Tuesday Chit-Chat with Sheryl Browne

Today we have the lovely and funny Sheryl Browne with us for a chit-chat.

Sheryl has some great tips for book signings and other scary things!


Helpful Hints for Authors


Commissioned to write one book, the results of which produced a three-book contract, I suddenly found myself “out there” in promo-land.  Social media aside (we sometimes wish), I actually found myself in demand – as in my body.  No, it’s not all that – trust me.  And no, I haven’t been catapulted to celeb status – I’m still waiting for George Clooney’s proposal to do that (he’s a bit shy).

What happened was, the local papers had kindly covered my book launches, on the back of which I plucked up courage to approach my local library in hopes they might house some postcards/business cards and … dare I ask … even one of my books.  As it turned out, the fabulously supportive Library Manager was keen to distribute my books to all libraries throughout the county and for me to give library talks/book-signings at three of those libraries.  Of course, I said merrily.  I’d love to!  The more exposure the better.  OhmyGOD!!, my wimpy inner voice cried.  I don’t want to expose myself.  I – can’t – do – it!

I could.  And I did.  But that’s a whole other story.  The thing is, if you write you are an author, ergo you are qualified to talk about your journey.  Simples!

The book-signings at the Library had a bit of a knock-on effect and I did one or two at local shops, too.  And then…   Well then realised, for the sake of my babies (books) I really ought throw modesty to the wind and expose myself a bit more.  Bookshops were where I needed to be, putting myself about a bit.  But did the bookshops want me?

Repeat mantra: I write therefore I am…


So, now having managed to organise a few signings – and appear at same without hyperventilating, I thought I’d share my experiences for the benefit of anyone else about to embark on the same journey.

OK, where to start?

Well, contrary to advice I’ve read on the subject of book-signings, which endorse one turning up red-faced at bookshops, one’s wares in hand, I would suggest that you telephone first.  Managers are not likely to be on the shop floor.  If they are, they are likely to be in liaison with staff or customers and your untimely interruption might not therefore be appreciated.  So the first thing to do is to Google bookstores, starting locally initially, and then brace yourself and ring them.  They will probably ask you to email them with the Author Information Sheet (AIS), etc.  It might be an idea therefore to prepare a draft email and have that ready to go.


This then leads us neatly into:

Preparation & Organisation

Once you have book-signing dates in the diary, you might like to contact the local press.  You can Google editorial contacts or generally find them on the inside the cover page of the paper.  Newspapers like local flavour.  They encourage readers to send in their stories, and your road to publication is your story.  So and so pens a happy ending, that sort of thing.

Be prepared when they contact you.  They might ask if they can pop round and take a photo.  Eeeek!  You can avoid having your ‘bad hair day’ published for the whole world to see by having a professional photo taken.  Alternatively, get a proficient digitally-savvy photographer to take one at home, which you can then email to them.

Local radio is also interested in promoting local people.  I contacted BBC radio Herefordshire and Worcester, hoping they might give me a mention.  They invited me in for an interview!

Send out invites to friends and colleagues.  If you are a member of internet book buzz sites, such as Goodreads, post up an event.  Ditto for Facebook, and don’t forget to mention on Twitter.

What to take with you (as well as an extremely good friend who will act like a complete stranger and chat intelligently about books – whilst purchasing books)

  • Books – these are really helpful.  Seriously, don’t find yourself in the embarrassing situation of securing book-signings, only to find yourself without the all-important books!  Check out what the shipping/delivery times are and order well in advance.  Obviously, if you have several signings lined up, you will need to order enough to cover all of those.  Also, you will want to keep a few in hand for those people who rush up to you and say, Ooh, you’re that famous author.  To which you can reply, Yes.  And I just happen to have a copy of my book…

Calculate how many books you need overall and order accordingly.  About 10 to 15 per signing should be more than enough.

  • Tablecloth.  You might find the table supplied is fine.  If you need it though, a white tablecloth will cover a scratchy surface and offset your books nicely.
  • Bookstands – to show your books off to their best advantage. If you can’t run to those, stand your book up with a middle page curled inside it (this will stop it falling over.
  • A4 perspex document stands (if your budget allows).  Excellent for showing off book covers/odd snippets of reviews or blurbs.  You might want to get some A3 copies of covers too, which make a nice display if you have a suitable backdrop.

