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!

 

 

Roving Romaniac – Lucie hits Milton Keynes!

Last weekend it was my turn to go roaming the streets and this particular Romaniac was let loose in Milton Keynes.

Saturday 7th June was the annual agency day for the Kate Nash Literary Agency and, having signed with Sarah Taylor in January, I was invited.  

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This was our ‘selfie’ for the Online Romance Festival which was on the same day.

I can’t tell you how excited I was. It has been quite some months since I last attended a writing event so I was looking forward to seeing other writers in the flesh – and knowing that there are still other crazy people Out There.

The day was amazing. Lots of useful and essential tips and information was on offer both from Kate and Sarah, and also fellow writers, too. Ranging from industry trends, to the latest bestsellers, to marketing. Throw in lots of laughter and lovely food and you get a jist of why I had so much fun.

After a day of talking – and sipping back on the free tea, coffee and biscuits – we retired to our rooms to get ready for an evening out. The agency day coincided with Jane Lovering’s publication day. Falling Apart celebrated its birthday in true, author style.

It went out and PARTIED!

For a more in depth look at Falling Apart’s antics – pop over to my blog, here. *WARNING* Not for the faint hearted …

We had a lovely evening out in Milton Keynes. Dinner, cocktails and lots of dancing. Kate and Sarah put together a fantastic day and I am sure I am not alone when I say a massive THANK YOU to them both for a wonderful weekend.

*Kate and Sarah are both accepting submissions at the moment, so If you would like to submit to either of them, please do! You will find submission guidelines here. *

 

Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)

Sarah Taylor, me, Kate Nash (Allen)

 

And now to look forward to the RNA conference where a number of Romaniacs will be let loose … don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

 

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 

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

Sophie Duffy and the Exeter Novel prize

Sophie Duffy

Sophie Duffy

My journey to becoming a published novelist was a long one. In fact I have yet to meet a novelist who became an overnight success. I have yet to meet a published novelist without at least two novels secreted away like old love letters. Those first two novels are the practice ground where we learn about the craft of writing, a craft we writers continue to learn for the rest of our lives.

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But there may well be some novels out there that deserve to see the light of day. Do you have one of those? Or do you have the beginnings of one? If the answer is yes, I do, then dust it down, rework the opening with the helpfulness of hindsight and fresh eyes and enter it into the Exeter Novel Prize.

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Sophie, Cathie and Margaret

What is the Exeter Novel Prize? It’s a new prize for novelists, set up and launched this week by the trio that make up CreativeWritingMatters: Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and myself.

Sophie Duffy GenerationWhy did we decide to do this? Because we believe in the importance of writing competitions. Cathie has won short story competitions,  Margaret has administered and judged writing competitions and my novel The Generation Game won both the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. There are many short story and poetry competitions but only a few novel prizes. And the Exeter Novel Prize is, to our knowledge, the only novel competition open to both unpublished and published writers. As long as you are unagented and not currently under contract, you can enter the ENP with your first 10,000 words and a synopsis by October 31st.

Go to http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for details.

We launched the prize on Thursday. It was a soggy evening so we were pleased to fill the room with writers who asked great questions. The atmosphere was positive and encouraging and we are looking forward to finding a shining star. The winner will be chosen from a shortlist by agent Broo Doherty. And who knows what will follow. You’ll never know unless you enter. Nothing ventured…

Sophie Duffy ENP Audience

Sophie  Duffy lives in Teignmouth with her family and other animals. She has two novels published by Legend Press. The Generation Game and This Holey Life.

Thank you, Sophie, for taking the time to write this post. This is a great competition and I wish you, Cathie, Margaret and all the entrants the very best of luck.
Laura x

Agent Hunter – The Romaniacs try out an exciting and useful new website.

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Recently, the Romaniacs were offered a challenge. It wasn’t cake based (although it has to be said that we are world famous for our capacity for eating scones and are expecting the Guinness Book of Records to be in touch very shortly). No; this gauntlet was thrown down by the dynamo that is Harry Bingham of The Writers’ Workshop. He wondered if we would like have a browse around his fabulous new website – Agent Hunter – and give the viewpoint of a bunch of aspiring writers.

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            Well, The Romaniacs are always up for a challenge, and we are no strangers to languishing on the slush pile from time to time, so we dived in. We are generally very impressed with this new facility, but I’m going to shamelessly steal some snippets from the site to give you an overview first:

Who is behind Agent Hunter?

