Ella Harper/Sasha Wagstaff Talks About Pen Names and Voice

Today at Romaniac HQ it’s a case of two for the price of one – I’m delighted to welcome Sasha Wagstaff /Ella Harper.

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Hello Sasha, or should that be Ella? :-)

Can you give a little bit of background to your writing career as Sasha Wagstaff?

Of course. I started writing when I was still in banking but what started out as a hobby soon developed into a passion I couldn’t ignore. I left my job to focus on writing full time and after a few years and some other part time jobs to keep things ticking over I had my first book deal with Headline Review! I wrote four books with them (Changing Grooms, Wicked Games, Heaven Scent and Recipe For Love) – these novels are glamorous, aspirational novels…lots of fun and frolics with lovely leading men and beautiful backdrops. Pure escapism.

Your latest novel, Pieces of You, is published as Ella Harper; what made you decide to write under a different name?

This was more of a publishing decision – as Pieces of You is a complete change of direction, it was felt that a different name should be used. I am hugely proud of this novel so at first I wasn’t sure about using a pseudonym but in the end, realised that it really didn’t matter. And I rather like having a split personality…

Do you find you have a different ‘voice’ as Ella Harper and, if so, is it difficult to separate Sasha from Ella?

pieces_of_youI definitely have a different ‘voice’ as Ella Harper, but to be honest, it’s not difficult to separate the two voices. Every writer puts part of themselves into their writing, which is why it can feel quite exposing when a novel finally hits the shelves but this is simply a different part of me. I wrote in the first person for Lucy’s chapters in Pieces of You as well…a first for me, but I really enjoyed it; it felt completely natural.

It’s a fab name, how did you come up with it?

Thank you! I gave my publishers a list of first names I liked or that meant something to me and a list of surnames I felt were strong and full of character and they picked ‘Ella’ and ‘Harper’ and that was that! I was extremely pleased; Ella was the name of the lead female character in the first novel I ever wrote…one that won’t ever see the light of day! And Harper is just a good, strong name that works very well with a soft, pretty first name. Perfect!

If Sasha could give Ella one piece of advice, what would it be?

Oh, what a great question. I would say that Sasha should just tell Ella to continue to write from the heart. To write about emotive issues – even if they’re scary or personal or heart-breaking (writing as Sasha, it wasn’t appropriate to be as deep or as emotionally raw). To write books readers can relate to, with characters they’re rooting for. Even if they cry now and again when they read said books.

What can readers look forward to next; are you working on something at the moment?

I am currently working on my second Ella Harper novel. And it’s going to be rather different to Pieces of You – but mainly because it hopefully won’t make as many people sob on the tube! (Sorry about that, everyone). It’s still going to be poignant and emotional…and possibly even a bit heart-breaking in places, but it won’t be a full-on weepy.

This one is about two best friends. A man and a woman. They’ve known each other for…oooh, about twenty years. They’re probably in love with each…at least, they have been at various different moments in their lives but time…and other stuff keeps getting in the way. As they both face the biggest challenges of their lives in the form of serious illness and unexpected parenthood, can they find one another again or is it going to be yet another case of missed opportunity for them? Oh, I can’t wait to write this book! It’s going to be properly romantic. And funny. And maybe a bit sad. But readers won’t need as many tissues for this one. I promise.

Thank you so much for talking to us, it’s been lovely to have you on the blog.

Thank you very much for having me! Great questions and an absolute pleasure to answer them.

Amazon UK HERE

 

How Michelle Betham Wrote A Novel In Six Weeks

With November’s annual NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I’ve been considering taking part.  This has been partly inspired by the lack of output recently experienced here in West Sussex and partly by Michelle Betham, author with Harper Impulse.

Michelle has been a one woman writing machine this year – she got an idea for a book that wouldn’t leave her alone and in just six weeks completed her first draft.

I’ve been chatting to Michelle to find out more about how she did it and to find out more about her new release The Brotherhood.

