Tuesday Chit-Chat with Paul Pilkington


Another man in the house – this is becoming something of a habit 🙂 Today we have with us Paul Pilkington, author of the Emma Holden suspense novels.

Pilkington_Selection

Hello, Paul. You found Romaniac HQ okay then? Come on in and take a seat.

Yes, found it pretty easily thanks. And without need for Sat Nav. Thanks for inviting me over for a chat. I can see you’ve got a cup of tea waiting, so that’s great!

Tea and one of Celia’s famous cakes. Now you’re settled, can you tell us about your writing background, please?

I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, and English literature was one of my favourite subjects at school. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started really considering writing longer pieces of work, just for the fun of it. It took me a couple of years with those thoughts in my head to actually begin writing consistently. At first, I started out writing comedy, and really enjoyed that – I had some success in terms of competitions and even a comedy sketch on TV. But eventually I turned my hand to mystery suspense, as it was the genre I’d become a big fan of as a reader – particularly the Harlan Coben standalone novels and ones similar in style. I love the challenge of creating suspense and also aim for my books to be hard to put down. My novels are never gory, nasty, or particularly gritty (I don’t read those kind of books, and certainly wouldn’t want to write them!). I prefer to focus on relationships, emotion, and sometimes romance too. All wrapped up in the mystery of course, with a bit of darkness and danger thrown in!

Can you tell us a bit about your Emma Holden series of books? They’ve been very successful, you must be really pleased.

I’m really pleased about how things have gone. The One You Love, the first novel of the series, has been very well received, and has been downloaded around two million times since July 2011. It’s been in the top 10 in the UK Kindle free download chart since then, as well as being in the top 100 of the US Kindle chart for the same length of time. It’s also doing really well on Apple’s various iBookstores around the world, and was recently highlighted as a “Breakout Book” by Apple. It’s fair to say that it took me by surprise, and I still can’t quite get my head around it. The novella sequel has done really well, and the third and final instalment, The One You Trust, will be out in summer 2013. I’ve worked with the characters for quite a while now, and really do care for them. It will be good to complete my “grand plan” but it will also be sad to finish with them. I’m sure Emma in particular will be glad that I’ll be leaving her alone to get on with her life.

How in-depth is your planning when plotting a new novel?

It depends. I did a lot less plotting for The One You Love than I did for Someone to Save You (where I plotted out each chapter from the beginning). To be honest, if I plot too much, it spoils it for me. I feel like things have already happened and that I’m just some reporter writing up yesterday’s news. Whereas if I know just a few key points (start, middle, end, and then a few other key scenes), then it’s much more exciting for me as a writer, as things happen that you never considered before, and could probably not artificially create before putting pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard). That’s what I love so much about writing – that magical moment when you are typing away, and creating things that just pop into your head from it seems like nowhere. 

The covers look great and give a real brand to your books. Did you design your own covers and can you tell us the process?

I did design my own covers initially, which were okay but obviously pretty amateurish. Then last year I had my covers professionally designed by a lovely lady called Jeanine Henning. I’m so happy with them, and they really communicate the books and my brand much better than I could have done. I’d definitely recommend having covers done by a professional.

What are your views on social media and raising your platform as a writer?

I do use social media. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook author page, and a website. However I must say that I’ve never been terribly pro-active on these. Partly it’s because I always feel embarrassed doing self-publicity (like a lot of authors, I’m not particularly self-confident about what I do), but also I’m not convinced it works. Especially when there are so many other people out there doing the same thing. I’m not saying it can’t work, but I do think the effort required is probably pretty huge, and means you may well have no time for actually writing! I do love connecting with readers through Facebook and Twitter though, and they are great ways to build an audience once they have already read your work.

How do you fit your writing around your ‘day job’?

It’s difficult! Things change, and where I once had a neat period of time in the day to indulge myself with my writing, I now have a very different routine, where writing has to battle for space with lots of other priorities. When writing The One You Fear, I took time off on leave to get it finished, and I expect to do that again. Writing has always been a hobby for me, and it still is really. Like any hobby, you have to make the effort to fit it in around everything else. I find that once I get into a particular project, I do then find it easier to make time, as the momentum pushes you along and motivates you to carve out space to continue. It’s the getting started that’s the hardest part, especially if you’ve taken a few months off from writing.

