You googled WHAT?

When researching a storyline it’s not uncommon to google something peculiar and not in keeping with your day to day life. Baby Number Two is my current WIP and from the title you can already imagine there will be some interesting google searches during its completion. What really fascinates me though (’cause I’m a bit sad like that) is what search terms lead people to The Romaniacs blog. There are of course the sensible ones, but you don’t want to hear about them. I thought I’d share the Top 10 random search terms that have brought people here:

1) Robert Pattinson body hair

Erm… we haven’t stolen it, honest!

2) Young sperm

This was a cleanish search term. Just to let you know – mention sperm on your blog and you get extra hits as a result.

3) What the world needs is a group hug

I’m inclined to agree and I’m very glad when someone was looking for a group hug they found us.

4) This girl said we are kindred souls

One of The Romaniacs? They are so fickle.

5) Sainsburys singles night

I’m itching to add apostrophes. I do want to know more about this. Do they have an allocated time when you all meet in the pizza aisle?

6) grange hill sausage

I don’t even know what to say about this. Just why? And what?

7) is your name yasmin chat up line

I don’t think it was The Romaniacs they were after. Unless… anyone been putting on a husky voice to fund their writing endeavours?

8) should i get spanx or m & s underwear

Good question. Doubt we helped with the answer. Personally, I have M & S suck it all in pants.

9) subliminal messages to get someone to marry you

Hmm… this has to be a girl asking this, right? In which case, boys don’t do subliminal. Make it obvious or it won’t work. Take them shopping and gasp at gorgeous diamond rings when you pass window displays. That should do the trick.

10) just ate big bag of cadbury buttons !!

You are my kind of person. This is exactly the kind of behaviour The Romaniacs encourage.

Of course, I have skipped over some search terms, but judging by the majority, we could set up an agony aunt column answering all the questions that arrive here. Although each answer would involve reading a good book.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to look up on the computer? And what strange search terms have you discovered on your blog/website? Any questions that google hasn’t helped with and you want The Romaniacs to tackle?

Your Agony Aunt, Catherine x

Bio Bejazzled

Isn’t this just the best example, like EVER, of how to approach an agent?

Dear Agent       [I haven’t got time to find out your name but if you could just pass it on that would be great]

I have written a fabulous novel called ‘It’s All About Me’ which is about 90,000 words long (I haven’t bothered to check but that’s about the usual length, right?) anyway, I thought I would give you first refusal as you are first in the book and I’m going through it alphabetically.

My book is my own life story which is absolutely fascinating; my mum says so. My main reason for writing the book is because I want to make lots of money and as such I am sure you want to as well, which would be a really good reason not to miss out on the chance of signing me.  I would be looking for a three book deal with a large advance.  I’m not really into giving interviews and I don’t use social networks but to be honest, I can’t see that to be a problem, after all, my book is so great everyone will just want to read it. I don’t need the extra publicity personally, but I can see how it would benefit you and your agency.

I have a very impressive writing history. I had a poem published in the school newspaper when I was 12 and I wrote lots of stories, none were taken on by the magazines but my mum said they were really good and she couldn’t understand what the problem was.

I’ve enclosed the whole manuscript as I am sure you will want to read it all. If you could get back to me within the next three weeks that would be great – after that I cannot guarantee I would be able to accept your offer. I am approaching as many agents as possible and if necessary you can enter a bidding war for the publishing rights.

As my mum says, my book is fabulous so please don’t waste any time, I am a really busy person.

Yours sincerely

Jay Kay Roley


What do you mean, no?

Having recently been on a writing workshop run by the lovely Julie Cohen, we touched on the subject of approaching agents and what we should put in a letter.  I think it’s fair to say that the above example, is not the way to do it.

Everyone needs to be able to bejazzle their bio/letter but there are no doubt more subtle ways.
Has anyone got any tips for approaching an agent they could share?

Thanks, Sue x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Gilli Allan

Hi Gilli – thanks for being our guest on the Romaniac blog today. Would you like to begin by telling us about your books?

OK. The first thing I need to say is that I don’t write conventional romances. I prefer unpredictability. I put my characters into believable and sometimes quite challenging situations. TORN is a contemporary story, which faces up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships, paraphrased in the blurb on the back like this:

Life is not a fairy tale; it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome; it can be awkward and embarrassing, and it has consequences. You don’t always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you’re in love is not always good news. It can make the future look daunting….


