Dear diary…

Dear diary….

I recently found one of my old diaries tucked away, dusty and forgotten, on a high shelf  – I thought I’d destroyed them all, but one (the most embarrassing) survived…

Writing

I stopped writing a diary at sixteen; the last I wrote (yes, the one that refused to be destroyed,) a spectacularly detailed account of my crush on someone who barely acknowledged my existence – a year-long exposé of his every word and look in my direction. What can I say?  It was the end of the eighties and I lived in the middle of nowhere, the very edge of the world where nothing ever happened. I smile and cringe to remember it, and I also want to shake that sixteen-year-old girl and say for God’s sake, girl, just talk to him!

I thought I stopped with the diaries because I grew out of documenting the tedium and angst of teenage-hood – a childhood thing I no longer needed as I grew up. But there’s a point in this diary, this one survivor, where the diary pretty much stopped and I started writing little stories instead – stories that were all fiction, but used all the very real emotion I was feeling at the time…

Because with fiction, I could give myself the happy endings I longed for – why document another day of staring at my crush across the library when I could write a story where the girl gets the boy? Why whine about a boring weekend where nothing happened but a trip to the supermarket with my mum when I could write a story where the supermarket gets overrun with zombies and the hero has to escape or be eaten?

Sitting in my writing room today, surrounded by decades worth of beautiful notebooks full of notes for novels, short stories, flash fiction, even poetry, I realise I never gave up writing a diary at all. I started the stories because I wanted the happy endings, the thrilling adventures and as life grew bigger and more complicated, I turned completely to fiction because some things are too hard to lay bare on the pages of a diary…

But fiction – none of the stories I write are based on real-life, but the emotions are real, the feelings are real. If you read my notebooks, you could probably get a good idea of my life if you know how to crack the code … when I’m sad, I write happy stories – I re-write life to always have a happy ending. Darker fiction can only be written when things are good in my life.

As I flick through some of my old notebooks, I notice something else – interspersed between the stories and the notes, there are still diary entries. Every New Year, I still write my resolutions in diary form, every time something exciting happens, I write about it – but these days, it’s less Dear Diary, I met a boy, and more Dear Diary, I got short-listed in a competition. I’ve got the boy, the children, the romantic happy ending,  I just need the getting-published dream to come true now…

Writing – you are now my teenage crush, and I will continue to spend hours daydreaming about our happy ending and obsessing about every look or word sent my way by agent or editor…

Love

Vanessa x

P.s. Anyone else still keep a diary?

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Tuesday Chit Chat with Isolde Martyn

Isolde Martyn

We are delighted to welcome RITA-winning, historical novelist, and friend, Isolde Martyn, to Romaniac HQ.

Good morning, Isolde, and thank you so much for joining us. Can we get you an Earl Grey and a Hobnob? We’ve restocked our cupboards, and the contents of our fridge could feed a family of ten for a month.

Thanks, Laura, great to be made so welcome.

How is the Australian weather?

Not Brrrrr but PHEW!!! On Friday, we had the hottest day ever recorded in Sydney –over 46C. You’ll have probably heard about the bushfires in Tasmania and parts of New South Wales. A friend of ours down near the Snowy Mountains had half their land burnt. Fortunately their house survived. Sadly, a lot of people have lost their homes to fire this summer.

Perhaps we shouldn’t complain about the snow here…Having read about your bus stop encounter – how do you divide your time between the UK and Australia? Do you feel you belong to one country more than the other?

I try and get over to the UK as often as I can. I miss the history, and my Mum and Dad need a lot of help now. However, I’ve lived in Australia since 1970 so I feel at home in both countries. When I’m back in Dorset, I guess it’s like putting on a comfortable shoe, and it’s lovely to attend the ‘Off-the-Cuff Writers’ Group’ or the local ‘Book Club’, for instance, and feel accepted.

Is there a different market for romance in Australia than in the UK or, indeed, America? Do you write with a particular country in mind?