You can purchase lightweight roll-up banners if you’re really keen.  They’re not cheap.  But then, if writing is going to be your life, possibly worth the outlay.

  • Business cards (with contact info and website).
  • Postcards/bookmarks – or similar – with blurb/excerpt on the back.  You can hand these out to people who prevaricate and are therefore potential buyers. I found these really useful.  THANK YOU MANDY BAGGOT for passing that info on.
  • PENS!  Good pens, with which to pen your signature with a flourish.
  • Most important of all, CHOCOLATES!  Or sweeties of some sort.  Avoid peanuts, for obvious reasons, and make sure children are allowed sweets before offering. I found Lindt  chocolates were a huge hit.  Slurrrrp!  Don’t forget a little bowl to put them in.

Now you have everything you need, but before you and your books are in situ, it might be an idea – before the day, preferably – to ask where you might be situated.  In the non-fiction section if you write fiction is not really ideal.

Once you are organised, DON’T STAY SEATED.  Once again, thanks to MANDY BAGGOT who reminded me my chair should serve as no more than a peg to hang my coat on.  Circulate!  If people are browsing a similar author or genre, why not offer them your book?

Lastly, don’t be tempted to rugby-tackle customers to the floor (unless you like being dragged off in handcuffs).   The hard sell never works.


Sheryl is busy organising book-signings around the second in her three book contract WARRANT FOR LOVE, which launches tomorrow:

Warrant for Love

three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly.

Life for Paul is like a typical country song.  He comes from a broken home, his wife is divorcing him, he’s got no place to live, he’s losing custody of his son, and his sergeant, who’s sleeping with his wife, is a loud-mouthed bully who won’t let up on him – not even at work.

Before Leanne can give her cheating boyfriend what for, she’s wrongfully arrested for soliciting – by Paul.  There’s an undeniable attraction though and things could be looking up for Paul, except for Leanne’s friends, who have it in for her ex.  Leanne wants closure, Paul wants a home, Nicky and Jade want revenge. Blackmail, lies, adultery, entrapment.  Will it work out in the end or will Paul uphold the law?  Sounds like he needs a Warrant for Love.

Available from: Amazon UK, Amazon, any local bookstore, or direct from Safkhet Publishing




Website: www.sherylbrowne.com

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Romantic Novelists’ Association


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Twitter: @sherylbrowne

Writing and the Summer Holidays.

How do I know it’s the school summer holidays in my house? Well apart from the mess, the noise and the lack of food, I have also lost a huge chunk of precious writing time. And I know I am not alone in this. Many other writers are currently having the same issue.

So, what do we do?

Well, I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do. I have spent months leading up to the six weeks break saying, ‘I will write when LO is in bed,’ and, ‘whenever LO is occupied doing something, I’ll get out my pen and paper and start jotting stuff down.’ But in reality, it’s not as easy as it sounds. When LO is occupied, I am busy clearing up the mess that she left ten minutes previously. Or I’m getting lunch ready for her and her friends. And as for writing when she is in bed, this has so far been minimal too. After being up at the crack of dawn and having full on days doing activities and keeping a 5 year old occupied, by the time bedtime comes around for her, I am shattered. After tidying up and cleaning (again!) and sorting the house for the next day’s activities, sitting in bed with a book is about all I can manage before nodding off.

So, I have come to a decision.

Instead of beating myself up over not getting as much writing done, or not starting those edits, I am taking a writing ‘holiday’. I am going to embrace the summer holidays with LO and try to get just a little bit of writing done as often as I can and come September, it’s knuckle down time.

And my plans for September?

I want to start editing Head over Heart. After some fantastic feedback, I am excited to be getting into some serious editing with my first novel and making some exciting changes.

I am also looking to start an editing course. After attending the RNA conference recently, I was able to immerse myself completely within the writing industry for three whole days and it has cemented my desire to explore the editing world. I have been looking at copy editing and proof reading courses and I am very excited about hopefully enrolling soon and beginning my learning journey to becoming an editor.

I will, of course, keep you all updated.