You can escape your past but can you ever escape yourself?

Jessica Avery is a woman in her early thirties, with a three year old son, Rory.  She has made a series of wrong choices in her life – job, men and life-style.  Her job came to a disastrous conclusion.  The men in her life have let her down and her life-style involved too many pills, parties and promiscuity. But she believes that by quitting her old relationship and moving from London to the country, she has escaped all that. She wants to make a fresh start, to live a steady, responsible life in this tranquil new environment, putting her son’s needs and her role as mother as her number one priority.

But Jessica finds country life less serene than she imagined it would be. Her ex-partner tracks her down and assaults her in the street. As an in-comer – and even worse, an ex-investment banker – she is not made very welcome by the local mothers. And the new friends she makes have hidden and sometimes disturbing agendas.

The narrative is played out against the low-key background story of a proposed by-pass to the local town. Initially Jessica favours a new road until she realises the route it might take, tearing through the landscape she’s come to love.  She is torn between the pragmatic and the romantic decision.

The first friends Jess makes represent the differing positions. There is Danny Bowman, the counter-culture shepherd; his employer, James Warwick, affluent widowed farmer and father to three year old daughter, Sasha; Gilda Warwick, James’s match-making mother; and Sheila, the feminist nursery school owner.

The title – ‘Torn’ – can also be understood as referring to the personal choices which confront Jessica.  Despite vowing she wants no emotional entanglements in her life, she is attracted to two very different men.  She finds, to her cost, that in the face of temptation it is not so easy to throw off old habits and responses.  Despite her resolution not to become involved, she immediately falls into bed with one and begins to make a friend of the other.

Jessica is a woman who claims she has never been in love. Eventually she is prompted to re-evaluate and to admit to herself, that beyond an undeniable physical attraction, she has indeed fallen in love, but with which one – the suitable man or the unsuitable boy?



– about art, life, love and learning lessons. (Or the VD lady, the housewife, the sculptor, and the rent boy!).

The story follows four members of the class, who meet once a week to draw the human figure. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.

Dory (the ‘VD lady’) is a realist, who finds herself chasing a dream.

If asked, Dory always says she works “in the sex trade” and then adds, “the clean-up end”. A scientist by training, she deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationship. She ran a private STD clinic with her partner in London.  Following the failure of the personal dimension of this relationship, she returns to her hometown. Men don’t figure in her view of the future.  She wants to buy a house and start her own business, but what?  In the past she’s often done what others expected of her, including terminating a pregnancy. This time, and against her better judgement, it’s her sister, Fran, who’s pushed her into joining the Life Class.

Stefan (the sculptor) is a loner who needs to let other people into his life.

Haunted by the past, Stefan struggles to establish himself as a sculptor. He sees his failure as natural justice for his youthful cruelty to a pregnant girl friend. He takes a part-time teaching job but it’s a decision he quickly comes to repent when faced with a class of people entrenched in their own way of doing things, who’d like their old teacher back. It’s a distraction he doesn’t need.  Still determined to make it as a sculptor entirely on his own, he plans to sell the house he’s inherited, using the proceeds to invest in his career.

But plans can go awry, and snap judgements can change. Love is an emotion he long ago closed off – it only leads to regret and shame – but it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life and accepting help is not defeat?

Fran (the housewife), Dory’s older sister, is a romantic, who needs to take a reality check. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, wife and stay-at-home mother, Fran, hasn’t enough to keep her occupied. So she tries to organise the lives of everyone around her, not noticing her own is in danger of falling apart.

Fran went to art school but now the Life Class is as much a weekly social event as an opportunity for a bit of recreational drawing. Her husband’s early retirement plans throw her into a panic. And, after disastrous A level results, her daughter, Mel, is going travelling. Fearing the future Fran looks back to the excitement and romance of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk. 

Dom (the rent boy) is an angry child who’s been living dangerously. He knows all about sex but nothing about love.

Born into a dysfunctional family Dom was taken into care as a child.  He has recently dropped out of the care system and, though he enjoyed art at school, he has also dropped out of education.  When he meets Stefan he is making a living by selling sex.  The older man encourages Dom to join the Life Class as a route to art school.  Although he wants to do it, his personal life is chaotic and full of risky temptations. Would finding his mother enable him to make sense of his past? But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? If he can grow up enough to accept the help and love that’s on offer here and now, he has the chance to transform his life.

