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

 

Deadline Dramas

I think I need more practice at meeting deadlines and less children to look after at the same time. This is how handing in my RNA NWS report went this year:

Argh! It’s August! What the frig happened to the rest of 2014?

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Okay, don’t panic, you managed to send one chapter in last year when the twins were eight-weeks-old, this year will be a breeze.

Frantic read through and tidy up of the extra 30,000 words you’ve added. Not bad, not great, but will be good to get some feedback so prep to send a partial.

Ah. The printer isn’t set up at home. Smile sweetly at husband.

Printer is set up. Go, go, go!

 

 

 

 

 

Stop! This is so NOT what they mean by a partial!

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PANIC! Why did you leave this til now to sort out? Switch to plan B = Print at local library. Sort everything out whilst they nap then head there after lunch.

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Babies: Why would you choose to not nap today! (Teething I worked out later. Three new teeth cut between them!)

Drink/Snack/Calpol = now we’ll sleep, mummy!

Yeah! *Runs around house gathering sticky labels, envelopes, pens, the magic green form*

Whilst in panic mode you share with twitter your woes and that @SotonLibrary is your only hope. @SotonLibrary tweets back saying they are ready! (Yay, social media!)

Aim to get to library at 2 when it opens. Arrive half an hour later than hoped after lunch (not the relaxing kind, the kind where two cuties lob at least 50% of theirs on the floor) and delightful double nappy change.

The printer works! The staff entertain the babies. We might actually DO THIS!

Rush to post office and IT’S SENT WITH A DAY TO SPARE!

And collapse.

By jove, I don’t know how writers with real deadlines (not involving partials) manage. I suspect it may involve some of the Romaniac staples. Cake, chocolate, and alcohol. Am I right?

 

 

Let Them Eat Cake …

Let them eat cake….

(And we’ll have some too!)

JWJ spotlight hi rez

Jane Wenham-Jones, author of the revolutionary new eating plan 100 Ways to Fight the Flab – and still have wine and chocolate, explains why every successful diet still involves a slice of what you fancy…

No Cake for YOU….

If I told you that you could never have cake again, what would you immediately fancy? Yep, a great big lump of Victoria sponge, or a rich moist coffee and walnut gateau, or a gloriously chocolatey brownie, or perhaps a fresh cream éclair…(insert your own weakness).  You may not even like cake (you strange creature) but if your downfall is crisps (as mine is), pizza, or fresh crusty bread with lots of butter, and I suddenly tell you that if you want to lose weight, it has got to go – ? Well, you get my drift…

There are two big reasons why all diets/eating plans/changes of lifestyle (a lot of books like to avoid the word “diet” to try to pretend you can still eat things you like) eventually fail. And that is, that unless you have a will of iron and a very high tolerance to emotional and physical discomfort (in which case you are probably already as thin as a rake and will already have stopped reading this and be necking down the cake anyway) they all involve feeling either hungry or deprived or both. It is no wonder that nobody sticks to a diet for long and the overweight have a whole shelf load of books promising dramatic weight loss, have tried them all, and are still waddling round the house with a doughnut in each hand. Because it is pretty dispiriting for anyone to face a future in which there is a stark choice between waving goodbye to the notion of cake for the next twenty years or getting your jeans up past your knees.

And if you are a writer, and have already experienced the problem of Writer’s Bottom ( a phrase I take full credit for coining, in my 2007 book Wannabe a Writer? ), you may already be struggling with the zip. But if you can get round those twin problems of hunger and feeling that you’re missing out, you can be the weight you want for ever. And you’ll find it much easier to cope with either one of them, if you do have to, if you know that feeling will be short-lived. Weight loss is a question of attitude as much as what you put in your mouth – a case, if you like, of mind over large quantities of matter.

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So – you want cake? You have cake…. And you don’t put on weight afterwards: Here’s how.

