Amanda James – not one, but two fabulous new books out this month!

Amanda James

Celia: Hello Mandy, and a very warm welcome to the Romaniac sofa. Put your feet up and help yourself to cake – it’s cherry, chocolate fudge or Madeira cake today. Tea? Coffee?

Mandy: Oh how lovely! Um … could I have a little of each and tea please?

Celia: Certainly – watch the crumbs, they get everywhere. Right, we’re settled. To start the ball rolling, tell us three vital things about your latest book, Somewhere Beyond the Sea.

Amanda James SBtS

Mandy: It is a romantic suspense, it is set in Cornwall and it involves a dark secret.

C: I’m really enjoying the Cornish scenery in SBTS – how important is the setting in your stories? Is there anywhere you would never consider writing about?

M: The setting is very important. I don’t enjoy books that don’t really describe the setting or skimp over it because I like to feel like I am ‘in’ the story. Therefore I spend time setting the scene in all my books. Cornwall in my opinion is the most beautiful county in the UK and just happens to be where I now live. I am originally from Sheffield and then moved to Bristol around twenty years ago. In August of last year I eventually realised my life-long dream of moving to Cornwall and it is sheer heaven.

I would never consider writing about somewhere really horrible – like a torture chamber or a seaside public toilet on an August bank holiday for example. Yuck. Not put you off your cake have I?

C: Nothing and nobody has ever managed to do that, sadly. Although the image of the toilet is going to be hard to shift. Tell us about your other new release, Dancing in the Rain – March has been a very big month so far!

Amanda James 1 DitR

M: This is the first adult novel I ever completed back in 2005. It was then called Severe Weather Warning and needed a serious edit or three! Luckily the lovely folk at Choc Lit could see the potential in the story and after revision it became Dancing in the Rain. It is another romantic suspense with a paranormal aspect and tells the story of Jacob Weston, a young man who feels he’s never really belonged. Dreams and visions take him from his home in England to Monument Valley Arizona, where a meeting with a Navajo guide reveals Jacob’s true destiny. This is so scary that Jacob begins to wish he’d never found out the truth.

C: How did your writing career take off in the first place?

M: I have always written since I was a child. I would rely on poems and stories to help me through the teenage angst years. Then whenever I could find time when I was working, I would write short stories for my own pleasure, and I wrote a children’s novel, but never believed I could actually be a writer so didn’t take it seriously. Eventually I decided to write an adult novel. I was greatly inspired by the novels of Dean Koontz and therefore tried to write suspense/mystery. The result was Dancing in the Rain in its early state.

Oh by the way, this cherry cake is to die for, such juicy cherries. More tea? Thanks. Right, where was I … Ah yes, I sent it off to agents and quite rightly it was turned down as it was pants. I have learned much since then. I still wrote short stories and other novels and one lovely day in 2010 I had my first short story published in an anthology. The anthology, Gentle Footprints was published to raise money and awareness for the charity, Born Free. And that summer I was lucky enough to share a stage at the Hay Festival with Virginia McKenna when I read out an extract to over a thousand people. That was amazing!

Now, which shall I have next, the fudge or chocolate? Decisions, decisions … and why are you rolling your eyes Celia? Am I rambling on too much? No? Well if you’re sure. So anyway, things kind of took off after that. I then had an ebook, Righteous Exposure, published with Crooked Cat publishing in 2012, and then my first paperback, A Stitch in Time came out last year. I now have Cross Stitch which is the sequel due out at the end of the year! Still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think how quickly it all happened. It was a long time coming though, when you add up all the years I was trying to get published.

C: You’re kidding, Mandy – anyone who loves cake as much as I do can ramble as much as they like. Favourite authors? Early influences?

M: I think I have answered the first bit. Besides Koontz, I love Stephen King, Harlan Coben and Tess Gerritsen to name but a few. I love Charles Dickens too. And early influences, I guess I read lots of Enid Blyton and later, Tolkien. My favourite books were The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.

C: Where do you prefer to write and for how long, ideally, each day?