I write for readers who love history and want more out of a story than just the relationship. Attending the Romance Writers Conference in the US in 2000 was a mind-blowing experience, especially for anyone like me writing single titles –all those publishers, all those writers, all those readers. Yes, there are plenty of Romance readers and writers in Australia/New Zealand but we don’t have the same population so we tend to try and get published in the US as well as here.

British publishers generally require you to approach them first. So although I write novels that deal with British History, because those books have already come out in Australia, they have been turned down in the UK. That’s even with winning major awards. I hope it may be a different situation with Mistress to the Crown.

May I say, too, that it seems to me that the UK was rather tardy in grasping the immense potential of the ‘single title’ romance market. It is only recently that the Romantic Novelists’ Conferences have copied some of the successful aspects of the US conferences.

 

Mistress to the Crown is your new release. Please tell us about the book.Mistress To The Crown

Historical heroines need to have aspirations that modern readers can relate to. Elizabeth Lambard aka Mistress ‘Jane’ Shore, has it in heaps. The real life Elizabeth was married off in her early teens to William Shore, a young man twice her age and she was determined to get the marriage annulled. Becoming mistress to King Edward IV helped her achieve that aim. However, it wasn’t all success and revelling in being part of the Yorkist glitterati. When the king died, she was arrested for witchcraft and treason on the orders of the future Richard III.

The book is about her relationship with the men in her life but it is also strongly based on what is known about her—that she was a warm-hearted, intelligent woman who tried to help people where she saw injustice being done.

I should add I also wanted a historical heroine who was at the heart of events rather than home minding her manors and Mistress Shore was perfect.

Please tell us about the journey this book has gone through to get published.

I wrote a great deal about her childhood and life as the daughter of an alderman, who was Sheriff of London and highly political. Gradually, however, the mss became shortened and eventually the first chapter was the day her life changed — the day the King’s friend Lord Hastings walked into her shop.

It was hard to find a publisher. It was either ‘too sexy’ or ‘too historical’, ‘too much intrigue’ or ‘too little intrigue’, ‘too romantic’ or ‘not romantic enough’.  But finally an Aussie editor and her team fell in love with the story.

I should add I hope to have two of my backlist, The Maiden and the Unicorn and Fleur-de-Lis available in the UK as e-books and a new e-book The Devil in Ermine also available on Amazon.

Your love for the era about which you write shines through your writing. What is it about the Plantagenets that inspires you to write?

I find the major historical people so fascinating and the times are dangerous. How do these people react to sudden change? What pressures are they under? And there are real life women who can thwart the system and achieve their ambitions despite living in a very masculine world, where they have few rights: a Queen who leads a rebel army against her gay husband, a woman spy, a girl who hires a stranger to pretend he married her before her real marriage took place, a mercer’s wife who moves from being a housewife to becoming a royal mistress; and a steward’s daughter who marries a handsome king. Fantastic material!

If you could be any of your heroines which one, and why?

Oh, goodness, that’s a damn tough question.  Maybe Fleur, of Fleur-de-Lis, even if living in revolutionary Paris had its dangers.

What have been the most memorable, unusual and enjoyable pieces of research you’ve done to date and do you enjoy that aspect of writing?

Research has taken me to Normandy, the Loire, Yorkshire, Wales and strangely enough, Ormskirk. The most interesting? Interviewing a professional clairvoyant for the character of Heloise in The Silver Bride/Moonlight and Shadow. I wanted to ask what it felt like to have premonitions and how she coped with having a fey ability.

The most exciting? Research for the balloon flight in Fleur-de-Lis. Floating like thistledown on a balmy early morning and seeing kangaroos grazing beneath us – thrilling and utter magic!Isolde Martyn Fleur De Lis

What are your thoughts on the recent discovery of a body in Leicester? What do you think would be the resulting effects should it turn out to be Richard III?

I think it will be fascinating to see how the reconstructed face compares with portraits. They are also doing a full reconstruction of how body might have appeared. We’ll even know what the man ate for breakfast before the battle since they’ve found dental plaque, too. It’s interesting that the skeleton shows scoliosis but not a hump, so he did have an uneven gait. Maybe he received a wound in his Achilles tendon at the battle of Barnet or Tewkesbury to cause a limp or maybe it was all that combat training. By the way, the famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, has finally been reinterred a day or two ago with full RC funeral rites. They identified his bones through DNA back in 2011.

