Tuesday Chit-Chat with Pauline Barclay

Hi Pauline, thanks so much for visiting us here at Romaniac HQ. First things first: Tea or coffee? And we have some freshly baked yummy chocolate brownies, if you can force yourself… 😉

Hello Jan, thank you for having me here at your fabulous offices, so trendy! As for tea or coffee, any chance I could have green tea please? And I’ve skipped breakfast so I could overindulge in your scrummy chocolate brownies… mmm… they look too good to eat, but I’ll risk it!

Pauline 3

Green tea, it is! And maybe a “small” glass of fizz later (just to celebrate your latest novel, of course…)

So exciting that you’ve recently published Storm Clouds Gathering. Can you give us a little teaser about the storyline?  

Now I am going to warn you, there is nothing worse than asking me about my new book, but please tell me to shut up if I go on too much …  Like most of the books I’ve written, it is filled with emotion that gets right to the heart. In my latest book, the storm clouds are gathering, silently and slowly, too far away to worry about. Or so it seems. But ignoring what is brewing will have dire consequences for the people caught up in the maelstrom. Shirley Burton is too busy cheating on her husband, having a laugh and looking for fun to alleviate the boredom of her childless marriage. Kathleen Mitchell is too wrapped up in running around after her beautiful family to worry about her health. Anne Simpson has two things on her mind: her forthcoming marriage to Paul Betham, who seems to want to control her, and her career, which she does not want to give up. The question is, can Shirley really expect to deceive her husband and get away with it? Can Kathleen hold it all together, and is Anne able to have the best of everything? As I said, I love to write with deep emotion and Storm Clouds Gathering is a story of human emotion, passion and heart-rending grief. Set against the backdrop of the mid-sixties, these three families will be tested to the limit, as betrayal, loss and love threaten to change their lives forever.

How long did it take you to write this book?  Was there lots of research involved? 

It took the usual time for me, around 10 months. What caused me a problem to publish a book in 2012 was that, I began to write another book and after 25,000 words, found I couldn’t go any further at that time, so I began Storm Clouds Gathering and then the words just flowed. Regarding research, I spoke to family members and I also drew on my own experience from that period of time. On top of this, I found a truly wonderful man via the internet who had helped me with answers about working in the woollen mills in the 1960s.

The cover is beautifully eye-catching.  Do you choose your own designs, Pauline?

Storm Clouds image

I work very closely with Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics and I give Cathy ideas of what I am looking for. I also trawl through the photo directories online looking for pictures that will give me what I have in my head. Cathy then turns my thoughts into beautiful covers.

You live in super, sunny Lanzarote and we’ve loved hearing about your weekly book signings and readings. How did that all come about and how do you find the marketing side of writing, in general? Any little tips you can share with us?

Oh my, I’m no expert at giving tips for marketing, I just do what I hope is good for me to sell my books. Living here on our fabby little pebble in the ocean, I’ve got to know one or two holiday complex owners. This led to me going to chat with the tourists staying in these super places about my books. I take along with me professionally printed leaflets, bookmarks to hand out and, of course, my books to sign and sell. I love meeting the people and getting their feedback on my books. And to my utter surprise, they enjoy meeting an author!


What first sparked ‘the writer’ in you?

I’ve always been a writer. As a little girl I wrote poems and, once, a song. It was sung at one of our school assemblies when I was in junior school. Sadly the teacher named the song writer as Pauline… but it was the other Pauline in my class. At eleven years old, I was mortified they’d got the name wrong. I was also a writer for many years at work. I was a communications manager in the international oil industry, which I loved every minute of.  These days, I enjoy writing fiction, though one could argue, I’ve always written fiction!

Tell us about your involvement in, and the subsequent success of, Indie Author site Famous Five Plus?

Oh you mean my little baby! I started FFP back at the end of October 2011. The idea was to offer Indie authors a platform to showcase and share their experiences and at the same time, support others in the knowledge they would be supported in return. That concept has not changed.  FFP continues to grow and whilst it takes up far too much of my time, I believe it is worth it. There are some wonderful authors in FFP who just need to have enough exposure to really make it big.

What do you like to read when you’re relaxing, poolside?

I love reading, but relaxing, what is that? Laugh! I love murder mystery and thrillers, but in between being frightened to death with a likely stalker of someone intent on murder, I read a lot of indie author books too. I have a Kindle these days, as living on my pebble it is so much easier to download a great read instantly and there are some fab books out there.

