The Penny Bangle Interviews – Lucie interviews Margaret

When should you trust your heart?

It’s 1942 when Cassie Taylor reluctantly leaves Birmingham to become a land girl on a farm in Dorset. There she meets Robert and Stephen Denham, twins recovering from injuries sustained at Dunkirk. Cassie is instantly drawn to Stephen, but is wary of the more complex Robert – who doesn’t seem to like Cassie one little bit.

At first, Robert wants to sack the inexperienced city girl. But Cassie soon learns, and Robert comes to admire her courage, finding himself deeply attracted to Cassie. Just as their romance blossoms, he’s called back into active service. Anxious to have adventures herself, Cassie joins the ATS. In Egypt, she meets up with Robert, and they become engaged.

However, war separates them again as Robert is sent to Italy and Cassie back to the UK. Robert is reported missing, presumed dead. Stephen wants to take Robert’s place in Cassie’s heart. But will Cassie stay true to the memory of her first love, and will Robert come home again?


I was very excited to be asked by ChocLit to take part in The Penny Bangle Interviews, where over the course of three separate days, Margaret’s hero and heroine, Robert and Cassie, along with herself are to be interviewed. You can read Robert’s interview over here and Cassie’s, here. I am very honored to have the lovely Margaret with me on The Romaniacs blog today for her interview. She will be over on the ChocLit Author Blog on Monday 7th May – Publication Day!

1/ The Penny Bangle is a reworking of a previous novel. How did it feel rewriting it? Was it a complete rewrite or just a tweak? 

It was a complete rewrite, taking into account the comments from the panel of readers who assess all the novels which are submitted to Choc Lit. The story is basically the same – it’s about a working class girl from a big city who is sent to work on a farm during WW2 and at first finds it very difficult to fit in – but there are 20,000 more words in this version, and lots of new scenes which hopefully make the story more rounded and interesting.

 2/ Did you feel that Robert was more of a complete character now that his voice is heard with his own POV?

 I enjoyed writing more of the story from Robert’s point of view because it gave me a chance to get to know him better and to empathise with him. When I wrote the original version of novel I saw him mainly from Cassie’s point of view, and he’s now more sympathetic. He’s still aggressive and confident, and he’s still determined to be in charge, but he reveals the softer, more vulnerable side of his character, too.

 3/ The Penny Bangle is the last in the trilogy, following The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain. What are you working on next?

 I’ve started a new family saga, this time set in Devon. It’s about a girl from South Wales who has to leave Cardiff because her father has upset a local villain there. Angharad (Annie) Cooper and her little family learn to adapt to Devon ways, but the bad guys are determined to catch up with them.

Daniel, the already damaged hero, isn’t best pleased to have this new complication – a destitute Welsh family – in his difficult life. There’s the little matter of Annie’s Welsh boyfriend having his own reasons to track down Annie and her family, too.

 4/ Did you know from the offset that there would always be three separate, but still interlinked, stories to tell?

 I wrote The Silver Locket, which was originally called The Morning Promise, as a stand-alone novel, but I also seeded it with future conflicts, such as the paternity of the child Daisy and the repercussions of Rose’s marriage to Alex.

 5/ Some people who write trilogies and series, say that the later books came to them first. Were your books written in the order they were released; The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain and then The Penny Bangle?

They were written in chronological order. I didn’t know what would happen in the next book until I had finished the one I was working on at the time. I knew I wanted Rose to get her house back – she loses both her home and her inheritance in The Silver Locket – but until I was half way through The Penny Bangle I didn’t know how this would happen.

 6/ What research went into writing these books? Do you enjoy the researching stages of writing?

I love research and I tend to do far more than is strictly necessary. Google is totally addictive, as are the many non-fiction accounts of real people’s lives which I can’t resist buying. My mother is my principal source of what happened to ordinary people during WW2. Mum is very happy to tell me what went on away from the heroics and aggression of the actual battle situations. Mum is the same age as Cassie, the heroine of The Penny Bangle, and Cassie does some (although by no means all) of the things my own mother did.

 7/ Do you have a writing routine or do you just write when the inspiration hits? Are there specific things you do to keep the creative side flowing?