Would you consider writing in any other genre, if so, which?

I enjoy reading fantasy and a lot of fantasies have a medieval flavour, but if my readers still enjoy the mix of historical fact and a love story, then I’ll stick with that.

You are a multi-award winning author in Australia and America. That must be very exciting, and every writer’s dream. Please tell us about those moments.

It was marvellous to win the inaugural ‘Romantic Book of the Year’ in Australia in 1999 except I was told before the winners were announced so that rather spoilt the moment of drama. Winning the Rita award in Washington DC from Romance Writers of America for ‘Best First Novel 2000’ was absolutely wonderful, a romance Oscar. There were five other very good writers hoping to win as well, including fellow Australian Isolde Martyn The Maiden and the Unicorn_Anne Gracie. And the Rita was golden, large, heavy and utterly beautiful. I couldn’t have felt prouder.

If you could be presented with a literary award by any celebrity, who would you choose, and why?

If she was still alive, the historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett.

As members of The Romaniacs, and our own local writing groups, we appreciate the importance of the support we receive from one another. What do you consider important factors of belonging to such groups?

It made all the difference to me. Not just the wonderful sisterly support but the workshopping. Learning what didn’t work and seeing mistakes in my own work as well as theirs. Each of our group has something to contribute. One lady always sees the big picture, the subtle themes; another member will have comments on the emotional journey; and another on the historical logistics. Because we all write differently (light romance, suspense, erotica, historical and popular fiction), we all have our different strengths and between us, we have gained a huge understanding of markets, digital as well as hard print. Half of our group are published authors and one lady runs a highly respected Facebook site that promotes Australian Women Writers.

The downside with critique groups is that their dynamics have to be right for you otherwise it’s damaging. Not everyone who joined our group has stayed. We tend to workshop problems and give constructive criticism. If someone just wants pats on the head, that’s not the point of the group.

If you were not an author, what would you do?

Well, I’ve worked as an editor and a historian and enjoyed both. A new challenge would be a screenwriter perhaps or a successful sitcom writer.

Now, we don’t know if the craze has hit Australia yet, but in Britain, the Onesie has taken off big time. It’s like a baby sleep-suit, but in adult sizes. We have even witnessed a grown man walking down the high street in his. Have you come across these Down Under?

What!!!! Precisely my response, Isolde.

Thank you so much for visiting today, Isolde, and bringing the Australian sunshine to a chilly Britain. Best wishes with Mistress to the Crown.  It will be a great read.

Romaniacs, I wish each of you every success and thanks for the hospitality.

Isolde runs an excellent website, including a writer’s resource section. Please do take a look. The advice is, as ever, excellent. http://www.isoldemartyn.com/index.php/writers-resource

The Way We Were…

This week, more Romaniacs take a trip down Memory Lane, thinking of the influences and experiences that have shaped us and remembering The Way We Were

We would love to know where your writing aspirations began and what your memories of that time are.

Vanessa: I grew up in a small village on the edge of nowhere – no library, no bookshop, no cafes. It was pre-Amazon, pre-Sky TV, pre-mobile phones. When I was younger, I was out all the time – off on my bike for hours, building dens, climbing trees. Home for Corona pop and Blue Peter on TV. Idyllic when you’re nine. Heading for teenage years, however, where and when I was growing up became more limiting. Entertainment for teenagers was non-existent – you either hung around in bus shelters, brushing up on your biology skills or stayed at home, waiting to be eighteen.

I stayed at home – I never was any good at science. Stayed at home in my legwarmers and batwing sleeve jumpers knitted by my nan, trying to learn all the words to Karma Chameleon and how to walk in stiletto heels. In 2013, as I face my first year without either of my parents, I have to thank them for setting me on the path to becoming a writer – by bringing me up in a house full of books. In those long teenage years, waiting for grown-up life to begin, I was such a voracious reader, I read anything and everything in that house – my dad’s Alistair MacLeans and Stephen Kings, my mum’s Danielle Steeles and Catherine Cookson – I’d even be queuing up on a Thursday to read my brother’s 2000AD after he’d finished.