Like you, I went to art college, studying design and illustration – what made you change from visual to literary arts as your main creative outlet? Do you find you need to balance the two?

My parents were both artists.  My dad worked in advertising and my mum was an amateur painter. Our house was crammed with art books. So I grew up thinking that to be an artist was “a good thing”. I know I surprised my teacher, in infant school, when she was asking the class what they wanted to be when they grew up, and I said “A commercial artist”. But my ambition wasn’t just down to family influence. I was good at art. It was the only subject I excelled at.

I had started writing “novels” when I was 10.  I was copying my sister, who loved the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer and, at around the age of fifteen, decided to write her own. My first effort was only a few pages long, but once I’d caught the bug – which was essentially the idea that I could write the book I wanted to read – I was forever beginning new novels. My parent’s interest in my notebooks was not engaged by my pubescent literary outpourings, but by the doodles and illustrations which embellished them. It was clear where they thought my future lay.

I managed to get into grammar school but I was always in the bottom stream.  I always felt that I was intelligent – as intelligent as anyone – but my memory was tricksy and I was also a bit lazy, and just couldn’t ever seem to get the top marks, even in English. So although I was forever writing as a hobby, it never occurred to me that I could do it as a career. Writers were clever people who went to university.  I managed to scrape enough ‘O’ levels to get into art school at 16, and felt it was time to put away childish things. So I stopped writing.

My career – after a few fill-in jobs – was as an illustrator in advertising, but it was quite stressful work. Typically jobs would come in late in the afternoon wanted for first thing the next morning. When I was at home with my young son I enjoyed not having this constant pressure. Even though it was theoretically possible to continue to work at home free-lance, it wasn’t going to be easy emotionally, physically or practically. Remember this was in the days before mass computerisation. I didn’t drive and even without those over-night jobs, I’d still have had to collect and deliver work in central London, with a toddler in tow. The possibility of finding something else to do at home, which might earn some money, began to seem appealing.

That’s when the idea of writing re-surfaced. And I, like so many before and since, set my sights on Mills & Boon (the Harlequin had yet to be added) thinking it would be easy.

So, I’m sorry, this has been a rather long answer, to the question.  And yes, I have always kept an interest in art and have attended a weekly life class forever it seems. I continue to do small art jobs if I’m asked and I design a yearly family Christmas card.

I know you’ve had a long writing career – can you tell us about your journey to publication?

As I’ve already explained, I only started writing – with a view to getting published – when my son was a toddler. In fact I started just after he started playgroup. Just Before Dawn, was the first novel I ever finished. After being roundly rejected by Mills & Boon, which wasn’t a surprise as I’d been unable to keep the plot within their guidelines, I very quickly (and I mean 4 months from completing the manuscript) found a newly established publisher called “Love Stories”. Their aim was to publish intelligent, unconventional novels which had a love story at their heart, but which avoided the romance clichés.  Just Before Dawn fitted their brief perfectly and within a year of its publication, my second novel, Desires and Dreams also came out under the LS imprint. And I was able to design my own covers.  I felt I had made it. But sadly, the publisher was small and it folded within a few years, having failed to achieve the marketing, promotion and distribution necessary to achieve success for itself or for its authors.

After the demise of my publisher, I was confident I would be able to find another with no trouble.  I was still writing the same kind of book, stories that not only faced up to the downsides and the pitfalls in modern relationships but were a subversion of the romance stereo-types. Maybe I’m a bit slow-witted but it took me too long to realise that the world of publishing was changing and that new rules now applied.

First – I should only send the first 3 chapters, second – I should try to find a literary agent rather than submitting directly to publishers, and third – the book I was trying to sell was a dead horse which I should stop flogging. (And by flogging I mean the endless round of sending out and it bouncing back, followed by re-editing and adding and re-writing, and then sending it out again.)  I at last accepted that I had to put the mangled corpse of my horse on the shelf and write a new book.

After a very similar, although not quite so extended process, I accepted that even the new book I’d then written wasn’t setting the world alight. It also failed to find an agent or a publisher. I think you’ll be able to see a pattern emerging here.  Maybe I have too much self-belief (although this, along with persistence, is a quality you need to possess to make it in this business) but I always found it almost impossible to accept that my most recent, although frequently rejected, baby was really no good.  So, despite the lumps on my head from all those brick walls I kept bashing it against, I continued to hang on in there.