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Hi Michelle

First of all, congratulations on the release of your book Revolution (The Lone Riders MC book 1 of the series). It looks a great read and having spent many hours as pillion passenger, I’m really looking forward to reading this.

So, the first question everyone will want to ask; did it really take just six weeks to get the first draft down?

It really did take just 6 weeks – give or take – to get the first draft down. Although, it has had a fair amount of tweaking done to it since that first draft was finished!

What’s your secret? What was your motivation?

What was my motivation? That’s an easy one to answer. I’d just started watching ‘Sons of Anarchy’ (for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s an American drama series based around an outlaw Motorcycle Club), and because I’ve always had a fascination with that world, and because I’ve always been a bit of a frustrated wannabe biker chick, watching that show inspired me to write my own story based around a fictional Motorcycle Club – The Brotherhood of Lone Riders. And I also love that whole tattooed, long-haired, bearded thing as far as men are concerned, so to be able to throw myself into that world, and create my own group of bikers; to try and create some strong, feisty women to challenge the men living within that world, it was something I just had to do. And I loved every single second of writing Revolution. Loved it!

What sort of planning went into it? Did you have a clear plan/plot beforehand or did it evolve as you wrote it?

I had a very vague story in my head before I started the writing Revolution. I knew the characters I was going to create, and I knew the bare bones, if you like, of what their journey was going to be. But, as with every other book I’ve written, that story grew, changed a little bit, and evolved more as I kept on writing.

Have you got any top tips for anyone to getting the words down?

Just write them. Not all of them will stay, and a great deal of them may be messed around with, but as far as getting that first draft down, don’t think too much about it, just write those words! And that’s something I’ve learned as I’ve gone on over the years, because I used to over think first drafts way too much! But what I find so exciting about writing is that, sometimes, the characters you create will end up telling you where they want to go, and a lot of the time you just have to run with that.

So, can you tell us a little bit about Revolution? What genre does it fall in?

Revolution_cover_imageIt’s a contemporary romance, definitely, with quite a bit of action in this one, and I don’t just mean in the bedroom! Because it’s not just a romance – although, that is what’s at the centre of it all. It’s also the story of the Motorcycle Club itself – The Brotherhood of Lone Riders; the people who live within that world. So it really falls into the MC Romance/biker romance sub-genre. And it’s a real gritty love story.

The main female character, Lexi Hart, was born into the world of the Lone Riders. It’s all she’s ever known. But one mistake sees her banished from the northern Californian chapter of the club – a place she’s called home since the age of fourteen. She broke their rules. She gave them no choice. But after spending eight years back home in England, at the Lone Riders chapter her father is President of in Newcastle, she’s back in California. And not everybody’s pleased to see her return. Lexi, however, has come back to find answers. What happened in the past, the reason why she had to leave California, it had knock-on effects and consequences nobody could have imagined. And she needs to know the truth – she needs to find her own truth because, for far too long she’s been living someone else’s… And she needs one man to help her find those answers. Even if he’s a man she should never have gone near in the first place. But he’s a man she can’t stay away from… As dark secrets are revealed, and dangerous games start to be played, can the Lone Riders pull together to survive the storm that’s about to hit them…?

Did the genre have any influence on your decision to self-publish Revolution rather than through your publishers, Harper Impulse?

Yes, it did. Revolution is quite a dark romance, quite a dark story on the whole. And I just wasn’t sure it was the kind of thing my publishers were looking for. But I wanted it to try and stay true to the whole MC Romance/biker romance thing. Not everything is nice and pretty in those books. And the world of the Brotherhood of Lone Riders has a very dark and sometimes sinister edge to it, at times. But actually exploring that slightly darker side of romance, it was really interesting to write something quite different to anything I’ve written before.  I like to push myself, to explore the different sides of romance, and I guess I pushed a few boundaries with this one. But that’s exactly what I wanted to do!