 If I waited for inspiration to strike, I’d probably wait forever! I find writing a first draft of anything very hard work, and there are plenty of times when I sit there glued to my office chair, determined not to leave my desk until I have at least 500 good words written that day, even if I know I’ll have to delete most of them the next day.

If things are getting sticky at any point, I sometimes race ahead of myself and plan a scene I’ve been looking forward to writing. Or I go out for a walk and tell myself I can’t go home until I’ve sorted out a specific plot point. Or I ring up a friend who is also a writer and I have a therapeutic grumble. I have two or three very good writing friends who are always available for mutual moaning! Or I write something else entirely – a magazine article, an author profile or a short story. Or I catch up with my accounts, which is so boring I am soon climbing the walls, and am dying to get back to my novel.

 8/ A number of students that you have tutored have gone on to become published novelists – you must be very proud. What is the best thing about being a tutor?

It’s definitely seeing students who are bright and committed and have wonderful imaginations learning the technical stuff, and then applying what they’ve learned inventively and appropriately.

It’s all very well to go with the flow and to write from the heart, which of course all writers should. If we don’t write from the heart, we might as well not bother to write at all. But, if a writer doesn’t learn the technical stuff, and doesn’t know how to put a story together, he or she will end up with a pile of bricks, not a house.

 9/ Writing, reading, tutoring, teaching, judging…you do so many different things. Do you have a favourite?

 When it’s going well, I love writing fiction. But I’m also glad I have other writing-related things in my life, because everything I do seems to feed into everything else. My students make me think about my own writing. My magazine work gives me the chance to talk to dozens of other writers who are happy to share hints and tips with my readers – and with me!

A few days ago, I was talking to a student who is writing about a totally off-the-wall character, a romantic hero who really isn’t right for her supposedly romantic novel. In fact, I doubt if even his own mother could love him! She sent me an email saying she was completely stuck, and what could I suggest? She said she didn’t want to write about a stereotypical hero, so her hero was not going to be tall and dark and handsome and clever and brave. She was going to make him short and bald and physically challenged, he was not going to be particularly smart, he was going to have human faults and frailties, and nothing I could say would change her mind.

So I had to think hard about that one, and eventually I realised that working with stereotypes can actually be useful. They’re a starting point. You take your stereotype, and then you work on him so that he develops some idiosyncrasies of his own. So then, you reader is beguiled and delighted by a new hero, but this reader also recognises him because he does and is what a romantic (or whatever) hero should do and be.

10/ Who is your ideal hero?

 Let’s think about heroic qualities first. My ideal hero has to be clever (not necessarily in an academic sense), courageous (there are many kinds of courage) and physically attractive (even if it’s not in a conventional way. Okay, he is getting old, his face has been bashed around a bit, and his clothes look as if they came out of a skip. But, if he has charm and he can make the heroine love him, I’ll love him, too).

My current ideal hero is Will Traynor in Jojo Moyes’s bestselling Me Before You. Will’s certainly not a stereotypical hero. He’s quadriplegic, for a start, and he’s very bitter and angry about the cards he’s been dealt by fate. While I was reading the early chapters of this novel, I could feel his aggression literally burning off the page. But Will is also clever, funny, kind, generous, thoughtful, imaginative, hilariously sarcastic, good-looking (okay, I’m shallow) and – above all – incredibly brave. He’ll stay with me for a long time because he changed my life. I finished reading the book more than a month ago, but I still dream about him (and the equally charismatic heroine of this novel, Louisa Clark) almost every night. I don’t want to let them go.


The Penny Bangle is the last book in the trilogy. Click on the books below to purchase The Silver Locket and The Golden Chain and to pre-order The Penny Bangle.



Those lovely people over at ChocLit are giving away a large Victorian chocolate penny coin for one lucky winner. All you have to do is simply comment on this interview. All those who comment will be automatically entered into the hat (very technical) to be in with a chance to win that chocolate penny. Did I mention it was large? And chocolate? And all you have to do is comment?