If you could pass on just one piece of writerly advice, what would it be?

Just do it. Write and enjoy every minute. Get those words and ideas down, but when it is finished and you want to publish, please always talk to an editor – a publishing editor. Not only will he or she make your book shine like a diamond, but you will learn so much more too.

And in true Romaniac fashion, some quick-fire, fun questions for you:

Dream Dance Partner?

Pasha Kovalev from Strictly.

Rolls Royce or Ferrari?


Champagne or Cocktails?

What a question, champagne… love it!

Murder Mystery Weekend or Paintballing?

Murder mystery – no contest!

Favourite place in the UK?

Now that is tough as I’ve lived in several different places and I’ve loved them all, so sorry can’t choose an answer to this one.

Sarong or Shorts?

As I spend every day in shorts, it has to be shorts, but not the baggy sort.

Paella or Tapas?

Mmm… another toughy.  I love both. Sorry, can’t choose on this one.

Three words that best describe Pauline Barclay?

Energetic, optimistic and smiley.

It’s been fabulous chatting with you, Pauline. Best of Romaniac luck with Storm Clouds Gathering.

Whoa! Thanks for having me and letting me eat most of the scrummy chocolate brownies. Along with the champagne, they were simply delicious. A huge thanks also for allowing me to ramble and for making me feel so welcome. It’s been wonderful. Have a fab day and please leave the plate and glasses. I’ll wash up, it’s the least I can do!




Follow Pauline on Twitter: @paulinembarclay


See the trailer for Storm Clouds Gatheringhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCwnvAK4DxA



Agent Hunter – The Romaniacs try out an exciting and useful new website.


Recently, the Romaniacs were offered a challenge. It wasn’t cake based (although it has to be said that we are world famous for our capacity for eating scones and are expecting the Guinness Book of Records to be in touch very shortly). No; this gauntlet was thrown down by the dynamo that is Harry Bingham of The Writers’ Workshop. He wondered if we would like have a browse around his fabulous new website – Agent Hunter – and give the viewpoint of a bunch of aspiring writers.


            Well, The Romaniacs are always up for a challenge, and we are no strangers to languishing on the slush pile from time to time, so we dived in. We are generally very impressed with this new facility, but I’m going to shamelessly steal some snippets from the site to give you an overview first:

Who is behind Agent Hunter?

Agent Hunter ( http://www.agenthunter.co.uk/ ) is   the creation of The Writers’ Workshop, the UK’s largest   editorial consultancy for new writers. The Writers’ Workshop has superb   contacts with literary agents and is constantly helping its writers secure   representation and book deals.

A comprehensive list of all   literary agents and publishers. Not just in London, but across the UK.

Create your own search filters   to find agents who want work in your genre and who want new clients. We supply rich data on every   agent: contact info, bios, photos, links, submission advice, and much   more.
We’ve asked agents to give us their   likes and dislikes. No other database has this info. You can save your searches   and use them for your submissions planning. Try us for free! An annual   subscription costs just £12, but you pay nothing if you cancel in the first 7   days.


Now for The Romanics’ opinions:

We really like the filter system for narrowing down the right agent for your genre. The site looks comprehensive, user friendly and informative.

Two small points to consider – we would like an option on the left hand side that says ‘Don’t mind’ or ‘Unimportant’, when asking the things like how many clients we’d like the agent to have, and all the other questions like that. Also, under ‘Agent Experience’, we think it would make more sense for the answers to be ‘less than 5 years’, ‘5 – 10 years’, ’11-15′, ‘More than 15′ – for example. We all really like the agent/agency bios. It’s a very user-friendly site with good links to other information/pages i.e The Writers’ Workshop. The FAQ section seems to have most things covered.

Agent Hunter seems to have given the whole searching for an agent or publisher nightmare a more personal feel. It can be very daunting trawling through various books and websites for specific agents/guidelines. We think the subscription fee is very reasonable too. The mailing list option is also good, to stay in touch with latest news/offers.  

Overall, we think it’s a great idea, and it certainly speeds up the search for a relevant/suitable agent. It has given us all a good feel for which agent to pitch to, and has actually tempted us to submit.

Thanks, Harry, for the opportunity to explore this exciting new website – we’ll probably bump into you in there as we hunt for the ‘Look into the agents’ living room’ button and search for the coffee shop facility.