M: I write in the back bedroom overlooking the fields. On a clear day you can just see the blue strip of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon. Ideally I would like to write for a good five hours or so, but real life gets in the way. I normally manage about two or three, but that depends on deadlines and edits. If I am under pressure I can write all day.

C: When you’re on holiday, do you have a complete break from all things writerly?

M: Yes and no. I don’t write, but I am always thinking and will jot down ideas so I don’t forget when I get back. I guess writers never really switch off. I was walking along the dunes with my husband a few weeks ago and said that it would be a great place to bury a body. He didn’t seem perturbed. Not sure if that’s a good thing!

C: Hmmm – brave man, that husband … What advice would you give to someone just setting off on the writing path?

M: Never give up and never forget your dreams. If you do, you are sunk. Getting published is tough and you have to become tough to get there. Rejection hurts but if you let it get to you, you’ll never attain your goals.

C: Okay – here are some quick-fire questions to finish off with:  Champagne or red wine?

M: Champagne of course.

C: Fresh fruit or sticky pudding?

M: Sticky

C: A woman after my own heart on both counts, as ever. Spring, summer, autumn or winter?

M: Spring and summer. I know that’s two but I can’t decide. And is there more tea?

C: No – not until you’ve finished. Zingy power shower or deep bubbly bath?

M: Zingy

C: Lively parties or intimate dinners for two?

M: Um … I like both. Okay, no need to sigh like that, Celia.  Intimate dinners I guess.

C: I know what you’re saying – it’s very hard to choose! Short stories or epic novels?

M: Both … I mean novels.

C: Moors or mountains?

M: Sea. Okay, moors.

C: Glad we pinned you down to some definite answers, Mandy  :) Thanks for visiting Romaniac HQ, and good luck with the sequel to A Stitch in Time – looking forward to it no end. Oh, and please take the rest of this cake home with you – it’s a long way back to the seaside and I don’t want you to have an energy crisis. Bye for now.

M: You trying to say I’m greedy? Whatever gave you that impression? Thanks, Celia it has been great fun!

C: And here’s the blurb for the fantastic Somewhere Beyond The Sea. (Now I just need to get that tune out of my head … hope you all enjoy the book as much as I am currently doing. That doesn’t sound like very good grammar but you know what I’m saying.)

When love begins with a lie, where will it end?
Doctor Tristan Ainsworth has returned with his family to the idyllic Cornish village close to where he grew up. The past has taught him some hard lessons, but he’ll do anything to make his wife happy – so what’s making her so withdrawn?
Karen Ainsworth daren’t reveal her true feelings, but knows her husband has put up with her moods for too long. A chance to use her extraordinary singing voice may set her free, so why shouldn’t she take it? Surely her past can’t hurt her now?
As a tide of blackmail and betrayal is unleashed to threaten the foundations of their marriage, Karen and Tristan face a difficult question. Is their love strong enough to face the truth when the truth might cost them everything?
Thanks Mandy!


Roving Romaniac – Lucie visits BBC Cambridgeshire


Good morning!

And what a beautiful morning it is, too. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and I am still trying to get over the fact that I was on the radio last night. What a surreal experience that was. I never imagined, when I was growing up, that I would have the opportunity to be interviewed on the radio. But last night, I was given that opportunity and I must say, I had so much fun.


Sue Marchant and me after the show

I was interviewed by the very lovely, Sue Marchant, at BBC Cambridgeshire on her Big Night In slot. She was fantastic and put me at ease straight away – and she asked some fabulous questions, too. I spoke about The Romaniacs and our anthology, Romaniac Shorts, and also a little about myself and my own writing.

Walking into the studio, my nerves hit an all time high. The first thing that set me off were the big BBC letter at reception. I was overcome with a mix of nerves and sheer excitement – I was here!


Reception at BBC Cambridgeshire

Then I made my way into the studio where I met alternative folk quartet, Clutching at Straws, who were on the show after me. They were so lovely and chatting to them, and one of their girlfriends who was also there, really put me at ease before I went on. Everything just felt so relaxed – not at all how I had imagined it would be.