Agent Hunter ( http://www.agenthunter.co.uk/ ) is   the creation of The Writers’ Workshop, the UK’s largest   editorial consultancy for new writers. The Writers’ Workshop has superb   contacts with literary agents and is constantly helping its writers secure   representation and book deals.

A comprehensive list of all   literary agents and publishers. Not just in London, but across the UK.

Create your own search filters   to find agents who want work in your genre and who want new clients. We supply rich data on every   agent: contact info, bios, photos, links, submission advice, and much   more.
We’ve asked agents to give us their   likes and dislikes. No other database has this info. You can save your searches   and use them for your submissions planning. Try us for free! An annual   subscription costs just £12, but you pay nothing if you cancel in the first 7   days.

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Now for The Romanics’ opinions:

We really like the filter system for narrowing down the right agent for your genre. The site looks comprehensive, user friendly and informative.

Two small points to consider – we would like an option on the left hand side that says ‘Don’t mind’ or ‘Unimportant’, when asking the things like how many clients we’d like the agent to have, and all the other questions like that. Also, under ‘Agent Experience’, we think it would make more sense for the answers to be ‘less than 5 years’, ‘5 – 10 years’, ’11-15′, ‘More than 15′ – for example. We all really like the agent/agency bios. It’s a very user-friendly site with good links to other information/pages i.e The Writers’ Workshop. The FAQ section seems to have most things covered.

Agent Hunter seems to have given the whole searching for an agent or publisher nightmare a more personal feel. It can be very daunting trawling through various books and websites for specific agents/guidelines. We think the subscription fee is very reasonable too. The mailing list option is also good, to stay in touch with latest news/offers.  

Overall, we think it’s a great idea, and it certainly speeds up the search for a relevant/suitable agent. It has given us all a good feel for which agent to pitch to, and has actually tempted us to submit.

Thanks, Harry, for the opportunity to explore this exciting new website – we’ll probably bump into you in there as we hunt for the ‘Look into the agents’ living room’ button and search for the coffee shop facility.

Tuesday Chit Chat with Nikki Goodman

Nikki Goodman

Welcome, welcome, welcome, and Happy New Year, Nikki. How has 2013 treated you so far?

As is customary at Romaniac HQ, we would like to offer you a glass of wine. We would like to, but we can’t. We ran our stocks down over the Christmas period and it appears no one has been to the supermarket since, so the cupboards are a little lacking. Talk about Old Mother Hubbard.

Thank you, lovely to be here and Happy New Year to all the Romaniacs *fluffs up the cushions and gets comfy on the sofa* but what’s this… No wine? Impossible, surely?! I’ve never hung out with any of you guys without there being free flowing wine (Catherine’s granddad’s home made wine was a memorable occasion)… it’s an oxymoron; like the sky without a sun or a Hollywood rom-com without a hot guy in it… not that I’m an alcoholic, no … erm, although my blog is called Writing, Work and Wine… so, ahem, shall we move on?

There is a secret supply of hot chocolate. Please avert your eyes whilst it is retrieved. There’s an unopened pack of biscuits here too! Hobnob?

Ooh, I quite like hot chocolate. I don’t suppose you have any… ooh, whipped cream, thank you, and um, is there any chance… min-marshmallows – bliss! Now where were we, oh a HobNob you say? Well, to be honest I’m trying to lose a little post Christmas podge so I really shouldn’t. I’ll be good and abstain.

We liked the synchronicity of beginning the New Year blog with a new writer. If you could sum up in one sentence what being on the New Writers’ Scheme means to you, and describe what it offers, how would you pitch it?

Ooh, that’s tough, but… It means I get fab like-minded friends, excellent writerly support, help and advice, constructive criticism on my writing to help me learn my craft and the opportunity to meet industry experts.

How important to you is being on the NWS?

Very! It keeps me motivated and helps me learn my craft and I get to spend (both virtual and face to face) time with people who don’t think I’m completely bonkers (well, they might do but they don’t say that to my face!)

I was on the New Writer’s Scheme initially circa 2001/02. I was a single mum and had just written my first book (a Mills and Boon type affair) which HM&B requested the full MS of (they turned it down but gave me lots of advice and invited me to send something else in, which I didn’t, more fool me).