Have a great six weeks – see you on the other side!

Lucie x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Talli Roland

So, the lovely Talli Roland is with us today – knowing Talli likes her coffee, we’ve plenty on the go and then there’s a drop of wine for later on … please feel free to help yourselves, nothing better than a coffee/glass of wine and a natter.

There are lots of things we wanted to ask Talli, but riding high on the list was : How do you manage to continually look so glamorous?

First of all, thank you! Secondly, you wouldn’t ask that if you saw me in my usual daily attire: sloppy jogging bottoms, raggedy tops, and wrapped in a chocolate-stained blanket from Primark. Working from home, I make an effort to look normal when I leave the house, and trot out the shoes and clothes I don’t have a chance to wear anymore. But as soon as I’m back in the flat, I’m all about comfort.

You’ve received some great reviews for your books, what’s the harshest and best thing anyone’s said about your books?

Learning to take negative reviews in stride is one of the hardest things about being published. I’ve had to accept it’s impossible to please everyone. I think one of the harshest things a reviewer ever said was that I’m ‘a disgrace to my genre’ and I ‘should stop writing’. Yikes.

You have great book titles, how easy do you find it to think up titles for your books

I find the title is the first thing that pops into my mind! It’s got to be short, snappy, and memorable – and also reflect the core concept of the novel. I love thinking of titles and blurbs. In fact, if I could do just that, I’d be happy! How often do they get changed? My first two novels were traditionally published, but the titles and covers were very much a collaborative effort. Since I self-publish now, I run the titles by my beta-readers, who usually approve.

What are your three favourite book titles?

Jane Lovering’s ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’ comes to mind. I also love ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (so evocative and fun!), and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – such a simple title, but it encapsulates the book’s spirit perfectly.

Thanks for dropping by Talli, it’s been great having you here.

Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories–complete with happy endings. Talli’s debut novel The Hating Game was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, while her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite. Her novels have also been chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites and have been bestsellers in Britain and the United States. Construct A Couple is her latest release. To learn more about Talli, go to www.talliroland.com or follow Talli on Twitter: @talliroland. Talli blogs at talliroland.blogspot.com.

Coming soon to a blog near you. Be afraid, be very afraid…

Well, I guess most of you will have seen most of the photos of the RNA’s Penrith experience – or so you thought. Next week, the fearless Romaniacs will be publishing…the unseen conference.

Forget the intelligent bits – we will be sharing snapshots of our more candid moments. Don’t worry – we don’t write for Excite and no animals or other dodgy stuff will feature. But there does seem to be rather a lot of wine. And smiling.

Watch this space on Monday morning. Feel free to comment.

Tuesday Chit Chat with Lyn Vernham, ChocLit

Today, we are very excited to welcome the lovely Lyn Vernham from ChocLit onto our Tuesday Chit Chat slot. Over the last few months we have had authors and agents on this slot and today we have our first publisher in the spotlight.

We know Lyn has a very busy schedule and we appreciate the time she took to answer our questions.

Where heroes are like chocolate – irresistible!

What inspired you to start your own business?

 I was given a copy of Juliet Archer’s The Importance of Being Emma and was amazed at how good it was. After hearing Juliet’s tale of not being able to obtain an agent or publisher It was the challenge we needed to put our marketing skills to the test and launch Choc Lit. 

How did you go about finding your first author?

We launched with Juliet, Sue (Moorcroft) was our second author and submitted her manuscript (Starting Over) after seeing The Importance of Being Emma short-listed for the Melissa Nathan and the Joan Hessayon New Writers awards. Allowing direct submissions has been a major factor in finding our talented authors. As it stands today,  only one of our authors has an agent.  The success of Starting Over and our award success (now 7 awards) has ensured the submissions continue.

Who developed the ChocLit reader scheme and what was the rationale behind it?

Hands up, that was me. We decided to publish novels that appealed to the mass market, novels readers would like to see rather than the industry decide what’s fashionable or commercial. To me, as a marketeer, it was an obvious move – no other industry launch products without research.  Why should publishing a book be any different?  Our reader panel is known as our Tasting Panel.  The age range spans 18 – 80 throughout the UK and we’ve recently added members in the US and Australia. 