On long, rainy Saturday afternoons, when nothing was on TV but horse racing or darts, I’d lose myself in a book, and when I really couldn’t face reading Tilly Trotter or Ice Station Zebra for the fiftieth time, I got out my exercise books, the ones covered in anaglypta wallpaper and painted, and wrote my own stories. Terrible ones, really really terrible – can you imagine the stories written by a teenager, influenced by Catherine Cookson AND Alistair MacLean?? But I’d discovered the thrill of writing, of inventing and controlling my own worlds. Rainy afternoons when there’s nothing on the telly have never been boring since.

Catherine: I can’t be the only one who spent their childhood with her head in the clouds and can’t remember half of it? The things I do remember: days on the beach (10 minute walk away), camping with the brownies and guides (nan was Brown Owl and mum was the guide leader so I joined up very early), spending time at Nan and Grandad’s with the tent up in the back garden with mini sandwiches and ice cream soda. It’s possible I grew up in an Enid Blyton book, but then I’m highlighting the good bits.

Like the other girls, I developed a love of reading. I was given special teaching because of my dyslexia and my homework involved lots of reading aloud to my relatives. I loved it and by aged 7 I’d developed the reading ability of an 11 year old. Nancy Drew was by far my favourite.

Lucie: I was one of the late starters when it came to writing and reading. Sometimes I feel a bit of a fraud when I hear others say that their whole childhood from an incredibly young age, was reading and writing and making up stories. It wasn’t the same for me. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading and I often penned a few tales down, but nothing really seriously. Not until I got into secondary school did it occur to me how much I loved reading and writing. I still briefly remember a story I wrote in year 9 – it was awful, looking back, but it really kick started my writing skills, I think. It was about a girl who was at a house and someone had broken in and she had to get away. It was typically dark and in the middle of nowhere so it involved lots of running and falling over and trying to escape… See, I told you, not very good! But it was a start.

I didn’t have lots of books growing up. My family wasn’t very well off so money went on things like clothes, uniform and food. But I did manage to collect the ‘Goosebumps’ series and I inherited the ‘Point Horror’ series from my sister, which I loved to read. And In my early teens, I read ‘Earth Abides’ by George R Stewart and absolutely loved it! I really want to read it again soon – It can go on the huge TBR pile….

Now, you will notice a weird pattern here; Goosebumps books, Point Horror and my year 9 story of escaping a psycho. Yet I now write romance? For me, I loved to write. I didn’t have a clue as to what genre’s were, or which I wanted to write within, I just liked writing. The more I began to write, the more I broadened my horizons when It came to reading and that’s when I discovered romance novels. So truthfully, I was not a serious writer until I hit 20. Which is why I sometimes feel a fraud. But I can assure you that just because my passion came later, it is still very much running through my veins and is what makes me who I am today.

Tuesday Chit Chats: The Romaniac Cut

Tuesday Chit Chats: The Romaniac Cut.

The Romaniacs

I have four questions today – instantly The Two Ronnies sketch comes to mind – you know the one? Fork Handles…It’s a bit like that at Romaniac HQ…Anyway, I digress. Mid-February will see the first anniversary of The Romaniac Blog, and that has put me in a reflective mood. Looking back through our Tuesday Chit Chats, I’ve chosen four questions we asked our wonderful guests, whilst they supped wine and ate HobNobs, that I’d like to put to you.

  1. Is there a book you wished you had written?
  2. Who are your top three favourite fictional characters?
  3. How vividly do you recall your dreams and are they in colour?
  4. What are the funniest and most interesting or unusual questions you’ve been asked at a talk or book signing?

 Liz Harris: The Road Back.