Well, what are you waiting for? 🙂

The Jodi Picoult Blog

Howling Like The Wolf

This post is being run by The Romaniacs and Laura E. James

The Jodi Picoult Blog 

American author, Jodi Picoult, is rated within my top three favourite authors. She is unafraid to tackle subjects others might consider taboo, she writes from multi-viewpoint perspectives and she is an intelligent and entertaining lady.

When the day comes and I’m asked ‘Upon which shelf in the book shop would you place your novel?’ my reply will be, ‘Not next to, but somewhere in the region of Jodi Picoult.’

I do not purport to be an expert writer and I certainly do not possess the same flair or delve the same depths as Ms Picoult, but I recently realised to what extent my writing has been influenced by books such as My Sister’s Keeper and Second Glance.

In March, a friend and I drove to Axminster, an hour from Weymouth, for an evening with Jodi Picoult (pronounced Pico). I was beside myself with excitement. I could not believe an internationally acclaimed author would visit the beautiful, but small Devon town. The reason became clear as Ms Picoult explained the research for her current book, Lone Wolf, took place in Combe Martin, North Devon, at The Wolf Centre.

Having listened to a fascinating extract from the book, we were educated with great enthusiasm and knowledge about the workings of a wolf pack. Ms Picoult had clearly spent time with Shaun Ellis at The Wolf Centre and absorbed all his expert information. Her delivery was exciting, humorous and informative. Her grasp of the subject and her ability to impart it to the audience showed the extent to which she is prepared to go in order to write a gripping and accurate story.

This is why her books sell. I believe there are no half measures when it comes to Ms Picoult, an impression that will stay with me and one to which I will adhere when it comes to research and writing my novels.

At an hour in, three volunteers were requested. I am no stranger to being centre stage through my singing exploits, but I hesitated, much to my friend’s surprise. 

‘This is your time,’ she whispered. I was unsure. Then Ms Picoult added, ‘Perhaps someone who sings?’ 

‘Put your hand up,’ my friend instructed, and as if conditioned to stimuli like a Pavlovian puppy, I raised my hand. 

The next time I looked at my friend, it was from the stage. I was a Numbers wolf, the young lady to my immediate left, Alex, was a Beta wolf and next to Ms Picoult was Sarah, the Alpha wolf. 

The Alpha wolf, we were told, howls, waits for a response, then howls again. Ms Picoult demonstrated. The Beta wolf waits for the Alpha wolf to howl, then joins in, but maintains a howl four times as long as the Alpha wolf. Again, this was ably and tunefully demonstrated by our guest speaker.

The Numbers wolf yelps.

Yes. My job was to sound like a puppy whose tail had been trodden on.

The Numbers wolves make as much noise as possible to create the impression the pack is larger than it actually is. Give Ms Picoult credit; she led the way and yelped.

I yelped.

Turns out, I’d make an excellent Numbers wolf.

If I don’t cut it as a writer, I have a back-up.

Here is the video evidence. Since this was spur of the moment and we didn’t have access to high tech cameras, my friend recorded the following on her mobile phone. The visual clarity isn’t the best, but you can hear me yelp. And it is a great personal reminder of a brilliant evening. Please right click on the following link and open in another window. Jodi Picoult and guests, howling like wolves. 

We were each presented with a beautiful, soft toy wolf, which now sits on my desk. My son calls him Suma, (the wolf, not my desk), which is the name on the label in his ear. (The wolf’s, not my son’s. His label says something completely different.) Suma is the name of the toy collection, but I like that my son named our wolf.

Soon after this excitement, the evening drew to a close, an orderly line was formed and we waited to have our books signed.

That was when the carnage began.

At my request, my friend and I waited until the queue had depleted and popped ourselves at the end. I had bought two books for signing – one for me and one to give away as a prize. My friend, Debbie G, was looking after that copy. 

As we approached the desk, Debbie leading, Ms Picoult’s colleague, standing beside her, suddenly exclaimed ‘Oh! I didn’t catch your name!’ 

My friend appeared a little surprised, but handed over the book for signing and before I could say anything, she replied ‘Debbie.’ 

I swear, the next part happened in slow motion. 