I’d had so many near misses with a particular (and regularly renamed) book, that when Amazon launched Kindle, I felt confident enough, or perhaps I should say brazen (after all, what had I got to lose?) to take up the e-publishing opportunity. I self-published TORN in April, 2011.  A year later, I self-published LIFE CLASS.

How difficult was it trying to get attention and reviews?

It was very difficult.  To begin with I did nothing after publishing, apart from announcing the fact on as many on-line platforms as I had access to.  It took quite a long while to realise and accept that the runaway word-of-mouth best seller that I’d hoped for wasn’t going to happen without some effort. I began to identify likely reviewers. I revived my dormant blog. I was already on Facebook but, over time, I identified and joined a number of other on-line forums, support groups and promotion sites. Slowly the reviews began to come in.

Do you still find time to write – how much time is taken up in promoting your books?

I haven’t written anything new for quite a long time.  At the moment I would say that most of my time is taken up with promotion.

What motivates/drives you to keep writing?

I have a need inside me to achieve something, but not only that, to create something. The trouble is that all the stuff I do – answering emails, contributing on forums, commenting on other people’s blogs, writing blog spots, re-editing, preparing and formatting past manuscripts for e-publication or publication in paperback, playing about with designs for new covers – all gives the illusion of “doing something”. I can go to bed at night feeling that I’ve had a full and creative day. So, even when I’ve not written anything new, I have a sense of satisfaction that I’ve actually ticked that box even when not much creativity has been involved.

Do you find it easier to write darker or lighter scenes?

What an interesting question. Thinking about it, it’s probably the darker, more emotionally challenging scenes that I like best, because I like to immerse myself in the drama and the strong emotions of the characters.

How helpful have the RNA been in your writing and publishing journey in terms of support and advice?

I was never able to benefit from the New Writers Scheme as I was already published before I joined. But the help and support I have received from RNA friends, both real and virtual, has been incalculable. It’s precious to have friends with whom you can share your triumphs and disasters, and who understand what you’re going through.

I belong to ROMNA. I would never have been able to e-publish without the technical advice of friends on this loop. I am slightly dyslexic and have problems with instructions of any kind. People who had been through the process were able to filter and distil the necessary steps for me.

I have also kept every email to the group, over the last year or so, on the subject of acquiring an ITIN number. It sounded complicated so I thought I’d wait until I was sure I might have sales in the US.  I was pleased to see sales pick up over there recently, after a Free Kindle promo. But, the downside is that I now feel I should put the advice I’ve saved into effect as I’ll be in London for the RNA winter party, and can go to the American Embassy in person.

Looking through the saved emails, I identified some follow-up queries. I emailed a ROMNA friend who seemed particularly well-informed on the subject, and who had been helpful to me in the past. She immediately wrote back with the information I needed.

By the time this interview is published I hope my application will be in the process of being processed, if I can put it like that!

What advice would you give writers just setting out on their journey?

If I had any failsafe tips I’d have employed them myself and be a best-seller by now.  The one thing I know is that you’ll not succeed in this business unless you can take the knock-backs and keep coming back for more, like one of those wobbly men.  So you have to be persistent to the point of obstinacy, even bloody-minded.  You have to believe in yourself.  And – this may seem obvious – you’ve got to actually do it.  It’s no good thinking about it, talking about it, reading articles about it, going to workshops, but keeping your manuscript in a drawer.  Eventually you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and just do it.

What’s next? Are you working on anything new, or continuing to promote Life Class and Torn?

I continue to promote all the time.  But in saying that, I don’t mean that I’m shouting “Buy my book” at every opportunity. It’s to do with building an on-line support group of friends, and helping and supporting them as much as they help and support me.

However, as well as the above which is a continuing process, I have recently published my book TORN in paperback and now I am engaged in preparing Life Class for its paperback debut. Then I have another book, Fly or Fall, to e-publish and subsequently to publish in paperback.

My next book is in my head but I am basically an “into the mist” writer and until I actually start – physically applying my finger tips to the keys – will the plot begin to unravel in front of me. No wonder I avoid it.  It’s a horrible process to begin with, like wading through porridge.  I know it will catch fire eventually, and once that happens it becomes a joy, but until then……!