As a successful self-published author, would you consider submitting to an agent or publishing house in the future?

TOYLI wouldn’t rule anything out. I didn’t self-publish to try and get a deal with a traditional publisher, so it wasn’t a means to an end. I also haven’t submitted to any agents or publishing houses since my success. However, I have been approached by both agents and publishers, and always make a point of listening to what they have to say. At the moment I’m more than happy with what I’m doing, but who knows. My personal view is that we’re going to see more massive changes in publishing over the next few years, and big name authors may well begin to explore self-publishing. As for myself, I’ll just keep writing and will see what happens. If it all ended tomorrow, I’ve had two amazing years, so I certainly couldn’t complain.

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer someone considering self-publishing?

I would say make sure before you publish that you get your manuscript professionally copy-edited. Or at least, you do your very best to ensure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. My biggest mistake was not doing this initially, and it caused a lot of problems. All my novels are now professionally copy-edited. You have to treat readers with respect, and ensuring an error free work is a big part of that.

Random Quick Fire

Right or left handed? Right

Wine, Beer or lager? Beer

Chinese or Indian food? Indian

Football or Cricket? Rugby league actually! But football out of those two.

Town or country? Country

To love or to be loved? I think you need both really.

MI5 or MI6? MI5

Maverick or conformist? Conformist.

Thanks so much for coming in Paul, it’s been great to meet you. Wishing you every success for your novels.

No problem, happy to drop by, and thanks for the cuppa!

The ‘Bring A Dish’ Party

Here at Romaniac HQ we have not one, not two but three March birthdays! Has there ever been a better excuse to throw a party?

3 girls

The Birthday Trio – Laura, Sue, & Catherine

Now parties don’t normally come with rules apart from when they do. To join the party you have to bring something with you, as the title suggests. As host of this party, I need you to bring FOOD, lovely imaginary FOOD! If you are anything like me your social media will be filled with people on the 5:2 diet, so if that’s you, imaginary food will be just what you need. As for me, I’m on the eating for three diet. This involves expanding your waistline massively whilst adhering to a list of forbidden foods. No alcohol, no goat’s cheese, no soft boiled eggs – the list goes on.

So here is the deal: please come along and celebrate our birthdays with a bottle or dish in hand. Perhaps share a recipe with forbidden ingredients so I can drool and dream of the day when I can once again eat such delights. Or if you’ve given up something for Lent, bring the dish you plan to eat at the end of the 40 days. Or if you are on a diet then bring something highly calorific. There is one other option. Of course ‘a dish’ could be interpreted as a handsome date so feel free to bring one of those with you.

Here is my contribution. I discovered its total awesomeness yesterday. It’s called a Cherpumple. What’s that you wonder? It’s three pies baked in three cakes to make one big cake! If you want to know how to make one and to see it in all its glory, head here: http://vittlemonster.com/2011/09/07/how-to-make-a-cherpumple-successfully/ Go looksie. Your life will be better for it… promise.

Catherine x

Now let’s see what the other Romaniacs are bringing to tempt you to the party…

Laura: Excuse me whilst I reinsert my eyes – they popped out at the sight of the pie cake. MAGNIFICENT!

I like salty nuts. Especially the jumbo ones. I’ll supply some rather expensive macadamia and cashews, to go with a bucket of buttered popcorn.

Mmm. Salted, buttered popcorn.

Mmm. Salted, buttered popcorn.

Ooo – I just thought of maple brazils, which are quite possibly the sweetest thing my tongue has ever experienced. Who wouldn’t enjoy the sensation of the golden fondant melting in the mouth, exposing the firm body of a naked brazil?

And I could be talked into supplying Baileys.

And a hot tub filled with Maltesers.

Which I might bathe in with Johnny Depp.