I could see Ms Picoult forming the D and the E in the book – the book I wanted to give away as a prize; the book that couldn’t have anyone else’s name in except Jodi Picoult’s. I stepped from behind my friend and said, ‘I was hoping I could just have your autograph on that copy.’ 

A bewildered international best selling author looked at me. ‘But I’ve already written D,E.’ Her eyebrows furrowed, ploughed and knitted. 

‘Perhaps you could write DEAR.’ I said.

‘Dear who?’ 

‘Dear Laura.’

‘Who’s Laura?’ 

‘I am.’ 

Debbie moved in, realising Ms Picoult had no idea what was going on or why I was hijacking the signing of the book of the woman in front of me. ‘This is Laura. My friend,’ she said, easing the situation. 

Compliant, charming and with extreme patience, Ms Picoult signed the book and returned it to Debbie. It read: Dear Laura. All best, Jodi Picoult.

I handed over my copy.

This is the copy that has Jodi Picoult’s signature in it and nobody else’s name. Mission accomplished. Most parties unscathed.

Since we had come this far, and we hadn’t been forcibly ejected from the building, I decided to pass over a letter, which I had prepared earlier, with some questions in it, hoping Ms Picoult would answer them at some point in the future.

It was probably a naïve and foolish thing to do.

It was a naïve and foolish thing to do, but Ms Picoult and her associate were lovely and said they would see what they could do.

Ms Picoult then thanked me for being her Numbers wolf.

I thanked her for a fun evening.

I suppose I stand a fair chance of being remembered – for all the wrong reasons, I grant you, but remembered all the same.

There is so much more I could write about that event, but the howling is enough for now. If you ever get the chance to attend an evening with Jodi Picoult, I urge you to take it. She is charming, friendly, confident and articulate. We were party to a master class in public speaking and positive self-promotion.

Lovely lady, brilliant story-teller, fierce mother. Much respect, Ms Picoult.

I would be honoured if my books one day occupied the same store as yours.

So, to the competition: To be in with the chance of winning a signed, hardback copy of Lone Wolf, we at the Romaniacs HQ would like to know which Jodi Picoult book is your favourite and why?

Due to the size and weight of the book, we are able to open the competition to UK entries only.

The winner will be chosen by The Romaniacs and the winning entry will be published on

Please send your entries to by Star Wars Day – May the 4th (next Friday.)

Good luck.

Laura x

Calorific Confessions

Knowing how hard it can be to pin down the muse, the Romaniacs have put together a fact file – or possibly a fat file – of scrummy snacks that drive us through our writing day. This wasn’t an easy task, and I thought there were going to be tears before bedtime because I have to say that we Romaniacs do love to eat, but I’ve finally managed to pin them down to a short list of their favourite writing stimulants (all completely legal and non-prescription, fortunately.) Warning – please don’t try this at home. If you work your way through this lot, I can’t answer for the consequences.

Catherine starts us off on this eating roller coaster with her choices:

The list is endless. There are so many things that get me through and at the moment it seems to be hula-hoops and bananas. One thing I have to avoid buying is Battenburg cake, but only because I’ll eat the whole thing. There are also some almond slices that my local shop sell – in packs of eight. I’m lucky if they last two days. In fact, I can’t remember what their exact name is (slice/cake?) May have to buy some to double check…

Lucie’s list is short and sweet, much like herself:

With regards to what I like to snack on whilst I write, the list normally consists of the following:

• Southern fried chicken bites
• Cocktail Sausages
• Grapes
• Biscuits

I hasten to add, not all at the same time. I vary my days with a mixture of these. Not the healthiest snacks, I know, but good!

Debbie has a very sweet tooth in a writing crisis:

Funny, I hadn’t thought of this before but when I’m writing I regularly snack on bread and golden syrup or bread and jam or banana sandwiches or banana and syrup/jam sandwiches. In fact I hardly ever have a normal sandwich – it’s always something sweet and sickly, but that’s ONLY when I’m writing. I’m finding that copious cups of green tea are far better than gallons of red wine, health wise!

Sue’s choices are slightly healthier, thank goodness:

When I’m writing I tend to have brown bread, toasted with sliced banana on top – yummy! Like to think it’s a health/brain food option. I drink far too much tea.
I don’t do reward eating, I just eat when I want to, but if I did reward myself it would be with a vanilla slice either cream or custard filling, I’m not fussy.