And finally, what’s on the horizon, is there another six week novel in the pipeline?

Quite possibly! After I’ve finished my next book for Harper Impulse, I want to get on with book 2 in The Lone Riders Series – Retribution. And I’m hoping to get that one written, edited and out there by Spring next year.

Thanks so much, Michelle, it’s been great chatting with you.

Amazon UK link HERE

Amazon US link HERE

Michelle Betham blog HERE

 

 

Genre and Voice Part 2 : Joanne Phillips, Sheryl Browne

Welcome to Part 2 of the Genre and Voice blog posts. Last week, we had a great post from Louise Rose-Innes, talking about her switch in genre, you can read her post HERE. This week I’m so pleased to welcome Joanne Phillips and Sheryl Browne, who have both written novels under the romance banner and, more recently, in the mystery/thriller genre too.

 Joanne Phillips

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cupids wayI’’m often asked about why I chose to tackle a different genre (mystery) after being successful with romantic comedies. I think the implication is that my writing would need to be different – that I would have to find a different ‘voice’ for the mysteries. The answer to whether or not that is true turned out to be more complicated than even I expected! In many ways, my natural writing voice is the same in all my books – but of course, the characters are very different. My first two novels had first person narrators, so my voice was channeled through the filter of the main character – I’m not as funny or as interesting as Stella! The mysteries are third person, and here I feel authorial voice is more noticeable. But my writing style in general is changing as my writing improves. I’m studying for a Masters in Creative Writing, and I notice now that my approach to writing on the level of the sentence is very different to when I first started.

As for writing in a different genre, I think it’s great fun for authors to have a go at writing in any genre they enjoy reading. I love cozy mysteries; Iflora_v6__lighter_red_v5 had an idea for Flora Lively and so she was born. I also love reading contemporary romances – but I’m very a very fussy reader, and a romance has to have a lot of depth for me to enjoy it. That’s probably why my novels always have a more serious side, or explore serious themes – albeit subtly! My advice to anyone tackling a change of genre would be to study the expectations/structures of that genre and follow them, but when it comes to voice, to be yourself entirely. A new writer said to me recently that she didn’t like reading other fiction while she was working on her own first novel as she was worried it would affect her writing voice. I think this is a valid concern – we can unconsciously mimic writers we admire – but I advised against getting too hung up on it. It’s actually very difficult to copy voice, our own way of writing will always win out in the end. And that’s what makes us unique.

Joanne’s Website

Sheryl Browne

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When I first started out writing many moons ago, choosing to write in different genres it seemed was a bit of a no, no. Even before social media madness, where online promotion became as essential as breathing, advice from those in the know in the publishing world was to establish a brand or platform, i.e. to stick to your genre thereby fulfilling reader expectation. So have I bucked the trend in choosing to write psychological thrillers alongside poignant romance? Have I confused people in deciding to continue to write both under my own name? Judging by the reviews, for which I am hugely grateful, I think not. I’m quoting a pertinent snippet from one reviewer here: “The Edge of Sanity lives up to its psychological thriller tag, and Sheryl has definitely pulled off the switch in genre with this un-put-downable book!” Thank you, Donna at Room for Reading

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Whichever genre I write in, I tend to explore the fragility of love, life and relationships. If a character calls to me, I simply have to write his story. My books tend to turn around the family unit, looking at family dynamics and the tenuous bonds that hold people together, usually having a strong, but flawed, male lead. I think The Edge of Sanity, though most definitely edgy, does fall into that category. My ‘voice’ therefore, whether writing romance or thriller, or a combination of both, will always lean towards ‘poignant’ storytelling, in so doing, hopefully, delivering what the reader expects.

Sheryl’s Website

Write Behind You – Sarah Manning of The Agency Group

I’m delighted to welcome the very lovely Sarah Manning onto the blog today. Sarah is a Literary Agent’s Assistant to Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group and is here to give us insight into her role and some insider info on life in a literary agency. Pull up a chair, Sarah and help yourself to cake!

