and the marvellous moment where a certain best-selling author’s cat strolled into the scene, mewing, have been safely consigned to the cutting room floor and Wannabe a Writer – the TV Show is available on a youtube channel near you. This is a ground-breaking new concept I have been loosely billing as Come Dine With Me, meets Through the Keyhole with a dash of Britain’s Got Talent  – except designed to appeal to anyone who’s ever thought they might have a book in them, rather than those who want to sing or show off their carrot stroganoff  and  pecan pavlova.

We’re going to be pitching this to the TV channels this autumn, so we’d love you to watch, love you to comment, and love you to apply to come on a future programme (please also tell your friends).

This baby is the brainchild of me and my mate Steve – an ex- ITN TV producer– who I first met when he obligingly spilled the beans about how much tape Barbara Cartland used to hold her face up when she was being interviewed, for my book Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? (One way, for those interested, is to make news crews wait 24 hours while you bathe the room in pink light, get the florists on standby and use the aforementioned tape to hitch back your forehead.) Not that I am without sympathy, having seen myself in the opening shots, looking as if I have a particularly nasty hangover!

“I hope you’re bleaching out my wrinkles,” I’d squawk at Steve at regular intervals throughout filming. He appeared to ignore me  but was clearly listening. Hear that jaunty piece of music that plays as would-be author Delphine, and I board the train to London? It’s called “Botox Babe”…

To apply to be on the show, visit : www.wannabeawritertvshow.com

Thank you, Jane, we wish you lots of luck with it.

And here is the all important link to this fabulous show – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJWTbsjbR4 - Part One

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ycfeR3Zze0 - Part Two

Lucie xx

Having A Ball – Rhoda Baxter

Some time ago, the very lovely Rhoda Baxter asked us Romaniacs if one of us wanted to read and review her new book due out in March, Having A Ball. We were sent the blurb and I fell in love with the story straight away. I practically jumped at the chance to do a review for it so I was honored when Rhoda emailed it over and my computer beeped its arrival.

Thankfully I was in between books so I was able to start straight away. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here was my review:

“It’s for books like this that I really appreciate having Kindle on my Iphone. ‘Having A Ball’ is simply one of those books that drag you into the story and refuse to let you sleep. Being able to read snippets whilst cooking dinner, waiting for children to finish swimming lessons and being stuck in traffic was an absolute must – I had to feed my thirst for the story!

From the word go, my mind was completely immersed in the life of Stevie; a 22-year-old girl who had lost her parents young and was finding the everyday drag of a boring job and nowhere to go very draining. The characters in this story are well rounded and identifiable. The hero, Tom, isn’t your conventional soppy love interest, but a strong willed, determined workaholic. Not really a lovable hero at the start but he most definitely comes into his own throughout the story. Not only does the heroine’s story turn full circle in this book, but the hero’s does too – which is refreshing and gratifying.

I also found the secondary characters in this story extremely interesting. The author has a good mix of personalities on the page and it keeps the writing lively and entertaining.

Another thing that stands out with this book is the author’s obvious knack for dialogue. It’s quick, witty, descriptive and certainly packs a punch. It kept the story flowing at a nice pace and never failed to make me laugh or bring a lump to my throat.

A touching story with vibrant characters, dense storyline and fulfilling resolve. A definite recommendation.”

As you can see, I absolutely loved this book. I cannot wait for Rhoda’s next novel and I’ll be sure to be reviewing it right here, too.

I asked Rhoda for a few words about her novel, and here is what she said.

“Having a Ball is part of the Email and Ice Cream series. Sounds cool, right? A series. Gosh. I had never considered it until my editor sent me an email asking me what the name of the series was. I had a brief panic. Several cups of tea and a packet of Twix later, I made a list of all the elements that the books had in common and came up with Email and Ice Cream.  Et voila! I have a series.

I wrote Patently in Love and Having a Ball as stand alone books. There are some recurring characters (not surprising since Marsh and Stevie are siblings) and the format of having the heroes character in email, but other than that, they are totally independent stories. But okay, they can be called a series.

This brings me to the next problem. You can’t have a series with only two books in it. You need at least three to stop people pointing and laughing. My third book has very few emails and no ice cream in it (don’t worry, there is a very large chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse – one must never ignore dessert). Not, then, part of the series. However, at least three people who reviewed the ARC have asked if I was going to write Olivia’s story next. I like Olivia and her crazy hedonistic ways. I have a germ of a plot too. So, I guess I’d better get on with it.”

Doesn’t that sound exciting? I can’t wait to read Olivia’s story.