1. Call it Lunch. I recently did just that. A friend had given me a huge slice of homemade mocha cake and it was just what I felt like. So I munched the lot. And did I feel guilty or concerned? I did not. Because  it is all about balance. The carbs were consumed early so there was loads of time to burn them off. In the afternoon I played tennis (I lost). I had grilled halloumi, with tomatoes, basil, and a huge crunchy salad for dinner (low carb), a few peanuts with my wine, instead of crisps (protein!), and a bit more dark chocolate (it just sort of rounded things off) and then, as I do when I have any inkling that the podge might be settling in, I went for a longer walk round the block before I hit the sack.

The net result was? My weight dropped slightly. I’d had: wine, chocolate, cake, bread, cheese, and nibbles. As well as essential vitamins and minerals, some green stuff, and tomatoes.

What’s not to like?

2. Eat Carrot cake and call it one of your five a day. Eat a carrot too. There is a theory that if you lived all day on carrots and champagne, you would get all the nutrients you need. This may be true (tho probably isn’t). All I know is that I would talk too much, think I could sing, and then fall over.

3. Eat a chilli pepper nextThe hotter the better. Chillies (http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/hot-tip-no-1-a-chilli-a-day-keeps-a-lard-arse-at-bay/ )raise the metabolism and the more fiery they are, the greater the effect. Experts estimate that one can expect a 15% increase in calories burned for about two hours after eating a hot chilli sauce. (If you can face cake with chilli sauce – you’re laughing!)

4. Count its calories. If it’s shop-bought cake, it will say on the packet, if you’ve made it yourself you can do the maths, if it comes from that darling little shop you can’t resist, you can probably look up approx values on the internet. Then simply adjust round it. If you bought a cake at 2,450 calories, ate a slice every day for a week, plus 1200 calories of other foodstuffs spread over three meals – including fruit and veg – you would be perfectly healthy and lose weight. (Alternatively you could eat half the cake in one sitting, eat nothing else all day and take a vitamin pill.)

5. Enjoy it! Happy people look gorgeous whatever their shape, and skip through life with an extra zing. This in turn releases endorphins, raises the metabolism and helps burn the calories. So have your cake and eat it and if you do overdo things (a slice is fine, the entire eight inch sponge probably isn’t), some extra exercise and plenty of protein and veg will put things right tomorrow… Bon appétit!

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For more creative thinking on how to eat the things you like and still only need one airline seat, see http://100waystofighttheflab.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/express-newspaper-features-100-ways/ or bite the (fat-free) bullet and got straight to

http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ways-Fight-Flab-Chocolate/dp/1909520926/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for a fab, flab-fighting post, Jane.

 

 

 

 

Book Launch – The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

Today we wish bestselling author Lisa Jewell a “Happy Publication Day” in celebration of her latest novel: ‘The Third Wife’ 

LJ

 

In the early hours of an April morning, Maya stumbles into the path of an oncoming bus.

A tragic accident? Or suicide? Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love. She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long, Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.

Because everyone has secrets.

And secrets have consequences.

Some of which can be devastating… 

 

LJ Press

3 July 2014 – Published by Century

The unforgettable new novel from the Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling author

 

Lisa Jewell had always planned to write her first book when she was fifty. In fact, she wrote it when she was twenty-seven and had just been made redundant from her job as a secretary. Inspired by Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, a book about young people just like her who lived in London, she wrote the first three chapters of what was to become her first novel, Ralph’s Party. It went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 1998. Ten bestselling novels later, she lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Lisa writes every day in a local cafe where she can drink coffee, people-watch, and, without access to the internet, actually get some work done.

Get to know Lisa by joining the official facebook page at www.facebook.com/LisaJewellOfficial

or by following her on Twitter @lisajewelluk.

And visit her website at www.lisa-jewell.co.uk

For more information please contact

Najma Finlay Cornerstone Publicity 020 7840 8614 nfinlay@randomhouse.co.uk @najmafinlay

 

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!