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Can you tell us a bit about your background prior to working at The Agency Group?

I read History at Durham University. With no real idea what career I wanted to pursue, but aware that I loved books, I luckily landed myself a job at Orion working for their Paperbacks Department. I also interned in script development at Amber Entertainment and worked as a reader for Island Pictures before happily arriving at The Agency Group.

How long have you been working with Juliet at The Agency Group, Sarah, and how did you come to apply for the job?

I joined The Agency Group back in October 2013 and the time has absolutely flown by. I first stumbled across Juliet’s name during our many editorial meetings while working at Orion. I was beginning to realise that there were many exciting careers within the publishing industry that I hadn’t been aware of straight out of university, and so I closely followed Juliet’s career – she was in her twenties, vibrant and her success was snowballing. I found her easy to identify with and I knew I could learn a lot from her. At the time I was on a temporary contract at Orion and so I took the initiative to contact Juliet and ask her advice on how to move my career forward in publishing. Six months down the line Juliet was looking for an assistant and it felt like everything was falling into place. During that time I’d built up my experience and I knew for certain the direction I wanted my career to take.

What’s the best part of the working day for you?

The best part of my working day is reading the full manuscripts that have been called in from the slush pile. I love the creative, editorial side of reading submissions and it is especially exciting when you stumble across something special. But even when a submission still needs more work I enjoy sharing my thoughts with Juliet. I learn a lot from this process and it is always interesting to see how our comments compare.

What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

I have just finished reading Apple Tree Yard and opened The Little Stranger by Sarah Walters on the train this morning. Apple Tree Yard was suggested to me by Juliet and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. With a complex female narrator, and tackling interesting issues about sexual assault, it is an incredibly compelling read. I’ll let you know how I get on with The Little Stranger – here’s to hoping it’s as dark and chilling as I expect.

Could you please tell us about a typical day at The Agency Group and describe your workspace?

My days are pretty varied but there are some things which need to be done regularly. Every day we will have contracts coming in and out of the office, and it’s my job to keep a track of them all. Juliet does her own foreign rights and so we have contracts issued from all over the world, and with no separate contracts department this is quite a big job! I also complete the tax forms for our authors and am the one chasing all the money. Unlike in other jobs I have previously had, I don’t see these tasks as tiresome administration because they are so closely tied to direct contact with our clients, and I’m learning so much about the ins and outs of the industry. Hopefully this will just make me an efficient agent sometime in the future! And then, after all the general office jobs, I will help Juliet with the slush pile.

Our office is lovely, especially now we are slowly filling the white walls with framed book covers. And of course there is an enormous tube poster for James Oswald’s Mclean series.

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Do you find you have a typical day or is each day different?

Each day is different working for Juliet and this is something I really appreciate about being her assistant. I am very lucky that I am welcome to sit in on all of Juliet’s meetings and so I find myself part of meetings with potential clients; existing authors; scouts and the list goes on!

Has anything surprised you about the job?

I was pleasantly surprised by just how fast-paced the working environment is here. There is always something going on and new deals being struck. It makes it very exciting to be a part of.

What was your dream job as a child?

I’m not entirely sure it would count as a job, but for most of my childhood I wanted to compete in the Olympics in synchronised swimming. Unfortunately, you can’t read books while upside down in the pool.

What’s your dream job in the future? Do you hope to become a full-time agent and build your own list?

When Juliet asked me where I’d like to be in five years’ time I replied, “your desk”. Well, perhaps not her actual desk, but one next door as a full-time agent would be lovely. My dream is to build a client list of my own with authors as varied and as exciting as those I get to work with now. My favourite aspect of the job is following authors from their slush pile submission through to their first deal, and championing debut authors is something I hope to take forward when establishing my own list.