I know I speak for all the Romaniac ladies when I say that we all wish Rhoda the best of luck with this novel and for all of her future works, too. She’s a very talented writer and definitely one to watch.

Lucie x

Rhoda Baxter started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humourous novels instead. Rhoda can be found over on her website, here.

You can purchase Having A Ball, here, and Rhoda’s previous novel, Patently in Love, here.

    

Going Gaga for Nell Dixon’s new book!

I am very pleased to welcome on the blog today, the very lovely Nell Dixon. After spotting a post on Facebook from Nell, asking for reviewers to read her latest novel, Radio Gaga, I messaged her straight away. I loved the sound of the book from the blurb and was eager to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It is a fantastic read – funny, emotional, great storyline and vivid characters. You can read my full review on Amazon, here.

And here is the blurb that grabbed my attention:

Over the airwaves everyone can hear you scream!

Radio researcher and part-time presenter Chloe Lark is certain her big showbiz break is just around the corner. Live it Up radio may not be the big time, but surely – one day soon – fame will come her way. And, if she could convince the hunky guy next door to give her a chance, her love life might improve too.

Ex-soldier Ben isn’t sure if his new ‘Z’ list celebrity neighbour is crazy or on medication. Either way he’s looking for a quiet life out of the spotlight. The last thing he needs is an accident prone media hungry blonde complete with mystery stalker. Problem is – Chloe doesn’t seem to have received that particular memo…

Seeing as I enjoyed it so much, it would’ve been a crime to not have Nell on the blog telling us about the book, amongst other things. We were delighted when Nell accepted. Here’s what she had to say…

Welcome to Romaniac HQ, Nell, how are you today?

I’m good, thank you so much for inviting me!

You are more than welcome. Celia has been baking again so please help yourself to some cake and tell us a little about your latest novel, Radio Gaga.

Yum, cake! I’m supposed to be eating healthily but I’m sure one bite won’t hurt. Radio Gaga is Chloe’s story – she’s a radio researcher and part time presenter who longs to be good at something. The only thing she feels she is good at is being famous so that’s what she wants to be. Except, of course, life never quite works out as she planned it.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Did you have to abseil and handle snakes as research?

I skipped the abseiling as I am petrified of heights. I once got stuck on an army assault course rope bridge thing and had to be rescued by two soldiers. I have handled snakes though and I did consult zoo keepers about snakes and their habits.

Stuck on an assault course, oh no! At least there were hunky soldiers available to rescue you, though :-)

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you begin your writing journey?

I’ve always been a writer. I joined my first writers’ group when I was twelve and finished my first book when I was seventeen. That one will never see the light of day! Which is a good thing. I had a break when my girls were little but came back to it again after a pretty serious health scare about ten years ago.

Sorry to hear that, Nell, but great that you started writing again. How many different genres do you write?

I write chick lit, contemporary romance and romantic suspense/mystery. I also have some children’s stories which may come out later this year under another name.

Sounds exciting! Is writing your full time occupation? What is your writing routine?

I work part time for a disability charity managing a therapeutic community agriculture project which takes up a lot of my time. Writing has to fit around my family and my day job. I usually write evenings and weekends and fit in promo and the business side of writing as and when I get the chance.

When did your love of architecture begin?

I adore buildings, they fascinate me and always have done. They tell a story of the people and lives that are lived there. Cathedral and church architecture is especially interesting but I also love well designed modern buildings which fit their surroundings, like Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.

What is your favourite time in history?

I love regency. I like the realism of the Georgians. They were planners and thinkers but were also realists. This is reflected in their buildings and the plans of their gardens.

We know this is a hard question, like asking a mother which is her favourite child, but do you have a favourite book? Or a top three?

Oh, that’s mean! (We know! Cue evil laugh mwahaha!) I may need more cake! I always think my most recent book is my best, so Radio Gaga I think is my best to date but I have special fondness for Marrying Max and Animal Instincts. I think my voice and humour shows most in those as, like Radio Gaga, I wrote them to please myself. 

Quick Fire Round:

·         E-Book or paperback? E-book – I love my kindle.

·         Tea or coffee? Coffee, tea makes me ill.

·         Facebook or Twitter? Facebook – Twitter is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.

·         Up or down? Up – down is depressing.

·         Shoes or boots? Shoes – my calves don’t fit boots very well. (puts down cake) (I know that feeling, I’m an ankle boot girl for that exact reason *picks up the cake that Nell put down*)

·         Pen and paper or straight to computer? Computer – my handwriting is getting worse.

·         Left or right-handed? Right

·         Relaxing on the beach or forest excursion? Beach. Spiders can drop on you in a forest.