Who is your all time favourite romantic hero and how would you describe him in chocolate terms?

John Thornton from North & South. He would have to be a chocolate truffle. Hard exterior with a gorgeous, smooth melt in your mouth centre.  One taste and you’re addicted. 
When you decide on a manuscript, is it done on majority vote or unanimous? Do you get the overriding vote?

If a manuscript receives straight passes from all age brackets (Tasting Panel split into age brackets) and we believe the author will fit into our team – we’ll publish.  However, I  do hold the final vote as I currently do all author interviews. 
ChocLit are well known for their absolutely gorgeous covers. Do you personally have any input into them?
Our covers will always play an important role in production so yes I do input and control the design. Thankfully, we have been very lucky in securing highly talented designers who constantly produce fabulous covers which makes my job easy.
What are your thoughts on digital-only publishing?

I’m not a fan of digital only. I still believe there’s a print market for our product. We see our ebooks and print compliment each other. It’s still the only way to give an author true coverage to offer readers all formats including audio. 
Which other countries would you like to move into?
We recently launched in the US and Canada and were already distributed in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A key focus for the coming year is to increase brand awareness and sales in those countries rather than chase new markets.
Not including your current profession, if you could do any job, what would you like to do?
I’d love to own a coffee shop selling chocolates and with a luxury seating area to be able to read  and relax. I’d probably spend all day reading, drinking coffee  and tasting chocolate. Sounds like my current role.:-) 
What are your pet hates when reading a manuscript?
Where an author clearly hasn’t read the manuscript and it’s riddled with typos and errors. I also hate an overuse of exclamation marks but that’s a personal thing and manuscripts aren’t rejected for such. 
Do you have any tips or advice for those wanting to submit to ChocLit?

Read our current list and see what we publish. We’re always on the look-out for something different to add.  Also participate in social media. You’ll find all our authors are active on facebook and twitter and regularly blog. If we see you’re online, it will improve your chances of being requested.
Describe your ideal romantic date?
Pink champagne and strawberries, watching the sun set over water preferably somewhere warm and dry. 

 Quick fire round:
  • Blue Peter or Magpie? Blue Peter
  • Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet?  Spandau 
  • Valentine’s Day, home cooked meal or dining out? Home cooked.
  • Love at first sight or slow burner? Love at first sight
  • Marmite – love it or hate it? Love it
  • Tom Cruise or George Clooney? Difficult not a fan of either – probably Clooney. Cruise has a silly grin.
  • E-reader or paperback?  Paperback but ereader when travelling
ChocLit’s submission guidelines can be found on their website, here. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
All of ChocLit’s authors are on Facebook and Twitter and each and every one of them are incredibly friendly so please do go and say hi. ChocLit’s novels can be found in a number of places, and are all on Amazon both as paperback and Kindle format.

Tuesday Chit Chat with Sarah Duncan.

Tuesday Chit Chat with Sarah Duncan.

The Romaniacs welcome author, creative writing tutor and qualified brick layer, Sarah Duncan to Tuesday Chit Chat.

Sarah, it is a pleasure to have you on our blog and thank you for taking the time to chat with us.

First things first – I’ll get the kettle on. Tea or coffee? Maybe I can tempt you with a hot chocolate or cappuccino? We cater for the tastes of nine Romaniacs, so the cupboard is well stocked. 

Tea, please, strong and milky.  I don’t drink coffee as it makes me talk too much and wave my hands about even more than I do already. 

Caffeine free it is then. We Romaniacs have followed your blog http://sarahduncansblog.blogspot.co.uk/for some time now and your posts always offer solid, sensible advice. How much of what you share has been learned through personal experience rather than study? 

Generally whatever I write about on the blog has been triggered by something I’ve experienced or something I’ve read or from a problem one of my students has had. But when I started teaching ten years ago I was drawing a lot from books on creative writing – I’ve got over 400 books on the subject – so it’s a mixture. 

400 books? Who knew there were so many? As a tutor of creative writing, what are your thoughts on naturally talented writers? Do they exist or at some stage, should all aspiring authors take a writing course? 