Tuesday Chit-Chat – Donna Douglas

DonnaDouglasNightingaleSistersHugh Dickens Photography


Good morning, Donna – it’s good to see you here at Romaniac HQ. Make yourself at home – just brush the Hob Nob crumbs off the sofa and put your feet up. Scone? They’re cherry ones today. I think I might have accidentally finished off the clotted cream though…


Now, let’s find out what makes you tick. Your website’s great, I know a lot about you already but we’d better fill everyone else in too. 


When did you start writing and what inspired you at the very beginning?


I’ve always loved telling stories, even as a child. Unlike a lot of writers, I didn’t grow up surrounded by books. But I loved Jackanory on TV, and on a Saturday morning I used to get loads of girls’ comics like Bunty and Jinty, and devour all the stories. You can learn a lot about conflict and cliffhangers from reading those weekly serials! Funnily enough, after I left school I got a job writing photo love stories for a teenage magazine. I started writing my first novel when I was 20, and was finally published two days before my 40th birthday. I’ve sped up a bit since then…

Reading this, I think we’re both from the same era! I loved Bunty, and Jackanory too. But what era would you have chosen to be born into, if not this one?


I don’t know about having to live my whole life in a particular era, but there are loads I’d like to visit. I’m a massive Tudor buff, so I would love to go back to the court of Henry VIII and find out what it was really like. And of course, I would love to visit a hospital in 1930s and pick up some ideas for my Nightingales books. Although I’m not sure about being a patient, since they didn’t stand much chance in those days!

Do you see yourself as mainly character or plot driven?


Characters are most important for me. It’s the characters and their conflicts that drive the plot. People are interested in people. If you don’t care about a character and they’re not real for you, then it doesn’t matter how much life or death drama you put them through, it’s not going to work.

Do your characters ever do things you’d rather they didn’t, or that you hadn’t anticipated?


All the time! It can be quite spooky sometimes. Your character does or says something and you think, ‘Now why did they do that?’ And then later in the story you realise that they’ve actually laid the foundation for an intriguing new subplot or twist that hadn’t occurred to you. Of course, it can also be massively inconvenient when you really need them to act a certain way for the sake of your ingenious plot and they just won’t play ball! In which case it’s probably best to listen to them, I find.

Looking back at that answer, I now realise I have the voices of various people in my head, who I truly believe are real and have minds of their own. If I wasn’t a writer that would be quite worrying, wouldn’t it?

Which three books would you take to a desert island and what treats would be in your picnic hamper?


Is it wrong that I can think of the food more easily than I can think of the books? Treat wise, there would have to be salt and vinegar Kettle Chips, Galaxy chocolate and Fruitellas. Also, we have a bakers in York called Thomas’, which does the best Chelsea buns in the whole world. Seriously, if you’re ever in York I urge you to get one. You will not be disappointed.

Right, now on to books. I guess I would have to take a survival manual, because being a city girl I am completely lost in the wild. And by wild, I mean anywhere that doesn’t have an M&S within walking distance.  I might also take one of my 1930s nursing manuals, because they show how to perform life-saving treatments with very little resources. For enjoyment, I would have to take Riders by Jilly Cooper. It’s my all time comfort read.

Just booking train ticket to York. With you on the Jilly Cooper choice too. Still on the subject of reading matter, which book, famous or otherwise, have you always wished you’d written yourself?


Something that has stood the test of time, with a story that still resonates, such as Jane Eyre. To be able to impact on people emotionally is a great gift for a writer – I love it when people tell me I made them cry! From a royalties point of view, I wouldn’t have minded coming up with Harry Potter, though…

Which has been your most romantic character so far, which the most heroic and which the most unsettling/sinister?


Nick Riley in The Nightingale Girls is my perfect romantic hero. He’s a real bad boy with a vulnerable heart. From the response I’ve had from readers, they all seem to like him too! Everyone wants him to get together with my heroine Dora, but they may have to wait awhile before they get their happy ending (if they get it…). Dora is pretty heroic – she’s a tough East End girl who’s overcome all kinds of obstacles to follow her dream of being a nurse. Nursing wasn’t an option for working class girls at the time, and she has to fight to prove herself every day. She’s the one I most identify with, because when I was young everyone said working class girls like me couldn’t be writers, either. I’m not sure about unsettling or sinister characters. I’ve written plenty of nasty people, like Helen’s overbearing mother Constance Tremayne or vindictive Sister Wren. She manages to do a fair amount of damage in The Nightingale Sisters, especially to the new Night Sister. But I always try to give them a human side too, or at least a reason why they behave the way they do, otherwise you end up with a cartoon villain.