·         And lastly, what is your guilty pleasure? I adore Made in Chelsea, Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

 

Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us today, Nell, it’s been an absolute pleasure!

Thank you for having me :)

 

Radio Gaga is out on Friday 1st March and you can get your copy, here. And check out Nell’s website, here.

Lucie x

Birthday Celebrations – The Romaniacs are one year old!

Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday to us, Happy birthday Dear Romaniacs, Happy birthday to us!

Ok, Ok, so I’m two days early. But who says we can’t start the celebrations a little early. Here at Romaniac HQ, we’ve been celebrating all weekend and we plan for it to continue all week, too. So why not come and join us for a celebratory glass of champers and a slice of cake and let’s get this party started!

A year ago, on February 13th 2012, we launched our blog to the writing world. When we decided to do this, we had no idea how we would be perceived. Would people like us? Would people bother to read what we have to say?

Would people think we’re nuts?

But the response has been truly amazing. People did like us. People were logging in and reading and sharing our posts. And most importantly people do realise that yes, we are a bit nuts! But that’s OK, because we never claimed to be anything but.

The sheer amount of support and encouragement we have received, both as a group and individuals, over the last year has surpassed anything we ever could have imagined. We always knew that the writing industry was a supportive, positive community, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what lay ahead.

So in the spirit of birthday celebrations, we got talking about some of our favourite – and worst – celebrations growing up. They weren’t all necessarily birthday celebrations and some needed censoring so much, we felt best to keep those in the archive folders!

However, I’ll start the ball rolling. My worst birthday party memory wasn’t actually for mine, but for my older sisters. There is five years between us and I was but a nipper at the time and she had all her friends over for a party. In our garden we had a huge shed – we lived in a flat and it was the communal shed so you can imagine how big it was – and she and her friends were playing chase. I wanted to play. I ventured into the garden and saw them all running rings around said shed. Stupidly, to catch up, I ran around the shed but in the OPPOSITE direction to around 15 children. You can see how this story ends, can’t you? Yep, I spent the rest of the party upstairs, on the sofa with a bruised and battered face. It wasn’t a good party for me.

On the flip side, my best party – so far I hasten to add, I’m planning on having many more! – was for my 21st. It wasn’t a big ‘do’ but I had only just had my daughter and I had been dieting and training for months and months in preparation for my 21st and I lost 2 stone and got into the size 8 dress I had bought. I felt great. Some of mine and my husband’s friends came back to our house after the club shut (mine and my husband’s birthdays are 3 days apart so we always have joint celebrations) and we carried on partying until the morning. It was a brilliant night.

We would love to hear your best and worst party experiences. I’ll leave you with some messages from the girls about theirs. Here’s to another fantastic year. Cheers!

Lucie x

Celia: Crikey, Lucie; you’ve said it all! Huge thanks to everyone who has visited our blog over the last year and given us your witty, supportive comments. Now, parties…

My worst one has got to be a Halloween do when I was about nine. I was a Brownie at the time, and we were all invited to our Sixer’s birthday. I only had a hazy idea about Halloween up to that point – I knew witches came into it somewhere, but as the world’s wimpiest child, I had never got up to speed on how people celebrated it. The mum in charge of the party had some great ideas. She had blacked out an entire room and hung it with fake cobwebs, rattling bones etc, there was an atmospheric ghostly soundtrack and we were blindfolded and led through one at a time, touching and listening to various things which got scarier and scarier. The finale was having our hand plunged into a bowl of sheep’s eyeballs. I’ve never felt the same about a peeled grape since that day.

The best wasn’t a birthday, it was my second wedding in 2008 (I’ve only had the two, in case that makes me sound like a female Bluebeard.). We decided to just have the best bits of a wedding, i.e.massive amounts of home-made cake, no speeches, no official photo session where the guests are starving and everyone loses the will to live, a small, warm venue so it would be cosy (it was a frosty night on December 29th) the most delicious food we could order and a late afternoon wedding so we could go straight into the serious eating and champagne quaffing. It was magical. I think I might have been quite, quite drunk.

Vanessa: Well, my best is easy – on my 29h birthday, Tim, my boyfriend at the time, took me to Cornwall for the weekend. We tried to stay in a beautiful old pub in Mousehole, right on the quay, with beams and a roaring fire … but it was full, so we ended up in an odd B&B that smelled of kippers. We tried to have dinner at one of the quay front pubs or restaurants but they were all full, so we ended up eating fish in a strange bright blue sauce at a cold restaurant where we were the only customers. Then, as we walked along the seafront, Tim proposed and it became the best birthday ever – kippers, blue sauce and all.