Liz Harris

Is there a book out there that you liked so much, you wished you had written it?TRB_revised1

I haven’t read Fifty shades of Grey, but I certainly wish I’d written it. I could have easily got used to lugging sacks of lucre to the bank! As to both parts of your question, though, I’ve loved many novels over the years, but I don’t think that I’ve ever consciously wished that I’d written one of them myself. I have too much fun creating my own fictional world ever to wish that I’d created that of someone else.

Nikki Goodman: NWS Member

Nikki Goodman

Name three favourite fictional heroes?

That’s really hard – I’ve read so many books! I’m going to go for a fictional heroine first. 

1)      Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

tokillmockingbirdI studied the book for English at school and the empathy and maturity that Scout shows towards Boo Radley, and the journey she goes on in coming to terms with people’s prejudices and realising that both good and evil exist really struck me… and stayed with me.

2)      And then to the other extreme…Rupert Campbell-Black in Riders and sequels

I read the books when I was in my late teens. I know RC-B is supposed to be the ultimate anti-hero but he is so sexy and such a bad boy! He does have some redeeming features though, that start to slowly come out once he meets Taggie, who becomes his wife. I liked the fact that love made him a better man, without it changing him too much; he’s still a bit of a scoundrel!

3)      And slightly predictable; Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice

Just because she is strong minded and witty and is not afraid to say what she thinks, which for the time the novel is set in, was brave.

 Sue Moorcroft: Dream A Little Dream.

Portrait of Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft DALDWe’re told everybody dreams, even though we don’t always remember. How vividly do you recall your dreams and are they in colour?

Sometimes very vividly, but only in snatches. I’ve never been able to work out if my dreams are in colour or whether I just paint colour in when I’m recalling them. I’m subject to nightmares, which may be a reason why I don’t like reading or watching anything scary – it comes back get me that night!

Jane Lovering: Vampire State of Mind.

Jane Lovering

What are the funniest and most interesting or unusual questions you’ve been asked at a talk or book signing?VSOM_packshot copy

Apart from ‘why have you got your pants on your head?’  People don’t often ask me questions.  They are usually accelerating away too quickly, although a lady did ask, during a recent talk, about the use of the subjunctive in modern novels.  THAT was interesting…  Mostly though, questions are limited to ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ and ‘who is the responsible adult who is currently in charge of you?’

You can link back to the original interviews by clicking on the author’s name.

Now, how would you answer those four questions?

Laura x

Review: No Such Thing As Immortality by Sarah Tranter

NSTAI’m still reeling from the impact of this amazing book. As seen last week, the Romaniacs are big fans of Sarah Tranter, and we would heartily recommend No Such Thing… as a great page turner.

Nate is a hero to die for, but Rowan isn’t ready to die yet. She has no idea what she’s getting into when she literally runs into Nate (or vice versa) but he is certainly going to change her world –  will it be for better, or worse?

As Rowan and Nate fall head first into a passionate, intense relationship, they both have many issues to face and dark areas of their lives that must be confronted before they stand a chance of a future together. But are these mountains too high to climb? And who, or what, is the sinister Simeon Frey?

Written from Nathaniel’s point of view, which is refreshing in itself, Sarah’s story takes us into a world where love and extreme loyalty are of prime importance, but where enchantment and supernatural powers can threaten Nate and Rowan at any moment. Family ties are different here, but no less powerful. With a bond between them that is like nothing they have ever dreamed of, the lovers should be invincible, but Nate hasn’t banked on Rowan’s past being as lethal and mysterious as his own.

I can’t wait for the follow up to this book – hurry up, Sarah! Nate is haunting my dreams…

Help! I don’t have the time

time

Tick Followed Tock, Followed Tick …

Probably best known for the Guinness ‘White Horses’ advert but the narrator’s voice, deep and foreboding has been whispering in my ear as I struggle to find the time to get any serious writing done. I close my eyes and the crest of the waves is the blank screen in front of me and I hear the voice over of ‘tick followed tock followed tick…’

However, unlike the surfers in the advert, I can’t afford to wait. I need to get on with some writing.