Craft is craft, and why not take short cuts if they exist? There are a few very, very lucky people from whom words of publishable quality just flow naturally, but most of us will have to use craft to get there, whether that craft is taught or learned from experience. A class will also give you a ready-made support group of people going through the same ups and downs. 

Personally, I’m not a naturally gifted writer, I needed every class I took and still take classes when I can – last year I went on courses at Arvon and Winchester. I don’t see what people have against them – if you like them, do them, if not don’t.  Writing isn’t a “one size fits all” business. 

I also think that women find it hard to stick their hands up and say ‘this is what I want to do’ when a lot of us are also juggling work and family commitments. A course may give us confidence and validation that what we’re doing is worthwhile.  And it IS! 

It so is, Sarah. Do you read and critique for the RNA NWS and if so, for what are you on the look out? 

I don’t, I simply don’t have the time. 

Having written a novel and had it rejected because it is similar to one the publisher is about to print, would you advise a rewrite or suggest sending the novel to another publisher? 

Oh, 100% send it out again. It’s all opinion anyway.  The only time I’d re-write is if a lot of different sources were saying roughly the same thing AND I could see what they meant AND what I could do about it. 

How do you know when to put your manuscript in the bottom drawer and move onto the next project? 

I find writing first drafts so difficult that it’s easier for me to slog away re-writing and re-writing until it gets published than start something new.  Plus I have a strong bloody minded streak and if someone says I can’t do something, I get very determined to prove them wrong. But generally, if it’s hit a blank everywhere and I couldn’t see what the problem was and neither could anyone else, I’d be prepared to move on – for a while.  It’s often easier to see what the problem is after a break.

Is an agent always necessary or is it best to deal directly with a publisher? 

You don’t need to have an agent, but I personally wouldn’t be without one. The bottom line is that an agent will always push for more money from the publisher – my agent has always got me more money than I would have got myself, and from lots of sources I wouldn’t have known about. 85% of quite a lot is worth more than 100% of not very much. In addition they deal with the business side of things like invoicing and knowing who’s buying and things like that, all of which is stuff I don’t want to do. 

What difference would it make to an aspiring author that a publisher only publishes eBooks and not paperbacks? 

This is a really complicated question where the landscape is constantly shifting and no one knows any of the answers and it’s tricky to sift through the spin and opinion to find any hard facts. I’d go for the print and digital publisher for several reasons… 

Firstly, while eBooks are growing, they are still a small percentage of the market in reality – I’m sure we can all name several people who are avid book readers but are adamant they don’t want an e-reader or don’t know what an e-reader is.  I went to a talk on epublishing recently and the speaker asked how many of us had had a Kindle/e-reader last year – no one put up their hands.  They then asked us how many had acquired one this year – most of us put up our hands.  I then asked how many of us were regularly using their Kindle/e-reader, at which point most hands went down. 

If you want to sell in volume, i.e. make money, you need to sell in print as well as digital, unless you’re writing in a genre such as erotica, where eBooks sell very well and epublishers are well established. 

Secondly, anyone can set themselves up as an epublisher; it requires very little capital input, just some website skills. People often do it for the best of motives then come a cropper as they realise that it involves lots more work than they thought.   The company folds, leaving the writers it has signed with broken dreams – and nothing published. 

I know of one company that boasts extensive editorial experience, but when you look at the detail, it’s all with their own self-publishing business.  I’m not saying that all epublishers are bad, but there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors around… Do your research, learn about the business, don’t accept everything at face value. 

Thirdly, the advance. Print publishers pay decent (ish – they’re all been cut these last two years) advances while I don’t think any epublishers do. Money up front IMO is worth any amount of jam tomorrow, in the form of a larger % of royalties. 

If you’re tempted by an epublisher a) look at their track record both in terms of what the company has done and where individuals have previously worked and b) work out what they’re going to do for you that you can’t do yourself.  If they’re not offering an advance, previous experience, substantial editorial input or marketing, then why are you considering it?  Better to self-publish in those circumstances, especially as I believe a print publisher may pick up a self-published eBook, but they certainly won’t touch one that’s been published by another company. 

A very thorough reply – thank you.

What was your route to publication? 