The worst is more difficult… because I love birthdays, always have. I always take the day off work and have a totally indulgent day. I think my worst birthday was my saddest – the last I got to celebrate with my best friend Suzanne. She’d been ill for a long time, but I’d been in denial, waiting for a miracle cure. That night was the night I finally accepted the truth and the last time we got to go out before she died.

Sue : I’ve never in my life had a birthday party … cue violins and sad music :-( Never had a party as a child and never as an adult but that’s okay, as to be honest, I wouldn’t find being the centre of attention any fun at all. I much prefer going to other people’s parties, so much more relaxing and enjoyable. I’ve had quite a few family birthdays this year and they all have been great fun.

dancingOn the flip side, I have been to a few which haven’t been quite so successful. My friend’s 21st springs immediately to mind. All had been going well until late into the evening, after much drinking and merriment, my brother (Nick) and I hit the dance floor – that was our first mistake. The second came quite quickly after the first, Nick and I decided we could jive and were doing reasonably well, holding hands we were swinging each other backwards and forwards across in a kind of jive/barn dance sort of way. Mistake number 3 was the speed at which we attempted this with rather sweaty hands. I guess I must have been stronger than I thought. Sensing Nick was waning, I gave a particularly sudden and fast yank on his hand which, together with increased momentum, sent him whizzing past me in a blur of legs and arms, Frank Spencer style. I could only watch in horror as he went crashing into the disco lights; the scene reminiscent of a Jean Michel Jarre light and laser display.  It was certainly a party to remember, probably for all the wrong reasons.

Jan: I’ve been to many great parties over the years but one that evokes such fond memories for me is the surprise party my sisters and I organised (along with several much appreciated volunteers) as part of Mum and Dad’s 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. My younger sister and I were still living at home which, of course, made things a lot easier to manage. On the big night, my older sister and her husband, acting as decoys, took them out for a meal. As soon as their car rounded the corner of our road, me, sis and various friends & neighbours swung into action, fetching and carrying all the booze which had been stashed in a neighbour’s garage, blowing up balloons, wheeling in the cake and making sandwiches. Our aunty Heather was on bread buttering duty whilst the rest of us washed, sliced and diced all the fillers. We had to make sure the steady stream of guests arriving had parked out of sight so Mum’s eagle eye didn’t spot any familiar cars on their return. It really was like the proverbial military operation and a great success. It still makes us laugh remembering Mum’s utter disbelief at not cottoning on to our scheming. :)

As for the worst party, well a front-runner would have to be one I attended with a friend in my late teens. The phrase ‘One man and his Dog’ sprung to mind as we walked into the venue, there were so few guests. Add to that, strip lighting, warm wine, a Tarzan -o-gram for the host and the DJ’s decks blowing up halfway through the evening, and you get the picture. Cue stampede (or should I say, trickle) to the pub round the corner!

Laura: My tale is simple and short. My most and least favourite celebration was my last birthday, March 2012. Everything at home was perfect. I received surprise gifts, which were truly wonderful, cardsIMG_1043 and messages from many friends, and short-list notification of the first Choc Lit short story competition. Ahead was the prospect of a great summer, out and about with my family, including my mother who, the day before, had endured a difficult, but at that point, successful operation.
Why the mixed feelings? It was the last birthday I shared with my lovely mum.

Catherine: Worst? Well, you did ask. It was the winter of 2002. I was 21 and about to enjoy my first Physiotherapy Department Christmas Party. The day before I’d completed a junior rotation in care of the elderly and I was ready to let my hair down. Dinner started with a lovely Minestrone Soup. Only it didn’t seem so lovely. In fact, I was feeling decidedly queasy. It didn’t take me long to realise why I was feeling so ill. No, it wasn’t the soup. It was the dreaded norovirus. A nice leaving gift from my rotation. I was chucking up before the main course arrived and managed to get safely home before performing the party trick that involves a toilet and a bowl. So not the evening I’d had in mind.

The best? I’m going to be greedy and pick 3! My Nan and Grandad’s Ruby, Golden and Diamond anniversary parties. I was 8 at the first party. It was in a church hall with lots of family and friends and I got roped in waitressing duties with my cousins. I remember talking about the next party when I’d be 18 and being very excited about it. And before you know it, you’re 18 and at the next party!

The Way We Were…

This week, more Romaniacs take a trip down Memory Lane, thinking of the influences and experiences that have shaped us and remembering The Way We Were

We would love to know where your writing aspirations began and what your memories of that time are.