I haven’t got a title yet (I find titles fiendishly difficult) but my as yet embryonic ideas can presently be summed up as “Time Team meets Educating Rita.” But there’s every possibility that this strap-line might change.  It depends if the story takes me off in a direction I’m not expecting.

Quick fire questions:

Pen and paper or computer?  Computer

Apple or Banana?         Banana (but only because they’re easier to eat. I did tell you I was lazy?)

Blonde or Brunette?     Are we talking male or female?  Brunette.

Still life or life model?  Life model.

Shoes or Handbags?     Shoes.

E-book or paper book? Paper book

Twitter or Facebook?    Twitter

Naked or clothes? (Life models, of course…)  Naked. You can’t see the architecture of the body properly, otherwise.

Painting or writing?  It depends.  If I am drawing or designing something (and it’s going well) there is nothing more enthralling.  If I am writing (and it’s going well) there is nothing more enthralling. I can only tell you what I do the most of, which, I suppose is an answer in itself, and that’s writing.

Gilli, thank you so much for joining us at Romaniac HQ.

We are showing and not telling …

After a hectic week of workshops, talks and parties, we thought we’d do what all good writers should … show and not tell

The River Ouse, Bedford, FoR12
Room mates for the Thursday night
The new Eric and Ernie
Laura and Catherine glammed up ready for Awards dinner
FoR party room
Pretty in Pink
Celia and Talli
Catherine, Sue Moorcroft, Sue
Debbie and Sue
Mandy Baggot and Laura – Dancing Queens
Celia and Laura clearly know the words

Saturday …

Sarah Tranter, ChocLit Author
Miranda Dickinson, Laura James, Fiona Harper
Saturday Night Romaniacal Quiz
Come on Liz and Debbie – share the joke!
Lovely Liz
Conference Day

Wednesday, 21 November – RNA Winter Party

Debbie and Jan

Debbie and Celia
Think Laura and Mandy are trying to make the same point

Nearly got away with it, but we spotted Mandy in the Romaniac line-up
Catherine and Celia
A nightcap before bed
Just before our goodbyes on Thursday morning, a quick stop here

After the Ball is over – the B words that spring to mind.

I’m writing this as the house is rocked by a gale and a cheery fire burns in the Romaniac grate. Lucie and Vanessa have kept it well stoked up with logs while the rest of us have been off partying for Britain, but the biscuit barrel is empty. Never mind, we ate for Britain too at the Festival of Romance, and the canapés at the RNA Winter Party were yummy. Here are a few words that remind me of the events of the past few days, and they all, strangely, begin with B:
Baggot, Mandy: The wonderful Lady B shared her best wet-look catsuit moment at the Romaniac quiz on Saturday night. What a star.
Baby Bumps: Talli Roland and Kate Allan demonstrated that big is beautiful – when I was about to give birth (many moons ago) we were expected to wear huge tent dresses with white collars and bows, as modelled by Princess Diana, popsocks optional. Thank goodness you’re allowed to wear fabulous figure hugging lace now, Talli.
Blogging: The importance of keeping a high blog profile was mentioned quite a lot – mine needs serious surgery. But the Romaniac Blog is functioning well, and we especially love your comments. #smileswinningly
Breakfasts: Uttering a little greedy moan just thinking about these.
Books: I was determined not to buy too many. Failed miserably, but they looked sooooooooo tempting. A few more can’t hurt, can they?
Bedroom scenes: Still thinking about tactics for keeping my mind pure, following one of the talks on Sunday. Oh, why fight a losing battle? Let the smut rage.
Big Moment: Friday night, with the gala dinner almost ready to be served – we had cheered for all our favourites and the awards were over…or so I thought. The last one was the winner of the competition for the Piatkus Entice contract. And that, unfortunately, brings me onto my next B
Bread: which was what my mouth was full of when my name was called and I had to wiggle through all the tables to the front, frantically chewing. Note to self – wait for dinner next time, however nice the bread looks.
And finally, the most important B of all –
Buddies: New ones, old ones and Romaniac ones. That’s what the FoR and the Winter Party were all about for me. Even if all that talking was a bit tiring…

Best wishes, back soon – Celia 🙂

Tuesday Chit Chat with Anna Jacobs

Good morning to all!
It is my privilege to be joined by the prolific international and award winning writer, Anna Jacobs today.