 

 

Janey Fraser and the Salsa Class

JANEY FRASER PICTURE

THE SALSA CLASS

One, two, three. Five, six, seven. Back, forward, back. And RUMBA.’

As every writer knows, most stories fall into your head because of a chance happening or a snatched conversation or – in this case – a Salsa class. Of course, Salsa has been around for a while. At least, for everyone else. But when I signed up for a four week class (to shift newish husband off the sofa), I soon discovered that I was treading on novel territory.

For a start, it was difficult to see exactly who was partnered to whom, in real life. ‘Come on your own or with a friend,’ the poster had said. But because there were more women than men, the enthusiastic leader with legs long enough for lamp posts and a natty little scarf round her waist, got us to Salsa in turn with the limited male reservoir. Those in between stints, did the Salsa solo.

That’s when I began to wonder. Was the grey-haired woman (who had clearly done this before) married to the grey-haired man (who clearly hadn’t?) And had the pretty, tall blonde woman arrived with the aging hippy (if so, I’d missed their entrance. Or had they become close, judging from those hand movements, since the class started?

It was a wonderful exercise in character observation; made even more poignant by the fact that we were next door to a beautiful row of Regency terraces where Jane Austen – arguably, the queen of social minutiae – hung out one summer.

By the second class, newish husband had claimed to hurt his back while lugging carpets around for my daughter. Any excuse. If that sounds unfeeling, it’s because he wasn’t keen on Salsa in the first place. ‘I’ll still come with you,’ he said manfully. ‘Then I’ll know what we’re doing next time.’

Hah! In the event, he spent most of the time, reading Rock Sound and chatting to the barman. Still, it was quite useful because it gave me a chance to remember what it was like on my own. Perfect for novel research.

So too, was the experience of dancing with other men. There’s something distinctly queasy about holding a limp hand in the Salsa position, which involves hanging on to your opponent’s two middle fingers. It’s not so bad if your partner knows what he’s doing but I managed to get quite a few knee-knockers. I tell you. It was all I could do not to stop and write it all down, there and then.

Then there was the female gossip during the wine break. One of my new friends with children at university and no wedding ring, confided how she’d just moved down here and didn’t know anyone. Instantly, I scrolled down my contact list on my iPhone and put her in touch with the tennis club secretary. At the same time, I couldn’t help thinking that she’d be a great contemporary heroine. Courageous yet shy. And a business woman to boot. Life is full of contradictions.

By the way, did I mention the music? It was enough to get anyone’s feet moving, except for my husband’s. Meanwhile, the music, together with smell (maybe we’d better not go there) plus colour (one of the ‘girls’ was wearing a great pair of red shoes) really set the scene. More observations to remember.

I’m not necessarily going to write a novel about a Salsa class, although I haven’t ruled it out. The point is that it helps to answer that inevitable question which all writers are asked from time to time. ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Easy! It’s places like these… As soon as I got home that night, I scribbled everything down. Some of the characteristics I noticed during class, will fit neatly into my work in progress. After all, emotions and people are transferable in fiction. And that’s the beauty of it.

By the way, if you’re wondering about who was married to who, it turned out that the grey couple wasn’t a couple at all, even though they looked as though they slotted together. And the pretty blonde woman WAS with the aging hippy. Meanwhile, please excuse me. I’m off to find some Deep Heat for the husband. Turns out that he really has put his back out – after falling over my Salsa shoes by the front door.

Janey Fraser Honeymoon

 

AFTER THE HONEYMOON BY JANEY FRASER. PUBLISHED BY ARROW (RANDOM HOUSE). £6.99

ONE HONEYMOON DESTINATION. THREE COUPLES. ENOUGH SECRETS TO SINK THEM BEFORE THE WEEK IS OUT….

http://www.amazon.co.uk/After-Honeymoon-Janey-Fraser/dp/0099580845/ 

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/