Jan: Red, White or Rose? Oh, what the hell! I’ll bring all three (in abundance) with, hmmm… let me think…ooh, I know… a CHOCOLATE platter. Oh, yes! Milk, Dark, White, Nutty, Fruity, Rum-laden, Honeycomb, Minty, Orangey… Shall I go on? And to help me stagger along under the weight of this delectable choccie delight? Well, if Mr Penry Jones is free and in the party spirit, he can come along for a nibble 🙂

This is a picture of a Romaniac fridge – get the idea?

wine

Celia: Well, obviously I’ll be bringing cake – the one in the picture isn’t for the girls, none of them are 90 yet…or so they say…anyway, there will be a splendid birthday cake oozing with fruit and all things sticky, with marzipan and icing on top and all their names in a row. I will also throw in some stilton and home made oatcakes, a couple of jars of anchovy stuffed olives and a magnum of champagne (plus some apple juice for Catherine). And Roger Daltrey. He’s for me, not for the birthday girls. Just saying.Cake

Sue : Well I would have to bring cup cakes. I know Celia has done a lovely birthday cake, but I’d bring the cup cakes for the party bags at the end. I’d also bring party hats, party poppers and balloons – if anyone could invent some edible ones that would be fantastic.

cake

Vanessa: Okay – so we’re covered for cakes and chocolate (not covered in cake and chocolate, that’s a whole different party…) and Jan’s bringing the wine… So I think I’ll contribute the CHAMPAGNE! At least a dozen bottles as we have so much to celebrate this year – birthdays and Romaniac twins and book deals and competition wins… And maybe something substantial to soak up the alcohol and balance out all the sugar – fish and chips for all!

Debbie: Oh, I do love a good party. Happy birthday to my friends in advance. It’s lovely to have something to celebrate!

I shall be doing what we Romaniacs do best – drinking wine and eating cake! And I’m afraid, with regards to bringing something to the party, it’s more cake from me. As well as being the Queen of wine; red, white, rose (I don’t care as long as it isn’t German or a Chardonnay,) I’m also domestic Goddess in the Lemon Drizzle Cake department. I have a recipe if you’d like it?

As for a date; I don’t need a man! Cake, wine and my Romaniac buddies…what more could a girl ask for?

Book Review – A Stitch in Time by Mandy James

a stitch in time

Mandy James’ time-travelling extravaganza A Stitch in Time starts with a complete drenching for its heroine Sarah, and hurtles on to give breathtaking snapshots of life in the American West, the 1920s and the Sheffield Blitz. Sarah starts out as a victim after a disastrous end to her relationship and a double betrayal, but fairly soon begins to gain ground and to get her teeth into the fearsome challenge thrown at her by the delectable ‘Needle’ John. Still nervous, unsure of why she’s agreeing to do the things he asks and afraid of failure, Sarah’s stressful teaching job (very accurately and amusingly painted) takes a back seat as she becomes absorbed into these strange new worlds. She meets characters who both intrigue and exasperate her, and in the meantime, fights hard not to fall in love…

 
I loved this book from the first paragraph to the very last page, rooting for the feisty Sarah all along, and hoping against hope that she would find happiness with the right person and not somehow get stuck in time, unable to return to sort out the train crash of her life. The concept of the relationship between a ‘Stitch’ and a ‘Needle’ is quite mind-boggling, and the prospect of all the things that could go wrong for Sarah is so haunting that I rushed to finish it to see if Sarah made it home safely and then immediately wished I had made it last longer.  The different periods of time are entertainingly described with enough historical detail to set the scene thoroughly but not so much that it feels as if you’re being secretly educated! I can’t wait to read more by this author.

mandy james

The Day I Went Naked

I hadn’t planned to bare all that day at work, it was just one of those mornings when I was running late and it was all I could do to get out of the door.  I had meant to rectify my nakedness once I got to the car park but by that time, I had totally forgotten and rushed into my office, calling a cheery ‘Morning’ to my colleagues before slumping into my chair. It was at that point I realised I was naked; I wasn’t wearing any make-up!