Welcome, Anna. I hope it’s not too early for you (or is that late over there in Australia?) Anyway, pull up a chair and make yourself at home. I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ll get the chocolate croissants out and put the kettle on. What’s it to be – tea, coffee, herbal – how do you usually start your day?

I’m happy to be here, Debbie. We’re eight hours ahead of the UK here in Australia, which makes it ‘interesting’ to do business sometimes. I don’t mind very early mornings, as I wake at 5am bright and alert, but by 7pm I’m getting tired. Oh, how I’d love a chocolate croissant. Sadly, I’ve become cereal intolerant (not just wheat) so can’t have croissants any longer. And I’m a low calorie cordial girl. I’ve never in my life drunk tea/coffee or even herbal, because they taste so bitter.

I start my day by tiptoeing out of the bedroom and leaving my husband in peace, then stroll across the house to my office where I’m queen of the quiet morning world inside and out. I love that time of day. I then answer my emails, which come from all over the world.

The Romaniacs and I would like to congratulate you on your latest publication, The Trader’s Dream. How has the launch been?

Thank you for your kind words. The Trader’s Dream has gone bravely out into the world and is selling well, which means people are wanting to read it, which is what matters most to me. Strangely, I’ve never had an actual book launch, even though my 60th novel comes out next year. I know regular readers have been waiting eagerly for the next Trader book. This is No 3 and No 4 (The Trader’s Gift) is written and in preparation at my publisher’s, but I haven’t even begun to write the last book in the series yet.

With all the books you’ve written over the years you must have seen many changes in the marketing side of things since you first set out on the path to publication. How do you feel about self-promotion and the different hats a writer must wear in today’s market? Do you find self-promotion daunting?

I don’t find it daunting to do promotion, but I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time on it, because I’d far rather write more stories. However, people are so nice when I give talks, etc, that I end up enjoying myself. It’s nice to get out of the house sometimes.

I didn’t do any promotion when I was first published. My publisher did a few things without me. Now, I do guest blogs, run a readers’ email newsletter (approximately monthly) and have a huge website.

What started you off down the road as a writer and how long did it take you from concept of your first novel to publication?

LOL, I got the idea for my first novel on my way to book my wedding, way back when. My mother and I were sitting on the top of a double-decker bus, and saw a narrow little back street in Oldham called Salem Street. I wondered what the people were like who first lived there. My story is about imaginary people in a similar street, of course. I didn’t write it for twenty years, but I never forgot the idea. That turned out to be Salem Street the novel, which was published in 1994 and is still going into reprints, I’m delighted to say. It wasn’t my first novel published, but it was my first ‘real’ idea for a story.

I started telling myself stories when I was two. I guess it was born in me. When I wrote my first novel seriously, not just dabbling, it took me two years to finish it and it didn’t get published for another ten years, after a major rewrite. Writers’ early skills aren’t always up to scratch, and they need to write a lot to practise, just as an athlete can’t do the Olympics without a great deal of training.

 You’re very supportive of new writers and an active member of the RNA. If you could give one piece of advice for a wannabe writer, what would it be?

Don’t rush out and self-publish your first novel as an ebook. Keep it for later and write another. Most first novels are learning pieces and you’ll probably cringe when you read yours in a few years. But you’ll have better skills to polish it later, so it won’t be wasted. Think of writing as a long-term career, identifying and developing the skills needed, preparing yourself in every way possible. Editors don’t do this for writers nowadays; you’ll have to do it yourself.

Having read MANY (it must be over twenty) of your historical/saga books, I think I could pick up any without a cover and know it’s you who’d written it. Looking back to your first novels; Persons of Rank (1992) and the first of your sagas, Salem Street (1994) how would you say your writing style has developed?

I’m glad you’re enjoying my books. Do you know, my husband and daughters say exactly the same thing, that they could recognise my ‘voice’ as a writer anywhere. I think my writing style has become more polished, though, and I write shorter books.

My first book published was ‘Persons of Rank’, a regency romance in the style of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I wrote it for fun, but I didn’t continue in that genre.

I write shorter stories these days that dive straight into the action. No more 140,000 word tales, but 80-100,000. I think I craft the story better and get my point across more skilfully. But there’s always something to learn or improve where novel writing is concerned, which keeps me interested.

I also write modern novels these days. A story recently published is one of my own favourites: ‘Winds of Change’. The paperback should be out soon for that.  

To what extent has the RNA helped you?