Then I was called in and the show began.

Afterwards, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I had done it. The thing I had been worried about all week - I did it! And I think it went alright, too. Click here to listen. I am the first guest on so only about 5 minutes into the show.

So there you have it, one more thing to cross off my bucket list. I wonder what I will cross off next …

Lucie x

On your marks … get set … Ofsted we go!


Right, I think I’m ready. Oh, wait – we forgot those last presents on top of the wardrobe. So, who wants to go out and get some  more wrapping paper? And could you just go and queue up at the butcher’s for the turkey while you’re in town? And we need some of that gunky stuff in a bottle – the sink’s blocked again. I think it was the practice run bread sauce that did it. Is there enough gin, do you think? At least the decorations are up. Hang on, nobody got any holly. Are you going to find the string and get a few cards up? No? Why not? Anyone would think you’d been busy. Why are you waving that meat cleaver at me?


So, it’s nearly here, and soon it’ll be that blissful moment when you realise that if you haven’t bought it now, it really doesn’t matter. Preparing for the festive frolics is usually fun with children around but the last weeks at work have been a tad stressful – we’re a Catholic school so we do a lot of lovely advent things, but we also have the huge black cloud of Ofsted hanging over us (long overdue and dreaded) so my writing has had to go firmly on the back burner and I’ve been making nice tidy folders at the same time as all the sticking and glueing. The Christmas cake didn’t happen  – which is a minor disaster (we’re having an emergency quick-fire boiled fruit cake recipe that can be made today) - but the mince pies are done, even if most of them have already mysteriously disappeared.

Anyway, here’s my ode to inspectors everywhere; I hope you like it, whether you’ve experienced the joys of audits, whether you perform them yourself or whether they’re just an ugly rumour to you. I’m off to read a book. Happy Christmas from me and from all the other Romaniacs too!

Celia xx


Twas the week before Christmas

When all through the place

Rang a howling and keening

And fear touched each face.

They’re coming! They’re coming!

Came the cry from each side.

They’ll find us, they’ll catch us –

There’s nowhere to hide.

They’ll peer into corners

And look in each box

We’re not going to like it,

We’re in for some shocks.

But the boss was quite calming

She smiled at us all

Decided to give us

A rip-rousing call.

Come teachers, brave teachers -

Did you hear what I said?

Because we’re not afraid

Of the wrath of Ofsted.

And even if some staff

are trotting away,

We don’t need to worry –

We’ll just have to pray!

We’ll shine up the classrooms

And make them all neat.

In the staffroom we’ll tidy

Each biscuit and sweet.

We’ll train all our pupils

To talk till they drop

Enthuse about targets

Till they beg them to stop.

The kitchen is gleaming

The governors are ready …

Just excuse me while I go

And cuddle my teddy.

But soon we all rallied

And scuttled about.

‘Let’s not be downhearted’

I heard them all shout.

So we’ll get ourselves poised

And break out the sherry,

Forget work for now

And let Christmas be merry!

Learning how to multitask!

In the past I thought I was a pretty good multitasker. Then I became a mum. An occupation that means for the next few years I won’t be able to take a trip to the loo or a five minute tea break without one of the twins interrupting. Now I’m an amazing multitasker! Not a bit of my time goes wasted as I whizz around the house at speed getting everything done. And writing? Well, it’s last on my list but I’m taking advantage of nap times to squeeze some in. I even managed 600 words with a babe in arms the other day. My left hand was very numb by the end of it but it’s something to tell the girls when they are older.

The key to it all is prioritising. My priorities mainly begin with W’s. These are of course the things I do when the twins don’t need me.
1) Washing Bottles
2) Washing Clothes
3) Washing Up
4) Writing
5) Wins (Entering competitions)

And dinner. Dinner is very important. And normally bunged in the slow cooker.

You will note dusting is not on the list. That’s not because it doesn’t begin with a W. It’s because life is too short. And there are only so many hours in the day. And with Christmas coming up I’m discovering there aren’t enough hours in the day. So temporarily I’m giving up 4 & 5. Far more important that I enjoy my babies whilst they are young. And also that I stop them from eating one another. Tasty foot? Don’t mind if I do.