Vanessa: I grew up in a small village on the edge of nowhere – no library, no bookshop, no cafes. It was pre-Amazon, pre-Sky TV, pre-mobile phones. When I was younger, I was out all the time – off on my bike for hours, building dens, climbing trees. Home for Corona pop and Blue Peter on TV. Idyllic when you’re nine. Heading for teenage years, however, where and when I was growing up became more limiting. Entertainment for teenagers was non-existent – you either hung around in bus shelters, brushing up on your biology skills or stayed at home, waiting to be eighteen.

I stayed at home – I never was any good at science. Stayed at home in my legwarmers and batwing sleeve jumpers knitted by my nan, trying to learn all the words to Karma Chameleon and how to walk in stiletto heels. In 2013, as I face my first year without either of my parents, I have to thank them for setting me on the path to becoming a writer – by bringing me up in a house full of books. In those long teenage years, waiting for grown-up life to begin, I was such a voracious reader, I read anything and everything in that house – my dad’s Alistair MacLeans and Stephen Kings, my mum’s Danielle Steeles and Catherine Cookson – I’d even be queuing up on a Thursday to read my brother’s 2000AD after he’d finished.

On long, rainy Saturday afternoons, when nothing was on TV but horse racing or darts, I’d lose myself in a book, and when I really couldn’t face reading Tilly Trotter or Ice Station Zebra for the fiftieth time, I got out my exercise books, the ones covered in anaglypta wallpaper and painted, and wrote my own stories. Terrible ones, really really terrible – can you imagine the stories written by a teenager, influenced by Catherine Cookson AND Alistair MacLean?? But I’d discovered the thrill of writing, of inventing and controlling my own worlds. Rainy afternoons when there’s nothing on the telly have never been boring since.

Catherine: I can’t be the only one who spent their childhood with her head in the clouds and can’t remember half of it? The things I do remember: days on the beach (10 minute walk away), camping with the brownies and guides (nan was Brown Owl and mum was the guide leader so I joined up very early), spending time at Nan and Grandad’s with the tent up in the back garden with mini sandwiches and ice cream soda. It’s possible I grew up in an Enid Blyton book, but then I’m highlighting the good bits.

Like the other girls, I developed a love of reading. I was given special teaching because of my dyslexia and my homework involved lots of reading aloud to my relatives. I loved it and by aged 7 I’d developed the reading ability of an 11 year old. Nancy Drew was by far my favourite.

Lucie: I was one of the late starters when it came to writing and reading. Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud when I hear others say that their whole childhood from an incredibly young age, was reading and writing and making up stories. It wasn’t the same for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading and I often penned a few tales down, but nothing really seriously. Not until I got into secondary school did it occur to me how much I loved reading and writing. I still briefly remember a story I wrote in year 9 – it was awful, looking back, but it really kick started my writing skills, I think. It was about a girl who was at a house and someone had broken in and she had to get away. It was typically dark and in the middle of nowhere so it involved lots of running and falling over and trying to escape… See, I told you, not very good! But it was a start.

I didn’t have lots of books growing up. My family wasn’t very well off so money went on things like clothes, uniform and food. But I did manage to collect the ‘Goosebumps’ series and I inherited the ‘Point Horror’ series from my sister, which I loved to read. And In my early teens, I read ‘Earth Abides’ by George R Stewart and absolutely loved it! I really want to read it again soon – It can go on the huge TBR pile….

Now, you will notice a weird pattern here; Goosebumps books, Point Horror and my year 9 story of escaping a psycho. Yet I now write romance? For me, I loved to write. I didn’t have a clue as to what genre’s were, or which I wanted to write within, I just liked writing. The more I began to write, the more I broadened my horizons when It came to reading and that’s when I discovered romance novels. So truthfully, I was not a serious writer until I hit 20. Which is why I sometimes feel a fraud. But I can assure you that just because my passion came later, it is still very much running through my veins and is what makes me who I am today.

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

Lucie’s NaNoWriMo challenge

NaNoWriMo.

Well, what can I say, I must be mad.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

For anyone who doesn’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it is a month long writing challenge that takes place every year throughout the month of November. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and the aim is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. The trick is to switch off your inner editor – and preferably your mobile phone, house phone, doorbell, forget about your daily chores, any errands you need to run or children you need to feed – and just concentrate on getting the word count down. This challenge isn’t about getting an uber polished 50k down on paper – or in Word – to be ready to send off on the 1st December. No. It’s simply about getting words down to have something to work with. What you will end up with in December is a complete pocket novel, or part of a full length novel, that you can go on to edit, edit, edit until your hearts content. It is a great challenge to motivate. It is a great challenge to hit deadlines. It is a great challenge to try something new, completely out of your comfort zone. And if you do decide to try writing that YA book and then in December, after reading it back, you think, ‘actually, I don’t think this is for me,’ then all you have lost is a month. Onwards and upwards and onto the next thing.