Having taken on a new job just before Christmas my free time to spend writing has reduced dramatically and I have tried to squeeze writing in whenever I can. I’ve started going to bed earlier, which goes against my natural night owl tendencies, but I have done this so I can get up earlier.  I’m now getting up at 5.30, making a quick cup of tea and then switching on the laptop to grab an hour’s writing while everyone else in the house are still asleep and before I have to go to work.

My next bit of free time is my lunch hour where I don’t attempt to write, but use it to catch up on some reading, tweeting and Facebooking.

Then the next time I can get to the laptop is later in the evening once tea and other mum duties are out of the way.

This significantly reduced writing time is certainly making me more focussed when I do write but on the downside, it’s harder to connect with my WIP.

I’m in the middle of writing a novella which has the working title ‘The Beginning of The End’ and I’ve about done the first rough draft.  I now need to go through it, tightening it up before sending it off for proofreading and editing.  At the present time, I’m only releasing it in digital format and I have a cover already prepared by Avalon Graphics. Hopefully I’m still on track to publish mid-March, as long as I continue to make optimum use of my time and keep the voices at bay and have a happy ending just like the Guinness advert, although I may have a glass of wine instead … tick followed tock followed tick …

What are your coping strategies with time?

Have you got any tips for making best use of  writing opportunities?

Sue x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Nikki Goodman

Nikki Goodman

Welcome, welcome, welcome, and Happy New Year, Nikki. How has 2013 treated you so far?

As is customary at Romaniac HQ, we would like to offer you a glass of wine. We would like to, but we can’t. We ran our stocks down over the Christmas period and it appears no one has been to the supermarket since, so the cupboards are a little lacking. Talk about Old Mother Hubbard.

Thank you, lovely to be here and Happy New Year to all the Romaniacs *fluffs up the cushions and gets comfy on the sofa* but what’s this… No wine? Impossible, surely?! I’ve never hung out with any of you guys without there being free flowing wine (Catherine’s granddad’s home made wine was a memorable occasion)… it’s an oxymoron; like the sky without a sun or a Hollywood rom-com without a hot guy in it… not that I’m an alcoholic, no … erm, although my blog is called Writing, Work and Wine… so, ahem, shall we move on?

There is a secret supply of hot chocolate. Please avert your eyes whilst it is retrieved. There’s an unopened pack of biscuits here too! Hobnob?

Ooh, I quite like hot chocolate. I don’t suppose you have any… ooh, whipped cream, thank you, and um, is there any chance… min-marshmallows – bliss! Now where were we, oh a HobNob you say? Well, to be honest I’m trying to lose a little post Christmas podge so I really shouldn’t. I’ll be good and abstain.

We liked the synchronicity of beginning the New Year blog with a new writer. If you could sum up in one sentence what being on the New Writers’ Scheme means to you, and describe what it offers, how would you pitch it?

Ooh, that’s tough, but… It means I get fab like-minded friends, excellent writerly support, help and advice, constructive criticism on my writing to help me learn my craft and the opportunity to meet industry experts.

How important to you is being on the NWS?

Very! It keeps me motivated and helps me learn my craft and I get to spend (both virtual and face to face) time with people who don’t think I’m completely bonkers (well, they might do but they don’t say that to my face!)

I was on the New Writer’s Scheme initially circa 2001/02. I was a single mum and had just written my first book (a Mills and Boon type affair) which HM&B requested the full MS of (they turned it down but gave me lots of advice and invited me to send something else in, which I didn’t, more fool me).

Being in the scheme at that time was brilliant and everyone was lovely but in hindsight I wasn’t ready for it. I had started writing a second book, which got some interest from a now defunct genre publisher but after that I wouldn’t have had anything else to write about. I hadn’t lived enough. I met my husband towards the end of my first year in the scheme and we fell in love. By that time I was knee deep in building a career in human resources, undertaking first a foundation qualification and then, after our son was born (we also have a daughter each), a post graduate qualification. A few years ago, when my son started school and I’d reached a place I wanted to be in HR, I decided it was time to give writing a proper go. As a reader for the RNA Awards, I attended the awards ceremony and got talking to people I’d met when a member previously. I walked out of there thinking, god, I’ve missed this. I’m coming back!