Of course I was talking about make-up, you seriously didn’t think I meant anything else?  Well, to be honest, not wearing make-up isn’t that big a problem for me. I don’t tend to wear much; a bit of bronzer (instant health) and some mascara (instant wide eyes). On a night out, I’ll push the boat out and apply some eye shadow and lipstick … I think I’m at that age where less is definitely more.  So that morning when I sat down at work and realised I wasn’t actually wearing any make-up at all I shrugged and thought, ‘Oh well’, and I spent the day naked.

makeup

The meagre contents of my make-up bag

However, there are four things are my ‘Naked Without’ list, those being …

  1. My watch. I’ve worn a watch since I was ten years old and it just wouldn’t feel right without one.
  2. My earrings. Again, I’ve worn earrings since I was about nine or ten and although I only ever wear the same pair, night and day, I would hate not to have them in.
  3. My bracelet. This is a recent addition to my ‘Naked Without’ list. A Mother’s Day gift last year from my son.
  4. The final thing I always wear is an item of underwear – not saying which one, but I certainly would never, go without this particular one.
watch

My ‘Naked Without’ items

What’s on your ‘Naked Without’ list?

Sue

x

Tuesday Chit Chat with Serena Clarke

We’re delighted to have the lovely Serena Clarke on the blog with us today, celebrating the publication of her debut novel All Over The Place.

Serena Clarke colourSerena grew up in a family of itchy-footed readers and dreamers – not concentrating, reading the atlas and Narnia books, and planning to escape somewhere magical as soon as she could. When she was 16, she went from New Zealand to live in Sweden for a year. It was the beginning of many travels and adventures – and quite a few disasters! She didn’t know it at the time, but eventually she’d be grateful for all the downs as well as the ups. As writers say in the face of adversity: “I can use that.” She’s now living back in New Zealand, where she writes stories reflecting her determined belief in magic, possibility and second chances – and happy endings!

Hi Serena, welcome to the Romaniac blog – take a seat, put your feet up and help yourself to cake 🙂

Ooh thank you! I’m always making banana cake, so it’s lovely to have someone give me cake instead! Thanks for having me today. *gets comfy*

Shall we start with you telling us about your journey to publication?

I’ve been a bookish, dreamy kind of person all my life. I always thought it would be amazing to write a book – but that seemed the kind of thing other people did, not ordinary old me. Then I started looking at all those books in the library, thinking, well, someone has written all of those. Maybe I could have a go. I was coming to an age when ‘one day’ starts to feel a bit more pressing! And after writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again, All Over the Place – actually a very English book – was accepted by a digital-first publisher in the USA.

Can you give us some detail about All Over The Place?

All Over the Place coverIt’s a story of finding the place you’re meant to be, and the person you’re meant to be there with. It has a chick lit feel – and a happy ending, of course! Here’s the blurb:

Livi Callaway has fled back to London after a reality TV disaster in New Zealand. Safely anonymous in the big city, she’s determined to stay under the radar from now on. But her attempts to build a new life are complicated by unexpected visitors from her old one, and new dangers and temptations lie in wait.

Late one night, she meets a mysteriously sexy American on the Underground – and the events that follow take her from Pooh Bear to the golden lights of Paris, via a trail of rock stars dead and alive. A family in disarray, a determined Swede, a crazed Australian and a childhood friend (who might yet be more than that) have her all over the place as she tries to discover the American’s secret – while keeping her own.

With help – and occasional hindrance – from her friends, what she eventually finds is something unexpected…sometimes, running away can lead you to exactly what you didn’t know you needed.

Sharing other people’s praise of your book feels a bit like boasting about your children on Facebook – not really the done thing. But one lovely person said it was “a thoroughly engaging, globe-hopping confection of a novel…an enchanting journey of both distance and heart.” Which I thought was very nice indeed. But I didn’t tell you that.

How did you celebrate publication day?

Well, because of the time difference, I was tucked up asleep for half of publication day! I stayed up to watch the book go on sale on Amazon, then I had to go to bed! But the next day I had a lot of fun catching up with everything that had happened overnight. And that night we took the kids out for giant New York style pizzas. We’re a family of bookworms, so they thought it was pretty cool.

How important do you think the RNA NWS was in helping you achieve your publication dream?

Oh, it was crucial. When I first started writing in earnest I didn’t show anyone, or even tell more than a couple of people. So I really wasn’t sure if I was going about it the right way at all! My NWS report was really encouraging, and it had incredibly helpful suggestions for how to improve the book. If I ever find out who my reader was, I want to give her a big hug! (In a very non-stalkerish way, of course!)

What means home to you? Is it a place, a person or a case of ‘Wherever I lay my hat’?