So, yes, as of tomorrow, I will be embarking on my first attempt of NaNoWriMo in a bid to get the first 50k words of my new novel, Love Hurts, down. I think it will come under Romantic Thriller although I’ve never really written anything like this before so I may have to wait until I’ve completed the first draft before I try to place it within a genre. It’s definitely romance, though – what else! :-)

The other thing that I am attempting for the first time with this novel, is the way in which I am going about writing it. I am normally a ‘pantster’ when I write. For those who are new to this writing term, a pantster is someone who writes as they go along. They may have a basic outline of what the story is about, but they pretty much have an idea and begin writing, letting the characters take them along the way and seeing where the story takes them. The other type of writer, the type that I shall be for the time being, is a ‘plotter’. A plotter gets the idea, drafts up a plot outline and works to it. Yes the characters may take them on a different journey, but there is a clear plot outline to the start, middle and end of the story, before the writer has even written the first word.

A snapshot of my desk, mid-plotting

I am completely new to this way of writing but I thought I would try it for Love Hurts. So I have spent the last two weeks, in preparation of NaNoWriMo, drafting up quite an in depth plot outline. I know exactly what happens to kick off the story, I know how it skips along and I know how it ends.

It’ll probably all change by week two as my heroine will no doubt trot off on her own little mission, but as it stands, I have the complete story outlined – I just need to write the damned thing! That’s where my writing challenge comes in. I’m hoping it will help focus me into getting the first draft completed by the new year so that I can send it off to the NWS very early next year. (If I get in!)

I’m not exactly getting the easiest of starts to the challenge either, as it starts smack bang in the middle of half term! Lovely! So I am having to do nighttime writing again – which I do enjoy, and I feel very creative at 1am, but it really does take it out of me. But it’s only for the first four days of the challenge and then I can go back to normal routine. And I’m sure there are hundreds of others out the whose only writing time is 1am.

I have also taken it upon myself this time round, to create a little playlist for this book. I’ve heard others say that they listen to certain songs or music whilst they write to help connect with the emotions. So I thought i’d try this too. I’m all for trying new things. I probably shouldn’t be trying all these new things at once, on one writing project, but hey! If it works, then brilliant. So here’s a little taster of a few of the more recent songs added to my playlist…..can you tell I was plotting a sad few scenes?

Leona Lewis – Trouble

Avril Lavigne – When You’re Gone

REM – Everybody Hurts

Shakespeares Sister- Stay

Leona Lewis – Run

Christina Aguilera – Hurt

And I want to just quickly say a huge thank you to my lovely friends, Kayleigh, Emma D, Emma P and Hannah, for knowing me well enough to not question my random text of ‘I need sad songs that will make me cry’ and just unload lots of ideas. It takes special friends to understand your crazy, weird and always random texts when writing – and only one of them being a writer themselves – so thanks girls for understanding my strangeness and never questioning it or ignoring my texts. (And if you ever did – I know where you all live! Mwahahaha!!)

So that just leaves me with the huge task of writing the first 50k words of Love Hurts. Wish me luck! And if any of you want to get a decent conversation out of me – wait until December!

Love Lucie x

P.S my name on the NaNoWriMo website is Lucie_Wheeler for anyone who wants to add me. Good luck everyone!

Image courtesy of istockphoto.com

The Romaniacs hit the town!

Yes, that’s right! Us Romaniacs were allowed to take the cuffs off, step away from our desks and glam it up in London for the RNA Summer Party yesterday. And boy what a day it was! Here’s the lowdown on how my day went.

Some of The Romaniacs at the hotel before the party with Lorriaine Hossington

Dinner with the Romaniacs and Lorraine before the party

I arrived at Liverpool Street station around 1pm to meet fellow Romaniac, Sue. I had previously expressed my concern to the other Romaniacs about travelling alone in and around London – I could quite easily get lost going to bed at night if I don’t concentrate – and so in true, supportive Romaniac style, Sue took a slight de-tour on her route and came to meet me at Liverpool St. After a little incident with her ticket being voided because she came outside the barriers to meet me (ooops!) we made our way to the hotel, where we met up with more Romaniac buddies; Debbie, Celia, Laura, Vanessa, Catherine and honorary Romaniac for the day, Lorraine.

Unfortunately we were still one short in the form of lovely Liz, as she was still en route home from Cuba, but 8/9 is the most we have managed to get together thus far, so this was a big event for us. Our next event like this is the RNA conference in July, where there will be 7/9 of us again!