Roving Romaniacs – Festival of Romance, Bedford, 2013

Wow! What a weekend!

romaniacs for

Me, Celia, Catherine and Vanessa at The Awards Ball

Last weekend (8th-10th Nov) saw myself and my fellow Romaniacs – Laura, Celia, Vanessa, Debbie, Jan and Catherine – all descend on Bedford town centre to attend the Festival of Romance, 2013. This event is particularly special to us Romaniacs as this is where, two years ago, we first formed as a writing group. We have some very fond memories, of which we continue to add to each year.

nta shortlist

Shortlisted authors for the New Talent Award

The other guests in the B&B that we were staying at, would’ve undoubtedly known the second we all met up because of the high pitched squeals we omitted. It was the first time we had all seen eachother in months – we are quite a vocal group of ladies once you put us together!

So we put our glad-rags on and took ourselves off to the awards. It was a fantastic evening full of laughs, congratulating hugs and generally having a good ole catch up with much loved friends. It was so lovely to meet up with my old friends and extremely exciting to have met some ‘new’ friends, with whom I had only ever spoken to online. 


The beautiful New Talent Award

A massive well done to all those short-listed on the award, it is such an achievement in itself. You are all very talented, so well done. 

Congratulations to each and every one of the winners on the night and also to everyone who was short-listed for an award. And a massive thank you to Kate Allan for, yet again, putting in so much time and effort and organising such a fantastic event.

I am already thinking about what to wear for next year’s Festival of Romance!

Lucie xx

Tuesday Chit Chat with Caroline Kirkpatrick

Today we’re delighted to welcome the lovely Caroline Kirkpatrick, from Piatkus Entice.

piatkus blog

Hi Caroline – great to see you here on the Romaniac sofa. Coffee? Tea? And the chocolate cake is just out of the oven…

Ooh lovely! A cuppa sounds great, and I won’t say no to the chocolate cake too!

Was a career in publishing ever on your list of dream jobs when you were at school?

I always absolutely loved English language and literature at school, and studied English at A Level. But then my life took a different path and I’ve trained and worked as an actress, as well as living in Dubai and working as a flight attendant for the Royal Family of Dubai. I then got into publishing when I began working as a personal assistant at the Darley Anderson agency.

Who has been the most help to you in your career so far?

So many people. Friends and colleagues in the industry have always offered me great advice. My mum has been a brilliant support too.

What books do you read for pleasure?

My favourite authors are Catherine Alliott and Marian Keyes. Rachel’s Holiday is one of my favourite books ever. And I love the gritty realistic crime of Martina Cole.

Do you write yourself, and if not, do you think you will?

I haven’t tried yet, but I have thought about it. Perhaps one day I will. For now though, I’m very happy editing other people’s work.

What is the most exciting part of your job?

Buying a new author and making their dreams of publication possible.

And the reverse of the coin – what do you find stressful/tedious at work?

Nothing tedious, but it’s a busy department and there are often not enough hours in the day!

Which famous authors would you most like to have dinner with?

Can I go back in time? Would love to have Charles Dickens over for dinner. And from the present day, Hilary Mantel.

What is your most unusual ambition?

To work with endangered orangutans

Thanks so much for dropping in, Caroline – please have some more cake or I’ll be forced to eat all the leftovers. Good luck with the latest Piatkus Entice publishing competition. Looking forward to the results at the Festival of Romance next week. See you soon…

Kate Lord Brown: The Road to The Perfume Garden

Kate Lord Brown Cover 3I am delighted to welcome Kate Lord Brown to Romaniac HQ, who shares her road to publication story.

Hello – and thank you for inviting me over to Romaniacs. It’s always interesting hearing about everyone’s route to publication. For me, it’s been a winding journey, with several u-turns and road blocks, but I’m a big believer in the saying ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight’ …

Maybe you’re the same – the signs were there early on, writing stories, diaries as a child, being asked to write love and break up letters on the school bus for friends to send to their boyfriends! It was all good practice. I was, and still am, a voracious reader. At school it was the era of ‘Lace’ and ‘A Woman of Substance’ – the well-thumbed romantic bits handed round and read aloud during break time. I think that’s when the seeds of writing sweeping, romantic histfic were sown.