I started writing short stories in 1999, did an MA in 2000/2001, wrote a novel as part of my MA, it got rejected by everyone, I sulked for 6 months, then I re-wrote it (90% of it in the end – I said I was determined), sent it out, got an agent 48 hours later, did a bit more work, sent out to publishers, auctioned 8 days after that.  It was worth the sulking and rewrites! 

What were the high and low points? 

Sending it out after all the re-writes and getting a call from an agent almost immediately. I’ll never forget that – I ran round the house shrieking. (After I’d rung off, of course.)

Low point – there haven’t really been any.  I mean, I didn’t like being rejected first time round – who does? – but it meant I rewrote and made a much better book and have been able to have a career on the back of it. 

What’s been the most memorable, unusual and enjoyable pieces of research you’ve done to date?

For Kissing Mr Wrong I went to the battlefields of the Somme.  I had never been there before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were extraordinary – very moving, inspiring, overwhelming.  I spent most of the time in floods of tears but felt very proud to be British.  My editor gave me back the ms with the memorable note “Too many cemeteries.”  I hated doing the cuts, but she was right – it wasn’t a guidebook. 

Do you enjoy that aspect of writing? 

I love research but it’s a great way to procrastinate so it’s best done after I know what the story requires rather than before. 

On those days when you are totally inspired, the muse sits on your shoulder and you sit down to write, what triggers that motivation and gives you the creative kick-start? 

I don’t know, it’s very unpredictable.  A looming deadline helps, as does a good night’s sleep and not much other stuff going on in my life.  Something doing a daily blog has taught me is that if you sit down and try to write, you will. 

What turned you away from your successful acting career? 

Acting is a tough profession, and very tough for women.  I was never dedicated enough to put up with the negative side.  Also, if you’re not employed you can’t act, and your career is totally controlled by other people giving you work. Writing can be done at any time, whether someone is waiting for the results or not. 

Inside every writer is an actor. What are your thoughts on this? 

Writers want to communicate, and a lot of them come from careers where communication is important such as acting, teaching or journalism.  I certainly act out all my characters and say the dialogue out loud in different voices.

[Romaniacs – it’s ok – we’re normal :-)]

We at Romaniac HQ are intrigued by your brick laying qualification. Was this your fall-back if acting didn’t work out? 

LOL!  No, I did it afterwards because…. 

Why brick laying? (Chuckling now because Spell-checker wants to write brick lying. That old nugget.) 

…I had a big garden on a slope and wanted to build walls and steps and terraces – over 1 km in total.  I could afford either bricks and cement, or labour, but not both.  So I did a course to learn how to be a brickie – the only woman there – and built my walls myself. If you can bake and ice a cake you can mix cement and ‘butter’ your bricks – it’s the same skill set.  It’s harder physical work shovelling cement and lugging bricks around than icing a cup cake though, but there’s no danger of getting bingo wings.

Finally, if you were not a writer or tutor, what would you like to do? 

A landscape historian. Basically, I want Stewart’s job on Time Team.

Many thanks for joining us for a chat, Sarah and we look forward to seeing you again soon. 

Whose turn is it to wash the mugs? 

Now’s your chance to win a signed, hardback copy of Sarah’s novel, A Single To Rome. All you have to do is tell us the greatest advice you’ve received. Our favourite comment will win the book.

Good luck. x

Getting To Know You – Sue Fortin

The next couple of weeks are going to be exciting, busy and intense for our Sue, as she becomes the first Romaniac to self-publish. Her debut novel, United State of Love is available in e-book format now prior to its official launch on Wednesday 11 July. It will also be available in paperback soon.

We are immensely proud of Sue and in true Romaniac style wish her luck and love and plenty of congratulatory group hugs.

Here are our thoughts on Madam Fortin:

Laura: You know the phrase, ‘The room lights up…’? Well, that. It seems odd to think I’ve only known Sue since November last year, but I cannot imagine taking this writing journey without her. She is a warm and nuturing lady and a great friend. How lucky am I?  United State of Love has wings and it is going to fly.

Celia: So very happy to see the lovely Sue going from strength to strength – she inspires us all, never fails to bail me out of my techie nightmares and is always there to give her time, advice and warm friendship. She has to stand on a box when we want to talk to each other but, hey – you can’t have everything in a friend! Can’t wait to read ‘United State of Love’.