That’s a central question in All Over the Place, so I’ve thought a lot about it. We live out in the world so much more now, with the internet, and live TV from everywhere, and people live-tweeting everything. In the book, Livi strikes out into the world after a disaster, and everything’s up for grabs – she could actually go anywhere, just like I could once upon a time. But of course, it’s people who make a place special. Now I’m the grown-up person responsible for making a home for other people. (Although I still don’t feel like a grown-up!) Anyone who has children would probably say home is where they are – I feel that way now.

You’ve lived in a lot of cities and a lot of countries ­ which is your favourite? What are some of the snapshot moments, the memories that will stay with you forever?

Hm, snapshots… Hiking in summer snow in Swedish Lapland – despite the million-gazillion mosquitos! Riding a camel up the sand dunes as the sun rose in the Moroccan Sahara. Peering through the fence outside the White House, trying to imagine what momentous decisions were being made inside. Meeting my rock star crush before a gig at an underground club in London. Pretty much everything about Paris! And favourites…apart from beautiful New Zealand, I’d say Sweden, because it really is my second home, with my second mum and dad. I can’t wait to see them when I come over again.

You’re back in London for the RNA summer party for the first time in a long time ­ what are the first places you’ll be visiting?

Serena Trafalgar SquareTrafalgar Square! That’s my happy place, and in All Over the Place it’s the centre of Livi’s London. I’m looking forward to spending a day wandering around the National Gallery. There’s a painting there of Saint Cecilia that features in the book, so I’m excited to see it for real. Also, I have a great friend who lives in London, and we have a special ‘tourist’ walk, winding our way from Oxford Circus down to Trafalgar Square and ending at Big Ben. I’m kind of a soppy traveller – I can’t help getting teary at significant places – but luckily he puts up with me! (Blame the artistic temperament!)

What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Joan Hessayon award? Has it been a dream of yours?

The whole thing has been a dream, yes! There are so many amazing books in the running, I don’t expect to win. But can you imagine – getting on the plane to return to London, with my book published and the prospect of being in a room with so many wonderful authors and publishing people? What’s more, I touch down on my birthday. Best. present. ever.

What about your next book? Is it another international book? Or set closer to home?

Yes, it’s another international kind of book, with the same sort of chick lit vibe. It’s set between England and California, and follows the ups and downs of twin sisters after they discover the secret their mother kept. Think matchmaking, flash mobs, people power in a hyper-connected world, true love, and the trials and joys of sisterhood. (That’s something I feel qualified to write about, coming from a family of 4 girls and one boy!)

The one after that will probably be in set in New Zealand – but I can never resist an international cast of characters! And they’ll probably need a trip to Australia, now that I think about it… *eyes passport*

Where do you write? Do you prefer a room with a view?

I write at the dining room table, on the sofa, or on my bed, depending on what’s happening in the house! I’m addicted to the ‘My Writing Room’ feature on Novelicious.com, where writers share pictures of their office. I dream of having a little space of my own. Yes please to the view. There is quite a nice view from my bed!

Quick Fire Questions:

Home or away?

Away for adventure, home to snuggle.

Snow bunny or sun worshipper?

At the moment we’re in the middle of a drought, so I’m a bit over the sun. But I’m not a snow bunny either, unless you count tobogganing!

Right place or right time?

Don’t wait for either – just go ahead and do it!

Thanks so much for having me to visit with you today, and plying me with cake! What a treat.

Thank you, Serena – it’s been lovely chatting with you!

Find Serena here – she’d love to hear from you!

http://www.serenaclarke.com

https://www.facebook.com/SerenaClarkeAuthor

https://twitter.com/Serena_Clarke

All Over the Place is available from all major e-book retailers, including:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Over-Place-Crimson-Romance-ebook/dp/B00B2B0X9E/

http://www.amazon.com/Over-Place-Crimson-Romance-ebook/dp/B00B2B0X9E/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/all-over-the-place/id594641901?mt=11

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-over-the-place-serena-clarke/1114286511

Having A Ball – Rhoda Baxter

Some time ago, the very lovely Rhoda Baxter asked us Romaniacs if one of us wanted to read and review her new book due out in March, Having A Ball. We were sent the blurb and I fell in love with the story straight away. I practically jumped at the chance to do a review for it so I was honored when Rhoda emailed it over and my computer beeped its arrival.