I rejoined the NWS and early in 2010 wrote and entered a non-fiction article on ‘How to Write a Bestseller’ for a competition in The Writer’s Handbook 2010. I was gobsmacked when I got an email to say that although I hadn’t won I was a finalist and my entry had been well received by the judges! That first bit of luck, together with joining ROMNA (RNA’s online cyber chapter) and attending RNA events, really spurred me on, especially getting an Honourable Mention for a short story I’d written and entered in the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. It was anonymously judged by Katie Fforde and I was on my way home from being a day visitor at the RNA Conference in Greenwich when my Aunt (award winning author Sue Moorcroft) called me to tell me and said she had someone who wanted to talk to me and promptly put Katie Fforde on the phone. Katie was lovely and told me I was talented and had to keep writing. I cried most of the way home from London with my husband giving me increasingly concerned looks.

*Takes a deep breath and a gulp of hot chocolate* Phew… so, I set up my blog in October 2010 and kept on entering comps and sending work out and I haven’t really looked back since. If I’d stayed a member of the NWS all those years ago I may have been published by now, but I’m not sure if I would have had staying power. I was too busy raising young children and doing the day job and studying. I obviously still have children (last time I checked they hadn’t vanished from sight) and a hubby and the day job (which I’m very dedicated to) and housework and all the other stuff, but I have better balance now and I make time for writing. I am not giving up and am absolutely, passionately determined to be published one day. Hopefully in the not too distant future. In fact I am in the process of subbing a book to agents at the mo.

Good luck with your submission, Nikki. What is the funniest memory you’ve stored, from an RNA event?

This is going to sound incredibly boring but I can’t really think of any. No slap-stick moments or stupid faux-pas that I’ve made (though I have been tongue-tied around famous authors)…*Takes a contemplative sip of hot chocolate* oops, I think I’ve managed to get cream on my nose *tidies herself up.* I think the most fun I’ve had at an RNA event was at the conference last summer with you lovely Romaniacs (and others) when we had that kitchen party and ended up drinking and singing all night (is there still that video of us singing ‘Dream a Little Dream’ doing the rounds on YouTube…?)

It was a fab Conference. How would you categorise your romance writing?

Ooh, well I’ve kind of got two types of writing. The first is what I’d call romantic comedy or Chick-lit, for example, The Nanny’s Revenge, the first chapter of which was a Top 20 Finalist in last year’s Novelicious Undiscovered competition. They are such fun to write and there is always a love story and of course conflicts between the main characters but there is also some dry wit and funny moments in there too (I’ve been told).

The second is what I’d class as Romantic Fiction or Women’s Fiction dealing with serious issues, as per my current work in progress Random Acts. These tend to have bigger issues at the core of them, feature a wider cast of characters and the writing style or ‘voice’ is more formal. There is always a romance for the main character though. What’s life without a bit of love and sex?

Is there any other genre or sub-genre you would like to write in?

*Gulps down the last of the hot chocolate and curls legs up more comfortably on the sofa* I’d love to try and write a crime thriller / police procedural as I devour them e.g. the Roy Grace series by Peter James, Mo Hayder, Danielle Ramsay, Katia Lief etc But I don’t think I have the background or the desire to do all that research to actually write one!

Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?

Oh, lord. Are you sure there isn’t a bottle of wine tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? Just a nice little Chardonnay? What’s that you say? It’s too early in the day and I must stop talking about wine? Oops, okay then. Qualities of a successful writer? *takes deep breath* Well…

1) Being completely mad? In terms of the ability to immerse yourself in the world you create and the characters that live in it with you and write about that and to not apologise for that. Writing is a lonely business and you have to be willing to spend long periods of time on your own muttering to yourself and getting RSI. Having no shame in pulling out notebooks at odd times to jot things down is good too.