Jan : I warmed to Sue the instant I first met her. She has that natural ability to put you at ease, a beaming smile and a laugh that makes you want to laugh too, it’s so infectious. (Okay,  so we were  mischievously gossiping & giggling when we should have been concentrating…) but being around Sue and chatting to her online almost daily has made me realise very quickly how glad I am that we’re friends and how very grateful I am for all her support. I wish her all the success she deserves with ‘United State of Love’.

Lucie: Sue is an amazingly supportive and generous person. She has no end to her giving and is always looking to make sure everyone is happy. She is extremely talented with her writing and I wish her all the luck in the world with her book, United State of Love. She deserves every bit of success she is bound to get! 

Catherine: I’m certain Sue has a twin. She must have to be as efficient as she is. I’ve never met a woman more capable of multi-tasking. Not only is she busy doing her own thing, she is also generous with her time and advice. I can’t wait to read United State of Love.

Debbie: It never fails to amaze me how Sue finds time to do any writing! Not only does she have her own little brood at home to manage and juggle mummy and domestic duties, she also seems to be the most natural leader of our Romaniac pack and organises us, supports us and nags us to do our homework! Sue is a very special lady and I echo every comment from the girls, especially about that smile of hers. It surely can’t get any bigger, even when United State of Love is published, can it? 

Vanessa: What can I say that the other ladies haven’t already said about our lovely Sue? She’s a fabulous friend – supportive, motivated, funny and just plain daft as a brush; the perfect combination. I just know United State of Love is going to be a huge success – how can it fail with such an amazing person pushing it on?

From Laura: Sue – how do you manage to keep a level head when all around is chaos?

I’m not entirely sure myself.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in a busy household with two older brothers, a younger sister and extended family – there was always something happening. I wouldn’t say I had a bohemian childhood but it was pretty free and I guess I’ve just got that laid back attitude as an adult. Having said that, certain things do get me in a tizz, as you all well know.

How does writing fulfil you?

Am considering whether to give you a flippant answer or a deep and meaningful one.  Okay, flippant response – (1)  it allows me to escape – I can go anywhere in the world, at any time, with anyone and (2) it gives me control – I make all the decisions myself, decide who says and does what and with whom.

From Celia: What distracts you from your writing more than anything else?

You lovely lot!

If, in a bizarre parallel universe, you discovered you had a completely free day, how would you spend it?

Oh, that’s a difficult one. All to myself? I need a couple of weeks to even get my head round that concept.  Okay, I would pack the day full with all those things I’ve always wanted to do because in this bizarre parallel universe time has no meaning. Things like learn to ski, drive through the Alps in an Aston Martin DB4 GT like Michael Cane at the start of The Italian Job, ride side car round The Isle of Man, learn to Quick-Step, fly trans Atlantic on Concorde (because remember I can time slip also), visit China, take a hot air balloon ride, sit on the cross bar of Paul Newman’s push bike while he cycles round to the soundtrack of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head playing  in the background (Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid), go to a Kings of Leon concert and then round the day off with a romantic evening meal at the top of the Burj in Dubai.

What’s your all-time favourite  three/four course meal?

I would have cake, cake, cake and err… cake.  I’m working on the basis that I can have my cake and eat it.

From Jan : What was the whackiest/funniest/hardest piece of research you had to do for United State of Love? Do you enjoy researching or dread it?

A parent at my son’s football BBQ commented that she was a nurse and had to deal with a drunk at A&E the previous evening.  I hooked onto this straight away and started asking her about the effects of alcohol poisoning and abuse – I forgot to mention it was for research and at the end of the evening she came and found me.  She discreetly offered me the number for counselling for any alcohol related  problem I might have.  I’m sure she didn’t believe me when I said it was for research.

Which three words, in your opinion, best describe what it takes to write a novel?



Determination, bordering on being bloody-minded at times when it gets tough

From Lucie: Taking writing out of the equation, if you could pick any profession in the world, what would you love to do? 

Always wanted to be a nurse when I was younger but somehow ended up working in a bank. Not sure what happened there so maybe I’d go into nursing.  However, if this job is in the same parallel universe as my ideal day, then I would have a little workshop/studio where I could paint, sew and make cakes to my heart’s content.