Laura’s a little bit more restrained in her snack attacks:

I don’t always snack when I’m writing, but I have been known to have a few Minstrels, melon or a bowl of cereal. A cup of cappuccino hits the spot too.

Vanessa’s trying not to lose the dieting plot:

I’ve been risking my diet with thoughts of favourite writing snacks and decided my favourite was Giant Chocolate Buttons – a big bag of course. Easy to eat while still typing. I also like sweet popcorn, freshly done in the microwave, but that’s messier and ends up everywhere!
On healthier days, I sit at the laptop with a big punnet of grapes next to me. Yum.

Jan’s food fix is as follows (try to say that six times after the red wine booster):

If feeling virtuous and my words/scenes are flowing well, I can munch my way through all manner of grapes/raw carrot sticks, nuts & raisins. If the prose ain’t playing the game, however, it’s chocolate all the way for me, faves include choccie buttons/Maltesers/Minstrels which because they are individually small, somehow justifies me feasting on them. Although I have been known to demolish the odd family-sized slab of Cadbury’s too. Purely for inspiration purposes, of course.

Liz is our poorly Romaniac at the moment, so I’m guessing she’s nibbling on a freshly peeled orange with a lem-sip chaser. Get well wishes from all of us, Lovely Liz – we miss you!

And as for me (Celia), my big weakness is Walkers Ready Salted crisps – I eat the low-fat version to make me feel virtuous, but as I often follow them with cake and wine, the effect of the reduced calories is somewhat lost. I try to throw in (rather than up) the odd bowl of fresh fruit as ballast but the juice plays havoc with the laptop keys when I forget the spoon.

So come on, fellow scribblers – what snacks inspire you to write a best-selling, page-turning, bodice-ripping epic?

The Romaniacs are looking forward to reading your confessions…

The Write Stuff.

 I love Writing.

It holds purpose. It provides direction and without it, I am lost.

Through words I can express emotions, tell stories and reveal a little of myself.

 I love Writing.

It is a major part of my life, trumped by family and friends only, but like many relationships, there are occasions when we fall out, fail to connect, or are ripped apart against our will.

I love Writing.

Following a recent personal loss, Writing and I hit a rocky patch. We fell out. Despite the whirlwind of words spiralling around my head, I had no desire to set them free. It shocked me to realise I wanted to internalise my thoughts and emotions.

Writing and I ignored each other. The notebooks remained cast aside, untouched and unloved. I couldn’t look at them.

I was too sad.

So what convinced me to give Writing another go? Who made me realise some relationships are meant to be? What persuaded me to ease out the BIG chair, pick up the purple pen and settle down? It was the gentle encouragement and the unswerving support and faith of my family and friends; my Top Trumps. Their love, understanding and confidence in our match, brought Writing and me together again and it’s a good feeling.

It’s a great feeling.

 I love writing.

We are beginning our new journey with two small words of great magnitude: Thank you.

 Laura x

Happy ‘Bit After Easter’ everyone…

I never know what to call this part of the calendar. What’s happening next? Where do we go from here? The religious ones amongst us will probably be tutting, and shouting ‘Pentecost’ at their screens but although I’m no slouch when it comes to Godly things, somehow, a writer needs something more descriptive to sum up the next few months, when everything starts to seem possible after the long, dark winter and even the rejection slips don’t seem so bad. The Romaniacs are asking for your help here, so put on your thinking caps and give us your words of wisdom…
It’s a strange time of year. I’m writing this on Sunday night, so writers who are also parents will be sending the little treasures back to the chalk face tomorrow for a reality check and might be dancing a happy jig at this moment. The thought of a peaceful house and the chance to be at the computer/notebook for more than ten minutes without the need to whip up endless snacks and drive around the countryside as chief entertainments officer is bliss. The rest of us will probably also have at least a touch of spring fever. It might only show itself in a vague tendency to feel new term-ish and sharpen pencils, or the urge to clean out the odd cupboard or even in the need to run around the garden throwing things into the brown bin and muttering ‘Delphiniuns? Geraniums?’ under your breath. It could be more serious and involve B&Q, turps and swearing.
Whatever you call this slice of the year, it’s usually a time of new beginnings. So why am I still sitting here at my writing table, surrounded by heaps of paper, having just poured a beer when I vowed to make my body a temple for the next, erm…week or so? With this problem in mind, here are some of our top tips for seizing the moment and kick-starting your spring writing programme:

Step One:
Clear your desk. Yes, the whole lot. That means everything off, a can of Pledge at the ready and a brutal glint in your eye. Only put back what you need – the other essentials can go somewhere handy, maybe in a drawer or in a basket under the desk. The sight of that bare surface smelling of polish…oooh, I’ve gone all peculiar.

Step Two:
But some new stationery. It might be a set of gorgeous felt tips to help you make notes and to plan your WIP, or a crisp notebook to jot down your latest brainwaves and inspirational lines. Put the pens in a fabulous chunky pot on your (newly cleared) desk. Take a photo. You’re well on your way now.

Step Three:
Sort out the files on your computer so that your WIP is the handiest to find, and any unfinished pieces are easily get-at-able. Then you can sit down and begin immediately at the next window of opportunity. Oh, get me – more cheesy by the minute. But a well-organised documents section will make you feel very smug. In a good way.

Step Four:
Make a list of all the writing tasks you’d like to complete in the next few weeks/months. Check out competitions for short stories, poetry, novels online and in magazines. Someone has to win. Maybe it’s you this time? No, not maybe – of course it is.

Step Five:
Be adventurous. Try a different genre – whack out a poem or two, have a go at something you’ve never tried, even if you’ve always thought it wasn’t your style.

Step Six:
Get yourself some writing support. It could be a writers’ group near you, an online forum, or a group of like-minded friends. If you can’t find one, think about starting your own. If we can do it, anyone can! Whichever way you do it, the right sort of writerly friends can keep you on track, give you a kick up the backside when necessary and love you even when you think everything you’ve ever written is a complete waste of space.

What are your own tried and tested tips to start the spring writing programme?

And please – does anyone have a better name for ‘That Bit After Easter?’

Celia x

The HEFBB Scale – How to rate your Romantic Hero

Despite the fact I have a science based degree, I would like to point out this is in no way scientific. It’s something I made up, aged 16, with a friend in the physio staff room back when I volunteered at Nunnery Fields Hospital. All I can say is, it must have been a slow day.

Between us we decided on the parts of a man we were most attracted to. We narrowed it down to five:

H: Hair

E: Eyes

F: Face

B: Bottom

B: Body

Each of these categories is allocated a score of 20, so you need to decide whether your hero gets full marks or if there is room for improvement. Once you’ve considered each of these you will have a score out of 100.

In my youth, it was great fun to work this out (me, fickle, never?), but we realised there was a fault in this system. It didn’t take personality into account. So we added a letter on the end (A-F) to grade their personality. This is obviously very subjective (and did I mention fickle?) and depends on what personality you are looking for and what bad habits (ie, smoking) you would consider a put off.

I’ll use Robert Pattinson as an example and illustrate my very fickle thoughts.

H: He does a good job of making scruffy hair look sexy, but room for improvement = 18

E: Sexy, go to bed eyes. Totally the bit that sells him to me = 20

F: His face works like an advert for his go to bed eyes, but he loses a point for the sexy stubble that occasionally ends up as scruffy mess = 19

B: Hmm, the problem is, his face is so pretty, there are not enough pictures at this level to make a fair judgement, but going by what I’m imagining it’ll be = 15

B: And I’m basing the last on his body. He’s just a bit too scrawny for me. I’ve always made sure I’ve never dated a man who I’d be in fear of breaking. He could just do with a bit more muscle = 15

So for his HEFBB score he gets: 87/100. And his A-F grade would be a B minus, I reckon. Obviously loses a point for having a girlfriend and I think he’s a smoker which is off putting for me. But then he’s intelligent, articulate, and good at his profession. 

How would you score Robert? Or anyone else for that matter?