I was already published when I joined, but the companionship has been invaluable – and please don’t undervalue that. I live in a small country town in Western Australia, one of the most isolated ‘advanced’ countries on earth. It’s even a long way from the rest of Australia! It’s a lonely life anyway, writing, but more so when you’re a long way away from meetings, etc.

The other good thing from the RNA is that I can keep in better touch with the UK publishing industry via the people on the chat list and via other things the organisation offers. That is so helpful.

You seem very much a family person. That must have meant a fair bit of juggling; writing, managing home and family, and I read that you have several health problems, including M.E and Arthritis. Over the years how have you managed to do it all, and to produce three books a year, especially living with chronic illness?

Family are the most important of all. I love mine very much.
You can live with chronic illness and ignore/manage it, or you can sink into a self-pitying heap. I’m not letting anything stop me from writing, so I push problems into the background. Anyway, the ME is well under control these days, thanks to an innovative group of doctors here who treat patients by rebalancing the body chemistry. Mine was haywire. The ME only shows up when I’m stressed, and I get fuzzy brained, so I avoid stress as much as possible. Arthritis happens to most of us as we grow older, so really, it proves that I’m doing well! I’m still on the right side of the grass! And I’m still writing. I don’t need to be fit enough to run races – well, I never was sportingly active. Pitiful is the best way of describing me trying to catch or hit a ball.

I understand you live some of the time in Australia, and the northern hemisphere summers in Wiltshire. What took you to Australia? And do you tend to write differently or have different projects on the go, depending on what part of the world you’re in, or write for different markets?

We emigrated to Australia for a better life – the usual tale – and also for me to avoid snow, which I hate with a passion. But it’s lovely to enjoy both countries – as long as it doesn’t snow in summer in the UK.

We’d wanted a holiday home in the UK for a long time, but couldn’t find something it was safe to leave for half the year. Then one day I found a leisure village in Wiltshire, sent my sister along from Bristol to look at it, and she said it looked good. We bought a block and ordered a house the next day. It sounds impulsive, but we’d been looking for years and knew exactly what we wanted.

When I’m in the UK, it’s harder to find as much writing time, as I have a sister there, and my husband has a brother and sister. So we socialise more frequently. But being there also helps with my research and with getting in the UK mood for my modern novels, which are set in both Australia and the UK. The experience of living in two countries enhances our lives greatly and we both love it. Mind you, I try to write my historical novels in Australia, as I have my big reference library there, and my modern stories in the UK. But it isn’t always possible.

I hear you’re as big a reader as a writer. What’s on the bedside cabinet and do you read alongside when you’re plotting and writing?

I read three novels a week. What I don’t read much is sagas, since I spend two-thirds of the year writing them. Enough is enough. I read a lot of modern novels, especially by American authors like Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods, who write such warm complex tales of families and friends.

I like reading cosy mysteries – Miss Marple type, not gruesome or super-violent ones. I think Jacqueline Winspear is my favourite writer of these, but I like Lillian Stewart Carl’s gentle Scottish mysteries too.

The Trader’s Dream, your latest book is almost your sixtieth novel!  And you write three novels a year. How do you work it – do you have more than one book at a time on the go, and how do you keep coming up with all these ideas?

I can’t write more than one book at a time, so I just work till I’ve finished one. I prefer to write every day, to keep ‘inside’ the story. I could push myself and write four novels a year, but I have a life outside writing, so I don’t. I have a gorgeous husband, two daughters, son-in-law and grandson, and some very lovely friends.

I find it refreshing to write different types of book. For instance, though I write historical novels for two of my three publishers, one requires novels set in Australia and the other isn’t allowed that, so I set them mainly in Wiltshire. My modern novels can be set in either country.
As for ideas, they well up all the time. I wish I could write faster to keep up with them.

I used to write fantasy novels as Shannah Jay and I miss that, but there are only so many hours in the day. My Shannah Jay novels are on sale from my website, by the way.

Oh, and I’ll never be remembered for my dusting or ironing, as I don’t do such silly activities. I was born without any domestic genes and pay other wonderful people to do those chores. I’d rather write.

  The third in your Traders series, what’s The Trader’s Dream about?

Bram Deagan dreams of bringing his family from Ireland to join him in Australia, where he now runs a successful trading business. But when a typhus epidemic strikes Ireland, it leaves the Deagan family decimated. And, with other members of the family scattered round the world, there is only Maura Deagain left to look after her orphaned nieces and nephew.