How was United State of Love first born? Where did the initial idea come from?

It started off life under a different title but changed when I went back to do some rewrites.  Originally it was just a little scene in my mind which I had no idea what happened leading up to it or after it.  By the time the final version was complete, the original scene never made the book.

What comes first for you, characters or plot?

I think it’s the characters that suddenly come to me and then I find myself putting them in difficult situations or up against a premise and it’s at that point I develop the plot.

From Catherine: Now you’re a big author, what are your demands from your flat mates (us lot) at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference?

(Oh no! Does Sue get to have riders now? Laura)

I’m no Diva but when I arrive I would like you all to line up Downtown Abbey style to greet me. In public please address me as ‘Oh Great One’ but in private I’m happy with ‘Captain, my Captain’. Fresh flowers in my room. A chocolate on my pillow and my towel fashioned into a swan to be left on the centre of the bed.

What are you planning for the launch of United States of Love?

I’m going for the stealth approach, subtle not too ‘in your face’ – some tweeting, a bit of Facebook, a mini blog tour, that type of thing.  At home, away from the laptop, I’ll probably being doing something glamorous like the ironing.

From Debbie: When I log off for the evening, more often that not you’re still up and when I log in in a morning, you’ve invariably been working for hours. How do you get by with so little sleep??

I’m pretty good with little sleep. Even if I go to bed early, I’m rarely asleep before midnight and I start waking up around five although I don’t get up until six. Every now and then it does catch up on me but if I’ve had 5 hours sleep I think I’m doing well.

Imagine you’ve won the lottery. What would you treat yourself (not the family!) to?

I keep coming back to this question and then leaving it. I really have no idea what I would treat myself to.

From Vanessa: Just the one question from me … I’m about to dive into United State of Love, and looking ahead to when I read the last page and am feeling bereft – what’s next? What can you tell us about your next book?

My next book has the working title ‘Once Upon A Secret’ and is about moral responsibilities and obligations – doing what you have to do, rather than what you want to do.

Thank you for all the lovely things you’ve said about me – do you want payment in cash or by bank transfer? Sue x

Starting Book Number Two

It’s only taken the best part of twenty months and two rewrites, but I pretty much done with Novel Number One. I’ve sent it into the NWS for a second time and whilst I wait for the verdict, I need to start thinking about Novel Number Two.


So far I have the title, the main character and the problem she faces, but in order to not take twenty months over this one, I’m hoping I’ve learned a thing or two from the first.


I thought I’d share how I plan to approach novel number two.

  • Set a goal for the number of words I want to achieve. Generally, I try for at least 1,000 words a day.
  • Write them, even if they’re rubbish.
  • Complete character profiles before I start writing.
  • Avoid earthquake plots. See an earlier blog to find out what I mean.
  • Plot at least an outline of where the story is heading.
  • Research ahead of writing.
  • Stick with it. It’s so easy to get distracted by smaller projects or the housework. The only way it will get finished is if it remains my main priority.

I’m hoping with the experienced I gained from writing the first, I will manage to complete this one in a much shorter time frame. Of course I haven’t allowed for the days where I’ll be pulling my hair out. I mean, honestly, look what’s happened over those twenty months:









If you have any tips for how to approach book number two they’ll be much appreciated.

Catherine x

Don’t You Quit!

It’s officially the second month of summer and outside is a picture of puddles and pouring raindrops. It’s easy to feel unenthusiastic when the weather is like this, especially when deadlines are hovering over us like heavy grey clouds.

I’m conscious the deadline for submissions to the Romantic Novelist’s Association, New Writer Scheme is soon approaching so I have spent every spare minute surrounded by a pile of notes, red pens  and copious amounts of coffee, working on my WIP.

Working towards any goal is difficult. There will always be a time when the end result seems so far away it is impossible and it’s too easy for these thoughts to make you forget the reasons why you want to reach your goals.
For me, the poem below helps me whenever a little seed of doubt is planted in my mind and I begin to question my goals…..

Don’t You Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you are trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must but don’t you dare quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow-
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Liz x