Do you read the submissions that come in to Juliet’s slush pile – is this a job you share or do you both read promising submissions?

Juliet will read everything that comes into her slush pile and will decide which submissions to call in the full for. I will then read these full manuscripts alongside Juliet and we share our editorial comments. I absolutely love this process and, although the pile is often very large and somewhat daunting, it is always exciting when you begin reading a manuscript and realise you can’t put it down.

If you do read submissions, what would you love to find in the slush pile?

I have a weak spot for flawed, independent female characters that aren’t defined by the men around them. I would love to find an ‘Amy from Gone Girl’ type character placed in a historical setting: something that turns the male discourse of history on its head in a very modern way.

Who’s your favourite author / favourite book of all time?

Favourite author is a tricky one as, even if there is an author who I generally like the style of, it is always the story itself that I am most passionate about. A Thousand Splendid Suns is my go-to book and got me through my finals at university. There is something so magical about the strength of the characters despite the sadness that surrounds them, that no matter where I am it always manages to transport me. Plus, I’m a bit of a sucker for something that makes me cry!

Thank you so much, Sarah!

 

 

Sheila talks about the 60’s and Mods & Rockers…

Good morning all,

It’s the start of the weekend and I have a visit from a very lovely lady. Sheila 2014 Portrait

I am so pleased to welcome Sheila Norton into Romaniac HQ for a little chin wag and a slice of Celia’s chocolate cake. It’s a special one, too. You know the type – with the chocolate cream and the white chocolate shavings on top … heaven.

So, firstly a massive hello and welcome, Sheila, it is so lovely to have you here. We hear you have a new book out, can you tell us a little about it?

Thank you – for the lovely welcome and especially the chocolate cake! Yes, I have a new book just out now – YESTERDAY. It’s a Kindle ebook on Amazon, priced at £1.99 and is the story of Cathy, who as a middle-aged journalist in 2004 has to revisit her teenage years during the violent clashes between the Mods and Rockers – and find the answers to some questions that have always haunted her.

Yesterday’ is set in the 1960’s, what made you choose this era to write about? Is this the first book you have written within this time period?

Basically, I chose the 1960s because I was a teenager myself then and remember it well! And I also think it was such an exciting era, with such a lot of changes happening, especially for young people. Yes, it’s the first book I’ve set in the 1960s – or in any other period other than the current day. All my other books have been contemporary.

You also have some books under the pseudonym Olivia Ryan, can you tell us a little about those?

I wrote a series of three novels – the ‘Tales from’ series – as Olivia Ryan because my then-editor thought they were a little different from my first five novels and she wanted to promote them as if they were by a ‘new’ author. They’re three completely different stories, but the connection is weddings: the titles are ‘Tales from a Hen Weekend’, ‘Tales from a Wedding Day’, and ‘Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel’. Since I’ve started self-publishing, though, I’ve reverted to my own name, as I feel this is how most people know me and will look for me on Amazon. I’ve published the ‘Sisters’ series this way, and now YESTERDAY.

Which genres do you prefer to read yourself for pleasure?

I’ll try most things! – but my favourite reads these days are usually suspense and thrillers. I do still like Rom Coms too (most of my previous 11 novels fall loosely into this category) especially if they have some emotional depth.

You run the Chelmsford Chapter meeting each month which is for the RNA, do you think regularly meeting other writers face to face is an important factor of being a writer? What benefits do you think this brings to both new and established writers?

Yes, making friends through the Chelmsford RNA chapter has been a definite bonus for me, especially since I retired from my day job at a hospital, as I sometimes miss the stimulation of constant company and conversation with all sorts of people! For new writers, a group like ours is (I hope) somewhere where they can find encouragement and support, and ask questions about their writing in a friendly atmosphere. Those of us who are already established also need that kind of support – we never become immune to the ups and downs of the writing life, or reach the point where we ‘know it all’.

