At Romaniac HQ recently, the conversation of our writing influences and inspirations came up. Although we all started off writing romance, our influences have come from the four corners of the writing page. We thought we’d share them with you over the course of the coming months.
Laura is kicking off the feature this week …
Laura: It’s no secret I attribute the lovely Jill Mansell as one of my major influences. I adore the way her novels can make me laugh on page one and cry on page two. It’s a skill to which I aspire, despite writing ‘romance without the soft edges’. It was through Jill’s books that I discovered the RNA and subsequently joined the NWS. Had I not read and enjoyed Good At Games there’s every chance I wouldn’t have my own books ‘out there’. Other influences are Sheila O’Flanagan, Joanne Harris, (I thought Blackberry Wine was genius) Alice Sebold, Erica James (another author whose writing has me in tears), and Jodi Picoult – I love how she tackles huge issues. I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet Jill, Shelia O’Flanagan and Jodi Picoult, and recently, with much excitement and a necessary degree of fangirling, I discovered the audio version of Follow Me Follow You shares the same narrator – Antonia Beamish – as Erica James’ Summer At The Lake.
Since joining the RNA, I’ve met so many wonderful authors whose work was new to me but who have helped and inspired me – Sue Moorcroft and Julie Cohen, who are not only skilled writers, but fantastic tutors, Margaret James, Rowan Coleman, Carole Matthews, Miranda Dickinson, to name a few, who are all accomplished in their art and extremely generous with their time and encouragement.
Outside of the RNA, historical novelist, Isolde Martyn, and my writing pals at Off The Cuff, have been a major influence, teaching me different approaches to writing, and continually supporting my efforts. Before Off The Cuff, I had no idea what Flash Fiction was, and now it’s one of my favourite disciplines.
And I love the wide variety of styles my wonderful Romaniac friends share, and the safety net they provide when it comes to writing outside my comfort zone.
Books that made an impression and stayed with me from my youth? Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Faraway Tree, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, and George Orwell’s 1984. It would be interesting to revisit them and see if these
authors influenced my writing, or if it was the pure joy of reading such excellent books that put the cartridge in my fountain pen.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox and Paloma Faith, whose music and lyrics are a constant source of inspiration, and in my humble opinion, examples of superb writing.
You are all an inspiration and I thank you from the bottom of my inkwell.
My little update …
I’m excited to say that I’ve started submitting my first novel ‘As Weekends Go …’ to literary agents.
“Sound the *cheer & fear in equal measures* klaxon!”
It’s a multi POV tale – three interwoven stories – about two couples and the emotional havoc created during and beyond their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a ‘girls only’ trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do.
It took me ages to write, mainly due to my endless tweaking and re-tweaking, so I’m relieved and very proud to have reached this point. I just hope that someone believes in it as much as I do. I’ve had seven rejections so far, but all really nice ones, with some very positive and encouraging feedback.
I’m under no illusions about how hard it is to acquire agent representation, and would never rule out self-publishing, I simply want to try the traditional route first.
So … in the meantime, I’ve been studying publishers and writing competitions, and penning Book 2 – a standalone sequel to ‘As Weekends Go …’ which has involved plenty of eye-opening research. I’ve also been indulging and expanding my other literary passion – freelance proofreading.
I’m sure I’m not the only Romaniac who will express how invaluable the love, support and cheerleading from family and friends is. During the past five years (and then some …) my lovely husband Dave can certainly add to his CV: chief cuddler, co-editor, sounding board, morale booster, tantrum-dodger, counsellor extraordinaire … I could go on.
Believe me, every nugget of advice, encouragement and reassurance from everyone – writerly or otherwise – has been very much appreciated.
Wish me luck, dear friends …
It’s not often I get out and have to form comprehensive sentences. To be honest, I think I may well have lost the ability, having been allowed out and managing to boom ‘hello’ a few times without anything else following.
Yes, I’m a mum. I have twin toddlers who’ve created a made up language. I talk to myself. I answer back. I go occasional days without any other adult interaction. So an entire day with other human beings in the same situation was comforting. Also mind-blowing. The setting was enough to make me happy.