2) Being unbelievably, pig-headedly stubborn and patient = having perseverance! Never giving up no matter what happens. I can’t remember who it was, but I read a long, incredibly inspiring speech a while ago that an American author gave at a conference about never giving up. All sorts of traumas and disappointments had happened to her, but all along her motto was ‘never give up.’ I read it and thought, well bloody hell; I haven’t had half of that stuff happen to me, now I’ve got no excuse. Now my motto is ‘no excuses,’ (when it comes to writing). I send stuff out and if it comes winging back I consider whether I need to change it, based on any feedback I receive. If it feels right to change it I get it done… and then I send it back out again. And then, rinse and repeat!

3) Having the ability and discipline to sit down and gasp, I know, actually write. I sometimes have the hope that my books will write themselves and edit themselves and mysteriously and conveniently appear in a neat pile of papers on my bedside table ready for me to send out to the NWS organiser or agents / publishers. But nope, it’s never happened yet. I have to sit at my laptop or get out my notepad and write the words, regularly and as well as I can.

Please give us a teaser about your work in progress.

Well, I don’t want to give too much away but…

Random Acts is a story about Lizzie, an incredibly sheltered and ‘good’ girl in her mid-twenties, to whom something incredibly traumatic happens. The book follows her journey as she comes to grips with that, goes travelling in search of herself, accompanied by gorgeous, outgoing Will – to do the ‘random acts’ of the title – loses herself (with some pretty outrageous behaviour) and then finds herself again. Ultimately the book is about knowing who you are, and redemption.

The tagline is ‘What would you do?’

If you could choose any setting/place (money no object and all stationery/equipment provided) in which to write your next novel, where would you jet/walk/ride/ off to?

Wow! Ooh, I like this question! I know this one *gazes off dreamily into the distance and sighs*

I’d love to go back to the Maldives (where I went on honeymoon in 2008) and I’d have one of those wooden cabins on the beach with the steps leading down to the sea. It really is paradise on earth; clear blue skies, sparkling waters, glorious warm sunshine. I’d have an ultra-fast laptop with Scrivener on it and I’d get up and have a breakfast of tropical fruit on the beach, and then write for three or four hours. I’d have lunch and go and do something – a trip to Male (the capital island) or snorkelling or a boat trip – something where I could soak up culture or be around live, breathing people rather than ones in my head. Then I’d come back and write for another few hours until dinner, and perhaps a little after dinner too.

I haven’t thought about what my family would be doing have I? LOL. Oh well…

They’ll learn to be self-sufficient, like all writers’ families 🙂 What are the three most inspiring pieces of advice you’ve received?

1). Keep going no matter what; the only difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is that the latter never stopped trying.

2) To have self-belief. With talent and perseverance amazing things can happen.

3) Read widely, study the market and learn your craft. Basically, know your business!

What makes you laugh?

So much! *throws back head and giggles* See? Random things that (my) kids do and say, friends recounting bizarre stories, my husband’s observations on life, ‘physical’ slapstick comedy, stand up comedians who use irony and visual prompts – I love Russell Howard. Lots of things that probably aren’t supposed to be funny. I have been known to laugh at inappropriate things *looks sheepish* though thankfully never in a meeting with an employee whilst I’m doing the day job. That would NOT be funny.

Quick-Fire Round.

Cake or chocolate? Chocolate, definitely.

Big Bang Theory or Friends? Big Bang Theory, by an edge.

Merlot or Chardonnay? That’s cruel! Chardonnay

Walk or cycle? Walk (preferably along the beach)

Dance or gym? Dance

Younger or older? What? Wine? Men? Both! (Though of course I’m a married woman)

Christmas or New Year? New Year. I love the sense of new possibilities

Nikki – thank you so much for dropping by for a chat, and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Might be best to bring a bottle next time. Just saying.

I’ll make a note of that now!

We wish you lots of luck and good will with your writing, and hope you will join us at our next kitchen party, when we will guarantee the cupboard will be fully stocked.

Thanks so much for letting me visit, it’s been lovely to chat. I look forward to our next get-together and good luck to all of you with your writing too *gets up to leave but tidies the sofa up first, puts away the Hobnobs and rinses her mug out* Take Care!

You can follow Nikki on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/nikki.goodman.35

Twitter @nikkigoodman1

And on her blog – Writing, Work and Wine at http://nikkigoodman.wordpress.com/