A predictable question, but we’re very nosy here. Where do you write and what’s your ideal writing routine?


I have an office, which is basically the back of the garage. I used to write in the spare bedroom, but I spent far too much time nosing out of the window at all the goings-on in our street. Now my office has a tiny, high strip of frosted window overlooking a brick wall so I can’t focus on anything but work! I like to start writing early in the morning – I get most of my best work done before lunch. In the afternoon, I get sidetracked into domestic stuff, answering emails or hanging about on Twitter, so I hardly get anything done.

I know the feeling! Here’s another of our favourite questions. Do you have an agent, and if so, was he/she hard to come by?


My agent is the lovely Caroline Sheldon. We got together about four years ago. I’d already had a few novels published under the name Donna Hay, but then my agent retired and I became a bit jaded and realised I wasn’t enjoying writing contemporary stuff any more. I gave up writing completely for a couple of years but then I missed it so I called up Caroline because lots of people had told me how nice she was. And they were right! It turned out to be serendipitous for both of us, because a few days after our meeting she met an editor who was looking for someone to write a series of novels set in a hospital in 1930s – and Caroline thought I might be up for the challenge.

I love a happy ending. Now, what would be your dream job, apart from writing all day with an endless supply of money thrown in?


I’ve always fancied being a beauty therapist, because it must be nice to spend your day making people look and feel better. Everyone enjoys a bit of pampering, and working in a spa seems like a fairly stress-free environment.

Quick fire questions –


Gin or champagne?

Gin, definitely. In fact, the answer is almost always gin.

TV or theatre?

Much as I would like to sound highbrow, it has to be TV.

Austen or Bronte?

Bronte. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jane Austen. But the Brontes have always fascinated me.

Bubble bath or power shower?

Bubble bath, when I get the chance. But sadly it’s mostly showers.

Book or Kindle?

Kindle on holiday, but you can’t beat a book the rest of the time.

Chocolate cake or exotic fresh fruit salad?

If you’d said any other kind of cake I would have gone for that. But I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake. Chocolate, yes. Cake, yes. But not together. Oh no. I quite like the sound of those cherry scones you mentioned earlier, actually…

Late nights or early mornings?

Early mornings. But I remember a time when they were one and the same thing. I’d stay up all night then rock up to work in a party dress. These were the days. Couldn’t do it now, though.

And finally, what comes next for you?

My new book, The Nightingale Sisters, is out any day now. It follows on from The Nightingale Girls, but it’s a stand alone story, so you don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second. I’m just finishing off the third book in the Nightingales series, which is due out in October. After that, I have another two Nightingale books to write. Although there might well be more…

Thank you so much for letting us see a snapshot of your writing life – I’ve packed you some fruit cake for on the way home. See you again, I hope, and good luck with your next project.

Thanks for having me, I’ve had a lovely time. Although if I’d have known there was cake involved I would have bought you a Chelsea bun from Thomas’…

The Nightingale Sisters is published by Arrow Books. It’s available from Amazon  – http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Nightingale-Sisters-Donna-Douglas/dp/0099569426/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1


Find out more about Donna by visiting her website –  http://www.donnadouglas.co.uk/

You can also follow her on Twitter – @donnahay1 – or read her blog – http://donnadouglasauthor.wordpress.com/  

What’s Your Current Position?

At Romaniac HQ, we often find ourselves in awkward positions. It’s tricky keeping one’s modesty with nine people occupying the same living space. Sue was in the kitchen with a good-looking Texan last year. The explanation, ‘We were cooking’, did nothing to settle our nerves.USoL-cover-HQ

We’d like to know where you are and what you’re doing with your hero or heroine, right this moment, and then, we want you to divulge your most favourite position with them.

We’ll get the ball rolling, for want of a better phrase.

Laura : In Follow Me, I’m in a wooded english garden, overlooking Chesil Beach, with a Hollywood Action Hero sprawled at my feet, on the veiny ground. IMG_1180And my favourite position? In bed, with a thoughtful, gentle and humorous Irishman, at The Smugglers Inn, in Truth or Dare?