In 1997 I began drafting my first novel after joining a writer’s group in London, ‘Women’s Ink’. We met one evening a week in the basement of Nomad Bookshop in Fulham, and it was a great introduction to writing fast, and getting over any nerves about reading and sharing your work.

I had short stories published, and some editorial, but writing a novel seemed like the ultimate challenge. I used to get up an hour before work to write, balancing the keyboard of the computer on my husband’s sock drawer in the corridor of our flat. The first book took a few years to write – and it was mammoth, nearly 200,000 words (newbie mistake!). It is, needless to say, unpublished, but the best way to learn anything is by doing it yourself, and I learnt a lot.

In 2000, out of the blue, my husband announced he wanted to quit his job and retrain as a pilot. We took the plunge, sold the home we had just finished renovating and moved to rural Spain. I kept on writing, learning and improving – another novel, a screenplay, editorial. I used my rejection letters as kindling. Put it this way – we kept the fire burning constantly during that first winter. It was in Spain that I began researching ‘The Perfume Garden’, about the Spanish Civil War.

With a young and growing family, and working full time, writing had to go on the back burner – but the ambition to write never went away. Some time in 2007 – ten years after starting it, I picked up the first novel and revised it. This led me to signing with a wonderful agent. In 2009 I started a three year MA in Creative Writing – working late at night when the children were asleep. I was also chosen for ITV’s ‘The People’s Author’ contest, and my agent liked the new book I was working on, ‘The Beauty Chorus’.

Success seemed tantalisingly close – then my husband was made redundant just before Christmas when his airline suddenly laid off hundreds of the youngest pilots due to the recession. We were on the move again in 2010 to Qatar – I had to get out the atlas to see exactly where this small country next to Saudi Arabia was.

The night before we left the UK, I had a call from my agent – a publisher was offering a two book deal. So in 2012 after fifteen years, eleven moves, two children, several jobs, and countries I finally achieved a MA and two books published. ‘The Perfume Garden’ has just come out in paperback, and is being translated into several languages this year. A lesson in never giving up on your ambitions, and a fairytale ending – or beginning.

Thanks for having me, and I hope I’ll get a chance to meet you all at an RNA event soon. Now, I’d love to hear your story …


The PerfumeGarden combines the gripping storytelling of Kate Morton with the evocative settings of Victoria Hislop to tell this sumptuous, escapist story of lost love and family secrets set between modern day Valencia and the Spanish Civil War.

High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco’s forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled; the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild.

Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother’s will, she has left her job as London’s leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory. It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents, heavy with the colours and sounds of a foreign time. But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed here during Spain’s devastating civil war, Emma’s new home evokes terrible memories.

As the house begins to give up its secrets, Emma is drawn deeper into Freya’s story: of crushed idealism, of lost love, and of families ripped apart by war. She soon realises it is one thing to let go of the past, but another when it won’t let go of you.

Thank you so much, Kate, for spending time with The Romaniacs. We wish you all the best for The Perfume Garden.

Romaniacs’, Celia and Laura will be sharing their ‘road to publication’ stories in the near future. As Kate asks, what is your story?

Laura x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Freda Lightfoot


Hello Freda, and welcome to the Romaniac sofa. Put your feet up and relax, I’ve made coffee and walnut cake today. We hope you’ve recovered from the fun and frolics of the RNA conference now?

Here are our questions for you – I’ve kept them short so that you’ve time for several cups of tea.

On your website you talk about several breakthrough moments in your writing life, when it all suddenly seemed possible. Which ones were the most significant and why?

The first thing I ever published was a short article called An Elizabethan Toothache. I think that proved to myself that I could write for publication. And then the first acceptance by Mills & Boon, as it then was, was so exciting. I was riding high for weeks afterwards.

Do you enjoy researching the background for a novel as much as the actual writing?