Being in the scheme at that time was brilliant and everyone was lovely but in hindsight I wasn’t ready for it. I had started writing a second book, which got some interest from a now defunct genre publisher but after that I wouldn’t have had anything else to write about. I hadn’t lived enough. I met my husband towards the end of my first year in the scheme and we fell in love. By that time I was knee deep in building a career in human resources, undertaking first a foundation qualification and then, after our son was born (we also have a daughter each), a post graduate qualification. A few years ago, when my son started school and I’d reached a place I wanted to be in HR, I decided it was time to give writing a proper go. As a reader for the RNA Awards, I attended the awards ceremony and got talking to people I’d met when a member previously. I walked out of there thinking, god, I’ve missed this. I’m coming back!

I rejoined the NWS and early in 2010 wrote and entered a non-fiction article on ‘How to Write a Bestseller’ for a competition in The Writer’s Handbook 2010. I was gobsmacked when I got an email to say that although I hadn’t won I was a finalist and my entry had been well received by the judges! That first bit of luck, together with joining ROMNA (RNA’s online cyber chapter) and attending RNA events, really spurred me on, especially getting an Honourable Mention for a short story I’d written and entered in the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. It was anonymously judged by Katie Fforde and I was on my way home from being a day visitor at the RNA Conference in Greenwich when my Aunt (award winning author Sue Moorcroft) called me to tell me and said she had someone who wanted to talk to me and promptly put Katie Fforde on the phone. Katie was lovely and told me I was talented and had to keep writing. I cried most of the way home from London with my husband giving me increasingly concerned looks.

*Takes a deep breath and a gulp of hot chocolate* Phew… so, I set up my blog in October 2010 and kept on entering comps and sending work out and I haven’t really looked back since. If I’d stayed a member of the NWS all those years ago I may have been published by now, but I’m not sure if I would have had staying power. I was too busy raising young children and doing the day job and studying. I obviously still have children (last time I checked they hadn’t vanished from sight) and a hubby and the day job (which I’m very dedicated to) and housework and all the other stuff, but I have better balance now and I make time for writing. I am not giving up and am absolutely, passionately determined to be published one day. Hopefully in the not too distant future. In fact I am in the process of subbing a book to agents at the mo.

Good luck with your submission, Nikki. What is the funniest memory you’ve stored, from an RNA event?

This is going to sound incredibly boring but I can’t really think of any. No slap-stick moments or stupid faux-pas that I’ve made (though I have been tongue-tied around famous authors)…*Takes a contemplative sip of hot chocolate* oops, I think I’ve managed to get cream on my nose *tidies herself up.* I think the most fun I’ve had at an RNA event was at the conference last summer with you lovely Romaniacs (and others) when we had that kitchen party and ended up drinking and singing all night (is there still that video of us singing ‘Dream a Little Dream’ doing the rounds on YouTube…?)

It was a fab Conference. How would you categorise your romance writing?

Ooh, well I’ve kind of got two types of writing. The first is what I’d call romantic comedy or Chick-lit, for example, The Nanny’s Revenge, the first chapter of which was a Top 20 Finalist in last year’s Novelicious Undiscovered competition. They are such fun to write and there is always a love story and of course conflicts between the main characters but there is also some dry wit and funny moments in there too (I’ve been told).

The second is what I’d class as Romantic Fiction or Women’s Fiction dealing with serious issues, as per my current work in progress Random Acts. These tend to have bigger issues at the core of them, feature a wider cast of characters and the writing style or ‘voice’ is more formal. There is always a romance for the main character though. What’s life without a bit of love and sex?

Is there any other genre or sub-genre you would like to write in?

*Gulps down the last of the hot chocolate and curls legs up more comfortably on the sofa* I’d love to try and write a crime thriller / police procedural as I devour them e.g. the Roy Grace series by Peter James, Mo Hayder, Danielle Ramsay, Katia Lief etc But I don’t think I have the background or the desire to do all that research to actually write one!

Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?

Oh, lord. Are you sure there isn’t a bottle of wine tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? Just a nice little Chardonnay? What’s that you say? It’s too early in the day and I must stop talking about wine? Oops, okay then. Qualities of a successful writer? *takes deep breath* Well…

1) Being completely mad? In terms of the ability to immerse yourself in the world you create and the characters that live in it with you and write about that and to not apologise for that. Writing is a lonely business and you have to be willing to spend long periods of time on your own muttering to yourself and getting RSI. Having no shame in pulling out notebooks at odd times to jot things down is good too.