Sue : Well, I’ve managed to extract myself from the kitchen and now find myself on Felpham Beach in West Sussex, skimming stones with Donovan, a criminal psychologist.photo (69)

My most favourite position? An autumn evening, sat on the beach, snuggled under a blanket with said criminal psychologist; wind blowing, waves crashing and moonlight dancing on the whites of the waves.

Debbie: Well, I’m hard at work on my WIP for the NWS with ‘James Hardaker.’ We’re in the emerald green hills of the Yorkshire Dales, one of my favourite parts of the world (and where I was brought up.) Spring-time in Berrywood means my vetinary hero is currently zipping around the country lanes tending ewes who are having a hard time lambing!

By co-incidence I’m visiting the Dales next week for a little more inspiration. It is sooo beautiful in that part of the world.

As for my favourite position, well, that has to be in front of the log burner! Either on the rug or sofa…

CreekCatherine: I’m never doing it again. Oh, sorry. May have got the wrong gist. My latest heroine is struggling with the idea she might have fertility issues and will end up with her legs up in stirrups as a result. Not quite what you were hoping for with this post. So I’ll go back to a creek in Kuringai Chase National Park. An isolated spot outside of Sydney, Australia where my hero and heroine meet in Miles Between Us.

Celia: In Little Boxes, I’m on a very special bench at a country park by a beautiful lake in Peterborough with a man who can’t commit to a passionate relationship…yet. The weather is chilly but the temperature between the lead players is set to sizzle. And my favourite position – horizontal in a Travelodge.

Back bench

Jan: I’m standing, mesmerized, rooted to the spot halfway down a red-carpeted sweeping staircase in a glorious York manor house, staring into the eyes of a tanned, athletic Yorkshireman. And my favourite position? Lying face down on a massage table, mentally reliving every delightful second of it…

I can recommend all of these positions 🙂

Now it’s over to you…where, how and who?

Laura 😉 xx

Monday Book Review; The Wedding Diary by Margaret James

TWD_packshot copyMJThis is one of those books that you keep on the shelf (or Kindle file) that’s specially reserved for comfort and joy reading. You must have one of those too – stories just sitting there waiting for that moment when you’ve got a horrible cold, or someone’s been mean to you, or life gives you an even bigger kick in the teeth.

I was having the first of these moments when I started reading the story of Cat and her search for the perfect bridegroom to star in her even more perfect wedding; snuffling, sneezing and being generally fed up. Within minutes, I was feeling much better, snuggled up in bed with this example of delicious escapism. I laughed at the antics of Tess and Bex, shivered when Fanny, the evil patroness, was particularly poisonous, and dreamed of a hero like Adam (just pointing out here that I was bagging him for my daughters, not for myself, honest…)

Cat’s tender heart nearly trips her up on more than one occasion – she’s tried so hard to be the ideal girlfriend at the start of the book, and finds the surly Adam not altogether appealing at first, but soon his smouldering charm begins to take effect. My favourite part is when Adam asks Cat to meet him in Italy and she immediately jumps on a plane and does so. Brilliant. No messing, just get in there, girl. The Italian descriptions add even further to the feel-good factor of Margaret’s novel – so well-drawn that you could be there, tasting the gorgeous food, feeling the warm sunshine and…say no more.

So, as a cold cure or for pure pleasure, I would thoroughly recommend The Wedding Diary. It’s easily as much fun as going to a real wedding without having to buy the expensive present or wear the skyscraper shoes. And you can choose your own buffet to accompany it.

Charlie Cochrane: The Perils of Public Speaking

Charlie Cochrane
Charlie Cochrane

I sometimes get conned – sorry, asked nicely – into chairing author/reader events such as the Festival of Romance or the UK Meet. Now, this is meat and drink to me, seeing as I do some freelance training and facilitating, so standing up to handle panellists and audiences holds few terrors, and acting as a panellist for author events is also right up my street. When Laura asked me to blog about how some of the opportunities came about – and if the skills needed can be learned – I was delighted to oblige.

The Deadly Dames is a classic example of me being in the right place at the right time (story of my publishing life). I got to know Nicola Slade and Eileen Robertson through the local Romantic Novelists Association lunches and, one day, Eileen said, “Would you be interested in doing library talks? You have to join Mystery People first.”I almost knocked her down in my rush to say, “Yes, where do I sign?”

