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.