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!

 

 

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

YESTERDAY cover jpeg

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/

Roving Romaniacs – 6 Go To London

We’re getting about lately, the other week it was the Festival of Romance and last week, en masse, six of us attended the RNA Winter Party.  As always, lovely to meet up with each other at a Kensington hotel which is rapidly becoming our London HQ. The only downside was that our lovely Jan and Catherine weren’t able to make it this time.  

It was great to see so many people at the Winter Party but, as is usual at these events, never enough time to speak to everyone. We also realised that we need to get the camera out a bit more – so, watch out at the next RNA event, we’ll be snapping away and trying to get as many of you as possible for our blog post. 

Six of The Romaniacs, RNA Winter Party 13

Six of The Romaniacs, RNA Winter Party 13

lizzie lamb

Lizzie Lamb

Brigid Coady

Brigid Coady

 

RNA winter 13

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Debbie, Celia, Laura and Vanessa

Debbie, Celia, Laura and Vanessa

harrods

Beautiful

Putting on The Ritz

Putting on The Ritz

A blustery walk to the tube

A blustery walk to the tube

 

Thank you to Jan Jones and everyone at the RNA for a lovely evening.

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

Wannabe A Writer TV Show Title Card

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

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

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

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

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

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 As part of this series, Jane takes an unpublished writer and introduces them to a top literary agent who reads their first three chapters and gives feedback.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 In the first episode, Delphine (the unpublished writer) is introduced to Carole Blake, of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, and Carole offers some extremely important advice about Delphine’s manuscript.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

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

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

Jane and Delphine

Jane and Delphine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucie xx

Having A Ball – Rhoda Baxter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucie x

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

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

    

Going Gaga for Nell Dixon’s new book!

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

And here is the blurb that grabbed my attention:

Over the airwaves everyone can hear you scream!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did your love of architecture begin?

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

What is your favourite time in history?

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

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

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

Quick Fire Round:

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

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

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

·         Up or down? Up – down is depressing.

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

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

·         Left or right-handed? Right

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

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

 

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

Thank you for having me :)

 

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

Lucie x

Notebook Confessional

This is a confession of infidelity.

notebooksI have two shelves full of notebooks – and none of them are full. Some of them are completely empty. Yet I can’t walk past a stationery shop without looking for more … always seeking the elusive perfect notebook; The One that will end up containing the perfect stories, as if the notebook itself can produce words.

Each time I buy one, I think this is The One, the one I’ll love forever, the one I’ll keep writing in until the bitter end… but something always goes wrong. We fall out of love and before I know it, I’m back in Paperchase, flirting with a shiny new one.

It’s always been a problem – in school, I’d start every term in love with my beautiful exercise books, all covered in wrapping paper, or carefully decorated with cuttings from magazines … then someone would sit next to me with their books covered in something prettier, sparklier and mine would look dull in comparison, and I’d spend the rest of the term coveting the books next to me.

This year, I’m trying to stay faithful to one notebook at a time – well, maybe two; one small one for small bags and a bigger one for big bags. And maybe one for my desk at work and one for my desk at home. I wouldn’t want to get caught short when THE idea strikes, would I?

Now it’s time for my other Romaniacs to ‘fess up – are you one notebook women, faithful to the end? Or are you spending half your income each week on lovely notebooks and pens and paper and folders and more notebooks and… mmmm….

Vanessa x

NotebooksLaura: I have a secret stash. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours. Need a quick fix? Whatever colour, whatever size you want, I’ve got it. Clean, fresh, virginal pages, lying between exotic covers, waiting to be inked on. I have several on the go at once, but all for different reasons. I fill them to my satisfaction, home them, and then delight in the thrill of starting something new.

Celia: I was going to say that I’m not much of a one for notebooks but then I looked in my desk drawers! The one I use most is the fabulous big gold and dark green one that lives on a shelf right next to the desk. It was a present from my daughters, and last May I started writing down competition entries or anything writing-related that I was doing or had achieved. It’s such a pleasure writing in this book  with my Christmas pen – thick cream pages, decorated edges and clasps to keep it shut. The smaller green and gold one is my diet diary and it doesn’t have much in it. Sadly, this is not because I don’t eat much but because I’m  usually too busy eating and drinking to write in it. 