The Deadly Dames
The Deadly Dames

From there the Deadly Dames grew – five “girls” local to the M27 corridor, all of whom write cosy mysteries as well as other things. We devised a name, a logo, a style (black and red clothes) and began our career at Chichester library, discussing how and why we write, where we get inspired, how we do our research and lots of other things. It was a great success, which we’ve followed up with other bookings, some of which we’ve sourced ourselves – cue nabbing librarians and trying to charm them – and some have been sourced by the lovely Lizzie at Mystery People (next up, Bognor!)There are pros and cons to all of this, not least because of unforeseen problems which upset your plans. The DDs had been lined up to do a panel in Windsor but it had been booked to clash with Comic Relief and had to be cancelled. Back into the cupboard the snazzy red and black gear goes… But you have to take the rough with the smooth, and the ‘free’ opportunities – to get our names out on advertising, to engage with potential new readers (whether they buy our books at the event or later or get them from the library) and to present ourselves as interesting, nice people – are not to be sniffed at. Any author at our level in the profession will tell you that books don’t sell themselves and the harder you work and network, the more success you tend to have.

Preparation is key for Deadly Dames events. Not to the nth degree, as you start to sound very flat (you need some bounce in your bungee!) but to have some idea of what you might say. For the Deadly Dames, our panel leader circulates some key questions in advance so we can get our notes ready to tackle those. Those questions change, so people could come to several DD events and not be bored.  I also like to have some answers at least half prepared in my mind for anything tricky someone in the audience might ask. You know the sort of thing. “Why does a straight woman write about gay men?” I want to get the answer to that absolutely right. (Although some of the audience questions, especially about e-books, make such little sense that having an answer ready would be well nigh impossible.)

Extending the discussion to the chairing or facilitating of panels/events, experience and practice undoubtedly help, but the sort of skills involved can be learned and there are plenty of tips to help things go smoothly, such as:

  • Have people in the audience you know you can call on for comments if questions have dried up or are slow getting started. Something like, “Laura, I know you’re interested in vampire fiction. What’s your opinion on ‘Victoria and Albert, love at first bite’?” Once somebody talks, generally others will join in.
  • Make sure you have some questions to ask your panellists if nobody else is doing so. You can always use generic ones, such as, “Is there a classic book you couldn’t finish” or “Is there a book you wish you’d written?”
  • Try to ensure everyone gets to ask their question, even if that means being blunt with floor-hoggers. “Can we come back to you if there’s time? I have a lady in the back row who won’t forgive me if I don’t get her question in.” Smiles and good humour help pour oil on many a troubled water.
  • Don’t be afraid to pull panellists/delegates back on topic. Remember that your core business isn’t to be everyone’s friend, it’s to keep the event running to topic and on time. Oh, and have a clock to hand, and even a whistle. Don’t be afraid to use either of them!

What are your tips for making public appearances go well? And do you want to pick my brains (such as they are) on the subject?

As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. She lives in England, but has yet to use her local town Romsey as a setting for her stories.

She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

Charlie Cochrane Promises_Made_Under_Fire_final foir LJCharlie’s latest release is Promises Made Under Fire

France, 1915

Lieutenant Tom Donald envies everything about fellow officer Frank Foden–his confidence, his easy manner with the men in the trenches, the affectionate letters from his wife. Frank shares these letters happily, drawing Tom into a vicarious friendship with a woman he’s never met. Although the bonds of friendship forged under fire are strong, Tom can’t be so open with Frank–he’s attracted to men and could never confess that to anyone.

When Frank is killed in no-man’s-land, he leaves behind a mysterious request for Tom: to deliver a sealed letter to a man named Palmer. Tom undertakes the commission while on leave–and discovers that almost everything he thought he knew about Frank is a lie…

Thank you so much for your wonderful advice, Charlie. As Chairperson at the Festival of Romance, you certainly put us at ease for our first panel, and we knew we were in safe hands.

We wish you and your Deadly Dames well.

Laura x

Spring; The Waiting Game.