You are a full time writer now – do you have a set routine to get the words down each day or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

Neither, really! I’m fortunate, now I’m retired, that I can write whenever I want to. Having written my first six published novels while working full-time, you can probably imagine how liberating this is! So I resist any form of routine, now – I just write whenever I have nothing else taking priority (e.g. spending time with my three lovely daughters and six gorgeous grandkids!). But I certainly don’t wait for inspiration to strike. That’s fatal! No book would ever get written!

What top three tips would you give an aspiring writer?

  • Er … don’t wait for inspiration to strike! Just write – anything – no matter how bad it seems. It can be edited or deleted later but you have to get going.
  • Don’t try to write in the style of the latest trend, or try too hard to be clever. Just write in your own voice – it will flow much better and be so much more readable.
  • Most important of all: only write for one reason – because you love doing it. Everything else is a gamble.

Can we ask what you are going to be working on next?

There will be another book set mainly in the 1960s – this time set between England and Australia, and centred on a truly heartrending true life situation. I’ve also written the first draft of a contemporary book where the protagonists are all grandparents. I have plenty of experience to call on for this one! And finally I have a plan for yet another book set partly in the Sixties, and partly bang up to date in the current time.

Oooh, time for a Quick-fire round:

 

  • Left or right? Right
  • Seaside or mountains? Seaside
  • Ebook or paperback? Ebook
  • Champagne or cocktails? Champagne
  • Pen & paper or straight to computer? Computer
  • What or who makes you laugh? My little grandchildren
  • Disco or Rock ‘n’ roll? Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Theatre or Cinema? Cinema
  • Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

 

Well, thank you so much for being such a fantastic guest. We wish you all the very best of luck with ‘Yesterday’.

Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure!

Lucie x

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/YESTERDAY-Sheila-Norton-ebook/dp/B00JKOM7YY/

Sheila’s website – http://www.sheilanorton.co.uk/

Writing as Olivia Ryan – http://www.oliviaryan.com/

The WoMentoring Project

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Today is the launch day of an incredibly exciting new initiative set up by Kerry Hudson, offering free mentoring from authors, editors and agents to up and coming female writers. The buzz about it on twitter has been building and today it’s officially launched and here at Romaniac HQ, we’re tucking into cake and already checking out the website. All the information about the initiative is below and the all-important website address is:

http://www.womentoringproject.co.uk

You can follow WoMentoring on twitter – @WoMentoringP

About the WoMentoring Project
The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

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bespoke illustration by Sally Jane Thompson

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors. 

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project. 



Why do we need it?
Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given. 

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

Applications
In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time. 

Why our mentors are getting involved

The reason I’m doing this is simple: mentoring can mean the difference between getting published and getting lost in the crowd. It can help a good writer become a brilliant one. But till now, opportunities for low-income writers to be mentored were few and far between. This initiative redresses the balance; I’m utterly delighted to be part of the project.
Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give.
Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work.
Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

The WoMentoring project is the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It’s founded in the spirit of paying it forward, and I’ll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I’ve gained with a mentee. I’ve benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you’re in your solitary writing bubble. The formality of the mentoring arrangement also gives a sense of responsibility and focus – something that’s invaluable when you’re lost in the sprawl of a work-in-progress – and it’s beneficial to mentors too.
Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers 

My career as an editor has been immeasurably enriched by working with inspiring women writers, yet the world of publishing would have been inaccessible to me without the time and support I was given when first starting out.  The WoMentoring Project is a wonderful, necessary thing and I’m very proud to be taking part in it.
Francesca Main, Editorial Director, Picador
 
I wanted to get involved with this project because I’d like to help authors feel that whoever they are, and wherever they come from, they have a right to be heard.
Jo Unwin of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency 

Why female writers feel they need this opportunity

I’m interested in being mentored because although I think you have to make mistakes to learn, having someone who’s been there help you work out the ones with no value can be really useful. Most of all I’d like to have someone to push and challenge me on what makes me and my writing tick.