Thankfully I was in between books so I was able to start straight away. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here was my review:

“It’s for books like this that I really appreciate having Kindle on my Iphone. ‘Having A Ball’ is simply one of those books that drag you into the story and refuse to let you sleep. Being able to read snippets whilst cooking dinner, waiting for children to finish swimming lessons and being stuck in traffic was an absolute must – I had to feed my thirst for the story!

From the word go, my mind was completely immersed in the life of Stevie; a 22-year-old girl who had lost her parents young and was finding the everyday drag of a boring job and nowhere to go very draining. The characters in this story are well rounded and identifiable. The hero, Tom, isn’t your conventional soppy love interest, but a strong willed, determined workaholic. Not really a lovable hero at the start but he most definitely comes into his own throughout the story. Not only does the heroine’s story turn full circle in this book, but the hero’s does too – which is refreshing and gratifying.

I also found the secondary characters in this story extremely interesting. The author has a good mix of personalities on the page and it keeps the writing lively and entertaining.

Another thing that stands out with this book is the author’s obvious knack for dialogue. It’s quick, witty, descriptive and certainly packs a punch. It kept the story flowing at a nice pace and never failed to make me laugh or bring a lump to my throat.

A touching story with vibrant characters, dense storyline and fulfilling resolve. A definite recommendation.”

As you can see, I absolutely loved this book. I cannot wait for Rhoda’s next novel and I’ll be sure to be reviewing it right here, too.

I asked Rhoda for a few words about her novel, and here is what she said.

“Having a Ball is part of the Email and Ice Cream series. Sounds cool, right? A series. Gosh. I had never considered it until my editor sent me an email asking me what the name of the series was. I had a brief panic. Several cups of tea and a packet of Twix later, I made a list of all the elements that the books had in common and came up with Email and Ice Cream.  Et voila! I have a series.

I wrote Patently in Love and Having a Ball as stand alone books. There are some recurring characters (not surprising since Marsh and Stevie are siblings) and the format of having the heroes character in email, but other than that, they are totally independent stories. But okay, they can be called a series.

This brings me to the next problem. You can’t have a series with only two books in it. You need at least three to stop people pointing and laughing. My third book has very few emails and no ice cream in it (don’t worry, there is a very large chocolate cake and a chocolate mousse – one must never ignore dessert). Not, then, part of the series. However, at least three people who reviewed the ARC have asked if I was going to write Olivia’s story next. I like Olivia and her crazy hedonistic ways. I have a germ of a plot too. So, I guess I’d better get on with it.”

Doesn’t that sound exciting? I can’t wait to read Olivia’s story.

I know I speak for all the Romaniac ladies when I say that we all wish Rhoda the best of luck with this novel and for all of her future works, too. She’s a very talented writer and definitely one to watch.

Lucie x

Rhoda Baxter started off in the South of England and pinged around the world a bit until she ended up in the North of England, where the cakes are better. Along the way she collected one husband, two kids, a few (ahem) extra stone in weight and a DPhil in molecular biology (but not necessarily in that order). She had a childhood ambition to be an astronaut or at least 5 feet tall. Having failed at both of these, she now writes humourous novels instead. Rhoda can be found over on her website, here.

You can purchase Having A Ball, here, and Rhoda’s previous novel, Patently in Love, here.

    

A coffee, a pint and a poem Irish Style

Being married into an Irish Catholic family for many years, St Patrick’s Day never just slipped by, even before the days when it became more celebrated here in the UK.

Not being one for a pint of the ‘Black Stuff’, I tended to opt for the Irish Coffee. There are some great variants on this but this is the basic recipe

1 cup of black coffee, hot.

1 teaspoon of sugar, this can be white or brown

1 shot of whiskey

Double cream or milk

– Fill a glass or cup half way with black coffee

– Add the sugar, stir well until it all dissolves

– Add the whiskey

– Slowly pour in the cream or milk. This is best done over the back of a spoon so that it floats to the top and sits on the coffee.

 

A little Irish Blessing that always makes me smile

‘May those who love us, love us; and those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts;

And if he doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping’

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY

black stuff

 

Sue

x