Spring trying to arrive in Somerset
Spring trying to arrive in Somerset

Celia: I’m not very good at waiting. No, that’s something of an understatement, I am absolutely pants when it comes to patience. Just the thought of things happening gradually (and especially that horrible phrase ‘in the fullness of time’) have always given me the jitters. But just lately, while we’ve all been waiting and longing for spring sunshine, daffodils, butterflies etc to appear and for the country to warm up a bit, I’ve been having a rethink.

Without going into boring details, there have been several big changes and breakthroughs in my life during the last year. I’m now officially an orphan and therefore possibly a grown-up at last. And grown-ups are meant to be patient…aren’t they? My change of heart about the value of biding my time could be due to the excitement of getting a real live contract after long months searching for an agent and a publisher. It’s probably also a lot to do with a traumatic family relationship, long fractured and seemingly hopeless, that time has finally healed. Whatever the reason, I’m beginning to think that some things might, just might, be worth waiting for – if there’s no other option.

I asked the other inhabitants of Romaniac HQ for their views on the subject of playing the waiting game:

Sue : I am and I’m not. How’s that for sitting on the fence? I’m very patient when it comes to other people but when it comes to getting things done, I want it done yesterday. I hate waiting. I think that can at times make me quite impulsive. I am trying to be more patient as I get older, but it’s hard to break a lifetime of rushing to get things done. I am looking forward to spring. I usually enjoy all the seasons but, I have to say, I’m a bit bored of winter now. It’s encouraging to see the blossom on the tree in my garden. Surely, spring will be here soon.


Jan: I like to think I’m pretty patient with most people, especially friends & family. “You’re a good listener!” they tell me. I’m also quite restrained where long queues are concerned, as in airport check-in lines or traffic jams. I suppose where I do feel the steam rising slightly is if I’m trying to figure out instructions and can’t grasp things straight away, generally with new gadgets or household products, rather than with teachers or text books. The only other time impatience strikes, of course, is if I can’t unwrap a box of chocolates quick enough! 😉 As for remaining uncomplaining about the weather… well, spring can’t come quick enough. It’s my favourite season. New beginnings, beautiful blossom on the trees, daffodils and other buds & blooms, brighter days & lighter evenings, the promise of summer still to come, dusting off my flip flops… I could go on and on.

Vanessa: I read Celia’s post above and a lot of it could have been written by me … except for the contract bit – I’m still waiting for that one! Since losing my dad at the end of last year, I’ve become almost panicky when it comes to waiting, a little voice in my head is constantly whispering life is too short. I had the same thing when I lost other people, friends and family members, that reminder of your own mortality you get when someone dies and all the things on the to-do list that remain un-ticked. I’m trying to force myself to slow down, to not rush everything to completion, and at the same time to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. And mostly, to remind myself that some things are worth waiting for, with the end results all the more delicious for the tense build-up the waiting game offers.

Laura: ‘All good things come to those who wait’ – I can hear those words in my mothers’s voice. For most of the time, when major situations are involved, I’m happy to sit tight and let them play out, and I believe this stems from my fatalistic nature – what will be, will be. And yes, I am now singing one of my all time favourite Doris Day songs, the sentiment of which incidentally, brings a sincere tear to my eye.

Life is short, and we should make our own luck, but sometimes, waiting is good for the soul. Sometimes, waiting provides distance from the core issue, and distance provides perspective. That change of view might make us see things differently, and stop us from blindly rushing in.
I wonder how connected patience are acceptance are?

So, what are you waiting for right now? And is the waiting game one you’re happy to play?

Tuesday Chit-Chat with Christine Stovell

Today, we welcome women’s fiction author, Christine Stovell…

Hi Chris, so lovely to see you here at Romaniac HQ. First things first – Tea or Coffee? Ooh, and we’ve re-stocked the cupboards with lots of yummy cakes and biscuits (should the need grab us…)

Helloooo Jan!  Thank you so much for having me here.  What a lovely smell of baking!  I’ll have coffee please and, oh, is that coffee and walnut cake?  There’s nothing like kick-starting the day with plenty of caffeine… and sugar… and, er, fat, is there?

Chris Stovell

A little birdie tells us you’re busy working on novel number three for Choc Lit. Can you give us a teaser?