I love the research, and do have to take care not to get carried away by it. Fortunately as I love writing more, I try to school myself to mainly research as I go along.

If you could go out for dinner with a romantic heroes from one of your books, who would it be and why?

Barthram Stobbs in Ruby McBride. He was handsome, of course, and such a strong character, a man with high principles and yet with a kind and caring heart. What more could a woman ask for?

What has been/is your favourite place to write?

Oh, always the peace and quiet of my office. It is like a womb to me.

What would be your ideal timetable for a day of writing?

I am at my desk around nine each morning and work till one or one-thirty. I generally take a couple of hours off in the afternoon to walk, read or garden, then back at my desk from around four until seven.

Which three well-known books do you really wish you had written?

Wuthering Heights, Katherine, and Rebecca. I wish!

What impact had the RNA had on your life?

I joined the RNA after I was published so was never involved in the NWS, but I have made so many life-long friends through it. It is a wonderful support network.

Quick-fire questions:

Camping or 5 star hotel?

Camping in my younger days, now I do tend to go for the 5 star.

Summer sunshine or winter frost?

Always prefer sunshine so I spend my winters in Spain.

Wine or beer?

Wine, preferably of the pink and bubbly variety.

DVD at home or cinema trip?

DVD, feet up on the sofa and a glass of chilled something in hand.

Ballroom dancing or Irish jig?

Prefer a disco myself.

Dawn or dusk?

Dawn does not feature on my clock. I’m a night owl.

Deluxe fountain pen or new pack of felt tips?

Felt tips if I must write by hand, which is rare these days.

Ice cream or sorbet?

I’ll have a choc ice please.

Thanks so much for dropping in, Freda – please call again. Safe journey home, and good luck with your latest release, pictured below.


Tuesday Chit Chat: Alison Morton

Alison Morton_med_right

Good morning, Alison, and welcome to Romaniac HQ. I’ve piped in a little Abba music for the occasion…Ack! Who am I kidding? I play their songs all the time. Have you see the recent TV interviews with Agnetha?

Yes, I caught one on YouTube. I think her new album ‘A’ has just come out?

Which Abba song would you sing at a karaoke night?

Waterloo (the historian’s answer!)

What is it about their music that draws you in?

It’s catchy, melodic and has great lyrics and energy. But mostly it’s the sheer danceability.

I was always in awe of the fact a Scandinavian group wrote in English. Tell me about your love for language.

I was a natural chatterbox who loved reading, and writing stories and listening to them, so that’s the four language skills in a nutshell! As for foreign languages, I learned my first French at age 6 in France, studied French and German at uni and overseas business schools and, via various jobs, became a professional specialist translator. I know a little survivor’s Italian and Spanish, and, of course, Latin! All this paid off when I studied for my history MA and I could read source documents in their original language.

Have cultural experiences influenced your writing? How?

Big time! Sure, I’ve learned about other cultures through the window of their language and literature, but it’s when you stand in the country and touch the buildings and the things they’ve made with your own fingers that it all comes to life. The first time I ‘met’ the Romans was when I was eleven.  I was fascinated by the beautiful mosaics in the Roman part of Ampurias (a huge Graeco-Roman site in Spain). I wanted to know who had made them, whose houses they were in, who had walked on them. 
Alison Morton Mosaic

I think I’ve always been a closet historian, or perhaps it’s sheer nosiness! It’s perfectly normal to me to clamber over Roman aqueducts, walk on mosaic pavements, follow the German frontier limes, visit Roman loos in France, pretend I’m a Roman playactor in classic theatres all over Europe from Spain to then Yugoslavia, from Hadrian’s Wall to Pompeii.

How do you use your research to write about alternative civilisations?