Forced to abandon her own ambitions, and unsure whether she is ready to become a mother figure to three young children, Maura recognises that their only hope is to join Bram in far-away Australia. So they set sail on the SS Delta, which will carry them there, via the newly opened Suez Canal.

It is only when a storm throws her and fellow passenger Hugh Beaufort together that Maura realises this journey may also give her a chance to realise a dream she set aside years ago – to have a family of her own. That is, until someone from Hugh’s past threatens to jeopardise everything.

I’ve waited ten years to write a story with the background of the opening of the Suez Canal. It was such a fascinating event. You can find out more about the story and the research behind it, and read the first chapter, on my website at

There are no doubt other projects already in the pipeline. So what’s next?…

I have already written Book 4 in the Traders – The Trader’s Gift. There will be five in all.
I have a modern novel coming out at the end of January. A Place of Hope is set on the moors just outside Littleborough, Lancashire, and is on one of my favourite themes – people making new lives for themselves. People of all ages do this all the time in real life and I’ve found it leads to some fascinating tales in fiction.

And I’m just starting a new series of Wiltshire sagas. I’m having fun setting up a tale that will cover three books.

I tell myself, one day, if I ever get that book deal, I’m going to employ a cleaner and gardener! Finally, as such a successful and prolific writer, you’re in the enviable position that you must earn a reasonable living for it to be your main ‘day’ job. What little perks or ‘luxuries’ has writing afforded you?

Writing has paid for our second home in England, because we’ve always been moderately careful with money. Writing allows me to buy any book that takes my fancy – to me, that’s riches.

I’m not much interested in jewellery or fashion, especially not the ‘daft’ fashions like walking on stilts that some women are doing these days. They call them shoes, I call them stilts, and don’t they give the wearers an awkward, ungainly gait, like limping camels!

We’re not rich but it’s nice that we’re comfortable enough to be able to pay school fees for our grandson. I do most truly believe in education, because your brain is what guides you through life, so it needs good training and exercise because it’s going to have a lot to cope with over they years. I love that my own writing means research and creativity, which means keeping my brain alive.

Well, I guess we’re coming to the end of our time together … unless you’d like to stay for lunch? …

I’d love to stay for lunch. LOL. But you’d have to get a list of my food allergies first. Drives me mad. I love that there are lots of Indian restaurants in England, and pub lunches with jacket potatoes, because I can’t do bread/pasta stuff.

Oh, I can imagine that must be tricky for you. I can’t imagine a life without pasta!  

Anna, my mum, best friend and her mum are also huge fans. I’ve already bought my copy of The Trader’s Dream and suspect if we meet any time soon, I shall have to buy a few copies of your latest novel and ask you to do a mass signing.

I’m happy to sign books any time. If you’re ever in Wiltshire . . .

Thank you. I might just take you up on that. I do hope we get to meet you one of these days. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to be our guest today. We wish you every success with your current novel and, of course, all those still to come…

Anna Jacobs is published mainly as Anna Jacobs, writing historical sagas and modern novels alternately. Some books are set in the UK, others in Australia, or both countries. She used to write fantasy novels as Shannah Jay and these are available again as ebooks.

You can find Anna at:

Web address:


Buy the latest book here on Amazon Or The Book Depository also send books anywhere in the world, postage free:

And January’s book, A Place of Hope is now listed here on Amazon, available for pre-order.

If you’re interested in being kept up to date with information about Anna’s books, you can sign up for her email newsletter. You’ll receive news approximately every 4-6 weeks and be the first to hear the news of coming books and what she’s currently writing.

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Festival of Romance – A Romanical Quiz

Dear Festival Goers

By now you will know the Total E-Bound party is not taking place. This is sad news, but those broken hearts can be fixed and those pulses will beat again, as The Romaniacs invite you to their Romanical Quiz.

It will begin at 21:30, shortly after the Literary Dinner. You will not have to leave your dining chair as the quiz is coming to you – the cheese and biscuits of the evening, if you like.

We appreciate people have taken time to find the perfect outfits for what would have been an erotica party, and therefore encourage you to wear them. The Literary Dinner will look fantastic with romantic, historical and erotica characters at every table.

You will still receive your refund for the cancelled party.

Thank you.


1)      Maximum number in a team is six.

2)      No arguing over team names.

We look forward to seeing you.