Well, since it’s you… I try not to talk too much about the early stages of the WIP, as that’s when all those ideas swirling around in the dark looking so mysterious and enticing can look a bit naff if I shine too much light on them!  Hopefully I’m past that stage, so … Clearing the Decks will feature a return to my fictitious seaside town, Little Spitmarsh, the location for my first novel, Turning the Tide.  It’s not a sequel, although we’ll catch up with one or two of the characters who live there as well as meeting new ones.  I’m really enjoying writing this one, because I’m very fond of Little Spitmarsh.  Also, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my current heroine and hero; she’s funny and self-deprecating and he’s just a lovely guy.  Pity I give them such a tough time then!  

It’s no secret how much you love living and writing in Wales; indeed, Coralie Casey, heroine in your second novel , Move Over Darling, escapes there, so how would you pitch the Welsh charm to a (shamefully) yet-to-visit city girl like me?

Chris Stovell cover MOD

Where do I start?  Beautiful, undiscovered beaches (and I happen to live a short walk from one of them).  Breathtaking scenery.  Warm-hearted, witty people.  Rugby.  The Millennium Stadium.  The Millennium Centre.  Swansea Market.  Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood.  The poet, Owen Sheers… I could keep going, I love living here, just don’t mention the weather!

Welsh Beach


When you begin a novel, do you draft out each chapter beforehand or do your characters have free rein to take you wherever their stories lead them?

I start with a title which reflects my feeling of what the novel’s about, then I set up a spreadsheet with a chapter list, some preliminary ideas about each character’s story arc and some rough notes for essential scenes… then I start writing and it all goes out the window! As you suggest, it’s when characters really come to life that the magic happens.  Suddenly they’re telling their stories, which is the most brilliant, rewarding feeling.

You also write short stories. Do you find it easy/hard to switch between the two and how exciting was it to write ‘Touch Wood’ which was included in Choc Lit’s anthology – Love Match Selection?

Ah, do you know, I loved writing Touch Wood’.  I keep notebooks and cuttings of anything that catches my eye. Amongst them was an article about a craftswoman working with green oak and a fabulously moody photo of a trip hop musician – when I put those two together the story just happened.

A writing journey of 90,000 words, for me, is like running a half marathon so a short, satisfying 3k run every now and then just rings the changes and keeps me on course.  I enjoy both.

Touch Wood

What first gave you the writing bug?

Winning a prize of chocolate in a writing competition at primary school is the short answer.  But growing up in a house full of books and having an inspirational English teacher helped too.

Do you have a set routine or any literary rituals?

Literary rituals?  How about tickets for the complete Lions Tour 2013?  I’m sure that would give me plenty to write about, Mr Gatland, if you’re reading this. Failing that, ‘Bum on Seat’ is the only ritual I know that works!

Any other creative (or otherwise) passions or hobbies, Chris?

I love running, especially living here on this beautiful coastline, and it really helps me work out those pesky knots in my plot, I’m a passionate rugby fan and I adore very depressing music.  I love a good old blast of Nick Cave and one of my happiest moments was being just inches away from Radiohead at a recording of the Jonathan Ross show after they played their set twice.

Which three words would you say best describe you, and why?

Nasty, brutish and short.  Especially when I’m trying to write.

And finally… No visit to Romaniac HQ would be complete without a few quick-fire questions, (plus another cuppa and wedge of cake, of course…) so here goes:

Favourite Welsh Celeb?

*Through mouth crammed with cake*, the entire Welsh Rugby Team!

Guilty Pleasure?

Damn… it’s er, coffee and cake at *whispering* Dunelm Mill, Swansea.  It’s just it’s a convenient place to stop before shopping in Swansea and it always sets my happiness levels soaring nicely!

Sunlounger or Ski Slopes?

Sunlounger and a good book. Bliss.

Three novels you’d magic out of thin air to re-read if you were marooned on a desert island for a week?

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Sally Beauman’s Landscape of Love, Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven – three novels I never tire of re-reading.

Singer you’d most like to serenade you?

Kelly Jones; small but perfectly formed. Plus lots of Stereophonic tracks were playing in my head when I wrote Move Over Darling’.

Ant or Dec?

Wrong on so many levels.

Paris or Rome?

I would love a Roman holiday!

Fave Chocolate bar?

A Crunchie – nice but not too naughty.

Chris, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you. Best of luck with  your next novel: ‘Clearing the Decks’. 

Aw, Jan, it’s great to chat to you again, thanks to you and to all the fab Romaniacs for having me here – sorry about the crumbs. Let me give you a hand with the washing up.



Follow Christine on Twitter: @chrisstovell