2) Being unbelievably, pig-headedly stubborn and patient = having perseverance! Never giving up no matter what happens. I can’t remember who it was, but I read a long, incredibly inspiring speech a while ago that an American author gave at a conference about never giving up. All sorts of traumas and disappointments had happened to her, but all along her motto was ‘never give up.’ I read it and thought, well bloody hell; I haven’t had half of that stuff happen to me, now I’ve got no excuse. Now my motto is ‘no excuses,’ (when it comes to writing). I send stuff out and if it comes winging back I consider whether I need to change it, based on any feedback I receive. If it feels right to change it I get it done… and then I send it back out again. And then, rinse and repeat!

3) Having the ability and discipline to sit down and gasp, I know, actually write. I sometimes have the hope that my books will write themselves and edit themselves and mysteriously and conveniently appear in a neat pile of papers on my bedside table ready for me to send out to the NWS organiser or agents / publishers. But nope, it’s never happened yet. I have to sit at my laptop or get out my notepad and write the words, regularly and as well as I can.

Please give us a teaser about your work in progress.

Well, I don’t want to give too much away but…

Random Acts is a story about Lizzie, an incredibly sheltered and ‘good’ girl in her mid-twenties, to whom something incredibly traumatic happens. The book follows her journey as she comes to grips with that, goes travelling in search of herself, accompanied by gorgeous, outgoing Will – to do the ‘random acts’ of the title – loses herself (with some pretty outrageous behaviour) and then finds herself again. Ultimately the book is about knowing who you are, and redemption.

The tagline is ‘What would you do?’

If you could choose any setting/place (money no object and all stationery/equipment provided) in which to write your next novel, where would you jet/walk/ride/ off to?

Wow! Ooh, I like this question! I know this one *gazes off dreamily into the distance and sighs*

I’d love to go back to the Maldives (where I went on honeymoon in 2008) and I’d have one of those wooden cabins on the beach with the steps leading down to the sea. It really is paradise on earth; clear blue skies, sparkling waters, glorious warm sunshine. I’d have an ultra-fast laptop with Scrivener on it and I’d get up and have a breakfast of tropical fruit on the beach, and then write for three or four hours. I’d have lunch and go and do something – a trip to Male (the capital island) or snorkelling or a boat trip – something where I could soak up culture or be around live, breathing people rather than ones in my head. Then I’d come back and write for another few hours until dinner, and perhaps a little after dinner too.

I haven’t thought about what my family would be doing have I? LOL. Oh well…

They’ll learn to be self-sufficient, like all writers’ families :-) What are the three most inspiring pieces of advice you’ve received?

1). Keep going no matter what; the only difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is that the latter never stopped trying.

2) To have self-belief. With talent and perseverance amazing things can happen.

3) Read widely, study the market and learn your craft. Basically, know your business!

What makes you laugh?

So much! *throws back head and giggles* See? Random things that (my) kids do and say, friends recounting bizarre stories, my husband’s observations on life, ‘physical’ slapstick comedy, stand up comedians who use irony and visual prompts – I love Russell Howard. Lots of things that probably aren’t supposed to be funny. I have been known to laugh at inappropriate things *looks sheepish* though thankfully never in a meeting with an employee whilst I’m doing the day job. That would NOT be funny.

Quick-Fire Round.

Cake or chocolate? Chocolate, definitely.

Big Bang Theory or Friends? Big Bang Theory, by an edge.

Merlot or Chardonnay? That’s cruel! Chardonnay

Walk or cycle? Walk (preferably along the beach)

Dance or gym? Dance

Younger or older? What? Wine? Men? Both! (Though of course I’m a married woman)

Christmas or New Year? New Year. I love the sense of new possibilities

Nikki – thank you so much for dropping by for a chat, and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Might be best to bring a bottle next time. Just saying.

I’ll make a note of that now!

We wish you lots of luck and good will with your writing, and hope you will join us at our next kitchen party, when we will guarantee the cupboard will be fully stocked.

Thanks so much for letting me visit, it’s been lovely to chat. I look forward to our next get-together and good luck to all of you with your writing too *gets up to leave but tidies the sofa up first, puts away the Hobnobs and rinses her mug out* Take Care!

You can follow Nikki on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/nikki.goodman.35

Twitter @nikkigoodman1

And on her blog – Writing, Work and Wine at http://nikkigoodman.wordpress.com/