The idea of women sharing their skills and experience in a dynamic, nurturing way is a really important one given the lower profile given to female writers. Even though the mentoring is one to one a collective voice and resilience is still being built up – I think it’s a great idea that, for writers like me, will help get rid of some of the layers of doubt and creative loneliness that come with being a beginner.
Clare Archibald 

 
I’m on my third novel; I’ve had good notices from Faber, HoZ etc. but still not quite there. What I need is that final push. I especially need guidance on pacing, keeping the action pulsing along. I feel a mentor could be hugely beneficial in this process.
Suzy Norman 

The First Time I … Pippa Croft/Phillipa Ashley

Phillipa Ashley Pippa Croft

THE FIRST TIME I…

 WROTE A ROMANCE SERIES

Pippa Croft/Phillipa Ashley

In spring 2013, I was lucky enough to be given a three book contract to write a series of hot romance novels for Penguin Books.

This is the first time I’ve written a series featuring the same characters in each book. Prior to this all my books have been standalone, with completely new characters and settings. Each book in the Oxford Blue series is full-length at approx 90k words and I’ve just started Third Time Lucky – funnily enough the third book in the series.

Sorry that I’ve got to use a blatant plug i.e.the publisher’s blurb to introduce my findings, but this will hopefully put things in context! (Mmm, think the Romaniacs…)

The First Time We Met is the first novel in the sizzling new Oxford Blue romance series from Pippa Croft.

When US Senator’s daughter Lauren Cusack arrives at the enchanting Wyckham College of Oxford University, she hopes to mend her broken heart by throwing herself into her studies.

But then English aristocrat Alexander Hunt walks into her life and everything changes. Handsome, brooding, and with his own dark past to escape, Alexander is exactly what Lauren doesn’t need – but she finds herself helplessly drawn towards him.

Both Alexander and Lauren know that they should stay away from each other . . . but sometimes desire is so powerful that it conquers all else.

Pippa Croft Series (2)

THE VERDICT SO FAR

So here’s my report so far, on the challenges and joys of writing a series as opposed to single titles and some questions to think about before you embark on this epic journey.

THE CHALLENGES

  • Are your main characters compelling enough and can they develop sufficiently to sustain a series of books? Do the hero, heroine, and secondary characters grow and change with each book and over the series as a whole?
  • How are you going to introduce previous events for readers who pick up the series with Book 2 or 3? How much of their back story should you include while still keeping the new books fresh and exciting for the reader?
  • If it’s a hot and steamy series, how can you keep the love scenes exciting? You need to make sure that each sexy scene is part of the character development and moves the characters on in some way, and isn’t simply there for titillation.
  • You need to keep in mind the story arc of the whole series and of each book.
  • You can’t go back and change the story in earlier books, if you’re writing a series as you go along – which you probably will be.
  • However, you can’t plan too far ahead or you’ll be shoehorning characters into the plot of three books rather than letting them develop naturally. However, you do need a very good idea of their motivations and conflicts and these have to develop and change.

THE JOYS

  • Neither you nor your readers have to say goodbye to characters you’ve grown to love – or hate – by the end of the book.
  • You can take your time over each character’s development, get deep under their skins and set them new challenges to overcome.
  • If it’s a hot and steamy series, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for love scenes to show the characters growing and changing. Great fun…
  • You have time to get deep inside your characters’ psyche and develop their voices.
  • Hopefully, your readers will be so engaged with the characters they will be desperate to read each book.

That looks like more challenges than joys; however I absolutely love writing the Oxford Blue series and slightly dread it finishing it at some point.

I’ll let you into a secret: I still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen to Lauren and Alexander, but I can promise you that it will be dramatic, sexy and a big surprise (to me as much as the reader…)

Thank you so much, Phillipa, for this fascinating insight and advice. I’ve not written a series but can see how exciting it must be.  Please do visit again and let us know how things develop.

Laura x