Having been supplied with tea, coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit (all of which we could eat and drink unhindered), we were treated to a day covering the work of the Janklow & Nesbit Agency, how to make the right impression in covering letters, a panel of editors, an editorial masterclass, an author panel and a one-to-one.
Much was covered during the day, but I came away with these impressions:
- The Janklow & Nesbit Agency works hard on behalf of their authors
- Having a foreign rights agent can be the making of an author’s career
- They’re eager to find new talent as part of the Mumsnet competition
- It’s important to keep on writing
- There are a lot of mums/nans out there with considerable talent and drive
- That my laugh is ridiculously staccato and loud, given high enough ceilings
On the way home, I saw this slogan on a poster and thought, yes, that’s exactly what today was about…
And because I am a mum of twins, and rarely get to eat all of my own food this also happened…
I’ve no doubt, in the two Get Published days that have taken place, someone who has attended will be shortlisted in the Mumsnet competition. Whilst everyone waits to hear, I’ll be looking up words like Linear and Exposition. They obviously hadn’t factored in that I’ve been teaching the girls that cows ‘moo’ for the past month.
Catherine is often asked how she finds time to write now she has toddler twins. Here she lets you into her secrets, but this video comes with a warning: It is not suitable for those with an aversion to dust. Or brightly coloured toys in an unspeakable mess.
How about you? How do you find time to add to your word count?
Laura: Seeing this photo reminds me of when I was on a school trip to an abbey. My mum entrusted me with a camera for the very first time. I took lots of photos and couldn’t wait to have the film developed. Two weeks later, because in those days that’s how long it took to have the film turned into photographs, my mum and I looked through twenty-four pictures of … ducks. To say my mum was disappointed was an understatement. She was expecting to see pictures of the abbey, and was not placated by my explanation of, ‘But there were ducklings!’
I now take photos of cats, and turn them into memes.
Dear Auntie Romaniac,
John Steinbeck’s dog ate an early draft of, ‘Of Mice and Men.’ Ernest Hemingway famously lost an entire suitcase that contained his originals and all copies of his early writings. And apparently Dylan Thomas managed to lose the script for Under Milk Wood three times.
Not that I profess to have any works quite as valuable as these ‘greats’ but everything is relative. My old Acer Netbook is on its last legs. It limps into life every day but I know it’s not long for here. I might religiously back up documents and Works in Progress on a memory stick but the question is; should I back up my back up? What do you do, Auntie Romaniac, to protect your most valuable asset; the words and the time you put into your work?
Laura: I have a USB stick and an external hard drive to which I back up everything I type, and I save every few minutes. My worry is that the internal hard drive could fail without so much as a gasp, and just in case my secondary back-up explodes, I keep a third. I think I’m naturally risk-adverse. I was once an insurance claims assessor …
Catherine: These days I write on a notepad and type up when I get a chance. For that, I have no back up, but I try to type it up before the words build up too much. So I do have the added reassurance of a physical copy if all technology was to fail. Once on my computer it’s set to automatically save to Dropbox. The only thing to bear in mind with this set up, is if you don’t have an internet connection, it won’t duplicate.
Sue: Up until very recently I used to email everything to myself but a few months ago I invested in an external hard drive. It has enough storage to keep all my documents and photos. Since getting my new laptop with Windows 8, I also use One-Drive – a cloud storage facility. It’s very easy to use and backs up automatically without me having to remember. Oh, and I still have my memory sticks – just in case.
Vanessa: A couple of years ago, I felt quite confident with my back-ups – I had my wip saved on two different computers plus backed up to an external hard drive. Then one computer died, the other refused to start one day and I couldn’t access the external hard drive. Major panic! I managed to get the second computer up and running but it did make me paranoid about backing up and I now go a bit over the top! I have my ms on three different computers, an external drive, saved to dropbox and I regularly email a copy to myself, my husband and my agent. All I have to worry about now is overwriting the wrong document 🙂
Lucie: I feel I should listen to my fellow Romaniac’s as I am guilty of being naïve to the fact that my computer may throw a wobbler and lose my work! I did used to save onto a stick, then I signed up to Dropbox but I don’t know If I am still saving work to it … time to sort it out myself, I think!