So after many hugs, kisses and random shout’s of ‘oi oi!’, we made our way to Bella Italia to have some dinner. Very wise to eat before attending an RNA party. All that socialising, networking and cheering does make you ever so thirsty so the beverages do tend to slip down quite easily. Yes, I know you could opt for a soft drink but, well, you know…

Debbie, Sue and myself in the cab on the way to the party.

Then came the time for the party. I have to say, I was a little nervous before going in. I’m not even sure why because I have not yet come across a person who has made me feel anything other than welcome at the RNA events. But it had been a long time since I had seen many of my friends but within a few minutes of walking in, I felt completely at home. Mingling, catching up with old friends, making new friends, congratulating award winners – this is just a snippet of what goes on at an RNA event. I am so proud to be part of such a fantastic organisation like the RNA, and similarly, I am absolutely honoured to be part of a fantastic, supportive, encouraging group of people who have become lifelong friends of mine, my fellow Romaniac buddies.

I would like to say, on behalf of us all, a massive CONGRATULATIONS to Evonne Wareham, winner of the Joan Hessayon Award with ‘Never Coming Home’, and also Jane Lovering, winner of the RoNa award with ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’. Both fantastic books and deserved winners. And a clean sweep for ChocLit so congratulations to the ChocLit team, also! And of course a huge well done to all those shortlisted in both awards – that is a big achievement in itself.

The party was thoroughly enjoyable with many, many laughs. I hope to see some of you at the Conference in July to resume the fun!

I shall now leave you with just a few of the photo’s that I took last night. More will be uploaded to my Facebook later on. Apologies for any that are a little blurry.

Lots of Love!

Lucie x

Evonne Wareham accepting the Joan Hessayon award. (Apologies for the side picture)

Lovely ladies, Pia (Christina Courtenay) and Giselle

Beautiful poses by the equally beautiful Lisa and Kate

Charlotte Betts, winner of last year’s Hessayon Award, giving a speech and passing on the cup.

Jane Lovering accepting her RoNa Award. (Apologies for the side picture)

Catherine, Laura, Sue, Jan Jones, Jan Brigden, Celia, Vanessa

What’s in a name?

Finding a name for your book is hard.

You can go through months, even years, of writing a novel and never settling on a name. I wrote my first novel in a little over two years. In those two years it was called, A New Beginning, Rule of Three and in the more frustrating times when nothing would do, it was simply saved on my computer as Sophie’s story. I then stumbled upon Head over Heart and it was perfect. It felt right and it played on the theme of the book very nicely. Sophie has to choose whether to follow what she thinks is right (what her head is telling her she should do) or what she knows to be right, in her heart. It also plays on the phrase, ‘head over heels in love’ which is how she falls for the hero. So Head over Heart stuck.

Book two is still in the early stages and is simply saved as Caitlin&Adam at the moment. I won’t know the title until I get further in, maybe even two, three drafts along. But it’ll come…..I hope!

But it is not just book titles that stump me sometimes, you have to name your characters too!

The heroine and hero of book one was easy, they have always been Sophie and James. Robert was always called Robert too. It was the secondary characters I had problems with. Tracey started life as Sarah, but as pointed out to me in a critique from an author friend, Sarah was of a similar length and looked the same on the page as Sophie, so would maybe confuse the reader. This is when she became Tracey. Which ironically fits her much better, she should have been Tracey from the start. June also changed to Anne, as June and James and Jennifer (who is now Mandy) all started with J and would also confuse the reader. I liked S’s and J’s, apparently!

But when it is a secondary character, it is easier to change names and keep writing. For my second book, my current WiP, I couldn’t find my heroine. Adam was there straight away. Whereas in Head over Heart, Sophie came first, in this book the hero was first on the scene. Quite fitting  actually, as he is a paramedic! I always knew Adam was going to be a paramedic. I don’t know how it began but I always knew that was his job. I knew his personality, too. Adam has always been Adam, he doesn’t suit any other name.  I didn’t know Caitlin. Who started as Zoe, bypassing Sal along the way. I couldn’t place her name right. It just didn’t fit. I didn’t have the right job for her (she started as a beauty therapist, did some office temping but is now an owner of a bakery) I just didn’t know who she was.

I spent days agonising over her. I couldn’t move on and write about her when she didn’t have a name, a personality or even a job! I then spoke to a friend about it and throwing caution to the wind I said to her, ‘you do it, you name the character.’ She reeled off 5 or 6 names but as soon as she said Caitlin, I knew that was her. It was perfect. She strolled into my brain in an apron and holding a tray of cupcakes and I knew her.

So I finally had names and an idea to work with. It is still in the early stages but it’s got a destination and we are getting there slowly.

How do you find naming characters and thinking up titles?