To see how well the HEFBB scale works, I thought I’d get you to try it out on your Romantic Hero/Star of choice through your Heroine’s eyes/your eyes. In theory, they should be pretty close to a 100A, but like Robert, you may like an 87B- kind of guy or in your eyes, he’s 100A. 

If you feel the HEFBB Scale needs improving/extra categories let me know. That way it will surely becomes scientific and can be used all over the world.

I have a feeling I may have read too many magazines with ‘Find out if he’s the one for you,’ type surveys during my teenage years.

Catherine x

Teenage Crushes – No Longer a Secret

We’ve talked about the men that make us go weak at the knees, we’ve oohed and arghed over them but where did it all start? More to the point with whom?  Only one Romaniac knows the answers – we’d love you to join in and try to guess who had a crush on who.  Can you relate to any of these or did you have your own? Do tell!

So you have Celia, Lucie, Vanessa, Jan, Laura, Catherine, Debbie, Liz & Sue to match up with the following:-

    CRUSH 1

This Romaniac has listed Sting, Bryan Robson and John Travolta amongst her many teenage crushes but the one she truly holds dear for his brawn, confidence and wicked sense of humour is Bruce Willis as David Addison in his Moonlighting days


Any member of Take That was this particular Romaniac’s crush, but she was devastated when Robbie left


Obviously a Grange Hill fan, Tucker Jenkins and Stupot were on the list of this Romaniac.


Who was under the spell of Dave Leoffler because of his floppy hair?  That would be same person who had a major crush on Mark Owen because he was cute (and he had floppy hair too I seem to remember)


Who do you think would have posters on their bedroom wall of Elton John, Marc Bolan and Freddie Mercury (do you notice a theme there?)  It is, however, David Bowie who can still cause this Romaniac to flush when she sees him on TOTP2


From the one extreme to another – who would like to make Dragons’ Den, Peter Jones an offer he couldn’t refuse, while at the same time swooning over Taylor Hanson?


This law abiding Romaniac had a thing for the likes of Officer Poncherello from the American TV series CHiPS, both Starsky & Hutch and either Lewis Collins or Martin Shaw from The Professionals


   CRUSH 8
This Romaniac had a thing for Aidan Quinn from Desperately Seeking Susan, she even wore fingerless gloves for months after seeing the film.  However, she would loved to have been ‘Baby’ and she certainly would not have been left in the corner as she dirty danced with Johnny Castle.


She ADORED John Travolta, drank Babycham while watching David Soul in Starsky & Hutch but her true teenage crush because he was sexy, no wait, make that really sexy, was Adam Ant.


We’ve told you ours, do let us know yours!

Romaniacs, Wonderbras and Spanx

Seeing as Laura started the underwear theme yesterday, I thought I’d continue it …

Think of a Wonderbra and its virtues – uplifting, supportive, helps show your best bits off.  Now think of a pair of large Bridget Jones style knickers – comfy and reassuring. Then there’s the pants with the tummy control panel – makes you streamline, smooth and keeps  the unappealing bits out of public view. All very discreet, secret pieces of underwear that no-one knows you’re wearing once you have your clothes on.

What has this to do with writing? Well, being a Romaniac is like having these secret pieces of underwear on. There’s always support when needed, there’s reassurance and there’s comfort, there’s advice and wise words, all of which gives encouragement to keep going along the sometimes tricky and difficult road of writing and often life. 

After reading everyone’s posts about their WIPs, I realised that I had learnt a lot from my fellow Romaniacs. Their posts have been a great source of support and advice, as have the replies.  Here’s what I learnt …

From Celia, that if you’re going to write something a bit more racy, as I intend to, then having a pen name is a pretty good idea. It avoids any embarrassment for yourself, friends or family both professionally and personally.  So when I eventually get round to writing that hotter stuff, I won’t have to worry about my Mum or Aunty finding out. Of course, I can’t tell you what my pen name will be, just in case either of the  aforesaid Mum or Aunty happen to be reading this! [Chocolate, Superheroes, Sex & Seaside blog]