Jan: It’s a good old USB stick for me, too, I confess. Like Vanessa, I also email myself copies of valuable documents and, dare I utter, *also have paper copies taking up half of one of my cupboards!* I do keep meaning to investigate Dropbox, so maybe this is the year to start …
- Whether you’re an aspiring writer, looking for an agent, have found an agent and have every finger crossed for a publishing deal, or if you’re a published writer coping with everything that entails, we have a Romaniac who can empathise with you. When we started out, we all dreamed of the day we’d get published. Some of us are still chasing the dream, whilst others have their paperback in hand ready to hurl at anyone who dares to post a 1-star review. This year, we thought we’d share the highs and lows of what it is to be a writer.
Catherine: I’m part of the ASPIRING gang. I’m juggling being a full-time mum to twins with trying to find time to write. I’m currently 50K into my work-in-progress, which recently gained highly commended in the Accent Press and Woman magazine writing competition. I’m hoping this is the year I find myself an agent, or a publishing deal, or a quiet ten minutes.
Jan: Well, I’ve started submitting my first women’s fiction novel to agents (gulp!) in the hope of acquiring representation this year. I’m also penning book number two, which involves lots of interesting and, at times, eye-opening research. Aside from writing my second novel, I am thoroughly enjoying my other literary love – freelance proofreading.
Debbie: I’m finally finding my way through the ether and re-gaining confidence and mojo after losing over three years to personal and health problems. My first novel, which came second in the inaugural Festival of Romantic Fiction New Talent Award in 2011, has now been re-written and critiqued by the RNA New Writer Scheme so there are only a couple of chapters and some finishing touches to do and it will be ready to go to agent. The second novel was short-listed in last year’s Festival of Romantic Fiction competition and so my other focus for this year, as I’ve been accepted onto the New Writers’ Scheme again, is to get this finished and critiqued so I can progress it. If there are any spare hours in my writing day after that little lot, I also have in mind a whole series of non-fiction books and in addition have set myself a challenge to write at least two short stories.
Lucie: I am part of the AGENTED gang. In early 2014, shortly after winning the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s New Talent Award, I was offered representation by Sarah Taylor of the Kate Nash Literary Agency. I currently have a book out on submission and I am working on another two. I write ‘contemporary romance with a real life bite’. I like to write about real issues, such as bereavement and domestic violence, and give them a happy ending. Alongside writing, I also work in Childcare, run the house, look after my family and the dog and try to pick up a book once in a while!
Vanessa: Although unpublished at the moment, I’m represented by an agent – Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group – and I’m working on edits of a psychological thriller which will hopefully be going out on submission to publishers in 2015 (echoing Jan’s gulp!!). I also write short stories and flash fiction and have had stories published in anthologies and magazines. I was shortlisted for the Harry Bowling novel prize and Highly Commended in the Yeovil novel prize in 2014 and I was also thrilled to win the Flash500 novel opening competition in December 2014.
Sue: I’m published by Harper Impulse, two of my books have already been released and my third is due to be released in the Spring of this year. I am a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association – I write romance and romantic suspense. I have also previously self-published, something which I’m looking to do again this year. So, I guess, that puts me in the hybrid author category.
Laura: I write for Choc Lit, and my debut, in eBook form, Truth or Dare?, was nominated for a Festival of Romance award. My second Follow Me, Follow You is available in all formats including paperback. I have short stories published in the Choc Lit anthologies, and one in the RNA’s Truly, Madly, Deeply anthology. I’m hoping to have book 3 out later this year, (have to complete it first and have it accepted …) which would be the third in the Chesil Series – the novels are all based around Dorset, and in particular, the stunning Chesil Beach. I recently experienced The Fear, which can be read about here. My writer’s tag is ‘Romance without the soft edges’, a brilliant phrase coined by Sue, which is a perfect description of my style.
Celia: I’ve got two ebooks out – Sweet Proposal and, more recently, Little Boxes. I was working part time when I wrote these but my day job has taken over my writing life for a while. I’m working on book three in my spare moments and hoping that one day it will be finished. In July I’m off for a second visit to Sue Moorcroft’s brilliant course at Arte Umbria in Italy so if it’s not finished by then, the week away will do the job (it did last time!).
Join us for our weekly Tuesday blog with tips, experiences, highs and lows. And the occasional iced bun.