Ah, very good question! Setting a story in the past or in another country is a challenge. But if you invent the country, then your work is doubled. For instance, the geography and climate must resemble the ones in the region where the imagined country lies. I’ll confess: I ‘borrowed’ Slovenia as the model for Roma Nova where my novel INCEPTIO is set.  The other thing no writer in any genre can neglect their imagined country’s social, economic and political development. This sounds dry, but every living person is a product of their local conditions. Their experience of living in a place and struggle to make sense of it is expressed through their culture and behaviour. Alison Morton Hills

The key is plausibility. Take a character working in law enforcement. Readers can accept cops being gentle or tough, enthusiastic, intellectual or world-weary. Law enforcers come from all genders, classes, races and ages and stand in different places along the personal morality ruler. But whether corrupt or clean, they must act like a recognisable form of cop. They catch criminals, arrest and charge them and operate within a judicial system. Legal practicalities can differ significantly from those we know, but they must be consistent with the imagined society but remain plausible for the reader. But a flashing light and an oscillating siren on a police vehicle are universal symbols that instantly connect readers back to their own world.

I try to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative details to reinforce the original setting.  Even though INCEPTIO is set in the 21st century, the Roma Novan characters say things like ‘I wouldn’t be in your sandals (not ‘shoes’) when he finds out.’  And there are honey-coated biscuits (honey was important for the ancient Romans) not chocolate digestives in the squad room.

Another way to connect to readers when writing from an unfamiliar setting is to ensure the characters display normal behaviour. Human beings of all ages and cultures have similar emotional needs, hurts and joys. Of course, they’re expressed differently, sometimes in an alienating or (to us) peculiar way. But we can identify with a romantic relationship, whether painful, instant, careful or intense – it binds us into the characters’ lives.

Alison Morton INCEPTIO_front cover_300dpi_sm‘Inceptio’ was launched in March of this year. Please tell me about the book.

With pleasure!

New York – present day alternate reality. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety and a ready-made family. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus who rescued her in America, isolates her.

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else and alienated from Conrad, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

It sounds so exciting!

Which three words best describe Alison Morton?

Ha ha! I laugh because I had to ask friends and colleagues exactly this question during a business coaching session. Their most frequent three were: motivated, imaginative, organised. Mine for me are: persistent, nosy, positive.

If you lived in Roman times, what name would you use, and what would be your occupation?

In early Roman times women usually took their father’s family name differentiated by Prima, Secunda, Tertia (First, Second, Third) or Maior  (the Older) or Minor (the Younger), but later were often named for both male and female relatives, so a huge choice! Using later conventions, I’ll go for Aelia, the nearest-looking first name to Alison, and Carola after my father’s first name (Aren’t you glad you asked?). 

And my occupation? At no time in Ancient Rome’ were women allowed to hold public office or work in the government. Elite and middle class women didn’t have jobs. But there’s a lot of evidence for women running small businesses and working in practical trades as well as the oldest profession. Of course, the silent influence of strong women was everywhere… I think I’d run a small business. Could this be me, tallying up the accounts?Alison Morton Naples

Now for some Romaniac Quick Fire questions. Ready?

(Takes deep breath.)

Dream dance partner? Patrick Swayze

Favourite Frenchman? Alain Delon

Afternoon Tea or Picnic in the Park? Picnic

Denim or silk? Denim

France or Florida? France (as I live there!)

Sea bathing or private pool? Private pool (but I love a dip in the sea now and again.)

Jogging or walking? Walking

French wine or English cider? Difficult, but on balance wine

Cheddar or Brie? As long as the Cheddar is a good one…

Alison, thank you so much for joining us today, in our own alternate Romaniac universe.

Ego tibi gratias maximas ago (Thanks a million!).

You can find INCEPTIO on Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing here:



Twitter: @alison_morton

Photographs courtesy of Alison Morton.