From Lucie I learnt that, I’m not the only one who has ended up with names for characters starting with the same letter. My heroine has the same initial as another leading character, trouble is, I really like both names. I suppose though I could change one, he was given his name, purely so my male protagonist could call him a derogatory nickname. [What’s in a name blog]

From Liz, I too have butterfly tendencies. Funny how an idea seemed so good three months ago and now I’ve gone off it. I am now back with my WIP that I had called a halt to just before Christmas. I have fluttered back to it with renewed enthusiasm, realising where it was going wrong. Well, it was plodding rather than going but at least I now know how to fix it and only 35k words in that shouldn’t be too difficult – should it? [Writing like a butterfly blog]

From Jan, that sometimes the best ideas can come from the most unexpected places. Maybe I should dip my toe into areas that are outside my comfort zone and see where they take me. I’ve always said I’m not very good at those workshops where they put you on the spot and say, ‘Right you have 5 minutes to write about a shoe box.’ [or some other equally mundane item].  Perhaps though, I should stretch myself and not be frightened of the outcome, after all, if I don’t like it, I can always press the delete key and no-one would be any the wiser. [Special Assignment blog]

From Catherine, that I really should get the essence of my novel down in a couple of sentences so when I’m asked, I can rattle it off word perfect. I too am fluent in falafel and if that fails me, I’m quite good at ‘Well, erm, it’s about the woman, well, this man too and, they, well, errm…’ [Subliminal Messages blog]

From Debbie, that you can’t give up. Everyone has these patches where it is difficult but giving up isn’t an option. Determination will win the day. Once you break through that block, you’ll be flying again. [Dear Writers blog]

From Vanessa, that I’m not the only one to go through that cycle of emotions and self-doubt. It’s reassuring to know that lots of others feel exactly the same too. [That Friday Feeling blog]

From Laura, it most definitely will be to banish the inner editor, or at least have a go at it. I am terrible for going back over what I’ve typed the previous day and editing it before I can start writing the next bit. This quite often means that with my limited time, I don’t actually progress the story much, if at all. [Constraints of Time & Underwear blog]

So thank you to my lovely Romaniacs and to everyone who left a comment – support like this is invaluable – as are Wonderbras and Spanx. 

Sue. x

The Constraints of Time and Underwear.

I have deliberately denied myself the luxury of time.

Will it focus the mind or panic the knickers off me?

I’d like to take a moment to consider this.


 I’m not known for spontaneous bouts of commando-ism.

This leads me seamlessly onto discussing draughts.  Sorry. Drafts.

I started the first draft of my current WIP on January 1st 2012, as part of Sally Quilford’s 100k in a 100 Days challenge, aiming to complete it by April 9th and then edit it in time for this year’s RNA NWS read. Bearing in mind my first novel took a casual three or four years to get up to submission standard, I think I have set myself quite a challenge, but I need to know what it feels like to work to a deadline. 

I hand wrote the first draft of my first novel, then painstakingly typed, edited and formatted it five times, maybe more. With my current WIP, I have gone straight to PC.

Fret not, stationery loving soul-mates; I still have ample opportunity to hand write notes, timelines and family trees, giving me enough reason to buy new notebooks and pens. 

This time, I have been learning to banish my inner editor, a tip from other writers on The Challenge, and it has been a liberating experience. I faltered at first, desperate to change everything I’d written, but I pushed on, limiting myself to highlighting those areas that need a fuller description or improved scene setting.

The further I have progressed, the more the plot and sub plots have developed and the greater the twist is becoming. There’s always a twist. As I am now following the process of ‘getting the words down’ and restraining myself from revisiting earlier chapters, I know I am saving time. Previously, I would have refined those first draft chapters before completing the story, only to change their entire content at a later stage with the subsequent development of said plot and characters.

I would like to thank the wonderful writers who issued the advice in capital letters, BANISH YOUR INNER EDITOR, as it is the most economical and structured use of my writing time. It has also enabled me to remain fully clothed when writing. The only draft around here is on paper. 

I have loved every minute of writing this way and have learned to embrace it. Yes, plenty of my first draft words will not make the final edit, but if I hadn’t written them, the rest would not have followed.

Follow me?

 What is your preferred method of first drafting?

Laura x