Catherine: I’ve never really had to buy notebooks because since I was young my family and friends have brought them for me. My problem lies with not being able to get rid of any of them. When you’ve spent your life jotting in notepads, when you look through them you think there’s gold in that there notepad. And that one. And that one. Shame I’ve never found time to go through them all. 

notebook[Stands up and takes deep breath] Hello, my name is Sue and I’m a notebook junky – [smiles at the nods, hellos and encouraging clapping from others in the group] I’ve been addicted to notebooks for many, many years. I can’t get enough of them. Any shape, size, colour, I love them all. Sometimes, I go into stationery shops to admire them, to stroke them, to hold them in my hands, to flick through the untouched virgin paper, to breathe in the smell of newness. The urge to claim it as mine and hand over the last pennies in my purse can be overwhelming. Oh God, just talking about it and words like Paperchase, WH Smith, Waterstones race through my mind. [rushes out of meeting to stroke current favourite]

 Jan: I confess I’d be sitting right beside Sue at that ‘notebook junky’ group. Mr B often tuts and rolls his eyes when I veer off to purr at the stationery when out shopping. I dread to think how many notebooks share our flat with us; big ones, tiny ones, bright ones, patterned ones, you name it… If we Romaniacs lined them all up side by side, I reckon we could fill the floor here at HQ.  Our very own notebook carpet. There’s a thought…

Debbie: I give up with notepads. Like the others, I have piles of them but interestingly the only ones I use are of the ‘value’ or ‘homebrand’ variety. Following an Arvon writing course I did invest in a couple of moleskin ones which come out if I’m attending a writing course or any RNA events but otherwise, the trouble I seem to have with notebooks is that most of them are gifted ones and far too beautiful to write in!

About five years ago, a friend gave me a beautiful silk notebook. The cover is a rich, reddish-brown, almost the colour of polished copper, with a ‘framed’ panel of sinuous, vertical meandering flowers and acanthus leaves embossed in the middle of the front outer cover. And for the five years since acquiring it, it has lived on top of my piano alongside my metronome. It stays there, gathering dust, each parchment page as virginal and empty as when it was hand bound.  It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend, that I realised why…

Apparently, her sister has a gift for writing poetry and in an attempt to encourage and inspire ‘F’ bought her a luxurious notebook for her ideas and notes. After a few weeks, she discovered her sister hadn’t used it and when asked, her sister told her it was because it was “too lovely to write in…” Following lengthy discussions with her sibling and others, F concluded that her sister didn’t feel she was ‘worthy’ of the notebook. It was as if somehow, it was ‘too good’ and too beautiful for her to write in; that her writing did not measure up to the paper.

I smiled at my friends conclusion. It struck a chord. Perhaps it’s a trait of the ‘wannabe’ writer who hasn’t quite made it that I feel ‘unworthy?’ but I could see some truth in her words. And I still struggle to ruin a perfect blank page or beautiful silk cover with my scribbled musings. So for now my collection of notebooks sit forlornly in my study and look beautiful, gathering dust, until one day…

Lucie: I think it comes with the job! I don’t think any writer would be without at least one trusty notebook – or several hundred in Sue’s case :-) – to jot down their musings. I have a few notebooks. Mainly I have a purple one that goes in my bag for when I am out and about, one on my desk which isn’t as pretty and a few stored in my desk that are all half written in. I don’t think I’ve ever filled a notebook. I’ve always been teased away by another before getting quite to the end. I do find it hard to go into places like WHSmith, Paperchase and Staples and not be drawn straight to the stationery section. 

Come to think of it, I think I’m due a new one…..

Tuesday Chit Chat with Henri Gyland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Fire round:

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

What would you put in room 101? Spiders.

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

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

Birthday or Christmas? Birthdays are less stressful.

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

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

Early Bird or Night Owl? Somewhere in between.

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

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

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

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

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

Well done, Henri :-)

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

Lucie x

What’s in a name?

Finding a name for your book is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you find naming characters and thinking up titles?

Lucie x

Research – Some love it, some hate it

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

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

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

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

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

Bakery drawing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Lucie x

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