Tracy Bloom – Sex on a Tuesday? No way…


A massive Romaniac welcome to today’s featured author Tracy Bloom, who started writing when her cruel, heartless husband ripped her away from her dream job shopping for rollercoasters for the UK’s leading theme parks, to live in America with a brand new baby and no mates. In a cunning plan to avoid domestic duties and people who didn’t understand her Derbyshire accent, she wrote NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY. She soon found however that her new American friends took a shine to her British sense of humour and encouraged her to share her words with a wider audience. NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY went on to be successfully published internationally providing Tracy with a new dream job, making people laugh and sometimes cry through her writing.
Back in good old England now (desperately missing drive-through Starbucks, 30- Rock, NPR and people who talk to you in the street without thinking you’re a weido) and cracking on with writing about other people who screw up their lives in a hilarious fashion including a sequel, NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX AFTER A BABY.
And now, here’s Tracy to take us through her path to publication:


Picture the scene – my first taste of success as a writer. I’m sitting in a fancy restaurant – by which I mean there isn’t a chicken nugget in sight. My publisher sits at the head of the table. A grand dame of the industry weighed down by precious metals and with hair that has definitely not been blow dried by herself. I glow with pride as I sign a copy of my book despite the fact I can’t read a word of it. Here I am celebrating seeing my novel in print for the very first time in … Milan, Italy. I’ve spent all day trailing bookshops, taking pictures of my book, trying to convince shop owners that I am the author and not some eccentric English lady who can’t speak Italian yet convinced she’s written an entire book in their language. This is not how I expected things to be.
I guess it’s fitting that I didn’t begin writing in my native England. Marriage, a baby and a husband sent to work in the USA for three years slung me out of my previous career developing theme park rides and attractions, and potentially into desperate housewife territory. As I gazed around the leafy suburbs of Connecticut I remembered I’d once had a dream to write a book. And so I did. Armed with ideas and a very British sense of humour I joined a creative writing class and NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY began to take shape. The tale of childhood sweethearts having a one-night stand when they meet years later at a school reunion seemed to strike a chord. When two classmates had a row about whether my lead character should stick with her younger boyfriend or rekindle her teenage romance having discovered that either men could be the father of her baby, I knew I had something.
Eventually it was finished and I skipped class to sweat over letters to potential agents in London. Not that I thought I’d get one, I just fancied getting some transatlantic mail. As it turned out one wanted me and my book. Champagne corks popped. It was a dream come true. I didn’t realise that dreams rarely materialise in the way you imagine them.
My agent (I will never get used to saying that) took my book to Frankfurt Book Fair and I waited impatiently to hear when I would be able to buy it in Waterstones. Then the news came that it had sold to the highest bidder in a German auction and a pre-empted bid had secured it a home in Italy. Not long afterwards Brazil grabbed hold of it followed by Poland. Initially I was crushed that I wouldn’t be seeing my book on home territory until the reality of being published abroad sank in. Someone in Brazil, a country I had never even visited, thought I was funny, thought I could write and wanted other Brazilians to read my story. That, I decided, was pretty cool.
One edition after another, my book appeared in print in languages I couldn’t read with covers so diverse it was hard to reconcile it as the same book. It was as though I had given my book up for adoption and it was having this whole fantastic life without me that I was unable to participate in.
Until this year. The massive changes driving uncertainty in the publishing industry had been blamed for my book not finding a home in the UK. However as a new era in publishing emerges, those changes have provided the opportunity for me to finally get published here. With the support of my agent who also represents Sophie Kinsella and has helped Kate Harrison achieve massive self- publishing success with her 5:2 Diet Book, my novel is now available in English on Amazon. Finally I can tell people to go and read my tale of a one-night stand that leads to utter chaos. Best of all I can understand the reviews and comments for NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY without having to resort to Google Translate!

Book Description
Never has a one-night stand led to such chaos!
Childhood sweethearts Matthew and Katy agree they must never see each other again after they end up in bed together following a school re-union.
So all is forgotten… until eight months later when a shock meeting at an antenatal class forces them to confront the fact that Matthew could be the father of Katy’s baby. Oblivious to the mayhem unfolding, Matthew’s highly-strung wife frets over giving birth to twins and Katy’s much younger boyfriend refuses to take fatherhood seriously.
Love and life are messy but Katy and Matthew take things to a whole new level as deep emotions begin to resurface and hormones run riot. How will they navigate their way through this almighty cock-up?
Available on and

NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY has been published in Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia, and will be released in Brazil this Summer.

Contact Details:
Twitter: @TracyBBloom