Lucie x

Research – Some love it, some hate it

I briefly spoke about research on my blog recently, so I thought I would speak again in more detail here.

Before I started my writing journey, I had absolutely no idea how much research went into writing a book. It’s a made up story, surely it’s just a case of writing it? This was how I used to think. When you are a reader, you tend to just read it. There is no thinking, ‘I wonder how she knows that’ or ‘is that realistically the amount of time it takes to sell a house.’ I never used to read and think these things. I was so wrapped up and lost in the story, I would simply read. I didn’t appreciate how much research had gone into writing just that one scene, or chapter or even the whole book.

The story has to be viable and believable and most importantly, realistic. This might not necessarily be the case if you are writing paranormal or the like, but for me, I write contemporary romance and so far all my stories are written about real, everyday life. So it needs to be realistic.

A lot of research went into my first novel. Even when I was in my most recent draft stage, I was still spotting things and having to go off and check. Research for me has come in many forms. For example, the first book saw me speaking to a policewoman, both an estate agent and a lettings agent, a doctor, two people who had suffered grief in two very different ways and a widow. I not only had to speak to people about technical things to make sure what I was saying was right, but also, to a number of people purely to make sure I was getting the emotion and ‘feeling’ right. There is nothing that worries me more, when writing a book, than if a reader reads it and thinks, ‘well she obviously didn’t do her homework’ or ‘that’s just not how it feels.’ Each and every person and organisation I have spoken to have been an immense help in making sure I get it right.

I must say, I am enjoying the research for my second novel very much. And it has nothing at all to do with the fact that it means dreaming up a hunky paramedic and eating cakes. Nothing at all!

Bakery drawing

I am only in the first draft of the novel but so far I have been working very closely with a lovely paramedic who has been helping me get all the technicalities right and making sure I am not way off the mark. From what to do when a call comes in, to shift patterns and annual leave. I have spoken with a lovely lady who runs her own baking business and makes wonderful cakes in all shapes, sizes and flavours and I am currently deciding which cakes will be in my case that I am ordering – you have to try these things if you’re to write about them, am I right? I found it impossible to find the bakery setting for my story in picture form. I work very well from visual inspiration and so I like to see what I am writing. I regularly look on Rightmove to find the rooms where some scenes take place. But finding a bakery, exactly how it was in my head, didn’t prove successful. So, I took to pen and paper and drew my own. It’s not very technical but it helps me to envisage where the heroine is standing and moving around when I am writing about her.

Without giving too much away, I have been on a number of sites to get information about a sensitive subject, of which is my heroines past and has shaped the person she is today and I am also about to contact a lovely lady who has offered to help with another very sensitive subject, this time, linked with my hero.

It is hard, once you grasp onto something, to know where to draw the line. In both books so far, I deal with very hard, emotional situations and topics and so I have to speak with people about their own experiences and it can be very hard. I would like to just say that all the people that have helped in this way have always offered to talk to me; I will never force anyone to talk about or expose any part of their experiences that they don’t want to. But it is important for me to really write it true to the character, and this means me hearing it from first hand experience. This is the hard part of research for me. I find it emotionally draining sometimes and it is very hard to hear. These people have all been so brave and I thank each and every one of them who have helped so far, and those who will in the future.

I do love doing the research that involves ogling hot men, eating cake and taking pictures of scenery, buildings and objects. I also very much enjoy learning about new professions. I had no idea how much goes on behind the scenes with paramedics. It has consumed my mind and I cannot pass a hospital, ambulance or green all-in-one without thinking, ‘do I need this?’ ‘can I use this?‘what are they doing?’ ‘what are they saying?’ Even my daughter now, as we drive, point out the ambulances to me! And even a recent situation in a pub where there was a need to call an ambulance to the group of women I was with, once everything was OK and the lady who was poorly had recovered and was laughing and joking, I couldn’t hold back from throwing in a few questions to the paramedic and asking for his email address. *I stress that the lady was indeed OK, and she was joking about me grilling him with questions. I was not doing this whilst she was feeling poorly*

As you can see, I take research very seriously and try to pluck it from any situation. You have to. I now carry a notebook and a pen everywhere I go, just incase. You never know when you will bump into someone who can answer a few questions for you or give you a number/email of someone who can.

This is my desk at the moment with all my research and planning for book two. I have my visuals, my paramedic shift rota, my month planner, beginnings of my timeline, spider graph for hero and heroine and the starting’s of a family tree for both hero and heroine. None of which will physically be in the book, but it is all needed to frame the basis of the story. And this is only the beginning….

Love Lucie x

Do you like to do research? Does it consume your brain like it does mine?